What Rung on the Ladder is Your Character On?

Everyone is part of, and interacts with, organizations, institutions, groups and so on. Whether realistic or fantastic, narratives usually require at least some mention of social-political orders, large or small.

What rung on the proverbial ladder are your characters on during the course of your story?

I stumbled upon a website this weekend that makes for a useful starting point for answering that question.

It appears to be infrequently updated, and isn’t the most academically rigorous source of information. It may however, as it did for me, act as a solid quick-reference when detailed research is not required.

I’m not being compensated for mentioning it, or anything like that. Just passing along what I found.

Hierarchystructure.com is exactly what it sounds like. While not the smoothest-sounding web address, it provides charts and brief descriptions of  power structures and office positions for scores of different institutions and organizations. For example” churches, large companies, police forces, sports leagues, and so on.

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We lend realism as needed to our fiction when the appropriate levels or offices of an organization are utilized throughout the narrative. The term “archbishop” sounds dramatic, and lends a certain gravitas. Yet, if your story is about a suspicious private detective confronting odd activities in the local, poorly funded urban Catholic parish, he’ll be interacting with the priest, and possibly only the deacon of the parish. If you’re character is confronting an Archbishop in person, the scope and scale of your narrative needs to be much more significant, political and, depending on the type of novel, dangerous.

The site isn’t a source for in-depth scholarly research, as I’ve mentioned. But for a quick reference to any number or organizations (with colorful charts!) you could do worse than bookmarking this site into your author’s toolbox.

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Announcing Launch Date Next

I mentioned on Twitter last night that my upcoming novel will be titled, There Is Pain Here. I’m not taking this chance to announce that it will be available in e-book form on Saturday, May 18. The price has yet to be determined.

I do plan to make this title available in paperback form as well, but because I am not 100% certain as to how long that process will take this time around, (I have a few new snags to work out since last novel) I won’t guarantee it will be the same day. In an ideal world, I would like it to be, however. That is a goal.

In the coming weeks leading up to the launch, I’ll be sharing more details about this novel. Stay tuned, of course.

 

Authors and Civic Engagement

We live in an ugly time.

White supremacy is emboldened again. Modern Nazi groups, if not at the table are at least allowed in the room. Blase violations of the civil rights of children at the border, (and certainly beyond.) Rising Islamophobia. Homophobia. Rejection of science.

It’s a modern Dark(ish) Age, and I do in fact assign a great deal of the blame to Donald Trump and those that support him. I have said as much here on my website, calling out bigotry, and I have done so on my Twitter account.

And the conventional author’s wisdom says I probably should not. At least not until I have a fan base, or publishing deal deep in the bag. After all, why alienate potential readers who might enjoy my writing by “getting involved in politics.”

For the sake of my “brand” and the sake of peace, should I not talk blog and Tweet only about the writers life, with some observations about introversion and The Spectrum thrown in? (Which is about 80% of what I post about anyway.)

I’ve not found that this path leads to more literary success so far. But even if there were a stronger body of evidence that it would, I’m not sure I could maintain my silence in such ugly times.

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Was it not silence on the part of the intelligent, the observant, the artists that allowed the door to open on any number of dictatorships in our (not so distant) history? Do we not become accomplices before, during and after the fact when we tiptoe with care around the fires that are slow-burning society to the ground, cautious so as not to raise eyebrows at the book signing?

I say yes. And though I have at times tamped down the frequency of my commentary, I’ve never been able to fully embrace isolating myself as an author and writer from the battles of humanity around me. They are my battles as well. (Incidentally, they are also your battles, those of you who love to “avoid politics.”)

Am I damaging my brand, my possible sales, my reputation among potential readers by actively observing and and responding to what I see as human rights issues, and other “political” events? I’d love to think that I wasn’t, and that my books have merit in their own right. Yet even if I am wrong, and I am shooting myself somewhat in the foot, I would no doubt damage myself more by saying absolutely nothing in days such as this.

It would be impossible for me to be who I am, an author, and totally silent about non-writing issues at the same time. What can I tell you? It doesn’t make me any kind of hero, but I cannot be a bystander either.

 

A Thousand Words Plus

In case you missed it, below is my new profile picture for this blog’s front page.

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I took it just a few days ago, backstage at the Black Box Arts Center, where I am currently appearing in a production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.

