Captain America: Civil War. Great Art?

chris-evans-captain-america-helicopter-main_0*Warning: Spoilers in the form of 2 pictures, but that’s all*

They say that great art invokes emotion. If that’s the case then Captain America: Civil War must qualify. It invoked emotion for me, much more impactful than entertainment awe.

First, I have an admission. I’ve noticed that many of our blogs this month are focused on Fictorians’ favorite movies or TV shows. As much as I love Marvel and Captain America, that’s not why I chose it. It sounds a bit shallow, but it may or may not be true that I just wanted an excuse to see the film as soon as it came out and knew that even if taking the whole family wasn’t in the budget, my having to write a post would give me “permission” to go see it anyway. We did take the whole family and at the end of the movie, the emotions and viewpoints leaked into our little family to create another civil war.

One of the great aspects of fantasy and science fiction that I love is the ability to present real world problems and perspectives in less threatening ways. By using a fantastical backdrop and alien characters, we get our audience–whether readers or viewers–to let down their guard. There’s a reason that religion and politics are often a taboo subject in our society. People tend to have very set views in those areas and arguments can heat quickly.

Whether we realized it or not, I believe that Civil War took down mental walls and then slammed us with a very real-world question, one that is both philosophical and political: Is it better to have more oversight in an effort to protect or have less in order to safeguard personal autonomy? How much do we want our police policed and how much do they need freedom to make split-second decisions? It’s a question that comes up in stories of every kind, from traditional westerns to post-apocalypse young adult novels. But I think it’s rare for both sides to be so well balanced. Civil War did a great job representing both sides. Which is what led to the Black family civil war of May 5th, 2016.

Ant ManAfter the movie, we started talking about the parts we liked most; my teenage girls really enjoyed Captain America holding Bucky’s helicopter so he couldn’t take off and my tween son thought Ant-man going giant was pretty awesome. But then my college-daughter expressed how Iron Man had the right of it. Captain America should have just signed the accords. I disagreed. They were too stringent and would get the Avengers caught up in too much red tape. We argued all the way home and it only escalated. Ridiculous, right? And yet, this movie evoked thought, emotion, and real-world comparisons. Which is one of the reasons that I will call Civil War great art.

I think we, as writers, can follow Civil War‘s example. In our own stories, do we evoke emotion from our readers? Does each character’s perspective ring true? Do we present each character’s beliefs like a good lawyer in a courtroom, giving the best representation that we possibly can whether we agree with it or not? As we strive for that level of authenticity, rather than push our own agenda, I think our art can help the world come closer to understanding one another…even if we must wade through difficult disagreements.

Colette Black Bio:
Author PicColette Black lives in the far outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona with her family, 2 dogs, a mischievous cat and the occasional unwanted scorpion. She loves learning new things, vacations, and the color purple. She writes New Adult and Young Adult sci-fi and fantasy novels with kick-butt characters, lots of action, and always a touch of romance. Find her at www.coletteblack.net

 

I Fell in Love with StarDust

Stardust-Featured

A guest post by Sarah Golden.

IMG_7189The film StarDust has everything a story needs to thrive in the hearts of dreamers. There’s the hero- Tristan Thorn, the villains: the three witches and an evil Prince. A goal- to catch a falling star and a wonderful message that the process of growth can happen only when you decide to be yourself.

I fell in love with StarDust when I read the book by Neil Gaiman, and I was fascinated by the turn of events that lead Tristan on a path to adulthood. While the story is a little more serious in the book, the film uses elements of the fantastical to convey the same spirit and message as the original tale.

The story itself plays out like a fable. Tristan’s growth is the backbone of the tale, because it is a tale we can all relate to. The process of growing up and discovering what you are capable of. Tristan learns this as he journeys through the fantastic world of Stormhold, and along the way, he learns his own strengths- weaknesses and values.

Tristan begins the film as a boy desperately in love with a fickle lady named Victoria. Blind to her condescending behavior, he does the unthinkable, and he promises to retrieve something nearly impossible to prove his love for her: a fallen star. Once he meets the star, things change. The star has a name- Yvaine, and she has no desire to go with him as a prize for his girl.

As the two get to know each other, they discover that Tristan is not the only one after the star. Two villains: a witch and an evil selfish prince are following their trail.
It is only when Tristan and Yvaine face the brink of death that they discover each other’s company isn’t so bad.

They make friends with a sky pirate who teaches both of them how to be sophisticated and confident. This is the moment Tristan’s quest changes, and Yvaine’s desire to go home has changed into spending as much time as she can with Tristan. Tristan soon realizes that Yvaine has become more dear to him than Victoria, and he no longer wants to bring her back with him.

The characters’ motives change, but their greatest conflict appears when the witch catches up with them. Yvaine is taken, and Tristan goes after her as a hero. He wins her heart in the end, and becomes a king- finally learning his capabilities and discovering where he belongs.

The story of StarDust is a timeless tale about following life wherever it leads, and sometimes the path will take you on a journey that you never expected, but it could lead to an even better place. Tristan represents the hero in all of us.

Sarah 2Sarah Golden is a creative writer who draws inspiration from fairytales and folklore all over the world. She is a Kingdom Hearts addict and now owns her own keyblade! She is also a proud tour guide of Beast’s Castle at Magic Kingdom. With a Bachelor’s degree in English, Sarah hopes to share great stories through the written word and inspire others to be the heroes of their own story. She has written her first novel, and she is currently on a quest to publish it. Most of her other writing can be found on her blog Bara Lotus Garden: http://crystallizedheart.blogspot.com

Saving people. Hunting things. The family business.

