Tag Archives: buffy

The Price of Evil

I watched the first Lord of the Rings this morning. Yes, again. Don’t ask me what got me started on that–though I mostly blame seeing the preview for The Hobbit when we went to see Brave over the weekend. I can’t get it out of my head.

A lot of stories show the price of evil in the smackdown of the bad guy at the end. Yay, we all like a good smackdown.

Lots of stories show a price for fighting evil. Superheroes pay this a lot in dead girlfriends and other loved ones who have to be avenged, loved ones who have to be left behind for their own protection, etc. Heroes pay a price for their decision to fight evil in loneliness, physical injury, and sometimes death.

What I saw in Fellowship of the Ring this morning was a price paid for…consorting with evil. For living with it. Frodo took up the burden of the ring, right? This, like, tangibly evil thing. And we get to see it work on him throughout the trilogy. Even his physical appearance is altered. We see the evil working on everyone, causing them to argue, to let fear and pride get in the way of things. We see it work especially on Boromir, who is supposed to be the weakest link, as far as character goes. By the end of the trilogy, Frodo’s so altered that he can’t do what he most wanted to do–get back to life in the shire. (That was a real bummer, wasn’t it?)

Well, anyway, it just struck me as I watched it and paid particular attention to that thread of the story, that it’s an interesting one. The idea that, even when your intentions are noble, there’s a price for consorting with evil, for carrying it, because it taints you.

The Buffy series seemed to play with these ideas, especially in the later seasons. They find out about how the Slayer line was created. Buffy dies and comes back. There’s a point where she faced, confronted, and consorted with so much darkness that she begins to see herself as one of the dark things.

Basic stuff we know… Interesting characters care about things. They want things. It’s like dukkha, the noble truths, that whole Zen thing where you suffer because you want, and if you’d just let go of the want you’d feel better. Their dissatisfaction creates personalities that make for interesting reading. Their motivations play into interesting dramas.

When I make characters, I do think about what they want and how that affects them. I do think about making things hard for them and their being a price to pay for doing the heroic thing. But this idea of paying a price for associating with evil isn’t something I’ve played with very much in my head.

It’s insidious.

I kinda like it.

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When Teens Aren’t Teens- Inspired by The Vampire Diaries

So what I’m getting from Netflix (or is that Quixster?? what-ever) now is The Vampire Diaries. It’s one of those things I’m taking in because it’s popular and I want to know why, because it’s aimed at an audience that overlaps my target audience. It’s not a bad show, but I find it’s one that I have to make myself pay attention to a lot of the time, and of course I find myself making constant comparisons between it and Buffy.

One of the things that really struck me from season one is how eager these characters were to fall into bed with each other, and how the creators of the show didn’t seem to have any problem showing that to teens at all. I was watching this at a time when I was really gnashing my teeth trying to figure out the level of sensuality I was going to put into Heroes ‘Til Curfew. And we’re not even up to actual sex in my series, partly because I really believe that girls should save it as long as they can manage it because, face it, you’re never going to get as much foreplay again in your whole life as in that period when you’re putting off going all the way.

But since The Vampire Diaries girls are in fiction, they’ll probably always get great foreplay, so it doesn’t matter how easily they fall into bed. It was just that, like I said, I kept comparing to Buffy and remembering what a BIG DEAL it was, what a buzz there was around Buffy and Angel consummating their relationship, and this just seemed so commonplace, all these years later.

I remember that it was when I was making the transition from high school to college, around the same time that the 90210 kids were, that I really started to recognize that the actors who play TV teens are actually much older. (And yet, as you know, I was still shocked to learn how old Tom Welling really is.) Besides all the drama Shannon Daugherty always had going in the entertainment news, I can remember watching the show in the dorm and someone talking about the actual ages of some of the actors and how it kind of blew my mind a bit.

So what I’ve been thinking about lately, is that it’s one thing for older actors to play teens, but it’s a whole other thing for the characters to be running around, acting like adults. Now that I’m in season two, Elena and Stephan are going away to the lakehouse for a romantic weekend. Cool! But wait, they’re not sneaking out the window, she’s not getting her friends to cover for her with her guardian. Nope, she and Stephan grab her bags and are like, Okay, we’re headed to the lakehouse for a romantic weekend! And Aunt Jenna’s all, Okay, have a great time!

Um, what? Because I’m left sitting here on my couch going, Young lady, did you forget how old you are? High school girls don’t get to go off alone with their boyfriends for romantic weekends! You get your ass upstairs and unpack that bag right now!

So thanks, Vampire Diaries, for making me feel like someone’s really old mom. Awesome.

