Category Archives: Joe Allen’s Blog

An artist’s therapy

Have you ever heard an artist refer to their muse? What does the term muse mean? Well, it’s simply their inspiration. This can be any form of art including writing. However, there are several different types of muses. Often–especially with troubled artists–we turn the negativity in our lives into art. Sometimes this can be the brush strokes of a painter, that one lyric during a song, or a message portrayed through a slam poet. These topics can be dark. The worse the tragedy, the darker the content can be. I want to talk about how an artist uses their own work as a personal form of therapy. A warning that I’ll talk about something uncomfortable to some, but it’s a unique perspective into the way an artist thinks.

First, I’ll start with where this inspiration came from. The song is titled, “Therapy Session,” by the rapper NF. I’m not a big fan of the genre and know nothing about the artist, but a couple of his songs hit hard for me. I’ll link the song below, just know it is covering dark content, so viewer discretion is advised! Please only listen if you’re okay with this.

Therapy Session by NF

I added a link to his channel if you’d like to listen to more of his music. There is a hyperlink in the caption, so just click on his name.

“This is something that personally helps me as well. I’m not confused about who gave me the gift. God gave me the gift and he gave me the ability to do this. And he also gave me this as an outlet. And that’s what music is for me.” -NF

I left out the music video because there was content in there to match his song that could be disturbing to some people. I just want to think about the message NF is trying to deliver in this song. He talks about how, for him, rapping is his own personal therapy session. The thought of that intrigued me and I wanted to talk about it. He talks about people complaining that his music is too dark. Which, after listening to it, I understand. There are messages that artists try to convey and not every single person can handle hearing it. There is one thing that has been bugging me about this mindset. It is hard to listen to but, shouldn’t we listen to it? Our world is dominated by people who have severe mental problems. We’re so fast to turn our backs to it because it’s hard to see. I just can’t get over how big of an issue this is.

I was having a conversation with a friend the other night and it was about another form of art that gets disregarded because of the message. the book that is now the Netflix Original, “Thirteen Reasons Why”. It’s a very graphic book–or series–that talks about suicide. A girl who commits suicide and tells her reasons why she did it. Now I’ll start by saying I get it. That show screwed up my mental state during the first viewing of it. I don’t think it’s meant for everyone and there are blatant issues with the other seasons that don’t deliver as strong as a message. I want to focus mainly on the show’s first season or just the book in general. A story about a troubled girl who thought she had nothing else to turn to except suicide. The entire show you’re forced to watch as her fate inevitably comes true. As a viewer or reader, you know that’s what’s going to happen.

The show covers some heavy topics including suicide and rape which you see both of. These can be severe triggers if you’ve been through similar situations or simply hard to watch. A topic came up where we discussed how as a kid, I didn’t know any better. I had a very similar situation to Clay as he struggled with the fact that his friend killed herself.

I’m going to include one last clip. In this clip, Clay talks to his friend Tony as he finally gets to his tape which acts as a way to declare who was responsible for her death. This is a major spoiler to the entire series and the moment it was leading up to. There is heavy language and talks of suicide and rape in this season. If that bothers you, yet again, viewer discretion is advised.

I’m still going to talk about the scene, so there is still a spoiler warning in effect. As someone who has lost a best friend to suicide, I related to Clay. I remember feeling exactly the way he felt in this scene. The show has definitely not been perfect, but this scene, to me, is. I remember being angry like he was. I remember having a friend who wanted to help me. I remember blaming myself wholly for her death. In my head, I recalled that same question of, “What could I have done?”.

Does that question sound familiar to you? Have you ever asked yourself that? I did. I asked it a lot. My point is that I wish I knew what I was getting myself into by being so involved in my friend’s life. I’m not saying we shouldn’t help our friends, but I have no idea what mental health issues were. I didn’t realize that I was in an unhealthy relationship with this girl. I should have told someone in her family rather than taking it all on myself.

So what should we do to spread awareness? Well, using the theme of this blog post, as artists we should express ourselves through our creations. Tell the world how we feel through our art. It doesn’t just fuel our inspiration but helps express ourselves. At times, it may also be the therapy we need to get to the next day.

However, that’s not everything we can do. I think parents should start sitting their kids down and having talks with them. I never got a talk about depression or mental health. I don’t think we should turn our eyes away from it, but we should use it to show how bad it can be. Show our kids that this is real and they will most definitely experience it. I’m not saying to have a family night and go sit down and load up Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix. I’m suggesting we sit them down, show them how horrific this world can be, but then reassure them that it’ll be okay. Express how important it is to get help when you need it or to get other people help even at the risk of destroying your friendship.

Leave the real therapy to the professionals and allow artists to express themselves however they need to. Even if you’re not comfortable doing the things I suggested, try your best to stop closing your eyes to what’s going on around you. It doesn’t have to be mental health, it can be anything. People are suffering. The sooner we open our eyes, the sooner that we can help them.

That’s all I got for today. Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you next week! πŸ™‚

Character spotlight: Piper

This week, I wanted to try something new. Every writer struggles with something. We’re all just human, so we’re going to have shortcomings. However, creating solid characters has never been an issue for me. I won’t be doing these posts on a weekly basis, but I think doing one every other week would be fun. We’ll see how this first one goes, then I’ll continue from there. This week, we’ll talk about one of my favorite characters to write.

Piper

Piper serves as one of the main cast of students and also goes through the most development in the first book of my series Heroes and Vigilantes. She has one of the best relationships to Ellie who is the closest thing this book has to a protagonist. If you’re a bit confused on why she’s only close to being the protagonist, then you can read up on my unique writing style here. Moving on, what makes this character such a strong one, is because of her journey throughout the book. She makes a good first impression as the brightest character in this series. One of those characters you just instantly fall in love with based on just how nice she is. She contrasts Ellie’s more abrasive personality, which is what makes the duo work well. At the same time as being nice, Piper isn’t afraid to call Ellie out when she starts acting out of line. Surprisingly enough, she’s actually one of the stronger fighters in the series, because of her home life.

Many kids in my book have gone through a lot before enrolling at the high school of their dreams. Some have high expectations placed on their shoulders because of their last name and others grew up without a family. What Piper goes through isn’t something that’s happened before, but what’s currently going on in her life. A bit of a warning past this point, I will be talking about a serious topic. If abuse makes you uncomfortable, then I fully understand if you want to not keep reading.

Piper is a victim of child abuse. She’s grown up in a household with a parent who believes that superpowers are bad. He takes a strong stance against using them, and has hit Piper anytime she’s used her power. He validates his actions by believing that if she associates pain to using her power, she’ll stop wanting to use it. Of course it clearly doesn’t work on Piper as she’s still using it during orientation. I don’t want to give too much away about what she goes through, but I will talk about why I write a victim of abuse in the way I do.

Unfortunately in our world today, this is a very serious problem. Every day there is someone out there who is getting abused but is too scared to say something about it. I want to start off by saying get help if you need it. One of the reasons I write Piper in this way is to show that an abuse victim can move forward and become stronger because of it. The main focus for Piper is that I wrote her as kind. By a mile, she’s the nicest person in the series. She takes everything in stride and adds a positive spin to it. Someone who has such a dark home life focuses on only the positives. I write her this way because she’s seen how bad the world can be, so she doesn’t want anyone else to feel that pain. She has a natural desire to help people and in doing so, this makes her one of the most headstrong students. I want Piper to give people who have suffered from similar circumstances hope that they too can persevere.

My other focus will be on her relationship with Ellie. She plays the role of Ellie’s closest friend in the class. Having a best friend has always been such an important thing for me. Being someone who has lost someone I considered my best friend, I know the pain that comes along with that. I make it a big point to highlight this friendship because of my past experiences with this. I believe having a close friend is just as important as having a boyfriend or girlfriend. They say that sex sells, but I’m an avid believer in having close platonic relationships in my writing. It shows that you don’t need to be romantic with someone in order to be close. Piper needs Ellie as much as Ellie needs her and there’s beautiful poetry to that. Their friendship develops just as much as the characters themselves.

I don’t want to get too far into detail so I’ll only add those two points to this spotlight. Certain characters will have more detail than others depending on their relevance to the plot.

To finish this character spotlight, I’ll add an excerpt from a recent chapter she was in. I think this quote perfectly sums up the character.

“We’d all like to wake up and be a better version of ourselves, but every day we have to struggle just to achieve that. I don’t think I’ll be ‘cured’ tomorrow, so I’ll just have to try as hard as I can starting today.” -Piper

If you’ve made it to the end, just let me know if you’d like to see more character spotlights! If you do, you can also let me know which type of character you’d like to hear about next. A villain? Another student? Maybe a teacher?

Regardless, thanks for reading! I’ll see you next week. πŸ™‚

Be A Man

First of all, don’t ask why I used Steve Rogers for the featured picture. I was thinking about potential pictures and Captain America just happened to pop into my head. I have a little more free time, so I’m going to try my hand at one of the ideas I’ve had stirring in my head. This week I’m going to talk about the phrase, “be a man”.

Most likely you’ve heard this phrase before–especially if you were born male with the gender expectations that came along with it. However, in a society where gender has become more of an identity for yourself rather than how you were born, these words don’t hold as much impact. My generation has expanded the term and even the official terminology has changed. Also, in the past, depending on what gender you were born as, how you’re expected to act has changed. Men no longer need to be afraid to act sensitive and women aren’t limited to motherhood or being open to their emotions. A woman can be bad at showing her emotions and a man can be bad at holding theirs back.

Now let’s shift our focus back to being a man and what that really means. This phrase is often tied back to what is becoming known as toxic masculinity. This can result in blatantly outdated sexism to being unable to accept yourself because you believe you aren’t acting as you should because you’re a man. Sexism is a huge problem in our current society. Even in 2020, there is still a pay gap between the two sexes and no matter how hard you try, sexism will still exist. This goes to men and women alike. Telling someone to be a man sounds like a now sexist term; or is it? I’m going to quickly share my ideas on how the phrase can be spun in a different way.

