Monday, July 17, 2017

Worldbuilding: Religions

One of my favorite subjects, besides military history, is theology. I currently have a work-in-progress that takes place in a unique world, and hence I've been engaging in much worldbuilding. Part of this has, of course, involved the religions of this world. 

This led me to ponder a bit on worldbuilding and religion. I decided to write a short post on the subject, to give some advice and suggestions to fellow authors.

Do Research!

Oh no, more work, I can hear some people thinking. Yes, I know it stinks sometimes when you're really eager to get to writing and making the rubber hit the road as far as your storytelling is concern. Nonetheless, if faith or religion is going to have any part in your story, it might be helpful to research the topic a little bit.

I would also highly suggest researching from original sources. I imagine nobody reading this post would learn about Judaism from National Socialist websites - well, treat other faiths with as much respect. Don't research Christianity from New Atheist websites. Don't research Islam from right-wing blogs. If you can find works in English that translate what a certain religion's documents or leaders say or have said, try to rely on that for the most part. If you can find balanced, scholarly works on the subject, and those subjects quote from original sources, by all means rely on that too.

Another good tip: if you have friends or acquaintances that belong to certain faiths, it might help asking them what they suggest. For example, I have a book at home on Shia Islam; I got it because I knew a well-read Shia Muslim, and I actually went and asked him what the best book on the subject of his faith was.

Obviously, everybody's time is limited, and I don't expect anyone reading this blog to go out and get a Theology Doctorate. Nonetheless, just as you would do a little bit of research into other topics related to your work, so too should you consider researching into this topic as well. Who knows - it may not influence your world's religions, but it might also influence other aspects of it.

Be Creative!

A lot of times, I think the default state many will go to is a "copypasta" of Roman Catholicism or Greek mythology. You either have the hierarchical priest church, or you have the plethora of gods for every task or natural occurrence under the sun. Obviously this isn't always a bad thing (I mean let's face it, George R.R. Martin's Faith of the Seven is basically Roman Catholicism revamped, and nobody complains); nonetheless, I think a lot of writers are missing out when they don't attempt to think outside the box.

Contrary to popular belief among many, it's untrue that all religions are basically the same. Some are more philosophical in nature than spiritual (eg., many Eastern "religions"). Some are polytheistic. Some are henotheistic (that is, there are many gods, but only one is worth worshiping). Some are monontheistic. 

Within all these groups, there can be varieties, some major and some minor. For example, Islam is a monotheistic religion, but within Islam you have Sunni, Shia, Ahmadi, etc. Then among the Shia you have Sixers and Twelvers. Within those groups you have even more variety. Keep in mind this doesn't necessarily need to be divisive variety, but individual groups within a larger faith that can be in slight opposition to one another (eg., the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, etc.). Just as it happens in the real world, so too can you can do the same in your world.

Be Detailed!

For a lot of writers, faith and religion seems to take a back seat. This is unfortunate because even tiny details regarding a character's faith can be helpful in influencing their motivations and aspirations. 

One big example of this is eschatology, which is commonly associated with end-times beliefs. The reason for the growth of revival in the 18th and 19th centuries was because many in the early parts of the movement were Postmillennials, who believed there would be a massive revival before the return of Christ. The reason some Founding Fathers opposed war with Britain was because they came from Quaker-based beliefs, which opposed any conflict or violence at all. Within some parts of Islam, there's such a high view of fatalism that something like the car breaking down is shrugged off with "Allah wills it - no need to fix it."

Again, little details like this can help shape your character. Even if it's a subtle nuance, it can still influence and affect your characters.

Be Original!

I can't help but notice, as far as character writing goes, that many times you end up with two cliches, both of them opposite extremes:

The Inquisitor: This is the follower of a religion (whether a cleric or a layman) who thinks everyone who doesn't agree with him is evil and deserves to die. We've probably most seen this character in movies, whether it be the oppressive mother who quotes Bible verses every other second, or the priest who goes insane as zombies attack. Most of the time they just end up being a terrible straw man for organized religion.

