It’s time for another holiday pep talk

It’s November, and it’s time to have the talk. The same talk we have every year. Sorry not sorry, we’re gonna talk about it again.

As much as we all want to pretend otherwise, this holiday season is going to look an awful lot like last holiday season. Supply lines are backed up. Everyday items and festive goodies are hard to find. More than a few have lost their jobs or had their hours drastically cut. Many of us will be celebrating the days with empty seats at our tables. Some buried loved ones. Some had to cut toxic family members out of our lives. 

It’s likely you, like me, aren’t entering into this festive season in the best of spirits. 

I still want to celebrate. I want to have fun. I want to bake and watch festive movies. I want to enjoy good food and time with the people I love. And I want to enjoy good stories. 

So I’m here again to give you four pieces of advice to get you through this season. Listen, we need the holidays. We need bright moments of joy. We need cats playing in wrapping paper, Yule logs burning, good meals, and great moments.

We’ve gotten through tough years before, as a society. Wars and Depressions. I don’t know you, but I bet you’ve gone through some tough holidays yourself. After death or divorce. After losing a job or a fight.

I’ve had holidays so broke every gift came from the Dollar Tree. I’ve buried a grandmother in mid-December. I’ve changed religions and lost the comfort of a Church family to celebrate with. I’ve had a holiday season after a bad divorce.

This year, we’re in a new home and we are struggling, cash-wise. Health has been a concern this year. And some other things I can’t talk about yet.

But I’ll be damned if I’ll take my current pleasure away from myself. And here’s how I’m going to do it. 

Prioritize like hell

You know my favorite thing in this whole wide world is a list. So when I started planning for this season, I made my list by priority. It’s hard to do it, but you’ve got to. Sit down and think about what you’d want to do if it’s the only thing you do. 

The top of my list is watching Elf with my husband on Christmas Eve. Right after that is having a fancy charcuterie board dinner on Yule. And third is reading holiday books under a blanket with a fire video on the tv and Harper on my lap. 

Yes, there are other things. Simpsons episodes and about a million movies. Lots of recipes to make and decorate. But you know what? If I don’t get to do any of those things, then I guess that’s what happens. I know what I’ll sacrifice, and what I won’t. Because what we make a priority gets done.

Get as much off your plate now as you can

You may have noticed on social media that I’ve been talking a lot about this. I’m batch writing all of my blog posts through the end of the month and scheduling them. Both for here and Haunted MTL. (Except my reviews of Dexter, New Blood. By the way, I’m live-tweeting during every episode over on Twitter. Follow Haunted MTL so you don’t miss it.)

I’m finishing a rough draft this month during Nanowrimo of course. I’m writing scripts for an upcoming podcast. 

And then in December, I am doing as little as freaking possible.

So if I’ve got to go all over town to find Christmas crackers, I damn well can. So if I want to spend my whole weekend reading and baking cookies, I damn well can. And if I just want to sit with some hot chocolate and watch the snow (or rain) fall, I damn well can. 

If it goes well, I might just set up my goals next year so I can take all of December off then too. 

Now, I’m still going to have to go to my day job. As already mentioned, I’ll still have episodes of New Blood to watch and review. I’ll still be updating social media. 

But that’s not near as much as I’ve been doing. And it’s nice, to worry not about what I need to do, but what I want to do. 

So what can you get off your plate this month, so you can play and celebrate next month? 

Be flexible

Christmas just won’t be Christmas without the special sugar cookies your family has been making for five generations. That’s gonna be a real hard sell if the one ingredient you need is on a boat stuck in a loading bay by customs.

If you’re not already noticing a supply chain issue, I’m surprised. Every time I go to the store it feels like half of what I normally get is just not there. And what is there is sure as hell more expensive than it was last year. 

Look, we’re going to have to get flexible this year. We’re going to have to settle for less than we want, for not the perfect picture. And it’s not great. 

But it’s better than letting yourself get into a tear because you have to get creative. Be aware, be prepared, and be flexible. 

Be patient

I mean this last one in two ways. First of all, be patent with your fellow man. Everyone is going through something right now. I already went over that in the intro. Yeah, it’s easy to get pissy when someone’s being a bitch in public. You might even want to be that person losing it because there is not anything in the grocery store your child will eat, and that quarter-filled cart is still going to set you back eighty bucks. But please, for the love of God remember that we are all humans. We’re all trying to get through something that sucks at best. And not all of us are getting out of it alive.

