Crafting a Haunting Story with Emotional Resonance

Today, I hosted a chat on the 10 Minute Novelists’ Facebook page, entitled “Crafting a Haunting Story Using Emotional Resonance.” I enjoyed putting the material together, and the discussion which followed. I’ve posted a transcript here of my points and questions, including links for source material. It’s always fun to do some deep thinking about the craft of storytelling. If you haven’t joined the 10 Minute Novelists, you can find the website here and the Facebook group here.

TOPICS COVERED:

-1.Universal themes

-2.Deep POV

-3.the senses/vivid description

-4.MRU to give emotional reactions more impact

-5.Show don’t tell

-6.Empathy vs exposition

CHAT TRANSCRIPT:

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P1/Q1: First of all, what is emotional resonance? It’s when you create a story, a world, a character readers identify with on such a deep level, they do more than understand the character. They see themselves in them. Reading is a profound way to feel empathy. It’s one of the reasons for literature to exist – the ability to live a different life, someone else’s experiences. But to be able to frame them with your own experiences, that’s emotional resonance. Once readers put the book down, they can’t forget about it. And they want more of it.

So how do we create this resonance? There’s several levels to it, and we could pinpoint empathy as the primary weapon. But it’s not the only one. I’ve tried to structure this so we begin macro and move inward, from exterior world to interior feelings. None of these are set in stone, and you can pick and choose a variety of them, weaving them into your own story as you see fit.

What’s a book or series of books that jumps out at you, something that has stuck with you for years and years? I could name so many, but the first one that jumps to mind is a Stephen King story called “The Long Walk.” And a character I come back to, time and time and time again? Rincewind, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.

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P2/Q2: Starting macro, let’s talk universal themes. The human condition is widely varied, but there are things that all of us can readily grasp. The value of love, good vs evil, hardship and triumph. If we can choose something which people can identify with, half our work is already done.

I’ll use “The Long Walk” as an example (spoilers if you haven’t read it). The prevailing theme is survival – man vs self. The titular long walk asks the contestants to walk until they cannot walk any more. If they stop, they die. If they walk longer than everyone else, persevere through exhaustion and hopelessness, they and their families will be fed for the rest of their lives. Each footfall magnifies the drumbeat – survive, survive, survive.

Many of us have experienced a time in which we had to do what it took to survive. Whether that meant fighting a bear, or dragging yourself out of bed for a job that’s slowly killing you so you can buy Ramen. We want to believe we can defeat that hopeless little voice in our head, and so we see ourselves in the character who won’t give up.

What other universal themes can you think of that you might like to explore? Which ones resonate with you? Here’s a quick list:

https://thewritersacademy.co.uk/blog/common-literary-themes/

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P3/Q3: I think, of all the points I’m making today, this is the one most up for debate.

Choosing the right Point of View (POV). To inspire the greatest amount of empathy, to get someone to see themselves in a character at the most profound level, deep POV is the best way to go. First and third limited/deep are considered the closest points of view (see the link for brief descriptions of each). This is not to say the other POVs are no good, or should not be done. But when you really want to get your reader into the character’s head, and vice versa, you can delve no deeper than first or limited/deep third.

Think of a story or character you were so attached to that you ran out and bought or borrowed the next book immediately. The Harry Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is a great example of this for me. They are written in first person, from Harry’s POV. As the series progresses, you can actually watch Jim’s writing style improve, becoming more polished and easy. But even for all the flaws of the early books, I was so attached to the character that I actually read all 14 books available at the time back to back to back.

Through the use of an intimate POV, Jim is able to pull you into Harry’s head. While I might not be a modern wizard who is a private detective for hire, I know how it feels to be uncertain. To think maybe I’m doing the wrong thing, but see no other options. And when the character triumphs, I feel like I can succeed, too.

And I want to do it again. So I buy more books.

What do you think is a strength of first or deep third person? What books can you think of which pulled you in so completely, it didn’t even matter when the main character made less than stellar choices?

http://www.thebeginningwriter.com/2012/03/look-at-different-types-of-point-of.html?m=1

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P4/Q4: So let’s talk about description. First, there’s the senses. This is personal preference, but I prefer picking just a few of the five and focusing on those in each scene.

Smell is a powerful sense. Just the scent of Gardetto’s snacks can put me in a specific time and place, almost twenty years ago. Without preamble, there I am, driving across the country with my best friend and my dog.

After my first beta readers came back to me saying, “I never thought about how a zombie would smell,” I knew I was onto something. And it made my characters more real to them, knowing that they sometimes gagged because this rotting body approached. When the back of my characters’ throats closed, my readers could feel it. That dragged them ever deeper into the story.

Vivid descriptions using imagery can do this, too. Consider this excerpt by Ash Ambirge (from this essay):  

“I grew up curling my bangs in a trailer park, using food stamps to buy popsicles, dating boys who milked cows, bringing boom boxes to stone quarries, and thinking tinted car windows were the ultimate sign of prestige.”

These are all images, but somehow they’re also pieces of time. Feelings. Combined, a sense of longing and despair. Maybe a little contempt. But she never said that. She merely gave us a vivid set of descriptions that tie us to her.

Can you think of something like this in your own work? An unexpected use of senses, or a shiny little piece of imagery? How about something you read that has stuck with you?

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P5: Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty. In an effort to keep us moving, I’m going to let the article do most of the talking. But I’d like to briefly address how to make the reactions of your characters have more impact.

The motivation-reaction unit (MRU).

Some of you are aware of this. Some of you are probably like me the first time I discovered this little hack and you’re going to be saying, “why didn’t I know this before?!” It’s good for many things, not the least of which is keeping the pages turning. But here I’d like to point out how it makes readers feel more deeply.

The basic idea is to break cause and effect into two paragraphs. If the cause is the ladder falling, the effect is the character’s fear before they hit the ground. But if it’s all bound in one paragraph, it’s almost like a run-on sentence. There’s no pause, no place for the reader to inject their own feelings. Just like breaking the tension, you have to give readers room to feel what your character is feeling.

Just give them that little paragraph break. Let them take that briefest of moments to anticipate what the character is going to feel. Let them start to fill it in before it happens.

You know what they say about antici–

https://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/

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P6/Q5: This is a big one, most of us hate it a little (or a lot). But stick with me. It’s “show don’t tell” time.

Linking into the time you gave your readers to anticipate the character’s emotional response, is the fact that you don’t have to spoon feed them said response. Nor should you, not if you want your words to have maximum impact. Yes, there are times to tell. Absolutely. We are “storytellers,” after all. What I have to say about showing vs telling and its place in creating emotional resonance is not “show all the time and never tell.”

It’s more show the feelings instead of telling them. Show the internal dialogue, show the character arguing with themselves, show us how goofy they feel when they hear the sound of their own voice. Don’t be afraid to travel deep inside the point of view character(s).

Put simply, leave room for the reader to fill in the gaps on their own. Show them the cold sweat of the brow, the clenched fist, and let them surmise if it’s anger, or fear, or both. When we allow the readers to create with us, to take an active part in building the story in their own mind, it burrows deep into their heart and makes a home there. They become part of the story, rather than just an observer. And it makes it easier to relate their own experiences, to transfer them onto the character. Or vice versa.

