“Misanthropy Was so Much Easier.”

Flanderization is the process by which a legitimate, often fully developed, character becomes a parody of him- or herself.

I believe this is what has happened to the cultural perception of Sherlock Holmes.

John and SherlockHe is portrayed as a brilliant but socially and/or relationally irresponsible individual who redeems himself (reaches “likable character” status) through selective niceness. It seems to me that those who don’t identify directly with Holmes frequently do with Watson, and so any harshness or undiluted rudeness to others is glossed over. Sherlock (BBC iteration is freshest in my mind) has proven his worth by being willing to die for the few he loves.

That action is enough to redeem all his other faults, apparently.

Sherlock’s familiar attitude is well summed up in a painfully honest assessment of another admirer, Jane Eyre, speaking of her employer, Edward Fairfax Rochester.

RochesterHe was proud, sardonic, harsh to inferiority of every description: in my secret soul I knew that his great kindness to me was balanced by unjust severity to many others. He was moody, too; unaccountably so.

…I believed his moodiness, his harshness… had their source in some cruel cross of fate. I believed he was naturally a man of better tendencies, higher principles… I thought there were excellent materials in him; though for the present they hung together somewhat spoiled and tangled.

janeAs the more Sherlockian of the Watson/Holmes pair, and the more Jane of the Eyre/Rochester pairing, I see a great deal of personal indulgence on both sides.

First, you have an adoring subordinate who revels in the superiority of the other. This is an egotistical indulgence on the part of the writer who is (perhaps) an unacknowledged genius, creating a socially-acceptable display of their deepest hungers and wish-fulfillment.

Then, for Jane’s, or John’s (or Sherlock’s fans) part, they latch so much on to the selective kindness of a man “harsh to inferiority of every description” that they seem to let themselves be flattered at his mere acceptance. It is high praise to escape his harshness, and that awareness only magnifies the felt-kindnesses of a man who actively proves his ability to be kind when he wishes to.

An interesting thing about Sherlock’s kindness is that it is not so much overt choice (“I should be kind to this fellow creature”) as it is his form of need (he needs a mirror, a prism, a case, applause), creating a vacuum for another individual to fill. The reason he has so few connections in his world, so few deep friendships, is because he acknowledges so few needs.

The magic of John and Sherlock’s relationship is that they are both content with what the other is naturally willing to give. It is a nearly effortless exchange.

Most relationships require giving a bit more than we’re ready or comfortable to give, and that is why most relationships grow and shape us. But there’s no denying the rest of an unchallenging, natural friendship. Continue reading »

Life & Fiction: The Power of Naming

Life & Fiction is my monthly column at Wyn Magazine where I apply my experience with Story, reading, and the writing life to the broader goal of mindful, healthy living.

Names have power.

It’s a consistent story element across cultures and epochs.

Possessing someone’s True Name gives you power over him or her.

Guarding your True Name, or sharing it, is an important part of either protecting yourself or expressing your trust in another person.

In the Bible, the first man, Adam, is told to name the creatures, and there are those who tie this naming to the position of authority he was given in the created order.

Real-world parallels I can imagine are all the TV shows, movies, and novels where protecting (or discovering) the cover identities of secret agents is the core goal.

The name for anything is a word, and words hold power as well.

Words are one of the few tools we humans have for imposing order on the world around us. (There are other tools of course, such as numbers, but I must leave the treatments of those to other types of souls.)

Once we’ve named something, we’ve put it in its place. We’ve laid the foundation for how we will interact with it, how we will treat it. A word gives shape to the liquid intangibility of feeling and experience. A word is a vessel for truth and connection.

Using words to describe an emotion (or jumble of emotions) moves our experience of that emotion from the reaction parts of the brain (amygdala and hippocampus) and into the part of the brain where all of our “grown up” thinking happens (the frontal cortex).  This is where we want to be making decisions from.

The emotions don’t completely migrate; you don’t necessarily stop feeling angry, afraid, or grief-stricken, but through naming, you enter a process that allows you to move from feeling helpless into a place where you might be able to take action.

(Read the rest at wynmag.com)

CW’s Beauty and the Beast– a review of sorts

So I think I really understand for the first time this “good writing vs. good storytelling” dichotomy.

And I think this has to be an intensely personal thing, like your favorite salad, or something.

You see, salad isn’t like ice cream. Most people have a favorite kind of ice cream but not everybody eats salads. But as a former non-salad eater I suggest that the right salad kinda gets you started and you can start to look at green stuff with a little more acceptance.

Some people griped about the first Harry Potter book (I wasn’t one of them). More people criticized the whole Twilight series (I haven’t read them). And talking fingers filled essays with how such “horribly written” books could appeal to so many people. The short answer can be summarized in three words: Story trumps all.

I rolled with it. I didn’t really care. But I’m a story-lover first, and then a writer, so maybe the conclusion (STA) absolved any offense I might have considered taking on.

Images from Official B&B site.

But now I’ve got my own example/acceptance, and a bit of analysis.

I’ve been watching the CW’s Beauty and the Beast since the pilot (I’m sure it was Ruth who informed me of its existence- though I can’t find the post just now- I didn’t even know we had CW before I started looking for more info on the show).

{Open writing commences. Some spoilers will emerge} Continue reading »

7-minute Trailer for Part-1 of The Hobbit

First of all, I think this idea is delightful– taking all the clips released so far and putting them in chronological order.

Second, I just figured out they’re releasing it in three movies (not two as I first thought), one per Christmas for the next two years then the third for the following summer’s blockbuster season.

Can I just say: This feels disingenuous.

I liked the idea of a two-part movie. I liked that we’re not squishing things too tight to include all the characters and iconic moments (P&P 2005 comes to mind).

But for the stretch to three, I anticipate a swirly of self-gratifying (LotR) backstory that is plain not-necessary for the enjoyment of this story.

Bppblt. But no one asked me.

I really wish they’ll do it well, but I don’t have high hopes.

All that out of the way, here’s the really-cool editing job. (Thanks for the link Kaye!)

The Bunny-Eared Lawyer

I have so much fun on TVtropes.com

It’s a total fiction-geek corner.

I love how the introduction emphasizes the effort is to celebrate fiction through recognizing patterns, not to bash anything for being “unoriginal.”

After all, Everything is Remix.

The reason I love the tropes site so much is that it is a place and means of acquiring vast amounts of trivial (yet potentially useful) information that is not immediately actionable.

That is, I can indulge my interest in minutia without the compunction of adding to my to-do list.

I’ve found that’s my favoritest way to relax.


Yeah, behind the curve. Moving on.

This was my first (thorough) introduction to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, and I adored it.  And moved on with my life.

Last week I saw the DVD on my library’s shelf and watched it last night for the first time. Then went back and read the summary again. Still love it– the summary, not the story.

A few favorite bits:

  • BELLA: We’re gonna be all right, pet cactus. We’re gonna be all right.
  • The Lunchroom of Destiny
  • EDWARD: I had to… go. Somewhere. For reasons totally unrelated to wanting to kill you.BELLA: Did you get contacts while you were somewhere? Last week your eyes were black, and this week they are golden melted topaz butterscotch.
  • EDWARD: Do you honestly think I’m sorry I saved you from the Death Van? How could you think such a thing? NO YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!
  • CARLISLE: Bella, I’m so sorry… your father’s weird friend was killed by a feral plot point.
  • The Part Where the Plot Shows Up (I’m laugh-coughing here!)
  • EDWARD: So… waiting on Bella. With her dad. Who thinks I’m the reason she ran away from home. Awkward.

What I love about this writer is she says (basically) everything I wanted said (so I don’t have to write it!) and she even let me believe she enjoyed the book (I mean, why else would you re-read a book before you moved on in a series?).

Still like Bones

From the beginning of my introduction to the TV show, one of my favorite elements was the respectful relationship between the male and female leads.

One of the first episodes had Booth (the FBI guy) lecturing Brennen (the bones lady) about the importance of respecting the rules.

“I can’t always respect the rules,” she insists. “But I can respect you.”

And with very few exceptions she does.

These last few episodes have had that played up more than ever.


Every story plays on some sort of fantasy.

Bones‘s is about a woman competent and confident (don’t we all want to be?), who in the rare moments her above-average abilities are overwhelmed by some greater strength has an utterly devoted man who would do anything for her.

On the guy side it’s about the nice guys winning.  Both the leading man and all the supporting actors are “nice guys.” Decent, generally healthy people who are all good in different ways– which, if you think about it, is both rare and hard (which is the short answer about why it’s rare).


Life (one of the shows I followed last year) was about the edge-rider and situational ethics.  Life was fascinating because of how well it followed rules (the writing, not the characters).

The main character was high enough (and rich enough, oblivious enough) to do basically whatever he wanted to do, but he was not so high that he was responsible for more than himself and (at times) a partner.  He was the perfect wingman.

In one episode he quietly accompanies his captain to confront the last people to see the leading lady and Captain was able to keep his killer eye-contact with his opponent because he trusted Cruise behind him to watch his back.  Which he did quite competently.

With the female partner, they had the overweight tough guy wannabe (with the heart of gold, of course) getting the girl.

I have to wonder now if the show ended up failing because it tried to feed to many fantasies and so didn’t feed any one of them enough…


Right now the Bones writers seem to be trying to walk a line between accuracy in healthy male/female relationships (deference, honor, protection) and avoiding what they (possibly) see as bland stereotype.

There’s still the extra-marital sex to keep it from being generally recommendable as a whole show, but as a character study, I enjoy it immensely.

I hope they keep trying; I love “getting to know” characters that I wouldn’t mind meeting in real life.

I like it when the nice guys win.

More Than a Victim of Circumstance

My favorite show this year of is Chuck.

Disclaimer: While the violence (people are shot, occasionally) is incongruously “clean,” the producers haven’t tried to shift away from the standard draw of the sexy female spy, so if that’s gonna bug you, know yourself.  Nevertheless, I appreciate that the male MCs are remarkably appropriate in their spectrum of reactions to her.

This show is a delight both comedicly and for the storytelling.  Our sweet, bumbling, ah shucks title character is smart enough to think on his feet, even when the computer in his brain (roll with me here) doesn’t give him any practical answers for getting out of the trouble “knowing too much” gets one into.

Latest great line: “Wow.  Those 7 years of MacGyver finally paid off.”

Every episode this season (and I do mean every episode– I checked) has had me embarrassingly on the edge of my seat and has resolved (however implausibly) from elements solidly presented beforehand and belonging in that world.

The interesting thing to me is how Chuck (the character) has grown from the first season.  At the very beginning he was little more than a victim of (highly improbable) circumstance.  Anything he did well was basically stopgap (“It’s never. safe. in the car!”) or a fluke.

Now the writers have matured him into a mostly pro-active component of the team, allowing his actions to be both effective and detrimental to the case of the week.

~ ~ ~

I am thinking of this just now because I’ve been mentally compiling a collection of information that highlights my novel’s biggest weakness just now.

Linnea (my MC) is in this folktale where stuff happens to her: throwing her world wildly upside down anytime she starts to get comfortable.  I would despair at how ever to reconcile this to the “proactive” model of MC if I didn’t have the example of Chuck.

Trust me, the stuff he’s yanked into is improbable– but his reactions and what he precipitates as he talks his way out of them most definately is his own.

So as cheezey as it sounds (to the TV snobs), I have been using the examples of planting and set-up from Chuck to remind myself I can have both improbability and cohesive “self-determination” in the same story.  It’s becoming a fun combination.

No Knight, Thank you.

I really wanted there to be a sequel to Batman Begins.

My husband and I both applauded when we heard the news of a #2… and then I saw my first preview.  And I was hugely disappointed.

I knew enough to know I’d probably never see it.

The plugged-in review only cemented this on the violence-level, and the Film-critic review on the stylistic choices.

All of my distaste was perfectly summarized in the comments of someone who actually did see the movie:

Too Dark.  Too long.  Too fast.  Too pretentious.  Too loud.  Too many characters…

I’ve talked before about “story sense” and that’s what I figure I’m relying on now.

~    ~

The whole reason to consume a sequel (on a screen or the page) is that you’ve fallen in love with a character, group of characters and/or their take on the world

e.g. I love how Bones characters always work together, find humor without being depreciating and — almost– always get the bad guy.  I’m always interested in another story (episode) about these people.

You want to return and get a taste of the first thing that attracted you.

If you get more of what you loved the first time around– if it gets even better than the original (remember Toy Story 2?)– it becomes worthy of “instant classic” status.

All that sappy wistfulness to say that everything I loved or wanted more of from Begins— complexity, depth, backstory and more— has been “traded up” for chaos and volume, etc.

Just now I feel the same about the movie same as I do about meaningless song lyrics: I don’t know why I’m surprised, considering the medium and the source.  There’s no reason they *should* make sense.

Other than all the examples of sense and significance I’ve already known.

And I am reminded why I’m disapointed.  I’ve seen so much better that it’s hard to spend my time on this just because it’s *now.*