Monthly Archives: June 2016

Dad’s Impact, Part 2: The Absence of a Father-Figure/The Birth of a Supervillain?

Dad’s Impact, Part 2: The Absence of a Father-Figure/The Birth of a Supervillain?

The darkest villains and most evil tyrants of fiction all have one thing in common-they all have a backstory, an origin, and those most usually begin the events of their childhoods.   There are those who are bereft of any parental guidance and those who have it but from improper or merely fallible sources.  Is this lack what causes them to become as they are?  How might their stories change if someone had loved them, disciplined them?

Sometimes even good parents make mistakes.  If Odin had been honest with him, would Loki have turned traitor?  By all accounts Odin treated his adopted son Loki just as well as he did his own son Thor.  He was a good father and a good man, but he failed to tell Loki the truth of his origin, that he was born a Frost-Giant, the natural enemies of the Asgardians.  If Odin had been more honest with Loki, would Loki have felt the need to take control of Asgard away from his father and brother?  Would he have joined forces with evil to take over the Earth?  Would an entire chain of events not be set off which would lead to Freya’s death and a war between worlds?

A mentor with bad intentions can warp a young mind.  Would Darth Vader have turned to the Dark Side if Palpatine had not influenced him?  Anakin Skywalker had Obi-wan as a mentor and friend, but he was persuaded to turn away from him and the Jedi Order through the manipulations of the Sith Lord.  Palpatine garnered Anakin’s admiration and trust, offering him a sympathetic ear and an outlet for his raw anger that he did not find in the life of the Jedi.  Anakin gave into temptation, and allowed Palpatine to twist his mind against everything he had been taught and held to be true.  He betrayed everyone he knew and loved, because of the influence of a poor role model.

Any father might have been better than no father at all.  Would Voldemort have become a dark lord if his father had been in his life?  As anyone who is familiar with J.K. Rowling’s work would know, Tom Riddle hated muggles in part because his muggle father abandoned his mother before he was born.  If Tom Riddle, Sr. had stayed in the picture, would Voldemort have even existed?  Would he have turned to evil if he never went to that orphanage?  If Dumbledore had been more aware or more proactive in his induction to the wizarding world, would Riddle have abandoned his plans for domination?  Of course, if any of these things had happened Rowling would be telling a far different story, but one wonders, could Riddle’s character have been changed for the better if he had any parental guidance at all?

Of course, all of these events are fictional and speculative, but the point is this-fathers, while not ultimately responsible for their children’s actions, have the responsibility to guide them to the best of their abilities, and to help them make the best choices for their lives.  Guiding a child is a sacred trust, because who knows what he or she may grow up to be.

Thanks for reading,

Amy

 

 

 

 

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Dad’s Impact on Future Superheroes, Part 1

Dad’s Impact on Future Superheroes, Part 1

Since today is a special day for fathers everywhere, I wanted to discuss a topic that is near and dear to the heart of every male interested in sci-fi or fantasy fandom-the importance of a father figure in a young hero or villain’s life.  Every future main character has an origin, and often times the presence, or lack thereof, of a father/mentor makes all the difference in the path they take.  Heroes thrive best when they have the support of a father.

Every hero needs guidance to reach their potential.  Whether they receive this guidance from a father, another relative, or an unrelated mentor, the presence of a dad helps the young person develop their potential for good.  Superman, A.K.A. Clark Kent or Kal-El, had not only his adopted father, Jonathan Kent, but also the recorded memories of his birth father Jor-El to influence his moral development.  Without these important figures in his life, he may not have developed both the compassion, and the sense of responsibility, to take his place in the pantheon of superheroes.

Every young hero needs someone to rebel against, and be held accountable by.  Peter Parker might never have decided to become a hero in the first place had he not seen his Uncle die, thanks to a criminal he chose not to catch.  If his Uncle Ben had not taught him responsibility of power, and then reiterated his words in a ghostly dream, Spiderman might have turned in his costume before he made any kind of difference in the world.  And if not for mentorship offered by the deceitful and manic Green Goblin (Spiderman, 2002), he would never have developed his passion for justice over personal gain.

Every young hero needs to see their mentor fall or fail, so they can learn to stand on their own.  The hardest part about growing up, and not just for heroes, is learning to see our parents as human and fallible.  There comes a time when we must accept that they are not perfect, and make mistakes, and that we have to hold on to our principles and duties despite these illusion-shattering revelations.

Luke Skywalker was mentored by Ben Kenobi, who had taught him that his father had been a Jedi Knight.  Ben’s omission of Anakin’s fate could have been Luke’s turning point when he discovered the truth, but he had grown into a man with resolve, and ultimately not only stayed on the light side but led his father back as well.  He had learned from examples both good and bad, and was ready to make his own choices.

These are only examples of what can happen to a potential hero who benefits from the mentorship of a father or father figure.  However, the absence of a father can have just as big an impact of the development of character, and I’ll discuss this in Part 2 of this post, Dad’s Impact on Future Supervillains.

Thanks for reading,

Amy

Wanted : Life Experience

Wanted: Life Experience

Without a doubt when we require a medical procedure or maintenance to our homes or cars, most of us would immediately choose the most qualified person to help us.  Fresh enthusiasm and youthful optimism are wonderful, but not substitutes for wisdom garnered from real life experience.  And yet, every trusted professional started out as a beginner at some point in his career.  These future experts had to learn their craft, perhaps from books or from other mentors, but also through skill acquired over time.

As writers, we need personal experience to draw on to describe a scene, an activity, an emotion to our readers, but for those of us especially who write fantasy or sci-fi, it is sometimes impossible to gain true familiarity with our subjects.  So how do we achieve necessary experience in our field?  While we can and do use our imaginations to fuel our work, we need to do more than dream life, we must also live it.

While we cannot interview elves or fly around the galaxy, we can apply other skills to our writing to lend realism to the pages.  We can allow a character to demonstrate our expertise in the kitchen, the garden, or under the hood of a car.  We can study fencing or martial arts and let our characters show their knowledge in what we’ve learned.

If our characters are not quite human, we can still use our daily interactions with people around us to fuel emotions in scenes with aliens or fairies.  We can take scenery from our favorite locale and tweak it to give an otherworldly experience.  The more detail about anything and everything, from situations to settings, from physical traits to emotions that we include enriches the world of our characters and makes them more real for our audiences.

Sometimes in order to write we have to go out into nature, or to a shopping mall, or to a party, or any situation where we can observe, interact with, feel or live something other than the keyboard or notebook.  It doesn’t matter if what goes on the page actually resembles our everyday lives or just includes thoughts inspired by our activities, so long as we apply our observations and interactions.

I hope you all live something this week that is worth writing about.

Amy

 

 

Life Lessons from a Family Reunion

Life Lessons from a Family Reunion

This week my husband and I took a few days off to travel back to where our life together started.  We were able to spend some time with my family who still live in Tennessee, as well as a number of other relatives who travelled from various locales for a family get-together.  As we crossed state lines and helped prepare food to share with the extended clan, I took a few moments to reflect on why gatherings of this type are sometimes difficult, but oh-so necessary.

  • When families are divided by distance, it is easy to forget that we are not alone. Whether we are separated by geography or philosophy, there are people out there who share our DNA, with whom we have a common history, and who can understand us in ways no one else can.  It is necessary sometimes, in the busyness of everyday life, to remember we have that connection, and it is usually as easy to access as picking up a phone or connecting to Skype.
  • When attending reunions, there may be an awkward moment when confronted with a relative you’re not sure you remember. We all change with time, and those who are far apart may not be aware of the changes.  This is becoming less difficult all the time thanks to social media, but the key to overcoming any embarrassment is to embrace the chance to become acquainted all over again.
  • It’s always sad to think about the family members who were at the last reunion, but could not make the current one. Of course, family members may choose not to attend for their own reasons, but sometimes cannot come due to situations beyond their control-illness, military duty, or even death.  Those are the absences we feel most keenly.  We need to appreciate the family we can greet in person, and share thoughts of those that are absent, but still in our hearts.
  • Why we should always try to attend: family accepts us as we are. Families are rarely perfect, but even if we don’t always get along, even if we argue or have different values or lifestyles, there is a connection that cannot be duplicated in any other way.  We may have to endure teasing, or endless questions or differences of opinion, but at the end of the day they will always matter, and we will always desire that closeness.

I hope you choose to embrace the next chance you have to gather with those you call family.

Thanks for reading,

Amy