I wrote my way to revolution

As long as (s)he can hold a pen, (s)he’s a threat

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Apologies, blog, for not writing in you for so long. I’ve been thinking about you! But as I suspected, I need to get into the habit of writing here regularly, which means I need to find a way to make myself accountable. We’ll figure it out.

The first week I forgot to update, a bunch of things happened across the country and the world, and a lot of people died. This happens every week, but the din seemed much louder than usual, mostly due to the manner in which people died.

It’s no secret that we’ve got a ton of problems in this world, all of which are continuations of problems we’ve had for centuries. Nothing is new, honestly; they’re just different manifestations of the same tired conflicts, and all of them stem from fear: fear of the Other, fear of loss, fear of change, etc. Race, religion, gender, sexuality, physical and mental health – if someone differs from you in at least one of these aspects, suddenly there’s a fear there, though it may not always be malicious. Perhaps you fear not understanding them and then being judged for not understanding; perhaps you fear offending them; perhaps you fear having to face the fact that what you took to be a universal truth may very well not be. Or maybe you fear worse things: that they’ll steal what you believe is yours, or they’ll corrupt the world you know to be good and fair and just. Whatever the case may be, fear is the heart of conflict, and the one of the few ways to eliminate fear is to know what you’re facing.

There are many ways of facing the unknown: you can go to it and face it head-on, you can study it, or you can be exposed to it through art.  Art comes in many forms, obviously – paintings, songs, dances, poems, comics, films, books – and one of art’s purposes is to show what is or what could be. Life and art reflect each other, be it reflecting our reality or our dreams, and humans cannot help but create art in part because of this need to understand and express our interpretations of the worlds within and around us. We want to understand, and we want to be understood.

I’ve always wanted to be able to reflect truth in what I write, even if the truth is only mine. Knowing how powerful fear can be, I would much rather introduce truths in a non-confrontational way. This allows a person to absorb it at their own pace rather than be smacked in the face with it with no way to get away and breathe. For as long as I can remember, I thought that perhaps the way I would do this would be by writing. I can manipulate words far better than any paintbrush, and my text has the potential to last much longer than whatever poor melodies or choreography I may produce.

I am also driven by a sense of obligation. What is the point in creating something if it cannot help anyone? I can inspire joy and comfort, yes, and both things are needed in order to rejuvenate those fighting the good fight, but I’m not sure if I’m satisfied simply healing when I may have a weapon I can harness. I’d like to strike back at these conflicts while I can. I am extremely lucky and have so many privileges that I don’t deserve. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t try to use this luck to help others who haven’t had as much? Not the kind of person I want to be, that’s for certain.

If you write long enough, you’ll discover that stories can run away with you. Some people have the ability to make an outline and stick to it, but I am one of those that can only draft the loosest of outlines because I know my characters might look at my plan, say, “Fuck that noise”, and do something else completely different. I can plan and fiddle all I want, but oftentimes I simply need to sit and let an idea simmer and wait for the story to tell me what it wants to do. This makes it difficult to be sure I am telling the stories that need to be told.

And what stories need to be told? There are hundreds, thousands, millions, billions – trillions? I wouldn’t be surprised. Every person on this earth has lived a story, however long or short. So many have been ignored for far too long, and I have this deep desire to help these stories come to light. But how do I do this? And which do I tell? Which am I allowed to tell?

My big, individually-written story at the moment is a war story. (A Harry Potter fanfiction, of course, because that’s my thing at the moment, but written in a way that should be easily accessible for anyone who hasn’t read Harry Potter before.) It takes place in a fake world filled with fake European-inspired countries and is based on the politics and warfare of World War I, specifically the Western front, only there’s a ton of magic mixed in. Think Gaslamp Fantasy. It discusses quite a few important things, I think: the horror of warfare, the disillusionment that comes with learning of the greed and carelessness of irresponsible authority, the loss of innocence, and the tragedy of wasted youth, among other things. WWI is a war we don’t study much in the States, and perhaps I can see why: from an Infantryman’s point of view, the war was pointless. They ordered you to die for nothing. Why teach those stories to the children of a country that is so obsessed with military victory?

