Open Thread: NaNo Themes

Here is a thing that I want: The next time a poor-but-plucky farm/shop-boy comes home from his fantastical adventures to realize that he's fallen in love with a mysterious fairy/star/princess/witch-girl rather than the big-fish-small-pond rich town-girl he'd previously been pining over, please have the boy let the girl know in a scene that is layered with respect, kindness, and politeness, rather than being a ritual humiliation and hilarious comeuppance for all those selfish bitches who failed to appreciate the writer boy for having well-hidden awesomeness all along. I'd like to see that just once. 

What themes would you like to see and/or are being incorporated into your NaNo novel?


Ana Mardoll said...

Are you perchance watching Elementary on television? I love it so much, and I love that (imho) there has been a wonderful lack of sexual chemistry and/or UST between the protagonists. The setup is there: Holmes is antagonistic, Watson is plucky, they LIVE in the same house, but the relationship has been strictly friendly/professional thus far and I want them to keep it that way because it is AWESOME.

Not sure what the trick is, but visually I think it helps that they keep the two out of each other's personal space unless there's a good reason for them to be standing close together. Unlike a lot of television shows, where they cram the actors in tight for a close shot.

depizan said...

I have an ancient television and no cable, so I get to see things when they come out on DVD. If Elementary is still awesome at the end of the first season, I'll have to check it out.

Good point about the personal space. I will have to keep that in mind.

depizan said...

Very true. There's also the expectation that if a story has a male and a female main character, of course they will hook up. (Barring giant age differences or other more typical cues that that won't be the case.) Hell, people get ho yay out of close same sex friendships. We're a very romantic culture, at least in that sense.

But I think the world could use more portrayals of men and women as friends. Half the time it gets treated as an impossibility.

Kirala said...

Hmm. I see people who have read Stardust but not seen it, and people who have seen it but not read it. As one who has done both -

-The book is more measured, more realistic, better at subtlety and definitely better in its treatment of romance and men-women relationships.

-The movie has Captain Shakespeare, who is not in the book. (There's a captain of a flying ship, but it's not Captain Shakespeare - the whole thing has entirely different treatment.)

-Experiencing one does not spoil the other, ergo almost anything you might think to mention from one could be a spoiler to someone who has only experienced the other.

Experience both, please. My ideal version would be mostly the book, but the best parts of the movie (Captain Shakespeare) are entirely absent from the book (Captain Shakespeare's crew) and would make a fine addition to the story (Captain Shakespeare's *spoilers*).

Besides, the can-can can't be properly played in a solely visual medium (which is probably the only reason Neil omitted it from the book, I'm convinced).

J_Enigma32 said...

I've actually got a similar theme going on in the Blue Pimpernel. Ben is a tertiary character at best, but he's still a close friend with all of the protagonists (who are all girls), but there's nothing resembling romance. Ben plays the all important role of tech support, but he's also got no problem getting out in the field and fighting with the girls (he's good enough to keep up with Cyan and Aya. He can't keep up with Renee at all, but then, there are few people who can). Ben gets along really well with Cyan; in the second book, they riff off of one another and are a comedic duo, which is funny since Cyan is usually the straight girl of the team, often left adrift by Renee and Ofelia's antics. He and Ofelia have a caustic relationship; it's friendly, but he has a history of getting under her skin with his jokes and his off-kilter sense of humor. He actually doesn't relate very well with Aya at all, and so isn't close at all and he's better called "an acquaintance". Ben forms what might be the perfect relationship with Renee since she tolerates his jokes, sometimes finds them funny, and will sometimes join in and joke with him; they would make a perfect couple, were it not for the fact that Renee is gay*.

So Ben has a friendly relationship with all of the major characters, is closer to some than others, but there's no romance with any of them (worth noting is that Ben is the second oldest. Aya is the oldest, at 18. Ben is 17. Renee, Ofelia, and Cyan are all 16. You include Maggie and he falls to third, since Maggie is in her 30s or 40s). Relationships are actually a major feature of that novel, since they're all close friends, and each character wears a different mask depending upon who they're dealing with.

* Renee never forms a romantic relationship with any of her friends., either. There's love present; Renee and Ofelia have a very strong agape love, and between Renee and Aya, that agape love is the only thing keeping them from killing one another, but there's no romance.

hidden_urchin said...

I think it's because that type of friendship has a lot of the same elements as a healthy romantic relationship. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that a healthy romantic relationship is built on the same elements as a deep friendship.

As I said, I was starting with the idea of having two of my characters develop a romantic relationship. I'm at 22,000 words and they've made it clear to me that they really just want to be good friends. However, they would do absolutely anything for each other, are incredibly comforable around each other, and frequently provide each other with emotional support. Just, no romance.

Randomosity said...

For me, this year's NaNoing involves a lot of truth being spoken to power. No farm kids being tapped to be heroes, no rewards in the form of sentient beings. I'm doing a suite of short stories that are related in that the narrator can't deceive and she is trying to find something to discredit hypocrites.

From my NaNoPage

An archivist who is incapable of lying seeks to expose long-forgotten scandals in order to gain justice for the homeworld she hasn't seen for decades.

Glix of Feniria is an expatriate. She is a memory-retainer and cannot forget anything. She also has an biologically determined inabiltiy to deceive. Currently, Glix has found success as an Archives fact checker on the planet Roenza. Her sister Glorik has been blamed for destroying the space station she saved, threatening genocide when it was the enemy who destroyed almost all of their listening posts, and is a fugitive wanted for assassinating a friendly planetary representative. She fled to a lethal world and three witnesses report her demise.

None of the charges are true and Glix fears that her sister's demise will only encourage the Coalition of the Neutrals to continue their campaign of injustice. Thus, Glix fights back the only way she knows how - by finding and telling the truth. No matter who it hurts, no matter how many powerful individuals she angers, no matter if she will lose her job at the Archives.

Enter the darkened corners of the Archives and dig up the hidden secrets that some would prefer never to see the light of day.

"New knowledge gained does not turn true words false if one acts on them. Failing to act when the facts change is itself a falsehood." - Glix of Feniria

Will Wildman said...

NaNo themes, you say. Well, at 7000 words I haven't quite finished the first chapter yet, but said chapter has been heavy on character exposition and implicit worldbuilding, setting things up for the imminent series of catastrophes that I'm going to rain upon them all. It has also largely been about two of the main characters hooking up, and my first clear goal there was to in no way have them Meet Cute. Lad sees lass play-wrestling with a dragon, lass's best friend notices him, introduces them, and they hang out for the rest of the day and discover that they find each other kind of delightful, although it's pretty superficial because each one also thinks the other is hot like fire. (Lass may have dialogue with her friend along the lines of "I am so glad didn't turn out to be boring. I was not sure how I would handle that.")

And then after spending the night together they are going to discover the next day, to mutual growing horror, that lass thinks is is going to be an enjoyable three-day fling before they go their separate ways forever, and lad thinks this is the perfect start to a long-term commitment.

In this story, for which I have had cause to use phrases like 'Cthulhu Groundhog Day' and 'gingham blizzard' and 'archaeological geomancy', I am trying harder than ever to present a realistic and conflicted and slightly doomed romantic relationship.

(If there's another theme I'm set upon, it's 'no one cares' in regards to demographic characteristics. There was a lesbian dragon. Lass's best friend is trans. No one bats an eye at such stuff.)

Lady Viridis said...

Man, I've been generally impressed by Assassin's Creed II from what I've seen of it* but I don't know that it's one of those things I can play myself-- the screens all seem to be laid out with the assumption that you are playing on a huge HD screen, because on my 30" old-school TV all the text seems to be so tiny as to be unreadable. It's also mostly grey on white, which makes things even harder. Combine that with vast level design and an on-screen map that only shows a tiny section at a time, and I've just found it too frustrating to really get involved. Which is a damn shame, because it looks like a really interesting and fun series.

*My roommate played through most of the game while I watched, but she never finished it because she's trying to finish collecting feathers.

Lady Viridis said...

Indeed. I have also seen both versions, and love them both, but they are two very different beasts.

The book is a fairy tale, and Gaiman plays with the tropes masterfully, which builds up to a very neat and fairy-tale logic conclusion, but which in terms of action is rather anticlimactic.

The movie is a straight-up fantasy action piece, and a lot of the changes made, especially towards the end, are made for that reason. The book's end was logical but not very flashy; a movie requires a more exciting final set piece. So there is a lot more "oh no the clock is ticking before terrible fate!" and epic sword fights.

Oddly enough, I think that despite their vast differences in plot and tone, they manage to maintain the spirit of the story equally in both. I would honestly list it up there as one of the best book to movie adaptations I've seen, in terms of keeping the spirit of the story if not the details, right up there next to Lord of the Rings.

Anna said...

It's been a while since I read Stardust, but as I recall the girl had fallen for some other guy while the Hero was away and would have married him well before the Hero's return if she hadn't felt herself honor-bound by her promise to marry the Hero if he accomplished the "impossible task".

Spoilers for the book version of Stardust ROT-13'd

Npghnyyl, gur tvey snyyf sbe fbzr bgure thl orsber gur ureb yrnirf. Vg'f jul fur ershfrf gur ureb va gur fprar ng gur ortvaavat; fur'f nyernql cebzvfrq gb fbzrbar ryfr. Jura gur ureb nfxf vs fur'yy zneel uvz vs ur oevatf onpx gur fgne, fur arire rkcrpgf uvz gb or frevbhf, fb fur fnlf lrf nffhzvat vg'f n wbxr... naq gura srryf obhaq gb fgnaq ol ure jbeq jura ur qbrf tb bss ba uvf dhrfg.

I'm assuming it goes down differently in the movie.

chris the cynic said...

Sometimes a disability isn't a disability, at least not in the way you'd think.

Had a cashier with a little less than one and a half arms (one ended somewhat above the elbow, the other was as one might expect) I hope I didn't gawk but I was in amazement when I noticed because she was the fastest cashier I've ever seen. I'm sure there are all kinds of things where having a little less than one and a half arms is a serious disability, but in this rather hand intensive job and in her case it clearly wasn't.

There seems to be a tendency on the part of writers to either forget about disability, or assume that it applies to in exactly the first-thought expected way to every aspect of one's life. That ignores both the complexity of the world and the adaptability of human beings.

I'd like to see it handled with more nuance.

Will it be in my NaNo? Not sure, I haven't gotten to Hephaestus yet and since I'm dealing mostly with gods it isn't likely to come up much elsewhere. Though based on my experience with crutches (sprained ankle) and Hephaestus' inventiveness, I think I'm seeing a way for it to not slow him down, that's something.

redsixwing said...

30 pages isn't actually a lot, graphic-novel wise, though I am trying to pack as much content into each one as I can. I've been doing multiple character intros per page for a while now, aside from the first page which had to set the scene for everything, because the cast is large (6 characters! will be almost a dozen later!) and I have a bunch of worldbuilding to do.

That said, it's still Exalted, so anyone who's ever played it will know right where they are, but I want it to be comprehensible to non-gamers as well.

I will eventually be dealing with one of the big themes of the whole setting: power relationships. If you take your average schmo, and give them Phenomenal Cosmic Powers and tell them they are destined by the Will of Heaven to rule the world, what do you expect to happen?

... I pretty much expect them to fall on their faces a whole bunch, and get some right and some very, very wrong, so that's what I'm rattling around. :D

If you want to follow along with me, you can follow this Shameless Promotion Link: House of Doors

Ana Mardoll said...

I love Hephaestus; I'll bet you come up with a good one. :)

I always envision him with a hunched back, too, which makes him the closest thing the Greeks had to a god for scoliosis. And he always seems to be the god with the nicest personality; I felt like that was the irony in Hera casting him away: she kept freaking Ares and Eris because they were lovely, but cast out Hephaestus because he was malformed, thereby losing the child who would actually be the best and most loyal.

Also amusing to me is that he ends up with Aphrodite, thereby making him a nice guy who Gets The Girl, but not a Nice Guy since he didn't think he was entitled to her by virtue of his niceness.

//my interpretation; I know there are many conflicting versions of most of the myths I referenced above.

chris the cynic said...

I thought that the movie was great, with exceptions (say, for example, the one noted), and the music was excellent.

So I recommend the movie, just keep in mind that it's not the book and there will be moments of FAIL.

depizan said...

I expect you're right. They just very much want a third, er, fourth option. Even if the very act of trying to find a solution is probably already treasonous.

Edit: Also, thanks, Lonespark. :)

graylor said...

Oh, definitely! I'm a Supernatural fan and way too many things are badevilmonstrous *except* when a Winchester is doing them. Though often this still bites the protaganists in the ass, but they get away with it a little too often for my taste.

Aside from introducing new outside forces into your characters' decision-making process, it sounds like somebody is going to have to lose somewhere. There's power in realistic morality, though, even (maybe especially) when it hurts.

My characters wind up hurting others and themselves because in the moment there's no clear line through sometimes. Also, my protaganist's major sin turns out to be wrath. It works pretty well when she's doing the warring part of her job, but the 'lord'-ing part of warlording is a bit trickier.

depizan said...

Moral decisions get tricky really fast in fiction (at least if you're trying to avoid protagonist centered morality). I'm having more trouble getting my characters to agree to a solution to their conflict than I expected. What do you do if you're on one side of a gray vs gray conflict and you have a friend on the other side... and you're both expected to retrieve something and someone for your respective governments? The options seem to be fight your friend, walk away, or commit some degree of treason. And they don't like those options. At all.

graylor said...

My themes seem to be 'looks can be deceiving' and moral decisions are usually not black and white.

There's a plague that kills nearly everyone. You wander into a group of other survivors. You were a loser in your life before the plague: you want prestige and to not spend your time trying to learn to be a farmer, because farming is hot, hard, and often unpleasant. Pretending to be a doctor wouldn't work past the point where it was obvious you don't know how to set a bone, much less find an appendix. However, it's easy enough to pretend to be a pharmacist, it's just putting pills in bottles, right? There are books that will tell you everything, and if people get sick anyway you can always blame the fact that the medicine is old. Until you get a real doctor in town, at any rate.

Then there's this other character. She taught non violent conflict resolution to soon to be released prisoners. The plague happens. She needs to get out of town and away from the corpses, but if she goes without being certain all the prisoners are dead, she'll always wonder. So she breaks into the (minimum security) prison. One prisoner is alive. Unfortunately, he isn't imprisoned because of his skin color, socio-economic class, or addiction: he's a serial rapist who claims, convincingly, to have reformed, and who was going to be released soon anyway, had the plague not intervened. Become his gaurd and spend your life caring for him through the bars, leave him to die, shoot him, or cut him loose?

The whole damn story seems to be going in those directions, so they must be themes I assume. >.> I just wanted to write about southern gothic witches and a plague.

Makabit said...

Romance is one of those things I do not tend to prioritize in my own writing. It's just not one my primary themes, not something that I'm interested in. Marriage, yes. I have no clue why people falling in love tends to happen very discreetly, or offscreen.

I am actually still wavering between two projects (yes, I know it's Nov. 4, what of it?) One's an historical, set in a Jewish community during the Crusades, and features, among other plotlines, the rabbi's son coming home from Egypt, having taken horrible advantage of a young woman there. His wife leaves him, because she finds out about this and is horrified, and then takes up with someone else, and the fight about the divorce takes up much space and heat. I suppose there is romance in that Eliezer and Shondlin do actually fall in love, and that is important, but the dynamic between Shondlin and her father-in-law, and between Shondlin and the man who eventually kills her husband in an attempt to free her from her marriage is more...written of.

The other really focuses heavily on marriage, (and, you know, galactic trade war, religious visions, social injustice and the morality of the death penalty). One of my MCs will, I think, find a husband somewhere in the middle of all all the chaos, but it's not the really important angle, once again, at least not now.

I gotta do one of these. And I really gotta pick one today and get dug in!

Lonespark said...

Cheering for you, depizan, and the Power of True Friendship.

MotherDemeter said...

My novel is realistic fiction based on my life as a teen. My main character has to overcome several different hardships but the main theme is learning to trust herself and her experiences. Her family is dysfunctional and many of her problems are left unresolved, but the main conflict is within herself, coming to terms with things that have happened to her and learning she has the strength to believe in herself and carve her own path.

It doesn't focus on a romantic relationship, but there is a budding one near the end. I'd like to give a realistic depiction of a mother daughter relationship that starts rocky but grows closer and more trusting.

Though the events are based on my life, I am speeding up the timeline and I plan on my character already being already somewhat through her self discovery before she dates her romantic interest. So hopefully that is a fairly realistic and healthy high school relationship.

I'd like more non-typical looking/ acting heroes/ heroines. Especially in fantasy or sci fi stories.

Boutet said...

Yes! Very frustrating. I had to go back and double check the book because I didn't remember being horrified by his behavior when I read it. The movie messed up several details that had me irritated, mostly to do with the romantic/relationship parts.

JonathanFawn said...

I'm writing the anti-kid hero story. Farm girl gets dragged into space to join the prestigious Amazon Guard and serve directly under one of the greatest heroes of humanity- because, of course, it's a plot to use them for their own nefarious purposes. Because in the real world little farmers don't get to do the Big Things, because that's reserved for the rich and powerful.

In short, I'm writing, and would love to see more of, exploration of power themes in literature.

UrsulaVernon said...

On the old injury thing, I was actually favorably impressed playing Assassin's Creed: Revelations awhile back. In a genre where your character can perform impossible feats of parkour as a matter of course, there was a very nice sequence where the aging hero, having just had the crap beat out of him, is half-dead, unable to climb anything, limping around looking for medication and actually says "This is just not as easy as it was when I was young." And video games, as a genre, have older heroes approximately never. (Obviously you are soon tearing around the rooftops again because, y'know, playability, but it was a nice nod to the issue for once.)

Mind you, there's always "I used to be an adventurer like you, but then I took an arrow to the knee..."

Boutet said...

Well that's something at least! Older assassin struggling for even just a moment or two is better than nothing.
I guess maybe Flint from the Dragonlance books would qualify. I mean, his difficulties were less with injury and more with age, but he was struggling and still trying to help his younger/more able friends.

Ana Mardoll said...

The bits with Robert Di Nero as Captain Shakespeare are lovely, but I don't know how it compares to the book. I keep meaning to read it, but you know, NANO!!!!!!!! :P

Makabit said...

"It's all right, Captain. We always knew you were a whoopsie."

I do love Shakespeare's crew.

Anna said...

Whereas I haven't seen the movie, and based on that description I think I'll keep things that way. Sounds like a disappointing case of adaptationfail.

Ana Mardoll said...

Which did not carry over to the movie at all, apparently (which we watched again last night) because it has the Hero dip the girl into an embrace, tell her to grow up and get over herself, and then dump her into a heap on the ground. Klassy!

Haven't read the book; glad to head that it's significantly better in that regard.

Anna said...

I actually thought the scene in Neil Gaiman's "Stardust" handled the "letting the girl know" quite well, with respect for the girl's own wishes. The girl asks the hero if she wants to know why, in a scene towards the beginning of the book, she refused to kiss him. He responds, "it was your right not to kiss me," which I thought was lovely. The point of the scene was clearly "I'm sorry I didn't take your no for an answer before, now please go and be happy with a man of your choosing," rather than "you rejected me before, now I'm a hero and I'm going to reject you, so sucks!"

Makabit said...

As for themes I want to see--moral decisions, I think, are what I want more of, especially in fantasy/sci-fi. My sci-fi possibility revolves fairly heavily around one MC's decision to order an execution, and the fallout from this in terms of her faith and her relationship to her family. I find that too much of what I read either justifies whatever the 'good characters' feel like doing, or else spends insane amounts of time fretting over specific, artificial-sounding moral limitations the characters have set for themselves which never respond to logic, reason or circumstance, but are eventually set up to be OK for them to violate somehow.

I try to do it the way I want it. It doesn't always work out perfectly.

Boutet said...

I would like to see a fantasy story with a fighter character who is actually affected by previous injuries. Not in an over-the-top way, not putting unecessary emphasis on the injuries or having the story be specifically about the person working around their old injuries. SImply incorporated into the story. If a character is missing an eye it would affect them. Probably their archery would not be as good as it may have been. Or those big nasty cosmetic back scars that never seem to do anything but add the hint of some backstory (I'm looking at you anime!). That degree of scaring should affect their movement, their comfort.
Even better if they don't go into elaborate and obvious exposition about it. No long-winded stories about how they used to be the best archer until they lost their eye (unless such a story is in character and works in the story as a whole). Just have them miss, or be grumpy when they have to use archery. Maybe have some sort of herbal salve that they rub into the old scars.
I tore a tendon in my big toe when I was 12 or so. It is a small injury that does not have a huge impact on my life but it never did heal completely. That toe is not capable of bending. It cramps in cold water. If my random toe injury (treated by modern medicine) can still manage to effect my life then the big injuries would have to have long-term consequences, especially in a world with less advanced medicine.

Come to think of it though, I have seen this done well once. Beka was starting to be affected by old injuries by the end of Pierce's Provost Dog books, and Tunstall even more so. More of that!

hidden_urchin said...

I just want to see a healthy relationship based on mutual respect, equality, and good communication. You know, the anti-Twilight or anti-Fifty Shades of Gray.

Of course, it isn't that easy because no relationship between two people is perfect but my protagonists are working on it.

depizan said...

Theme: that men and women can be friends, no sex, no inevitable romance, just really damn good "I will always have your back" friendship. Conveying this is proving harder than I thought.

Tigerpetals said...

I don't remember her wanting to marry him because it was a promise, but because she felt bad that he went through so much danger when she had thought the 'quest' was a joke he didn't mean. But the movie made Victoria a spoiled girl who deliberately took advantage of Tristan's crush in their ordinary lives and promised to delay accepting a man's marriage proposal for a week if Tristan could get her something better than her suitor's ring, the star. She wasn't surprised to see Tristan come back with what she thought was the star.

Loquat said...

Whaaaaaa? It's been a while since I read Stardust, but as I recall the girl had fallen for some other guy while the Hero was away and would have married him well before the Hero's return if she hadn't felt herself honor-bound by her promise to marry the Hero if he accomplished the "impossible task".

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