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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

On Jadism

The idea behind this post started the same as any other.

I was pursuing the educated and well-informed opinions of the Urban Dictionary--


when I stumbled on this gem. The term was "jadism," a made up Internet word that my spellchecker keeps insisting I spelled wrong. The term "jadism" simply refers to the concept of being jaded. One might ask why the word even exists, or what purpose it serves, when the word "jaded" already exists, but I think it's a more than necessary word that needs no justifying.

I've always held the belief that words serve a vital purpose, in that they enable the user to grasp abstract concepts.

Take the word "Fissileg" for example. The German word refers to when a normally competent person is being watched and nagged so closely that they get flustered and annoyed to the point of incompetence.

The whole "I can do it when they aren't watching" concept. Anyone who's ever been even remotely self-conscious about job performance and has experienced an overbearing boss has experienced "fissileg," but there has never been a word in the English language to describe it. That doesn't mean that it couldn't be explained in English words (as I have just done), but it would take a long-winded explanation instead of a single word, and the existence of a word immediately justifies its meaning.

Oftentimes if there's a word for a certain concept, phenomenon, or feeling, we naturally assume it's because it's common enough to warrant a word describing it.

One funny example is the Indonesian word "Mencolek," which is when you tap someone on their opposite shoulder when someone is standing next to them to make them think the other person tapped their shoulder.

That might sound oddly specific and not at all worthy of its own word, but it's not some Indonesian thing. When I was in middle and elementary school kids did this to each other all the time, and California is pretty different from Indonesia, so it's fair to assume a lot of kids do this joke.

Unrelated but here's a funny comic strip I like:

Let's just pretend it doesn't say "Buzzfeed" in the corner.
I couldn't find it anywhere on the Internet no matter how many variations of "light falling through leaves word" I googled, but there's a word in a foreign language (I think it might have been German) that refers to what you see on the ground when light cascades through tree leaves onto the ground. You know, the leaf-pattern shadows.

Why doesn't English have a word for that?

Anyway, if a word exists, it must exist for a reason (if it's actually used by anyone, at least), so the mere existence of a word makes its meaning prevalent. With fewer words, we grasp fewer concepts.

One quote that's often attributed to Einstein (but if you do the research, virtually every single "Einstein" quote was actually said by someone else, including the famous "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" quote, which was actually found in an old book of Narcotics Anonymous. Another quote that every uniformed monkey on the Internet attributes to Einstein is the famous line, "Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it's stupid." That line was actually stolen from an obscure self-help book written by Matthew Kelly. In fact if you see any picture of a famous historical figure and a quote next to it, the odds of it being that person's quote is less likely than you winning the lottery or me getting a book deal) is the line, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand the concept well enough."

Einstein never said that, he never said anything close to that, but it's a good line--a true one, at least.

Although it's not merely the ability to explain something in a certain amount of words, but being able to explain it in as few as possible; and the fewer words there are available, the harder it becomes to describe things that we partially understand.

Just for shits and giggles though, let's have a look at some other famous historical quotes.








Alright, back to the subject.

"Jadism" is a necessary word because the quality of being jaded is an increasing epidemic. I myself often fall prey to the noxious cloud of jadism that permeates every corner of America right now. I blame twitter--that steaming pile of dogshit is nothing but a circle-jerk of outrage and apathy. The caustic culture of scandals and outrage has reached a toxic critical mass that I thought only 4chan and Tumblr were capable of, but I digress. I just like bitching sometimes, I'm no better than the people I complain about. I mean there's an obvious hypocrisy when someone like me bitches about people constantly bitching on the Internet, but at least I'm self-aware so that makes me better somehow.

Although I think twitter is the byproduct of a larger systematic issue, that being "outrage culture." You could surely make a case that "outrage" is extremely different from "jadism," and you would be correct. What I'm saying is that outrage leads to jadism, or at least to more outrage. The Immutable Law of Internet Outrage (which I just coined) states that when a person or group of people reach OCM, or outrage critical mass, only one of two things can happen; either they continue to be more and more outraged for perpetuity (SJWs), or they become jaded and apathetic (doomers).

Although there is certainly a lot of in-between; SJWs are always outraged and doomers are always pessimistic and think the world is hopeless.

When people who aren't SJWs see all the constant outrage and absurdity on the Internet, things said and done by real people, they naturally come to the conclusion that the world is fucked and they might as well stop caring. Although, there are some who reach a revelation; that being that not everything warrants outrage nor does everything warrant apathy.

Two movies that encapsulate these ideas perfectly are Falling Down (1993) and Office Space (1999). I think one of the reasons I didn't like Joker (2019) was that it felt like it was trying too hard to be edgy, and was too dramatic in how it portrayed his backstory to the point of being stupid. I think Falling Down and Office Space do a much better job of portraying the same idea. That being that regular adult life is absolutely soul-crushing for most people.

Obviously not everyone hates their job, but certainly more than a healthy amount of people do. I wouldn't expect a perfect society where everyone loves their super fulfilling job, that's just not going to happen; but one would have to be extraordinarily out of touch to think that most regular people don't have to deal with the stuff in Office Space and Falling Down. While some aspects were obviously exaggerated for comedy, most of the things in Office Space were real-life examples. In fact the movie was so influential that lots of people wrote to Ron Livingston telling him that they quit their soul-crushing cubicle job after watching the movie, and lots of managers and office supervisors were offended by the movie and would punish employees if one of them put an Office Space poster up somewhere in the office because it was seen as an insult or a sign of rebellion, but of course the irony went right over their heads.

Many people don't know this, but TGI Fridays used to do the "flair" thing that Joanna loathes so much in the movie. For the uninitiated, in Office Space there's several running gags, and one of them is the "flair." Basically the employees at Joanna's diner have to wear a certain number of colorful buttons called "flair" to "express themselves." Joanna wears 15 different buttons on her uniform, which is the minimum amount of flair, and her condescending boss keeps passive-aggressively telling her to wear more flair but each time she says "So you want me to wear more buttons?" he says something like "Well, 15 is the minimum, but do you really only want to do the minimum?"

Apparently this stupid trend was something that lots of places forced onto servers and waitresses in the 90s, and after Office Space came out TGI Fridays removed the flair rule that they had in place. One customer asked what happened to the flair and a waitress said, "It's because of that Office Space movie."


Passive-aggressiveness is something that runs rampant in the American workplace. It's one of the most odious and abrasive aspects of working in many jobs. Any young person who's ever worked food or retail has their share of this experience, and the movie does a great job in making parallels between Joanna's job and Peter's, even though he works in computer engineering and she works in food. Even though their jobs are completely different in essentially every way, somehow they have the same condescending PoS as a boss.


In my Cartoons post I mentioend Squidward as an example and I think that still holds up. If you pay attention to the old reviews of the movie when it first came out, a lot of people didn't like Office Space. Most people didn't really get it; the humor didn't land and the pacing seemed off. A lot of people thought the movie was boring, and it didn't do well at the box office.

