Thursday, March 31, 2016

Subplots and Storylines - March 2016

Sometimes life walks along calmly, sedately, hands in its pockets, whistling as it goes. And sometimes life dashes willy-nilly down the street, hat flying clear away and feet slapping a staccato rhythm on the pavement. My March was more like the latter. New subplots sprang up on the page at the same time old ones wrapped up, and I'm sitting here today blinking at the calendar and wondering how in the world a whole month is over already.

The weavings of life's subplots . . .

March began as it usually does, and as all months tend to do: on the first. But this first of March was special. The long-awaited announcement of the Five Magic Spindles contest had arrived! I was scheduled to work an early shift that day, and wasn't sure if the news would be posted before I left. Fortunately, it was up in time. With my brother (who'd entered that awesome Japanese samurai story I mentioned a while back) looking over my shoulder, I scrolled down . . . and saw five names that were not ours, nor those of any of my friends who had entered.

Naturally, we were disappointed. But then I checked the list of the Top Ten Finalists--AND MY NAME WAS LISTED.

I could hardly believe it. Me? Among the top ten?

Let's just say it was a good thing my work shift was short, and even better that I was working in the back room the whole time. I seriously doubt I would've been much help to customers. My brain was running in ecstatic circles, screaming the same thing over and over: "I'm a finalist!" As if repetition would make it sink in.

Needless to say, that was an amazing way to start my month!

The next subplot of life to be woven in was a week-long trip my parents took, during which I ran the household. Not that it needed much running. My siblings are fantastic and helped out a lot. (Love you guys!)

The morning after my parents returned, I packed up and headed out of town for my dear friend's wedding. I got there the day before to help set up and decorate. The wedding was gorgeous. The weather was perfect for outdoor pictures (meaning I didn't go completely numb like I'd expected), I had so much fun with the bride and my fellow bridesmaids, and the ceremony and reception were beautiful! My friend has found an amazing, godly young man. They're perfect together. I was honored to celebrate their special day with them. And you know how most weddings have something that goes wrong? There was nothing like that for theirs. Crazy amazing.

(I snagged a couple pictures off the photographers' Facebook.)

The happy couple!
If you look really closely at the left picture,
I'm the bridesmaid on the far right. 

a collage of my own pictures

My Bible study group began a series on the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11. We started with Rahab, and guess what? If you check the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, you'll see that Rahab married a guy named Salmon. Multiple historical sources say that Salmon was one of the two spies that Rahab hid in her house! How cool is that?! We've also spent two sessions studying Gideon, which was quite inspiring.

Spring is well on its way. Only a teensy tiny bit of snow is left on the yard, and we've had some sunny, warm days, which is very welcome. (And also snow. Falling from the sky. That's just Manitoba for ya.)

You know that quick decision I made that just felt right? Well, that decision was to sign up for a writing course offered by an author I respect and admire. What he's already posted freely online has helped me gain new perspectives, so I'm excited to dive into the actual course material soon.

My brother and I attended a college info night. The application is sitting on my desk, waiting for me to fill it out. I'm honestly so excited for fall!

And basically there were Easter gatherings, long walks, errands, way too much pizza, journaling like crazy last weekend to try to sum up my month, and falling behind on my inbox and blog reading. (So sorry, folks.)

Storylines on screen

As you can see, life's goings-on didn't leave a lot of room for media, but I did watch a few things.

  • Epic (rewatch): I love this movie about tiny leaf men who ride hummingbirds, and a villain rotting the forest, and a young girl trying to connect to her absentminded father. This time around, I found myself paying more attention the storytelling techniques, and appreciating the strong chain of cause and effect.
  • The Scorch Trials: I haven't read the books, so I don't know how much it deviated from the source material, but I thought it was good. My biggest problem was with the frequent swearing. Not too sure what I think about the Cranks, either. I couldn't decide if they were so exaggeratedly creepy that they were almost comical, or if they were simply creepy. Either way, they are wince-worthy. But I did really enjoy certain characters, especially Thomas, Minho, and Newt. (I don't even know why, but I've loved Minho's character since The Maze Runner.) With fast pacing, awesome scenery, and even a difficult and thought-provoking ethical dilemma, The Scorch Trials was a great sequel.
  • Once Upon a Time (part of Season 3): You probably saw this coming, huh? My sisters and I are quite enjoying this season! We're about halfway through, and lots is happening. Lots. I have a few minor complaints, but most of it is fantastic. Peter Pan. The Wicked Witch. And the development happening in some of the key characters makes me a really happy Oncer. (Is that what they're called? I don't even know.)

Storylines on the page

Only two books this month. To be fair, I am 100 pages into my third book, but seeing as I'll finish it in April, it doesn't count.

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer: I've heard mixed reviews on this one, so finally I picked it up for myself. And I loved it! The whole cyborg element was a fresh twist on Cinderella, and it was fun to pick out the references to the original fairy tale, such as the old fashioned orange car (aka pumpkin coach). This novel was by turns intriguing, heart wrenching, and adorable. Seriously, I ship Cinder and Kai SO MUCH. With every chapter I finished, I kept wanting to write up a fangirly email to send the author, but then I remembered this was published and I wasn't beta reading a friend's book. For some reason it felt like I was. Anyway. If I starred books, I'd probably give this one four and a half!
  • Paige Turned by Erynn Mangum: This is the final instalment of the Paige Alder trilogy that I started last summer, and it continued to be what the first two books were: fun, lighthearted romance with surprisingly profound moments. Paige is such a relatable character. I was rooting for her all the way. It was great to see her finally doing what she's always wanted to do, and finally dating the "right guy." And the ending was perfect!
Sort of in the reading department--I went to a book faire and scrounged up four books to bring home. Tada!

Clockwise from top left: Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, Storm Siren by Mary Weber, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and Greatest Adventures by Jules Verne (a 2-book collection including Journey to the Center of the Earth and Round the World in 80 Days.)

I bought Captivating because I enjoyed it so much earlier this year, but didn't have my own copy. Storm Siren because I've heard many people like it, so for a couple dollars, why not? (Also that cover!!) Strange & Norrell because my good friend Sarah recommended it numerous times. And the Jules Verne book because . . . well, mainly because of that delicious old cover. And because owning classics makes me feel smart. Hey, just being honest!

With every book faire I go to, I keep my eyes open for any Diana Wynne Jones books--specifically Howl's Moving Castle--and have had no such luck. This time was just as fruitless in the DWJ department as all the times before. Sigh.

Subplots of my own making

According to my monthly goals, March was to be the month I began drafting (or redrafting, to be more accurate) book 2 of my YA fantasy series. I didn't get as far into it as I might have liked, but considering the circumstances, I'm quite pleased with the 7,786 words I wrote. I'm on chapter three by now. Things be happening, folks.

I feel like I'm starting to hit my stride. The beginning of a writing project is usually the slowest for me--I'm getting used to the story, oftentimes reorienting my brain into drafting mode (instead of editing or planning mode), and figuring out what I'm doing. But I'm beginning to get back into it, and I have high hopes for April's writing.

Once I'm further along--perhaps once I've finished writing this book and started editing--which means like *cough* a year from now?--I may have to write a more in-depth post about sequels. It's so weird to write one! I've been stuck on book 1 for so long, in which I've been able to mentally check off all the techniques and elements needed in a first book. "Yep, this sets up that plot thread. Here's the incident that motivates Character A to do this. And there's the foreshadowing for that . . ."

It's all different, and yet all somehow similar, in a sequel. There's a whole book behind you to build on. It's a blessing and a curse, a pro and a con. You don't have to set up everything all over again, yet you have to reference the first book in a clear, concise way that moves this story along. Your characters have grown, so they're better at what they used to struggle with, but at the same time, they're struggling even harder with other things. It's fun, but definitely not easy.

Also in writing news is something I've mentioned already: I was featured in a guest post on Stori Tori's Blog called So Your Character is From Canada. I had tons of fun participating, as well as getting to interact with commenters afterwards. If you haven't checked it out yet, there's lots of great stuff to learn from all three of us who were interviewed! Kudos to Tori for such a brilliant series of posts. There'll be more on other countries yet.

Oh yeah, and I wrote a poem for the first time in months, which you can find here.

And I did a bit more agent research too. The list of potentials is slowly growing . . .

March was a whirlwind, but I'm still alive.

Actually, it was an amazing whirlwind. Tiring on some days, but when I look back on just how much was packed into this month, I'm--what? Content? Excited? Satisfied? Looking forward to April? Is there a word that combines all of the above? I don't know. March was a good month.

So how about your wonderful selves? Was March like a lamb or lion for you--tame or wild? (Or some other animal, such as a platypus. Interpret that creature simile as you wish.) I've blabbered on quite long enough about my own life. Now I want to hear something about yours!

P.S. Today marks one year since Adventure Awaits began! I had grand plans of posting this S&S yesterday, and having a blogoversary post ready for today, but I overestimated the time involved and underestimated my schedule. So hopefully I'll have a late blogoversary thingamajig ready for this weekend sometime. Stick around--it should be fuuuun . . .

Saturday, March 26, 2016

When Love Runs Red


When Love Runs Red
by Tracey Dyck

When Love comes down to authored world—
Conceived within a virgin girl,
Laid to rest in bed of straw—
Come to satisfy the law . . .

When Love walks with the least of these
And answers blind men’s searching pleas;
Touches lepers, calls forth the dead,
And finds no place to rest His head . . .

When Love endures the scoffers’ words,
The hatred by His enemies stirred;
And bows to take a crown of thorns,
The cross upon His shoulders borne . . .

When Love climbs up that hill of death
And cries forgiveness with final breath—
When wrath of God on Him does fly
And night engulfs the weeping sky . . .

When Love runs red down rugged beams
And wrongs are washed by scarlet streams,
When blackest sinner becomes white,
Declared by God to be made right . . .

How can our hearts not drown in this?
This flood of grace, redemption’s kiss?
How can we not succumb to Him?
In light of this, all else grows dim.

When Love emerges from the grave,
Makes children of the serpent’s slaves,
The victory won, the chasm spanned,
In glorious light we Beloved stand.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Diced Tomatoes and Indecision

It was summertime, and I was driving with my family to our holiday destination south of the border. Near the end of a long day of miles and flicker-by scenery and cramped legs, we stopped at Quizno's for a bite to eat. I ordered my chicken breast and honey mustard sub, and the server started asking which condiments and veggies I wanted.

"Tomatoes?" he asked.

"Yep," I said.

"Sliced or diced?"

I froze. "Um, it doesn't matter. You decide." My brain shrieked, You decide?! You're ordering a meal, Tracey! YOU decide.

The guy behind the counter looked at me funny, then threw in a handful of diced tomatoes.

Later, I told the story to my family and had a good laugh. I realized the silly answer produced by my travel-weary mind was my default response at home. When miscellaneous leftovers are being divied up for Saturday lunch, or we have two kinds of dessert to split among the six of us, I don't have an opinion on what I would like. Or I do, but I don't vocalize it. It's only food. Let my younger siblings have what they want, and I'll take whatever is left. It's no big deal to me, but maybe Miss K prefers brownie or my mom would rather not have that leftover lasagna.

It's such a trivial matter, but maybe it reveals something deeper.

When I graduated high school and realized that full time authoring was not a practical career path to take right away, and that I needed a fallback career, I was faced with the decision of what else to pursue. (Still working on that one . . .) And as I've contemplated that choice over the last several months, an ugly realization has dawned on me.

I'm scared of making the wrong decision.

That branches off into all sorts of other thorny vines. With some decisions, I don't want to make one displeasing to someone else. Mostly, though, with the big stuff, I'm afraid of choosing anything less than best. I'm pretty confident I won't do something drastically terrible to my life, but what if I pick something mediocre or just okay? Something good but not BEST?

For whatever it's worth, my INFJ personality type is supposedly most terrified of his or her life not meaning anything.

Sometimes I wish God's specific will would be written down, that we could all have a personalized page of the Bible saying where to go to school or who to marry or what to do. (Not really. That would probably be a catastrophic idea.) But you know what I mean? When you're following God's principles for life, that makes a lot of things clear, but not nearly everything. Because there are plenty of situations when you have lots of good choices in front of you, none of them wrong, and it's up to you. Situations where God says, "Any one of these things could be amazing. So go ahead. Pick."

Which is freeing . . . unless you're frozen by indecision.

But maybe God is a bit like a GPS. Make a wrong turn, and that thing recalculates. It doesn't matter how many wrong turns you take, if you keep trying to follow the GPS's directions, it'll get you there eventually. God is a God of second chances. And third and fourth and three hundredth chances. And He's a master at making beauty out of brokenness, at putting purpose into a meandering road.

So I can use the brain He gave me, evaluate each situation (knowing I can't possibly gauge all the pros and cons), ask Him for direction, surround myself with wise counsel, and go from there.

That GO is an important verb. Not sitting still, forever analyzing and agonizing. Do what you can, then decide. Just decide.

And if you find out further down the road that you made a wrong turn, just know it didn't surprise God. He loves you too much to let you wander aimlessly. He'll redirect you. Truly.

The wrong turns are never, ever a waste either. He uses all things for our good.

I don't want to be crippled by fear anymore. I've seen what indecisive people look like in their old age--I don't want to be them. I want to keep moving forward. It's a lot easier to steer a moving vehicle than it is to steer one in park.



I drafted this post a few weeks ago, and recently felt there was something to add, but as I brush it up right now, I can't find a good spot to insert it. So here's my little afterword:

I have some major decisions right in front of me. Right now. I've had some time to chew on them, to wrestle with them. To, yes, agonize. And to work a few stones out of the soil of my heart in the process. I can feel myself coming to grips with things, making up my mind.

And the old skin I'm shedding likes to latch back on exactly at those moments, whispering doubtful second guesses in my ear.

But tonight I'm making one of those choices, one that sits right. It makes me gulp because of the investment it requires on my part, but it also makes me excited because of what may come of this. This is a decision that sprang up suddenly, leaving me very little time for contemplation. But surprisingly, I have been impatient to make a move, rather than wishing uselessly for more time. Anyway, the choice is made, and all that remains is for me to act on it this evening. I feel satisfied because I decided. And I didn't procrastinate (much). I just said yes.

That being said, there is another big decision rapidly approaching, regarding school. I've had almost two years to think on this one, so it's definitely high time to move forward. Old fears still grasp for a hold. I choose to shrug them off and walk on. (I shall most likely share how this particular choice goes, once things are settled. So stay tuned.)

Well. I feel like this postscript kind of stole the neat, conclusive ending the original post had! But it was important to tell you how this whole battle with indecision is going in my own life.

What decisions have you faced? What choices are you facing now? Do you struggle to pick a path too, or does it come easily for you?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Four Elements of a Successful Villain - guest post by Josiah Dyck

Today is a special day, my friends! First, I am at my friend's wedding right now (so this post is scheduled to go up on its own).

Second, I'm featured on Stori Tori's Blog, in a post called So Your Character is From Canada, in which the other contributors and I discuss our country. Do check it out! I know the previous instalment, So Your Character is From Australia, was super informative and entertaining.

And third, my brother Josiah has kindly produced a guest post of his own for me to share with you! As a fellow writer, he and I are often the first ones to hear each other's story ideas, talk out the plot knots, and flail excitedly over the latest fictional development in our WIPs. And today, Josiah invites you into a discussion about villains. I'll bow out now and let him take the stage . . .


Let’s talk about villains.

Authors tend to focus more of their creativity on the hero. That’s all well and good, but villains are vital too. We shouldn’t simply brush them aside, or create them with a half-hearted effort. Without opposition, your protagonist will never grow; without creative opposition, your readers will become bored whenever the villain shows up.

Let me offer you an analogy showing the importance of successful antagonists. Seeing as my sister’s blog readership consists largely of females (if the commenters are any indication), I have tailored this analogy to that gender.

Suppose you are looking to date a guy, and you have only two options. One guy is the very epitome of a stereotypical young male: he lounges around at home playing video games while eating Doritos, he acts like an animal around his friends, and he tries to be suave around girls. The other guy is the polar opposite: he’s got personality, interesting hobbies, and maybe even a measure of class. He can be a gentleman around peers both male and female. He doesn’t put on an act because he can just be himself. Which guy are you going to like enough to date? (If you answered “The first one,” we need to talk later.)

It’s the same way with villains. You must successfully craft your villains so that your readers like them in some form or another. Their opinion of a story may not be as high if you offer an antagonist who lacks creativity.

“But what makes a villain successful?” you may ask. That is a very astute question, one which I will try my best to answer. In order to do so, we must discuss elements that enhance a villain. This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a few things I’ve noticed that strengthen a villain. I shall offer examples from various forms of media.

1. They’re human.

Close your eyes for a moment and reflect on some of your favorite antagonists. Why is it that you like them? Think about it long enough, and you just might discover that one reason why they’re your favorite is because they are human.

I’m not talking about being a Homo sapiens. I’m talking about a villain who is capable of being a real person, who can show emotion, who is not above flawed human nature. It’s a powerful thing. Your readers will connect with him that much more if he is deeper than those villains who think they can rise above the rest of humanity. That kind of antagonist can work, and I’ve certainly written villains like that. But we can relate to the guy who feels the sting of betrayal as much as any one of us, or that girl who has a soft spot for someone and will do anything for that person.

An example of a human villain is Loki (cue the fangirling). He may like to think of himself as higher than mere humans, but this is not so. He obviously craves some fatherly approval, which Odin doesn’t give, especially after the incidents in The Avengers. Learning that he was born of the Frost Giant race distresses him and causes him to feel betrayed for not being told this before.

However, what could very well be his greatest human attribute is his love for his mother. I’ll never forget that one scene in Thor: The Dark World that makes me almost cry every time I watch it. [SPOILER ALERT] Frigga is murdered by Malekith, and the sorrow of it all gets to me. The saddest part, though, is at the very end of the sequence, where we can’t hear anything but music. Loki is reading when a guard comes and says, “Your mother is dead.” Loki simply nods, and the guard leaves. Loki stands up, and nothing happens for a moment. Then Loki uses a blast of his telekinesis powers to knock over the furniture in his cell.

This brief scene—which lasts no more than ten to fifteen seconds—sharply conveys Loki’s grief and rage over Frigga’s death. [SPOILERS OVER] It’s a powerful moment that brings me close to tears and shows that Loki is indeed human. And we feel for him because we have also experienced sorrow over the death of someone in our lives. It goes to show that human villains are some of the best kind.

2. They have conflicting values.

I’ve noticed some successful villains have values that go against one another. This technique—which works for protagonists just as well—is effective. It adds an element of unpredictability to your antagonist. I first learned about this in the book Writing Fiction for Dummies. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly encourage you to amend the situation. It’s quite helpful, with tips on everything from worldbuilding to writing queries.

But I’m getting off-topic. Every character has a value, or, at least, they should. A value is something that is most important to the character. Say you have a villainess with a value that says, “Revenge is most important to me.” This makes her more interesting than if she didn’t have any values, but she’s still a flat character.

That’s why it’s important to have two or more values. If they oppose each other, your readers will become drawn to your villain, because she’s now become a round character. Suppose she has a husband who’s dying of cancer. Now she has a second value: “Curing my husband is most important to me.” What’s the result? Hooked readers and flying sparks as the values collide.

You may have heard of the classic villain Darth Vader. Black-armored and caped Sith Lord? Has a bit of an asthma problem and fights using a glowing red light on a stick? Well, anyway, this dude has some conflicting values, which the abovementioned book briefly touches on. They are “Power is most important to me” and “My son is most important to me.” These are obviously going to collide, and when they do, it’s going to be big.

As it happens, they create some conflict on more than one occasion. And each time they do, we wonder which one will win out in the end. Vader, at the climax of episode 6, chooses his son over power—and it costs him his life. But it certainly creates a villain of intrigue.

3. They are unique.

Suppose we have an antagonist who’s really cliché. This villain plots and plans and schemes, but he can’t for the life of him come up with a splendidly evil idea. But not to despair! He has the ol’ fallback for all good villains: take over the world . . . just because!

Right. That makes him so interesting.

Look, nothing’s bad, per se, with the “taking over the world” plot. It’s just that it’s so overused. Your antagonist needs to be unique. (And if he is going to rule the world, he needs to have a strong motivation for doing so. But that’s a whole other topic.)

Too often, we as writers don’t infuse our villains with uniqueness. But it’s such an important thing to do. If you’re wondering what you could do to help make your bad guy stand out, it’s actually easier than it sounds. Think about some of your friends. What makes them unique? You may just get ideas for your own villains. He may dress a certain way. She might have a peculiar mannerism. Maybe he’s superstitious and tries to be careful about where he walks. She could be extremely paranoid about anything and everything. The options are virtually limitless.


There’s a villain whom I’m sure you’ve never heard of, and I don’t mean that sarcastically this time. He is a Beanish named Fawful, from the Mario & Luigi video game series. What makes this little guy one of my favorite video game villains of all time is his use of Engrish and his amusing food metaphors. For those of you who aren’t sure what Engrish is, it’s “a slang term for the misuse or corruption of the English language by native speakers of some East Asian languages,” according to Wikipedia.

An example of Fawful’s speech is, “In the last moments of the finale of the finale, when relief leads to negligence that begets rashness . . . That is when the comeback that faltered comes back and beats your pathetic comeback that I scoff at!” And here’s a food metaphor of his: “Now a Midbus battle will unfold like an angry dip of many layers on the chips of wildest hopes!” It’s crazy, but it makes Fawful unique, not to mention humorous.

4. There are many types of villains.

This probably comes as no surprise to you, and it goes hand-in-hand with the above element. Trying out various types of villains can help keep your antagonists unique. For example, there’s the sympathetic villain, who often has a tragic backstory that can shape him in various ways. The misunderstood villain is one who may have noble intentions, but others see his actions as evil. Some villains are loved by us because of a redeeming characteristic of theirs, but we hate them at the same time because they’re devious and wicked.

What about the villain who is purely evil and enjoys inflicting pain on others? One might compare them to the Joker as he was described in The Dark Knight. Alfred tells Bruce Wayne, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Then there’s the antagonist who is controlled by a higher being; whether or not she’s actually evil is up to you. Someone could even use an anti-hero as the main opposition: they’re not really bad, but they still don’t have heroic qualities, and could end up hindering the hero. The list goes on and on.

Another one of my favorite video game villains is one from Super Paper Mario, who goes by the name Count Bleck (“Bleh heh heh! Bleck!”). At first, he just seems like an antagonist who wants to destroy all known worlds. However, he is actually a sympathetic villain, named Lord Blumiere, who has lost the girl he loved. Distraught and convinced she is gone forever, he becomes embittered at the world. Without his love, his life has no meaning. He pilfers a magical book, known as the Dark Prognosticus, to destroy his dimension and sets his gaze on terminating all others. But little does he know that the book’s power has magically influenced him. I won’t spoil the ending of the game, in case you decide to play it, but it has a bittersweet finale that you wouldn’t expect from a Mario game.

For the Rooglewood contests, I’ve determined that not only do I want to use a different genre for each entry, but I also want to use different types of villains to keep them unique. For Five Enchanted Roses, I had a villain who went by the alias “the Master,” and whose real name I won’t disclose. Karnu was the name of the antagonist for Five Magic Spindles.

My friend Christine contrasted the two quite well: “[The Master] was fascinating in the fact that he was off his rocker. Like we’ve said before, those kinds of villains are super interesting and fun. He was manipulative and coy, which kept me guessing. But I like how Karnu is so confident and powerful. While [the Master] did things in secret and more delicately, Karnu just bursts in the room all, ‘BOW TO ME.’ He just oozes with power and it makes me nervous for our heroes. I like when books make me nervous. It keeps me on the edge of my seat. So, all that to say, I like them each differently. I liked [the Master’s] quiet manipulation, and Karnu’s powerful cunning.”

Is one villain better than the other? No, because they’re both different and unique in their own ways. That’s why it’s so important to try out different types of villains. They might be human, they should have conflicting values, and they also should be unique. There are other elements that make a villain successful, and, like I said, this isn’t a comprehensive list. But if you apply these to your antagonist, readers will definitely be more interested in your character and will consider the villain to be a successful one.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below. I’d be happy to answer them as best I can. May the writing force be with you!

Josiah is an avid writer and enjoys crafting stories for the enjoyment of others. He placed second in a Christmas story held by a local newspaper. He was also one of ten nominees (writing as Feral_Mutant) in the "Write Like a Ninja" flash fiction contest for LEGO/Scholastic. He thoroughly enjoys soundtrack music and owns twenty-odd albums. For most of his recent works, he has created playlists to go with them, and is working on one for Christine Smith’s Burning Thorns novel. He believes pizza should be its own food group.
Tracey here again! Wow, this makes me want to go brush up own villains . . . polish them until they gleam with a malevolent glow. Point #4 gives me ideas for all sorts of new baddies, too! And--I may be somewhat biased here--but I have to say that the Master and Karnu are both superb examples of well-crafted villains. Thanks so much for a wonderful post, Josiah!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Philosophical Ramblings on the Subject of Time Travel

Time travel. It messes with my brain, but I love it.

What happens when you go back in time and change an event? Do the memories of the people in the present suddenly change to reflect the new past? Or were their memories always of that 'new past' because in effect, the old version of the past never happened? Except it did, because you obviously went back to it and changed it.

And when you change the past--in a big or small way--that change has a ripple effect. So when you return to the present, it could very well be vastly different than it was when you left it. But would you even remember how it used to be? It never was that way, after all. And yet it was, because present-you travelled back in time, did something, and that something rippled forward to the present and made it something else.

If that wasn't enough to contort the brain, try this:

One slight change in the past could mean the deaths of thousands--if not millions--of people. Because maybe you got in the way of Mr. A and Miss B meeting each other, and so they never got married, never had children, and a whole string of people were never even born. So you could come back to the present and find out that your best friend just never existed, because she was a descendant of A and B who never met. (Or, you know, what if you ended up killing your own ancestors before their children were conceived? Have you erased your own self?! And if you don't exist, you couldn't have gone back in time to kill anyone. This is apparently called the "grandfather paradox.")

Then again, since Mr. A never met Miss B, maybe he meets Miss X instead, and they marry and have children . . . and so you come back to the present and discover a whole whackload of brand new people who were never there before.

Or what about all those time travel stories where characters want to prevent the disasters of the past? Stop the Holocaust or keep the Titanic from sinking? That's all well and good, very commendable, I say. Except what if, by diverting one disaster, you give rise to a new disaster that's just as bad? Or worse? What if one of the Titanic's passengers you rescued turns out to be a murderous psychopath who goes on to decimate a whole city?

(And then of course you have multiple cases of generations not existing anymore. And all of the Titanic's descendants living.)

Forget people living and dying, though. What if you go tell Thomas Edison how to make a lightbulb before he's even tried it five times? Then maybe he turns his attention to other inventions, and winds up giving the world something that wasn't supposed to exist for another couple of decades. What then? With one lightbulb, you just accelerated the world's technology. Of course, if you want to be malicious, you could also go do something like keep Galileo from discovering that the earth revolves around the sun. And then where would we be? Or maybe you decide to impart some other knowledge to the people of history, like the importance of hygiene? (I think the world would be a much fuller place now. A lot less people would have died.)

Okay, so what if you decide it's too messy to deal with the past, and instead you travel to the future? (ACK, MY POOR BRAIN.) Let's say you jump twenty years ahead to see where you'll be. You see yourself living in Metropolis (hello, Superman), working a Nice Job, married to a Great Person, etc. You also happen to notice that you're suffering the after-effects of an Old Hamburger the future-you ate a week ago.

So you return to the present and go on with life as usual. But when you meet Great Person, you already know you're going to marry them. What if that blinds you to that other Even Better Person in your life? And when it comes time to move, you pack up and head right to Metropolis, because that's where you're supposed to be. But is it really? And then you're offered a Nice Job, but what you don't know is that if you wait another week, someone's going to offer you a Stellar Job.

And thus what you saw in the future becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It could've been different. It could've been better. It could've been worse. (Or could it? Is that future you saw inevitable? Or just one of millions of possible outcomes?)

Of course, because you know your future, you're smart enough to avoid that Old Hamburger twenty years from now, so you don't get sick. But you also don't take that sick-day and read that life-changing blog post whilst sprawled on the couch.

And how about the bigger picture? When you go to the future, you see their technology, their government, the future of the world. You see how they solved world hunger, or how sexism warped the opposite way and now men are discriminated against instead of women, or how football evolved into a Roman coliseum type of thing!

Knowing all this, you could fix world hunger right now.

Knowing all this, you could try to eradicate sexism entirely and help the world respect and value both genders.

Knowing all this, you could ban football.

But then that future changes. Good things happens sooner, but new problems also arise.

All this to say: aren't you glad we can't actually mess with time? And, more importantly, this mind-bending topic makes me realize that we all make a difference. The smallest things go on to change the world.

What say you? Do you like time travel in fiction/movies? Does it hurt your brain? If you could witness--but not actually be in--a certain historical event, what would it be? (Because obviously inserting yourself into that situation could be very bad, so we'll just stick to watching it from a nebulous room outside of time. That's totally a thing.)

Wikipedia has an article on time travel that talks about things I didn't even think of, like tourism in time.