The TV show Supernatural has gotten a reputation for being a show about two male models (who happen to be brothers) who hunt paranormal creatures, while repeatedly coming back from the dead. Much like the seasons and story arcs after the end of Eric Kripke’s Era of the first five seasons. So we’re not going to talk about those, or I’d be here all night.

The first season of Supernatural opens with a prologue. Family settles down for the night. Mother hears a noise and goes to check on her infant son, Sam. Father goes to check on his wife, and finds her on the ceiling. Bleeding. And then on fire.

So, hello there inciting incident to the overall story arc! Character motivation and high-stakes villain, so nice of you to join us so soon!

And then it does something very subtle, but important. The father hands off the infant to the six year old Dean, telling him “Take your brother outside as fast as you can. Don’t look back.” Translated? “Protect your brother and keep him safe. That’s the most important thing.”

The child cradles his infant brother and tells him, “It’s okay, Sam.” And then he looks up to the room consumed by flames and the family that was there. He looked back.

His father snatches them both away before the fire bursts out of the windows and doors.

Title screen.

Like oh, wow, okay, so that happened. And then what?

Cut to Halloween at Stanford, ‘present day’. Sam is grown up and has a seemingly normal life. A girlfriend. Excellent LSAT scores and his choice of a full-ride at just about any law school he wants. But then Dean shows up, looking like he doesn’t want to be there, and asks for help. “Dad’s on a hunting trip, and he hasn’t been home for a few days.” And Sam knows exactly what Dean means.

Our only indication outside of the, you know, title, that this is about paranormal hunters is the strangeness of the circumstances in the prologue.

You can tell that Sam and Dean are a bit estranged, and it’s revealed that Sam didn’t like growing up in a transient lifestyle of constantly hunting monsters. Dean wasn’t much into it either, but he saw it as a necessity, because he was old enough to remember the stakes and what he’s lost. And now he risks losing his father, too.

So with a truck full of guns, hatchets, and silver-bullets, they drive off together, on the road again in a black ‘67 Chevy Impala while nostalgic rock music plays in the background.

And as the story progresses, as each new season is introduced, the stakes are raised higher, and higher. ((We’re going to ignore the episode with the possessed racist truck ghost.))

First, there’s the yellow-eyed demon who killed their mother. He is amassing an army of demons, who are near impossible to kill at this point, for God knows what. ((Except God is missing, but we’ll get to that later.))

At first, they risk losing each other. Then their father, who they do lose, and it’s just them. And then they risk losing each other, again, because one’s dead, then not, and the other is destined for hell in a year.

Whew, okay, deep breath.

Stopped the demon army, learned about family and being there for each other, and reinforced the bond that was established when they were very young. Dean will do anything, anything, up to and including “Promise your immortal soul to the enemy that killed your father and mother” to protect his little brother.

Sam is just as loyal to Dean. He wants to try to find a way around

And then an angel literally grips Dean tight and raises him from perdition. Oh, yeah, now there are angels, too. They’re not all good, let alone on our duo’s side. In fact some of them are actively working against them, on top of all the demons they have to deal with.

They get a blade that can take care of demons, and oh look, now there’s another Big Bad even more powerful than the first one! And the seals that keep Lucifer locked away are being broken faster and faster. You gotta move, boys. Gotta figure this out.

So angels and demons are all warring amongst themselves and with the Winchester boys as they try to cause or stop a full on Apocalpyse, and God is still missing.

Until he isn’t.

And you think, oh, wow. So is God going to be on the Winchester’s side and fight the devil himself with a set of unified angels behind him? Are the Winchesters going to have to fight frickin’ God now?

And sadly, no, the God figure is more of a literal author who just organizes the world and lets the characters have free will to play out the story as they see fit.

Which means, they have to take down Lucifer themselves. Together. After all they’ve been through. But to do so, they might have to lose each other (…again.)

Took notes? All caught up? Good.

One of the writing lessons I took away from this series was how compelling, emotionally charged characters with a deep connection to each other (and a lot of humor, rock and roll, and self-awareness thrown in) can still drive a story when the plot seems to consist of the “…and…?” impromptu technique.

Now the series has 11 seasons and is being renewed for a 12th. Tumblr and DeviantArt and every other fandom forum out there are still talking about the show and analyzing the details in it years later. I’m pretty sure half the internet right now is Supernatural .gifs.

So, find something about your story, some aspect that you do really, really well. Work it. Respond to the fans and rework it to give them more of what they want.

Stages of Team Development

The-Avengers-Movie-1-Team-Pose

The following could constitute a class from your local business school, but it’s also used in great story-telling. In my work with organizations, I have seen group after group follow the stages of team development in their quest to become an effective team. These stages are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.

A group of individuals don’t simply meet one day and perform together as an effective team, just as a group of characters don’t start the story already performing at a high level of effectiveness. Great stories involve try-fail cycles and character arcs.

What I’m about to share is in a lot of movies/stories like Remember the Titans, The Martian, Apollo 13, The Incredibles, Dark Knight Rises, The Way of Kings (not a movie yet), and so many more, but I’m going to focus on The Avengers (2012).

FORMING – Nick Fury starts to form a group of superheroes namely Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and The Hulk. At first, the individuals were all about doing their own thing. They each had some experience in their element, but little experience in working as a team, especially with others as equally talented as themselves.

STORMING – Often Storming follows Forming though it may pop up from time to time. For example, Civil War is pretty much all Storming in a group that at the end of the first Avengers reaches the level of a Performing Team.

In the first Avengers Movie, Storming happens throughout a lot of the money and is based on the dynamics of characters interacting with one another in the group. Hulk doesn’t want to help. