Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Testing the Bechdel Test: The Failures

Since one of my friends went to see the new Star Wars movie, I was curious as to whether it passed the Bechdel Test. The original trilogy lacks in the female characters department, but according to my friend and the news, The Force Awakens passes.

For those unfamiliar with the Bechdel Test, it examines the portrayal of women in film based on three criteria: (1) there are two [named] female characters, [2] who converse, [3] about something other than a man. It’s low-hanging fruit, but when you consider exactly how many movies don’t pass—everything from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Lord of the Rings to all but four Pixar movies… ouch.

As we discussed Star Wars, though, my friends raised criticism. The Bechdel Test is very subjective, like giving art a standardized test. Even if two female characters pass the test, but only have six minutes of screen time, how can we praise that as the pinnacle of feminism?

Well, I agree with my friends—we can’t. Sometimes we blow the Bechdel Test out of proportion. Though BechdelTest.com is handy for posts like this, glorifying it turns the test into a goal instead of a wake-up call. The test isn’t meant to be passed, but exceeded. Unfortunately, sometimes that isn’t easy to see behind the action, action, action, and also sex, and the Strong Female Characters whom we know and love.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the advantages and limitations of the Bechdel Test by examining female portrayals against their test ratings. We’ll start with what is depressing—because that means things can only get better from here. I hope.


Poor Female Portrayal, Bechdel Test Fail

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (source)


Seeing as there were no female characters in the book, it’s a surprise the second movie passes at all. But this is the first Hobbit movie. Bilbo is a dude. Gandalf is a dude. The twelve dwarves are dudes. They meet a lot of dudes on their journeys. In fact, the only lady in the film is Galadriel, who, while awesome, is only significant to the film because she gives Gandalf a mental pat on the back at the White Council.

Not only does this film fail to pass even the first criterion, but Galadriel doesn’t serve a particularly significant purpose. The story would have ended the same way without her short contribution. Of course, I can appreciate Peter Jackson’s effort, he was working with what he had… But, in the end, the value of women in this world is reduced to whatever Galadriel can offer, and that isn’t much.

Pretty fancy lady doesn’t make up for female experience. Representation FAIL.


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Up (source)


Everyone goes gooshy about Up’s first ten minutes, but I remind you that Ellie is the only named female who speaks, limited within those ten minutes. Almost everyone of any significance afterwards is a guy. Of course, Ellie never ceases to be significant to the plot because her death motivates Carl to the end, but Ellie is still dead. Dead women don’t talk in this film (though alive people talk to her). The only other significant women are Russell’s mom, who waves at him at his Wilderness Explorer ceremony, and Kevin the bird. Kevin is also significant to the plot in relationship to Charles Muntz, but birds still don’t talk.

Up is a cute story, focusing on dealing after death, paternal bonds, and the meaning of heroism. That’s good, but Ellie is dead. Kevin is a bird. Russell’s mom smiles and waves at him at his ceremony like it somehow DOESN’T BOTHER HER THAT HER CHILD RANDOMLY DISAPPEARED FOR DAYS ON THE WHIM OF AN ELDERLY, GRIEF-STRICKEN HERMIT BEFORE TURNING UP A CONTINENT AWAY IN VENEZUELA. I get that this film isn’t structured for female bonding, but for Pete’s sake. Even if they had offered up one other female character—even a female dog, if it came to that—in the end motherhood is characterized by two men saving a helpless lady bird so that she can go take care of her chicks. Thank God for boys and their adventures, otherwise those chicks never would have gotten their mom back. Also, thank God human mothers—who aren’t known for worrying after their kids or concerning themselves when they disappear, and can only fake pride under the most dire of conditions—aren’t nearly so active in their children’s lives. Because if Russell’s mom had had a personality? The whole movie would have been ruined.

Women? Women together? Women experiencing motherhood? What? Representation FAIL.

How do you feel about the Bechdel Test? What are some movies that fail the test that bother you?


Monday, December 28, 2015

How to Brood

Brooding and writing go hand-in-hand. Of course, being a writer means something different for everyone, but I’ve never known a writer to say, “My job is all about giving my characters the best lives possible and being a forever jolly person!”

Hahahahahahaha. No.

We are here to make our babies suffer. We want them to have chili pepper in their eyes and ribs that break like toothpicks and the stench of death lingering in every nostril. Like, not always… but, you know. Pain is an integral part of writing.

Brooding is but one writerly tool on the path of pain. In the words of Dictionary.com, “to brood” means “to dwell on a subject or to meditate with morbid persistence” (source). It’s good for writers to think about things for an unhealthy amount of time, because plots do not just come together—you have to think about terrible things for a long time to turn them into a good book!

Thus, a quick-and-easy guide to start brooding.

How to Brood

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1. Find a Brooding Topic

The suffering you can obsess upon is endless. What are your protagonist’s greatest faults? What is your villain’s tragic backstory? What makes the best friend really tick? What injustices must innocent people face? To ease into it, you might start thinking about your own problems and injustices and go from there.

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2. Get in a Bad Mood 

You can’t be happy and brood. And you aren’t going to understand other people’s problems if you don’t feel them, too. How does having your parents brutally murdered make you feel? How does having a bully push you around at school make you feel? What is it like to have your nemesis enemy take the boy you like and mark him as her own? Focus on that; find your funk.

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3. Go Over All the Details

Brooding isn’t brooding without specifics. What did happen that night your friends beat you up and left you in an alley to die? What was the smell of the river air? What did that corn dog taste like? How did it feel when it was speared into your sinus cavity? Where did that stain on your shirt come from? And, of course, what was it like to look into the eyes of the friends who betrayed you? Let no detail go unturned!

