If you’re anything like me and most of the planet, you binge-watched House of Cards on Netflix when they debuted the entire season (like they do) in February.

Confession: I’ve watched Seasons 1 and 2 three times. Once for each new season because this is a show you have to pay attention to. The smallest detail, especially on the part of Frank or his wife, can mean huge repercussions later.

Why are we so obsessed with Francis Underwood and his dirty doings? How is someone so amoral the protagonist of the story? To answer that, we have to talk about anti-heroes.

According to dictionary.com an anti-hero is:

a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.

That’s a place to start, but it doesn’t really explain how so many people can be fascinated by a character that is, essentially, a bad, unredeemed and never-to-be-redeemed person. For something a little closer to our purposes, I’ll add Writers Digest to the mix:

Antiheroes can be obnoxious, pitiful or charming, but they are always failed heroes or deeply flawed. Often riddled with paradoxical traits and qualities, they resemble real people more than any other type of fictional characters do, and they are increasingly popular these days in fiction, film and television.

Now that makes my brain get clicky. Obviously, they’re not heroes, but failed heroes. A failed hero does not arc, but chooses to continue handling whatever life throws at him in the same way, or worse ways. What I find most interesting is the notion that anti-heroes are the most realistic of fictional characters.

I hate to think that’s true. As someone who has worked in mental health for many years, I’ve seen my share of people who get it, where they’re making flawed choices, and completely turn it around. On the other hand, people who make the same mistakes are more common than not.

Does that mean anti-heroes lack self-awareness? Not the best of them. Definitely not Frank Underwood. I think one of the qualities that make him so much fun to watch is the deliberateness of his every move.

I’d love if you’d share your fave anti-heroes. I’m currently reading the House of Cards trilogy and the main character (who is British, not Southern) as well as the story are different enough to be enjoyable unto itself.

Tweet: House of Cards and Anti-heroes. Why are we so obsessed with Francis Underwood and his dirty doings? http://goo.gl/bTF1kc

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You, valued reader, may call me Ayaka. Before I lose your interest, let me tell you our topic: video games. Yeah, I went there. They are my passion and my future career.

I don’t really have a specific type, to be truthful. My game quest is simply to find a few good things: good storyline, great main objective, and an engrossing protagonist back story. Even… no, wait–especially an engrossing antagonist back story. (What? I like psychopaths… You don’t?) It makes up for any bad graphics or glitches.

I have many games to discuss, recommend, or tell you to avoid. I’m going start with one fairly known to gamers and even people who play games that are ran by trash talking ten-year-olds. *cough* Call of Duty *cough* (I’m joking! …mostly). Ahem… As I was saying, we will be discussing Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim!

The So Many Reasons I Love Skyrim

1. It’s fantasy! I love escaping life into my own little fantasy. <3

2. I get to make my own adventure. I’m very violent which is not okay in society. This game let’s me become an assassin. I don’t like someone, I just kill him! Easy as that.

3. I am Dovahkiin! I like being the only hope for humanity. Makes me feel special in ways reality can’t.

4. My shouting kills people. You piss me off? I’m going to shout, which will throw you against the wall and slaughter you without me even touching you.

5. Politics can suck it. I. Am. The. Freaking. Dragonborn. If I tell you to give up your full-of-weapons city to your enemy I may or may not favor, you better do it, with a smile on your face. And, when I kill your Emperor, your guards better look the other way or I’ll let a dragon eat you.

It’s all about the choices

So I may be a bit power crazy… but all these choices, man! With all the possibilities, choices, beautiful graphics, well-made characters, and an amazing main storyline, this game is literally for everyone. Unless you’re like my mother and just can’t comprehend that you walk and turn your head with two different controls.

That’s it for me. * nonexistent boos* It’s all right, my lovelies. I shall return! If you guys want to send me (find my contact info below) links to free downloadable games, I’ll play and review them for you. Or, you can send me videos of you playing games, I’ll review them, and you! I’ll even share you on my Facebook page and website if I like them enough!

akaya

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Note from Lori: In the future, only games that focus on storytelling or characterization will be mentioned on this site. However, Ayaka has her very own Twitter, site, and Facebook pages (above) where she will mention whatever she likes–or doesn’t.

“My Shouting Kills People, or Why Skyrim Owns Me” ~ Click to Tweet

Photo absolutely lifted from a Google image search. Since it’s used in a review, it’s probably fair use. Probably.

 

Burn Notice. Love, love, love the characters. I’d watch Bruce Campbell clean out his gutters. And the story arcs like mad. Everything changes. I hate when writers are afraid to make changes because what they have works. In this moment.

But it can’t work forever. The nature of story is to change. Otherwise, it’s just a snapshot in time.

And, I think, it’s not that we need to write what’s hot or popular. We need to write what sets us on fire. I love me some crazy, whackadoo characters. Because people are messed up. We’re all messed up. That’s real to me.

To quote the show:

“Imagine that you’re holding onto two bottles and they drop on the floor. What happens? They both break. But it’s how they break that’s important, because you see, while one bottle crumbles into a pile of glass, the other shatters into a jagged-edged weapon. People just don’t break the same.

Stories tell the truth. Maybe that’s what this story says to me, and it says it beautifully.

Want More on Burn Notice and Storytelling?

Try the Popcorn Dialogues: Burn Notice.

The nature of story is to change. Otherwise, it’s just a snapshot in time. ~ Click to Tweet

I’m not going to advocate Gossip Girl as anything more than mindless fun. Except…

It’s the characters.

I began watching Gossip Girl The weekend of July 13th. It’s eighteen days later and, despite working full time, writing, critting in a couple of marathon sessions for my CP, and just generally rearing children, I have managed to watch nearly five full seasons

This show has flaws:

  • Writing that often serves the needs of the plot rather than the organic growth of the characters.
  • Reversals in feelings and character consistency are another, but those happen more in characters that are, quite frankly, rather flaky.
  • Characters whose moral compass sometimes spins wildly with disastrous results.

And all that makes it soapy fun, which, as I’ve established, I’m totally fine with.

But, at the end of my four or five episodes day, I care about the characters. Some I like. Some I love like damn and whoa.

Blair & Chuck

Oh, what a wreck these two are. I’m not sure they deserve anyone or any amount of happiness. They’re so incredibly flawed, but that’s the easy part. They could’ve quickly been written off as one-dimensional villains. But, no. They’re redeemable. I understand what motivates them.

They have pleasures in life that anyone can identify with, like Blair’s passion for old movies and Chuck, a man who received about as much nurturing as a kitten whose mother tried to eat it, who is quietly devoted to his dog.

But, I didn’t truly become enamored with these characters until they fell in love with one another. And, here, with these on-the-surface terrible people I saw a thoughtfully written, consuming, passionate affair for the ages play out. This is the real thing. This is that magic something, lightning in a bottle, that writers hope to capture.

Even when a show isn’t brilliant, we can still learn from what works. ~ Click to Tweet

Glee. Just…Glee. I’ve posted in the past about watching great shows to improve your writing (and because they’re awesome and we love good stories). I’ve been a fairly long-standing fan of Ryan Murphy (and later Brad Falchuk). The Shield, Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story. Good shows. Great characters.

But, Glee. I’ve watched it on Netflix and my becoming enamored with it started one boring, cold Saturday morning. I turned it on. I gasped. I laughed. I called to my teenage daughter to get in there because I was watching the best television show I’d ever seen and she had to see it.

I’ve fallen in love with the characters because they’re so not perfect. They make mistakes, they’re human and flawed. But they’re real and they grow, so I care about them. And, I think I’ve learned from this show, antagonist or protagonist, what matters is to make your characters realistic, to have strengths and flaws, to make them stretch and grow into more than they were when they began.

Aside from being a writer, from the perspective of being someone who messes up and deals with the fact that sometimes life sucks, from the perspective of a parent of a child who has been bullied and is a minority, I love that this show is about loving the “loser” that we all are. I don’t know who coined the phrase “let your freak flag fly,” but I live by it and I wish that in finding the things about ourselves that make us unique and special (and unicorns), we’d learn to embrace those things in other people.

12111This post is the first in a series I’m beginning on The Hero’s Journey story structure.  It’s important to note, you can use any structure you like.  In fact, go crazy, have fun.  But, some of the most popular (I won’t say best) films use this structure.  Notable examples include the Star Wars flicks and pretty much anything Disney makes.

I’m not saying it’s the best structure you can use.  What I am saying is that if you’re writing popular fiction (as opposed to literary) you could do worse than to at least try to understand how this structure works.  The best way I know to do that is to apply it to anything and everything, films and stories you encounter every day, to become more comfortable with it.

This is a mish-mosh of The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler and it’s use in the movie, Clash of the Titans.


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The husband and I, we decided to go see a movie. Something we haven’t done since the first Transformers came out. You can thank my aunt, who bought us gift cards. “Now, you really use that!” As opposed to whatever else I was going to do with it, I suppose.

Not a lot out right now. Rango and Hop were ruled out because I wanted to see a grown up movie. Because it was just us. The grown ups.

I checked the site and tossed out my only two considerations: Limitless or Red Riding Hood. Now, Limitless has Robert De Niro in it. I should note, my husband has never in the history of ever taken me to see a chick flick. I figured De Niro had a better shot at upholding our “guy movie” trend. But he chose Red Riding Hood.

I love Amanda Seyfried. She was Lily on Veronica Mars. I quote her often, to my kids (Lily, I mean): “Whoop-de-freaking-do, Veronica!” They totally know what this means. I will always remember the end of season 1, when dead/flashback Lily is saying goodbye and she tells Veronica to never forget her. And Veronica says, “I could never.” That’s kind of how I felt.

Okay, so fast forward and Amanda is all gorgeous, as always, and kind of innocently bad, and sexy as Red Riding Hood.

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So I’m watching movies considered to be some of the most romantic movies for many decades. I’ve watched Gone With the Wind and An Affair to Remember more times than I’ve changed my clothes, almost, so I wanted to start with something new (to me). This is, technically, research for a character, who would’ve been watching these movies at a certain point in her life. But, I thought, if I’m watching some of the best romances ever, why not examine the GMC? Maybe I’ll learn something.

Movie: Sabrina

Hero: Linus

Cold-blooded corporate raider

GOAL MOTIVATION CONFLICT
Internal To be compensated for the life his brother took by being irresponsible. He feels cheated out of life, out of making his own choices, and weighed down by responsibility. His brother continues to be irresponsible David, and he is the one Sabrina loves.
External To complete a billion dollar deal with Tyson Electronics. He’s always been the best. He needs this deal because Tyson has the best television of the future. David, his brother, is ambivalent about marrying Tyson’s daughter and Sabrina is the perfect excuse to cancel the engagement.
Heroine: Sabrina

Transformed chauffeur’s daughter

GOAL MOTIVATION CONFLICT
Internal To fall in love. Sabrina wants David because she has watched him sweep women off their feet; she’s shy, has no self-confidence, and is the chauffeur’s daughter. She doesn’t see herself has lovable. She believes she’s in love with David, but that’s just a fantasy. When she falls in love with Linus, he admits he was just using her to get her out of the way to protect his merger.
External To be seduced by David. Sabrina has been obsessed with David her whole life. His seductions are a symbol of love for her. Linus keeps interfering with her time with David and spending time with her in order to make her fall in love with him and forget David.

Okay, I don’t know if that’s right, and welcome any opinions, but that’s what I took from it. When I first watched it, I couldn’t think of a single thing Sabrina wanted. I wondered if she had a goal at all. In this movie, Linus’ external goal is obvious; it’s his internal goal you have to search for, hidden in the character. With Sabrina, her internal goal isn’t obvious, but it is the ruling one. Her external goal is tied tightly to her external goal. Linus’ is, too, but he doesn’t realize how much of his life he’s missed out on, and how much he resents his brother for that, until he sees his brother living a life he would like.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is next. I’ll try to have that for next week.