Villains Killing Themselves to Keep the Hero Sympathetic

Some heroes are killers. They save the day by defeating the bad guy in an epic duel, leaving their enemy crushed and defeated so that they’ll never pose a threat again. When the villain is especially evil, this can be very satisfying for the audience, because they want to see that villain taken down for good.

Other times, however, heroes refuse to kill. Some heroes have a moral code that simply won’t allow them to take a life. Or in other cases, if they do take a life, it’s rare. Batman, Superman, and Spiderman are prime examples of heroes who usually don’t kill. Looking at the movies (since I’m only semi-familiar with the comics), you can see that most of the time, they send their villains to jail instead of killing them. Lex Luthor escapes prison again and again to continue being a thorn in Superman’s side. In the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, the Scarecrow escapes again and again so that he has a role in all three films. There are some exceptions to the “no killing” rule, such as in Man of Steel when Superman snaps General Zod’s neck. But in general, you don’t see these heroes killing very often.

In the comic books and other long-running series (such as TV shows and cartoons), keeping the villains alive serves the purpose of making sure they can appear again in a recurring role. But in the movies, each villain is usually limited to one film. The above examples of Lex Luthor and the Scarecrow are exceptions; in most other superhero films, each villain appears once and once only. Consider the original four Batman films before the Christopher Nolan reboots. We go from the Joker in the first Batman movie to Catwoman and the Penguin in Batman Returns to Riddler and Two Face in Batman Forever to Poison Ivy, Bane, and Mr. Freeze in Batman and Robin. You only see the same villains again when the series has been rebooted. The same with the Spiderman movies; the three Toby McGuire movies each had a different villain, and while the reboots with Andrew Garfield might reuse the same villains from the old set, they don’t repeat any within the new series of films.

A common trend in these, and other films, is for the villain to bring about their own death. This allows the closure the audience needs and clears the way for a new villain in the next film, but without getting the hero’s hands dirty. Again, there’s exceptions, but quite often the hero isn’t the one who kills the villain. Here’s a few examples:

-In the first Toby McGuire Spiderman movie, the Green Goblin tries to ram Spiderman with his bladed hoverboard. Spiderman jumps out of the way, and the Green Goblin impales himself on his own weapon.

-In Spiderman 2, Dr. Octopus sacrifices himself to save the day after he realizes the error of his ways, declaring that he “will not die a monster.”

-Red Skull from Captain America dies when he grabs the Tesseract and i tears him apart.

-In Batman Returns, the Penguin kills himself in his attempt to kill Batman.

There’s some other examples that could be seen as “gray area,” where the villain’s death is technically an accident. For example, in the first Batman movie, the Joker falls to his death after Batman tied his leg to a gargoyle to prevent him from escaping, in Batman Forever, Two Face falls to his death after Batman distracts him during a coin flip, and in The Dark Knight, Batman is trying to save a child from Two Face and ends up knocking him off a ledge and falling himself. Whether you count these examples as “Batman killing the villain” or the villain dying by accident depends on whether you consider motive or intent, since Batman definitely didn’t mean for the villain to die in these cases.

There will always be heroes like Jack Bauer who simply aren’t afraid to kill, who do what it takes and let the ends justify the means. And even the most “pure” hero might end up having to take a life in some cases. But if you have a character you want to portray with more complex morals, someone who you just think won’t kill someone intentionally, the accidental death is a trope you might want to consider. And if you write a character who keeps their hands clean 99% of the time, when when they finally do cross the line and take a life, it’ll be all the more shocking and suspenseful.


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Sexist, yet Sympathetic?

CheersLogoI’ve been marathoning Cheers on Netflix lately. It’s one of the greatest sitcoms of all times. The bar where everyone knows your name. Filled with loveable characters (who never drive home drunk; the show was praised for frequent portrayals of Designated Drivers). It’s also a show that was full of all kinds of sexism and negative gender stereotypes.

And yet, we still love it?

I’ve been paying close attention to the way Cheers depicts the main character, Sam Malone, played by Ted Danson. He portrayed as the stereotypical “hunk,” a trope you may know I really get annoyed with. Yet I don’t get annoyed with Sam, even with his incessant flirting, the way he treats women like sex object, and the way all the men in the bar treat him like he’s a role model because of the number of women he’s “conquered.” By every measurable trait, Sam Malone should come off as a sleazeball, a character I’d hate, and someone you would never tune in to watch week after week. So how can be be so sexist, yet still remain sympathetic?

CheersThe theory I’ve come up with has a few key points. I’ll list them one by one.

First, Sam Malone gets shot down constantly.

It’s true. Watch a few episodes of Cheers, and you’ll see Sam in usually one of three situations: pursuing girls who are better than him, pursuing girls who are equal to him, and pursuing another main character (such as Diane Chambers in the first five seasons). When he’s pursuing girls who are better than him, his advances almost always fail. These are usually educated women, those with careers, strong morals, and other positive personality traits. They reject Sam because his advances are always childish and crude, usually involving a lot of innuendos and excessive bravado. When confronted by such a woman, Sam gets shot down again and again, which shows us that a strong, confident woman won’t fall for Sam’s ploys. In a way, it almost makes Sam a sort of clown; he makes a fool of himself for our amusement. It’s just that instead of taking a pie to the face, he ends up scurrying away with his tail between his legs. He’s not seen as “threatening.” He’s more like a pathetic puppy who keeps begging, seeming all the more sad the more he is denied.

Other times, he’s dating some random girl who usually isn’t too bright and who is usually portrayed as being fairly dumb, unsophisticated, and “easy.” When he’s dating this sort of girl, the girl is always portrayed as wanting Sam as much as he wants her. It seems to me that we don’t lose sympathy for Sam as a “skirt chaser” in this context mostly because he’s pursuing only the girls who want to be pursued. Sam himself is always portrayed as dumb, unsophisticated, and willing to sleep with anyone, so a girl who is portrayed in the same fashion is seen as his equal. And because the girl desires it as much as Sam does, it seems to make it okay.

There’s a quote from The Wheel of Time that explains this quite well. One of the characters in that series, Mat Cauthon, is also a “skirt chaser.” But at one point one of the other characters notes that Mat only ever seems to pursue women who want to be pursued. That, in many ways, is the difference between a man who is seen as a sexist pig, versus a man who is seen as charming.

Here’s an example: say some random man in the street calls a woman “sexy” as she walks by. He’ll be seen as a pig for “cat-calling,” and most women won’t give him the time of day. On the other hand, if a man in a relationship calls his girlfriend sexy (and if she likes that sort of compliment), it could be seen as acceptable, even desirable. The fact that it’s desired makes all the difference. Similarly, other behavior like physical contact is only acceptable if it’s desired and consensual. A total stranger who slaps a woman on the ass is a pig who deserves to be smacked himself, but some girls may enjoy a flirty spank as part of foreplay from someone they’re in a relationship with.

Diane ChambersWhich brings me to the third type of relationship Sam Malone is seen in: long-term, complicated relationships like the one he had with Diane Chambers. With Diane, Sam’s childish behavior and advances never succeed. On more than one occasion, she rejects his advances until he stops acting like a horny teenager and finally confesses his true feelings for her. Only when we see some deeper sign of maturity and affection from him does Diane allow things to proceed to the next level.

These variables are interesting to consider when looking at them from the point of view of a romance novel. It should be possible, in theory, to create a “Sam Malone” type character as the male lead of such a novel. Someone who constantly pursues all the wrong women, never finding satisfaction in any relationship and constantly being rejected by the women with deep personalities, intelligence, and strength. Until one day he cleans up his act and stops acting like sex is all that matters. Then, perhaps, he would find a deeper connection with someone (the female lead, naturally). He could grow past his juvenile ways and become more mature, while still retaining the charm and flirtation that (once he finds someone he respects and only flirts in the way she desires) will still help him be portrayed as a sexy and desirable man.