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4. EXPLODE IN A BALL OF RAGE AND DARKNESS

Model yourself after Sweeney Todd. Because THEY ALL DESERVE TO DIE TELL YOU WHY MRS. LOVETT TELL YOU WHY—

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5. Stop and Write it All Down

No filter. No stopping. Just write it all down.

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6. Turn Back Into a Fluffy Human Bean 

Sure, it’s hard to let go, but you can’t be Sweeney Todd 24/7 or you will face life problems. Forensic science has improved considerably, and I guarantee someone will notice if you bake folks into pies. Brood, get angry, turn into a black death monster, but then be like, “I want a cookie.” Because, as a wise person I knew in high school once said, “Those who hold grudges live unhappy lives.”

And it’s hard to write while holding a grudge.


That’s how I brood. Of course, brooding is the sort of activity you can learn to do in your own way. Some people like to do it out loud. Other people do it in the depths of some discreet dungeon. Some people want to have a brooding buddy (side note: do not use parents or other responsible adults; they will try to solve your problems instead of wallow in them, ugh). Whatever your brooding style may be, own it and use it!

How do you brood? 


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursentary: Five Reasons You Gotta Listen to Hamilton

I assume you’ve heard about Hamilton and you need to listen to it. But if you haven’t or if you want to hear it again, this post is for you.

Hamilton is the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, based on the life of Alexander Hamilton as told by the historian Ron Chernow. It portrays Hamilton’s life from the Revolutionary War through the Jefferson administration (at which point the Hamster dies). It is so awesome.

Not convinced? Take five reasons, on me.

1. It’s a tragedy about the U.S.A.’s creation

We blow things up every year come Independence Day because the Revolution was our victory. In the next-best known musical on the Revolution, 1776, the signing of the Declaration is the climax because it promises our great and glorious victory.

But the Founding Fathers had their share of failures (*coughArticlesofConfederationcough*). Hamilton’s dissatisfied attitude pushes him to rise through the ranks and make the government better; his dissatisfaction also leads to unfortunate choices and enemies—one of which eventually kills him. Though telling the story is a catharsis, Hamilton shows us part of our victory in a light that includes mourning. Even our greatest triumphs came with blood and tears and pain that real people felt, and to forget is to face defeat.

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2. American mythology comes to life on our terms

We’re an immigrant-based country—there isn’t a Zeus or Ata-en-sic or Brahma who sits in everybody’s back pocket. We do, however, share the spirit of the Revolution in common. That is our mythology. The historical George Washington was a fallible man… but to us, he was related to Mary Poppins because he was practically perfect in every way. He’s our figurehead.

That being said, Hamilton’s Founding Fathers exist as characters representative of ideas and ideals over “historically accurate” renditions. Hamilton employs America now to show America then, but still talk about America now. With diverse people, rap and hip hop and traditionalerish sound, and a singular historical interpretation, we have a new lens with which to view oppression, past and present. We make the mythology ours, and it is beautiful and terrible.

(for more on that, read this person’s Tumblr post)

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3. The girl characters rock

America’s early years can be characterized as explosions of testosterone thinly veiled behind legal treatises and a desire for freedom. Excepting Martha Washington, Betsy Ross, Molly Pitcher, Deborah Sampson, maybe Dolly Madison, and ALWAYS Abigail Adams, women hardly ever get mentioned—but Hamilton helps.

Not only does the musical feature the three Schuyler sisters and Maria Reynolds, but they get significant story time. There is something that it was like to be a woman during America’s early years. Even if the female experience didn’t have explicit political repercussions, women lived and influenced others that rippled down the historical chain. That’s why “Burn” is among my favorite songs—Eliza shares her experience and her choices and her life. Her voice is significant to the narrative, as are those of the other women. The stories they tell? They’re worth listening to.

(different Tumblr post for more on that)

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4. King George III

SO HE’S A TYRANT KING MAINTAINING TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENATION AND IS BAD BUT STILL HE’S HOT. I listen to “You’ll Be Back” all the time, to the point that my youngest sister has fallen in love with it, too, and she’s in the second grade. (She’s the only one I’ve convinced to listen to Hamilton and I can only give her five songs because language.)

George is the voice of the world—no one really expected the United States to take off. No one expected the little group of rebels to make something great. Though George is the voice of England and tyranny, he’s also the voice of the established countries waiting for America to fail. He adds perspective, pressure, tension, but in a British pop kind of way.

Also, hot.

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5. First you’ll laugh, then you’ll cry, third you’ll scream, and last you’ll die

The reality of human life ties your emotions, loyalties, and concerns into knots. There’s war and dueling and drinking, but also prolific writing and bookishness and French. Their cabinet meetings are rap battles. There’s parenthood. There’s friendship and enemyship. Oppression. Freedom. Victory, defeat; injustice, justice.

Alexander Hamilton’s life and death brings smiles and pain, empowerment, a story… memory. We grieve, we wait. You really need to listen to it all, but if you can’t this instant, I summed it up in my favorite Hamilton pins.

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I'm in love with Hamilton. Join me by clicking here.

Have you listened to Hamilton yet? What do you think? Also, Merry Christmas.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Books I Thought I Would Hate: H.I.V.E.

Believe me, I know. I know that I talk about my favorite books every other day. I know that it is dreary for me to dredge up the same titles time after time. I know that it’s easy to say, “Why don’t you pick up other books?”

Because 87% of other books are disappointing and I love this series. *nods* That is all.

H.I.V.E., by Mark Walden, ladies and gentlemen.

via Goodreads

Why I Thought I’d Hate It: 

It was totally the cover.

Like, I get a nice recommendation from some peers on an online forum, and I put it on hold. What else have I to read? Then I pick it up from the library and behold this sucker:

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Are the people not ugly? Is orange not among my least favorite colors? They say don’t judge a book by its cover but first impressions matter and I am a malevolent reader. My judge is always on. However, I was less hardened at the time, so I decided to read it anyway. Good thing I did.

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What Changed:

It’s like… It’s like where other kids feel like their childhood books are wrapped up in The Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter or Roald Dahl or Anne of Green Gables, mine is in H.I.V.E. It’s not told like a fairy tale, of course, but it’s got that same kind of enchantment. Except with villains, and wit, and this sense of finding where you belong in an otherworldly kind of way.

I completely and totally fell into that world. The characters were easy to root for. There were spies. And evil. Hilarity! Adventures! Terrors! OH it was so good.

It consumed my storymind, and that was that.

via Goodreads

Why I Ended Up Loving It:

There’s a lot to say. A lot of it was simply the storytelling and characters that enthralled me, but I think in some measure there are a few things that made it a lasting favorite series for me.

First, it’s in progress. Like, books never suddenly become bad because the whole series is out (that would be stupid) but when you can read along as the books come out, it feels like you grow with the series.

Second, it opened me to the idea of a gray morality. I would say that most of the main characters are very moral people—they have a very strong sense of right and wrong… it is just not the right and wrong that I was taught. For them, doomsday weapons are kind of like an art form. You can justify murder. It opened my eyes to what morality might look like through other people’s eyes. I feel like being exposed to a series where the characters themselves had to rethink morality encouraged me to rethink my own beliefs and be open to other people’s.

And like, that’s a lot of weight, to say that a YA series about a villain school totally changed my way of thinking about morality, but it was an important factor.

It’s also what made me come to love villains so much. If there isn’t an evil to rise up against, the hero will never grow—and no one will care. Really, I don’t know why we care about protagonists so much. Any idiot can be a good guy—and plenty of idiots have been.

The villains, though? They’re something special. And at least for me, they always will be.

Have you read H.I.V.E.? If not, do you have a book that changed the way you think about something important in your life?


(By the way, I'm still looking to make Sometimes I'm a Story better in 2016! If you have any suggestions for me, please take five minutes and fill out my end-of-year survey.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

End-of-Year Survey

I didn't want to postpone the other two posts that are happening this week so I didn't. I got rid of today's post instead!

As you may know if you are a blogger, surveys are really important because they help us figure out how we want to go about being bloggers in the next year and give us points where we need to improve the quality of the stuff we're giving you.

That being said, I made this one, and if you could be so kind as to share a few of your thoughts on Sometimes I'm a Story with me, that would be fantastical.



Thanks for your help, and see you again on Wednesday!

Friday, December 18, 2015

WBI: Maleficent


Never say never, but I don’t plan on watching Sleeping Beauty again. I like “Once Upon a Dream,” but it’s hard to connect with the story. Aurora has 18 lines. It’s mostly about the prince and fairies. Not my favorite movie. But I am willing to watch Disney’s Maleficent again—a hero and villain at once? Sign me up.

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When Maleficent’s childhood friend betrays her for the sake of power, she retaliates by cursing his infant daughter with a sleep like death. However, she grows fond of the child as she grows, and must fight to find a way to reverse her own curse.

WBI Profile

Classification :: Ξ01278!#*@
Role :: Avenger (punishing Stefan)
Motivation :: chaos (dissolving the Moor’s order), evil (hurting Stefan), idealism (holds Stefan accountable), personal/material gain (revenge), power/influence (over Stefan and Aurora)
Bonus :: magic (fairy), minion (Diaval), lair (the Moors), name (Maleficent, suggesting evil)

A Study

corrupted—originally a sweet fairy, Maleficent becomes hardened and cruel when Stefan steals her wings

powerful—she was able to protect the Moors alone with her magic, and her magic is greater than that of any other fairy on the Moors

vengeful—she wants to make Stefan pay for stealing her wings, and so takes it out on his daughter, Aurora, by sentencing her to living death

controlling—in her grief and anger, Maleficent also takes over the Moors where there had previously been no ruler; she forces everyone into submission around her

active—thankfully, she’s not one of those villains who leaves all her dirty work to her minions; she is just as involved in Aurora’s plight as Diaval is

maternal—after raising her behind the scenes, Maleficent grows to have a maternal affection for Aurora, and regains the ability to experience true love

regretful—eventually, Maleficent realizes that she doesn’t want Aurora to suffer the punishment her father deserves, and tries to reverse the curse

determined—even when she can’t reverse it, Maleficent goes through a lot of work to save Aurora, and deliver a just punishment to the person who should have had it in the first place

saved—ultimately, after being reunited with her wings, Maleficent regains her humanity and is able to return as a fairy without the same suffering she inflicted for all those years

dethroned—she steps down from her power, and instead Aurora is given that authority instead, making Maleficent back to what she was intended to be since childhood

Big Idea

a mother’s love—I suspect we’re cycling back to a focus on maternal love. I’ve discussed Zira, but between Baghra (Grisha Trilogy), Frigga (Avengers), Elinor (Brave), and many others, I’ve seen a lot more strong mothering characters in my media lately. Maleficent holds to the same tradition. You can’t mess with the mama bear, and in the end, she herself saves Aurora.

temporary villain—reformed villains are unusual; usually they die, or go to jail, or commit suicide, or have a tragic accident, or disappear, or die. Maleficent’s story details both her “fall from grace,” as it were, but also her return to the realm of love, peace, and justice. I like that twist of hope: the evil within ourselves isn’t invincible, and there’s no such thing as a completely evil person. Despite Maleficent’s unforgiveable actions, she never falls past forgiveness.

wholeness means goodness—still, I criticize some of Maleficent’s complexity: when Maleficent has wings, she’s good, but when she doesn’t, she’s evil. She never completely loses her capacity to love, but in losing her body’s fullest functionality she loses her humanity, too. Does that go for everyone? Is the humanity of the mentally and physically handicapped in our world also at risk? That’s such crude symbolism. In our world, good people are good, independent of their abilities and disabilities. Sure, Maleficent grieves when she loses her wings. Losing a piece of yourself is hard! But a lot of people out there aren’t going to get their wings magically reattached someday, and you literally can’t be an evil homicidal maniac just because you’re different (you need a way better reason). Maleficent was doubly avenged in overcoming Stefan and regaining her wings, but if it were me, she would have learned to live without her wings. In the real world, you can be whole even if you lose your wings, no world takeovers required.


