Part 2: 5 Things Your Good Guys Can Learn From Jedi

Welcome to Part 2 of my two part special on what your characters can learn from Star Wars! Part 1 was here, and it dealt with what your villains can learn from the Dark Side.

So first, what are the Jedi? The Jedi are the peaceful group of Force users in Star Wars who assist those in need. The recruit young and teach the ways of the Light Side of the Force. They are not controlled by any government but have a quasi-government themselves, with the most senior members forming a council that advises the rest of the Jedi Order on how to operate.

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Welcome to Part 2 of my two part special on what your characters can learn from Star Wars! Part 1 was here, and it dealt with what your villains can learn from the Dark Side.

So first, what are the Jedi? The Jedi are the peaceful group of Force users in Star Wars who assist those in need. The recruit young and teach the ways of the Light Side of the Force. They are not controlled by any government but have a quasi-government themselves, with the most senior members forming a council that advises the rest of the Jedi Order on how to operate.

How are they similar and different from their evil counterparts, the Sith?

1) They surround themselves with people.

The Sith like to operate with only two members at a time, a Master and an Apprentice. This way they can stay hidden in a galaxy because it is like finding a needle in a haystack. The Jedi try to increase their numbers. Their headquarters in the prequel trilogy was on the busy planet Corusant, which is a singular giant city teeming with people and aliens. They are not necessarily outgoing people and are very reserved, but they do seem at home around others.

2) They resist negativity and the seduction of power.

As we learned last time the Dark Side is a pathway to achieve power faster through using anger and other passionate emotions, but it is not necessarily faster. True Jedi know this and resist the urge to fall to the Dark Side. This is why in Episode III we see Darth Sidious, who it is assumed that he has been trained in the Dark Side for a few decades, whose fight with Jedi Master Yoda, who is nearly 1,000, end in a stalemate. The Jedi prefer slow and steady to quicker and a corrupted body and mind.

3) The Jedi are spiritual.

As has been noted time after time, there are some very strong Buddhist overtures in Star Wars, or the very least the Jedi Order. In fact, this list points out 10 references in Episode I alone, and it’s easy to see that Yoda’s appearance was based on Master Buddhist Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche.

The Sith are more political; they want to enslave the galaxy and then put into place a military unit to keep them in power. The Jedi want to teach and protect. They do not use the Force as a weapon and they want to bring peace to the galaxy. They typically dress in simple beige or white robes, like a monk, and spend a great deal of time meditating and becoming one with the Force, which connects all life in the galaxy.

4) The Jedi are dogmatic in their belief.

The Jedi have a strict set of rules, and they do not tolerate deviation from them. They do not allow marriage or feelings of love or affection towards others. They do not allow anger or hate. They hold fast that they are the “good guys” even though much of the time they are seen as meddlers. They do not see that they can be viewed as a cult-like military that is not held accountable by any government entity. Basically, it would be like if the Church of Scientology had its own military force. Chances are they don’t want to start any trouble, but at the same time it would make a lot of folks nervous.

5) The Jedi are hypocritical.

The Jedi do a lot of great work for the galaxy. But they have a lot of rules that are frankly contradictory. Firstly, the statement that only a Sith deals in absolutes. This feels like a very firm line in the sand that could lead to paranoia in the group. Also, that statement feels very absolute. Not to mention that the Jedi have a lot of black and white rules that they love to pull.

The Jedi want balance, but wouldn’t balance include the Dark Side? Wouldn’t living in harmony with those who use the Dark Side be balance enough? No. They consider all Dark Side users evil, whether or not they truly are, and meet them to either convert them or kill them. Again, fairly absolute and not very peaceful.

Thirdly, they pick and choose when to become involved in the affairs of the galaxy, and it’s usually to their benefit. In Episode I we see Qui-Gon Jinn cheat his way to freeing Anakin from slavery, but does nothing to save his mother from the same fate all because Anakin would make a potentially good Jedi.

 

The Jedi are a group of protagonists who want the best for the galaxy but do have their flaws. And this makes them human. Take some of these notes and apply them where you can to your good guys, and thank the Maker later!

Happy writing and may the Force be with you!

Part 1: 6 Things the Dark Side Can Teach Your Villain

Right now with the opening of The Force Awakens Star Wars is everywhere. So since I touched on character development last week I figured I would do a two part series about lessons that can be applied to your “good guys” and your “bad guys”.

So if you don’t follow Star Wars, the Force is a god-like presence that exists that can be tapped into for super natural abilities. It is split into the Light Side and the Dark Side, which usually relates to a “good” and an “evil” use of it, although the Force itself is thought of as neutral.

Right now with the opening of The Force Awakens Star Wars is everywhere. So since I touched on character development last week I figured I would do a two part series about lessons that can be applied to your “good guys” and your “bad guys”.

So if you don’t follow Star Wars, the Force is a god-like presence that exists that can be tapped into for super natural abilities. It is split into the Light Side and the Dark Side, which usually relates to a “good” and an “evil” use of it, although the Force itself is thought of as neutral.

The bad guys, the Sith, are the anti-good guys, the polar opposite of the Jedi. Their Code is the opposite of the Jedi’s code:

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.

As you can tell, they don’t play nice. Especially when they create an imperial fascist government that enslaves every man, woman, child, and creature in the galaxy. They are obsessed with power and they don’t care how they come to it. But they also go a little deeper than that.

  1. Dark Side users do not think of themselves as evil

Good is a point of view, Anakin.” The Sith honestly see the Jedi as evil. They don’t necessarily see themselves as good, but they don’t see the Jedi as a source of good in the galaxy. This is a good perspective for your big bad. Maybe he thinks he is a good guy. Maybe he thinks that the good guys are just like him, and thus need to be destroyed so that no one stands in his way. Or maybe they’re just obsessed with more power.

 2. The Dark Side is not more powerful, but they believe that it is

“Is the Dark Side stronger?”
“No. No. No. Quicker. Easier. More seductive.”

If your story involves powers, good and evil is going to come up. And honestly, evil powers have always been flashier. Heck, in Star Wars Force Lightning looks way cooler than Force Push. This is a bit of a trope. Even in Harry Potter the more sinister spells look cooler than spells used to levitate feathers or repair glasses or share memories in some weird messed up meta Facebook-like post of pulling them out of your skull and handing them to someone. Seriously, that’s sort of messed up if you think about it. So it’s up to you if you want to continue the trend of “bad” powers looking cooler than “good powers” or if you want to tweak that formula. But if you’re going to continue a trope, you need to have a reason. It can’t look cool just because. Justify it.

But underlying the nature of the Dark Side shows the traits of your villain. They crave power and they want it faster. The Dark Side is not stronger, *but* gaining power through it cuts out the pesky few decades of hard work and dedication to the Light Side for an equal amount of power. They want to fall to the seduction of evil. They want a means that leads to an end faster. In Episode III Anakin falls to the Dark Side to save his wife. But does he really, or is it just a matter of gaining power for selfish reasons, and that is a lie he tells himself? These sorts of questions, these self doubts, help grow your villain past just being bad.

3. The Dark Side corrupts its user

Palpatine states that he looks the way he does after becoming disfigured by an assassination attempt by the Jedi. But it is actually his true corrupted nature of giving his body and mind fully to the Dark Side of the Force. Using the Force for evil corrupts its user. This is seen time and time again in fiction; the one ring left Smeagol looking like a washed up naked mole rat when he himself used to be a Hobbit. Having the body and mind decay from the use of evil helps show just how far someone is willing to fall just to gain power. It also shows how dangerous the power they are using is, and how dangerous they have become.

 4. Fear is a major factor

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

This could be the progression of an protagonist or an antagonist. How did they wind up being the person they are today? What series of events befell them to make them this way? Why are they so hurt and angry? Why are they obsessed with whatever it is that they are chasing after? It does not have to be explicitly stated, but having this backstory will help shape them.

5. They have a vendetta against the “good guys”

The Sith truly believe that the Jedi are the one enslaving the galaxy and they will stop at nothing to kill them all. Even the Younglings. They are driven by a constant fear of being overruled and losing all the power that they have gained. Will your hero be able to match their viciousness? How far are you willing to push your bad guys? What are the consequences of their actions, and do they care? Which brings me to my final point:

6. They do not value life

Usually being evil in Star Wars is a very dangerous job, usually leading to swapping out some, if not all, of your body parts for machinery. Going to the Dark Side ultimately means giving up all humanity. And not to mention how the Dark Side treats other living things. I mean, Vader blew up an entire planet just to call a bluff. If you needed any proof that Vader is Space Hitler, this is it.

The Dark Side provides some great character details and flaws for a villain, fallen hero, or antihero. They are evil with a purpose and have no qualms about corrupting their own body and giving up their humanity just to gain some cool flashy powers. Use these lessons well, but do not fall to the call yourself.

May the Force be with you. And if you enjoy these posts, please like, comment, and share!

 

Your Fav is Problematic: You Shouldn’t Love Your Character

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Dear sweet 8 pound 6 ounce Baby Jesus where has this month gone. I feel like I am finding less and less time to write because of work, family, birthdays, Christmas, Thursday night D&D with the gang, and finals. Hopefully if and when I survive to January I can get more work done.

So, this week I’d like to talk a little bit about your characters, specifically your protagonist(s). I had finished my first draft and I am reading through it to make editing noted for the first revision. I am reading the interaction between the two main protagonists, Aki, the Autumn Mage and Minda, the female soldier and part-time healer. They got along famously. It was as if they were brother and sister, constantly looking out for each other and being very cordial and making a wonderful team. It warmed my heart at how close they were and how well they worked together. I sat back in my chair and I screamed on the inside.

What the heck Chris?!?! Aki is moody, reckless, and frankly, a bit of an asshole. Minda should have an air of superiority and class which should clash with how rough around the edges Aki is. They are not related. They are not siblings. Push. Everything is not going to be sunshine and roses with them. And then I looked at how Aki spoke to other main characters and he was too darn nice to them.

Writing is a process. There’s usually some sort of outline and then a separate outline for the characters and then a separate outline for locations and then a separate outline for just how crazy you should be by the time it’s all said and done. And if by the time you are on revisions and you have not strayed away from the original source or original outlines and everything is just a carbon copy of what you started with, it probably isn’t strong enough.

Now, going back to the title of this post: sure, you can “love” your character. I’m sure J.K. Rowling loves Harry Potter. The billions of dollars might have some sort of influence with that, but she probably still loves him. But using Harry Potter as an example: neither he nor Hermoine, the other sort of crowd favorite from Team Gryffindor, the bunch of whiny goody-two-shoes that I am in no way dissing just because I’m Team Slytherin, have some glaring character flaws. Firstly, Harry has a freaking piece of Wizard Hitler living inside of him, and a fan theory actually suggests that it is because of this that his adoptive family hates him so much (which has since been disproved by Rowling herself). He is arrogant and brash and impulsive, kind of the same way that Anakin Skywalker is in Episode 2 (but, y’know, less murder). And then we had CAPS LOCKS HARRY WHO SHOUTED AT EVERYONE AND JUST COULDN’T BE REASONED WITH. Remember that book? We had fun.

Hermoine, on the other hand, in the books and sadly not the films is what is referred to as a white girl feminist, who goes out of her way to tell people to be outraged about things they have no interest in and she has really not a lot of business getting involved with. I know she was just trying to go magical social justice warrior, probably in an attempt to fit in better in a world where she could actually experience a degree of racism in, but it really fell flat.

But this is how it should be. If your admiration for your own character lasts more than four hours, please contact your editor. Your characters should be flawed, because if they are they will feel more like people and less like people you wrote. Think about someone you really care about, and think about that one annoying thing they always do. Go with that. Or maybe think back to your lying, cheating, whore ex (sorry not sorry) and try to understand why they justified the things that they did. Use that as motivation for your bad guys. Your characters need to be relatable and they need to not be perfect.

The best villains are ones that show a little humanity. I hate slasher films because they’re dumb. It’s an hour and a half of an unkillable monster carving up horny teenagers. I can’t relate to that. Darth Vader? Hecks yes. A kid who grew up from a rough childhood who has a ton of responsibility thrown on to him who doesn’t know how to form healthy relationships and is constantly in some way or another a slave to others? That is relatable. That is human. The choking people out with his mind? Not so much. But his back story and his motivation are very human, even though he has completely lost his way and has become more machine than man now.

Your hero also has to be human. He or she can’t simply be an amazing fantastic wonderful person with no flaws. One, it’s boring. Remember Becki from 11th grade? Blonde, blue eyed, tall, athletic, straight A’s, debate team, cheerleading, voluntered, went to Harvard or something? Yeah, she was perfect. Remember how boring she was? Remember that one time you actually tried talking to her and all she could talk about was her cat and Taylor Swift? It was awful. Don’t write Becki. Write Chad. Chad was cool. Chad was thrown off the baseball team because he said all that pot at that party was his, even though he didn’t smoke any of it because he really didn’t want Jonathon to lose his athletics scholarship for next year.

Make them vulnerable. Make them relatable. Make them human. Every single one. If their boring to write, they will be boring to read. And if you’re not having fun your readers won’t have fun. Challenge yourself by challenging them. Give them moral dilemmas. Give them vices. Give them painful memories. I know they are your sweet, precious, children, but you need to torture them a little bit. Watch them squirm. Let them fail once in a while, let the bad guys win one. Make things interesting by making them interesting. You’ll thank me later.

If you’d like to continue reading my work in progress THE AUTUMN MAGE chapters three and four are now up on Wattpad. Give them a look, and please let me know what you think. And if you like what I have to say please like, comment, and share, and I’ll try to get more postings here more frequently.

7 Tips I Have Learned (So Far) on My Writing Journey

I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t have a real solid idea of what I’m doing. I am an expert about as much as the McElroy Brothers are expert advice givers. Although to be fair, they seem much more professional, funny, and better at their jobs than I am, so there is that. They also seem like lovely people and I am not just saying that because I live vicariously through their podcasts.

Counterpoint: necessity is the mother of invention. I am figuring out how to do something that I have never done, so a big portion of my time is spent 1) finding and reading articles written by much more experienced people so that I can get an idea of what I should and should not be doing and 2) interacting with for real writers on Twitter.

It’s 2015 and the Internet is literally everywhere. It makes no sense to not ask for advice or learn from the experiences of others. I am still learning every single day. I am still learning how to mix writing for me and writing for an audience. I am still learning to objectively look at my work in progress THE AUTUMN MAGE and make critical adjustments that will take it from just a story to a novel. And I have a few tips that I have picked up and I want to share them with you this week.

  1. Set Daily Deadlines.

With my depression and anxiety it is very easy for me to dig a little emotion hole and fall into it. As you may have guessed from earlier posts it is fairly easy for me lose it when I don’t perform as expected. I currently do not have a deadline for finishing THE AUTUMN MAGE. I wanted it done by the end of the year. It is currently the end of the year. It is not finished. It will not be finished by December 31st. And you know what? The world is going to keep spinning.

NOW. I am real bad at procrastinating if the deadline of something is nowhere in sight. I’ll remind myself just how much time I have to *not* do something, and then I’ll do something like, oh I don’t know, buy Star Wars Battlefront and play that for a few hours today instead of writing. I am very good at having a set deadline that is very close to now and working until it is done. So what’s the best way to achieve this? Set daily deadlinesMake little challenges for yourself. Say that you are going to write for X amount of time, or reach X amount of pages or a certain word count for the day. If I stare at my screen and go “there’s no way I’m going to get productive today,” I won’t. If I set a target and try to reach that, I almost always will, if not exceed it. If you do not have a deadline, make one. Stephen King will write at least 2,000 words each day and tries to hit ten pages. That’s intimidating, and you know what? It should be. Because if writing were easy everyone would do it.

Wordsprints really help me. I set the timer on my phone, usually for thirty minutes, and just have at it. Putting that pressure, that little window of time, makes me rush through and I usually at minimum hit 500 words. That’s a fourth of your daily minimum quota right there. Set the timer, sprint, and then go do something else. Lather, rinse, repeat a few times a day and you’re there.

2. Edit More Than You Write.

I know this sounds counterintuitive. “But Chris, I’m a writer, not an editor! Besides, I’m just going to hire one later!” Yes. Yes you are. But here’s the deal: your first draft sucks. I haven’t even read it and I know your first draft is awful. And do you know how I know? Because it’s supposed to be. And now if you finish your first draft and don’t completely shift things around, all you’re doing is spray painting a turd gold. And I know that’s a weird metaphor, but it’s something a childhood friend of mine actually did and I just like working in that little anecdote whenever I can. I’m not asking you to be an editor, I’m just asking you to edit. On my second draft of THE AUTUMN MANGE I discovered that the tone was all wrong. My protagonist wasn’t dark and mean enough. The female characters were too weak and bubbly (which as a feminist I hated. I want strong females dammit!). So I’m winding up scrapping more than I’m saving and you know what? It’s making it stronger. I’ve finding paragraphs where I decided to just explain and I don’t need it. Do you know why I wrote it in the first place? Ego. “Oh look, my little world is so complicated I need to stop the story, take your hand, and teach you what is happening.” 1) No it isn’t and 2) your reader will be able to figure out what’s happening, and if they can’t then you need to rewrite.

3. Ask for Help

The great thing about Twitter is for every jerk that’s on there you’ll meet ten really great people who want to be helpful. And helpful people like to be asked for advice. Do it. Send someone a Tweet to clarify something. Maybe make sure they know what they’re talking about first, but try it. Chances are they’ll respond. I mean, J. K. Rowling answers fan Tweets all the time. Chances are if she will then your favorite indie author will, too.

4. Surround Yourself with Experts.

This ties into #3. Get some writer friends. Join writing groups. Read articles. You would chart out a course before driving cross country, and this is no different. Find out where you should stop, find out where to keep going. Find the cliches you hadn’t thought of. See what the current trends and current things that publishers and editors hate and take it into consideration. You don’t have to know what you’re doing, you just have to know how you’re going to get there.

5. Use the Google Machine.

For someone who learned how to read at an early age and for someone who plans on attempting to make money at selling books, I stare blankly at my screen quite often questioning the spelling of a word. Granted, I am using a computer that is about eight years old and is running Windows Vista with Word ’07. However, if you don’t know if you’re using the right word or the correct spelling, find out. It’s a computer. You know what computers usually have on them? The Internet. It is so easy to go to Google and find out if it is correct or not. Try typing it in the way you think it should be. If there is a homonym, i like to spell it both ways with a “vs” inbetween them. Don’t rely on spell check; case in point, chrome underlined “inbetween” with a red squiggly line and it is, in fact, a word correctly spelled. I checked it. With Google.

6. Be an Idiot.

Don’t expect yourself to be an expert. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. It took multiple tries to get the first airplane up and flying. It is alright to be in the dark and trying to figure it all out. Just don’t fall back on the “sorry it’s my first time” for lazy errors. The one thing I see time and time again from writing groups and from writers on Twitter is “How can this person be charging money for a Kindle ebook when they still have misspelled words?” Be an idiot. But don’t be a moron.

7. You Are the Characters.

I am currently reading the fantastic steampunk fantasy THE CHARISMATICS and the main character, Lady Ambrose, is described as having “dishwater-blond hair” and “a round face”, “bowed lips”, and “eyes are smallish and brown”. Sounds an awful lot like the author. And you know what? It’s fine. I have seen artists on TV say that a lot of them subconsciously paint or sculpt their own face because as humans we see our face a lot more frequently than others, usually from the mirror. And in order to make effective characters you have to write what you know. In The Shining  Jack goes crazy after the ghosts of the hotel keep giving him booze; Stephen King has said that he wrote that while struggling with alcohol addiction. I used to have a real problem with anger. My antagonist is a dark, moody, brooding character and you know what? I know what that feels like. Draw from what you know. Add yourself to every character. You are their creator, and as their god you should mold them in your own image.

I hope this post has helped at least one of you. If you enjoy this blog, I do ask that you please like, comment, and share. If there is something that I’m doing maybe not so great please offer some constructive criticism because I love to learn and grow. Feel free to connect with me, I would love to hear your thoughts on whatever is on your mind!

I would like to remind my readers that if you want to see the current progress of THE AUTUMN MAGE head on over to Wattpad. I have the first two chapters of the second draft up and the third will be appearing by the end of the week.

And again, I would like to remind everyone that Utopia Editing & Ghostwriting is offering a 10% off with their referral service. This offer is not going to last much longer and I would highly recommend it. Ashley is a wonderful writer, she’s an even better editor, and if you want your works to be the absolute best it can be you will use her. Let her know Chris Wojcek sent you and she will treat you right. You won’t find a more professional editor who is right there in the writing trenches with you and she is going to make sure your works are living to their full potential.

Still Not a Jedi Yet

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Yes. As a matter of fact I am making my second reference to the Empire Strikes Back in what is only my third blog post. Please bear with me. I have a point.

Empire will always be the greatest Star Wars film. I don’t care if J.J. Abram’s Episode 7 has Jar Jar Binks getting Force Lighteninged for 2 hours. Empire is the best. It is the greatest because 1) you really don’t have to have seen A New Hope because they really make it sort of standalone, 2) it’s just a great sci fi movie, franchise or not and 3) it makes you question everything you thought you knew.

This scene in particular, the first show down between Luke and Vader, is how I feel right now. Luke has been working his butt off in what is the Louisiana of the galaxy to take on Space Hitler. And then Vader shows up and goes “Looks like you brought a lightsaber to a Force fight”.

Yes, Luke has the Force, but it isn’t enough. Vader has decades of experience in using it. Yes, Luke has his weapon, but Vader again has the experience, as well as a long track record of combat. This is essentially Luke going to a karate school inside a mall and earning a yellow belt and trying to take on Billy Zabka.

This is where I am. I have been trying to bone up on my writing skills. I look at posts on an indie writing group on Facebook. I’ve been interacting with some writer friends on Twitter. I have read article after article of “What You Should do in Revision X” and “10 Things to Cut” and “40 Words to Delete” and “Do This” and “Do That” and “Remember This” and “Area Man Has One Weird Trick for Crippling Self Doubt About His Writing Ability”. Oh wait, that last one is just in my head.

I started a new job this week, and I honest to God don’t think I’ve written a darn thing this week. The amount of guilt I feel is immense. It makes me feel like a poser. It makes me feel like I’m not taking this seriously. It makes me question if I’m ever going to bite the bullet. It freaking makes me feel like Brian from Family Guy. I’m mentally exhausted. I’m also physically exhausted. I’m afraid that I’m never going to actually follow through. And I don’t want it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But at the same time it would be nice to have money to pay bills.

I don’t consider myself a writer (or a Jedi) yet. I’m still trying. If I was in a room with for real writers I would just awkwardly sip my drink and listen to how cool they all are. But I will get there one day, hopefully sooner rather than later. So to take the first step I am posting the first two chapters of my work in progress THE AUTUMN MAGE on Wattpadd. Again, that is work in progress. I want to do at minimum another revision. It is not perfect. I don’t think it ever will be. And as terrifying as it is, I am opening myself up to the cold awfulness of the Internet and seeing how it is received. Please give it a read and leave me some constructive criticism. Wattpad estimates that you can read what I posted in about 20 minutes.

As I close this blog post, I do want to direct your attention to a special offer Utopia Editing and Ghostwriting is running. Right now they are offering 10% off their services. If you use them, you are using an award-winning author, editor, and ghost. Ashley R. Carlson is a wonderful person and an even better writer, and one of the most professional people you will ever work with. So if you are serious about making your work the best it can be, you will use her company. And no, I am not being paid to say that. I have accepted no money from her, this is not a paid endorsement. It is simply the truth.