Be patient with people, and be patient with yourself. Take time to rest, get help when you need it. And if you lose your cool at your mother-in-law over Thanksgiving dinner, maybe just apologize and forgive yourself.

I truly hope you have the happiest of holidays, no matter what that looks like to you this year. We all deserve that warmth and light at the end of a long year. Enjoy what you have to enjoy, love who you have to love. 

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Consulting Credit

Happy Halloween. I hope you enjoy this creepy little piece.

Shadows scare people because they don’t know what might be lurking in them. If we paid attention to them, they wouldn’t be so mysterious. The things that lurk there are dark, not invisible.

I’m quite familiar with shadows. I look in them, I hide in them. 

I create them. 

I waited outside the campus library, blending into the shadows in a gray coat and dark jeans. I must have looked like any other college student, idly flipping through Instagram while I waited for a friend so we could walk home together. It’s much safer for women to walk together than alone. 

Soon I saw what I was looking for. The one who caught my eye was probably a senior. His face was buried in his phone, typing one-handed as he adjusted his backpack. Everyone tells girls to watch their surroundings. No father takes their son aside to discuss keeping themselves safe in public. That helps me.

I turned off my phone. Without its glow, I vanished.

The further we got from the library the fewer people were around. I spent this time watching the man. Why had I chosen him? I don’t ever know. There’s just something about some people. A discoloration in their aura, perhaps. A scent they give off. Or maybe it’s just the timing of it all. He came out when it was dark enough to be safe.

Either way, the time was now.  

“Excuse me,” I called.

The man jumped. “Oh, sorry,” he said. “I didn’t see you.”

“Can you help me? My dog got out, and I think she’s in this construction up here.”

“Oh, sure,” he said. Of course. “What does she look like?”

He pocketed his phone and walked ahead of me. Such a gentleman. 

“She’s a terrier mix. White with brown spots. Her name’s Trixi.”

Of course, he called out the name, “Trixi!” 

I did the same. 

There was a scratching sound from a room near the back, where the walls were finished.

Again he took the lead. I waited until I could close the new door behind us. The loop of wire went around his neck most satisfactorily.

The man tried to yell, but it came out strangled, gurgling. I pulled him down. Something moved in the shadows, but I ignored it. There was an ax there, waiting for me.

One good blow to the head was enough to make sure he couldn’t move Then I could use my smaller tools at my leisure. Plyers, fiberglass, matches. It was over too quickly, but most good things are. There was still the cleanup. I had a good little electrical saw to slice up the remains, and a barrel of lye at the ready. 

As I worked, someone moved in the shadow. A woman stepped out.

She’d worn heels and her little business suit. How foolish. But at least she’d remembered to dress in colors for the shadows.

“Great, this is really some great stuff,” Sophie said. She was scratching down notes on her notepad. She nearly glowed in the shadow. 

“Really, I can’t thank you enough.” She held out her hand to shake mine. A smear of blood transferred from my flesh to hers, standing out against her pale skin. 

“We have to get you consulting credits on the show. I couldn’t write it without this experience.”

“That would be great,” I smiled. Maybe I’d even score a visit to Hollywood out of it. People go missing in the shadows there all the time.

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The five best scary books I’ve read this year

Halloween is almost here, and there’s no better time to curl up with a good scary story. I’ve been spending as much time as possible this month with some ambient videos playing, a hot mug of chai tea, and some great books meant to terrify. So today I wanted to share with you the five best scary books I’ve read this year. If you’re looking for something sinister to read this Halloween, you could certainly do worse than these. 

Lore, Wicked Mortals by Aaron Manke

This is the same content as the podcast of the same name. Which is to say it’s delightful, educational, and eerie. I learned a lot about some truly sinister people. Some of it I already knew. I do co-host a true-crime podcast, after all. But there’s always more to learn. Sadly, there’s always another monster in man’s form to learn about.

Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I’m forever behind the times with this sort of thing. But that just means I get to discover great stories on my own time, so whatever. 

Miss Peregrine’s is about a young man named Jacob, who finds out that all the stories his grandfather told him in childhood are very much real. Soon it becomes clear that he found these strange, wonderful children just in time to save their whole world.

I speed read through all three of these books in a matter of a week. They aren’t spooky in the traditional sense. But they’re dark and well written. The tale is imaginative. I love the characters, and I appreciate the ending. If you haven’t read these books yet, give them a chance.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King.

This was recently made into a tv show that is now on my list. 

The story is told from two points of view. A retired detective who can’t let go of his last case named Bill Hodges, and the perpetrator of the said case named Brady. Brady stole a woman’s car and killed a crowd of people waiting outside a job fair. But that was just the start. Now he wants to go out in a blaze of gore and blood.

I haven’t read the next two books in the trilogy yet. But they’re next on my tbr list. 

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

I have no idea what I was expecting when I started this book. I think I anticipated something much like American Gods, exploring the dark corners and superstitions of the world. And there is some of that. But it’s also about magic made real, the struggles of the black community, and being tough as hell for your family. It’s about a man named Atticus, who learns that he has a magical lineage. And some would do anything to use that magic for themselves.

Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

Halloween Tree is a book I wish I’d been introduced to as a child. But as an adult, it’s firmly on my yearly Halloween reading list now. It’s about a group of boys who go out trick or treating, only for one of them to be snatched up by the wind and propelled through time. To find him, the boys must travel through the history of Halloween. And it’s a chilling, wonderful history. A trick and treat all in one.

The book itself was only a treat. If you haven’t read it, grab a copy and treat yourself. 

That’s it for my list. So now it’s your turn. What’s the best scary story you’ve read this year? Let us know in the comments. And come back on Sunday, Halloween, for a bonus post. See you then. 

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Preptober, Week Four

We’ve reached the last week of Preptober, writing fam. It’s time now for the final step before actually writing your novel. 

It’s time to create your outline. 

I have no time for pantsers. Those of you who don’t believe in outlines may go on your merry way. Enjoy your writer’s block and unsatisfying endings. That’s right, I said it. Fight me in the comments if you like.

So let’s get down to it. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be done in one day. We’ve got more than a week. 

I sometimes find myself getting a bit overwhelmed when I start an outline. By this time I’ve got pages and pages of freewriting, notes, and ideas. It’s a metric shit ton of content that may or may not make it into my novel. So take your time. Don’t try to sort out everything at once. It’s like a puzzle. You don’t drop all the pieces on the table and start shuffling. You take one piece at a time and see where it might fit.

Also like a puzzle piece, it’s best to start with the edges. Or, to drop the analogy, start with the things you know (for now) you want to write. If I’m feeling too overwhelmed, I’ll pick just one thing. One thing I’m sure I want to have in the story. Often it’s the ending. We’ll talk about that more later. But it’s important to have two kinds of scenes to start. You need load-bearing scenes that move the story forward, and you need scenes you’re really excited to write.

Now that you’ve got a start, you can start connecting dots. What has to happen to make these scenes pay off. If someone is dying in the last chapter, what caused that? If we’re looking for a treasure, we need to have a treasure map earlier. 

I want to caution you again to not put too much pressure on yourself. Remember that your outline is written in ink, not stone. I always reach a point when writing a rough draft that I have to stop and redo my entire outline. And that’s fine. Remember, the point of writing an outline isn’t to figure out your whole story. It’s to start giving you an idea of the shape of it. Honestly, you might not have the whole story until your third or fourth draft. Maybe even more. So yes, put time and effort into your outline. But remember, you’re not married to it. 

While this isn’t for everyone, I insist upon knowing my ending before I start. Even if it might change dramatically. I still have to have an ending before I start writing. It’s the finish line at the end of the trail. When I’m lost in the weeds, and I’m not sure what should be happening, it’s the North Star. My ending is often the first part I write. And if you’re wondering, I already know the ending of my Nano project this year. 

Finally, I’ll leave you with a reveal. This year I won’t be writing a novel. Those of you who’ve been loving the first season of AA will be thrilled to hear that I’ll be writing the second season. These episodes will be longer, darker, deeper. 

What are you writing for Nanowrimo? Let us know in the comments. 

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Preptober, Week Three

It’s week three of Preptober, and it’s finally time to start writing! 

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I suggest a whole week at least of brainstorming before starting a novel. Maybe this is just my method. But my method’s gotten me four published books, so I guess it’s working for me.

That being said, how you chose to free write can vary dramatically based on your writing style and personality. Today I want to talk about some tips for making the most of your brainstorming Preptober week.

Freewriting is your best friend 

Being a student of Natalie Goldberg, I firmly believe that freewriting is the best way to get to the core of a project. So every day for the next seven days I encourage you to free write about your novel project.

Do it by time

A lot of people like to free write by time. This is pretty simple, you set a timer and write for that set time. I like doing this myself, among other methods.

Do it by number

That being said, I also love a numbered list. I’ll write lists titled 20 things that can happen in this book. Or, ten jobs my character might have. Twenty ways this character’s voice is different from the other character. Whatever I can think of.