Maleficent doesn’t have a villain song, but I did want to share Lana Del Rey’s rendition of “Once Upon a Dream.” Where it used to be a song between Aurora and Phillip, it is now haunting and reminds me more of Maleficent and Stefan’s relationship—it’s creepy, in an amazing way!


Overall, Maleficent was okay. How did she compare with the original movie? Would you ever write a villain like Maleficent?


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

D.A.Y. A.N.D. N.I.G.H.T. Tag

Madam Alexa of Summer Snowflakes tagged me for the D.A.Y A.N.D. N.I.G.H.T Tag, whose title is unsurprisingly tedious to type out. Thanks, Alexa!


D: Do you read more in the morning or at night?

At night until it’s morning again. Especially during summer and the weekends I extend bedtime due to the amazing book I’m reading.

A: Are there any books that changed the way you thought about things?

Plenty. I will list three:

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld: the first book that made me question the perception of beauty in society and its biological and psychological implications

Unwind by Neal Shusterman: my latest thoughts mostly consider that even if we don’t unwind teenagers, it’s so easy to treat teenagers like they’re less than people, which is why it was so easy for me to identify with the story

The Giver by Lois Lowry: this was introduced to me in sixth grade and I still think about decisions of life and death made by people who know the value of neither

(note: to make me think you’d better write a dystopia that will steal my heart and criticizes our present society)

Y: YA or not?

I direct you to the previous question, and then say: obviously.

And, by the way, if you say no, I suggest you look at my thoughts on Unwind again.

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A: Are there any characters that you honestly believe to be real?

No. The reality filter is strong with this one, and as much as I love to analyze stories and lose myself in the plot, it is always in the knowledge that it is not real.

N: Nobody borrows my books, or I don’t mind lending them out?

Sure, I’ll lend them out. If you are of decent character, of course.

D: Do you ever smell your books?

Not on purpose. Clearly if a book is open its proximity to my face will make some smelling inevitable but I don’t stand around smelling books all day.

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N: Not everyone likes books. Is this a positive or a negative?

The reasons I can think of to justify the positive is that everyone has different interests and that some think e-books are better. Both reasons are irrelevant.

Guess what? Books are a source of knowledge and individual experience. They teach you. They explore different viewpoints. They challenge you. They expose you to life at its full. Reading makes you more aware of and sympathetic to other viewpoints in the world, helps you challenge your own belief, and exercise your mind emotionally and intellectually to reach new conclusions about yourself, the world, the human condition, and so forth.

There is no upside to disliking reading. If you think disliking reading is a matter of preference you suggest that deep thinking is a matter of preference. That scares me so much.


I: I keep my books in mint condition… or, maybe not. Which are you?

Maybe not. Books are meant to be read and loved, so that’s why my library looks as scruffy as it does.

G: Gosh, I have too many books! True or false?

False, at least for the time being. My general rule of thumb is that if I know that if I know a book would bring someone else pleasure when it only brings me tedium, bad memories, or indifference, then that book needs to go. But that is not a problem I have right now.

H: Have you ever spilled something on or stained your books? How so?

This isn’t really spilling or staining, but it’s the best I’ve got. I had my brand new copy of The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan lying out. Little did I know that the pipe leading outside had broken over the winter and splashed water on it. (Worry not, I got it in the freezer in time and it was as good as new. But I didn’t have a ceiling for the next four years.)

T: Toned or untoned while reading? That is, do you read while you work out?

I don’t work out. But if I did, I wouldn’t. I work in a gym, and I have seen people try to study and work out, but there are moving parts and people in a gym—probably even more if you work out outside—so reading a book just doesn’t seem safe. I could see an audiobook being plausible, of course… But not hard copies.

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Thanks so much for the tag, Alexa! No tags this time—but I’ll do some tagging next week, okay?

Now, you tell me: Do you read more in the morning or evening? Why? Or, just tell me two of your answers in the comments!


Monday, December 14, 2015

It's Okay to Be Bored

Only Boring People Get Bored
Flickr Credit: Richard Eriksson

When I was a high school freshman, we had to write a personal “Declaration of Independence from” something. I declared independence from boredom—I was going to live life to the full, see the beauty and excitement in everything, and never use “I’m bored” as an excuse ever again.

I still agree with that… sorta. I want to see beauty and excitement everywhere. The last time I can remember complaining “I’m bored” was perhaps last year when I had nothing to do and then began to hunt down all of Clue’s murder weapons in my house to compensate. Time well-spent, I say. In general, being bored is a life-waster. Who wants to waste their life?

Of course, some days I need convincing of that, but it stands. The habit of boredom does no one any favors.

And yet… I’ve been thinking about a quote from (what else?) H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden lately:

“Otto was finding the work challenging but not impossible, his own strange talents helping him to adapt quickly to this new way of life. The only problems he had were with the politics and economics classes, not because they were particularly difficult, but because he found them mind-numbingly dull. Like anyone else he found it hard to excel in subjects that he had little or no interest in.” –H.I.V.E., page 197

For Otto, this is the beginning of a villainous high school career. And he gets bored in classes his friends find interesting. And for me… I can’t say I’m unfamiliar with the feeling.