The Hippie: This is the guy who may belong to a religion, but hey, who cares about what you believe? Sometimes it can get to the point where the MC could commit ethnic cleansing, and the Hippie would just shrug his shoulders and say, "Who am I to judge?" This person's beliefs amount to a superficial wonder as to why we can't all just get along? Flower power, maaaaaaan!

Believe it or not, it's possible to have a happy middle ground here. You can have a character who holds firmly to his faith, but doesn't want everyone who disagrees with him burned at the stake. You can have a character who seems welcoming and accepting, but is in fact a dangerous cult member, or close-minded in other, more significant ways. Just as it's better to come up with a multilayered, try to come up with a character that's a little more than a caricature of either intolerance or tolerance.

I can give an example from my own work. Edmund, the Magi from Gods on the Mountain, is firmly established in his faith in the Almighty, the monotheistic god for much of Calambria; he believes there is no other correct religion, except the worship of the Almighty. At the same time, when he hangs out with dwarfs who worship the dragons of old, he doesn't contradict everything they say or do, or start foaming at the mouth and ranting against them Westboro Baptist Church-style. I had beta readers tell me that they appreciated that fact about him.

Don't be afraid of truth!

What is the truth in your world? Is there a right religion? Is there a wrong religion? Is one religion based on nonsense, but another is based on fact? I think many times when people are worldbuilding, they don't think about this, or consider it firmly enough. A lot of times there almost seem to be a plethora of pantheons in a world, each one vying for each other. Other times things are just left vague. Vagueness can be okay, but don't be afraid to have a "true" faith that maybe truly does have power over others, or can assist its members better. It can certainly add credibility to someone's quest or motivation.

With the rise of postmodern thought, it's easy to trigger people by saying one thing's right and one thing's wrong. This is the glorious thing about worldbuilding: this is your own world you are creating. You can say there's a right and wrong and not trigger people. (Well, within reason.) If you want to say one religion is right and all the others are wrong, have at it!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Two Helpful Tips for Authors and Twitter

Recently some people have come lamenting to me about the chaos that can be Twitter. One person saw that I followed over two-thousand people, and wondered how I could keep track of them all. I've also heard some people lament that, after a while, Twitter becomes such a cluster of tweets that they feel disheartened to even bother. 

Here are some helpful tips to make your Twitter experience just a little bit better...

Lists are Your Friend

Lists are ways to organize your followers, or people on Twitter in general. (You don't even need to be following someone, or be followed by someone, to be on a Twitter list.) Basically, you go to the Lists option, create a list, name it appropriately, and then start adding people once it's been created.

Lists can be very helpful if you want to categorize your followers. Want Urban Fantasy authors all together? Put them in a list! Want traditional painters in one group? Put them in a list. Do some authors have podcasts? Put them in a podcast list. That way, you can go to that specific list, and see the feed only for the people on it. Granted, sometimes even lists can get about as long as your followers, which is why many people start splitting up lists. What I mean is some people might make separate lists, like "Fantasy Authors 1," "Fantasy Authors 2," etc. It's helpful to add here that you can add someone to more than one list, so if you have someone that writes fantasy, but also dabbles in science fiction, you can add them to those respective lists. 

Private lists can also be of assistance, if you don't want people to know they're on a certain list - or, alternatively, if you don't want people offended they're not on a list. For example, I have a "Cool Tweeps" private list that I use to keep track of people who I want to regularly check up on. These are authors that I speak with on more than one occasion, or people who are basically like online friends. Using this list helps me go straight to them and avoid the clutter of the feed - keeping it private helps prevent anyone from being offended.

The nice thing about all this? You'll probably find more convenient ways, for your individual purposes, to do all this. Go crazy and have fun with it.

The Mute Button is Your Friend

"Whoa there, Ben," I can hear some of you saying, "isn't muting someone kind of mean? What if I want to talk to that person?" Let me explain why, after a while, you'll be telling me how important the mute button was to you.

