Mythbusters Sub Plots

Part of every holiday seems to find my family sitting in front of a television for some part of the day. It's especially intriguing for me since, as I've said before, we don't have a television. This year, out in Denver at my sister and brother-in-law's place, the remote found its way into my brother's hands. That meant a full day of The Mythbuster's marathon.  

Other than the sheer amusement of watching my conspiracy theorizing father and brother agree with everything that the show said until they got to the moon landing conspiracy theory debunking, “Notice they don't let you see that picture very long?” “Like we're supposed to trust them when they're going off of NASA information.” (This was a very good lesson in people believing what they want to believe). I found a very good lesson for writing tucked into how the show was laid out.

The earlier versions of the show had the two myth busting goofballs finding a myth and going through the entire process of debunking it. For the most part you got one myth from start to finish. In the more recent version of the show they've added three young sidekicks who debunk myths related to the major myth that the two pros take on.

While I found myself getting tired of the process involved with debunking the major myth the “sub” myths keep me hanging around for just another fifteen minutes. Before I knew it we were in the final segment and by that time I might as well stick around for the finale.

When I finally tore myself away from the television, . . . okay, so it was my wife who tore me away with the announcement that dinner was ready, I came away with a realization: the “sub” myths served as sub-plots. You know, those smaller problems that writers sprinkle throughout the story that all relate to the main plot but that can be solved all along the way. They keep us reading. They're the “V” payoff that I was talking about last week.

These sub-plots should all be related to the main plot. They build on each other. Some of them work to get us a little closer to the truth, while others work to put our characters further in peril. They sort of work in tandem. They appear to be pulling in opposite directions, yet they are both working to advance the story. Were all of the sub-plots positive there'd be no tension. If they were all downfalls our spirit would be crushed and we'd simply stop reading.

And there's my t.v. Inspired writing thought.

  • Sub-plots work to keep the reader involved.
  • They should be both positive and negative.
  • Above all they work to move the story forward.
  • Always relate them to the main plot.

Oh, and one last thing that just occurred to me: deeper meaning. These little successes and failures should also reveal something about our characters. While sub-plots are hard enough to deal with as it is, this last one really raises the bar and can often leave a writer with quite a headache. It's not going to be painfully obvious, “I will no longer trust white tailed weevils!” It'll be more like that story worthy problem that rides underneath the surface that the pro doesn't quite get until the end. They're small steps to getting to that resolution.

Transparent Evil

During Thanksgiving break, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” played on the Disney channel. In my youth I enjoyed the book, but now that I'm older I have a strong distaste for it. I'm not one for overt Christian allegory as it is, but I realized while watching the Aslan death scene that there was something more to it than that. It's the same in LOTR, and probably part of the reason I've migrated away from that kind of storytelling in general. I strongly dislike the definition of evil in these stories.

It's not simply the cookie cutter mold of evil that we so often get. You know, the flat characters who do as their author tells them so as to move the story along. What I truly dislike is the entire depiction of this evil. It's obvious, clearly defined, and serves as more of a disservice to those that the writer is trying to warn with his cautionary tale.

Wardrobe is a perfect example. Evil is obvious. It is the feminine that seeks power, the twisted black horn that drives into Aslan, it wears black armor, snarls and bites, it speaks with a silvery tongue, lies to get what it wants, its weapons are crooked and rusty. Good, on the other hand, battles with gleaming steal, wears white cowboy hats and rides a shimmering steed. It is the patriarchy guided by truth and justice. The feminine is allowed to exist only in so far as it stays within the confines set up for it. While Good is not forced to follow rules but instead chooses to, it can rewrite them in order to win the day.

How lopsided and one dimensional can you get? I mean think about it, when Good brings the dead back to life we sing “He has arisen,” but when Evil does we curse them as the damned. How easy would it be to make a case for bringing the dead back to life? Yet no one ever does. When the Witch demands justice as set forth by the laws written by Aslan himself, she is made out to be wicked; and yet, if the roles were reversed we'd cheer the good guy for “outwitting” his enemy.

I guess my main problem with it all is simply this: it doesn't inspire thought. These stories aren't meant to facilitate discussion, they're designed to give instructions. They paint things in Black and White even though life is so much more complicated than that. Granted, at the very beginning Jadis starts out as somewhat kind to our gullible son of Adam, but really anyone watching is sitting thinking, “No, you big idiot, don't do it.”

I'm Stereo Typing


Just finished the dog kennel here at the house. The fencing has been up for a year, but I've been trying to find the time to pour cement around the bottom because the dogs are notorious diggers. Matter of fact, the strip across the bottom doesn't even keep them in, they dig under that as well. So, I also had to create a border of discarded cement chunks from demolishing old things around the property along he entirety of the inner perimeter.

They're still trying to dig out. But at least they're failing now, and I was able to take them off of their runner cables and let them play together, the mamma and her two boys. It was nice to see them play, but it also made me a little sad.

Siska, the little black menace that has been banished to live in the back with my folks, would have loved to be playing too. Unfortunately, she likes to get into terribly viscous fights with the other dogs, mainly Mihka, our loyal and lovable brown lab.

Siska, like Mihka, was a stray that I took in. She's a little black runt that looks like a lab but is way too short. The vet marveled at her tongue when I took her to get shots long long ago. It has a black spot on it, which baffled him because that is supposedly a hallmark of a Chow, but she looks nothing like one. I, on the other hand, have always thought she was mixed with a Pit because of what she looks like when she gets into a fight.

Now, a couple of weeks ago we were at a friend's for dinner and he was telling me about a stray dog that he had to have put down because the shelter wouldn't take it. You see, it had a black spot on its tongue indicating that it was part Chow. Apparently, Chow's are known for being a jealous dog and become very attached to their owners.

A little bell went off in my head. “Maybe that's what's wrong with Siska.” Siska is totally loveable, she'll roll over on her back and let just about anybody rub her, but as soon as you start petting another dog or playing with another dog she turns mean. And that got me to thinking about writing. I thought about how you can do that with a lot of animals. You don't pick crows to use as homing pigeons, nor do you try and convince a poodle to be a sled dog. Certain “breeds” are wired specific ways.  

That led me to thinking about humans. If we were to say something like “blacks are better at basketball,” it would be considered extremely racist. Yet in fantasy literature we have dwarves that mine, gnomes that invent, elves that convene with nature and so on. There seems to be no thought to how that could be considered racist.

Indeed, even when we pull back and go in a SF route, we find readers going into an uproar when white authors don't portray black protagonists as “black.” Meanwhile there's a separate debate that says that defining certain things as being attributed to one race or another is actually racist. Or is it the limits that we put on people as defined by race?

I'm rather conflicted about it myself. I think that it is possible that we are all simply wired a certain way based on genetics. I believe that DNA can play a lot larger role in a person's life than we care to admit. I think that some people end up being more violent than others not simply because of how they were raised, but because of how they were bred. If breeders can pick out traits that are best suited for fighting dogs, why can't the same be said of a woman who had an abusive father going on to find an abusive husband of her own and having kids with him? Are we not taking those aggressive genes and combining them?  

The question is, where does that fit in to our writing? Do we avoid it and hope to somehow erase “stereotypes,” or do we simply accept that maybe stereotypes are more like genetic traits? After all, whether we care to admit it or not, we all stereotype. We do it all the time.

About a month after finding out the mysterious missing link in my own heritage, we took a trip up to visit my brother and sister-in-law. On our way to get a bite to eat I told him about my latest discovery about being an eighth black. He was just as dumbfounded as I was.

His wife's response? “No wonder you like girls with big butts.”

My response to her extremely insensitive, narrow-minded, racist stereotyping? “Hey, me too!”  

Monday Funny: Bruce Lee Beat Down


I love the outcome to this fight. 

When I was little, my big idol was Schwarzenegger, that was when I actually thought I could grow to be that size. I think that once I realized that I wouldn't grow past a certain point and forever be a scrawny guy, my idol turned to be Bruce Lee. :o) 

V Hit What Heroes Missed

'V' my saving grace.  

Thank the writer gods for 'V'. In all honesty, when I heard that the tv folks were planning another hackery of a classic because they couldn't come up with compelling new ideas, I threw up a little in my mouth. But after half a season of the silent self torture that is 'Heroes' and an abysmal start to 'Legend of the Seeker,' I find my self singing the praises of 'V.'

Actually, 'Seeker' wasn't that bad until they pulled that totally in fashion trick where just about anyone can be brought back to life. I looked past it when the sexy chicks in leather did it because really, how many people are those haters of all mankind going to revive? But now ANYONE can be brought back to life. Are you kidding me? I mean really.

Even for all of that night of the living dead crap, I still give them more props than I do 'Heroes.' The writers at 'Heroes' simply have no balls. They can't kill anyone, save for speedster girl. And that's probably because I thought she was insanely cute and the writers at 'Heroes' hate me. Of course I think Charlie is cute too, but then she's hidden in limbo someplace so she might as well be dead.

Now, I say all of this even after 'V' pulled the same “you never know who's really dead” bull by bringing back to life that FBI agent's V partner. And really, he's such a well known actor I can see them doing one of those, “Oooo, alien technology is so advanced that they can even revive people that they themselves have killed.” (Hence why Ryan had to leave ashes in place of the guy that he didn't really kill).

What I was so exited about in this last episode of 'V' was hope. Not Obamanized hope that is tossed into discussions when you don't want to talk about things like Bushified terrorism. No, I'm talking about real hope. The writers set us up for the oh so common never ending setback after setback, “How miserable can we make everyone involved, including the viewer, before we spring our witty and triumphant ending?” gag that absolutely everyone does these days.

Rather than totally knocking us to our knees, the writers reveal that the double agent is not only alive, but that he knows who has seen his true face and then they kill that S.O.B. (again). But they don't just kill him, they give us hope, because now we've got a man on the inside on the mother ship. “The fifth column says hello.”

The episode was a tit for tat one where every advance that the bad guy made, the good guys made one as well. We still have the sense that our good guys are in way over their heads, but they have a chance. It's not hopeless.

I think that writers often forget that these days. 'Heroes' is a prime example of that. There are never any real moments of hope. There's episode after episode of being pulled further into the pit in hopes building up the payoff at the end. If things look dire enough, then it makes what the good guys do all that more amazing, right? But I for one think that it makes for a miserable journey along the way.  

Sure, there's still room for that in writing. The trouble is, it seems like we're saturated in it right now.

Anyway, I'm just thankful that 'V' has outdone my low expectations and is saving me from from more “Silar's dead, but he's alive, but he's dead, no wait he's alive, ah you thought he was dead but he moved his 'dead' spot, no he's dead but his body is alive in one place and his consciousness in another, no wait he's vanished, no wait he's just shot David in the head and put him out of his misery.”  

Don't worry, I come back to life again in the final thirty seconds of the show.

Our lesson? Keep real hope alive in your story amidst all of the pitfalls you set up for your characters.

Dors mon enfant


So 'Spark' is finally done. It needs some polishing, but the story is finally there. The emotions, while still raw, have been captured. In yet another break in the lucky streak that is my writing right now, I happened upon a bit of French that's perfect for the story.

From the beginning I've had Silas, the Pro, singing a French nursery rhyme throughout. Trouble was, there wasn't really any deeper meaning to the rhyme other than it being French. Last night, in researching other rhymes I came across this, “Dors, mon enfant.” If you'd like to read it along with the piano accompaniment, play the youtube video.

“Dors, mon enfant.”

Dors entre mes bras,

Enfant plein de charmes!

Tu ne connais pas

Les soucis, les larmes;

Tu ris en dormant,

À ton doux sourire,

Mon coeur se déchire;

Dors, ô mon enfant!

Dors sur les genoux

De ta pauvre mère,

Car le sort jaloux

T'a ravi ton père;

Je veille en tremblant

Sur ta faible enfance,

Dors, mon espérance,

Dors, ô mon enfant!

Dors et ne crains rien,

Car si tu sommeilles,

Ton ange gardien,

Ta mère, te veille,

Le repos descend

Sur ton front candide,

Dors sous mon égide,

Dors, ô mon enfant!

The English translation had each section slipping into place in the story seemlesly.

Sleep, my child.

