Do writers have a unique burden? And when we say, "burden", are writers charged with reinforcing - and defining - how to fight the evils of the world?
Storytelling, much like art, is left up to the individual's interpretation. Yet, if we follow our most popular stories closely, there are prominent themes that continually pop up. Themes of virtue, righteous acts, humility, and courage, to name a few. In this way, stories reflect something deep within each of us. And each generation presses into the greatest aches and pains of its lifetime by exploring these in story form.
So, in this episode - as I wrap up this short series on heroes and villains - I talk through the (possible) responsibility of writers in this area. How it's more than just therapy and self-exaltation. How, as we write about what ails us, we learn what we perceive to be the evils worth fighting in this world.
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"Truth is stranger than fiction." - Mark Twain
This old adage, as coined by the late Mark Twain, speaks about the nature by which truth can sometimes outweigh our sense of imagination. What happens in our waking life can seem more incredulous than the most extravagant and imaginative fiction.
And with that in mind, are fictional villains just constructs of our darkest imaginations? Or are they proper reflections of ourselves? And if the latter is true, why is it more fun - from a writer's perspective - to come up with a really good villain, as opposed to a really great hero?
In this episode, I unpack some of my own experiences with writing villains. And why - from a creative standpoint - making a great villain can sometimes be more enjoyable than writing a great hero.
Just as the title implies, what makes up a villain anyway? I'm sure if we all thought long enough, we could come up with various versions of what we thought a villain was. What he looked like. What he sounded like. What his motivations were. And even what story he'd fit in best.
In this episode, I take a break from talking about heroes and dive into what makes a really good villain (strange or exciting as that may sound). Is it looks? Is it speech? is it a really cool weapon? There are plenty of factors that can make up a really good villain. But, if there's one thing that unites them all, it's this: a forceful opposition to the hero of the story they are a part of.
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We idolize heroes. We emulate them too. But, which is easier to do? Not a trick question - it's the former.
When it comes to heroes and the heroic deeds we read about, it's easy to sit back and marvel as a bystander might. Yet, something inside all of us tugs at our hearts. We yearn to not only see and pay witness to heroes; we want to be heroes too.
But, as our lives unfold, we learn how being the hero is no easy feat. As Joseph Campbell points out in his "Hero's Journey", the first test of any great hero tale is when the ordinary character crosses the threshold from the familiar to the unfamiliar. From the known to the unknown. From the predictable to the unpredictable.
And that's what this episode is all about: moving from what's known to what's unknown. I take a deeper look at why it's so hard for us to be heroes in real life. How we love predictability and how, if we can, we'd prefer to stay with what's comfortable rather than what's uncomfortable but potentially good for us in the long run. Additionally, I share some of my own experiences where I've seen real heroism in action. Namely, from my own parents.
Oh, and I give a plug for why I consider writing to be heroic in its own right. Because, well, of course writing is heroic in some way, shape, or form...right?
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The late Joseph Campbell, a former professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College, coined a popular phrase in the mid-20th century known as "The Hero's Journey." Campbell had been studying the significance of storytelling. And how we tend to gravitate towards a particular formula - one which Campbell authored with The Hero of a Thousand Faces.
In this episode, I go through Campbell's outline of the Hero's Journey. Thanks to movieoutline.com for providing a handy 12-step guide on how to assess Campbell's monomyth, aka the Hero's Journey. This will be the beginning of a multi-episode section where I talk about heroes and their impact on culture and society.
And P.S. if you'd like to support this channel, then please do so by heading over to my crowdfunding page. You can find it on patron.podbean.com/jclfaltot.
We love heroes. We aspire to be like them. We adore what makes them great. And we want to be around them.
Yet, as much as we love heroes, we also have an adoration for anti-heroes too. You know, the lone wolves. The girls who diverge from conventional attitudes; the single-minded warriors. Anti-heroes have as much sway in our culture as the tried and true heroes.
But, why? What makes them attractive? If the anti-hero is not the standard of excellence, then why gravitate towards them?
In this episode, I take a deeper look at why we love both types of heroes. And even how the time of our life can be a big reason for it.
P.S. be sure to check out my Facebook live launch party with Dr. Robert Snyder and his book, Why Did Daddy Have to Leave? This book is a follow up to What Is A Veteran, Anyway? - a children's book detailing what veterans are and what those in the armed services do for the United States.
You can find Dr. Snyder at https://www.robertsnyderbooks.com/.
"You complete me" - Jerry Maguire.
It's a famous line from the '90s. One that spawned a great many parodies and memes in its wake. It's a statement of love from one person to another. That without you, I'm not me. Or at the very least, I'm not the me I'm meant to be. You're my soul mate - the one who completes my existence.
Yet - at the risk of sounding like a major Debbie downer - is this concept really true? Be it in the context of a fictional story or our waking lives. Truth can be stranger than fiction, but fiction can communicate truths in indirect ways. So, in this - rather ranty - episode, I dive deeper into what constitutes a "soul mate" in story. What does it look like? Why is it so attractive? And from my own perspective, does such a thing actually exist (fictional or non-fictional). And if you disagree, let me know. As a writer, I'm open to critique.
There's an old adage in storytelling: "show, but don't tell". It basically means this - when telling a story, it's better to let your reader decipher the emotions, motivations, and settings rather than telling him what he ought to think or believe is happening. Sounds easy, but in practice, it's harder than you may think.
In this episode, I explore the nature of "show, don't tell" and give some examples of what this looks like. Granted, there are times when "show, don't tell" is appropriate. And there are times when it isn't.
Going deeper - what is it like to show people what they've never seen before, yet still tell them what they already know? What does that mean? And should writers, authors, storytellers be aware of this dynamic? Well, that's another topic worth discussing in this episode.
You gotta have thick skin when you're a creative. If there's one thing I lacked early on, it was thick skin. The ability to take criticism - good or bad - and keep moving forward. Taking criticism is paramount to a writer's long-term success. Hearing it; absorbing it; applying it.
But, there was another thing I lacked even more: patience.
I've always possessed a strange anxiety about my writing. I've often thought that if I didn't write my book fast enough - or publish it quick enough - then some other author might steal my idea. And therefore take my place in whatever niche I was trying to fill. Ultimately, this kind of worry is unnecessary. And highly toxic to a creative's craft.
And in hindsight, as much as I needed to learn the value of criticism, I also needed to learn the value of taking time with my ideas. Not just the good ideas, but my best idea.
Inside every creative is an entrepreneurial spirit. Why? Because there's an innate desire to make something new. Something original. And when you have that kind of gumption, the stakes tend to rise. There is more at risk; more knowledge needed; and more confidence required to make your dream a reality.
Enter the fear of failure. For even if we do share our gift with others, we still face the fear of being mocked or laughed at. It's an experience that's relative to every creative, and as a writer, I know how that can paralyze a person - no matter how gifted or talented he is.
In this episode, I talk through that process of making my own leap into writing - only to realize how crowded the creative / entrepreneurial space really is. And even if we make it through the woods and back up the mountain to finish what we started, there's a whole other plane of challenges waiting there for us too. And plenty more people trying to make it there too!
So, as I said in the beginning, the stakes are high. And not everyone gets to the finish line first.
P.S. if you enjoy this episode, be sure to like it or follow (however which way you choose to do so, i.e. iTunes, YouTube, Podbean, etc.). I can be found almost anywhere. Well, almost.