First, keep in mind muting someone is not like blocking them. If you aren't following them, nothing they do will pop up in your feed. If you are following them, then they won't appear on your Twitter feed, however, their tweets will still show up in your notifications and in your direct messages. So if you follow someone on Twitter, then mute them, you won't be blocking them completely, you'll just be keeping them out of your main feed. You'll still be able to visit their page and see what they're posting, and they'll still be able to respond to your tweets and interact with you, and you'll be able to see that.

Second, one thing you'll notice very quickly in the indie author world is that there are two types of people on Twitter: those who interact with followers, fellow authors, etc.; and those who do nothing but bombard their timeline with ads, automated messages, and the like. Keep in mind I'm not saying advertising your books is bad, but you don't want someone to go to your timeline and see nothing but ads that contribute nothing. Follow enough people like this, and your feed is going to be nothing BUT ads. You'll not want to look at it at all. (By the by, don't trust Twitter's "quality filter" - but don't get me started on that.)

When I first started using Twitter, I didn't really think about muting anyone. As I followed more and more people, I realized that I didn't want to go to my Twitter feed because it would be nothing but ads and automated messages. Finally, I decided to fix the problem: I sat down, went through my Twitter feed, and, upon finding someone posting an ad, went to their account; if I saw that their timeline was nothing but ads, I muted them. After thirty minutes of doing this, I saw a great thing unfold on my feed: I started noticing authors and artists whom I had followed, and yet never gave any much deserved attention. Why had they been ignored for so long? Because they had been buried in mountains of ads and spam. A few more people got added to my "Cool Tweeps" list.

Cleaning up your Twitter feed be like...
These are two simple, but helpful, tips I can offer fellow authors in organizing their Twitter, and finding a more efficient way to utilize it. I hope this blog post helps! Comment if you have any other tips or suggestions from your own Twitter experience.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Where ya been, Ben?

It's been a while since I posted on this blog, I know. It's also been a long while since I posted on Twitter, talked about my writing, let alone really had a good writing session. What's been going on, some of you might have been asking?

In August of last year, my family moved up to Ohio, where my wife is a native. This involved me quitting my full-time job at the time, preparing things in boxes, arranging for a truck, etc. Once I got up there, I had the fun task of continuing what I had started back in Virginia: getting a job. This meant playing the "apply for a job" game. Those who have engaged in this game know it can be a frustrating one. Between vague rejections that amount to "You don't suck, but you do suck," and having your heart played by potential employers ("This was a great interview, you're an outstanding candidate!" *sends rejection email the next day*), it can all take a toll on your ego. Add to this that when I finally did get a job, it was a part-time one with incompetent management (eg., forgetting that we have to work Christmas Eve, and throwing me on the shift last minute - not making that up), and management that wasn't even present in the building 99% of the time. One of my coworkers was an extremely toxic employee who thought every new employee was her replacement (and called me as much), thought everything you did was an act against her, and blew a gasket at you if you got fifteen extra minutes on your schedule and she didn't. Eventually I did complain to management, and they did straighten it out a little bit, but it didn't do much to make me want to stay there. What's more, it was having a toll on my desire to do anything else that brought me joy. I went home to my family bitter, and I had no desire to write, draw, read, or anything else, because on my mind was the fact that I had to go back to work the next day. It's really astounding just how much of an effect a toxic coworker can have. I actually did some research and found that 54% of employees are more likely to quit because of one, yet only 1% of workplace bullies are ever fired because of their attitude. But I digress...

Part of me wanted to resign from my job and become a full-time author, while still doing freelance design jobs on the side for sustainable income. The only dilemma is, at this moment, I don't make enough to justify going full-time. It's also harder when you have family to support, and can't just make a shot in the dark. Some full-time indie authors are women with husbands who already work full-time, or are husbands whose wives have taken up the mantle of having a full-time job. If that works for them, great, but I didn't want my wife working and taking time away from our daughter. As the reality of this situation set in, yet another potential escape from my nightmare seemed to have crashed and burned.

Ever have a moment where nothing you do seems to prosper or be blessed? That was my condition. I got into a deep depression. I didn't see any real value in myself. I didn't see any value in my work. Here I was, in my 30's, and stuck in a part-time job, barely able to afford for my whole family. Nothing I did seemed to help. I tried applying to other jobs, but continued facing rejection. I had no impetus to do anything but remain stuck in my life.