But then, after five or ten years give or take, it had a cult following. Where did the following come from? Well, Spongebob holds the answer. What makes Spongebob click for millenials is that when  we watched the show as a kid, we were Spongebob; but when we watch it today, we're Squidward. The episodes that aired during those first three seasons haven't changed, but we've changed enough to see it through a completely different lense.

Yet, Office Space did this on a much bigger scale. When people first watched the movie in theaters in 1999, it seemed almost like a boring documentary on office and the humor didn't make much sense, but now all of American society has become just jaded and sick of their mundane lives to get it. Several of the various reviews I watched for the film all said the same thing--something along the lines of, "I watched this movie 20 years ago and didn't like it, but I watched it again today and I lvoed it."

This sentiment comes from the fact that mundane and underployment (soul-crushing jobs that anyone can do, regardless of skills; things like holding a sign outside, being a telemarketer, going door-to-door to pass out Mormom pamphlets, retail cashier, etc.) jobs have expanded enough for most average Americans to understand what it's like having a Bill Lumbergh for a boss, or getting chastised by a coterie of sterile, talentless hacks who make one figure more money for 1/10th of the work, or working at TGI Fridays and having some condescending 22-year-old lecturing them on not having enough flair because of some arbitrary rule on wearing buttons.

The movie was so accurate in its portrayal of the uninspired and insipid workplace that hanging an Office Space poster in your cubicle was seen as an act of defiance or rebellion, and a lot of employers banned it. You can tell it hit close to home if that many managers felt personally attacked by a movie poster.
"Hey, uhhh, listen, buddy... about that poster in your workspace...."
Just to make this clear, this post is in no way anti-work or anti-workplace, just those types of workplaces. You know the kind; the ones where you feel your spirits crushed beneath a grindstone of monotony and failure.

There are definitely good ones out there, but it sure seems like they're becoming scarce. Some polls say as many as 85% of people hate their job, which seems a little too high to me, but others say 70% which sounds completely plausible. Are these numbers anecdotal? Surely, yes. Many of these polls only involve a couple hundred people or less, sometimes not even that. I've seen dubious claims made by "professional and reliable" polls that, turned out, to only be a poll of 30 people who live in the same neighborhood. Hardly a good sample size.

That being said, around 70% sounds more than reasonable. Odds are if you were to round up 10 of your friends from different age groups and ask them if they hated their job, at least five would probably say yes (assuming you don't all work at the same awesome company or something).

I've seen pretentious answers on Quora (don't even get me started on those pseudo-intellectual a-holes) claiming that most of these people don't hate their "job," they just hate one or two aspects of their job and conflate their dislike for those one or two aspects with dislike for the job itself.

But if you see where I'm going with this, that doesn't add up--and it just so happens Office Space explains why.

First we must look at an imposing philosophical question; what is your job? I mean, if you have a job you probably know what it is, but if someone saying they hate their job likely means they actually just hate one or two aspects of that job and not the job itself, then what would a person need to hate in order to candidly say that they hate their actual job?

Is it the work itself? Is it their pay? Is it their coworkers, or the customers they interact with? Is it the difficulty of the job? Or maybe the traffic en route of the job?

Well, as Office Space kindly points out, every job exists in gestalt. You see, one may argue that you don't hate the nebulous vague concept of your job, just that one aspect that annoys you; but if that one annoying aspect makes up 80% of your experience at said job, then I'd argue the mere fact that you're exposed to it 80% of the time means it's an integral part of the job itself.

If that sounds like gibberish (which it kinda does in my head), just watch this short clip which summarizes everything perfectly.


Every single moment he spends at work he has to listen to the receptionist repeatedly saying, "Corporate accounts pay-able Ni-na speakiiiing, just a moooomeeent."

One could argue that the annoying receptionist is just one aspect of the job, and that hating that part of the job isn't the same as hating the job itself, and to that, I have but one rebuttable:

If you change one nail on a ship, and all else is the same, is it still the same ship? Yes? Well, what if we also changed a broken plank? And if yes, how many nails and planks have to be changed before it becomes a new ship? If we changed every single wood plank and nail on a ship, so that every single part of the ship is gradually replaced, is it still the same ship? And if not, at what point does it become a different ship?

Now let us ask this question with jobs; if hating one aspect of the job isn't the same as hating the job itself, how many "aspects" of the job must one hate before they hate the job itself? Two? Three? Forty-seven? All of them?

The thing about Office Space is that Peter hates every aspect of his job. The commute, the work itself, his boss, his schedule, his coworkers, all of it. He says in one clip:


So what about that? If you consider each day at your job to be the worst day of your life, does that indicate the person hates their job? If we assume the answer is "yes," then what if they're utterly miserable everyday at their job, but it's not literally the worst day of their life? Does that mean they don't actually hate their job? I'd say living in misery is more than enough to say they do.

What if they don't live in misery everyday of their job, but most of the time they're miserable there, and the rest of the time is only OK? I'd say the same thing--they still hate their job.

You get the picture. The problem with the "it's not the job itself that they hate" argument is that no one could say for certain what the job itself even is. Couldn't one say that jobs are greater than the sum of their parts, and can be described only by the overall experience of working there? If that's the case, then hating that experience is enough to say you hate your job.

Now, it's not just jobs that do this--although I believe underemployment and bad jobs are a major culprit. This is because jobs and school are pretty much the only constant factor in most peoples' lives, so if one or both of those things are awful experiences, then that person will be in constant misery.

Although the titular protagonist Peter does say one interesting thing that really caught my attention; there's a funny scene where he goes into extreme detail about how he spends his time at work, saying that he usually comes in at least 15 minutes late, always takes the side door to avoid running into his boss Lumbergh, and usually spaces out for an hour or two before lunch followed by spacing out at his desk after lunch too, but it looks like he's working when his boss swings by. He says that he only does around 15 minutes of real, honest work any given week, and when one of the Bobs asks him why, he says, "I'm not lazy, I just don't care. If I bust my ass and the company ships out a few extra units, I don't see another dime. So where's the motivation?" He goes on to say that the has eight different bosses who swing by his desk to lecture him any time he makes the slightest mistake, and that his only motivation is not being hassled, but the flaw with that is that people will only work hard enough not to get fired.

Probably one of the best examples about the vacuous, all-consuming parasitic nature of massive corporate jobs is the entire character Milton. At one point they discover a glitch where it turned out he was getting paychecks even though he was supposed to have been laid off ages ago, so they "fixed the glitch" (meaning he stops getting paid) but didn't tell him he was laid off, so he keep coming to work and doing things for them without pay for a while.



Obviously this is an exaggeration for comedic effect, but I think it captures the sentiment pretty well.

I think Squidward said it pretty well.



When faced with the unwavering wall of apathy that is the general workforce, it's easy to become jaded and cynical, although the Urban Dictionary™ has something interesting to say about it.

It states that jadism and zeal aren't incompatible, but that, in fact, the two compliment each other wonderfully.

You see, left to their own devices, jadism and ideological zealism would destroy themselves. There are other things besides jadism that can balance out zeal, as discussed thoroughly in my Solipsism post, but there isn't really anything else that can keep jadism at bay other than zealism. Zealism is inherently an optimistic trait, in that the strong, continuous pursuit of an ideal requires at least some faith in it as a possibility, whereas a purely jaded person would think it all hopeless before they even began.

That is why we should strive to be jaded zealots, as the two work in tandem in ways that few contradictory ideas can. The trick is not to be so zealous that you're crushed by your own failed ambitions, but not so jaded that you don't even try.


The sweet spot is when you're just jaded enough to be funny. Any more than that and you reach Doomer territory.

The Urban Dictionary defines a Doomer as:


A more enlightened update of the incel. Where the incel is chronically alone, and projects his hatred onto women, the doomer has accepted his equally alone fate without resentment. Instead of bitching he listens to Radiohead on evening walks.

Usually in his 20s, the doomer is typically unemployed or doing a dead-end job, tormented by unrequited love, and alienated from most of the population; and this sense of personal aimlessness and despair seeps into his views on the world in general. So he lives in constant despair for humanity's future, with the prospect of ecological catastrophes and economic downturns tormenting his mind. To dull his sense of Weltschmerz he smokes, or drinks, takes drugs. But nothing can quite take away the dread that the doomer constantly feels towards the future. Hence his name.

He is the inheritor of a long tradition of being jaded with the world, and adopting this as a consistent worldview: he looks and nods at those that deny life: Hegesias of Cyrene, the Buddhists, Schopenhauer. But as a product of the modern world, he couldn't pretend that there is any ultimate spiritual redemption at the end. So he can only deny, deny, deny.
After she left him forever, he sat down, despondent and empty. But he mustered up the energy to put on his 90s playlist; and when the guitars from My Bloody Valentine's Loveless screeched their first note, he knew he was now a doomer.


This is how you look after taking a black pill.

I'd say the Doomer is the modern-world equivalent of going Hollow, a concept in Dark Souls where one loses life purpose and becomes a wandering shell of flesh.

That being said, the avoidance of going Hollow, or being black-pilled, or a Doomer, or whatever you'd like to call it, doesn't necessarily mean you want to go around serving up smiles.

It's more of a cautionary tale or constant lingering reminder that this is what awaits those who aren't careful enough to keep their optimism stored away in a safebox. as the alternative is either becoming a Doomer or... serving up smiles. The majority of us would probably rather avoid both of those outcomes.

At any rate this post seemed a little bit rambly, although I have some interesting tidings. So one things that's happening with Desolation's Reach is that it's going to contain a few semi-self-contained short-stories. What I mean by "semi-self-contained" is short stories that initially seem completely unreleated to the main plot, and almost seem to take place in a different universe altogether, but then turn out to have a tangible connection to the events of the main story after all.


This won't be making the story much longer, however, because I found a few sections that I can safely cut out that I probably won't miss much, so overall the story's length will be about the same after the short stories have been implemented.

Anyway time I wrapped this thing up,

and as always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Refreshers

I have conflicting feelings on writing after a long period of inactivity.

I'd say that for the most part, the writing itself suffers but sometimes a long break is good for editing. What I mean to say is that if you try to write after a long period of vegging, you might suddenly feel ineffectual and it's as if you've forgotten what the hell a keyboard is and how to type. Not literally, but more than once I've come back to my blog or manuscript after not touching it for a week or longer and just kinda stared at the screen for 20 minutes like


In some sense it's easy to say that writing is a akin to riding a bike, and that once mastered you never forget, but there's a big caveat to this. I'd say it's more like exercising and if you stop for a while, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick up where you last left off. Of course, after a week or two of adjustment you might be back at writing with the same quality you were able to before, but the longer you procrastinate writing the longer it takes to readjust. But there is some cases where deliberately taking a break from writing is beneficial; although I'd say the key to this is not taking a break from all writing, rather just from writing one specific project.

Meaning that you might stop working on one thing for a few days or so, but you still continue to write other things, that way you're still keeping your writing skills sharp but not overdosing on one specific project. This sense of "writing overdose" occurs when you work on one project for so long that you struggle to write anything else. I've experienced both edges of this blade; there have been instances where I've dived deep into my manuscript rabbit-hole and by the time I came out the other end, I've become so entrenched in my story that I didn't know how to write anything else, but right now it's the exact opposite, where I've been mostly just writing articles for Exclusively Games (I've written several articles for them, which will show up on their website in a few weeks, starting with one juicy one about Amazon and followed by an op-ed about Dark Souls) and the occasional blog post. But now when I try to work on my manuscript everything goes to shit, because I've spent too much time writing other things and not enough time working on my story, so now I find it difficult to write for more than 20 minutes without feeling some form of mental fatigue setting in.

Obviously I'm not abandoning the story or anything, just wrestling with the Dark Lord, Procrastination, my primordial mortal enemy. But I don't feel like fighting him today, maybe tomorrow. We'll let Future Dylan worry about that.

Anyway it's reached a point where I spend 20 minutes reading and re-reading a single paragraph from my manuscript only to add or remove one single line, and then I just sit there smug and content like

"Whelp, I'm done for the day."


So that's what you have to be careful about. Although deliberately taking a break when editing can be a Godsend. When you spend too much time reading and re-reading something you wrote, you build a sort of tolerance to it and stop seeing it through the objective lens needed to spot mistakes and continuation errors. But I often find when returning to something I wrote a long time ago that I largely forgot about what I wrote and how I wrote it, so reading it again after a long time of not touching it allows me to see it through fresh eyes, as if I'm seeing it for the first time, and it's much easier to spot mistakes and faux pas than when I'm actively working on editing and revising something for a long period of time.

It's also helpful to have another pair of eyes looking over your project for that sort of stuff while you write something else, that way you can still be making progress on editing / revising one project while writing another. For example, I think it's a good idea to start writing one book while nearing the final stages of editing another. If you're on your third or fourth draft of your story, passing it on to your beta readers and editors again while you start writing a new IP is a great way to stay fresh in the creativity zone while not letting mental fatigue set in.

Personally, I've gone an odd route and written both book one and book two of Desolation's Reach in a row, so after book one is published I'll probably write my next manuscript The Pen Pal while editing book two of Desolation's Reach, I think editing your past project while writing the new one is a good way to keep both writing and editing skills sharp. When I first started editing book one ages ago I had no idea where to start since it was my first time editing anything for who knows how long (although I find that the first page is usually a good place to start).

Not sure how to send off this post so I think I'll just cut it here.

As always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post. 

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Humor, Tragedy and the Dynamic Story (Part Six)

After being lambasted for several minutes, Sir Doran fell quiet, and after a long silence, he looked up and said:

"My reality may not be reality, but in reality my reality is far better than yours, so I think I will continue to be Sir Doran the Trammeled, and you can continue to be Crow 'The Complacent' Bradshaw."