There’s sure to be a lot of flaws to such a character, but then again, flaws are what make a novel’s character’s fun. There would definitely be a lot of growth potential. Sam definitely grows over time, gradually becoming less of a womanizer. Mat Cauthon also develops into a more mature person when he meets the woman he ends up marrying. I think that growth is necessary, otherwise the audience would lose sympathy for the character and grow tired of his childish antics.

And, of course, there’s no reason why these roles I’m describing have to be stuck in a male/female binary. You could take any character, male/female/trans/etc, and have them start off as immature, pursuing relationships with all the wrong people and constantly getting rejected. Until they find the right person, someone they respect, someone they’re willing to grow and change for, and they take the steps necessary to make themselves a better person.

I think it would be challenging to write such a character, since you’d always be walking the line between portraying the “Sam Malone” of your story as either a charming scoundrel or a chauvinistic pig. But it might make for some interesting storytelling, since, if nothing else, a character like this would be a prime source of conflict. And conflict would keep the story moving forward, up until the final moment when “Sam” either wins the girl/boy/etc, or gets the final rejection and slinks away in defeat (hopefully having learned some valuable lesson along the way).

Either that, or Ted Danson is just a damn good actor.


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All I Want For Christmas is a Revised Manuscript

Christmas and I don’t get along.

Christmas-Lights-11Okay, so Christmas doesn’t kidnap me, tie me up with sparkling lights, and lock me in the bathroom (though it could!). However, I do tend to have bad experiences with Christmas, and I don’t expect this one to be any better. I’m not on speaking terms with most of my family, my Dad is living on a tight budget so Christmas these days has no thrills, and I don’t expect anyone else in the world to get me anything. Beyond that, I can’t even get on board with the whole “Christmas should be about love and hope and etc etc, not presents!” thing because I’m not religious and I don’t really have the kind of hopeful, positive influences in my life that would make Christmas worthwhile. I have casual friends who I’m sure will text or tweet me some Christmas wishes, but I don’t really have the kind of deep personal relationships where you expect to bond with people over hot chocolate in front of the fireplace Christmas day.

All I want for Christmas is to finish this draft.

I think I’ve been suffering from #NaNoWriMo Burn Out, coupled with a touch of seasonal depression. Which happens every year. After writing 160,000 words on my NaNo novel, I’ve written . . . five blog posts in two weeks, and revised one chapter of Contamination. That’s not much. And I have no excuse. I just sit home all day anyway. It’s not like there’s a reason I can’t get the work done.

All I want for Christmas is some motivation.

I think that Author Fragile Ego Syndrome is keeping me from working on my novel because I’m afraid that it sucks. That no one is going to read it or buy it or like it. That people who praise my writing are just doing so to be nice. That one day soon I’m going to be back to working at a crappy restaurant for a sexist boss, Master’s Degree from Rowan University notwithstanding.

All I want for Christmas is some self-esteem.

What I said a moment ago, about Christmas not being about presents? It’s true. Christmas isn’t about presents. I don’t want material goods. I just want a Christmas where I can get out of this rut and get some work done. I want to be able to send my revised novel to my CPs as their Christmas present. I want to stop feeling like crap. I want to get through a Christmas without crying.

All I want for Christmas is to be successful with my writing. But that’s a gift no one else can give me. So I’ll have to do it myself.


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Unidentified Me

Image Source: http://www.cinemablend.com/images/news_img/41140/Despicable_Me_3_41140.jpg
Image Source: http://www.cinemablend.com/images/news_img/41140/Despicable_Me_3_41140.jpg

How do you identify yourself? There’s a lot of ways to approach that question. I could approach it in terms of my name, Jason Cantrell. Or by considering nicknames, like Jay to some friends, JDizzle to others, Hey You to strangers in the Walmart parking lot, or Baby to my ex. I could consider my race, which is white, or my national background, a third generation Irish/Lithuanian immigrant descendant. I could call myself a writer, a poet, a publisher, a procrastinator, a space cowboy, or Maurice. Then there’s things I, personally, consider more complicated, like gender, sexuality, and orientation. For some people, myself included, those things are harder to put a name to.

