Halloween and Doctor Who

I don’t do Trick-or-Treating. I did when I was a kid but I remember all to well having to let my mother go through the candy to make sure nobody had done anything particularly nasty that year. We’ve all heard the horror stories and the urban legends and all things awful that could be done to unsuspecting children on All Hallows Eve and, regardless of whether or not they are real, I just can’t seem to let my son do this.

Which is sad, I know. I love Halloween and I love watching my son pick a costume and I make sure he has every opportunity to wear said costume throughout the month of October (and often the rest of the year.)

But as a single parent who lives in an apartment complex full of college students I draw the line at trick-or-treating.

Over the last six years my son and I have made our own traditions for this special night. We both dress up, we make a special dinner, and we try to construct a haunted ginger bread house. Mostly we just eat the pieces but for about 20 seconds the thing manages to stand upright.

We watched Scooby-Doo last year but this year we’ve both decided to watch Doctor Who.

We’ve been catching up on the new season since Monday and the episode called “Listen” scared the skittles out of us both. Totally appropriate for Halloween, wouldn’t you say?

I mean, there was one part where some thing was sitting on this kid’s bed, hiding under a blanket. It was so terribly creepy that my son hid his face. I was little better, clutching him to my side and wondering just how far Moffat was going to take this particular story-line.

In any case, I’m sure there are people out there who will say I’m robbing my son of a grand experience by barring him from trick-or-treating. To you I would say, let’s agree to disagree. There are plenty of other things my son and I can do to celebrate that don’t include driving down unfamiliar streets hunting for the houses with their lights on.

We went to the corn maze twice this month. We have pumpkins to carve. We have cupcakes to bake and a haunted ginger bread house to construct. And we have Doctor Who to watch.

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I am Doctor Who

I’m finally on a bit of a break from school so I had the pleasure of writing a quick short story in the science fiction realm several days ago. Then when I was done with that story I pulled up my document for a Civil War based novel, prepared to delve into all things blue and grey when it hit me …

I am Doctor Who.

All of time and space is my playground.

As an author I’ve already visited Mars (in Deviation) and walked through a medieval world (Sedition/Saboteur/Witch-Born). I visited ancient Greece in The Man Who Loved Medusa and have been dodging bullets in Nazi Germany with Persona. In Tapped — a novel that I will be editing very, very soon — I even got to stand on Pluto.

I may not have a blue box that’s larger on the inside than it is on the outside, but I’m 5’9″ and trust me … I’m way bigger on the inside.

Considering how close we are to NaNoWriMo — Nation Novel Writing Month, for those not aware — I felt it was necessary to shout this wonderful fact out to every author getting ready for the 50,000 word sprint.

You’re all Doctor Who too.

Embrace your playground — remember, that’s all of time and space. The only limits here are the ones you bring to the table.

For those of you who don’t know who Doctor Who is … look him up. He’s frigging fantastic. For those of you who know the good Doctor, prepare your own personal T.A.R.D.I.S. (pen, paper, computer, napkins, or whatever else you might write on) and get ready for an adventure.

You’re all awesome. You win the moment you start the journey.

Fact vs. Fiction — Chapter Three (Persona)

For those following along with the serialization of Persona, here is the Fact vs. Fiction page for Chapter Three.

So far this whole experience has been incredibly fun!  If you’re just hearing about it, Persona is my WWII novel that is currently being serialized online for free.  You can find it at its Wattpad address or at its story blog.

But here’s the battle of Fact vs. Fiction in Chapter Three!

 

Chapter Three – Fact vs. Fiction

 

Fact:  When I was in high school I took German as my second language.  (We totally watched The Sound of Music and The Great Escape during school.  It was awesome.)  But I remember our teacher Mr. Vanburen (yes, I totally snagged his name because he was one of my favorite teachers and I wanted to immortalize him somehow) said that there were different dialects in the German language.  It is much like anywhere else, I imagine, with different accents coming out.

 

Doctor Who fans will remember the Ninth Doctor being accused of coming from the north (of Britain) and his response was; “Lots of places have a north!”

 

So!  The idea of Uncle George’s “language game” isn’t too far-fetched.  It’s a little weird, but that gets explained as time goes on.  Uncle George isn’t the most honest of fellows, after all.

 

Fiction:  I shoved Megan into a converted storage room on board the ship because I really didn’t know where they would keep a stranded girl on board.  I always imagined it was positioned just beside or inside the sick bay so that Herr Schuler could see to her.  Let’s face it, this sequence of events is very fictional and I doubt they had a manual for what to do when they picked up a half-drowned woman.

 

Fact:  There really is a place called the Jade Bight.  In Germany it’s called Jadebusen and it’s a bay just south of Wilhelmshaven.  I had to mention it somewhere because, quite frankly, that’s the coolest sounding name in the world.

 

Fiction:  This is only a quasi-issue because Megan isn’t in the military and really doesn’t know what’s going on, but in the event someone was taken on board a ship like this they would most likely be kept alive.  The whole “remand her into custody of the port authority” is semi-realistic.  VanBuren would need to give her to his superiors, who would then direct her to military intelligence for interrogation and then relocation to a camp.  (More about this in Chapter Four.)

 

Fact:  My original draft of this story had four other POW’s on board the ship, which Megan was kind of interrogated through because Wycoff forced her into the same room with them and then listened to see if she revealed anything.  She then set about trying to help rescue these four men, which she managed during a bit of a battle, but she still got stuck going to Germany because she had to act as a distraction in order for the men to run.

 

It was a fun sequence, but after quite a bit of research I dug up the fact that it was very unlikely for prisoners to be taken on board ships like this.  Which meant if I had Megan rescued then I had to dump the other four guys.  I mean, I was already stretching the whole suspension of disbelief, so I needed to trim it down.

 

Choices

Well, tomorrow I’m going to have a guest post from RJ Blain, who is another relatively insane author I’ve been stalking on Google+ for a while now.  (I don’t think it’s really stalking when she’s in another country, but … eh … we’ll let her decide where the creepy boundary is.)

Anyway, you’ll love her.  She’s crazy and likes chocolate.

I thought about putting the post up tonight but had one of those “writer” moments today that I just had to get out.  Honestly, it’s amazing I can remember this eureka moment since a bird quite literally attacked me thirty seconds after I had it.

I’m not kidding.  This little black bird flew right into my back.  I thought maybe it was an accident but it came back and proceeded to dive bomb me again.  I nearly swung my sandwich bag at it, but thought I might get bird-crazy on my Italian Subway sandwich somehow and decided to just run instead.

Yeah.  I ran from a bird.  I’m not proud.

In my defense, it had beady black eyes and reminded me of those nasty crow things from Snow White and the Huntsman.

Where was I? … Oh, yeah … the Eureka moment.

One of the elements that is severely lacking in my fiction (or at least my early fiction, I have been working on this) is that of choice.  What I mean by that are major choices, choices that the character knows won’t end well no matter which direction they pursue.

ALERT:  The following examples are spoilerific!  DO NOT READ if you hate spoilers. 

Example #1:  Doctor Who The End of Time.  That’s like the last episode David Tennant was in and he gets to a point where he has to choose between shooting the Master, or Rassilon (Timothy Dalton’s character).

For a dude who has spent the last several years adamant about not killing anyone, this is seriously a bad decision for him.  We get to see him flipping between aiming the gun at Dalton or the Master and then Dalton again and then the Master.  (And in the end he chooses neither, but … eh … it was the fact that he was put in the position to have to make such a choice that added tension to that climax.)

Example #2: Supernatural What is and What Should Never Be.  Poor Dean Winchester finds himself having to make a very serious decision in the end of this episode.  He was attacked by a djinn and is in this dream world where his mother is alive and his family is mostly intact while the djinn slowly consumes his blood.

For a guy who has a history of putting his family (and innocent lives) in front of himself, he is suddenly confronted with a choice; stay and live in the “world” that has been created for him, or gut himself in the dream in order to wake up.

Of course, there’s no guaranteeing that he’s right and that he’s in a dream at all, so the decision also has the fear of mortality laced into it.

Sweet, holy tension, batman!

Dean delivers this wonderful line just before he goes to shove a knife into his gut, too —

“No, I’m sure.  I’m like … ninety percent sure.  I’m sure enough.”

….

You see what I’m saying here, right?

It’s all about choice.  In fact, we can sum plot up as being Character A must choose Path A, B, or C.

All right, so that’s an oversimplified look on plot, but it really does work.  Characters are defined by the choices they make — at least the good one’s are.  So my eureka moment today was when I realized that I hadn’t really given my characters tough enough choices to make.

Rock, meet hard place.

And then the bird attacked me.

There might have been more to that eureka moment but I was busy running.

You can’t get avian crazies when a bird dive bombs you, right?  It’s not like a freaky bird plague I should be worried about?

 

Tragedy

As I’ve been consumed by Doctor Who for the last few weeks I couldn’t help but start dissecting what it is about that show that I truly love.  Aside from it being funny and quick, the Doctor stands as one of the most tragic characters I’ve encountered.  He is alone, the last of his kind, floating around all of time and space in a blue box that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and armed with nothing more than a sonic screwdriver and an indomitable hope for humanity.

In the midst of all the fun and quirky bits of the show, Doctor Who maintains his tragic streak.  Perhaps the most profound episode I’ve found so far is the one titled Midnight by Russell T. Davies.  This one is in the middle of the fourth season and I have to admit that Davies is a genius.

WARNING : There are spoilers ahead.  If you haven’t seen that episode, don’t read further.

Davies put the Doctor in a little box that is not bigger on the inside than it is on the outside with a group of strangers on their way to see some diamond falls.  And then he broke the box — Davies, not the Doctor — and watched as the human elements of the story spiraled out of control.  We get the lady Sky suddenly possessed by some other kind of life-form that learns very quickly by mimicking the people around it.  Granted, it is creepy to have someone copy everything you say as you’re saying it, but the real genius of the story isn’t the alien trying to learn so much as the reactions of the rest of the people on board.

Basically, we had a whole show that didn’t really move out of the box and managed to remain intense and profound.  By the end we’ve seen a breakdown in humanity as the focus turns from stressful “Well, now we have to wait for rescue” to “Survival of the fittest” until nearly everyone is trying to throw the Doctor out of the ship (where he will die).  The tragedy of this story isn’t necessarily the death of one of the characters, but the ugly desperation that infected everyone.

These humans that the Doctor finds so much hope and affection for are also capable of horrible things.  He’s not naive enough to not be aware of their capacity for evil, but there is so much disappointment in him when he sees them turn the wrong direction.  So the tragedy comes around when his hope for the best in humanity is tarnished by the actions he sees.