-Desolation's Reach, Book Two

Part Six: A Defense of Solipsism



In order to understand what purpose solipsism has in fiction as well as how it can serve us in the real world, we must first understand what solipsism is.

At its core, solipsism is almost exclusively a harmful and unwelcoming philosophy, or to be more frank, a clinical mental illness.

A solipsist is someone who genuinely, actually believes that they are literally the only real person in the world. This idea stems from the fact that, technically, we can't prove them wrong. In Vsauce's video on the subject, Michael brought up something called "Last Thursday-ism," which is the (mostly fictional) belief that the entire universe and all of planet Earth spontaneously came into existence last Thursday. And the thing that makes this theory annoying is that any arguments against it could be twisted to push its narrative.

One might say, "Well, what about history? What about history books, archeological discoveries, and memories of the past?" and each of these things could be used to argue that last-Thursday-ism is real.

Your memories of the past? All of them instantaneously came into your mind last Thursday.

History books? Also just spontaneously came into existence.

Old people who can tell you about what it was like in WWII? Their memories are all implanted in their heads as well, and they were already old when they popped into existence last Thursday.

However, in essence, nothing can truly be proven to be true or correct. I mean, it can, but not in a way that all would recognize as fact. This comes into play when we look at postulated arguments.

Example:

A man tells his friend that he's dead.

Friend: "You're not dead."

Man: "Yes I am."

Friend: "But you're breathing."

Man: "No I'm not. Dead people don't breathe."

The friend grabs a small mirror and places it under his nose to collect moisture.

Friend: *Gestures to mirror* "You were saying?"

Man: "Oh, looks like I was wrong."

Friend: "So you admit you're not dead?"

Man: "No, dead people do breathe."

The problem with "proving" anything is that it relies on the assumption that all other information is true. If you've ever done a sizable math equation only to get the wrong answer after comfortably believing that you've been doing it correct the entire time, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're doing a large math problem, and you make one mistake in the beginning, it doesn't matter if you followed the rest of the steps correctly. Drawing the correct conclusion depends on all previous things being true.

This is no different when it comes to the exchange of information. In order to guarantee that something is correct and true, you must first prove that everything the information is based off of is also correct and true, and attempting to do this would be fruitless as it would devolve into a never-ending cycle.

So what does solipsism have to do with this?

Well, the thing is you can't reason with a solipsist. A solipsist believes that they are the only "real" person, and that everyone else is just a figment of their imagination.

We saw this with several court cases where the accused was determined "not guilty" by means of insanity after they claimed that they live in a simulation and don't have any consequences for their actions. This has since been dubbed The Matrix Defense.

Ansley shot her landlady and was frustrated when no one believed she was living in a simulation.


This is where the phaneron comes into play. Phaneron is the "reality filter," if you will. All information obtained about the world outside your brain is filtered by your senses--what you can see, hear, smell, touch, and feel. There are actually more than five senses (such as balance) but there is a limit to what can be observed by the fallible human body. Unfortunately for the human mind, there's really no way to be sure that anything you "see" or experience is actually what it seems.

And in many cases it often isn't.

Humans are so flawed that our own hubris gets in the way of our self-awareness. The average Joe tends to lean more towards their own experience than rationale or logic alone. We tend to rely more on our own anecdotal evidence than seek out alternate methods of observation.

For example, let's say a man works at an office where he sees one particular coworker for one minute every morning. Unbeknownst to the man, his coworker is actually a serial killer. However every time he runs into his coworker, he is nothing but pleasant, kind, and an all-around great guy.

Despite only interacting with this coworker for one minute a day, he would likely assume that his coworker was a great person.

And we do this all. The. Time.

If we happen to know a lot of redheads, and they all turn out to be mean, we might come to the conclusion that redheads are predisposed to being mean.

If we have a bad experience on our first trip to a new restaurant, we might never go there again, even if in reality they almost always have amazing food and service; all because we happened to be on the receiving end of the one exception.

This concept plays a vital role in social activity; it's well-known that a bad first impression is often irreversible.

And yet given the many faults of the human's phaneron and ability to reason with them, we don't have any other alternative. When the average Joe jumps to these often illogical conclusions rather than seeking proof first, he or she is only doing what makes the most sense. After all, given how impossible it is to really prove anything, can you blame them?

When it comes to phaneron, we have no choice but to trust them, because there is no other alternative. We don't have any way to actually know that what our eyes report to our brain are reliable, that what our noses and ears are true; however we do have a priori reasoning. A priori reasoning is when something can be known to be true without evidence, proof, or experience of any kind. Take the phrase, "All bachelors are unmarried." We don't need proof to know this sentence is correct; because a bachelor is literally defined as an unmarried person.

We don't have to interview every bachelor in the world and ask if they're married or not, because the sentence supports itself by its very definition.

So with a priori knowledge, we can deduce that the things outside of us are real in a variety of ways.

One method is using what's called occam's razor, which is a philosophical principal that states that in the pursuit of knowledge, we should always make as few assumptions as possible. If I can touch, taste, smell and feel an object, it takes more faith to believe each of those senses is systematically mistaken than to believe I can see and sense the object because it's actually there in front of me.

The same goes for humanity at large, which has so many moving parts that to assume it's all coincidentally false requires far more assumptions than believing your phaneron can communicate the existence of people outside your body because they are, in fact, there.

No, when I encourage people to have solipsistic qualities and write somewhat solipsistic characters, this is not what I'm talking about. Whereas solipsism itself is the delusional denial of the existence of other people, the solipsism I refer to is of the literary variety.

What I consider to be "literary solipsism," which is some jargon I just made up on the spot, is an amalgamation of the hero complex, the hero's dogma, the hero's journey, and unbridled confidence.

Now, I just threw a seemingly random assortment of words and phrases at you, but what do they actually mean?

Breaking them down, the hero complex and hero dogma are intrinsically negative on their own. By themselves, the hero complex and dogma are self-destructive and conceited. It's only when united with other, more redeeming qualities that either of these can be of any positive use.

The hero complex is a sort of narcissism. Fueled by an egocentric worldview, it refers to someone who is so dismissive of others that they develop a subconscious worldview in which they are the only person who matters because they're the only one that's "real" as far as their empathy is concerned. While they don't literally treat everyone like they actually don't exist, they're dismissive of them in such a way that they only seem to think they are the "real" one, in the sense that they are the main character of life so to speak and the world revolves around them.

The hero's journey is a method of laying out character development; it demonstrates the framework that almost all protagonists will follow over the course of a story, but it could also be used for someone to put themselves into a matter of greater perspective, i.e. a more in-depth understanding of where they are in their hero's journey, and how it affects others and can expand into developing empathy.