Those of you who’ve known me for a while have seen this essay before, I’m sure of it. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t show it to you, again, especially while we’re talking about this. It’s got to be the single greatest piece I’ve ever read on showing and when I say it was a game changer, I cannot overstate just how major of a change it was. Is it necessary to do exactly as Chuck suggests, at all times and in all circumstances? I’ll leave that to you to decide. But I strongly urge you to give it a try.

What are your favorite pieces of showing? Or your favorite piece of advice on showing? How have you implemented them in your own writing?

https://litreactor.com/essays/chuck-palahniuk/nuts-and-bolts

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P7/Q6: And finally, what I consider one of the most important of all the subjects we’re going over today: exposition vs empathy.

Let me tell you a little secret. In third grade, I picked up my first novel. It was the novelization of “The Empire Strikes Back,” by Donald F. Glut. Looking back on it, I can’t remember a ton of details, though I found some pretty harsh reviews in looking it up while I wrote this. One thing I do remember is that the world of books opened to me when I read that. When the TIE fighter pilot chose almost certain death in an asteroid field over going back and telling Vadar he’d failed in capturing the Millenium Falcon, I suddenly realized what books had over movies. Interior dialogue.

I was hooked.

There was an article I read many years ago which went into the success of the Harry Potter books and why they were so much more successful than some of Rowlings’ contemporaries. Obviously there are several reasons for their success, but one is her use of empathy, or what the linked article refers to as “interiority.” She had a ton of worldbuilding to do, but rather than bury it in description and exposition, she related it to us through Harry’s experience. His utter shock when he’s told he’s a wizard, his wonder at all the magical things he sees in Diagon Alley, his amazement at even the simplest of spells.

But even more, she gives us moments of perfectly human connection. Moments to paste our own feelings over Harry’s, and to identify with someone else. To see ourselves in the unfamiliar, thereby making it familiar and activating our empathy at a deep level. From the Sorcerer’s Stone:

“ “Go on, have a pasty,” said Harry, who had never had anything to share before, or, indeed, anyone to share it with.”

In studying human behavior, it’s been found that creating a connection through empathy goes deeper than one created with exposition. It’s that interior dialogue, their thoughts and feelings, how perfectly human our characters can be, which really connects readers to them.

One way I do that is by adding my feelings, my own experiences, to my characters. Not the frame of them, not the actual events, but rather, the shape of them. Then you weave it into this story you’re telling, put all the parts together, and let it ride.

What’s an experience you’ve had you think many people could relate to? How could you give this same emotion to your main character?

And one last article to finish us off. I recommend the exercise at the end. I did it on my opening scene, and while it didn’t change much, it gave me confidence that I know my characters. Writing the interiority was a breeze. If you do the exercise, come back and let me know how it went!

http://www.writingcycle.com/craft/film-versus-literature-show-dont-tell/

 

If you’d like to join the discussion, by all means, let’s talk in the comments!

Timeless Review ep 2.05 “The Kennedy Curse”

 

First of all, I’m incredibly sorry about the last two episodes and missing the reviews. As for “Hollywoodland,” I was too heartbroken to revisit Wyatt and Lucy’s night together. I think I still am. It hurts, you guys. It hurts.

As for “The Salem Witch Hunt,” it was fantastic and I am in love with that episode. With Lucy telling those women it’s OK to be weird. It made me realize someone had to teach Lucy all this “be an individual” stuff, and that someone is on the inside with Rittenhouse. Carol might just be our own sleeper, once she gets her head on straight. But I was sick with the flu last week and boy, it’s just not as easy to come back from that stuff as it used to be.

But here I am, for the Kennedy Curse, and what an episode to be back for!

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Wallingford, CT, September 17, 1934

Not that the date is important because…

As Lucy learns when she wakes (and the first thing she says is, “Wyatt?” </3), Rufus and Wyatt really, really should not time travel without her. Haven’t we seen how this goes, already? After some delightful awkwardness with Jess, and a hearty agreement that time travel messes with your head, we find Wyatt, Rufus, and Flynn hatched a spectacularly bad plan.

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JFK. In the present. As a young man. Nothing can go wrong with this plan.

Sorry, just got distracted watching. Had that same problem during the original airing:

Where were we? After young JFK escaped this “air-tight” secret bunker, Lucy, Wyatt, and Jessica decide to go on a road trip. Speaking of spectacularly bad ideas. But Jiya makes the great point that they are successful because they all still know who JFK is, and, once again, she brings up the visions. Personally, I love the fate vs free-will thread they’re following, mainly because I’m unsure where they’re going with it. They seem to be trying to push the fate angle pretty hard, but Rittenhouse has already changed history, and so has the Time Team. So fate isn’t set in stone. But time is a harsh mistress, and she wants to get her way.

Some of the best parts of an overall fantastic episode were with JFK. He made a great fish-out-of-water, and who doesn’t love a good fish-out-of-water story? We all do. I love that he was heartened to see the way times had changed. How women and people of color have become more visible. Educated. Equal. Are we perfect? No. But considering where he came from, the change, the progress, is significant. And his joy in the way medical science has advanced gave me an interesting warm fuzzy feeling.

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Got a definite “Kill Bill” vibe from this scene. The fiance started whistling. You know the tune.

Ah, see, got distracted watching that great fight again. On Twitter, Matt said it took them over eight hours to film. It was worth the effort. It looked fantastic. Like to see Emma get handed a little of her own medicine. In a hospital, no less. HAHAHA I’m hilarious.

 

And at the end of the fight, Jessica found out what Wyatt’s really been hiding from her. He’s totally in love with Lucy, and she could see it. It looked like the floor had fallen from beneath her feet as she watched them together. The reaction was so genuine. And I appreciate the talk Jess and Lucy had. Jess was willing to walk away, but Lucy knows Wyatt’s heart. She knows he needs this chance to be with Jessica. And she’s a grown-up, not a teenager, so the right thing is easy to know and to do, even when it hurts.

Lucy Preston – smart, beautiful, badass, adult. My hero.

I think the hardest part of this episode, though, was JFK finding out about his fate. And the fate of his family. I was scared they were going to talk about his son. It was hard enough watching him find out about his own assasination, and writing this while watching the scene, I’m crying again. There’s a reason we can’t see the future. As if he hadn’t already had a weird enough night.

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Nice touch, with the coin changing to Nixon. A shame we didn’t get to see it change back.

I loved everything about this episode. The bonding between each character was genuine and easy. The team is working together so well now, it’s delightful to watch. Their chemistry only improves, and we need another season to watch it keep going (follow the link BELOW to vote and save our show!).

The exploration of fate, free will, a higher power, it’s all very complex. I very much appreciate this show going there. It’s not something you see on TV very often, it’s ballsy, and fits perfectly into this show. Timeless really is a unique show, and TV Land can only benefit from more and more of it.

 
-how hard they’re pushing the fate angle makes me very excited about the resolution of Lyatt. If it’s fate that Wyatt and Jessica are not together, then that means Wyatt and Lucy will end up together no matter what. It’s fate. (fingers crossed, Lyatt shippers!)

-Jiya and Rufus’ storyline is fantastic. I love examining a relationship in the middle of this crazy thing. I love that they can stay loving with each other and disagree about something as deep as whether or not there’s a higher power. It is possible to discuss these things as adults and not come out hating each other.

-Interesting that Carol didn’t want Lucy to be Rittenhouse. This is going to go sideways for Carol.

-Not to mention threatening Denise. That right there is going to bite her in the ass. Hard.

-The babydoll/sweetheart callback killed me. Dead fangirl walking.

-The tension between Flynn and Wyatt is palpable and wonderful. Flynn is, for some reason, very protective of Lucy. I like it. Looking forward to finding out why, and seeing where it goes.

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Dangerously close to actual friends, instead of frenemies.

 

Screencaps courtesy of the NBC app. Stream Timeless on Hulu, the NBC app, or HERE

On Writing the “Reclamation” Trilogy – part 3 of 3

Ah, we’ve reached the end of my little musings on how I wrote a trilogy. A little over a month removed from finishing the second draft and I still miss my characters so much. I have a difficult time with loss and letting go, so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself for missing them.

Let’s get on to the final part of this!

What really got the writing done? What really made me better? The desire to do so, and actually doing it. All of those things I mentioned in the last two parts are window-dressing. The real improvement in my writing has always come from practice. The more I write, the more in tune with my thoughts I am, the more ideas and words flow from the fingers to the screen.

Given that I was writing a trilogy, for the overall story I turned to successful trilogies. I know it’s not books, but again and again I turned to Star Wars. It’s not a perfect piece, but the structure of the trilogy is beautiful. George Lucas isn’t a perfect writer, no one is, but the original trilogy has a pretty firm grasp of structure. I did my best to structure my trilogy like Star Wars.

Part of my reasoning was that Addy’s arc is the hero’s journey, just like Luke Skywalker. I read up on the hero’s journey and compared it to Luke. The structure was sound in the movies, and it was primarily these two sources I used to structure all three books. It was a loose structure and the events shifted like the image in an ill-focused telescope. But the major ups and downs, the feelings, were plotted long before I got to them.

KM also had something to say about writing a serieswhich reinforced I was doing it right.

In addition, I referred to Randy’s rules of a trilogy more than once.

Rules of a horror movie

Rules of a Sequel

Most importantly, rules of a trilogy

I especially considered the trilogy rules from the third video. What I found interesting was the way the story wanted to do that, anyway.

And that’s at the heart of the most surprising thing I think I learned about writing such a long story. These people became real (a phenomenon I wrote about) in a way I did not expect. I often apologize to beta readers when the story takes a turn I think they may not expect. And I apologize to my characters more often than I thought I ever would.

I’ve been criticized for this.

I try to say, “It’s not my fault,” but there have been occasions when my friends don’t believe me. But honestly, it’s not. There’s a certain subplot that took off in a completely different direction than I saw it going. More than that, I never dreamed it would end up the way it did. I can’t explain in detail, but it all began when I found that there was a chemistry between two characters I didn’t write.

I swear to you, I didn’t write it.

As one character’s back story was revealed and the story drew to its inevitable conclusion (one of the first two books), the reasons for the chemistry, both past and future, became clear. Events took place in the story, characters made decisions they shouldn’t, and the subplot began to shift.

No one was more surprised than me, I promise you.

So, when I say, “It’s not my fault,” what I really mean is, I created these characters. I gave them desires and hopes, a past, a lie to believe in (side note: I hate that term. It took me forever to really figure out what it meant, and I could only decipher its meaning through practice), and set them loose within their world. I impose the plot on them, yes, but I prefer stories driven by the characters. So it is their decisions about the plot which drive the story forward. I give them the puzzle, and let them put it together. Because they are whole people, they are able to make decisions and position the next pieces of the story.

I just didn’t expect them to surprise me the way they did. Certain situations require specific reactions from characters, whether I like their reactions or not. Were I to go against these organic decisions, I would be going against the very character I wrote. And just because I want a certain situation to go a certain way, doesn’t mean I can force it (square peg meet round hole). I cannot force their motivations on them once I create motivations for them to own. Instead, I must listen to their decisions based on those motivations and work out what situation that will create.

This writing fiction thing is a trip.

Sometimes, it’s like chess. Sometimes, like a jigsaw puzzle. And sometimes? Sometimes it’s like a bowl full of spaghetti. All noodles and red sauce.

I can’t explain to you how much fun I had discovering this story. I’ve just used a lot of words to try, but somehow I still feel I’ve fallen short. Putting it together felt a lot less like creating, and more like excavating. Rather than write the story, I discovered the pieces and articulated them into a full skeleton. I did my best to make sure the patella went over the knee joints and the femur went in the leg and the tibia and fibula were in the right positions but who knows? Hopefully if I screwed anything up, it was just a small little finger joint and not the whole skull.

I don’t know if I served the plot, but I know for a fact I served the characters. Allowing them to mold the story was, in the end, the only thing to do. I couldn’t have predicted exactly how most of the story came out, it’s just not my style to outline like that. But even if I had, the interactions of my characters with each other would likely have been a surprise. My main character reached the conclusion of her character arc just as I planned. It’s the how that made the difference.

Maybe that’s some kind of metaphor for life. Many of us end up in the same place. We spend our days with job and family, consuming our favorite entertainment. Be it sports, TV, books, music, philosophy, we all have a favorite thing. The framework is the same, even though the details are different. Each of us has a unique experience, even within the same framework. And so my characters completed their arcs, but in their own unique ways.

Seems to me, that’s one of the fun things about stories. They can be the same, and yet unique, because they are full of, and are made by, individuals.

I guess if I was going to give advice about how to do it, my biggest thing would be to just let it happen. Get to know the people you’re writing about as best you can, using whatever method is most comfortable for you. Just understand who they are. Give them a situation, and then let them react. Don’t overthink it. In fact, underthink it. Let the characters do the thinking. If you’ve made them whole people, they’ll be able to make their own decisions, based solely on who they are. I think this probably gets easier, so my only other piece of advice?

Write.

On Writing the “Reclamation” trilogy – part 2 of 3

The piece I was missing, and what made it so hard to get through my first novel, fell in my lap just as I began the first book. I joined a wonderful writing community on facebook, the 10 Minute Novelists, and there I found a community of writers who help each other navigate the seas of words. Under their strict no solicitation policy, we are able to speak freely about the process of writing. Not only the mechanics but also the highs and lows, joys and pitfalls, and everything in between. It’s a wonderful place to commiserate and celebrate. I’ve received countless recommendations for sources of inspiration and instruction.

One such author I found through this group is KM Weiland, who, through her website , offers some of the most helpful advice I’ve found on the world wide web for writing fiction. She also writes books, both instructional and fiction, and her book “5 Secrets of Story Structure” (free on kindle!), blew the roof off my understanding of structure.

Incorporating what I learned there into a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of plot and planning propelled me through book one and beyond. I like to think I understand character development, rising action, character interaction, etc., yet the finer points of how to structure a story was some kind of nebulous idea without edges. Reading about the craft of writing gave me edges to grab. I recommend doing at least a bit of reading on things like this, even if you’re a proud panster. I now consider myself a “plantser,” whereby I plot about two or three plot points in advance, with the ending in mind. I don’t think I’ll ever make a detailed outline, but I’ve learned so very much this last year about how to make my version of pantsing more successful. And enjoyable.

I want to mention one thing. I hear a lot of people complain about the “soggy middle,” both in writing and in reading. It’s easy to fall into the trap of the long, boring middle. I think I might have in book 2? Maybe not, but I get a distinct “Esmeralda Villa Lobos” vibe from it…somewhere. If anyone finds it, let me know.

KM’s book helped me to understand it’s not a three act play at all. It’s four. And each one has a high point in the middle, with a big beginning and a big end. The first act has the beginning, the inciting incident, and ends with the first plot point. I think a lot of people recognize that structure, even if they don’t know the words. But it’s the middle not everyone sees the same. The magic elixir? Pinch points. I get excited just thinking about them. Pinch points aren’t as big as plot points, but they are way stations from one plot point to the next. Without pinch points, I would not have made it through my second novel. I’d probably still be back there, trying to figure out how to slog through act 2, in order to get to the big piece act 3 was going to bring. Pinch points are like bright spots on the road. Like fireworks stands.

Something else I read about this time was about the scene/sequel structure of chapters and something called the Motivation-Reaction-Unit (MRU). You can read more in-depth here . One thing I haven’t done when editing so far is make sure I’ve properly followed the scene/sequel structure. I think I have, for the most part, so editing should go fairly quick. But once I read this, I incorporated most of the advice right away. Where to break paragraphs, for example (the MRU), is paramount to keeping the pages turning. And now when I look at my writing before this change, I hate it. I want to fix it all. The basics of it is:

Something happens.

(new paragraph) The character reacts. Emotionally, physically, verbally, all or some. In varying orders, just like keeping your sentence structure varied.

This not only keeps the reader turning pages, it kept me, the writer, turning pages. What a great hack I had no idea about. It’s interesting how many things I learned I had no idea about. I’ve always said, you don’t know what you don’t know. How do you know to ask the right questions if you are unaware of your ignorance in the first place?

In writing I’ve found part of this is being part of a community of writers. We talk, ask questions, answer questions, learn things. I mean, the MRU is immediately recognizable. But, here’s the kicker, you have to know you’re looking for it. Otherwise, you don’t realize it’s something you have to do. So when you talk with other writers, you learn the questions they’re asking, and you expand your own knowledge by answering them.

Another way to know if you’re asking the right questions is by visiting websites like KM’s, and by reading books on the craft of writing. There’s a book for everyone. A book for plansters like me (I’m assuming), a book for pantsers, a book for plotters, a book for who-knows-what-they-are. A book for writing, for editing, for dialogue, for exposition. There’s the Emotion Thesaurus series, which many people I know absolutely swear by. So to find out what questions to ask, reading is a huge part of it. And not just reading fiction.

And then there’s classes. I, personally, do not currently have the funds or time. I’m the sole breadwinner in the house at the moment. But I ascended to this position (haha) by going to college. Even the two English classes I took helped hone my craft. Yes, English 101 and 102. To be fair, my 102 professor was widely known to be the most difficult English teacher on campus and he was supremely awesome. I learned a lot more than I had expected, and our chats were always informative and enjoyable. I really dug that class. I hope to take more classes. There’s online ones, and there’s more at the community college (you can always apply for grants for community college).

And of course there’s cons. I got to a small one last year and it was super fabulous. I attended one a few years back that the same community college puts on each year. But in 2018, I’m looking to attend a super huge one (hint: it’s at that website I linked), and I cannot wait to meet some of the writers in my online community of awesome. There will be amazing speakers, and I hope to glean some knowledge from them.

Now that I’ve covered structure basics with you, what else is there to writing a trilogy? And what about those pesky characters and their decisions? Next week, the final part. Hope you’ll join me!

On Writing the “Reclamation” trilogy – part 1 of 3

Last night, I finished the Reclamation trilogy. I say “last night”, but by the time you’re reading this, it will have been a bit longer than that. I don’t really know what to do with myself for consistency, so I’ll be chipping away at this for a few days. So when I say, “last night,” what I mean is January 6th. Technically. I was still awake from the 5th, in reality. It was about 1am.

Not to get sidetracked. I posted this and it’s a good summary of my progress:

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I’ve had people ask how I did it. I have some pretty trite answers, which I try not to use. Among the more trite ones:

-write every day

-I don’t know

-Um?

So in an effort to be honest with us all, I’ll explore the process and we’ll see what pops up. Maybe we’ll both figure it out, because “I don’t know” is honestly pretty close to the truth.

The first time I met Addy and Jack was November of 2014. I was hugely pregnant at that time, and doing very little concentrating on stories. I wrote a lot of flash that year, because I was really just too tired to really do much more. To tell the truth, I didn’t realize it was that long ago. This first introduction gave me a glimpse into the world in which they lived, and who they were to each other.

The idea germinated for a while, popping up again after postpartum exhaustion began to wear off. In May of 2016, I wrote a longer piece of flash (about 1500 words) you can find here. Reading it is weird and difficult. I considered taking it down. SO much has changed since that early story, it’s hardly even the same thing. But I want you to see what part of the process was for me, and be honest about it, so it stays. Character creation is, what I consider, one of the top three most important things about telling a story. And for a longer story, character is number one.

It’s their story, so I have to let them tell it.

And in order to let them tell, I need to know who they are. More than that, I need to connect with them. In that early story, you can see Addy is only 17. My initial idea about the story was post post-apocalypse. I wanted to tell the story of someone who grew up during the zombie apocalypse and after a cure was found, how they coped with life. Their whole outlook would likely be different. I didn’t know exactly how, and that’s where “who is Adelaide” becomes important.

At some point, I thought it would be fun and illustrate the differences better if I also told the other side of the story – her father. Someone who lived half their life before the apocalypse happened, and the other half during. How would that experience change someone, and how would they deal with life differently because of it?

It was always easy for me to see who the father was, and how he might deal with life differently compared to someone who grew up during it. But Addy, that was the problem. I didn’t much like her, I didn’t connect with her. Because I didn’t connect with her, I couldn’t figure out who she really was. After toying with the character for a while, I realized what needed to happen. She needed to be older. So, I aged her up to twenty-three and the click was audible. I was off to the races.

Now, when diving into the how of the writing, I have to stay away from specifics. Obviously I can’t talk about plot points. What I can tell you, is I chose a very specific type of character arc for Addy. I knew where she was starting, and where she was ending. Otherwise, when I began writing this trilogy, I considered myself a full-on pantser. Meaning I wrote entirely by the seat of my pants. I like to think I had a pretty good handle on the basics of what went into a story, and about where they fell.

That’s it for part 1. Join me for part 2 next week, where I go more in-depth about the things I learned about story structure and how the pieces fit together.

Timeless 2.02 “The Darlington 500” Review

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Week two, season two, Clockblockers, finds us in the bunker together, whole. The team checking in with each other, working on the Lifeboat, trying to untangle this Rittenhouse mess, that’s where the magic of this show really is. In the Time Team.

A few things, though. One, Jiya needs to be honest with someone, preferably Rufus, about what’s happening to her. By the end of the episode, of course, I realized she can see both the past and the future and boy if that isn’t going to come in handy at some point. Two, there has got to be a happy medium for Connor. I know he’s grieving, and has lost everything he believed in, but Stone Cold Denise Christopher making him as much a prisoner as everyone else is not going to be good for anyone.

Although, so far, I’m greatly enjoying the shift Mason has experienced. There are so many layers to what he’s going through, to what he has been through, and I look forward to seeing more of those layers explored. Plus I died and was resuscitated by this interaction with Paterson Joseph on twitter.

 

 

This week’s case was based around something I know a bit about – NASCAR. Having grown up in the South, just down the road from Dale Earnhardt’s hometown, I know about NASCAR’s roots in bootlegging, how it evolved from street modified cars to the “stock cars” they race now, and about many of the greats who’ve sat behind the wheel. Unfortunately, what I did not know, was anything about the first (and only) black man to win a cup race.

“I learned something on Timeless today:” about Wendell Scott and his legacy. I did a little of my own research after watching, via the Wendell Scott Foundation’s website, and discovered that little tidbit above – no African American person has won a cup race, except Wendell. In fact, he was the last to even race full time in the cup circuit, until this year. More on that later.

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Wendell Scott

He was inducted into the NASCAR hall of fame in 2015. His bio says he gained friends among his colleagues and admirers in his fans of all colors, yet, he experienced racism and sabotage as portrayed in the show. It was no doubt a tough haul for him. He did what he loved and I think there’s really few greater causes than chasing what you love. I thank the writers, again, for teaching me about these pieces of history I knew nothing about. This research lead me naturally to Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, who, this year, made history as the first black man since Wendell to race full time in the cup. He’s currently sitting 20th, with one top-five finish. If you know anything about NASCAR, you know that this early in the season, that’s pretty darn good. Especially for his first year full-time. The guys ahead of him are all names you’ve heard before. More info about Bubba can be found here

And you can follow him on twitter, too: https://twitter.com/BubbaWallace

And while the history was amazing, and the attention to detail in sets, props, and wardrobe (the ladies, both Lucy and Emma, killed the 50s look) was absolutely stunning, the Time Team is the heart of this show. This week was no exception. Rufus inventing the nod was priceless. Wyatt’s awe of Wendell, and his love of fast cars, turned him into a cute and smiling little boy like we’ve never seen.

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One of many smiles in this episode. They do get to have fun, sometimes.

But as juicy as this episode was and how I could go on about so much of it forever, this review would not be complete without two things.

First, that trunk scene.

You know I’m a sap. I loved it. Lucy unintentionally finding out about Wyatt’s dad and then confronting him about it when he couldn’t escape the questions pried him open in a moment he might have otherwise chosen to run away from. When he realized she overheard him, it scared him, being open to her like that. But when she asked him about it, he didn’t back down. And that’s how we get close to people. We let ourselves be vulnerable around them. When we let someone in that way, exposing the core of ourselves to them, they either respond in kind or push back. Lucy responded, in her time of need. They are completely in like.

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Oh, for the love of … he has just a smidge of lipstick on his lips. Kill me now.

I’ve mentioned how they’re running the risk of the perpetual will-they-won’t-they and how if they do, it’ll kick that leg out from under the show. It’s happened before, it can happen again. Look at Lois and Clark. They should just “they will,” and move on, exploring the difficulties of this job as a couple. And of being a couple in this unique situation in the first place. But, I fear, they will, and then another wrench will come flying out of the time machine: Jessica Logan. Sigh. I’m already depressed about it.

But speaking of wrenches and time machines, that’s the other thing. William Shatner, another Timeless fan, brought up the P word.

 

Yep, paradox. You can’t have time travel without paradoxes. I thought they’d done really well to avoid them up to this point, but Cap’s got a point. I’ll take a stab at it.

Time is not linear, as we see in this show. They travel along the string by folding the string, therefore setting things in different places along the same string. Rittenhouse traveled back in time to place their sleeper agents. But the agents do not carry out their missions unless Rittenhouse visits again, as Emma did in this episode. The scary part about it is history changing without our heroes being aware. Wyatt idolized a Rittenhouse sleeper agent, for goodness’ sake. In season one, our heroes were impervious to the changes, because they were always present when they happened (probably). But now, they have no idea which of their memories are real.

Like when they come back from 1941, and Jessica is alive and in the bunker. This will be completely normal to everyone, except Wyatt, Lucy, and Rufus. And then what, for Lyatt? And now I’m depressed again. I’ll eat a whole plateful of crow, rather than be right.

 
-Flynn’s fix definitely comes with a price next time. Look forward to seeing him out of that ugly jumpsuit and back in a time machine where he belongs.

-the winner of the first Daytona 500 was a name Wyatt mentioned; Lee Petty. 22 Feb, 1959.

-the 12 parsecs crack made me spit out my drink.

-Lucy stole his jacket at the end. Definitely in like.

-I need superhero Jiya to take her place as, uh…I’m not good at this. What’s her superhero name?

-Lucy’s great-grandfather is a scary, crazy, brilliant guy. Bringing him to 2018 was a terrible, awful, no-good, bad idea. Emma is down with sloughing away some folks.

-I’ll leave you with this exchange. So hilarious.

 

Screencaps courtesy of the NBC app. Stream Timeless on the app or at https://www.nbc.com/timeless

 

“Timeless” 2.01 Review – The War to End All Wars

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St. Mihiel, France; September 14, 1918. World War I front lines.

Hi! Welcome! I promised Timeless reviews if they got a second season, and I couldn’t be happier to fit this into my week. Please bear with me, this is my first Timeless review. Not only am I not sure how this is about to go, I want to get to it earlier in the week in the future. Oh, and SPOILERS. MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF SPOILERS. IT’S BASICALLY ALL A SPOILER FROM HERE ON. It’ll always be that way.

First, I’ll post the historical date (you’ll see that at the top). The time travel aspect of this show is astoundingly researched and realized and I expect I’ll spend some time talking about the new things I learned during the episode. Or new facets of things I knew but hadn’t considered.

Of course, ideas are what draw me in. Great characters are what keep me. So I foresee a lot of talking about the characters, specifically the A-Team Through Time, and how they develop. Now that we all know what to expect, let’s get going!

And so we catch up with our heroes six weeks after the finale of season 1. Lucy is with Rittenhouse, and Wyatt, Rufus, Jiya, Denise, and Connor have narrowly escaped assassination. Along with the Lifeboat. Thinking Lucy is dead, the team splinters. All dealing with the pain and loss of their friends at Mason Industries and of Lucy in very different, very human ways. Denise does what she can to keep them together, but they’re a mess. Especially poor Wyatt.

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Everyone’s kind-of a mess.

But seeing Lucy with her mother, trying to smile and pretend everything is peachy?

AND she thinks Wyatt and Rufus and all her friends are dead. And her sister still doesn’t exist. It was painful to watch her pretend everything was OK and try to bond with the mother who, at the beginning of this show, was her idol. Who was the reason she got into history in the first place. Everything she did was to make her proud. And now, what? How do you erase a lifetime of feelings in six weeks? You don’t. How impossibly complicated for her.

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And then there’s Emma and her two/twelve faces, being horrible all through time.

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Lucy fangirling over historical figures, and her reaction to Madam and Irene Curie was no exception. She might have been hollowed out inside by the decimation of her entire life, but her spark is still evident in the way she shines to the Curies. And who wouldn’t? I just desperately wish she’d been able to tell them to wear a lead apron. And not touch the radioactive isotopes. Anything.

And this week’s “I learned something today on Timeless,” is that Marie Curie operated field x-ray machines in World War I. I knew about her work with polonium and radium, and that she handled these things without the safety precautions we take for granted today, but I was not aware of the petites Curies, as they were known. What an amazing woman, to have pioneered x-ray technology and then taken it straight into battle where it could save lives. What a human.

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Marie Curie, Nobel Prize Portrait 1903

But I’m not going to lie, I’m here for Wyatt and Lucy all day. I’m a huge sap, I make no apologies. When Wyatt and Rufus found out Lucy was alive, Wyatt’s entire demeanor changed. He started popping off with the wry one-liners, looking for Private Ryan, slicing and dicing Rittenhouse sleeper agents with ease. If that wasn’t physical proof of how he feels about her, Rufus went ahead and spelled it out for him. Watching him get lost in his own little world as he let that realization wash over him was probably the most fun part of the whole episode.

The other realization, however, about the sleeper agents, wasn’t entirely unexpected. Based on some of the promotional material (I didn’t watch/read everything. My brain likes to take spoilers and little tidbits and run away with them), I expected it. Also, we knew about the cell phone already. What’s interesting is the implications. The breadth, the absolute depth of Rittenhouse’s plan. It boggles the mind to think how our little intrepid Time Team is going to take care of this. In the end, I think the only answer is erasing everything. Going back to stop Mason from even creating time travel. But, there’s the paradox, isn’t it? Because there always has to be a paradox in time travel.

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Thank goodness the Time Team is back together!

Before I skip off to wait just a few days for the next episode, I’ve got a few notes at the bottom. And I have to tell you, don’t think I’ve forgotten about our Hero In A Hoodie. I adore Rufus. He’s smart and adaptable and has no idea how amazing he is. What I love about these characters is that each of them are me. They all have something I can relate to. I’m a total nerd, like Rufus. I like to think I’m strong and capable like Lucy, but, and this is certain, I’ve also got a soft side that completely needs the people around me. Like Wyatt, I’ll do anything to protect the people I care about, and throw my own well-being to the wind. They’re the perfect team. They are stronger because of their differences, and special because of their strengths.

I cannot wait to follow them further down the rabbit hole.

-The Clockblocker shout-out was the most spectacular thing I’ve heard on TV since the 200th episode of Supernatural.

-Shoutout to the prop department. That Springfield rifle stood out to me as a wonderful piece of well-researched prop design.

-Connor watching the video of the explosion over and over was about the saddest thing in this whole episode. He’s a completely different guy, now, and I’m digging it.

-I was almost in tears, thinking Emma was going to murder the Curies. It wasn’t quite as bad as thinking Neil and Buzz were going to die on the moon, but it was close.

-Good thing Wyatt didn’t kill Lucy’s great-grandfather. That would have been… unfortunate.

-Nice to have both a villain (Emma) and an antagonist (Lucy’s mom) this season. Good depth on the story front.

-So glad they brought Flynn back as well. I love how complicated he is, and how he’s really not a bad guy. He’s a good guy who was doing bad things. A pretty accurate visualization of chaotic good.

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And I mean this in the most loving way possible, but I hate you, Jiya. #Lyatt

 

Screencaps courtesy of the NBC app. Stream Timeless on the app or on NBC’s website

 

 

Supernatural 13.4 “The Big Empty” Review

Hi! Sorry I’ve been absent. I’m about eyebrows deep in book three, I’ve got a convention to go to next week, it was Halloween season, and if you like, I have about sixteen other excuses if you want to dig in my pocket and pick one. Here’s what I did last week, instead of write the blog: 

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Thanks to David Haydn-Jones (Season 12’s Mr. Ketch) and @carly_dolphin for hosting the LTTU Pumpkin carving contest!

For what it’s worth, I have been fairly satisfied thus far. I wish Kim had more lines last week, but I look forward to the pilot for Wayward with great anticipation. I think it’s going to kick ass.

So this week, it was a Monster of the Week. One of my favorite things. We follow the show because of the story, but we all know what we love the most. “Saving People, Hunting Things”™. 

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Victims…blah blah…witnesses…blah blah…let’s go stab something.

Dean’s pain over Cass, now that he’s let off some steam to Sam, is beginning to come to manageable levels. Even at the beginning of the episode, we can see he’s beginning to get a handle on it. Which is good, because he worried me. He’s been here before, and he doesn’t always deal well. Let’s not forget the time he took it out on Baby.

Sam’s connection to Jack certainly seems to be this season’s thread. I appreciate what Sam is doing, and I enjoyed watching Sam and Dean argue about how to raise their baby.

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“And the kid can dig.”

I do feel Sam’s approach is more likely to work, but he is being a little soft on Jack. With Dean being way over-the-top hard on him, I think the best bet is something in the middle. Together, Sam and Dean make the perfect Winchester parent.

But first, they have a case to solve. Their visit to the therapist’s office, where they argued about Mary, killed me. I cried. A lot. Even after all this time, these two can really turn up the heat. Our poor, broken Winchesters. It’s a minor miracle that after all they’ve seen, they can still feel grief so deeply. That tells me more about the size of their hearts than any action they take. 

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“I’m fine” is stretched tightly across your face, Dean.

Ps I cried rewatching it for this review.

Finding out the therapist was a shifter had me jumping up and down. For one, I love shifters. I think the stories that can be told with them are endless. The possibilities presented by a creature of that type can go anywhere. And then to find that this shifter, this “monster”, wanted only to do good was the icing on the shifter cake. Stories about moral grey area are my jam.

Most of the episode followed that question down the rabbit hole, and did an excellent job playing parallel to the dilemma of Jack. Alexander Calvert continues to knock it out of the park, and it was lovely seeing Jack come to terms with his grief over his mom. Does someone being a monster automatically qualify them for death? In the case of this shifter, the answer is no. No it does not. Just because someone is different, does not mean they need to be ostracized and killed. And in the case of Jack, I’m not convinced, either. I cried again, as he confronted the shifter dressed in his mother’s skin. Such a touching moment. And this poor kid, who is not actually the antichrist (we’ve already met him), just wants to be as good as his mother thought he could be. 

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Guest star Rukiya Bernard as Mia Vallens. “It doesn’t matter what you are, it matters what you do.”

Do you believe he could be good? I do. Lucifer is not inherently bad. He was once an angel. He has made terrible choices, and has been the Dark Prince for so long, he doesn’t know any other way. But inherently bad? No. I don’t believe it. And in that way, I also don’t believe Jack is inherently bad. Sam has a point, there. I was grateful Dean could see the shifter offer her life for his, and that Jack could finally use his powers again to save Sam. It opened Dean’s eyes to the possibility that he is wrong. And that’s enough for me, for now. 

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There you are, Dean.

Final note about the shifter before I change topics: I needed her to live. When her ex-boyfriend showed up, I saw in her the perfect picture of the abused woman. Coerced into hurting people and trapped in a toxic relationship, she ran away and began a new life. A life in which she used the powers she’d be given to help people heal, and to help herself heal. I could not have her abusive ex-boyfriend show up and kill her. I really could not. Overall, this was the strongest episode so far this season, and I loved everything about. it.

So, let’s talk about Castiel. Our wayward angel, awake in a great, black box. Interesting he ran into this Friendly Neighborhood Cosmic Entity. 

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Side note, I loved the accent.

Before God and Amara, what was there, he asks? Nothing. Nothing but empty. So do we call him The Nothing, or The Empty? I like The Nothing, personally, but the episode was called The Big Empty, so I guess that’s what we’re going with. I found it interesting, this new entity. Are these the cosmic consequences Billie warned us about? I like to think that’ll still come up, at some point. Either way, in the end, after having his tulips tiptoed through, Castiel makes his way back to Earth. Is he Castiel? Probably. Is Castiel alone? Probably not. Can’t wait to see how that plays out. 

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I guess someone on twitter thought this was a happy scene. And someone else called them a sweet summer child. The second person was right.

 

(All photos/screenshots property of The CW Network)

Supernatural 13.1 “Lost and Found” Review

Season thirteen, here we are. The longest running US genre show, and the longest running genre show besides Dr. Who, and we happily welcome the Winchesters back for this groundbreaking season with open arms.

Picking up right where we left off, welcoming Jack to the world and saying goodbye to Castiel, they jumped right in to breaking our hearts. Again. I cried just watching the intro.

Judging from the new title card, I think we know what, or who, the focus of this season will be. 

So why don’t we talk about Jack? Side note, the main character in the trilogy I’m currently working on is named Jack. It’s not a shout-out to Supernatural because I’ve been working on the trilogy for a little over a year. But that makes it a little weird for me that such an obviously important character in my favorite show has the same name as a character who is very, very near and dear to my heart.

At any rate, Alex Calvert stole my heart in this episode. His part cannot be easy. Jack was just born and matured at an incredible rate. He’s still a baby, but at the same time, he’s a teen. He’s impressionable but incredibly powerful. A creature of unfathomable strength, yet ultimately, still just a kid. I can’t imagine how Alex came at this part, but I love what he’s done with it in this episode. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more from him this season, and it seems the cast and crew agree.

Listening to Jack interact with the sheriff’s son at the station, on the rewatch I realized it’s clear he’s half angel. He has the flat expression they have, and their unique inability to interact like a normal human. Also, he’s only half human, because he can hear the angels talking but it gives him what looks like a killer headache.

I also very much enjoyed guest star Andrea Menard in the role of Sheriff Barker. She and her son were both wonderful. It’s always fun to watch someone new come across the strange and unusual. They both did very well at playing their parts, and I’d really like to see the sheriff again at some point. 

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Is he some kind of superhero? Yes, yes he is.

I’d also like to note that angel, the one who talked about “Becky” (guest star Carlena Britch), was a uniquely talented angel. She did such a good job fooling Dean and blending in as a regular human, I thought she was a demon. But of course, as the Winchesters drove away from the fast food joint, I saw Dean had let himself be distracted enough for her to get a tracking spell on Baby’s dusty window.

Did that bug anyone else? How dusty Baby was?

At any rate, I worried the Winchesters were going to lose Jack because of Dean’s shoot-first-question-later attitude. I hate to see him backslide because of what happened to Castiel. He’d been making progress on that front, but it looks like he still needs Sammy to remind him that sometimes, you should talk to the monster instead of kill it. I think Jack can be an asset, if they let him. Over the summer, I held onto the vague hope he could resurrect Cass.

Now we know that’s not true. But I have some lingering questions about Castiel’s death. I spent the summer also in denial. I thought that somehow Alternate Universe (AU from here on) Cass had come through, and that’s who we saw die. But. But. We saw his wings. We had a funeral. When Sam asked if he was really dead, Dean said, “you know he is”. If it weren’t for the funeral, I’d say it was still a possibility the dead one was AU Cass. My hope, while still alive, is slim. So slim.

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She’s thinking something, I just wish I knew what it was.

But was it just me, or did that one angel seem to know something we didn’t? At the beginning of the episode when the two angels were standing over his body? She had some kind of knowing smile and I don’t really know what that was about. So there’s questions still, and knowing Misha is returning, I imagine soon they’ll be answered. I just knew they wouldn’t do it in this episode.

At any rate, Jensen broke all our hearts again. Mine, at least. Twice.

First when he asked for Crowley back.

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Jensen, Please submit yourself for an Emmy this year. Sincerely, the SPN Family.

And second when he watched Castiel’s body burn. I couldn’t even with that hunter’s funeral. I really feel like OUR Castiel is gone. Whatever Cass we get back will be some kind of pale imitation that doesn’t know or love the Winchesters. Lots of Destiel shippers will be very, very sad. I’m not among them, but I feel for them. And I’ll miss Dean’s brother, Castiel.

Great premiere. Did I miss anything? What was your favorite piece? What are you looking forward to? I don’t think Chuck is going to be any help, although I do really, really want Gabriel to come back so he can kill his Bag of Dicks bro.

Additional Notes on Jack:

-Sheriff Barker: What’s your dad’s phone number?

-I find it interesting Jack remembers Dagon dying, and he said, “the universe screamed”. So yeah. That’s not going to come up again. Surely not.

-“My father is Castiel.” 

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Annnnnnd the fandom dissolves into a puddle of tears and snot.

-Jack can’t be killed by an angel blade. Anyone shocked? Show of hands? No. Me neither.

-So, is Sam his dad now, or…?

 

Rewatching Dean wrap Castiel in his shroud, I bawled my little eyes out.

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Goodbye, Castiel. We’ll always love you. You stupid, wonderful angel.

 

P.s. I don’t much care for the AU concept because I feel like it’s only going to cause trouble for the writers when they don’t bring back whoever it is the fandom is fixating on. But I’ll be interested to see what they do with it otherwise.

 

**all photos/screenshots property of The CW Network**

Supernatural 12 21 “There’s Something About Mary” Review

The title of this episode calls to mind hijinks and wacky comedy.

This hour was anything but.

There is so much to unpack about this episode, I will most likely miss something on this pass. I want to get something out of the way right up front, though. Besides the fact you know this is ALL SPOILERS.

Eileen.

I am so heartbroken. Hey producers! We WANT Sammy to be in a relationship. Please stop killing his love interests. It’s Dean we don’t want attached. FYI.

And of course I’ll address the elephant in the room. Yes, she was a girl. Yes, she died on Supernatural. A LOT of people die on Supernatural. The gender debate, as well as the ‘using death as a lazy writer’s crutch’ debate are entire blogs unto themselves. Whole conversations. Books, even. As such, I will not go into it here. I will not refer to Eileen’s death as a gendered thing, and will only cover it as a part of the story.

The hi/bye was too brief.

It’s where we join our story, Eileen’s death. Seeing her return just to die made me so sad on several levels. Seeing that Ketch was responsible? Not surprised. He is a man of principle, after all, and his principles stated that she killed a BMoL. Therefore, death sentence. I woke up thinking about Ketch this morning, though, and I’d like to go a little more in depth with him at the end of this. I do enjoy that the writers are keeping us guessing on his arc, and I look forward to seeing which path they’ve chosen.

I felt unutterably bad for Sam getting the news about and investigating Eileen’s death. Though she did serve another purpose in the story besides man pain. Proof of a pattern, as well as the clue laden letter she posted to them days before her death. I still think they would have found Ketch’s INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS mic without her help, but she did help them get at least just a little ahead of the game.

Definitely a rough night at the office.

And when Mary encountered her hunter friend, Rick, that game took a hell of a twisted twist. At first, I thought it was a shapeshifter. Until poor Mary awoke in the BMoL’s Container Castle. It turns out Miss Lady Bitch Pants Suit is actually pretty good at her job, after all. Brainwashing is a new low, even for them. Oh, excuse me, Miss LBPS, “realignment”. And what was with all that crap she said to Mary about John? How dare she. I don’t care who’s locked in the bunker with the boys right now. I will never like that woman.

I didn’t have to include this but face it, he looks so cool here.

Raise your hand if you’re surprised the good Dr. Hess is in Crowley’s pocket? Now, we all know Crowley is slippery but why was he really at Castle Container? I think we all know that, as well. He was there to find out the BMoL’s intentions with the Winchesters. I fully believe he’d never let these stuffy numbskulls hurt our boys.

But he has problems of his own, now doesn’t he? When the boys called him to check up on the hellhound and he lied through his teeth, I knew for certain he was soon going to have to crawl to them for help. We saw Lucifer getting ready to break free, and I knew he’d get his ass handed to him. Then drag it, bumped and bruised, to the Winchesters. I was not disappointed on these points. Ah! Haha, surprised I hadn’t seen it sooner. He’s their way out of the bunker. He doesn’t believe in their loyalty enough without leverage, and will secure their help by going the extra step and getting them free.

Obligatory Archangel shot! Look at his pretty wings!

Speaking of the bunker, once the Winchesters tricked the BMoL and the BMoL tricked them back, me laughing at the ease with which they took the guns and took back their home, I realized Ketch had brought his ace in the hole. Because we can’t appear to be slacking on the job, now can we, Ketch? Ah, sorry, my Ketch argument bled over. More on that below. Either way, it was pretty heartbreaking to see the boys watch Mary leave. Not because they could possibly think she’s been turned willfully. They have to know it’s against her will.

Alright, I’m already running long. I’ve missed about a thousand things. Hopefully I’ve hit most of the big things. I think the biggest, for me, is that the season finale is next week and the BMoL is coming to a head. The nephilim is coming to a head. There’s potential for a temporary pact between enemies as they work together to kill or cure Luci’s child. Mary is, as always, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for her family. Not everyone is going to survive. I fear for Ketch, Mary, Crowley, and Lucifer. I don’t think the producers are ready to break the fandom just yet, so Castiel stays. But Jody’s coming back (two thumbs WAYYY UP), and I swear to god I will join the gender chorus if she dies.

In truth, it’s a bloody and brutal game the Winchesters play. What’s happened to Mary is a fate worse than death. If they can see a way to clear her without sending her back to heaven, I’m down for that. I prefer that. There’s so much more that can be done with Mary Campbell Winchester.

 

Here’s this week’s P.S.

The character of Ketch has really ensnared me. I love a well written character. Two of them have kept me coming back for twelve seasons and counting. Below are my clues that Ketch may not have been as two dimensional in this week’s episode as you might think. There was more than just that scene with Mary.

Clues:

1-He lies to Dean about having seen Mary. Ketch knows she’s still in touch with her boys. He KNOWS it. She told him as much. Why would he tell a lie he was so sure they’d catch? Does he underestimate them that severely? Or did he want them to figure it out? And if so, why?

2-Hess threatens him with command. There is no way in the world Ketch wants to be a leader. He’s no leader. He’s really, really, really against being put in charge. He doesn’t want to answer to Toni, but he also doesn’t want to be The New Mick. Bet he has a contingency plan in place against such a thing.

So. Say hi to my new favorite screen grab.

3-Here we are again. Obvious mic is obvious, Ketch. Simply a plot device? I don’t think so. I think our boys could have found the mic in the speaker just as easily. They are skilled investigators, after all. I feel like this is at least the second time Ketch warned them about the bunker. They should not have come back at the end. How many times does he have to tell them, they don’t have the only key?

4-Let’s talk about that scene with Mary. What do you think he was feeling as he walked in? As he walked out? My thoughts: Guilt. Both counts. He knows what Toni has been doing with her, and it tears him up. He knows what her family means to her. Seeing her ready to kill herself rather than hurt them, it showed him something he’d never seen. A depth of feeling he didn’t think possible. You could say he was acting. That he felt she was weak. David’s performance was so subtle, so nuanced, so delightful, it could really go either way. But Ketch let her get close enough to get the gun. She gets his guard down. Makes him feel something.

My heart! David Haydn-Jones slaying again. So lovely, the complexity of emotion.

And wasn’t Samantha Smith something, as well? Such desperation. I just wanted to scream for Mary.

5-Bringing Mary along to trap the boys in the bunker was more than back up. He literally told them exactly what was going to happen. Warned them time after time. And built a backdoor into the plan so she wouldn’t have to hurt them. A cunning “escape”.

Now this, this was what I thought about when I woke this morning. He locked them in the bunker with Toni. Changed the locks. Reversed the airflow. One would think this was pretty clearly trying to kill them. But. But. Since when have we seen him “try” to kill anything or anyone? He just does it. There’s a reason why he didn’t just do it this time. Be it plot device, or character arc, well that remains to be seen. Just know, if TPTB choose not to redeem him, they could have. The story put it all in there. To me, it would be a hell of a missed opportunity if they don’t.

 

(All photos and screenshots property of the CW)

pps, I just realized I have been sorely lacking on pics of Sammy. Will fix next week. Promise.