In any case, while I am very dedicated to this story, I do wonder if I’m spending my time on the right story. The main character is Remus Lupin, a white, cisgendered, able-bodied young man. Should I really be writing about him, when there are so many other demographics that never get to see themselves as the protagonist? Sure, he is poor and orphaned; he is bisexual, which he has never really admitted to himself; and due to past trauma he has locked away his magic and his potential, which has caused a number of issues for him. He is not 100% your traditional white male protagonist (maybe like, 85%? I dunno, I made that number up), but he is still one, and this concerns me. But this story was born of a Wolfstar (Remus/Sirius) fanfiction fest, and at its heart, it is a story about how Remus’s relationship with Sirius changes both of them and the people around them as well. While knowing about Harry Potter isn’t needed to read the story, it is still heavily inspired by the Marauders era and the events of the First Wizarding War. I could change the characters, sure, but it’s no longer the same story.

I am trying to flesh out side characters more and have taken liberties with historical accuracy: women are allowed in my trenches, and so we have, among others, Lily Evans the Medic, Marlene McKinnon the Witch, and Angelica the Sniper (Angelica has no surname at the moment, but Angelica is meant to be Angelina Johnson’s aunt, a character I created because she popped up and I thought she’d be brilliant). I am trying my best to make sure not everyone is white, so while every red-headed Weasley and Prewett that crops up will obviously be pale, James Potter is described as appearing (to us) southeast Asian; I am, as I said earlier, including Angelina Johnson’s made up extended family; Kinglsey Shacklebolt is given a position of authority; and I am introducing other made up extended family members, including the Patil twins’ mother and aunt, and one or both of Cho Chang’s parents. Should the Granger family pop up, they will be described as black, as well. And in terms of sexualities, I’ve obviously got our bisexual Remus up there, and at the moment Angelica’s telling me she’s a lesbian, so there’s something of variety here, I suppose.

I include this diversity because I want it there and it brings me joy to flesh out otherwise ignored side characters, but I also wonder: is it enough? Am I thinking too hard about this? Am I trying FAR too hard to make this story represent everything I want it to? Should I be telling another story, or using this as the practice I need so that later I can tell other, more important stories with more important truths? Or is this story more important than I give it credit for? OR is it not important AT ALL and I just need to get over myself and either a) have fun with it, or b) drop it altogether? I am definitely suspecting it’s not important at all, but then, what is the point?

People always say to write for yourself, not your audience, but I feel a sense of responsibility. I’m not currently doing anything to better the world around me in any way; why can’t I use this? I’m not trying to make art, I’m trying to practice a craft, and I know that there is literally only so much fanfiction can do, but still. I want to fight, and my best weapons are my words. I want my words to matter.

How does one know which ones do?

 

Title and excerpt quoted from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton

I don’t have 2 left feet

But sometimes I still forget which one to start on

A dream of mine has always been to perform. I’ve tried in different capacities over the years, but unfortunately, for multiple reasons, after high school I was unable to audition for any particularly big roles. That’s fine; ensemble is fun in its own way, and I enjoy performing, especially when I’m able to do my best.

As an attempt to give this love more attention, I’m trying to focus more on my dancing. Over the years, I’ve taken a LOT of beginner classes: jazz, belly-dancing, salsa, ballroom, Latin ballroom, swing, flamenco, etc. I’ve also gotten exposure to dances like Bhangra and the Bollywood style of dance thanks to the clubs I’ve joined and the friends I’ve had. I’ve been taking Irish dancing for a year and a half, and I’m definitely getting better; I’m also looking for an adult folklorico dance class because I’d really like to get more in touch with my family’s culture. I want yet another dance class, though, something less traditional and more modern, so I’m searching for one more.

I took an Intermediate Broadway Jazz class today. Why intermediate and not beginner? Well, the time was perfect – I could easily make it from work – and I thought, well, I know which foot is my left and which is my right, and am a fairly fast learner, so I’ll be pretty decent at it, right? A friend who has gone to this class in the past assured me that it’d be fine, and went with me so we could keep each other company.

There are few experiences more humbling than a dance class that goes too fast.