But WTF? BtVS was always very much grounded in where Buffy was in life. She wasn’t conveniently orphaned and given some conveniently negligent, too young, too much trying to be cool guardian. She had a mom who caused complications in her life as a superhero. She got in trouble when she had to miss school for supernatural reasons. She actually did school work and had some concern about her grades (again, because she had a parent). She was always trying to find her way, to continue on her normal path of growing up even though nothing about her life was normal. She expressed that best near the end of the series when she told Angel,

Okay, I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking. I’m not finished becoming whoever the hell it is I’m gonna turn out to be. I make it through this, and the next thing, and the next thing, and maybe one day I turn around and realize I’m ready. I’m cookies. And then, you know, if I want someone to eat— [eyes go wide as she catches herself] or enjoy warm, delicious cookie me, then…that’s fine. That’ll be then. When I’m done.”

That was really summing up something that was so much a part of the series: Buffy baking. I don’t get that in tVD. I often don’t see that transition from child to adult playing a part in shaping the characters and their reactions to problems that come up in the show. The teens interact with the adults almost as if there’s no difference in status at all. School seems like a set and a backdrop, but not something that really matters in their plans.

I guess what I’m thinking is that, while there’s a certain amount of cool factor and wish fulfillment in having teen characters do adult things, teens really aren’t just adults with tighter skin. When you forget that, when you forget their unique challenges, you lose something.

So what do you think? Am I just annoyed because Elena’s behaving like an idiot martyr in season two and everyone’s falling all over themselves to take care of her? Or can you think of other fictions which support my theory that writing teens like adults doesn’t work so great?

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Filed under Superheroes, Heroism, and Romance

If Joss Whedon Were At My Beck And Call…

Ok, obviously, first off, I’d be really nervous right now because I’d be getting ready for our lunch date. It would be in Knoxville, of course, because if Joss Whedon were at my beck and call then he could do the flying. You know how I feel about airports, right? The topic of our lunch would be his thoughts on the Talent Chronicles TV series which we can all assume would be beyond awesome.

But that’s not actually what I was going to write about.

I was sick on Wednesday. I know. I texted Kait and her response was, “What? Again?” People, having a first grader is like being engaged in germ warfare. So anyways, I’m couch-bound and I’m thinkin’ okay, I can’t really get up and do anything, and I can’t read because that didn’t go well, so what can I do that would in some way productive?

Um, watch Buffy?

Of course! By the way, the awesome thing about Buffy on Netflix is never having to get up

via Wikipedia

to change the discs.

So I’m watching season 1 for, like, the billionth time. It never fails to please. But this time it seemed I was hardly into the first episode when Buffy runs into this dark alley part of the set, stops, feet planted apart, looks around. It was just such a stance that I couldn’t help thinking two things:

  1. Damn I miss Wonder Woman; and
  2. Damn I wish I could have Buffy marathon with Andrew.

I don’t really want to get into the whole what’s going on with the Wonder Woman TV series thing because I don’t really know much about it and I’m trying to stay open-minded. But as I kept watching season 1, I kept seeing Charisma Carpenter and all the teased hair of that season…

Remember the seventies Wonder Woman series? I think it may be hard for new viewers to see that in the context of its time and realize how awesome it was, back in the day, but you know I loved it.

Anyway, remember Debra Winger’s Druscilla/Wonder Girl character? Okay, so she was kind of annoying–they just wrote her like that.

Can you just imagine the awesomeness of Joss Whedon’s Wonder Girl series starring Charisma Carpenter? (She’s probably not keen on playing a school girl now, but I was more living in the moment.) Dru’s come to stay with big sister Diana, but while Wonder Woman’s off keeping the world safe for democracy, Wonder Girl is expected to blend in and stay quietly anonymous in an American high school. But how can she do that? I mean, she grew up on a strife-free female island paradise, she’s totally smart, totally super-powered, and totally clueless. And yeah, she tries to fit in and hide what she is, but it’s not her fault that things keep happening and she’s constantly put in a position where she has to save the day.

As it would be, awesomely, the chick-lead version of Smallville, it would need a theme other than a desire to be normal, but it seems doable. In the 70s series, Dru does seem to have a desire to prove herself. I’m sure there’s an aspect of sibling rivalry to work with. Diana’s got everything: the nice apartment, the exciting job, the Wonder Woman suit–not to mention Steve Trevor’s obvious interest which she can’t seem to handle properly. Why if Steve liked me, Dru thinks, I sure wouldn’t keep ignoring him and putting him off. And of course while Dru’s busy crushing on the guy’s who’s crushing on her older sister, she’s totally not noticing the guy at school who so often seems to be there with information or to help her out of a jam. And what’s his story anyway?

Okay, seriously, before I just sit down and write this thing, I’m going to shut up. Just agree with me that it would be awesome. And then tell me what you want Joss to work on–I mean besides Firefly 2: Diary of Jayne.

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Buffy Season Eight begins for me

It’s been a few weeks since I read the first volume of Buffy Season Eight, and I never did get around to giving you my impressions. But here you go:

I want to love everything Buffy and I hope I can get more into this.

Why couldn’t I like this? Is it just because Xander gets a big part and gets to be cool and because I really grew to hate Xander by the end of the series? Maybe.

It was hard for me to follow. Book 1: The Long Way Home, contains the first five issues of the series. I think head-hopping and scene/setting hopping were huge issues for me. When you’re watching TV, this works. You’re watching a scene and either there’s a commercial or there’s an instant’s blackness, and then you’re in another part of the story.

But I couldn’t make those transitions in this book. If those cues are there to let me know to restart, I’m not catching them. So you turn the page and you don’t know if you’re continuing where you were or if you’re starting something else. (I hope I’m making sense here.) Sure, you can figure it out, but readers and writers of prose fiction know that when you have to stop and figure it out, it pulls you out of the narrative and brings that choppy feeling to the experience.

The Superfriends, for the little kids, is very easily to follow, what with the very structured episodes, and the little yellow boxes that tell you where you are when the setting shifts, “Meanwhile, at the Superfriends’ satellite headquarters…” I realize that that’s is own style and not necessarily appropriate to this, and yet I find those square-cornered boxes are less intrusive to the narrative than being confused, and make the reading experience smoother and more like reading a novel. For teens and the adults who love to read about them, Miki Falls is a series that employs this well.

But back to Buffy.

The story takes place in a future that happens after the end of Season 7, when there are a whole bunch of slayers running around. (Btw, did you love that moment when they gave all the potential slayers the power and potentials all over the world were awakening to something they didn’t know was inside them? And there were so many of them. That part was awesome, the concept that so many girls who maybe didn’t feel strong or special suddenly found that they were pretty kick-ass, but it was because of something that was always there, waiting. Um, yeah, fan.) Anyway, back to the future, they seem to have acquired a lot of tech, they have a fortress, and Xander seems to be very much in charge of things. He’s supposedly very Watchery. I know, Xander’s the one who sees stuff. It still seems off to me. But I’ve already admitted my prejudice.

So we’re very much dumped into the middle of this new world in which military types, along with the help of some old foes, are the bad guys plotting against the heroes and causing them some problems, while the heroes are tracking down a paranormal mystery.

What is very much there is the snappy dialogue and Buffy-speak, which is nice. What’s missing, for me, is the sense of Buffy as the central character.

I’m not an avid comic reader, and I think mostly I just had problems with the format. I have the second book, and I’m hoping that when I pick that one up I’ll find myself sucked into the story.

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Setups, Flawed Characters, Ginger or Maryann?

Last night I finally got my files uploaded for the print version. They’ve been reviewed, and I had a problem with my title page, so I have to get that fixed this morning, and then upload the interior file again. But it seems like that was the only issue, so I might be able to order a proof copy tonight.

This morning I’m doing some thinking about first acts, how I understand them, and how I approach them. What follows may be a lot of me talking to myself, so don’t let all the yous get to you.

For me, the first part of a book is all setup. The actual story, the thing your characters are going to have to work through—you’re not into that yet. In fact, the point where you actually get into that doesn’t even happen until the end of this section.

Now, you can’t just do nothing here. You can’t just go about describing the characters, their environs, their backstories, etc, and not having anything going on to engage the reader. That’s about as much fun as watching someone else play Barbies. There should be something going on, something the reader is going to want to know more about.

So you’ve got a character (or characters) and a something going on. And part of what the reader wants to know is: how is this something going to affect the character? When is she going to a) either become aware of what’s really going on, and/or b) have to deal with this? And then what’s going to happen? While she’s reading on, to get to that moment when things come together and you come to that point of shoving your character through the door into the story world, you’re feeding her lots of important information about the world and the people in it, you’re planting seeds, doing a little foreshadowing, but, most importantly to me, you’re setting up your character arc.

The stories I love best are those in which a character learns and grows, is changed by the events of the story. I think I probably especially love characters who seem a little hard to love when they’re first introduced.

Take Lost’s Sawyer as an example. (Oh, I’d like to.) He’s not a nice man. In fact, he’s a criminal. Not only is he nasty to everyone on the island with the name-calling and the constant lashing out, he also does things like gathering up and “claiming” as many supplies as he can so that he can profit from everyone’s plight. I think there’s a part of Sawyer that remains inherently selfish at the core, which keeps his character consistent. But in a show in which the challenges presented by the island transform many characters, helping them find the inner hero that may lie within all of us, I think Sawyer is the one whose change is the most dramatic, and therefore the most moving. (Or I could be just blinded by the dimple. It happens.)