I read a lot about gender-related subjects. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve taken classes on it, I follow a number of gender- and sexuality-related news accounts such as the No Shame Movement, various feminist and transgender or queer bloggers, and anyone else who talks about open, progressive, and inclusive ideas and philosophies. I try to read up as much as I can because I like to learn and I want to improve myself. But I rarely write about these subjects because I don’t feel like what I have to say adds something valuable that can’t be expressed better by someone else. In other words, I leave it to the experts, and just read and learn from them.

So why am I writing about it today? Well, several things popped up on my social media feeds that related to my personal experiences, and they got my mind going. First there was an article posted on Fox News about parents protesting the type of sex education being taught in certain schools, which led to me reading an infographic titled “The Genderbread person” (as well as a related analysis of it). Then, I stumbled across a separate subject on Twitter, asking people about their thoughts on cisgender authors writing transgender characters in their novels.

That led to me asking a lot of questions of my own, because I have a transgender character in my novels, but I don’t identify as a cisgender author. But I don’t know how to express what that means.

Gender, sexuality, and so forth can’t be expressed in terms of certain key points. Instead, there’s a spectrum. For example, many times I see people writing or tweeting about orientation using only gay, straight, or bisexual. But when you consider the number of possible genders someone could be, and the number someone could be attracted to, the definitions quickly spiral out of control. Just to name a few, you could be male and be attracted to cisgender women,  cisgender men, transgender women, transgender men, or combinations of the above (cisgender women and cisgender men, cisgender women and transgender women, cisgender women and transgender men, etc). Even without expanding this to include androgynous, asexual, or any other options, there’s easily dozens of possible orientations that can be created on that list, and that’s before considering what gender you personally identify as.

One article I found listed 63 different identity/orientation combinations, and I don’t even think that’s inclusive. I don’t think any list can be completely inclusive, because you can always break categories down into deeper subcategories. For example, some people just think bisexual means “attracted to both men and women.” But I’ve seen lots of people discuss how it’s not simply a 50/50 ratio. You might be more attracted to men, more attracted to women, or anywhere in between, but the various possibilities all get caught under the umbrella term “bisexual.”

Here’s another way of looking at it. I read a study once on perception and categorization that asked people to divide colored tiles (like the paint swatches you get at Sherwin Williams) and sort them according to color. But what groupings people use depend on their culture and their perceptions. For example, depending on the common words in your native language, you might create a different number of categories. The Russian language includes the words sinij for “dark blue” and goluboj for “light blue.” English doesn’t have individual “common” words for these variations (words like “cyan” or “navy” not being the first words people think of for a color, but rather being words people think of for various “shades” of blue). This could lead to a difference where the English speaker would put all the “blue” tiles in one pile together while the Russian speaker would divide them up into one sinij pile and one goluboj pile. Other languages might blur the distinction even more by counting blue and green as different shades of the same color.

By comparison, the “common” terms we have for gender and sexuality might lead to people sorting each other into certain “categories,” but those categories aren’t nearly as well-defined as people might think. Most people I know don’t use a common word for something like “a cisgender man who is attracted to both cisgender and transgender women” or “a transgender woman who is attracted to cisgender men and cisgender women” or “a cisgender woman who is attracted to cisgender men and transgender women.” If you were “sorting” people according to those definitions, would you put the above examples under the category “gay,” “straight,” or “bisexual”? Or would you use a broader selection of terms that don’t fit neatly into those three common categories? Do you consider “straight” to only include cismale/cisfemale, “gay” to only include cismale/cismale or cisfemale/cisfemale, and “bisexual” to include everything in between? Or do you consider “straight” to mean any trans or straight male attracted to any trans or straight female (and vice versa)? And this is before adding more definitions to include gender expressions of masculinity vs femininity, or any of the other areas of the different spectrums.