Now things have changed around. I got a full-time job offer which I accepted, and I resigned from my last job. The day after, I discovered my trust writer's journal, started looking through it, and soon began to add new ideas and concepts. My confidence was rejuvenated. Suddenly my creativity had returned. As cliche as it may sound, getting away from the toxic environment had given me a sense of self-worth that made me want to be creative and continue exploring my other talents.

Bear in mind I've been lurking on Twitter, and I've seen some of you sending me DM's, tagging me, etc. I did see it, and I intend to respond to you all as soon as possible. My goal is to get back into the swing of things, writing and doing what I love the most. So keep an eye on Twitter and the blog, because there'll be a lot more updates ahead!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Updates on Things

First thing's first. The sequel to Gods on the Mountain, entitled The Merchant Rebellion, will probably have to be delayed until next year. Don't worry, I'm not going George RR Martin on you. It will be released, and I have been working on it. However, some of the pre-production involved with it (including paying for a cover artist) is going to need to be delayed, since my family and I are in a tight financial situation and are possibly going to transition into a new location.

Second, I'm still working on Mannegishi, and this one will be released, hopefully in August. It's currently being edited, and then I'm going to send it off to a beta reader for feedback. If you follow me on Twitter, I shared the (revised) cover art for it. In case you're brand new to me, here's the cover.

Here's the synopsis I've come up for it:
There is a legend among the Cree of small people known as the Mannegishi. They play pranks on humans. Jonathan Banks ponders if he's experiencing real life Mannegishi, given the strange events that have been happening around his Montana home. However, the pranks begin to get darker and darker. People end up dead. As Jonathan will soon find out, these creatures may not come from Native American folklore.

 They may not even come from Earth.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Current Horror WIP: "Mannegishi"

I'm currently working on another horror novel. This one is currently entitled Mannegishi. It draws from science fiction and Cree folklore - an interesting combination to say the least.

Unlike my previous horror novels, which all took place around the fictional Virginian city of Wesfolk, this one will take place in a fictional Montana town. It revolves around a small family dealing with strange occurrences around their rural home. On top of this is a subplot involving a former soldier struggling with PTSD who has moved into the area.

The release date for this hasn't been set in stone yet. However, I've been making pretty good progress with it. I intend to edit it a good bit, then release it afterward. I'll be sharing the cover art on Twitter to get opinions and feedback. Keep your eyes open!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Horror Novel: "Deadly Whispers"

Yesterday was the release of my new horror novel, Deadly Whispers. It's currently available for $1.99 on Amazon Kindle.

Below is the cover and synopsis.

**You'll never look at ASMR the same way again...**

Rob thought he would die alone. However, thanks to a mail-order-bride site, he's found Anna, the girl of his dreams. She's sweet, she's beautiful...and, to top it off, she does ASMR videos on YouTube. However, Anna has a secret she's not sharing with Rob or anyone else. Her ASMR videos are not like the others online. They are much darker than anything done in the community before. She has a secret about her videos that Rob's friend, Mike, is about to uncover.

"Deadly Whispers" is a dark comedy from Ben Willoughby about finding the right wife with the wrong kind of mind.

Purchase it here!

Monday, April 25, 2016

My Interview with J. Evan Stuart

I was recently interviewed on J. Evan Stuart's blog! It was an honor to be asked by him to speak on my past and recent projects. I especially talk a good bit about my horror novel Deadly Whispers, which will be released tomorrow, April 26.

You can find the link here:

J. Evan Stuart - Author: Interview With Author Ben Willoughby

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Love/Hate Challenge

So I was tagged for this a long while ago by the good Crispian Thurlborn over at his blog. I've been working on this a while, and realized I should probably finally post this. So here you go!

I know I'm cheating by only putting 5 for each, but...well there it is.

Also, I! If you want to do this, go ahead!

Things I Love

1) Things that make me verbally respond in a positive way

We've all read a book or seen a movie that, for one reason or another, caused us to verbally respond. Granted, more often than not, I'm doing it in a negative sense, but I absolutely love it when something causes me to verbally respond in the positive.

One example is when I reading Clash of Kings, specifically the scene where a riot breaks out in King's Landing. As survivors gather back at the castle, some begin to wonder what happened to Sansa. Suddenly, in walks the Hound, carrying Sansa on his back. When that happened, I literally held up my hand up into the air and cried, "Yes!"

When you end up verbally responding to a work in a positive way, there's a strange feeling of connection between you and that work. It's difficult to describe, but I'm sure many reading this post know what I mean.

2) When a story makes an effort to put some realism in combat.

Whenever action becomes part of the story, you almost need to be resigned that movies will be movies, and books will be books. We all know the trope about people who jump into mud and come out perfectly clean, or the gun that never runs out, or the guy who can take ten bullets and shrug it off as a flesh wound (eg., Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai). It's pretty much expected.

That being said, I do appreciate it when there's some effort to put some realism into the situation, even if it's a little. One of the things I loved about the gunfights in Last Man Standing was that Bruce Willis had to reload his handguns every now and then. One of the things I loved about the climactic battle between Aragorn and the Uruk-Hai at the end of Fellowship of the Ring was that Viggo Mortensen played Aragorn exhausted, like he really had just fought an army of orcs.

Little things like this can add a sense of urgency, uncertainty, and suspense that otherwise wasn't there.

3) A strong father figure

Being a father myself (and of a little girl, no less), one thing I've become more aware of is the stereotype of the doddering daddy. If the MC is a teenage or preteen girl, then her father is often the secondary villain. You find shaking his finger at her vile shenanigans throughout the story, but at the end coming to his senses and shrugging off whatever it was she was doing, whether it was dating the social outcast at school or committing mass genocide. Dads get treated like bumbling, backwards idiots who need to succumb to whatever it is the manchildren and teenage girls want them to do.

That's why I adore it when you have a story that features a strong, or at the very least relatable, father figure. I don't necessarily mean something as extreme Liam Neeson's character from Taken; I just mean someone who you can understand is trying to take care of his family, and is looking out for the future generation. Heck, even Homer Simpson had that kind of appeal early on, before the new writers Flanderized the entire cast; as goofy and stupid as Homer could get, you also understood he was trying to make ends meet, and was just trying to be a good father to his three children (see, for example, The Simpsons Christmas special). Even Peter Griffith had some of this appeal early on in Family Guy, before Scott MacFarlane discovered he could make money off his fanboys by making five or six series based entirely around cutaway jokes.

Point is, having a father figure that isn't just a caricature to appeal to the sensibilities of teenage girls, and actually functions like a father is supposed to, is an enjoyable aspect to the story.

4) When characters actually care others have died

A pet peeve of mine is when a story has a character die, and the other characters either don't mourn at all, or mourn for maybe like a few seconds, then move on. I know that everyone responds to death and grief in their own way...but I'm fairly certain people respond to it somehow, let alone at all. The sheer nonchalance of some people after seeing their friend or lover die reminds me of that line from the MST3K Hobgoblins episode: "C'mon, Nick...oh yeah, he died. Oh well!"

On the other hand, I love it when they make reactions to death far more realistic.

One of the best examples of this I can think of is in the horror movie Abominable. A female character, after seeing her friends get brutalized by the title monster, has to be calmed down by the MC. She's weeping. She's distressed. You know, she's reacting like any rational person would after a hideous beast murders their lifelong friends. I give great kudos to Haley Joel and Matt McCoy for their performances in that scene, and filmmaker Ryan Schifrin for putting such a scene in his movie.

5) Actors who put great effort in a historical role

We all expect good acting - that's pretty much a given. What I love, however, is when an actor or actress puts such an effort into a historical role that they're able to repeat all the nuances and intricacies of that personality.

One example is Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland; after watching some documentaries on Idi Amin, seeing Whitaker play him was like seeing Idi Amin live on the screen. He probably didn't look as much like Idi Amin as other actors, but he was able to capture the mannerisms, the ways of speaking, etc.

An even greater example is Robert Carlyle in Hitler: The Rise of Evil. My wife probably remembers washing her hands in the bathroom while I watched the movie, and suddenly hearing me leap up and say, "Robert Carlyle is a great actor!" Why did I say that? Because of a scene where Robert Carlyle, after finishing a speech, lowered his head and rubbed his mustache. Why is that so significant? Because I've seen videos where Hitler did that, either out of nervousness or in-between thoughts. I've rarely seen other actors playing Hitler imitate that motion, but Robert Carlyle did.

Things I Hate

1) The Third Act Break Up

This is the nickname given to the cliche most often seen in a romantic comedy where, either around or after the climax of the story, the couple breaks up. (The Nostalgia Critic referred to this as "The Misunderstanding," since it's often based around a misunderstanding between the two characters.) Granted, this scenario can happen in general romances as well, but I've seen it the most often in romantic comedies.

And it's one of the primary reasons I rarely watch romantic comedies.

I might compare this to the James Bond cliche of the villain leaving Bond and the girl to die. It doesn't give us any suspense - we all know that Bond is going to escape. It's not like they're going to pull one over on us, have Bond and the girl die, and then cut to the end credits. We all know Bond is going to break out and go on to defeat the villain. Similarly, we all know the boy and girl are going to get back together. The movie isn't going to end with them still broken up. The movie isn't going to show them with other people, and then cut to the end credits. They're going to realize they were idiots, get back together, make up, and end happily ever after.

Some people try to defend this because it makes us care about the characters. No, it doesn't. It just drags the film on for another ten minutes until we get the conclusion that we all saw coming. I've even seen films where it was completely unnecessary; there was absolutely no reason for the couple to break up, but the writers had them break up anyway, because...reasons.

2) When a horror/monster story becomes a string of killing scenes

Something that gets old real quick is when a story just sort of becomes a string of murder scenes tied together for no other reason than they all involve the same killer. At some point, it becomes episodic, and you just sort of watch one killing after another. I've seen this in serial killer and monster stories. Amazing as it sounds, I end up getting bored and disinterested. Halfway through I end up thinking, "Yeah okay, we get it, he kills things - let's move on."

Some people might find this a ridiculous contention, as a string of killings almost comes with the territory of anything involving a monster, be they human or not. However, plenty of entries into this have managed to keep it interesting by having something else going on. One example of this is Predator 2: even though you have the Predator going around killing people, you still have the parallel story of Danny Glover figuring things out. My point is, so long as the storyteller gives us some other reason to become emotionally invested in the story besides a rising body count, then there's a reason to continue being invested until the end.

3) Endings that ruin everything

There have been a few times when I've sat through something, either a book or a movie, and thought, "Hey, this is pretty cool!" Then something happens. Something occurs that ruins my entire experience.

Maybe it's like the movie Cube, where they randomly decide to kill off most of the characters for absolutely no reason, and in a way that leaves plot holes so big a semi could drive through it. Maybe it's like The Village, which is an otherwise good film destroyed by the worst plot twist ever conceived in film history. Either way, the payoff ends up being one that leaves a bad taste in the viewer's mouth.

4) When the military is absolutely incompetent.

Let me qualify this by adding that I'm well aware not every serviceman (or woman) is perfect. I'm not making any claim of perfection. However, many stories take potential military fallibility and make it extreme. Maybe my being a military brat has a part in this, but it's a major pet peeve of mine.

One of the most infamous examples of this is in the Italian horror film Nightmare City. In that film, the military is told that shooting zombies in the head will kill them. Guess what one thing no soldier does for the rest of the film? That's right. No one shoots the zombies in the head. Most of the time they shoot them in the chest, then stare like DERP DERP and permit the zombies to kill them. Two-thirds into the movie you find yourself screaming "SHOOT THEM IN THE HEAD! SHOOT THEM IN THE HEAD! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, SHOOT THOSE BUGGERS IN THE HEAD!"

By contrast, one of the things I liked about movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the remake of Invaders from Mars is the very fact that the government and military characters are competent. They figure things out, they handle things in a rational manner, and while they aren't perfect in everything they do, they aren't so over-the-top stupid that you wanna bang your head against the wall.

Perhaps a slight addition to this might be when civilian characters, for no previously established reason, are far more competent or powerful than the military characters. It's hilarious in movies when a full-time nurse suddenly knows how to handle an assault rifle, or a desk clerk can suddenly beat up a team of special forces, or a small town sheriff knows how to drive and fire an armored personnel carrier. Seriously, unless there's good reason these characters can do those things, it's just ridiculous.

5) When something bad happens to a baby.

Chalk this up to me being the father of a little girl - a father who held her in his arms when she was a newborn and realized what it was like to have a precious little life in your hands. Whenever I see an infant on screen, or hear about one in a story, I think about my daughter. I know my wife feels the same way.

I'm fully aware life isn't fair, and that, sadly, bad things do happen to babies in this world. However, as far as the world of fiction and storytelling goes, I can't stand it when a story takes the cheap route for tragedy or suspense by putting a child in danger, or even kills them. It's like killing off an adult character or letting a female character get raped for nothing else but "muh drama." It's tasteless, unnecessary, and goes for shock value rather than any kind of development.

If you want an example of this, I recently watched Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. There's a scene where the "PredAlien" (yes that's a thing) rises up in a hospital amid dozens of crying newborns. You don't see anything, but the implication is that, off screen, the PredAlien killed them. I was already hating the movie beforehand, but at that point it completely lost me beyond any point of redemption. Thankfully, I wasn't the only one who found that scene tasteless, and Requiem is considered by many to be the worst in the series (though granted, for a host of other reasons).

Monday, February 15, 2016

Stop Hating on the Haters

We've all heard people talk about them on social media. They're despised, mocked, and treated like pariahs. Mention them, and you'll receive encouragement to avoid them at all costs, and not even bother with hearing them out. Look at artwork shared on Facebook or Twitter, and you'll probably see them lambasted. To teachers of the therapeutic, they are considered the vilest creatures alive.

I'm, of course, talking about the dreaded haters.

Granted, I've never really seen anyone who uses this term pause to define and explain it. I suppose most would imagine angry people sitting behind the anonymity of a keyboard, insulting and trolling others left and right with their arsenal of personal jabs and ad hominems; in this regard, I suppose the term is fitting enough. At the same time, I've noticed some uses of this term center around people who criticize your work, or point out the errors therein. Are you doing something wrong? Did they point it out? They must be a hater! Are you incorrect about something you've stated as fact? Did they point it out? They must be a hater! Could your work use improvement? Did they suggest that? They must be a dirty, low-down, good-for-nothing hater!

Authors and artists alike, let me give you one piece of advice: stop hating on the haters!

Why should you stop hating on the haters? Let me give you a few reasons...

First, you're being a hypocrite. You're becoming a hater yourself. It's like people who despise intolerance to such a level that they become intolerant bigots themselves. It's also like those people who respond to any criticism with "STOP JUDGING ME!", even though by definition they're starting to judge the other person. In this same vein, you're not helping anyone by being so vehement against the haters out there. You yourself are hating, just from a different direction.

Second, you're deluding yourself by placing all your critics into one collective group. Some people out there can be mean, yes. Some people out there just want to insult other people, yes. However, some people want to offer constructive criticism, even if it's tinged with bluntness. This might shock you, but some people can disagree with you and not think you're hot stuff, and not do so in a spirit of spite. It's unfair to lump the internet troll with the person who just wants to help improve your book.

Third, let's just call this mentality what it really is: deflection. You're basically taking this mentality of, "It's not me who's the problem! It's those haters! That's all they do is hate! That's the only reason they don't like me!" Did you ever stop and think that maybe they have legitimate reasons for disliking you or what you've done? At least consider what they're saying and see if there's anything positive you can take from it. If they really are just trying to hurt your feelings, then ignore them; but don't delude yourself into thinking that you're this semi-infallible demigod. Some of the best people I had in my life were the ones that said, "Dude, man up," or, "You suck at this; do this more." They helped me focus on my strengths, forgo my flaws, and review where I was headed. Sometimes the words hurt, and sometimes it's difficult to chew, but that's part of maturing. If we forsake that, then we remain immature children.

So in conclusion, let me repeat that we should stop hating on the haters. After all, you just might learn something from them. And if that's the case...

Let the hate flow through you...

Monday, January 11, 2016

Why I don't get too political

Those who have followed my Twitter account, or even this blog, might notice I don't often get into topics of politics, religion, etc., if ever. There's a good reason for that: I don't ever intend to do so. That's not to say I haven't let little things slip every now and then, or there haven't been hints of my opinion towards certain topics, but by and large I've tried to avoid engaging in any sort of discussion that might cause people to foam at the mouth and go crawling up the walls. That's also not to say that I'm afraid of ticking people off (I have in the past), but there are some good reasons I've sought to avoid contention as much as I can.

As usual, let me clarify (as has to be done, because this is the internet) that I'm not trying to control people. Yes people are free to act however they pleased. I'm not saying you're any less of a person if you don't do things exactly the way I do.

That being said, here are some reasons I tend to avoid controversial topics on Twitter or this blog...

1) I don't have an interest in discussing politics on this account. Do I have political opinions? Sure. Do I have strong political opinions? Sure. But I made my Twitter/Gmail/Whatever-Else accounts for the specific reason of sharing my work, finding assistance from others, and interacting with readers and fellow authors alike. I'm not interested in spending all night debating about this topic or that. Frankly, I need to be in the right mood to have a detailed discussion on something. Otherwise, I'd rather just chat, joke, and assist fellow writers, and/or have a friendly conversation with my readers. If anything, that's what I enjoy about this account. It's the primary purpose. Some people, on the other hand, use their accounts in such a way that I want to tell them to just drop the author shtick and make themselves political activists.

2) My work should speak for itself. If anyone wants to know my opinion on a topic, then it's amazingly easy to find out. You can simply do one of two things: you can just ask me, or you can read my work. Obviously, every author's writings are influenced by their worldview, one way or another. That's not to say there aren't works that exist solely for exploring topics, or were written just for fun, but worldviews sneak in, one way or another. If you read enough of my work, you'll probably figure out pretty easily how I see the world, or at the very least have some taste of it.

3) I don't want my work connected to my opinion. Some people might contest my first reason by saying that people like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King get very political on their social media accounts. Keep in mind, however, authors like them already have an established fanbase. No, let me rephrase that: they already have an established cult of personality. Rowling or King could probably come out and deny the Holocaust, and you'd still have fans out there ready to defend them to the death over it. And if you deny that possibility, keep in mind that people like Roman Polanski or Woody Allen still have die-hard fans out there ready to defend them as great artists (heck, even some die-hard Michael Jackson fans were defending his "sexual choices" up until his death). I, on the other hand, don't have the cult of personality that Rowling, King, Polanski, Allen, Jackson, or loads of other artists out there have. I'm still fairly new to this scene. If I goof up early, it'll probably be what I'm marked by for the long-term, just as some people like Andrew Dobson or Chris-Chan have learned the hard way. Again, it's not that artists can't have opinions, but I don't want to be known as "that conservative author," "that liberal author," "that communist author," "that Libertarian author," etc.

4) I don't want to tempt myself. I've written before about authors who become drama llamas on social media because they follow or have followers who hold (GASP!) contrary opinion. My goal is to keep myself from falling into that same trap. It's not that I would easily succumb to it, but if I permitted myself to get too worked up over this conversation and that, it would become easier to get into that mindset. Right now I've gotten into a good personal habit of seeing a post that makes me want to begin a "well actually..." response, but in the end I simply pass by it. Combine with this the fact that a lot of people tend to get pretty nasty online when it comes to hot topics, and revert to insults and petty attacks rather than civil discussion - again, I just don't want to get myself involved in anything like that.