I’m not sure whether to consider this idea a transgression or a relief.

On the one hand, I attend a liberal arts college because I find value in studying a wide range of subjects, even if they aren’t initially interesting or relevant to my career choice. No matter who you are or what you do, I believe there’s benefit in knowing at least a little bit about English and math and science and finance and so forth. It’s unacceptable to find things dull just because they aren’t immediately relevant to me.

But then I’m the bored one.

I reread a paragraph on the culture of WWI for the fifth time because I haven’t made it all the way through yet. I take the occasional note on Catholicism while I switch between Pinterest and solitaire and doodles and blog posts because the lecture isn’t gripping me. My classmates share their responses to the homework and I daydream because that gives me so much more.

What’s the matter with me? I don’t find war or religion or reading boring! Not in the slightest. And yet… Those readings… those conversations… There were days when they were mind-numbingly dull. As much as I want to know about why people fight and what people believe and who people are the wonder and excitement did not come.

Looking back on the four years since I declared independence from boredom, I’m starting to think that boredom isn’t a thing you can simply declare independence from. Sure, it can be a lazy excuse to fail to see the amazing things around you… but I wonder if sometimes boredom isn’t a defense mechanism designed to keep you focused on what is important to you.

War and Catholicism and Spanish are all noble disciplines, but sometimes the details I am given or the way in which they are told lack. Maybe the things I want to know about them aren’t things you can find in a book or a lecture or a discussion. Maybe my boredom is the encouragement to keep looking elsewhere for what I want—in stories and books and media that is new and electrifying in my hands.

Maybe. I don’t know.

So I guess I find a little hope in Otto’s story. I don’t get bored because I’m unintelligent. I don’t get bored because the subject isn’t important. And while I don’t have boredom’s nature nailed down yet, I don’t think it’s because I haven’t fully defined boredom in my own mind.

I get bored because I’m a person. Sometimes, people get bored. That’s all. I don’t even have to know why.

I accept that I’m going to get bored again, just as I have been bored in the past. Even if I find subjects amazing and wondrous and fascinating in one context, I have to remember that they may be mind-numbingly dull in another. As for declaring independence from it? No. My declaration failed to realize that, like everything else in this life, boredom is inherently complex and tricky.

Perhaps I’ll think about this again the next time I get bored during class.

What do you do when you get bored? Do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?


Friday, December 4, 2015

Brief Update + Blogoversary Winner!

Hey!

There isn't going to be a long post today because next week is finals week, so I have a lot of studying, essay-writing, and procrastinating to do (as per usual). I won't be posting next week, I'm afraid, but the good news is that as I'm finishing up the semester, I'll soon get back in the swing of things and start un-neglecting everyone else's blogs!

That will be fun.

And, by the way, congratulations to Shanti of Weaving Waves Words for winning the Sometimes I'm a Story blogoversary giveaway! Shanti—I'll email you over the next week so that we can talk!

That's all for now, but I'll be back for all our usual fun and games soon. :)

Heather

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bedtime Book Tag

It’s been since last month since I posted a tag (actually, it’s been since last month since I posted at all, ha), and so I thought I would do the Bedtime Book Tag as given to me by Alyssa!

Do you even like book tags? I am okay with book tags sometimes. I will just do the tag because it is a little late to start having a blogistential crisis.

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1. A book that kept you up all night.

*squints* In my experience, there is not a book that would keep me up that would take all night to read. Sure, there are long books out there—but they are never that long.

I will tell you the story of how I stayed up reading all night one night. I got sick when I was visiting my grandma out-of-state, and since I didn’t have my asthma under control I couldn’t breathe laying down. Rather than tough it out horizontally the whole night, I went to the kitchen and read Assassin by Anna Myers, Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer, and another book I don’t remember all night long. It was the longest night ever.

2. A book that made you scared to sleep.

TV shows have been known to give me the heebie-jeebies, books usually do not.

3. A book that made you go to sleep.

I don’t think I’ve ever fallen asleep reading.

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4. A book that left you tossing and turning all night in anticipation of its release.

…You know, there is such a thing as patience, and I have it. I do. And you know what, even if a book is released there is a chance I cannot buy it or it is not coming for a few weeks and if so, too bad for me. I just have to wait.

I was very excited when Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo came out, though. Not can’t-sleep excited, but excited.

5. A book that has your dream ship

I am not much of a shipper, but I have to admit that Scarlet and Wolf from The Lunar Chronicles are too cute not to die over.

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6. A book that would be your worst nightmare to live in.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Women are reduced to the usefulness of their bodies in producing children, women are not allowed to read or write, women get sent to clean up toxic waste and die as soon as they become infertile, white men rule the world.

And not that this world is perfect but that one is a Heather’s-personal-hell sandwiched between eternal punishment and death to mankind.

7. A book that reminds you of nighttime.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, because Ari has a lot of nighttime reflections, and that is kind of significant, even if he is also a stupid teenage boy sometimes. (Like seriously, what kind of people dance naked in the rain? They will get pneumonia! And cold!)

8. A book that had a nightmarish cliffhanger.

A Stranger Thing by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal. It’s the second book in the series and I feel like I can’t spoil it for you guys, but it’s the kind of cliffhanger that becomes the incredibly stressful problem of the third book, and has made me conclude there are some things new mothers should never ever have to go through. Ever.

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9. A book you actually dreamt about.

I’ve dreamt about H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden, where I was on a mission with Dr. Nero and we invaded a shopping mall with grapplers—which is dumb, because we could have just used the doors, but whatever.

10. A book monster you wouldn't want to find under your bed.

All of them? I don’t want anything under my bed. I can’t think of any one monster in particular, but I will say that no creature without a rational mind has every bothered me as a literary monster so much as the human monsters who have a sense of rationality and the depravity to enjoy suffering.

