Tag Archives: writing

Giving Hope in Fiction

One of the points I touched on in my commencement address in June was on the concept of hope in genre fiction. This may seem like a stretch for some stories, but even in stories like horror, I believe there is an element of hope. Briefly, I will list the mainstream genres of fiction and then how I believe hope ties into that genre.

Science Fiction: I feel part of the hope for me in science fiction is that we’ll reach those levels of technology. However, as a large part of science fiction is to warn not only of the dangers of misusing the technology, the hope is in the message of warning. We hope to avoid the tragedy portrayed in the science fiction story.
Fantasy: In many ways, fantasy holds the same hopes as science fiction. We can see horrible situations to combat the wonder and beauty in the fantasy realm. We hold to our hope the characters will find within themselves what they need to overcome their obstacles, and in turn, we hope we can find those same strengths within ourselves.
Romance: We hope the characters will find the passion and love they seek and that we will find our love and passion in our life.
Mystery/Thriller: A hope that truth and justice will conquer all. We hope for the same justice we would expect in the real world.
Horror: a friend and fellow Seton Hill grad student, Ryan Demos, did a presentation during our time at Seton Hill on horror. Horror is an emotion so powerful it has its own genre. Where is the hope in horror? This seems obvious to me. I hope the horrors in the story are not real or that they will be eliminated quickly so I can get back to normal.
Young Adult: my YA author friends from Seton Hill would drop a literal ton of books on my head if I didn’t include YA in this list. I used to think of YA as only the younger version of existing genres. That would be YA fantasy or something like that, but they are examples of subgenres of YA. (I will have to get one of them on the blog to go into more detail on the genre.) Regardless, I think the hope found in YA of any kind is in learning to deal with the pressures of a situation on top of growing up and everything that part of life entails.

I could have gone into more detail regarding each genre, but for the purposes of this entry, I think conveying hope in some form is needed more in fiction. The Time Heist episode of Doctor Who is able to show this as well, for example. We get a rather cynical accusation for why the Doctor calls himself such, which I enjoyed given my last post. The assertion is the Doctor calls himself so because of his professional detachment. I can see why people would feel this way with him, but I think it would be more true with the War Doctor or just brief moments through various regenerations. In the end, the episode yesterday was about hope. The characters acted with a hope everything the architect did would work out for them, and The Teller, in the end was hoping to be reunited with its kind. I’m also a fan of the show Castle, we all hope everything will be okay with the characters given the season finale last spring. Although, logic dictates as the show is called Castle, it will be okay. However, even if Castle is found alive and well in the season premiere, will they resume the wedding? Or are they going to delay the wedding some more so the show can go on with more relationship strain. Here I am curious regarding how other viewers will weigh in in the subject. Do they hope for the wedding to happen sooner or later?
As an author, I have written my fair share of scary scenes or troubling situations. I always feel the responsibility to bring an element of hope into my writing. A large portion of this is because I got into writing because of the adventures other writers took me on in their books. However, further along in my career, I understand there is a subtle art to drawing out what readers want in a book. Now, think of doing a series. Those elements of hope for the characters will need to be drawn out even further. It’s basically the point of the Sword of Truth series, Richard and Kahlan don’t get the peace and quiet they deserve because something always gets in the way be it magic, politics, or tyrants. Whether a series or a one off book, I doubt readers would continue to come back to your work if you don’t present some element of hope in your story.


Listen to your fear and desperation – continued thoughts on Doctor Who

After only a few weeks of blogging on the weekend, I’ve already messed up my self-imposed pattern.  My excuse is because I’ve been mulling over a few topics.  As a writer, I’m intrigued by the choices other writers make in their work.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve focused my blog on either movies or Doctor Who episodes and my feelings regarding them.  Last Saturday, the episode “Listen” aired for Doctor Who.  My thoughts since then have been centered on what the message of the episode implies and how I feel about the current Doctor.  I’ve been going over the last couple of seasons/doctors recently to compare the personalities of the characters.  This week, I rewatched the episode “Vincent and the Doctor”.  As one who understands the poison of depression, I cannot help getting emotional over the end of the episode.  For those who haven’t seen Vincent and the Doctor, the Doctor travels back to the unappreciated and under-valued Vincent Van Gogh.  There are some beautiful elements in the episode where we see how Vincent sees what others cannot, thus lending to the beauty of his art.

Vincent and the Doctor
Vincent and the Doctor-Doctor Who Season 5. Photo courtesy of Moviepilot.com

It’s as though the writers wanted those who suffer as Vincent does, to feel hope that they may just see their world differently and will be able to see the beauty in the world others are too blind to see.  By the end of the episode, the Doctor gives Vincent a gift many would love to receive.

I weep with Vincent.  Who doesn’t want to know their hard work will be remembered?  Who does anything today without having a hope what they do will make any kind of a difference? I really don’t think there are many who don’t care how they’ll be remembered.

Let’s bring it forward to the current Doctor and what we’ve seen from him.  I think he’s desperate and afraid he’s been wasting his time.  This should be obvious to fans.  Even if you’ve only watched since 2005, we see a pattern.  The 9th Doctor is kind of a rogue.  He’s fresh from annihilating his people and the Daleks in the time war and almost seems reluctant, and yet joyous, to have Rose come along with him.  He revels that he’s the oncoming storm.  The 10th Doctor, seems playful and spontaneous.  Maybe some of that is because he’s been alone for so long and now able to show Rose he can regenerate and is willing to just play around.  But then Rose is lost, Martha doesn’t stick around, and Donna has to have her memory wiped to set up her role in the End of Time.  Yet, those last few specials with the Doctor, he’s starting to become desperate to change time even if it is supposed to be a fixed event.


After his regeneration into the 11th, I really start to see his desperation.  He’s trying to hold onto the carefree nature of 10, but has to figure out what is going on with the crack in time and space.  However, even after solving that, he can’t relax because everyone is trying to hunt him down and, as he says at the beginning of season 7, he’s gotten too big and needs to limit his presence in the universe.

The Doctor falls hard after the Angels take Manhattan and decides to seclude himself.  But then he’s called to action again to solve the mystery of the impossible girl.  After that, we have the 12th Doctor (aka the 13th regeneration).  I believe his desperation is at a high point.  He’s not playing around anymore as he was before.  He expected his life to end and rather than celebrate his new life from the Time Lords, he’s acting desperate.  It seems he’s doing those things he felt he never got around to doing, somehow after 2000 years, before he runs out of time again.  But where is this sense of desperation coming from? Is it really the personality the writers want to give the Doctor? Or is it that the show runners are worried, needlessly, about the life of the show and are trying to get out the stories they have left to do? I’m hoping for the former.

The Doctor asks Clara, "Am I a good man?" - Doctor Who Season 8 Photo courtesy BBC One
The Doctor asks Clara, “Am I a good man?” – Doctor Who Season 8 Photo courtesy BBC One

Our current Doctor Who is certainly darker.  We’ve seen that in many ways so far.  I’ve never really understood why Clara isn’t around for the adventures as consistently as previous companions, especially given how excited she was to meet him.  Add to that, I thought we saw some realization dawn in her at the end of the season premier that she needs to be there for the Doctor more.  Maybe she is, in her own way, responding to his needs.  He implied his mistake was in thinking of himself as her boyfriend. Maybe he is forcing some distance between them and she’s respecting it.  I don’t like it. I think he’s still grieving over the loss of Amy and Rory, the change in his life, and trying to come to grips with his old fears. Hence, the “Listen” episode.  I feel Clara is going to be even more wary of her involvement with the Doctor now she knows she’s the origin of the fear of something under the bed. This could be a very disastrous setup.

Clara grabs the boy Doctor - Doctor Who Season 8 "Listen" Photo courtesy of Doctorwhotv.co.uk
Clara grabs the boy Doctor – Doctor Who Season 8 “Listen” Photo courtesy of Doctorwhotv.co.uk

I’m not entirely sure if the Doctor is acting out of desperation to be known or have a legacy.  I do feel that his purpose isn’t on what it is supposed to be. He needs to be finding Gallifrey. Or was that not the point of revealing to us that Gallifrey didn’t fall and just needs to be found? Or is he struggling with the decision when to find his home? So many questions. I still like this Doctor in many ways, such as acting his age a bit more to start.  But he’s treading a fine line with being almost a jerk and not wanting us to like him as he distances himself from Clara.  I think it’s a common response for someone dealing with grief and pain and it’s apparent in the Doctor.  Yet, every time the writers have him do something which may turn us off from the Doctor, they give him something which shows to us he still cares and wants us to be the best we can be. For example, in the episode “Listen”, it is what he says about Fear.  Fear makes us strong like a superhero. Take that Yoda! And with that, we get new insight into who the Doctor is in his core. He’s afraid, and even though he says he’s been running for a long time, we know throughout the years he’s been turning his head to be super in the moment of need and helps others. Which brings an interesting question: Is the Doctor the Doctor because he wants to help? Or is he the Doctor because of he’s afraid of his fear and is trying to embrace it? How long can he do that? The Master went mad with what he saw afterall.

Dk.JPG -d.k.

Day 6 -January WPF residency

Yesterday started off with another workshop session. It was a smaller group so we all had more time to give feedback to the authors. It was my favorite session because it was led by my mentor, Scott A Johnson. After lunch we didn’t have any modules. Instead we had Kevin Hearne as the guest speaker. He’s the author of the Iron Druid Chronicles. I listened to the audiobook of the first in the series before coming out here and loved it. The series is about a 2000 year old celtic druid living in Arizona and appearing to only be in his 20s. He’s tried avoiding old enemies and gods but has finally given up on trying to run and hide and decides to face the opposition. For the urban fantasy type it is a breath of fresh air because it’s not about werewolves or vampires. But they are in it. They just aren’t the focus. There’s some off color humor that always makes it fun. Mr. Hearne spoke a lot about the craft and business of writing in the first session and then the rise and fall and rise again of epic fantasy in the evening session. I can’t believe I only have one last day of classes and workshops left of the residency. So this breakfast feels like a last meal in some ways. Especially as the module this morning will be by Scott.