Sleep in my arms,

my adorable child!

you know yet

neither sorrow nor tears;

You smile in your sleep,

Your sweet smile

Tears at my heart;

Sleep, oh my child!

Sleep on the knees

Of your poor mother,

Because envious Destiny

Has robbed you of your father;

Trembling I watch over you

Over your tender life,

Sleep, you my hope,

Sleep, oh my child!

Sleep without a fear,

For in your slumber,

Your guardian angel,

Your mother, keeps guard,

You fall asleep while

No sorrow creases your brow,

Sleep, while I take you under my wing,

Sleep, oh my child!

I'd love to hear this sung. So if anyone happens upon a video or mp3 where it's sung in French, please point me to it and you will have my sincerest gratitude.

Now then, the only questions that remain are: is providing the French in the short story a little much even if it they do come spread out through the 10k, and should the English translation follow at the end or should it be one of those leg work things that authors leave for readers that really care?

The Spark of Truth


And it's done. That story I kept whining about, promising a completion date for and then never delivering. It's finally done. Well, save for the final touch ups, but it's there, from start to finish: Spark.

My eyes are still red rimmed as I write this because the ending was such a tear jerker. I think that's a good thing because the ending has changed. It was sad before, but I somehow found a new meaning in the story that made it even sadder. That is, it's sadder for me.

What's strange is that I don't really know how it happened. I know what my original hang up was, the badgal. I've even talked about it here. She was cruel and cold hearted, and flat, very, very flat. She was a one dimensional whipping girl built up in the likeness of someone who once broke my heart. Then I decided that she needed at least one more dimension and took her in the complete opposite direction, and tried to pin things on another character, but that didn't sit right.

The biggest problem was that I never fully explored the final scene, I didn't delve into the confrontation between Silas and the badgal and for some reason I couldn't conjure up the scene to save my life. During my floundering a series of things occurred. While I worked on the story at writing group, specifically trying to figure out the infamous badgal that was giving me all the headache I overheard one of my partners talk about K.A.R.A. grief counseling. That doesn't sound all that weird until you consider that the name of badgal happens to be Cara. The story also deals with the death of an infant and over the past few months of blockage there have been three reports of little ones dying in the nearby area. When you have a little one of your own, such news hits all the harder especially when the ages of those children seemed to almost mimic the age of my own during the times of their parting.

As a little background, the first baby, a little 10 or 11 month old, rolled off a bed while under the care of a nanny, bumped its head and died because of a concussion. The second had been picked up from daycare by the babysitter and brought back to her house (the children were supposed to always go back to their home, not to the sitter's) she had a pitbull, the screaming sitter chased it through the house trying to get it to let go of the 15 month old. The third, 16 months as my son is now, was sleeping soundly in his crib while his mother took a quick bath. He tried climbing out, fell between the crib and the wall and suffocated by the time she got out.

It's a fear that non parents can't understand. Actually, I think the fear lies deepest in the hearts of first time parents. A friend of mine who hasn't had kids yet called it first time paranoia. I think the stories above illustrate how it is much more than mere paranoia. It's something that nags at you every time you leave your child with someone else so you can get a moments peace. It haunts your dreams at night so that you spring from bed at the slightest cry. It's what gripped me when my wife was pregnant, back when I first started writing the story. That kernel of truth is what earned the original story publication in the annual that I had thrice failed to gain acceptance from. And it was that truth that I lost in the edits.

I needed the fragility of life to remind me what I was writing and my own crisis of faith with regards to continuing writing to jar me awake.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to say that I'm finally back to my old self. I might not blog in the same capacity as I did before, my priorities have changed. Whereas before the blog took precedent over much else in life, now it will only occur when I really have something to say and the time to say it in. But I'm writing, and that's what this has always been about.

So if you're lost with what you're working on, maybe you too are having a difficult time remembering what that little truth was that first gripped you. Find it and the words will flow again.

My Own Wings


I sit down tonight with a strange sort of purpose about my writing. One of those surreal moments of clarity that comes only after great tribulation. Indeed, it feels like some forty days and forty nights ago that the critique group experiment imploded taking with it my will to carry on.