Vampires. Judge Claude Frollo. Fenrir Greyback. Fangs of Dang. Opal Koboi. Echidna. Dragons. None of those things I want under my bed.

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Now it is time for me to go to bed. Sleep tight. Don’t let the book bugs bite.

Answer me two of the questions—what are some of your bedtime book habits?


Monday, November 30, 2015

In Which I Do Not Know Everything

When it comes to being a writer there is a lot of it that you can learn online. I mean, first, you read a lot, then you write a lot, and then there are a million people who can give you tips and tricks to edit your babies. Then, when you’re ready, you can find CPs, betas, and agents to query. In fact, you can look up and practice how to write query letters (which is an important skill, btw) and then tell all your writer friends about it on Twitter.

Writer's Block
Flickr Credit: alexkerhead

But there are things I just do not know about being a writer. They are not essential to the writing process, they are just questions I have. Are there answers? You tell me.

  1. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that “write a book” is one of the top twenty things people put on their bucket lists?
  2. Is Rick Castle actually based off of any real writers? 
  3. If published writers aren’t supposed to read random people’s work for legal reasons but then all of one author’s CPs die in a tragic plane crash while coming to visit them, how will they get new CPs?
  4. How many worthy but unpublished works are sitting at the bottoms of drawers and buried on people’s computers because they are too afraid to query?
  5. Has anyone actually ever been arrested for their browsing history as a writer or do people just want to dramatize their writerly quirks?
  6. What if there is a conspiracy of evil published writers who all give bad writing advice to maintain their sales and prestige?
  7. How many people still think J.K. Rowling is the exception and not the rule?
  8. What will be the books that last into the next century?
  9. Does every new book you write create a new universe filled with new people who maybe don’t even feature in the book but just exist to make the world a world? IS IT MY FAULT THAT THERE MAY BE A GUY NAMED ANDRE WHO LOST HIS WIFE ENYA AND UNNAMED SON IN CHILDBIRTH YESTERDAY BECAUSE I CREATED A UNIVERSE WITH POOR HEALTHCARE LEAVING HIM TO RAISE HIS OTHER TWO CHILDREN ALONE?
  10. Do we all want to make our readers cry someday and if we do does that make us bad people?
  11. Are book preferences (by genre, etc.) linked to intelligence? Has anyone studied this?
  12. What if there were super good novels from back in the day that were destroyed in the burning of libraries or because someone’s mom hated words so we’ll never know of the most creative minds in history?
  13. Is it a worse fate for a book to be read and hated or unread and never given a second thought?
  14. How long is the lifespan of writers compared to normal people?
  15. Will people ever stop reading?

So there are fifteen questions I don’t have the answers to. Again, I don’t need them to write, but sometimes they are good questions to scare myself with.

Do you have any unanswerable questions about the writing industry? What are they?


(By the way, you can still enter a giveaway to win a critique of 10 pages of your writing! Go take a look!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It's a... SECOND BLOGOVERSARY!

Hello! It will interest you to know that there is nothing special about this day, except it is my SECOND BLOGOVERSARY!


Two years. I have been blogging for two years. That’s like ten percent of my life so far. That’s kind of a lot. But then, I like blogging kind of a lot. Either way, I have good reason to celebrate.

If I recall correctly from my most boring post, I promised three things: a video, a giveaway, and a game-ish tag thing. So, allow me to get started in sharing those three things.

First, the video. Ta-da! It is me and Elizabeth, here to answer all your questions. We picked at least one question from everyone who asked, but we could not get to them all—perhaps we shall answer some more in a later post.


I have no video editing software, so you get us talking in all our uncut glory. Also, it is good I invited Elizabeth to do this with me because she and I have different skills. Hers fall into the category of looking at the camera and talking to you and being generally articulate and mine include not looking at the camera and wearing my Wicked jacket for the fifth time in a video of this sort on accident.

Enjoy!

***also, just so you know that I know, it turns out that there are still Mongols, but there are not still Mongol hoards conquering and pillaging, which is what we were thinking of. Oops.

The second order of business is the giveaway. As I said before, I’m giving away a critique of ten pages of your writing. There are no country restrictions (though I’m only going to be useful to you if your stuff is in English), but your writing will have to be in 12-point Times New Roman and all that jazz, because I have standards. Once you win, we’ll talk details.

Also, I have changed my mind from what I said earlier, and it is no longer okay to kill, maim, or otherwise debilitate other people who have entered the giveaway to ensure your win because I think that would probably be immoral.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And, lastly, in the spirit of celebrating blogs, I thought it would be fun to do a blog tag the way we sometimes do book tags. It’s always good to keep writing new posts, but sometimes as your blog gets older, some of the good ones can get buried in the mix. That is why I am bringing you this tag, so that you may highlight the wonders of your own blog for the rest of us to see.

  1. What was your first post? When did you write it?
  2. What is your most popular post?
  3. What is your favorite post?
  4. What are some particularly emotional posts you’ve written? (And it doesn’t necessarily have to be weepy—you could be ecstatic or enraged or disgusted, if that applies.)
  5. Have you ever written particularly a particularly controversial post?
  6. What is your most humorous post?
  7. Have you ever given/received/exchanged guest posts?
  8. What are some things you want to blog about but haven’t gotten to yet?
  9. What is the best thing about your blog?
  10. And, for the heck of it—what are a few of your favorite blogs (that, if it wasn’t implied, are not yours)?
And, when you’re done with that (should you choose to participate), feel free to stick it in the linky below!



Let the celebrations begin! *sprinkles confetti and sprinkles over everyone’s heads* And, to everyone, thanks for making Sometimes I’m a Story a super awesome experience for me. Thanks for your presence and your awesomeness—here’s to another year of more of the same!