In the long run, the only respectful thing to do is accept whatever terms or definitions people use to identify their own selves. But even defining your own self can be more complicated than picking a label from the list and slapping it on.

So how do I identify myself? I really don’t know. I could only describe it by going into a detailed explanation of where I fall on every one of the different spectrums: identity, expression, sex, and attraction. And that personal of an explanation is something I’m not comfortable sharing, but I can tell you I don’t fall into any easy categories. Though if anyone ever asks me why I decided to write a transgender character in my novels, the answer is simple. Because it’s something I can relate to.

Author Fragile Ego Syndrome

EMSStar-redwhitecopyMEDICAL ALERT

An epidemic has been spreading among a certain group of individuals. You may be at High Risk for AFES if you are in any of the following high-risk categories:

  • You stay up late at night, drinking coffee and mumbling about the inconvenient timing of your Muse
  • You speak in strange tongues and use words and phrases like MS, WIP, “Show, Don’t Tell,” character motivation, climax, turning point, YA, NA, and Query
  • You obsess over word counts and go on long rants about how a hyphenated word should count as two words, damn it, and you don’t care what the word processor says
  • You’re constantly looking for excuses to explain why you’ve neglected your fictional characters for so long
  • You cry when a loved one dies, then cry more when people tell you “It was just a fictional character!” (They’re real, damn it!)
  • You’ve been nodding along while reading this list
  • You simply hate when people ask you how your writing/revisions/sales are going (there’s no right answer)

If you show any of these warning signs, you might be an Author.

Authors should seek medical attention immediately if they show any symptoms of AFES, including but not limited to:

  • Nervous jitters when you send your WIP to be read by a CP, Beta, Agent, or Editor
  • The idea of friends/relatives reading your book makes you nauseous or lightheaded
  • You sit and stare at the monitor repeating, “I suck I suck I suck I suck…”
  • You ever made the mistake of reading the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads
  • You experience erections writing sprints lasting longer than four hours
  • You ever want to make a fort out of copies of your book so you can hide inside it forever

There is currently no known cure for AFES, but you can experience temporary symptom relief by writing a blog post about it.


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Superman and Vanity

superman-evolution2Look at the picture above, and tell me what you see.

Okay, yes, nine versions of Superman. Look closer.

Okay, they’ve all got variations of the same classic costume, except the one dressed all in black. They’ve all got a tall, muscular build. But look closer.

What do I see? Confidence. Shoulders set back. Chins held high. A few of them even have an almost cocky smirk. And why not? They’re Superman. Generally considered (by an average person, not necessarily a comic book buff) to be the most powerful superhero of all. And not only does he have more powers than you can shake your, err, kryptonite at, he’s also suave, charming, heroic, honest, and basically all around perfect.

And maybe that perfection will go to his head.

There’s a line in the original Christopher Reeve Superman movie, when Superman is talking to his father, Jor-El. Jor-El warns Superman not to succumb to his vanity:

Lastly, do not punish yourself for your feelings of vanity. Simply learn to control them. It is an affliction common to all, even on Krypton…Our destruction could have been avoided but for the vanity of some who considered us indestructible. Were it not for vanity, why, at this very moment… I could embrace you in my arms…my son…

Superman’s vanity, and through it, his overconfidence, are almost his undoing. He thinks he’s indestructible, so he doesn’t bother to take precautions. This is how Lex Luthor is able to trick him and expose him to kryptonite, which nearly kills him. (In turn, Luthor’s own vanity and overconfidence leads to him walking away and not watching Superman die, allowing Miss Teschmacher to save him.) I’ve seen this issue be Superman’s undoing in a number of different versions of the movies and TV shows. He underestimates his foes, he doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions, and he may even sometimes consider himself to be above the law.