Now is the time for writing exercises

I love a good writing exercise. And during the brainstorming session, I do a ton of them. It’s a way to understand my world better before I dive into it for 30 days. There are tons of different writing exercises if you’re interested. I would definitely suggest checking out the Writing Excuses podcast for some starters.

Don’t stop for an entire seven days

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to jump the gun. After about three or four days of freewriting and exercises, I’m feeling like I’m ready to start working on my outline. Maybe even dive into my rough draft.

Over the years I’ve learned to ignore those feelings and keep freewriting for the entire week. 

Yes, you probably have some great ideas. Yes, it’s exciting to start a new project. Yes, nothing feels like progress until it’s words on the page. 

Keep free writing anyway. 

The reason is simple. You are going to want as much raw thought on the page as you can get. When I’m writing I refer back to these freewriting notes often. Even better, I’ll surprise myself as I free write. As I dig further and further into the story, I uncover things I might never have thought of. It will benefit your book to give yourself as much time as possible to play on the page.

It doesn’t matter in the slightest if your ideas are bad

If you are going to be writing pages and pages of freewriting, some of your ideas are going to be bad. I know we often say there are no bad ideas, but I think we all know that’s bullshit. Saying there are no bad ideas is like saying there are no worms in any wild cherries.

Wild cherries are still worth picking and enjoying, still warm from the sun. 

So what if all your ideas are bad?

Spoiler, they’re not. We’re always our own worst critics. We are always going to be hard on our work, even if it’s good. Even if it’s great.

Trust me when I say that your ideas are worthwhile. Yes, some of them are going to be bad. But not all of them. Not even most of them. 

I hope you have fun during your week of freewriting. I know I will. Remember, writing is supposed to be fun. So have fun with it. And I’ll see you back here next week for the final task of Preptober. 

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Preptober, Week Two

We’re one week into October, and one week into our Nanowrimo prep. If you missed last week, here’s a link to get you started. 

In week two, we once again have just two tasks.

1. Set up your project on the Nanowrimo website.

2. Make sure you have all the physical things you’ll need.

Okay, don’t freak out. Yes, I’m suggesting you announce your Nano project on the website this week. Note that I didn’t suggest that you know what your project is going to be. You don’t have to know the title, or even what genre you want to write in. 

You can literally label your project anything you want, and not be tied to it at all. You can just put untitled project number 69 if you want. It doesn’t matter.

So, if it doesn’t matter, why am I telling you to do this? Because it’s a concrete action that you’re taking towards your goal of writing a novel. You can see it right there on the screen, and so can everyone else. You are locked in now, you’re writing a novel. It’s on the internet.

Now, it’s time to consider some physical considerations. You don’t need a lot to be a writer. Just something to write on, and with. 

If you’ll be writing your novel on paper, consider what kind of paper you want. I like college-ruled notebooks and le pen felt tips.

You can of course type it. This is easier because you can check your word count without having to count the whole damned things. So if this is the way you’re writing, get yourself a word processor and play around with it a bit. I like Dabble, but there are tons of options.

Another thing you’ll want to consider is where you’ll be writing. Do you have somewhere at home to write? Do you need to go to a coffee shop or library? Do you need a desk, lap desk, or just a better chair? 

Think also about the little things you might need but not think of. I, for instance, like to outline things on index cards. Even if I’m typing my novel, which I’ll be doing this year, I still need pens to brainstorm on paper. 

I’m not saying these are all things you’ll need. But I am saying you should consider how you want to write, brainstorm, and do all the other things related to your project. Make a list, grab what you’ll need, and get ready to start writing. 

That’s it for this week. See you again next Friday when we get into some actual writing.

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Preptober, Week One

Alright, it’s the first day of October. And this month is dedicated to exactly two things in my house. Celebrating Halloween as hard as possible, and getting ready for Nanowrimo. 

So this year I’m going to take you along for the ride with me, in a four-week course that will let you hit the ground running on November first. I’ve done Nanowrimo or Nanoedmo every year for the last eight years. And I never lose.

Why don’t I ever lose? Because I plan my life and my project in such a way that failure is not possible. 

If you’re with me, we’re starting today. This week, you have two tasks. 

1. Make your plan of action.

2. Get your people together.

Let’s break these down.

Make your plan of action

Especially if you’re new to the whole novel-writing thing, you need to make a plan for how this is going to happen. Because it’s sure as hell not going to happen by accident. Especially if you have other responsibilities. Like, you know, a life.

So you’ll want to ask yourself these questions. 

When am I going to write?

What projects do I need to wrap up before November to make space for this?

Are there any days I know right now I won’t be able to write? What days will I work ahead or catch up?

What are the other obligations that I still need to meet like work, school, finals, or home care?

What I’m saying is this. You are going to have excuses aplenty to not write. Get rid of those excuses by planning for them, not succumbing to them.

Find your people

This is broken down into two groups. Who are you writing with, and who is supporting your writing?

Do you have any friends, online or IRL who want to write with you? Nanowrimo is always better when you have other people participating with you. Start talking to your buddies now, and see who’s going to join you.

More important even than that, though, is your in-person support team.

Who’s going to help you out during November? My support team is my husband, who will help me out with the house and give me space. My best friend, who will be there for emotional support. And my group of friends, always ready for weird questions at random moments. 

Make a list of your support team. Ask them if they’re ready for that. Let them know what you’ll need of them. Do you need your mother-in-law to watch the kids an extra hour a week? Do you need your wife to make dinner on a night that would normally be yours?

You need time to prep. Your support system does too. And if you’ve got to do something extra to support your loved ones in return, best to know that early. 

So that’s it for this time. You’ve got a week for these two tasks. I’ll see you back here next week for a new assignment. 

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Banned Books Week, 2021

Banned books week kind of snuck up on me this year. Here it is, and I don’t feel prepared. 

But I will be! And as always, I’m here to bring you a list of the ten most banned books of 2021. 

All of the information from today’s post comes from the banned books week website. Please check it out by clicking on this link here.

10. The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas

9. The Bluest Eyes, by Toni Morrison.

8. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

6. Something Happened in Our Town, by Marianne Celano and Marietta Collins

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

4. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

3. All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

2. Stamped: Racisim, antiracism and you, by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

1. George, by Alex Gino

Now, let me tell you why this list upset me more than most years. 

For one thing, there are two classics on the list that I was required to read in school. Trust me, no one in my school was emotionally scarred or broken by reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Most of my peers, sad to say, weren’t paying attention.

Some of us were moved. Some of us remembered that story, and the lessons it taught us, for the rest of our lives. 

A lot of these books were banned because of LGBTQ content. I don’t understand how in 2021 there are still so many people that see homosexuality as a choice, not to mention as a bad thing. I honestly feel like banning LGBTQ books is just an act of cruelty. People who ban books like this don’t want that community to feel like they belong. 

I notice many of these books are about racial disparity. This is a conversation we need to have. We can’t fix problems we don’t know about. And honestly, I’ve spent too much time over the last two years saying, “I had no idea that happened.” 

We need to know about Black Wallstreet. We need to know about Juneteenth. Not because we should feel guilty, but because we need to understand the scope of the situation. We cannot fix what we do not know about. Nothing is ever going to get better if we act like racial issues don’t exist. 

Finally, I’m concerned that a lot of these books are for children. There are people who seem to want to put blinders on children. This is a disservice to the next generation.

So what do you think? What banned book are you reading this week? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Why Loki didn’t work

We talked about Wandavision, and how it collectively broke us. We talked about Falcon and Winter Soldier, and how it revealed dark truths and personal growth. Now, let’s talk about Loki.

I’d describe Loki as the Booberry of the Halloween cereal trinity. It’s fine, but if there’s Count Chocula or Frankenberry I’m grabbing those first. 

We watched Loki, but it’s hard to say I can remember a lot of it. It just didn’t grab me in the same way most of the other Marvel content. So let’s break it down and talk about what didn’t work.

First, though, I do have to say that there were several really good characters in Loki. Mobius, played by Owen Wilson, was a good character. He had hopes, dreams, friendships. He cared about his job for good reasons, which allowed the world to shatter his reasons to the four winds.

Unfortunately, the time and care that went into this character didn’t transfer into the rest of them. One prime example is Sylvie. 

I thought a female Loki was a clever idea, at first. But honestly, I can’t tell you one damn thing about her that distinguishes her. 

And I don’t mean I can’t distinguish her from other Loki variants. I mean I couldn’t tell you what makes Sylvie different from literally any character. She’s like Selene from Underworld or Alice from Resident Evil. We just do not know anything about them. You could literally swap out either one of these women for Sylvie, and it wouldn’t change the story at all. She was, in a word, boring. 

We also don’t see a lot of growth in our world’s Loki. At least, no more than we’ve seen in the Marvel movies. And this is what I’d consider the cornerstone flaw of this show.

The character of Loki transitioned a lot from his first appearance to his last. He went from being compared to Hitler by an old man who had for sure survived the Holocaust, to being a hero who gave his life to save his brother. 

And this took several movies! We were given time to see the complexity of the character. He loved and hated his adoptive family. He wanted to be accepted but didn’t want to have to try too hard. This was an important story arch for him that impacted the rest of the world around him.

All of this great character growth was smooshed into a few moments, scattershot here and there through a series that consisted of six episodes. 

Finally, the biggest issue I had with this show was the constant talking. Not talking about anything interesting, mind you. Just talking. 

Especially between Sylvie and Loki. It appears that whoever was writing this series thought the only interesting characters were them, and the only interesting thing they could do was fall in love with each other. Which I, at least, didn’t care about in the slightest.

I’ll be honest, I left the show feeling cheated. Here we have an awesome premise. Time cops, making sure that there aren’t a million evil timelines going on. Someone to step in like Abed in the best episode of Community and grab the dice out of the air. So many cool things could have been done with that! We could have seen alternate timelines where literally anything could have happened.

Instead, we get a lot of sensitive talking done by two people who aren’t that interesting, followed by a lot of things blowing up that we don’t care about because we don’t care about anyone who’s affected by them.

Time for the wrap-up. Here’s what we can learn from Loki.

One clever character doesn’t make a show.

You have to make your characters actual people for your audience to care about them.

It would be nice if something, you know, happened. 

So that’s it. What did you think of Loki? Let us know in the comments. 

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Why Falcon and The Winter Soldier works

Released this spring over six weeks, Falcon and Winter Soldier was a huge hit. I certainly watched every episode. It wasn’t as funny as Loki. It wasn’t as emotionally devastating as Wandavision.

But it was great. It was a solid political intrigue terrorist story, with some superhero antics thrown in for good measure.

Let’s talk today about why it works.

I want to start with the primary antagonist, Karli. She is a terrifically written antagonist. 

Notice that I don’t say bad guy. Because Karli isn’t what I’d consider a bad person. She’s a person who’s lost hope in the world. 

After the blip was corrected, millions of people were displaced. There are not enough resources to go around. Karli’s barely surviving with her friends and what little family she has left. She’s not a bad person. She’s just trying to get someone, anyone to take this situation seriously. And it is serious. People are dying.

Kind of like now, in real life. But I digress.

Karlie is the perfect example of a person with good intentions who does horrible things. We don’t want her to succeed, but we also don’t want her to suffer. Part of this is achieved by the fact that she’s young and adorable. Come on, what melts a heart faster than curly hair and freckles?

The other part is that she’s a genuinely loving person with real familial attachments. We see her hanging out with her friends. We see her mourn the passing of the woman who raised her. We care about her because we can see that she cares about the world around her. This is not detached from the horrific things she does. If anything, it’s a direct relation. She loves, and so she feels like she has to kill. 

Of course, Karlie’s just part of the story. As it’s been pointed out online, we spend a lot of time (maybe too much) seeing the character growth of Sam and Bucky.

Sam is angry at a lot of people. And he’s got every damned right to be. He’s saved the world as an Avenger, and no one can even help his family save their boat. And now, everyone wants him to be Captain America, and represent a country that has treated him badly.

This storyline delved into some deep issues I’m not fully qualified to discuss. The super-soldier serum being tested on unwilling black men is too close to actual historical events for my comfort, frankly. If the popularity of this show does anything, I hope that it shines a much-needed light on some disgusting moments in our history.

As he comes to terms with helping a nation that has not helped him, Bucky’s going through a very different evolution.

He has done terrible things. He’s killed innocent people. And the fact that it wasn’t him committing these actions doesn’t matter to him. His body was used, he’s just as much of a victim as anyone. But he still buys lunch for the old man whose son he murdered as Winter Soldier.

These character arches are a big focus of the show, and I was thrilled to see this. We need more stories of growth and change. Yes, explosions are fun. Yes, aerial battles are awesome. But fiction is supposed to tell truths while telling lies. And I’m thrilled that such a mainstream, popular show talked about some hard truths. 

So, the takeaway for writers is this.

Write an antagonist who’s pure enough to be relatable, but still twisted and broken enough that you can’t root for them to succeed.

Write honestly about things that need to be talked about. 

Is there a show, movie or book that you’d like me to break apart and discuss why it works? Let me know in the comments. 

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