It earned first the honor of being my Facebook profile pic, for all my friends to admire. But then I made it public as my Twitter profile, and now  here on  my own website. It’s not only well-composed for a selfie, but it represents several things about me all at once.

You see me off stage here. I am in my costume, but I am not yet “in character,” because the rehearsal had not yet begun. That is to say, here, it’s still just me being me. But the costume, and the location represent of course the actor side of myself.

The typewriter is a prop I use in the show. It too is part of the theatre aspect of me, but of course is a well-established symbol of the writing profession, even if I don’t, and never have used one for my work.

And yes, I play a writer/editor in the play, by the name of Hovstad.

And I am off by myself in the shot, of course. Theatre is rarely a 100% solitary activity, but I make sure to take time to myself while doing it, just as with anything else. So my introverted nature is also reflected here. As a bonus, I’m not even making eye-contact with the viewer…a nod perhaps to both my introversion and my place on the Autism Spectrum.

It’s important to note that I planned none of this deeper imagery when I took the shot; I just thought me standing next to an old school typewriter would look cool. But it captured so much more than I planned, I couldn’t keep it totally to myself. That happens once in a while. Intriguing that it happened at nearly the exact same time last year.

And if all of this talk of pictures and imagery didn’t have enough levels to it already, I’ll mention one more metaphor that is less obvious when looking. I hope the entire idea of creating something just because I thought it would be fun, only to have it transcend all my plans and radiate unplanned positive effects will occur in my writing as well.

Flawless Victory

This past Christmas, I got a plug-and-play retro Sega Genesis. It comes with about 80 games built into the unit itself, which you can then attach to your TV, and play, with no cartridges. (Though it also accepts any Sega cartridges you may still have.)

I bought myself the Nintendo equivalent of this last summer, so I suppose it is only fitting; back in the day I had an old school Nintendo and a Sega. I still have my original Sega, in fact. Durable things, they are.

As a young(er) guy, I had a few Sega games. Others I would rent, or borrow here and there from friends. Several of these are among the built-ins. Also among the built-ins: Mortal Kombat 3.

The other night I defeated it. Yes, on easy level, but winning is winning when you are not a video game wizard. Especially when I’d only ever play MK3 on aging machines in the rapidly vanishing attraction known as the video arcade, never on the home console.

If you’re not familiar, Mortal Kombat, and all of its progeny is a one-on-one martial arts fighting game. There are fatalities on screen sometimes, though early example are more comical or satirical than gruesome.

When you defeat your opponent, without them touching you even once during the round, it is known as a “Flawless Victory.” Nothing special happens when you do this, other than a voice saying, “Flawless Victory,” and the words appearing on screen. Though this is the goal for a lot of people, I’ve come to embrace victory in the game with equal satisfaction, flawless or otherwise. For me the game can be so damn hard, I’m happy just to move on, “flaws” in my fight be damned. A win is a win.

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Publik Domain Approximation

I am guilty, however, of seeking a so called flawless victory in other aspects of life. A video game is once thing, but when I make a list of things I want to accomplish, and by what date I wish to accomplish them, I tend to be put off when the whole list isn’t completed, or is completed later than I had planned it to be. My 2018 to-do list for example. That was far from flawless. In fact, it may not have been a victory, strictly speaking. I missed a lot of what I planned to do.

To my credit, I have long ago released the notion of flawless victory when it comes to writing. By that I don’t mean I refuse to proof read or revise. In fact, I could in theory revise everything I have written into infinity if I allowed myself to do so. In all my years of wordsmithing, there are maybe three or four products I would leave untouched even upon further examination. Beyond this, even those pieces of my own that I list among my best are not without some flaw. Tiny ones, perhaps, or those only I would notice, but they are there. They are not a flawless victory. I have to trust my taste and my dedication, and at some point “declare” them finished.

Victory, in this case, creating a polished, finished product, is where satisfaction lies.

Victory, in producing an entire rough draft of a novel or play, without stopping to edit as I go along, is where satisfaction lies.

Victory is stumbling my way through the writing life, even when I’m getting pummeled by the enemy on the other side of the arena.

Certainly, I would rather be victorious, even with flaws, at writing than I am at video games, and at risk of sounding self-important, I do believe I win far more often than I lose when I engage in this writing thing.

So leave “flawless victory” to the true gamers; just get in their and win. Even if you have only a sliver left on your power bar, if you knock the other guy out, you win.