Superman is just one example. Many other superheroes can have similar vanity issues; just look at all the ego being thrown around in The Avengers and you can see how each character’s pride is affecting their behavior. It’s been addressed in some comics from time to time, when people ask whether these heroes should be held accountable for their reckless behavior when they cause massive destruction while “saving” people.

One of the reasons I started thinking about the vanity of superheroes is because of a conversation I had with my academic adviser at Rowan University about my own writing projects. We were discussing one of the main characters from my novel, Manifestation, and I was describing some of the powers she has and the scale on which she’s able to affect the world in the later novels in the series (which gets bigger and stronger as the series goes on). After describing one particular scene at the end of the second book, Contamination, my adviser asked, “Would you describe her as godlike?”

Godlike characters can be a problem in a variety of ways. For one, there’s what I’ve called the Superman Dilemma, where a character is so powerful that it’s hard for there to be any suspense. But pride and vanity are definitely another issue. Vanity can be something that can actually add conflict, however, if it proves to be the character’s downfall. Vanity can lead to mistakes, it can make a character easy to manipulate, and it can alienate a character’s friends who think the character has gotten too big for their britches.

No wonder it’s the Devil’s favorite sin.

So if you find that your characters are too powerful, too unstoppable, too perfect, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. As long as their power and perfection becomes a foil for them in the story. One way to address this is to put the character up against something that all their power isn’t enough to defeat. This is something I try to do later in my books. A character who has gotten used to solving every problem by throwing her unstoppable, godlike powers at it full force suddenly finds herself faces with an obstacle that can’t be beaten this way. She has to step back from the situation and consider other angles. She has to think. She has to realize that, just maybe, all of her powers don’t amount to all that much sometimes. It’s a hard lesson to learn. But once she learns she has to think outside the box instead of trying to overpower her foes, she ends up being that much stronger.

And hopefully, not too many cities will get destroyed in the meantime.


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Rudolph and Steve

The elves all knew that Santa had very “traditional” values.

Rudolph the Elf, named after the famous reindeer (who his mother had a dozen posters of in the drawer she thought he didn’t know about), frowned as he read the new posting on the North Pole Employee Bulletin Board. It listed the new Company Policies that the Claus had implemented, one of which was just getting Rudolph all riled up.

NEW NORTH POLE COMPANY POLICIES

As the Administration believes strongly in “Traditional Views” of Christmas

And as the Administration believes in encouraging appropriate

Morals and Views within Employees

All Elves are hereby banned from engaging in “Nontraditional” Christmas Activities

Including but not limited to:

Giving Free Dental Checkups to the Uninsured

Saying “Happy Holidays” Instead of “Merry Christmas”

Same-sex Kisses under the Mistletoe

Ho ho ho,

Santa Claus

Rudolph grit his teeth and stamped his foot. “It’s not fair!” he said. “What right does the Old Man have to impose his moral views on us?

Rudolph’s boyfriend, Steve, patted him on the back. “Maybe we can talk to him,” Steve said. “Make him listen to reason.”

Rudolph tore down the notice and ripped it into shreds. “Yes,” he said. “Let’s.”

Rudolph and Steve marched up to Santa. The Old Man was prepping for the Big Night, and didn’t like to be interrupted. But Rudolph stood tall and cleared his throat to get Santa’s attention.

“Ahem,” he said.

Claus turned towards him and arched a snowy eyebrow. “Yes?” he asked. “Can’t you see I’m busy? It’s almost CHRISTMAS!”

Rudolph and Steve exchanged a look, then broke out into song:

Santa, you red-suited fat man
We have had enough of this!
Just because those are YOUR views
Doesn’t mean that is Christmas!
All of us are individuals
Each with our own beliefs!
You’ll never get these elves
To follow all your stupid rules!