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I cannot think of any good questions that do not drop hints that you should participate. Because, of course, I’d like you to, but you could be finishing up Nano or something. *shrugs* Oh well. If you won the giveaway, what would you have me take a look at?

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Lion King: Fangirling, Adoration, and Love

*fans self* Okay, so I went to see The Lion King yesterday and I kind of died inside and though I’d like to send you off with some coherent, rational response really this is just me getting out my undying love for The Lion King and probably musicals in general.

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My favorite character, beyond a doubt, was Rafiki. On stage, she’s a girl, which is in accordance to the nature of female spiritual leaders from the cultures Lion King is drawing from. She was simply amazing. She was funny and she was sassy but she was also wise and insightful. I will write a post on Rafiki some other time, but suffice it to say that Rafiki is my favorite character in the musical. Because she is awesome.

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The costumes, beyond a doubt, were spectacular. I don’t know if the job of the person who designed them was “theater engineer” but that’s totally what they were, and they were heart-stoppingly gorgeous. Maybe you can see the humans in them, so they don’t look like “real animals,” but their designs all carried the spirit of the real animals, and that was superb.

Speaking of engineering, the wildebeest scene also really impressed me—in the film, that entire scene, which probably isn’t even five minutes, took something like two years to animate simply because there were so many wildebeests. On stage, it was really cool to see the way that the animals were set up to give the impression of an overwhelming stampede without actually needing three hundred actors. I was really impressed.

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Oh, I loved the bright colors! I think The Lion King in general is supposed to be a more showy musical, but the last few musicals I’ve seen professionally produced have been things like Evita and Jekyll and Hyde and so forth—and things tend to be a little more dark in those musicals, so the costumes reflect that. The Lion King, more than anything, is not just a story of a prince reclaiming his birthright but a story of balance against imbalance, or good versus evil, as we might deem it—that even though there is sadness and darkness and pain the circle turns, bringing life, and hope, back to power every time. There is such power in those colorful costumes.

Let’s see… songs! I really enjoyed the rendition of “He Lives in You” performed during the “look at the stars” scene between Simba and Mufasa—I’ve really, really loved this song in The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride (not sure for which came first though, the sequel or the musical) and I think it’s a really enchanting song about heritage and guidance and spirituality and it seriously was amazing. Mufasa nailed it (as did his backup singers, of course).

And “Be Prepared,” “The Circle of Life,” “Shadowland,” and all the other songs were good, too. Just that “He Lives in You” shall always be my favorite.

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Speaking of “Shadowland,” Nala was perhaps my second favorite character. She had a very strong leadership presence, was graceful and fierce but also loving and kind. She was the best kind of carnivore.

More than that, I really liked the exploration of the female identity onstage, too. Of course, female lions do the hunting, and I really enjoyed the lionesses’ hunting scene, but there were other aspects, too. For example, many of the story’s main events are instigated by male characters—Simba, Scar, Mufasa, Timon, and Pumbaa especially—and considering how similar the lionesses are, how little they seem to do compared to the top guys, it seems easy to assume that they’re just extras. But that’s not how I saw it. The lionesses had many important roles without which Simba would not have returned to Pride Rock.

  • When the lionesses asked in unison, “So, where is this ‘cool place’?” they demonstrated a role of motherhood, but distinctly in a demonstration of protection and guardianship.
  • When Mufasa died, it was the lionesses who cried—it was the lionesses who mourned (also, Rafiki). In mourning they remembered, and in remembering, it was they who held onto the values of balance while Scar was in power.
  • Thus, in holding onto those values, it was the lionesses who passed on that value of balance to Nala, so that when they and Rafiki were forced to send her off, she too would remember her pride and the identity that came with it. No matter where she went, Nala would still be woven into the fabric of their tradition, which would be important because…
  • It is Rafiki and Nala who bring Simba back home again. Simba has forgotten his identity and his responsibility and it takes the women who have remembered their identities and traditions to knock sense into him and restore him to his throne.

And sure, I totally just made it sound like the role of the lionesses completely falls into that “sphere of domesticity” nonsense, but I think the real point the musical is making is not that the lionesses belong in distinctly familial roles, but rather that everyone belongs in distinctly familial roles, and the two characters who abandon their family—Scar and Simba—are really the ones who makes things the way they aren’t supposed to be. Bottom line, the best thing about the lionesses and Rafiki is that they have a distinct and important identity integral to the Circle of Life and they’re the only ones who manage to not screw things up in the whole musical. Plus, I loved their costumes.

Lastly, a shout-out to Zazu for the slight alteration of his annoying song from “It’s a Small World” to “Let It Go.” I think every parent in that theater felt Scar’s pain.

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IT WAS SO GOOD. I could not have asked for a better birthday gift (although an early gift, to be fair). I have talked so much about it, though. Just leave knowing that the king has returned.

I could not think of a more inspiring way to send you off.

Do you like The Lion King, movie or musical? What are your favorite parts?


Friday, November 20, 2015

WBI: Nate Ford

If Leverage has a main-er main character than the other main characters, then it is probably Nate Ford. His history, his haint, his hurt—it's because of his initiative we have a TV show about a career felon with an alcohol problem. Isn’t he the best?

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Grieving the death of a son who was denied treatment by his employer, a large insurance company, Nate Ford begins a trajectory of retribution against the rich and powerful around the world. He decides to provide leverage, and it all goes down from there.

WBI Profile

Classification :: A023578$#*&
Role :: Alpha (plotting and idealistic mastermind)
Motivation :: chaos (dissolution of corporations, etc.), idealism (high social/moral standards), insanity/psychology (alcoholism), lifestyle (alcoholism, revenge business), personal/material gain (revenge), power/influence (over injustice)
Bonus :: money (alternate revenue stream), minions (Leverage crew), lair (Leverage HQ), family ties (Leverage crew)

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A Study

grieving—Nate’s son Sam was eight when he died; I’ve heard it said you never get over the loss of a child, you just learn to find a new normal, which Nate semi-successfully pulls off

mastermind—Nate plans and guides the cons, so while he occasionally fills in a roll, usually he just uses his big brain to pin the bad guys

rooted—unlike certain others on the crew, Nate has a deep-set sense of morality which contributes to his demand for justice; he never wonders what is right, he just struggles to get there sometimes

outcast—after descending into alcoholism, losing his family, and withdrawing from his former life, Nate never really opens up again, making him emotionally and physically distant from even his best friends

determined—Nate rarely lets his emotions get in the way of what he wants, and when he does he refuses to acknowledge it

repressive—many times, he ignores his alcoholism, his feelings, his own suffering because he gets through it by helping other people; it drives him mad, but it is also necessary

detail-oriented—he not only pays attention to every detail, but he makes plans for multiple eventualities, so that whatever may come, there’s always something he can do about it

well-rounded—Nate’s worked airport security and insurance and many other jobs, so even if he isn’t an experienced thief, he knows the world and how people function inside of it

teacher—especially with Parker, who has been cut off from her humanity for a long time, Nate provides a voice of reason, moral council, and reassurance to other characters who need a little extra guidance

misfit—Nate doesn’t belong in the average world, and yet, despite being such a successful mastermind, it seems he doesn’t really belong in the world of crime, either

father—if Sophie is the mother of the crew, then Nate is the father, who guides, teaches, leads, and drives the team into effective, good people who have a reason to steal

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Big Idea

starting over—this series deals with Nate and his demons, for he must reconcile who he was with the entirely different person he is. This is a man who drank himself out of his job, his house, his marriage. To make the Leverage business work, he has to find a new self and control it. It’s a story of hitting rock bottom, and the climb back out to something more.

always right—Nate tends to take his decisions personally. He always wants to be right, he always wants to win, and he always wants things to come out on top, on his terms. He can be competitive and even put the con in danger because his ego doesn’t take bruises lightly. It’s dangerous, but that need for rightness also contributes to his determination, detail-orientation, and morality. He wouldn’t be Nate without it.

father knows best—Nate guides the rest of the team in a fatherly fashion, even if in some cases the age difference doesn’t make sense. He’s an honest man, and that means that he can give Parker guidance as she explores humanity, Hardison training as he reaches for maturity, and Eliot support as he reinvents himself. In the end, everything he does is for their benefit, and doesn’t give that final gift to them until he’s positive they will be okay.


And, I think I will share a version of his most famous line, from one of my favorite episodes.

“Let’s go steal the future.” –Nate Ford, "The Future Job"

Have you watched Leverage? What do you think of Nate as a villain? Would you ever write a mastermind character like him?


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Advocating Annotation

There’s this weird aversion people have to writing in their books. Even textbooks. Like, if you put a pen to the printed paper you’ll interrupt the sanctity of the story and you’ll go to Book Hell someday.

Some people feel very strongly about having virgin books.

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I, on the other hand, have no such qualms. Certainly, I’m not going to write in EVERY BOOK, especially if it’s just for pleasure, but if it is something with which I plan to do a literary analysis or it is for school, there is no way I am not doing it. And, to be honest, I would recommend a habit of annotating, too. It’s good for you, I promise.

1. You Prioritize the Important Bits

Maybe you are reading a history textbook or maybe you are reading Wuthering Heights. Either way, your ability to demonstrate an understanding of the book will not just come from memorizing names and big events—highlighting the small but significant details tracks the progression of ideas in the story and helps you pinpoint exactly what the writer is trying to say.

Questions You Answer: What are the significant details? How do they relate to one another? How do they relate to the main idea?

2. You Record Reactions

This seems like it wouldn’t be relevant in an academic setting, but I disagree. Even if your reading material is sometimes super boring, they were not actually intended to be that way 99% of the time. The point of writing something is to send a message that evokes something in the reader. By keeping track of your reactions, you can gauge whether the author accomplished that goal.

Questions You Answer: What feelings/reactions did you have while reading? How does this support the author’s purpose (or not)?

3. You Interact with the Text

If you zone out when you’re reading, sometimes I find that underlining and making notes helps me keep a better handle on what I’m reading because I have to physically respond to what I’m reading. I’ve always found that helps things sink in.

Questions You Answer: How does this text relate to me (even if that relationship is primarily my grade in this class)?

4. It’s Easier to Find Stuff

In English class you can be guaranteed of two things: verbal discussion and essays. (Well, at least at my schools.) The worst thing in either of those situations is when you want to talk about something, but you know that your thoughts have no validity unless you can yourself up with a textual reference and YOU CAN’T FIND THE REFERENCE YOU NEED. When you annotate, it raises your awareness of the book's spacial reality, and then you can be like, “Oh yeah, my thought it three pages after I made a note about Japanese sandwiches."

Questions You Answer: Where is the stuff that is important in relation to the rest of the book? How can I find it again?

5. It is Fun

My annotations are about 80% important factual details, 15% reactions, 3% vocab/small personal notes, and 2% Broadway musical lyrics. The best part of being the oldest is that when your younger sisters take your classes they can read the books you wrote in, and then you can enjoy the sound of their laughter as they find all the random stuff you put in there. It is very gratifying, I assure you.

Questions You Answer: How can I make this book an enjoyable experience I won’t regret?

Those are the five best reasons I can think of to annotate. It’s useful, it’s effective, and it is entertaining. Plus, it’s kind of like a time capsule, and you can see your thoughts as they evolve on the page!

Do you write in your books? What methods do you use?