We spent way more time on the warm-up than I expected, and it involved way more conditioning than I thought it would. (Not a bad thing, but I wasn’t expecting 4-5 minutes of pure abs!) I’m not as flexible as I’d like to be, but I do want to regain some of my former flexibility, so that’s fine. Some of the warmups were very graceful and new to me, but I caught on fine despite the fact that you couldn’t hear the guy over the music. I got through the 20-30 minute warm-up and was ready to go.

Then we started, and I frantically turned to my friend. “Did we miss a class?”

“We must have,” she said anxiously. “He doesn’t usually go this fast…does he?”

He would go through a 16 count once or twice and had us practice it multiple times in a space of maybe 3 minutes; he then did this multiple times until we had about 30 seconds worth of dancing. This was done at a very quick pace, and when we were done, he said, “Oh, the music goes faster than this.” I exchanged a glance with my friend. HOW was I going to remember all these steps??

He turned the music on, and then…I proceeded to forget half the steps. We went through it a few times, and then he divided us into 3 groups and had each group perform on its own. While I spent some of that time intently studying the best dancers in the class (they danced as if they had known the steps for weeks), I spent the rest of the time either worrying about how foolish I’d look or looking foolish. I knew I improved each time I did it, and while it was encouraging to know I was getting it, I still hoped that no one was watching me. On our last try as a full class I attempted the cartwheel in the first 16 counts (“I can do a cartwheel!” I thought, “I’ve been doing them since I was 7!”) and I failed it. It was a miserable cartwheel, so terribly done that I met the instructor’s eyes as I landed and we both burst into laughter as I struggled through the rest of the dance.

I asked him later if class always went that quickly, and he said yes. I asked about the beginner class, he gave me the day and time, and I realized that it overlapped with work. He said I did a great job, which I took with a pound of salt. And then he said, just as he was leaving, that if a dance class was easy for me, I wasn’t supposed to be there.

Later, a friend on Facebook who used to dance in high school said the same thing. You learn to spot steps faster, she said, when they’re taught too fast for you. I believe them, as this is true of almost everything: you can’t improve if you don’t try something that’s hard. In Irish dance, easy steps have been a place to work on my technique. Since the steps are easy, I can do them on autopilot and tell myself, “Better turnout when you land! Kick your butt! Hold your jump a beat longer!” But I don’t grow as a dancer until I learn a dance that’s even harder than the last, with quicker steps, faster trebles, and more demands. The main difference here, though, is in Irish dancing I am learning new ways to move my feet, and the speed at which I learn these steps matters less than doing them right. In Intermediate Broadway Jazz, I’m trying to remember steps I haven’t done in years as fast as possible.

It’s true what they’ve said: I’ll learn more and faster if I choose something that’s not easy. It’s important that I remember that, because for the last year and a half, I’ve not been challenged by anything outside of Irish dance class, a few cosplays I’ve made, or that long war story I’ve been writing. I haven’t grown, and this is why. I haven’t put myself in a sink or swim situation in a long time, and so I’ve been mostly treading water and getting nowhere because of it.

Am I going to stick with this class? I don’t know yet. Despite the paragraph I just wrote, I’m also aware that if something’s too hard you can’t really learn anything other than barely surviving (thanks, quidditch, for that lesson). There are other classes at that studio I’m interested in that may suit my skill level just a shade more, such as Beginner Hip Hop. (Am I beginner? We’ll find out Monday!) My friend and I will shop around a bit before choosing and see if there’s a style and speed that will produce the best results.

But who knows? Maybe I’ll end up sticking with this one and end up being able to keep up. We’ll see. But Lord knows I’m not meant to be a professional ensemble dancer anytime soon…

The ~*Darkverse*~

Or, Moma and I let Voldemort win and have it all go to Hell

You know how sometimes you work on a project and it sort of takes over your life (or at least your brain)? This happened to me this week with an RP I am writing with my friend we’ll call Moma.

Warning: MASSIVE Harry Potter spoilers, in case you’re not done with that series or something.