So on this foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa, we’re here to say,
Either join the Twenty-First Century,
Or else, Old Man, we quit!

Then Rudolph and Steve stepped under the mistletoe and kissed. Whether Santa liked it or not.

Scavengers

I just finished #NaNoWriMo last week. My currently untitled novel is sitting at 160,484 words of magic, mystery, sex, love, telepathy, golems, lesbians, teddy bears, and maybe a giant mutated monster or two. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, though I know it’ll need plenty of revisions and work just like all the others. That work is for later, however, and now it’s time to turn my mind to other things.

On the writing front, there’s two main projects on my mind right now. Both of them have something in common: scavengers (did the title of the post give that away?). I’d like to talk a bit about the concept of scavengers first, then discuss how it relates to my upcoming projects.

A scavenger-based society can develop in a variety of ways. In real life, it can happen when some groups of people live in the slums or run-down neighborhoods of otherwise wealthy cities. I read a book earlier this year, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which told the real-life story of people living in such conditions in Mumbai, India. The people in the story live in tin shacks in a muddy, rancid slum, where they deal with crime, pollution from the city, poverty, poor education, and the struggle to survive and feed their families each day. One of the main characters is a boy who collects scrap. Plastic bottles, wire coat hangers, tin foil . . . anything he can haul down to the recycling center to sell in order to earn what he can to help feed his family. Parts of the story follow this boy and others like him as they scrounge in the dumpsters behind hotels, gathering plastic straws and lids to be sold as scrap to the recycling center. Sometimes they have to fight off gangs of larger boys who will beat them up to steal their garbage and sell it themselves. And no one in the city cares, except when it comes to shooing them away so the rich tourists at the hotels don’t have to see the street urchins digging through the trash.

More extreme examples can be seen in some post-apocalyptic stories, where society has collapsed and industry no longer exists. I’m reading a fiction novel right now called The Drowned Cities, set in a post-apocalyptic future where global warming has flooded the coasts, war has torn the country apart, and people struggle to survive amidst ongoing fighting between rival factions that try to claim their own piece of the broken world. People use whatever they can get their hands on, and the author describes things like plastic antifreeze bottles now being used as water bottles, ruined buildings being torn apart for scrap to rebuild elsewhere, and old medicine that is “only a year past its expiration date.” These details do a good job setting the scene and showing the reader just how desperate people are for whatever resources they can get their hands on.

The idea of a society with limited resources will be helpful research for my current and future projects. One of those project, my seventh novel, is currently only in the planning stages. I’ve got about ten pages of notes so far on what I plan to do with it, though I don’t intend to start writing this one until next year, maybe during #JuNoWriMo. Some of these notes are based on ideas I got from books like The Drowned Cities, relating to the idea of where people get the resources they need to survive. Food and other resources can be scarce. People might be having to improvise items to use them for something other than their original purpose. Gabby Palladino, my main character (who is also a poet) may have trouble finding simple things like pens and paper to write her journals and poems. Though I’ve already written things in the past that involve looting old, abandoned stores, so I’m sure she could find an abandoned office supply store with plenty of useful goods.

My more immediate project right now is continuing revisions on my second book, Contamination, which is the sequel to Manifestation. I won’t go into too much detail so as not to spoil some of the events of Manifestation, but suffice to say, some of the characters in Contamination can end up in some difficult situations where food and supplies are scarce. The scene I’m currently revising involves a gang of thugs with magic powers fighting for control over a grocery store, since controlling the store means controlling the food supplies left inside. When you’re desperate and hungry, that’s a higher priority than anything else. There are also other scenes of people doing things like smashing open an old vending machine to steal the stale snack foods inside. People will do what it takes when it comes to staying fed.

I plan to read some more books in war-ravaged post-apocalyptic settings in the near future in order to see how other authors have addressed the scavenger lifestyle. I find it an interesting one, and I think there’s a lot of potential character development to be found in writing a character who has to dig through the rubble to find the things they need to survive.


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