First, let’s think about a couple of instances where you can be told to be a man. The most common one is when you’re a male and you’re acting in a disappointing way with the stereotypes placed on your gender. You didn’t act strong enough or maybe you didn’t keep your last name after marriage. With how society has labeled it, you haven’t lived up to your expectations of manhood. You’re talked down upon because of this and that doesn’t feel too good, does it? It makes me think back to all the times that I was bullied in school because I was quiet or too small. I spent time in the library or hanging out with girls. (Keep in mind, this was in grade school. I’m sure if I only hung out with girls in high school, I would’ve had different assumptions about me.) Early on, I knew I was too small or timid to be seen as a “man”. With that thought in mind, let’s move onto my second point.

There are a lot of bad dads out there. Dads who walk out on their responsibility or do worse things. I’ve personally been blessed with a father who stayed in the family as well as two grandfathers in my life. (Even if that’s just down to one now.) In my mind, I’ve always equated being a man to taking responsibility. Doing what’s right and being responsible for your actions isn’t always easy. I don’t see being a man limited to your sex. If I compare it to doing what’s right, then a girl can also be a man in a situation. With same-sex couples and people now identifying as nonbinary, those words can mean something else. No matter what your gender is, I think being a man doesn’t need to be a sexist term. If you own it then maybe one day it’ll become something else. This isn’t meant to give excuses for those who say it as an insult, but an alternate way of thinking. After all, our words do have a way of changing how people think. That’s the main reason I wanted to write this post.

With that, that’s all I got for this week. Hopefully, it was better than the previous few.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week. πŸ™‚

An Update (5/6/2020)

This is going to be an extremely short update post. First I’ll talk about how I’ve been sick for quite a few days and only just started feeling better, so I decided to skip on an actual entree this week. Instead, I’ll just do a small update on how I’m going to do things from now on. The biggest change will just be the day in which I post. I’m moving from Tuesday to Wednesday because I’m now taking Tuesdays off from work and on my days off, I’m more likely to forget about the upload. I’ve already tried and I’ll schedule a post here and forget to share it on my social media pages. Moving to Wednesday will guarantee that I don’t miss a post. The next topic I want to talk about is work. I’m not working on just a single project, I’m now working on two projects. This means my time is very limited and that’ll reflect on my posts. I may have a handful of decent ideas in my head, but I if I can’t find the time, I won’t do them. This may mean shorter posts when I don’t find the time for longer ones. There really isn’t a final point, I think that’s about everything I needed to talk about. I’ll wrap it up for now and I hope to write more meaningful entrees in the near future.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week with a real post. πŸ™‚

What makes a good villain?

Oh boy, this has been an interesting idea that’s been marinating in my brain all weekend. I really hope that you guys enjoy this one since I put a little extra work into it. It’s one of my favorite topics to write and talk about. I won’t waste any time–let’s get into my thoughts on how to create a well crafted villain.

I want to start off by explaining a bit of the backbone of this entree. I’ve recently started playing the new Final Fantasy VII remake. This doesn’t have to deal with the game at all, so don’t worry about spoilers. There will be spoilers for other series as I talk about different antagonists from a handful of other works of fiction. The reason I started thinking about this is that it was an interesting topic of discussion with a friend of mine. We were talking about the game, but eventually evolved into talking about villains. What makes a good villain and what makes a bad one. That’s what I’ll be talking about today. This entree will include two different examples from two very different people. I asked them a simple yet complex question.

Who is your favorite antagonist?

It’s such a loaded question, isn’t it? Fiction is such a splendid world that writers can let their minds wander to some fantastic places. Some of these worlds are bright and filled with hope, while others can turn quite dark. These characters that I’ll be focusing on aren’t just antagonists, they’re villains. What makes you like these characters despite all the depraved things they have done? Why are readers so intent on loving these people we should hate? What makes them so satisfying to read in a book or watch on the big screen? That’s what I wanted to find out and I picked two of my friends’ best answers. Without further ado, let’s begin.

The Crooked Man

The Crooked Man from The Wolf Among Us

I wanted to start with a character that can be a bit topical. Personally, I have never finished the game he comes from. What caught my attention from this character was his relatability. Writers love to relate characters to real life–even in works of fiction. What’s more horrifying than a character that could and probably does exist somewhere in our world? These types of characters have a habit of jumping off the page and into our reality.

What makes this man so evil? To put it simply: he takes advantage of people he’s oppressed. The setting this story takes place in is called Fable Town. This town is filled with people who struggle just to survive. There aren’t jobs for everyone and each citizen barely scrapes by while their government ignores them. In response to these poor living conditions, what does The Crooked Man do? He offers people jobs and financial relief. In return, these people live under his thumb. He knows poor citizens have no choice but to come to him for help, so they are all willing victims to his schemes. On top of all that, he has a rather convincing argument of his innocence. He goes as far as to get people to commit murder for him while absolving himself from all blame. After all, he didn’t pull the trigger. You don’t get arrested for someone else killing with your gun.

You might be wondering how this could possibly be relatable. Ask yourself this: have you ever had a crappy boss who holds power over you? It’s a little extreme, but it falls under the same category. I would stake my entire career on the fact that there are people like The Crooked Man in our world. The government’s shortcomings are a popular topic with everything going on. It’s not a new trope of displaying the evils of the government in characters. The Crooked Man might not be the government in Fable Town, but he definitely represents a crooked politician who can use his power to get away with anything–even murder. Doesn’t the sheer thought of people like him existing make the character scarier? I know I wouldn’t want my debt collectors to make me murder someone.

Emperor Nadav

The Cor Chronicles

We talk about someone relatable, so let’s shake it up by talking about my other example. Let’s talk about someone I hope doesn’t exist–Emperor Nadav.

When I asked my friend for his favorite villain, I just knew he’d give me one crazy answer. He’s an avid reader so he’s read his fair share of antagonists. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he gave me his answer, but I’m glad I asked him. The Cor Chronicles is not a series I’ve ever heard of before he told me about it. Leave it to him to give me probably the most depraved character description I’ve ever heard. It’s so horrible that I won’t go too far into detail about the character to keep it clean. Instead, I’m going to talk about why I think this type of character works for a villain.

Depravity is a common trait in an antagonist. A corrupt sense of morality. When a character does something so horrible that you feel a pit in your stomach just by witnessing it. Those moments where you have to put the book down or even turn off your screen. What could possibly be so redeeming about these types of characters? Why do they appeal to us? I don’t think it’s because we can relate them to our world, but quite the opposite. We love the fact that they stay on paper and in our imaginations. We’re supposed to hate them and hate them we do. The hatred for these characters makes it that much more satisfying when they finally get taken down.

What makes Emperor Nadav so special? In my personal opinion, it’s the way he’s introduced. For two books the readers were conditioned to hate someone else. Another depraved individual and when Nadav comes in, he not only makes a big entrance but shows you someone worse. By doing this, the writer turns it up a notch leaving the audience in a state of shock. It gives off the feeling of having the rug pulled out from underneath of you but in all the right ways. From the sounds of it, this author does a fantastic job at one-upping his previous villain. Writing an antagonist can be like pushing a boulder up a hill. The longer they exist in the series, the heavier that boulder gets, so each push needs to be stronger than the last. Eventually, you get to the top, but you need to make sure the pay off is worth it.

What’s My Point?

After presenting you with two very good villains, what am I actually trying to say here? I wanted to present you with two examples of what makes a villain good. The depravity of Emperor Nadav and the relatability of The Crooked Man.

When it comes to creating these horrible characters, the ultimate question I liked to ask is: were they worth it? Do their actions upset the reader and throw off the entire balance of the story? Did the set-up conclude in a satisfying way? Did you give the audience something to chew on or something that falls to ash in their mouth? I’ve witnessed my fair share of bad villains who leave me with a steaming pile of disappointment. After reading two other books, giving a reader a disappointing primary antagonist can destroy your momentum. It’ll grind the story to a sudden halt and can ruin the entire series. A solid antagonist can make or break your story.

Personally, I like to give insight into my villains. What drives and motivates them to do these horrible deeds. At the same time, don’t be afraid to make a character evil just for the sake of being evil. Not every single one needs to use the sympathy for the devil trope. We don’t need to always make the reader feel bad for the villain. Keep adding strength to every push until you stand at the very top of that hill. When you get there, make sure the ride was worth it. Give us a character we love to hate or hate to love. This goes beyond what you put on paper, it applies to our everyday lives. Have a goal and make sure you’re pushing your way towards it even if that boulder gets heavy sometimes. I think that’s the reason we love a good villain. They represent a roadblock for your protagonists just like life throws roadblocks in front of us. These characters find strength when they finally triumph over evil and through them, we can find our own strength. Keep on pushing, because that goal is closer than you might think and it’s waiting for you.

I think that’s all I got in my tank for this week. I hope you all enjoyed me rambling on yet again. Oh, I guess I never said who my favorite villain was. It is and always will be Negan from The Walking Dead. One last thing before I go. If you made it to the end, I have a simple question for you. Who is your favorite villain?

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week. πŸ™‚

Writing females characters

I wanted to preface something before starting this post–well a couple of things really. First off, I did take a week break from posting an entree and I updated that on my social media pages. (A reminder that my social media is at the top of my page. Just have to click on one of the icons) The reason I did that is that I landed a bigger workload, so I couldn’t pump out a half baked entree. I had a handful of ideas and I wanted to give it my all. The second thing I wanted to talk about is the subject of this post. I’m going to talk about how I personally write female characters as a male writer. What I think a majority of male writers do wrong and how it should be improved. I’m aware this can be a bit of a touchy subject, so I figured I should warn you before I got too far into it. Without further ado, I’ll begin.

Now as also a bit of a warning, I’m going to use some examples of writing that portray bad examples and bad examples. As well as saying how I do it in my own writing. I believe in starting positive, so I’m going to dive into an example of how a good female character should be written.

Hiromu Arakawa’s Full Metal Alchemist

If you’ve read a handful of my posts, then you might have figured out I’m a fan of anime. I’m a fan of a lot of different mediums, but when picking out a brilliant example of well written female characters, I had to use Fullmetal Alchemist as my number one choice. Specifically, I’ll be talking about the character Riza Hawkeye.

Hawkeye is one of the best written female characters I’ve ever seen. The first thing to notice is she isn’t showing a lot of skin. The character is a Lieutenant for the military and if you anything about the military, they have a clean-cut look. A respectful appearance, so it makes no sense to make her anything except that–respectful. “Fan service” is a big problem when it comes to writing characters. It’s no secret that sex sells; so why not just go with what sells? In my head, I’ve always been the same way. A character should be true to the role they play in the story. There’s nothing wrong with making a character who is a sex symbol, but remember not everything is meant to be a male fantasy. Male writers tend to be disrespectful when writing their female characters because of their own personal influences. Remember that anybody can read what you write, including people that might take offense to what you put on paper.

Now I won’t keep lecturing about appearance, because that’s not the only issue. There’s a common notion of how a character should act based on the gender you assign them. A male character should be strong and a natural-born leader whereas a female character should support them and often fall under the damsel in distress trope. What people seem to miss is that it’s possible to write a supporting character without making them seem less important. Yet again, Riza is a good example of how to do it correctly. She is the Lieutenant for Roy Mustang, so in every sense she supports him. In doing this, Arakawa wrote her a way that didn’t make her seem smaller because of this fact. Just like Roy, Hawkeye has her own ambitions. She doesn’t waver from them just because she’s in a lesser position than he is. She is her own character and her own person. I always feel like a poorly written female character who supports a stronger male character typically falls flat if he’s not around. It almost makes it seem like they aren’t their own person and only finds value through another. These characters are always written for the development of the stronger one and are typically killed off for the sake of said development. Up until the end, Hawkeye stood true to her beliefs and not even Roy Mustang could stop her; especially during a pivotal moment in the series where things got difficult for her. I’ll provide an example of this in a clip from the anime down below. There is a spoiler warning in effect, so please only watch it if you’ve seen the series.

I think this scene is a perfect example of what I’m trying to say. It shows off many things, one of the main ones being equality. Mustang is a man of power; he holds power over Hawkeye when it comes to rank. Still, she pulls her gun on her own superior when he falls out of line. She knows what the right thing is, and she does it. Hawkeye finds herself as a burden to the world as she holds the secrets to flame alchemy and thinks it should die with her. In a sense, it does fall under the same principle of him being the main reason she keeps going. The difference is, the characters are of equal importance to each other. Hawkeye would rather kill the one person keeping her going rather than seeing him act solely on hatred and revenge. Mustang couldn’t bear Hawkeye losing her life for something he’s responsible for and he backs off. I love the symbolism right at the end when Roy falls to the ground, leaving Hawkeye to be the one standing above him only for her to fall with him. In my eyes, this is a perfect example of how to show off the importance of a female character supporting a stronger male character. In my eyes, neither one was more important than the other. I think the dynamic was written with the utmost respect which made me respect it. Now that I’ve talked about the good… let’s talk about the bad.

Natsu and Lucy from Fairy Tail

I’m gonna talk bad on a probably loved ship from a very popular Shonen Jump anime. First off, I want to say that I don’t hold anything against Fairy Tail itself. I personally have seen and enjoyed the series. Behind the heavy amounts of fan service, the anime has good messages and many hard-hitting emotional moments. Along with some very good character backstories that make you feel for them. Out of all things Hiro Mashima does right, writing female characters respectfully falls a little flat–at least in my opinion. There are some characters that have solid foundations, but it is hidden behind a desire to knock their clothes off anytime a fight begins. However, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about the characters Lucy and Natsu.

Natsu is, by all purposes, the protagonist. From her first scene, it’s clear that Lucy is meant to be a supporting character to Natsu. Throughout the series, she’s shown as needing him to save her time and time again. What has always frustrated me is that Lucy has proven that she’s strong. She’s a celestial wizard and with certain keys, she can control celestial spirits. She once even summoned the Celestial King because she willed it and yet most of the time she falls as too weak to protect herself, often hoping that Natsu will save her. She has strong independent moments, but that’s often overshadowed by Natsu. She has some good development during certain story arcs, but most of the time she’s seen as depending fully on Natsu or other stronger characters. Now, I’m not saying that Mashima doesn’t know how to write a strong female character, but a lot of them do fall under that male fantasy idealogy. Now this isn’t a shot at the writer, because that’s pretty common even to more modern animes. The biggest one I could think of is My Hero Academia. It’s one of my favorite series, but even then there’s a large gap between the male and female characters.

So what’s my take after all of this? How do I write my female characters? Well, I write them as intended. I stay true to the character I mean them to be despite the gender I’ve given them. I don’t change it up give in to whatever is popular, I write them true to the story in my head. I think this is true for all aspects of character creation. This can include sexuality, gender, tropes, and even race. I think about what I want them to be in my head and that’s what I go with. Sex may sell, but I’ll always write the story that I want to write.

This has always been a glaring issue that I’ve always wanted to talk about. We live in a world where women have made a lot of advances from how many disadvantages they had in our history. Still, a problem persists. I fully believe that how we portray our characters–fictitious or not–has a direct impact on society. Write a male character who isn’t the focal point or the strongest character in that story. Write a female character who is her own person and doesn’t rely on others for her own identity. Don’t be afraid to go outside the box and write something society would deem wrong. Write the story you want to write, not the story you think the people want to read.

I want to end this by saying that this is entirely my personal opinion. If you disagree or agree, I’d like to know, so don’t be afraid to tell me.

That about wraps up all my thoughts. As always, I’ll see you again next week and thanks for reading. πŸ™‚

Let’s Talk About COVID-19

Ah yes, I think it was inevitable to talk about this subject. I want to start this post by prefacing that I am not an expert or have any medical experience. I speak about this pandemic as a normal person living his day-to-day life in its wake. However, I couldn’t let this week pass without talking about it. I understand that this topic is already starting to get a bit old, but it needs to be talked about.

I’ll start by saying that, personally, I’m fine. I live in North Dakota which only has one confirmed cased. I’m very fortunate to live where I do with such a small risk of getting infected. I wanted to talk about this disease because of the panic that’s ensued since it was labeled as a pandemic. These opinions are directed at the United States and no one else. After all, China has already taken fantastic measures in order to contain the virus and other countries are worse off–far worse off. In fact, I read this morning that Italy has surpassed 2,500 deaths.

So what should we do? I’m sure you’ve heard in the news to limit contact and to–I don’t know–wash your hands. (I must say, the fact that people aren’t washing their hands is utterly ridiculous) The point isn’t just to limit contact and keep your hygiene in check, it’s to not panic. Since this outbreak has started, Americans have gone into a state of panic. I have a friend who works in retail who snapped this picture.

Shelves completely wiped out to stock our shelves with hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Hand sanitizer I kind of get, but toilet paper? There also have been reports of people wiping the shelves from milk. That’s right, I said milk. Dairy expires unless you’re planning on freezing it. In my opinion, there should be a different message that the media needs to tell us. One telling us what we should be stocking in the matter of a worst-case scenario. Buying perishable foods and not milk and toilet paper. This essentially boils down to get what you need to be prepared, but make sure you’re leaving plenty for others. Stop panicking. It’ll all be okay as long as you keep a level head. I promise.

There’s probably a lot more to cover, but I think you’ll get plenty of that from the media. Remember to wash your hands, stay calm, and make sure there’s plenty of toilet paper and milk. Be kind to the other people trying their best to prepare for the worst. Above all else, be kind to the retail workers who are forced to serve you despite the inherent risk of exposure to the disease.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week. πŸ™‚

Heroes

I don’t know where the ideas for these posts come from anymore. This week I can say one thing for sure: there are no references some might not get. It’s just a thought that I’ve been having so I figured I should write about it. I write about them a lot and it’s an interesting term to me. The term hero. There’s the hero that references a protagonist to a story and also there are personal heroes. Not everyone has them, but maybe you have a person you consider a hero. Is that person worthy of that title? I was wrapping my brain all week to think of an idea to write about, so this will have to do. (Expect this to be shorter, I don’t feel much coming from this one.) As per usual, if you didn’t catch the last blog entree, you can find it here as long as checking the blog section out to see other ones.

Now that I took 15 minutes trying to find an image that wasn’t from My Hero Academia, I can begin. I feel like this is a popular genre in writing as long as a powerful word. (Senseless plug of my book Heroes and Vigilantes. Link to the projects section where you can read about that) It’s such a small word, only 4 letters, yet holds a lot of weight. A hero, by definition, is a person who is admired or idealized. Usually this is because of heroic feats or good deeds. A hero doesn’t have to be good though, right? Where mainstream media has turned it into people with capes and a giant S in their chest, that doesn’t necessarily mean every hero is a good person. You can look up to somebody who does bad things and still call them your hero. Should you? That’s not my question to answer. A lot of times fathers are often seen as heroes to their kids, but constantly they walk out on them.

Lost in a haze of unorganized thoughts, I think my point isn’t who you see as your hero. The point is how you should act if you are a role model. If you have someone that looks up to you, you should act a certain way. We don’t always have a choice to become looked up to, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take that responsibility seriously. If we drop the hat in that situation, so does the person looking up to us. Think about it like this: have you ever been a senior? Unless you’re quite young, you probably have been one. It’s almost inevitable that at least one freshman will look up to someone in your class. To them you’re a cool senior who has it figured out, no matter how many hours you log into Minecraft in your free time. (Okay, that one might have just been me) I bet at some point a teacher told you to be good role models. Did you ask to be one? Not at all. You still have to be one though and that’ll probably happen again in your life. Whether it’s a kid or a niece, as humans we need to latch onto someone to get through life. Not everyone, but a lot of us need that. When you’re someone’s hero, will you be who they need you to be? That’s a question that even I don’t think I can answer.

It may have been a flow of thoughts that barely connected, but that’s all I got for you.

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week. πŸ™‚

Dealing with Loneliness

As you can tell from the title, I didn’t choose a cheery subject for this particular post. I’d be lying if I told you all that each post would be all positive. I mean last week (which you can find here if haven’t caught up with it) I talked about wanting to create words that impacted those around me. This week I would say that I found a few drawbacks. Before I get into the seldom topic, let’s highlight what happened this week and why Deku and Bakugo are my featured image. (Also quick shout out to any all of the My Hero Academia fans reading this!)

I’ll start by talking about the two movies I saw this week with my brother. Both were an experience and would have been worth the 26 dollars if it weren’t for the horrible viewing experience. One was late and the other had crappy audio that wouldn’t have been fixed if it wasn’t for my brother both times. These movies were Sonic the Hedgehog and My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising.

This isn’t a blog reviewing these movies (also I apologize for two more references that might not be everybody’s cup of tea) but I was about to pull thoughts that were prevalent in both films. The seed was planted in my head while watching Sonic. If you care about not being spoiled about the movie of the lovable blue hedgehog, then you can click away. It’s not a major spoiler, but the warning still stays in effect. This theme is loneliness. In the movie, Sonic lives a pretty lonely life. Being told by his parental figure that he needs to stay out of sight. If he doesn’t, then the powers he possesses could be desired by others. Not a complicated theme, but when you see Sonic being so close to people he considers friends–friends who have never met him–a sad truth fits in: he’s alone.

Now how does this transition into the My Hero Academia movie? Well quite the opposite actually. I wouldn’t consider this a spoiler, but I’ll but a minor warning in there. The movie heavily revolves around a duo, ones shown as the mascots for the movie: Bakugo and Deku. Two people who have been friends since childhood and have found it hard to remain friends with their competitive spirits. They both strive to be the best, but there can only be one person who sits on top. Even if I don’t agree with that mindset, that’s the mindset of the series.

One movie with a person (even if he’s a blue hedgehog) willing to risk everything to not be alone and another about a complex relationship needing one another to overcome the obstacles in front of them. Now where does that leave me? After all, this is all fiction, right? Just the words of anxious writing (like myself) sitting at their computer thinking of the best ways to tug at the heartstrings of the fans. Well, no, not at all. As I mentioned last week, words are powerful. Maybe not to everybody, but they are to me. People always make movie references that I never get under the excuse of, “I don’t want movies”. The real reason behind that is that I physically can’t watch something without pulling the meaning out of it and comparing myself to said message.

I grew up lonely. Sure I had some amazing friends who I’ll cherish forever, but it’s no secret that I’m a quiet guy in person. Even being 25 now, there are times where I hide from everyone finding comfort in that loneliness. Now from here on out, I’m going to talk about something very personal to me. It may be too heavy for some to read, so you have my full permission to close out of this entree right now. I don’t blame you. If that’s the case, then thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week. πŸ™‚

Savannah

Alright, so you decided to read this despite the warning. I really wasn’t sure if I should post this or not. If it wasn’t for me wanting to write a new short story labeled “Five Days After” then I would never have dreamed of writing this post. I put it off so much that I’m writing the day of posting it. It all ties together with the above posts, I promise, so keep reading.

Savannah was my best friend. I knew her in long before college. We played Minecraft together until 7 am. I was never good at making friends in person, but when it came to what I wrote, people loved me. I think at some point, I let that go a little too far. Regardless, Savannah was there for me through the most horrible things. Despite being the perfect person in my life, she had a horrible flaw people call mental illness. The kind of sickness that makes you pop pills like they were candy. One that makes you lose control as if the reality you witness is the one you’re supposed to live in or the one doctors tell you is the “right” one. Below I want to put a video from the user Jetpack Jay. (I added a link to their Youtube channel. Please take a minute to check them out if their videos interest you. Those videos have helped me a lot!) The video is titled “Dear Best Friend…”

Dear Best Friend… by Jetpack Jay

This video has helped me a lot. Some may know this, but at the start of the second semester of college Savannah took her life. Her mental illness got the better of her, and she was taken from me. I was left utterly destroyed with my best friend being extracted from my life. The one person that made me feel like I was no longer alone.

