The Resurrection Arc.

Hey fiction buffs! You’ve heard of character arcs before, but did you know there’s different kinds?

Yeah, probably if you read or watch any TV show that’s fictional, you knew that. I’m simply being dramatic.

You might know of arcs (and for you non-buffs, an arc is how a character or plot develops from one point, usually an immature one, to another, usually a better, wiser one. Typically the arc is what shows us the point of the whole story, but there are negative arcs that show one good guy turning bad, or a good guy slowly giving up on their cause. These are the bad example arcs that are meant to be a warning.) But have you heard of a Resurrection Arc?

Most arcs follow a pattern and this one does too. It’s actually pretty widely used, but since it is often misused, and people are now knocking it, I thought I’d write a defense of it.

All arcs are meant to change the characters and show them something they did not see before. Some arcs are a part of the plot and the characters learn by dealing with the challenges of that part. That’s what category I put a resurrection arc into.

A lot of things kick off arcs. The most famous is getting a challenge like being chosen for something, or the sadder common catalyst is a character losing someone close to them. Sometimes just witnessing a tragedy is enough to do it, other times the character has to lose their soulmate for their arc to begin.

However, there’s another really cool thing that kicks of some arcs. And it’s a resurrection. A resurrection can happen one of two ways. Either it’s a character literally coming back from the dead, or from being almost dead, or they just thought they were and it turns out they weren’t; or something else can be restored to a character that they felt they lost. In fiction especially this can mean a gift or power, or it can mean a belief in something they had lost faith in. It’s popular now for a memory to also be something that helps a character in this way.

In older stories resurrection is often just straight up someone’s coming back to life. This theme appears in fairy tales way more that we realize. Often it’s intertwined with redemption. Many of Anderson’s lesser known stories involve resurrection, and even his most famous ones that have had those elements removed in the retelling.

In modern fiction Death has an oddly compelling presence. Take “The Fault in Our Stars,” or almost any dystopia fiction now. Death is everywhere, often very young people are obsessed with it. (Funny that it’s often older people writing this stuff.) I always loved life, I was happy when nobody died. I considered “The Lion King” a sad movie, (and that part still is.) But of course, Mufasa isn’t really gone, and that can be part of a resurrection arc. Realizing that death isn’t so powerful. It’s why you won’t see this arc in the death-shadowed stories I just mentioned, unless it’s in some twisted, unholy way. Frankenstein’s monster is no example of resurrection, just to be clear.

Life wins out in the end, and love. That’s the message of resurrection arcs in a nutshell. But the complaint, which I’m sick of hearing, is that they don’t create lasting stakes.

Since the Avengers franchise took off, fans have been growing dissatisfied with happy, everyone’s alive, stories (like they don’t all hate it when their friendly neighborhood Spiderman gets knocked off, please.) While I find the constant whining about it to be stupid, I do note that there’s something to be said for making things a bit more realistic.

It’s not that no one dies that really bugs me, it’s that no one gets hurt for very long, no one loses anything in their lives, and no one seems to be affected for longer than two films by any traumatic experience. Also I fail to see character growth even when they are.

In truth, whether characters live or die has nothing to do with depth. Action flicks that kill off henchmen by the dozens aren’t known for being deep. And Chick flicks that don’t kill anyone, or else do it in a more drawn out, romantic way, aren’t necessarily shallow. The Notebook is dumb for most of the movie, but the ending always gets to me because it is saying something profound about love.

That said, I think people who knock resurrection arcs are missing their potential. It’s not always a cheap cop-out to have a character not stay dead. In fact, often it’s a very good catalyst for growth in both them, and everyone else.

When a characters is resurrected, everyone has to reconsider what life and death means to them. They have to ask themselves what they are willing to sacrifice, and what they aren’t. But most of all, it changes the dynamics of how they see the antagonists. Maybe there are things more powerful than whatever the evil stands for.

As for the character who comes back themselves, they get a chance to change things about their lives that maybe only losing them gave them the clarity to do. Or they impart some wisdom on the other characters that they couldn’t before. Resurrection means restoration.

If we no longer like that, it is because we have grown more hopeless. It’s more cool now to just accept the crap in you life and deal with it, then it is to hope for a change. People encourage you to give up on hoping for others to change, for things to turn around. Be the force, they say. Well, that’s fine in its place. But what about when your force isn’t enough?

What about when all the kick-rear skills in the world won’t save you? What about when you’re losing heart and nothing else will help? What about when someone simply can’t save themselves?

Resurrection is what solves this, and nothing else can. It’s a restoring of life and hope and faith to someone who had lost heart. It’s the only thing that makes redemption fully possible. Because though a death may redeem someone, it only sticks if life comes out of it.

Resurrection, in the end, is what breeds humility. What engraves the inevitability of our own need for someone to intervene on our behalf into our souls. By overcoming mortality, it reminds us of it.

It’s not cheap. It’s often the hardest thing to do well.

I for one will never get tired of this arc, until next time–Natasha.

A word to the wise.

Homo sapiens. Or homo sapien sapien. Do you know that that means wise man? Or wise wise man.

Do we seem wise to you? I see a lot of cynicism about that fact around me. No matter what political party or social group people are in, they don’t think we’re particularly wise.

Wisdom seems to be an elusive quality for man. Or woman if you want political correctness. Maybe that’s why its’ actually been an occupation to be a wise men. We call them scientists now, but back int he day, they were more like oracles of gods, or philosophers. People who had a special insight into the things of life who could advise kings or villages, depending on their status.

Some of us are lucky enough to still know people with that kind of reputation. But it’s scarce now isn’t it?

I think what made it scarce isn’t that wise people don’t still walk the earth, it’s that we stopped looking for them.

I don’t wish to harp on about how this generation is the worst. frankly, form what I’ve read, that’s what every previous generation says about the next one. And each of them are both right and wrong.

Mankind tends to destruction, and that does continue to worsen almost every generation. But the same follies and foibles are always present in mankind, whether as a whole or not we’re at a more enlightened state. And those have been short lived.

I realize I sound kind of defeatist, but I’m not really. I just have little faith in man’s ability to be true and virtuous without divine intervention.

Wisdom, if we read Proverbs, is one of the most important parts of being a righteous man or woman. Without wisdom, we have not the wit to do any good thing, except by instinct. And that only carries you so far. It’s no shock that every culture has its own set of sayings and fables meant to teach wisdom to the simple. Usually to children. Kids can be wiser than adults.

Proverbs 8 describes wisdom as crying out in the streets, and stnading on a high place, and at the city gates, imploring the sons of man to listen to her.

While the city gates were traditionally where the wise men of town would sit to solve problems and give advice, and a high place is symbolic for divine perspective, crying out in the streets can just mean an announcement. It’s not necessarily a dignified position. It was like doing a broadcast is today.

Wisdom thus puts herself in the expected place, the more divine place, and the place of anyone wanting to get some news across. Whatever works. The point is, Wisdom is everywhere, and it’s trying to get your attention.

I think of my college classes here. Whether or not my professors are wise is up for debate, but that we learn from wiser sources is pretty much a given. Wisdom also doesn’t come form the wise ,sometimes, like in the movie Forrest Gump, wisdom can come out of the mouth of the most innocent and simple minded people.

Wisdom might be found on social media, if you can dig it up. Wisdom can certainly be found in churches still, if people have open ears. It can be found in relatives. In friends. In what you read. In what you listen to. If it’s the right sources.

And a good way to tell is also provided in Proverbs 8. You’ll know wisdom by what it supports. Wisdom claims to love life, to hate deceit, to hate strife, Wisdom’s delight was in the sons of man, Wisdom is creative, Wisdom means to save live, not waste it. If something in your life encourages all that, it probably has wisdom in it.

If that sounded like the opposite of the things in your life…careful.

Being willing to hear wisdom is the first step toward getting it. All you have to do is look. That’s where the saying “A word out to the wise” comes from.

That’s all for now–Natasha.

What really matters.

Well it’s been quite the week for me. On Sunday my grandpa passed away. Now this weekend is his funeral.

I  never knew that loss felt cold before. But it does. I felt cold after I heard the news. I’d expected it for a while, he was not doing well right before. He hadn’t been doing well for a decade. Especially the past four years or so. In fact, that he lived as long a he did was a mystery to his doctors, and my family’s opinion, it was a miracle. He lived off prayer, so many people prayed for him.

The show I mentioned before, RWBY, has a song about loss titled “Cold.” It’s pretty sad. And pretty accurate. When someone dies, do you cease to love them? No.

To me it’s more like a connection was lost. Like your spiritual cellphone now is out of service. But I know some people don’t feel that way. They still feel connected to people they’ve lost. I’m not sure why that is. Losing people has not made me an expert on it. C. S. Lewis wrote about feeling his wife’s nearness in “A Grief Observed.” He knew she still continued to exist.

Some folk think you can talk to the dead and they’ll hear you. I don’t think that, but I understand the need to have final words. So few of us get to be with loved ones when they pass on. I felt like if I had had the chance, I would ahve felt better. Though I did get to see him the very day before, so that was a mercy.

I don’t have a lot of very close memories with my grandpa, he had such ill health, and lived too far away, and he was not very good at connecting with people. But I did get to go out with him on his boat once, which was fun. And he took us around museums and a fishing expo once. I think we went to an aquarium once also. Before his health got really bad. He also paid for my braces, so I owe the fact that I have good teeth now to him.

He was always kind to me. As I got older I found out he was not perfect. None of my grandparents are of course. But I always chose to think of him more as how he was to me. His best self. I prefer to see people that way.

I notice that families like to dredge up old stuff. And I’ve been there, and I’m getting really disillusioned with it. It’s such a waste of time, as my grandmother liked to say. We all do dumb things when we’re young and immature. I’m fortunate to have realized this now and not when I’m 80.

What really counts, as a couple of good songs I know “It happens in a blink” and “Give a little love”, both point out, is not the dumb things we’ve done, but the things we did to love other people. The Bible says that some of us will do little, some of us will do none, and some of us will do much. The parable of the Talents, or when Paul speaks of our works being tested by fire. The point really isn’t how much we do, but that we do things out of love.

Whatever else anyone could say of my grandpa (and all of us could have plenty of things said of us that we wouldn’t like, couldn’t we?) he did love me and his other grandkids and he did things for us that we couldn’t pay him back for. He did help out my parents when we were down on our finances. He did try to take care of my grandmother. And that’s what we’ll remember more about him, or at least that’s what I want to dwell on. No human being is perfect, if we focus on our mistakes, that’s all we’ll ever see. If we focus on the things we did right, at least there is love.

 

 

 

Until next time–Natasha.

Character Grief.

That moment where you’re innocently watching your favorite show or reading your favorite book series and then it happens. you stare at the page/screen in abject horror. You slam the book shut, you shut your laptop. You yell “How could this happen!” You scream.

Because what just happened was they did something you never saw coming and you felt in your bones was a bad idea even if you did.

Now you’re left with that strange phenomenon known as Character Grief.

Actually I just made up that term just now, but it’s a thing.

It’s not a fun condition, but not everyone suffers from it. Here’s a way to rate yourself.

1-5: If you are mildly annoyed, and tell your friends or family it was stupid, but other than that you don’t do much.

5-10: You cry and can’t bear to continue, or you cry and then re-watch or reread said materiel over and over again because it’s cathartic, and tell your friends because misery loves company.

10-15: You give up the material in favor of less infuriating entertainment and proceed to tell everyone else it’s no longer worth their time.

15-20: You get so upset that you figure out ways to solve what happened and fan fic your way to mental peace. Extra points if you convince your family or friends to join you.

And extra points if you do every single one of these things. Like I do. Except cry, I rarely do that.

Character grief is different form plot frustration. It’s more personal. It sticks you in your craw and wounds you to your whimsical/imaginative core.

I think Character Grief happens in one of three ways.

  1. The least painful, most annoying way is when your favorite character simply is left out or disappears from the story. This can happen with books made into movies, like how Tom Bombadil got left out of Lord of The Rings. And all my favorite characters got left out of the second Anne of Green Gables movie.
  2.  The most painful, actual death. I mean unforeseen, or totally unwanted character death. It feels unnecessary and it leaves you sad for days. Probably you can’t even go back to the story without crying or reliving those emotions.
  3.  The last way is the most poisonous, but that does make it easier to be mad about and less sad. It’s when a character is radically changed for the worst. They could turn evil (like Ever After High), or they could lose their most lovable personality traits. This happens a lot with the books to movies thing , but it also happens when new writers or producers take over, or the creators stop caring for whatever reason. Like Shrek: the Final Chapter. The change is usually brought on by the character doing something they would never actually do if you went by previous traits they exemplified. The action violates their moral code, and they haven’t been brainwashed or anything that would make it seem reasonable.

The last two bother me way more than the first one. And I take it hard. I can’t just quit the thing like some folks who don’t get involved.

So I though I’d write this post to speculate about why Character Grief happens. There’s probably research on it out there, but it’s tricky to explain because every person is different.

The first thing that shocks you about character grief is that it feels like real grief. Though a part of you remains separate from it because you know they cough* aren’t cough* real. (Angry gasps form people who’ve felt this before.) yet you still feel sad, mad, and in denial just like when real grief strikes.

Actually, with real grief I tend to go numb. A part of me just can’t believe it really happened. Even when I accept it, I don’t feel strong, out of control emotions. I don’t sink into depression. somehow I distance myself form loss. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I’m learning to explore those emotions more.

But character grief has a way of cutting through my defenses. Much the way spiritual things do. It’s almost like when I can see and hear the loss, and it affects my physical world, I handle it. But when I can’t, and it doesn’t seem to, then I get cut to the quick.

With real loss, I feel the unfairness and helplessness people talk about.

With loss in imaginary things, I feel like my heart got ripped out.

I think partly because in fiction, you see people more clearly than in real life. There’s less sin and misunderstanding to cloud your vision. You just see them s people.

Maybe if in real life we could be that honest with each other, caring would be easier.

because to be honest, we make it hard for people to love us, don’t we?

I know I can be difficult. The people who love me most are the ones I can’t hide from as well.

With strangers we are on our best behavior, but do we really connect with people until we know they’re flawed and we accept them anyway?

I love characters who are better than me because I can see them just as people, I don’t have to worry about them doing wrong that I’ll have to fight against. IF they do slip up, I know they’ll recover.

The people in my life who I know will pick themselves up after they fall are the ones I trust the most.

In fiction, losing that person, whether to bad writing, or to a tragic end even if it is well written, can feel like losing a friend.

People have always thought those who have imaginary characters as friends were kind of odd. But I think we have them because they have more of the author’s soul than we might see if we just met the person. When we can get our cumbersome flaws and failings out of the way through our creativity, we see each other better.

Not that it always goes well, but fiction fans live off the times that it does.

Some other time I’ll talk about how character grief can also teach us about hope, but I’m out of time for now, until next post–Natasha.

Vacation and Compromise.

Wow, you guys are awesome. My first post in days and you gave me like 8 views plus five other posts.

I haven’t really talked about my vacation, and I should post some pictures once I can get them onto my computer, but for now I’ll just say it was pretty good.

I won’t call it the best experience I’ve ever had. There was too much driving and drama for that, but I got to visit a lot of cool places, including the Grand Canyon. Which is beautiful. It’s huge too. I know you know that already, but until you see it you just don’t comprehend its grandeur.

Yellowstone was cool too, I got to see little baby bison, and some elk grazing on bushes, and even a Mama bear and her cubs.

The best thing was getting to see family I usually see two days out of a year and actually learn to know them better, and to meet family I hadn’t even known about before. Also I made a new friend who I’m staying in touch with.

Family Vacations are something that’ll make you either love your family or hate them. We got to see the good and bad of each other. I don’t know how my sisters put up with being jammed int eh back seat with me for nearly 14 hours. And with my parents when I drove. Things like music priveledges are points of contention.

You’ve probably heard that it’s wise to learn how to compromise. Or to quote Captain America/ Peggy Carter “Compromise where you can,”

Do you know I’m starting to wonder if people know how to compromise anymore. Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling like the other person just passive aggressively told you it was okay, when it really wasn’t. They give you that “I’d argue further if I cared enough about what we were doing” feeling. Or they say “Do what you want.” Which means pretty much the same thing.

It’s a problem with younger people especially, not knowing how to tackle something out. To give a little, to take a little. I have the same problem myself, but I’m trying to get better at compromise.

My definition of compromise is not give up what you want, but be willing to take only part of it, and give the other person part of what they want.

But compromise has different levels. Sometimes it can mean you do what someone else wants more than what you want. Say both of you want to do different activities on an outing, but you have limited time. You could relinquish doing what you want more than once or twice, and let them do more of what they want, in the name of peace.

Or you could compromise by splitting what you want into separate days or times.

But if you truly just relinquish your will to the other person, I call that a surrender. We need to know how to do that too. But in a way that doesn’t make the other person feel bad.

I’ve never been the best at this, but some people can surrender without you even realizing they did it.

Anyway, I don’t have much more to say about this, except that if you’re going to have a family, you better learn to compromise, in the name of peace.  Just a word to the wise.

Until next time–Natasha.

Pure Love and the human condition.

Hi, sorry I’ve neglected you guys. I was not feeling good this week and I had a lot of homework to catch up on. Thankfully my books arrived!

I’ve had the time, however, to get hooked on a new show, it’s called RWBY. I don’t often say this about anime anything, but I recommend it a lot, though it is not finished yet, and if you watch, be prepared to wait a few years for the conclusion because each season takes about a year to come out.

But two seasons was enough to sell me on it, season 3 ripped my heart out, and seasons 4 and 5 continued to blow my mind. Season 6 comes out next month.

A little summary before I get to my real point: RWBY is basically a superhero team set in a fantasy world with heavy spiritual undertones. Or even overtones sometimes. It features a host of likable, deep, smart, and none cliche heroes who you actually want to imitate though you wouldn’t want to be them per sec because they have problems. Not petty issues, but actual life challenges. I’m pretty sure this show is aimed at older teens. The show features villains who you will utterly despise even though their motivations are explained to you, which is a plus in my book since I never liked sympathizing with evil characters. They are not two dimensional, but the show makes it very clear they are evil and you do not want to be like them.

But that’s enough about the show. What I really want to talk about is the contrast between the show’s view of human nature, and the one I’m getting in my Critical Thinking Class. I don’t know who picked my curriculum, but it’s been the most depressing stuff I’ve read in a long time. and I just read Fahrenheit 451. Each short story or novella has featured the theme of human nature, I guess it’s the point we’re focusing on for these weeks.

According to these authors, human beings are cruel, unfeeling, ungrateful, willing to abandon loved ones as soon as they become an inconvenience, and on the brink of insanity constantly.

I know some cynical person might look at that list and say “That sounds about right.” Yeah, that person might not like what I’m going to say.

THIS IS WRONG! WRONG. WRONG. WRONG.

I won’t name all my sources here because I think you’re better off not reading them, but the highlights are a story about a man turning into a cockroach and becoming a monster to his family; a woman killing her boyfriend and committing necrophilia; a man with a mentally disturbed employee who starves himself to death after becoming a nuisance to everyone around him; and a man who removes his wife’s one blemish because he can’t bear imperfection and kills her by doing so.

Now if all those sound like something you’d never want to read, be glad you aren’t required to for the course. I actually enjoyed a chapter about straight logic more than I enjoyed any of those.

I do come up with dramatic things when I write my fiction, but I stick mainly to what I’ve seen on TV, or what I observes in the spiritual way of things. You could argue the case for all the above stories having spiritual connotations, but they aren’t ones worth being talked about.

The Bible says of the corrupt that it is shameful to even speak of the things which they do in secret. I don’t think it means that you never expose wickedness. But you should be really careful what you talk about just for the sake of conversation or discussion. No one should bring up the darkest parts of humanity for table talk.

By contrast, RWBY, unlike all the stories I read, has the bad and good sides of people both. It’s most notable example is Pyrrha Nikos, who is hands down one of the best characters I ever saw on a show. Pyrrha demonstrates something that I have seen in stories I’ve read by C. S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, and Francis Burnette (A little Princess and The Secret Garden.) Stories like Heidi, The Enchanted April, The Bronze Bow, Anne of Green Gables, or even comics like Mr. Miracle and Spiderman, all contain exceptional people. People who, as George MacDonald would say, demonstrate “the common good uncommonly developed.” It’s my rule of thumb that if you find no true love in a story, then you find no truth. You’ll never separate those two things with any degree of honesty. You have to search for that one character or theme that demonstrates love, pure love.

Pure Love is an ideal for human beings. While it is possible for us to have it, it takes much growth and much sacrifice on our part. It is true that few of us are willing to undergo that kind of suffering. I could describe Pure Love as a concept, but I prefer using characters. Characters work better than real people in this case because unless you’re fortunate enough to know someone like them, most of us haven’t met anyone who exudes that kind of love all the time. A character is someone all of us could potentially see and hopefully understand.

Pyrrha Nikos struck me because I could never catch her doing anything selfish, no matter what scene she was in. All she ever seems to want is to connect with people and help them. I have seen a few characters like that, but they got ruined in the end by irresponsible writing. Surely I am not the only one tired of show writers growing cynical about their own characters and dooming them by violating the characters own convictions for the sake of the plot…ick.

The point is Pyrrha and the others stand up for what is right and don’t want to just stand by and let bad things happen. And I believe there are people like that in the world.

You probably won’t find them on TV all that much because unfortunately, the reason these stories are on my curriculum is because as a culture we have turned to the dark and the depressing, the antihero and the straight up bad guy. Our world is sick. But, that does not mean we do not have the healers in it. I don’t know anyone who always radiates love except Jesus, but I do know I want to be that person. I have a long way to go. But because I believe God transforms us, I believe I can get there.

The short stories made me feel like garbage, selfish scum of the earth, and that was not based in any reality or likelihood that I would do what the people in the stories did. I can honestly say I wouldn’t. But these stories don’t make me sit back and ponder my life choices as much as they make me think “people suck, at least the ones who wrote this trash did.”

RWBY shocked me with it’s real look at what it’s like to be in a war against evil, but that shock made me remember values I’ve been forgetting for some time now. And it made me want to live up to them again. A part of me was beginning to think having pure love was impossible, but I was reminded that I sure as heck should keep trying anyway.

It’s a pretty pass when an internet show has a better grasp of reality than literature in a Critical Thinking Class, but one cannot disregard humble messengers. Oddly enough, people who expect to be taken seriously the least can often put out the most worthwhile material, because who do they have to impress?

I guess my closing thought is, surround yourself not with what seems the most hard look at life, but with the one that strengthens your values and makes you want to be a better person. That’s the stuff worth engaging in.

Until next time–Natasha.