It's important that the hero complex be acquainted with the hero's journey, because in order to embark on a hero's journey, one must first believe they are capable of being the hero, and the humility accompanied by the hero's journey can keep the egotism of the hero complex in check.


But this raises the question, what about the hero's dogma? A dogma by definition is a set of rules regarding the finality of things, reality included, set in place and insisted upon by a single individual or group as being undeniably true.

Just like how the real-life solipsist is absolutely cock-sure that reality is an illusion, various characters in literature and--more amusingly--real life can set down their own rules for what is and isn't true.

To some extent every human being already does this; we decide for ourselves what food tastes best, what shoes are the most stylish or comfortable, etc. Be we also start to impede on other peoples' dogmas a bit--when people have a stark contrast of opinions and both insist that theirs is the only correct one, that's called being dogmatic. If Joe says that Reeses are the best chocolate retail candy and that anyone who disagrees is a leper, and Susan insists that Kit-Kats are the superior candy and anyone disagrees is a smelly uninformed Neanderthal, they've passed the line between "personal opinion" and bonafide dogma.

So when one makes entire sweeping declarations about the meaning of life and existence, and the resulting moral compass derived from whatever solitary ideology they profess, they've essentially encapsulated the hero complex, hero's dogma and hero's journey in one fell swoop.

But why is that a good thing? How on Earth could this mindset benefit anyone?

Do you see where I'm going with this? If your Spider Senses™ started tingling and alerted you that I was about to go on a long tangent about Don Quixote, then you sir are correct.

I think Frank Sinatra said it best in his best song, My Way. And if you dispute me when I say that My way is the best Frank Sinatra song, I'd project my dogma onto you and insist that it totally is and your opinion is wrong. You may challenge me a to duel to make an appeal.



The whole song could be generously summarized by the first and last verse, the first being,


My friend, I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way


and the second being,

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels

The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way


The meaning that one could derive from this literary solipsism is to do things,


as they say,


your way.


This doesn't mean there's a lack of empathy, but a lack of fucks to give regarding dogmas that aren't yours.

You might have heard the phrase, "To each their own," but this phrase is incomplete, as the whole thing should actually read, "To each their own dogma."

One might want to be wary of the most dangerous pitfall regarding literary solipsism; and that's psychopathy. You see, psychopathy and solipsism have a lot of common ground. Both involve some sort of perceived reality, a lack of empathy for others, an egocentric world-view, a dismissive attitude of others, etc.

As I said before, literary solipsism doesn't actually equate to a lack of empathy, but at a surface-level glance it can easily seem that way.

I've always been morbidly fond of scary stories involving imaginary friends. It toys with the idea that what one person actually sees is not what others might, and this is a concept that I think has gravity in the real world. While I would like to think that everyone perceives things outside their phaneron the same way I do, that simply isn't true. What's green to me could be red to someone else--or to a blind person, just black (although recent reseaerch suggest that they literally see nothing, because there are some cases of blindness where the eyes report no information to the brain, so instead of seeing darkness all the time, they literally percieve nothing. It's hard to imagine but it's really interesting stuff).

While it's easy to assume that if someone claims to experience something drastically different from us that they must be crazy or insane, and sometimes that is the case, there are other instances where this might not be true.

I'm not saying to believe in ghosts or anything like that, I don't particularly believe in them, but I do believe that our own dogmas can vary so much to the point where different people can quite literally live in their own world. They may occupy the same space as us, but that doesn't mean they're seeing the same things we are. And does one person's reality trump another's? Who can say that their perceived reality is the correct one? Maybe the other person is actually right and you're the crazy one.

Yeah mom, her name's Phillipa, what of it?

But as we discussed, it's a necessity that each person has total and complete faith in their own dogma. When you start to doubt your own reality and believe in someone else's is when you start to lose a sense of identity, and it's also a symptom of gas-lighting, not to mention falling prey to victimizing tendencies such as Stockholm Syndrome. Because humans have the tendency to trust in the familiar and repetitive exposure, Stockholm Syndrome occurs when a victim has been repeatedly convinced that their captor is actually their guardian or protector, and that the outside world is dangerous and the possession of the captor is their own safe and familiar option. Like a type of gas-lighting, it means one person is projecting their dogma onto another--but it's not even that.

If the captor actually did convince themselves that they are the victim's guardian and protector, then perhaps that could be argued, but I'd be willing to bet that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the captors repeatedly force this crap onto their victims in the hopes that eventually, through attrition alone, the victim will eventually come to believe it. It can't be personal dogma if the person peddling it doesn't actually believe it themselves.

That's one of the reasons Scientology is bullshit--the cult leaders themselves don't believe in it, but are experienced enough to convince a small minority of people that they not only believe whole-heartedly that giving your bank account information and social security card to the "Church" of Scientology is a good idea, but that they even recommend it.

Yet, I still haven't fully touched on why literary solipsism should be used, and that's where reality comes in.

You know what solipsism is, but what about its opposite? What would the opposite of solipsism look like?

It just so happens, there's already a handy word for it. That word is sonder. Sonder is the sudden realization that every pair of headlights you see whizzing by on the freeway, every random pedestrian in the background, every crying baby on an airplane, every saint and sinner in the history of existence, has or has had a life as interesting, unique, and emotionally stimulating as your own, and this idea of sonder can be dangerous in that it's essentially a catastrophic supernova of empathy. While empathy cannot be inherently bad, the human mind has strict limitations on what it's capable of, and sonder is not one of them.

With more than seven-billion people on the planet, the human mind simply does not have enough space or processing power to register the incredibly complex thoughts, emotions, and passions of every single human being in existence. We can't afford to.

It's the difference between seeing a death on the news and losing a loved one. If we experienced incredible devastation every time the news reported the death of a stranger, we would be in a constant state of depressed misery. We can't afford to spend that much mental energy; to have complete and total empathy for every random passerby would be a futile and impossible task.

There are lots of good things too, sure, but because of negativity bias, we would always be in a constant state of misery. Think about how many bad things happen that don't affect us personally.

Every day, 150,000 people die. Most of the time we don't know any of these people, but what is just a statistic to us is a terrifying reality to someone else. At this very moment, someone just lost their mother. Another just lost their spouse. Statistically speaking, someone probably lost two different friends and relatives today.

To not be bothered by this statistic is not cold or heartless, rather it's the opposite; and for evidence of this, look no further than this painting.


If I asked you what this painting was about, what would be your answer? Perhaps the ship sailing off in the distance, or the the one that's just about to depart. Perhaps the painting is about the mule-driver plowing the field, or the shepherd looking at the sky just next to him. Maybe it's about that fisherman by the water.

But in reality, it's about Icarus.

Does that surprise you?

In the story of Icarus, he fixes wings to his back with wax, and when he's warned not to fly too close to the Sun, that's exactly what happens, and the wax melts, sending him crashing back down to Earth and drowning, and if you look closely in the bottom-right hand corner of the canvas, you will see that Icarus has just plunged into the water and is being crushed beneath the waves.