First, to explain: an RP (short for Role Play) is, at it’s core, improv that’s written instead of acted out. Everyone picks character(s), picks a situation, and then writes out their characters actions and reactions in turns. This can be written out in prose or in chat form, and is done in Google docs, notebooks, online forums, texts, messengers such as Facebook or AIM, etc. Some are big, with tons of writers and even more characters; some are small and consists of two people writing back and forth. They can be complex and last years, or simple and last an afternoon. It’s an excellent way to improve your writing, make friends, learn about different writing styles and types of characters, and learn skills like plotting and character development.

I’ve been RPing on and off for about 13 years now, and a few years ago I joined a Harry Potter one that took place in the Marauders era (aka Harry’s parents’ generation). I joined after it had been established and replaced their old Lily Evans. That RP died within a couple of months, but it was revived later under a new name and picked up where it left off. I was Lily Evans in that one as well, but also picked up Barty Crouch Jr. and Amos Diggory for some variety (and Death Eater fun). The plots got very complex: we had dark Order missions involving murder, drugging, and kidnapping, among other things, all of which happened with an undercurrent of your classic emotional teenage drama (the characters were all 14-18). Like, sure, they’d have a fun Halloween party in the Great Hall, but later that night they’d be called upon to break into a Muggle hospital and save a Muggleborn baby and its mother before the Death Eaters got to them first. In any case, we were building to fit into the book canon, and so we all knew that no matter what, Lily and James would get married and have Harry, trust Peter as a Secret Keeper and be betrayed, etc.

This was a very good RP, and despite many hiccups, it lasted about a year and a half (it officially ended in Dec. 2014). Despite this official ending, no one stopped thinking about it, and in the two years since a ton of us have worked together to write everything else that happened between the RP’s end and when our characters died. (For instance, I as Lily could only plan out everything from 1977 to 1981, because obviously she dies; an original character like Miles had his life planned out until his death, which was of old age rather than from war.)

Sometime in 2011 Moma proposed we try a an RP where Voldemort won, I believe partially to try and use one of her original characters in something. I agreed, and while we tried, we didn’t get very far, and it died fairly quickly, partially because I don’t think we had much of a plot lined up.

A month or two ago, Moma brought it up again, and I agreed that it’d be a good idea to have another crack at it. We took those RPs I just told you about and called them our RP’s “canon”, and then just changed the ending so that Voldemort would win. It ended up being really easy: just kill off James before he can marry Lily and have Harry, and voila! No prophecy. No curse backfire. And Voldemort wins. (Note: we worked under the assumption that the prophecy was always meant to refer to Harry and that Neville wasn’t a possible Chosen One.) It also made it really easy to create a backstory and develop everyone’s characters because we had already RPed so much important stuff already. All we had to do was kill some people off and see what happened 8D

We also took something from an even older RP of mine, which I did back in 2009, and shifted it around to make it our own. We had the Ministry kill off the Weasley parents and the older kids, and separate the youngest to be raised by more “appropriate” pureblood families. This separates Fred and George, and they’re raised by different families, never knowing that they were adopted or that they had a twin brother. Moma has Fred; I have George. They, of course, meet in the RP, because why WOULDN’T we want to write out that meeting?? (We’re actually in the middle of RPing this out right now, ahhh~)

We called this the “darkverse”, because it’s the dark version of the universe our RP was in. (There’s also a “brightverse”, where everyone lives and is happy and all is grand, but I’m not in charge of that one.) Some old fellow RPers (such as Miles’s creator) have been giving us input as to what their characters were doing in the darkverse, and Moma and I work around that. Other times, Moma and I decide what we want for ourselves. All in all, it’s a very collaborative story with varying levels of input.

Anyway, this is what I’m currently all caught up in. What makes it extra interesting (other than the characters, because oh my god I am in love with all of them) is the way we’re writing it. We’ve gotten into this (bad?) habit of discussing our characters with each other, which leads to plotting, which in turn leads to RPing scenes in chats instead of our forum – and we’re doing this OUT OF ORDER. Gah?!