Spike is another example of this kind of character. Someone who starts off really enjoying the killing, especially of slayers. Until he falls in love with one, and is changed by that love, and by his story into someone who ultimately—does something spoilery that’s pretty selfless. You know what I’m talking about.

So yeah, I guess I’m into that. Characters need to have a starting off point in which they are somehow less that they’re going to be at the end point. And in a series, in which they’re going to appear in more than one story, that means they’ll need even more room to grow.

They have got to be likable in some way, and often, with flawed characters, that’s a matter of empathy. When a reader talks about characters that seem real, what they’re saying is that they felt empathy, they recognized something that they’ve felt, or at least something that they understand, in something that your character feels. There has to be something they connect to. This is why they tell us to make the character care about something.

Spike had Drusilla, for example, showing that he was capable of some kind of love, even if it wasn’t the nicest relationship to watch. Later, he formed the same kind of obsessive attachment to Buffy. And we really got to see how it hurt him, to be so constantly rejected by her, to feel that she was so unattainable, because he was so unworthy. To feel the hopelessness of that obsession, even if one hasn’t been a vampire obsessed with a slayer who won’t have them–a lot of people can still relate to, and be moved by, those kinds of feelings. And that’s what keeps them tied to Spike as he waits for his moment, his opportunities for growth (internal, not always conscious), and to win the Slayer’s affections (external).

But be advised, it doesn’t work for all readers all the time. If you present flawed characters, not everyone is going to connect, empathize, or wait around for them to get better. Sometimes a reader will be so turned off by something your flawed character did or said that, not only will she give up on them, but the book, and you as an author. Our different tastes, experiences, the issues that can pull us in or make us throw the book at the wall, that’s all part of what it is to be human and sentient, and makes all these varied stories possible.

After all, it’s this variation in taste that makes possible questions like:

  • Angel or Spike?
  • Sawyer/Kate or Sawyer/Juliette?
  • Marvel or DC?
  • Ginger or Maryann?

And where would the internet be without that?

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Filed under books, characters, Hush Money, ideas, love, romance, story structure, Talent Chronicles, tips, writing

Angel or Spike?

Look, I know this topic seems a little past its freshness date. However, I also know that you know that I know that you still want to talk about it.

Obviously, this will be spoilery, so if you haven’t watched the Buffy series, get the heck out of here and go watch it, for goodness sake!! What have you been waiting for! What if the world ended tomorrow? Priorities.

When Angel showed up with his brooding and his shoulders, hey, I was an instant fan. The impossible relationship of a vampire and a vampire slayer was a brilliance that pushed all my buttons. I was captivated by this romance. When Angel turned, I was devastated. Again with the brilliance. Watching them on opposite sides, her guilt, the subtle sense and hope that the real Angel was still in there somewhere, struggling to get back to Buffy… :sighs: And then he fought his way back from Hell to be with her. That’s hot.

And then he left.

And that really wasn’t. Nope. That pissed me off. I quit watching the show at the end of season 3. The Angel series started, making it obvious that Angel wasn’t coming back, but then the first crossover episode gave me a ray of hope. Made me think that, maybe, there was some greater plan. So I watched. Watched Angel throw away a chance to be with Buffy again because, what? He didn’t trust the slayer to be able to take care of herself, and, ultimately, his own quest for redemption was more important than love. (I should probably mention that I still haven’t watched all of Angel because the show was a little too comedic for me. Someday…)

It was 7 years before I went back to Buffy to watch seasons 4-7. (Hold a grudge much. Oh yeah.) One of my best decisions ever. Because there was Spike. (If you’re hearing ‘Til There Was You right now, it’s just my head. Try to ignore it.)

Maybe part of what I love about Spike is his capacity for obsession. And not obsession with his broody redemption (although, generally, I’m into that), but obsession with the woman. I loved the way the series showed the darker side of Buffy, showed how similar these two opposites were, how they needed each other. I loved the way too outwardly strong characters were shown to have internal elements that were so susceptible to injury by others, and by each other.

There was an openness to Spike’s character that I never felt from Angel. Something that allowed him to be hurt, and for me, as a fan of the fiction, to also experience that, in a way that Angel never did for me.

Spike comes across as more selfish, while Angel can be all broodingly selfless and off to save the world. And that seems very heroic. But in terms of the romance, Spike’s selfishness felt like the you and I are all that matters and screw the rest of the world variety, with a bit of well, ok, I’ll face horrific demons, torture, etc., but only because it’s important to you, sweetie.

Really, I think that’s all any of us can ask from a mate.

So, how about you. Is it Spike or Angel? And why?

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Filed under love, romance, tv