Yet, this painting doesn't seem overtly sad. In fact all seems all and well. This painting cleverly expresses the old Spanish proverb, "No plow stops for the dying man." And perhaps it's for the best that this is the case.

After seeing that this painting was actually a bleak look at how apathetic the world is to our problems, and that it's about a man drowning and everyone around him carrying on as if nothing happened, one might think this painting is a cynical look into how apathetic people are, yet it's actually for the best that the plow doesn't stop for the dying man so to speak.

If the world stopped every time someone died or experienced some tragedy, nothing would ever happen. Factories don't stop production if one of the thousands of employees working there gets hurt (unless there's a major lawsuit or something), Amazon doesn't stop all business when an employee passes away, McDonald's doesn't stop making burgers when a manager at one of the branches passes away.

The world lives on. In many ways it's actually a comforting message--a reminder that for every tragic accident, for every drowning man being swallowed by the sea, there's a hundred people around them who aren't experiencing any such tragedy. For every drowning Icarus there's a hundred people just going through the motions, business as usual.

Icarus may be drowning, but the fisherman is too busy fishing, the farmer is too busy driving the mule and the mule is too busy pulling the plow, the ships are too busy sailing, the shepherd is too busy gazing at the clouds and wondering about the weather. The birds are too busy flying, the sun is too busy shining, and the clouds are too busy drifting above. Life goes on and the world keeps turning.

It reminds us that we are and have to be selfish in order to exist. The world can't stop every time something happens to someone.

And when it comes to the definition of reality itself, and the hardships of living in it, there really is no other recourse than to decide for ourselves what the world is, what rules it has the we have to obey, and we justify it so that we can sleep at night.

One thing that's totally delusional but I tell myself anyway is that I'm not allowed to stop writing because I'm going to be famous someday. Am I actually? Probably not, but I tell myself that as an excuse to keep writing. When I started writing ASH and I was confronted by that big blank page, I had to put something there, and thought to myself, "I doubt anyone will ever read this, but it might be fun to write," and so I wrote that first page. Then I wrote the second, and the third, and so on and so forth until eventually a freaking book came out of nowhere. And of course that wasn't the end of it.

After the pages materialized, it became, "I doubt anyone will ever read this, but I should edit it anyway. Maybe I'll like the final product."

With regards to Desolation's Reach, which has over 260,000 words in its first draft, only one other person has actually read it (thank you, Chris Salch), yet whenever that dubious doubting voice creeps in and says, "I can't believe you wasted years of your life writing 700 pages of crap that no one will ever read," my dogma has to assert itself and insist that thousands of people are going to read it and that's why I have to finish.

I suppose this concept aligns with "fake it 'til you make it" mentality, but considering that everyone is an imposter (a phrase that I often like to say which means "everyone has imposter syndrome"), the only way to really get anything done is to justify the effort with your own dogma. So while insipid realists and pessimists alike might say that reality doesn't care for delusions and what happens happens regardless of what we tell ourselves, it's through our dogma that we're able to justify extraordinary effort. If some college kid with a knack for guitar drops out of college to start a band, he's called crazy by his family and friends, yet when we read about the stories of famous bands who did exactly this suddenly they're a hero.

It's a bold hypocrisy, and one that literary solipsism seeks to undermine at every opportunity. Literary solipsism takes a long, hard look at realists who proclaim that only independent reality is practical, and pessimists who assume the worst outcome, and it spits on them and says, "Fuck you, my reality is better than yours. I don't have to live by your rules."

It's the ultimate act of justifiable defiance--there's defiance just for the sake of defiance (looking at you rebellious teens) and then there's literary solipsism, defiance in the name of insanity. Yet it's an insanity that's practical--in Don Quixote, you can make all the arguments in the world that he wasn't a real knight, yet if he actually ended up saving people, does it matter? And when Sancho Panza spouts nonsense and blasphemies at every corner, and actually believes that Don Quixote is a famous knight who will give him a governorship or an island, we scoff and call him a loon; so what do we do then when his blind and delusional faith is rewarded and he actually does become a governor of a Spanish province thanks to Don Quixote's actions?

One could argue that how we allocate our values and delusions is what determines if our dogma is practical or not, and the stronger a dogma is, the more practical it can be. I guess all I'm saying is that someone who believes they're a fish and sleeps in a pond at night is better equipped to become a skilled swimmer than Jeff from accounting.


So if you sit there at your computer or laptop for hours agonizing about your writing because you're roleplaying as a troubled author, or if you sit there thinking about pastel paints for more minutes than you're proud of because you've convinced yourself that you're the reincarnation of Lucian Freud, or if you lift weights every morning and train rigorously in martial arts because you just know that your destiny is to revolutionize the teachings of Bruce Lee, or if you've dedicated yourself to the study of history, art, combat, strategy and martial arts, because you were born as the famous and peerless knight Don Quixote de la Mancha, you might be called a loon by the rest of the world, but you just might be on to something.


And as always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.




Thursday, January 2, 2020

Lost progress

So I just spent more than six hours busting my ass on a new blog post, and even though I repeatedly saved and constantly autosaved--something I do with both writing, essays for classwork, and video games, because I hate losing progress, for whatever reason I lost all my progress anyway. Blogger decided, "F*ck you and your 26 autosaves, I'm going to ignore all of them." So I just tried to load in the blog post I was working on and almost all the progress is missing for some reason.

I'm pretty annoyed so I'm just going to put it down for the day and come back when I'm not furious with the failings of technology.


Thursday, December 5, 2019

On Ideas and Originality

Right off the bat, this post might seem similar to my one on "Creativity," although the focus is quite different.

While in that post I was talking specifically on the degrees of creativity and what they might look like in practice, in this one I want to talk more about practical ways to actually implement creative thinking into daily writing.

Of course it goes without saying (yet here I am, doing the saying) that this type of stuff isn't just limited to writing books or writing in general, but could apply to painting, music, D&D campaigns, and any other relevant things you can think of.

Unfortunately, I haven't been doing blog posts as frequently as usual because I've noticed a steep decline in page views and comments, which seems to suggest that a lot of the people who came to the blog were just in it for the Alita posts or the first few tidbits of writing stuff and then got bored and left, but I think I'll keep writing stuff here anyway even if no one and their mother's don't read any of it. 'Cause why not ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So pressing on, I think there's two distinct ways creative and original ideas can be formed, but let's start with the easiest way.

Flipping: "Flipping" is a term I've coined that merely means, "taking other peoples' ideas or popular tropes and flipping them on their head." The difference between flipping and out-right stealing ideas is that it actually requires creativity and thought, and yields a different result.

One example is the animated series Hellsing Ultimate. Whereas most vampire shows and movies have devolved into teen dramas, Hellsing is a classic action-horror that makes vampires actually seem pretty cool, and it utilizes the anti-hero trope really well.

Another example is the ending for The Alchemist. (If you want to avoid spoilers for The Alchemist then feel free to skip, but honestly it's a hard read and not for everyone, and the ending is really the thing that makes this book funny so most of you can probably read this in good conscience).

We're all familiar with the "old wise wizard" trope. It seems that every fantasy story insists on having some wise-old-sage character like Merlin or Gandalf and it's kinda overdone at this point. And evil wizards are also pretty commonplace and usually unremarkably done.

But in The Alchemist, an old sage puts a curse on a man, saying that all the men in his bloodline will die young, and once it starts happening, the protagonist starts panicking and spends most of the story trying to figure out how to break the curse, only to discover that the curse isn't even real and the "wizard" was just breaking in and killing them himself. It's such a funny and ridiculous take on the whole "evil ancient wizard" trope that it pretty much deserves its own category.

Another example of flipping is The Incredibles. While I certainly don't hate Marvel and DC, I don't like them all that much because all those super hero movies feel kinda bland and uninspired to me. They all feel the same and lack that intrigue or originality that I usually enjoy in films. But The Incredibles is different in that it's a "realistic" take on what it would be like being a super hero, complete with the stupid general population turning against them, being forced to take soul-crushing and "ordinary" jobs to survive, and having to coexist with regular people while suppressing anything they might have that makes them unique or interesting. A lot like real life. And one could argue Shrek accomplished the same thing with basic fantasy tropes.
Me typing up a "why bariatric surgery is important" essay for health class

The idea of flipping is to take a common idea, make it seem like "just another ____" story, when in reality it's the exact opposite. There's a lot of fun to be had with idea flipping and there's tons of really popular and common tropes and cliches that haven't had their opposites explored.

But what's another way to create original content that doesn't involve just doing the "opposite" of something?

Distorting: What is distorting? Distorting is when, instead of taking one common trope or cliche and flipping it on its head, you take a bunch of small concepts and ideas from a variety of different stories then gradually make so many small changes that the overall product is completely different. At this point, you've implemented so many different little ideas from different books and movies and so many small changes were made that none of them are recognizable anymore, and everyone who reads your story will think you're a creative genius when really you stole every single plot point from a myriad of other works and just slightly altered each of them so that no one of them was similar enough for people to draw comparisons between your story and others.

The next one is completely original ideas. How does one come up with completely new and never-before-seen ideas in fiction? Is such a thing even possible? There's 129 billion books in circulation, how is it possible with that many books for someone to come up with a completely new and original concept?

New ideas: Obviously, this is the hardest one. And the funny thing is that this is the only one where you can't actively work on coming up with new ideas. While this one is sort of the hardest, in a way it's also the "easiest." These ideas aren't ones that you can come up with while sitting there and forcing yourself to churn up ideas during a brainstorm session.



These ideas just kinda show up when you least expect them.When you're in the shower singing Chelsea Dagger and pretending to know the lyrics after the "DOO DO DOOOO DO DOO DOOO" part, when you're watching reruns of "Friends" at 11:38 at night, when you're taking a shit and contemplating the meaning of it all, when you're insastiably bored and the bedroom is too damn hot for you to fall asleep so you just kinda stare at the ceiling angrily,


when you're standing somewhere and suddenly wonder what you should be doing with your hands and whether or not they should be in your pockets, that sort of stuff. Originality in its purest form can't be taught, but sometimes if you consume enough media and stories, they'll just start coming to you. I remember the entire idea of my story came from me just randomly thinking, "What if magic was limited and people had to fight for it?" followed by me thinking, "but what if one person is hoarding it all??" and that was pretty much how the idea of Desolation's Reach came into being.

These ideas will probably have humble origins but we don't have to actually talk about those. When your book is finished and people ask you where you got your ideas and inspiration from, you can always give them some spiel about your childhood stories or whatever and you don't have to tell anyone that the idea came to you while stalking people on Facebook while you were on the toilet. You can just conveniently leave that part out.

Anyway, let me know if any of these were helpful or not, it probably came across as just "steal peoples' ideas and slightly change them" and "spend as much time in the bathroom and doing mundane activities as possible" but that was a risk I was willing to take when typing this up and I knew what the deal was, so if it came across that way, oh well.

At any rate, I'll be back sometime likely within the next week or so for the next installment of the "Dynamic Story" series (if anyone actually cares about that) so stay tuned.


And as always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Humor, Tragedy and the Dynamic Story (Part Five)


"I know what it's like to lose. To feel so desperately that you're right, yet fail nonetheless. It's frightening, turns the legs to jelly. I ask you, to what end? Dread it... run away from it... destiny arrives all the same. And now it's here--or should I say, I am."

-Thanos

Part Five: Resolve and Conflict

This post won't be too long (at least, not compared to my others), but I think it'd be good to break this concept into two parts; villains and heroes.

I think it's easier to emphasize these points with antagonists / villains, so we'll talk about their side of the discussion first.

If it wasn't obvious already we're going to talk about Thanos a bit, but also several other fictional characters.

The first thing to note is that, even though I mentioned villains, most of the time, these characters won't actually be villains--just antagonists. In my Villains post, we talked about the major difference between villains and antagonists / obstacles, which is simply that villains are evil while antagonists aren't evil but are the bad guys of the story anyway.

The reason why so many stories have stupid and annoying villains is because the writers don't understand the concept of resolve.

It's the reason why we get mustache-twirling villains who are bad just for the sake of being bad and have the depth of a puddle. It's also why we get stereotypical and unfrightening baddies with goons who fail to create any real tension whatsoever.

Cliche is the death of innovation; that doesn't automatically mean that any story with any cliches in it is bad, but the more saturated a story is with cliches, the more the story suffers.

The opposite is also true; if any of you have seen Season 8 of Game of Thrones, or The Last Jedi, you probably saw how trying to "subvert expectations" can lead to some pretty crappy story-telling. Trying too hard to surprise the reader with cheap gimmicks is just as bad, if not worse, than writing empty cliches in at every opportunity. Or you could pull a Hannah Montana and have the best of both worlds like Cassandra Clare to create a real shit show.


But that's not actually the focal point of this discussion, in fact I plan on going into much more detail about that in the final installment of this blog series in the next post. Right now we're focusing on the anecdote to all these ailments; characters with unwavering resolve. Now it's easy to say that, but what does a character with unwavering resolve look like in practice?

Many of you have probably already seen a million-and-one video essays and blog posts about Infinity War and Thanos in general, so maybe it's a bad idea writing about that topic, but I'm probably the only one who's going to bring The Dark Tower, Don Quixote, Wall-E and others into that discussion, so now that you know what my special twist is (surprise, it's the stuff I usually talk about!), you've got to see my unique and bona fide interpretation of it all.


So what makes a character like Thanos different than, say, your typical doomsday villain?

Before we continue I'd like to redirect your attention to this hilarious Reddit thread where they try to create the most generic villain possible.

Highlights include but are not limited to:

According to OP, the cliche villain dresses in all black, acts mysterious, and smiles smugly as he kicks puppies.

Some other things about him (or her, but let's face it, the cliche villain is a him):

Lives in a volcano or evil lair with a prison full of capable fighters who could easily be released with a lever, has easily accessible armories full of weapons and supplies, and an obvious self-destruct function that, once initiated, can't be undone, except by the competent hacking skills / bomb defusing skills of the MC who will conveniently stop the explosion 1 second before the timer ends.

He also says things like, "You're not so different, you and I," and the protagonist always comes back with, "I'm nothing like you! I don't kick puppies!"

The cliche villain kills a disposable villain to prove how ruthless he is; he has a monster that he keeps as a pet, a glorious mustache for caressing that's suspiciously well-groomed, a laughably bad imitation of a European or Russian accent, and locks the MC in an easily-escapable torture chamber with only one guard because reasons. Once the MC escapes and goes to confront the Bad Guy™, he spins around dramatically in his swivel chair while stroking a fat fluffy cat and laughing maniacally. Twenty guards / goons rush in, but of course he has them stand down and he himself stands up, walking in circles and monologuing about his evil plan, telling the protagonist everything he needs to know to defeat him but assuming he'll fail because he totally has him in his grasp and can say goodbye to his family and loved ones that he had his goons kidnap while the protagonist was busy.

Sound familiar?

But what makes Thanos so interesting as the antagonist?




I can summarize it in one simple phrase; he isn't just a person, he's a force of nature.

Whether your character is a hero or antagonist, or anti-hero in many cases, they need to be, as Thanos so eloquently put it, "Inevitable."

This is the type of character that dominates every scene they're in. When they walk into a room, they are the only thing that matters in that moment. When you can have a character with that much raw presence, they almost become inhuman and ascend to something else. To these characters, everything and everyone else is just a means to an end.

Your character needs to be like a mudslide; they don't trouble themselves with everything else that's going on in the world, they just come out of nowhere and flatten everything in their path. An unstoppable force of nature stripped of anything else.


Just watch this one short scene from Infinity War:

Notice how unreactive and collected Thanos is during the entire encounter.

When Quill points a gun at his face and threatens to blow his brains out, he's unmoving. When he turns the gun onto Thanos's own daughter, he just calmly stands there and calls his bluff. And even when Quill finally pulls the trigger, Thanos makes it so that only bubbles come out, smiles and says, "I like you," before disappearing back into the portal.

That is how you make a terrifying antagonist.

Thanos doesn't need to react to everything around him because it's the other way around; everyone else reacts to him.

To best demonstrate this point, take a character like Thanos and put them in some imaginary situation. Odds are that no matter what scenario you put them in, they're relatively unphased.

Now this just doesn't apply to villains; you can just as easily apply it to your protag or antihero and it will still work.

A phenomenal example of this is Roland in the Dark Tower series. Roland is the protagonist of the series, but in many ways he's like Thanos. He seeks only the Dark Tower and will do literally anything to get to it.

This also leads to some questionable behavior for a protagonist to be doing, such as throwing a child into a chasm to his death, but you know, whatever.

Wait a second, Thanos also threw a child--his child-- to her death at the bottom of a chasm!


GUYS, I FIGURED IT OUT! I CRACKED THE CODE!

The secret to writing a good character is having them throw some kid--or their kid, any kid, really--into a chasm to their death! That was the secret all along!

Alright, Gamora isn't a child, but when someone asks, "Does Thanos have any kids?" you'd say, "Why yes, Gamora and that robot-thing played by Karen Gillan," which clearly qualifies this logic.

Now, the thing is that if you want to use this tactic in a humorous way, you can make your character a "resolve" character, but make their end-goal something utterly stupid or, better yet, so ambiguous that even they don't know what they're looking for.

A small but funny example of this is in Fallout 4 when you meet a dumb mutant who's on a quest for "The milk of human kindness," which he thinks, according to Macbeth, will make him superior to his peers.

A more exaggerated example from the same game comes from a mod called "50 Ways to Die at Nick's," in which he brainwashes a group of super mutants into literally worshiping comic book characters, convincing them that the comic books they're reading are fact, not fiction, and that his enemies are the villains from the comic books they've been reading. He uses this to make an army of super-powered mutants that will obey his every command without a shadow of a doubt, killing and brutally murdering Nick's enemies for him because he told them that they're communist villains trying to interfere with their favorite super heroes.

Obviously, if I haven't mentioned it enough on this blog already, Don Quixote is another example, only his madness is one unique only to him, and so no other character can completely understand his juxtaposition.


Although I will steer away from Don Quixote for a moment because I've already mentioned him so many times in previous posts, and because I intend to have a section in the next post going more into that so there's no need for it here.


The thing with the "resolve character" is that it can work for literally any character of your choosing, and it allows you to bypass some writing rules if you enjoy cheating a little.

You see, one common writing rule is to write "dynamic characters," and as nice as a little wisdom-nugget as it is, a more accurate way to phrase it would be, "Write characters that evolve over time."

This means that every (recurring) character should evolve over the course of the story, especially the main character.

However, resolve characters completely shatter this rule.

With resolve characters, the characters stay exactly the same throughout the entire story, and the only thing that changes about them is the nuances of their disposition. Resolve characters are timeless; they exist solely as a sort of manifestation of whatever their belief is.

Don Quixote is the same person at the beginning of the story as he is at the end; the only thing that changes is the world around him and the characters he interacts with.

Thanos is the same throughout all of the stories he's been in, never actually changing but, rather, simply getting closer to or farther from his goal.

The same can be said about Roland from the Dark Tower series; while he is the protagonist, not the antagonist like Thanos, he is still a resolve character who will do anything to reach his goal. His emotions evolve over the course of the story, but he as a whole doesn't actually change. Just like at the start of the massive saga, he is just as determined to do anything to get to the Dark Tower in the last book as he is in the first, and while he did grow close to his new companions, he still wouldn't let them get in the way of his one singular life purpose.

With resolve characters, the characters aren't dynamic, but the story is. You take a character with unyielding fervor and resolve and put them in a variety of different and interesting situations, and in each new situation you place this character in, you're further developing their nuances and exploring their character deeper.

So even if you think you have Don Quixote or Thanos or Roland completely pegged, and can confidently say what they would do in X situation, it's only because you haven't seen them in every possible scenario, and in reality it's much harder to guess what they would do; but then, when it's revealed how they would act, you can't help but think it's perfectly aligned with their character, and blame yourself for not guessing the obvious.

That is the nature of resolve characters, and how you can make a story dynamic by using--not just dynamic characters--but static characters in changing situations.

Hope that gave you some insight into this unique concept, it's a lot of fun talking about these sort of characters.

At any rate, I'm excited to see what this idea yields and love seeing these types of characters in books, so maybe by starting a discussion about it, we can one day see this become a canon trend and not some obscure thing that I could only apply to 3 characters.

As always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.