Our RP starts with may first meetings: 1) Moma’s Tylor meets the Order and my Naveena, and 2) the Order, including George, meets Fred for the first time. However, in our impatience, we have somehow plotted out the vast majority of Naveena’s personal relationships over her lifetime (she dates Fred for a year, they have a nasty break up, and then she ends up dating and marrying Tylor). And not only have we plotted this, but we have RPed multiple major scenes already, including Tylor’s proposal and Fred and Naveena’s breakup. And not only that, but we RPed Tylor’s proposal BEFORE Fred and Naveena’s last fight, because I don’t know why.

We’ve got entire lifetimes starting to be plotted out, and Fred hasn’t even joined the fucking Order yet in the actual RP thread. xD;

Another thing we seem to have accidentally done is distinguish between the thread and the chat RPs. The chats appear to mostly be about their personal development: who they fall in love with, how their minds work, important conversations that bring characters closer together or further apart, etc. Everything we’ve done in chats fleshes out what made them who they are and who they will be in the future. The thread, however, seems to be the big main battle plot where we focus on the fight against Voldemort. It’s going slower because the chats are faster, more exciting, more emotional, and more impulsive, but all those little scenes all fit around what’s going on in the thread (or is it vice versa at this point?). The thread is the “final” product, in a way, and the chats set up all the pieces.

And yet! Despite all the different locations (the 2 past RPs threads, the current RP thread, Google Docs, and multiple chat windows with multiple people across multiple platforms), we know exactly what’s going on and how it connects to everything else. The narrative is unbroken, and no one is lost.

There is a lot to be said about the teamwork going on here, the strange way we’re processing all this, the effect the characters have on us, the way our headcanons have been changing the way we look at the books, and the way our versions of characters are influenced by the way others play them. However I won’t talk about any of that (not right now, anyway) because then this post would never end.

But if you hear me complaining about a Tylor, a Naveena, a Fred, a George, a Lily, or a Gideon, this is probably why.

(Enter Me)

He says in parenthesis…

Hello, potential readers, and welcome to my blog.

Let’s get this out of the way early: I am ridiculously nerdy and can have a very intense love for things I adore. This, predictably, led me to fandom at a very young age, which fed an already considerable love of story-telling and channeled it into a wide variety of hobbies. Now that I’m an adult (oh, geez) I can actually do something with these hobbies, so in an effort to kick my butt into gear, I’m going to be sharing these efforts with you.

I, like many other cheesy people, believe in the power of stories. They shape us into who we are, and who we were feeds into who we will become. Fiction, non-fiction, religion, history, science – all of these are the stories of the universe and its inhabitants, sentient or not. We make decisions based on the stories we hear, hoping for the same result or for something new, believing in their truths or rejecting them outright. To hear a good story is to give yourself the opportunity to alter your worldview, and to tell a good story is to enact change in the world around you.

I’m not picky when it comes to story-telling mediums. I like them all: novels, video games, movies, musicals, Snapchat stories, history books, comics, costume design, dance, and every other medium I’ve missed. While I don’t dabble in all of them at the moment, I certainly wouldn’t mind doing so, so if I can continue to update periodically and you choose to follow along, you might be able to see which I get to cross off my list.

Because of my varied interests, you might see huge subject changes from post to post: For example, I might write about constructing the language map of a made-up country one week and the next spend some time discussing my struggles with a sewing machine. I might have a post that complains about prescriptivism, and then the next will discuss my thoughts on a voice technique I just learned. If you see a post about the Federalist Papers and you hate history, don’t be concerned; I might post about my latest dance class soon after. There will most definitely be talk about my fandoms (Harry Potter, Hamilton, etc.) so be prepared to geek out with me. All the while, I hope that you’ll discover the stories I see in all these things, and maybe find new interests, yourself. It might seem disjointed at first, but with any luck, I’ll be able to show you just how everything’s related.

(Damn, should I be putting this in my About page? Or should this be a sticky?)

(Oh, yeah: I like to curse. Fair warning.)

Anyway, I hope you find something here that piques your interest, and if you want to interact, please do! It’s always reassuring to know I’m not yelling out into the void. My hope is to post once a week (??) so we’ll see how that goes.

Until next time,

See you Space Cowboy…

 

 

Title and excerpt quoted from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton