I’ve been thinking about Star Blazers a lot lately. For those too young to know what Star Blazers is, this syndicated series was one of the earliest Japanese anime imports to be shown in America. In Japan, it was known as Uchu Senkan Yamato (Space Cruiser Yamato) and is still something of a cultural icon, somewhat like Godzilla or even like what Doctor Who is to the British. Reformatted (and edited) for an American audience and distributed by a company called Harmony Gold, it was unlike anything American children of the 70’s had ever seen. Each 30 minute episode expanded on the tale of the crew of a reconstructed World War II-era battleship retrofitted to journey across the universe to retrieve a device -the CosmoDNA- that could reverse the effects of a brutal alien weapon that would kill all life on Earth within a year.
This month has been something of a journey for me, a period of re-discovery of the inner storyteller in me. It sounds ludicrous that I’ve never exercised this part of myself in any real way over the last two decades of my adult life, but it’s true nonetheless. As I’ve said, I played with my love of narrative a little in college but have pushed it deep down since then for a variety of reasons. Jennifer helped me to rekindle and nurture that desire and I’ve been running with it ever since. So, this process for me is a little like being a child again, in that things that would sound basic or obvious can sometimes be frankly surprising and exhilarating. I guess it’s a little like having a child: everyone walks, but watching something (or someone) you created learn to stand and walk on it/their own is a wonderful way to see the world through newly opened eyes. I can’t really explain it better than that (which could be a bad sign for a prospective writer) but that’s the closest I can come to how this feels.
As I’d been working on my novel and giving my characters life, I recently came to determine there was a potential issue with one of my main characters. Part of his journey is the conflict between his unshakable faith in his country and its actions -despite the evil of some of those actions- and the ultimate realization that his faith is unfounded and undeserved. I have been building his character with such a steadfast resolve that he could rationalize any misdeeds on the part of his nation as ultimately justified. As such, I’d unfortunately reached a point that any transition he might try to make to a different point of view would be difficult for the reader to believe. I had sufficient reasons, but given his stoic refusal to change his mind previously, it was unlikely he’d change his mind at the desired moment, even given the huge ‘trigger’ I was planning on using. I had all the pieces laid out, but none of them fit together like i thought they should.
Then on Sunday, I was driving to my mother-in-law’s home to pick up some Thanksgiving stuff my wife and I had left behind and had a gobsmacking ‘A-HA’ moment. It was so abrupt yet so wonderfully reasonable that I wondered how I could have missed it. By changing a single act for an important supporting character, I had not only provided the perfect reason for my hero to radically change, but also provided my secondary character with an incredibly more nuanced personality. It was amazing in its own way. If I can execute my idea correctly, it will definitely be a ‘flip-back-to-that-chapter” moment where all of this character’s past actions will be viewed under a different light.
I’ve previous mentioned at how wonderful it is to see a character evolve, seemingly on its own, and this was one of those moments, perhaps one of the best ones so far for me. I had already been adding a lot of flavor and depth to this character but this added a new layer to them, something that will really color everything they do. The most miraculous part for me was that the decisions I’d already made for them worked so very well with this new aspect to their character. It was like the final piece of a puzzle that brought all of these different decisions together -good on their own- but perfect when viewed as part of the new whole.
Like I said in the beginning, this is something that seems so mundane when you hear yourself talking about it, recounting the event, but in the moment, that epiphany, that moment of clarity is so special it’s almost breathtaking. Maybe it’s silly to post about this on my blog, but it was such an authentic storytelling moment that I wanted to share my joy.
As I’ve said before, fear of rejection and criticism has prevented me from pursuing my writing for years. I’ve lived in abject terror that something I’ve pour my heart into will be brutalized and defiled. Yet, I see now that this is a natural process, the discarding of unnecessary things to better perfect the whole, both in terms of the writer and the written. ~Sean
Five Ways To Cope With A Bad Review, by Cristian Mihai
I fear what my editing sessions will look like, how cruel I’ll become with myself. For now, I’m blissfully avoiding my inner critic and letting inspiration flow unfettered.. but one day.. soon.. I shall reap what I’m written. ~Sean
Writing is Rewriting, by Cristian Mihai
I always remember my Thanksgivings as a child, more-so than even Christmas. My father’s family was a multilevel entity and at its head were my great-aunts, Estelle and Betty. By sheer force of will, these two sisters -like veritable Queens of the Burnside clan- summoned relatives from the far corners of the world it seemed. They then held court by feeding the bejeesus out of us.
I remember they had these metal cups that always had a certain metallic tang to them. I shudder to think what I might have been ingesting as a child, but I will always associate that with Turkey Day. I remember being surrounded by all these adults, not a child in sight, since my closest cousins were over a decade old than me. I remember my first Thanksgiving with sour kraut, always a staple for me and a puzzle for everyone else who has entered my life. turkey and stuffing just aren’t right without the kraut.
But most of all, I remember the family, the people, the community. I hardly knew any of these people. Some didn’t even look like they belonged, but they did. For one glorious shining day (in my memories, at least) we had Irish-Scotsman, Poles, Czechs, and Native Americans under one roof, at one table and we were family. We were a melting pot with turkey and stuffing.
In the years since, that family has drastically dwindled. After the death of my great-aunts, the Burnside family drifted apart. There was no one who could command the family quite like the sisters and as such, that idea of thanksgiving slipped away in my life. Over the years I’ve had some great smaller Thanksgivings and some truly horrible Thanksgivings as well. Just a very few years ago, I was miles away from my father (as my mother had passed away in 2001) and utterly alone, even though I was with people that society said I should refer to as family. It was as far from those earlier years as possible.
My life has changed amazingly since then. I’m married to my wonderful wife, Jennifer, for whom I am daily thankful and through whom everything in my life is possible. I have inherited her family and gained back some portion of that earlier ideal of what a Thanksgiving should be. I’ve started writing and have nearly passed the first test of actually seizing upon that part of myself, which is exciting and uplifting beyond measure. At the risk of incurring fate, I am happier than at any time since my childhood. i hope the same can be said for anyone reading this.
As you sit across the table form your family, be they a snapshot of Norman Rockwell or a frame from the Simpsons, find thankfulness for them. I know from experience that Turkey and dressing and football are not what makes today so important. I
t’s the family, the community, the shared experiences that are what we should all be thankful for.
And pecan pie, of course.