Saying this means a lot to me. Since I usually keep this to myself and to close friends. If I never told you, it’s not because I don’t trust you, but because talking about it is hard for me. To bring this back to the main point of this entree, I’ve been battling that loneliness since I lost her. I’ve made mistakes that I feel like I wouldn’t have made if she was still around. The last few days I’ve battled that lonely feeling more than I have in the past.

The main reason I’m saying all this is to put it out there before I write the story “Five Days After” so you all know that what I write in there isn’t entirely fictitious; that mental illness isn’t a problem to be taken lightly; that if you’re lonely, it won’t always be that way; and above all, be thankful for the friends you do have. If you don’t have a solid friend, then contact me and I’ll fix that problem for you.

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week. πŸ™‚

Words are Powerful

Alright, I’m back with my second blog post. I plan to do these once a week releasing them on Tuesday! That is my goal and I’m want to dedicate myself to it. A lot of these posts will pertain to thoughts that happen to me throughout the week and are written in the moment. From there, I’ll have a pool of blog posts I can sift through and choose one to post on Tuesday. For the first Tuesday (that would be today since this is being written on 2/18) there should be a shorter introductory blog post you can find here. So there will be no new post until the following week. Hopefully that’s when this one goes up as long as the perfectionist in me doesn’t delete it. Anyways, that’s enough wasting time, I’ll move onto the main topic of what I’m writing today.

I just watched the most recent episode of Doctor Who. If you don’t know this about me, the series has been an incredible hobby of mine since I was a kid. My mom grew up watching it, and she would sneak around against her parent’s wishes just to watch the show. It reminds me of the time I decided to play Neopets at around 2 in the morning. Of course, in my mind, I decided that dimming the computer screen was enough to get away with it. If it isn’t obvious, I got caught. The point I’m trying to make is that Doctor Who has been a big part of my life that I’ve enjoyed since I was young. Despite the controversy following the series, this season has been fantastic. Most so, the episode titled, “The Haunting of Villa Diodati” blew me away. Not because of the episode itself, but it spoke to me as a person who loves to write. It was a historical episode based around the creation of Frankenstein (The book not the monster itself). So in short, an entire episode about writing mixed in with typical antics for the show. In the episode there was a moment when The Doctor said that, “words are powerful”. Those weren’t her exact words, but it was the point she was going for. That people’s words last throughout the test of time. Going from that to here, I decided to elaborate more on that from my own personal experiences and desires.

My entire life I’ve always absorbed writing. From video games and anime to television and movies, I loved it all. I’ve always thought about how certain works of fiction had changed how I thought about life. Growing up watching Doctor Who I learned to treat people with kindness and to give second chances. Even to the people that everyone else hates, I learned to extend my hand and offer them help. As a hopeless romantic I laughed and cried while watching How I Met Your Mother which is another show I adored. That show taught me many lessons that I still take to heart. Through the course of the series, Ted talks to the audience like you’re one of his kids and he’s providing you with advice. Advice that’s often overlooked because of the comedic nature of the series. One of my favorite take backs from that was one on anger. I’ll include the scene in a video below. Just be warned it is a bit of a spoiler for the show and there is a mild language warning as well.

“Kids, you may think your only choices are to swallow your anger or throw it in someone’s face, but there’s a third option: You can just let it go, and only when you do that is it really gone and you can move forward.” -Ted Mosby

Whether you watched the clip I put in or read the quote I added afterward, I think you get the point. Now, this isn’t me telling you to “get over yourself” because you’re pointlessly angry. That’s not the point of what I’m trying to say. Not everyone can forgive and move on and that’s okay, you don’t have to do that if you’re not ready to or at all for that matter, but my point is about how his words impacted me. They were powerful from the moment I heard them. How many of you have had a bad day? I bet the majority of people reading this have. It’s almost impossible to go through life without a few bumps and scrapes. Everyone is different so I can’t speak for all of you, but I bet there are some of you that experienced the power of words. Maybe work beat you down all day long and you decided to keep it to yourself sending yourself spiraling into an even worse mood. One of those moods where every small thing after was infected because of how your day started. If you had spoke to someone about your problems, would their words have helped? Maybe the lack of words was the problem or maybe too many words were also the problem. Regardless, these little things that we string together to make sentences are more powerful than we realize.

So, why did I take you through all of this? Well… it’s always been a dream of mine to impact someone with my words. I want to write something that not only challenges someone’s way of thinking but challenges the readers themselves. I want someone to read something I’ve written and come out a different person. I want my words to mean something like so many words has changed me. The outlook on life–to me, is such a fragile thing. As I go through life, I want to continue to mold my perspective. I’m not satisfied settling on a single mindset. I want to continually challenge how I see everything and make changes along the way. Hopefully changes for the better.

Anyways, this post went on a lot longer than I meant it to. I apologize for the, as I like to call it, word vomit. Not every entree will be this long with so many references, but I hope you took something from what I wrote today. Who knows? Maybe I already started to change your perspective even if it’s just a fraction.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week. πŸ™‚