NaNo, was to be my reemergence, the stretching of my writer's wings after a long hibernation. This past week alone should have brought countless a writing hour my way what with canceled photo shoots and a cold that kept me indoors. That was not the case. Photos needed editing, a baby needed tending, guests needed to be entertained, or at the very least cleaned up after. When it came time to write I found not the energy to unfold my wings.

Soon we'll be off to Denver again. The last trip marking the beginning of my writerly tailspin. As usual, others are piling on even more tasks for me to complete before we even board the airplane. All this leaves me thinking that the tailspin might finally come to an end with a glorious burst of red and orange flame.

However, this time, when I look back from the cockpit and peer through the smoke and sparks I see that there is no one to save. The plane is empty. It seems that the seats were all peopled with my imagination. The lives I was trying to save never needed saving, duties and responsibilities mere ghosts.

I don't have to save the plane and its passengers . . . save one.

I step towards the door, air rushing past as the lifeless mass of metal hurtles towards its mother. It seems too easy. I should have to fight, claw my way inch by inch towards the blue ski above, but it is a dream after all, isn't it?

When I reach the opening I find that I no longer have to strain to unfurl my wings, I have but to try. The slightest gap provides enough room for the air to whirl up around me, forcing the wings to let loose from my body. They burst open with a pop of sails catching wind, lifting me up. I float away from the ghost ship and its flames, watch as it smashes into the ground. Onlookers oo and awe, point little fingers this way and that. They're all too caught up in the spectacle to notice the tiny fleck floating above them.

Here I'm left, alone in the great blue ski where imaginings go to rest once we've forgotten them. I have no passengers to weigh me down, no fuel gauge to dictate my starts and stops, only the beat of my wings and the drive of my heart and so many pretty little imaginings to play amongst. Where I go from here is up to me.

Write on.


“Excuses,” that's what I thought today as I drove around running errands. I was thinking about all of the reasons pertaining to why I'm not writing, and not blogging. In the end I simply said to myself, “excuses.”  

It's pretty easy to come up with them. Heck, just tonight I thought I'd sit down and write, but then the baby started crying and refused to go to sleep. As I was failing at comforting him, I said to myself, “See, every time I try to write I get interrupted.”  

So what did I do after my wife took him and nursed him to sleep; I watched the latest episode of “V.” Yup. Excuses.  

I was about to try and find something else to watch, but I stopped myself. Maybe it was the imaginative kick to the head delivered by “V,” but I was feeling like something needed to get done. My own imagination needed to be recognized.  

While it happens to be nearly eleven o'clock here, I'm going to actually sit and write more than just a short blog posting.  

I hope all of your writing is going well. Although, when I check in on the NaNoWriMo page I find that people's numbers aren't really going up. At least not the numbers of those that I know on NaNo. Heck, I know that mine definitely haven't gone up. But I think I'll change that tonight.  

If you're also participating in NaNo, feel free to look me up. It's easy, 'david.noceti'. Now stop making excuses and get back to writing.  

Monday Funny Facebook


Some strong language in this song, but I think it reflects the thoughts of every Facebooker ever from the beginning of Facebooking time. 

Not NaNo Again


Well, it's November 1st again, and as all writers everywhere know, it's the first day of National Novel Writing Month. The month when Chris Baty tries his damnedest to sell you more of his merchandise under the guise of helping writers everywhere while using his tax exempt organization as an advertising tool and email address collector to help him better peddle his wares.  

Bloggers all across the land are putting up posts about their strategies for this month, their hopes, fears, . . . word counters. I however will not be making the typical NaNo post. This is about anti-NaNo while still participating in it. 

It just so happens that the organizer for my region is a part of my face-to-face writing group. She's also the co-moderator for the "Rebels." And I have signed up with the resistance. 

If you were considering doing NaNo, but don't want to abandon what you are already working on, then join up with the Rebel list in the forums of NaNo and write to your heart's content. They talk a lot more about how to break the rules over on the forum thread, so check it out. 

My personal rule breaking will be to continue the novel that I have in progress and only count words written in November. Now then, I have lots of writing to get done. 1,800 words before midnight. Think I'll go and get some coffee made up. 

Happy writing everyone and "Vive la résistance!"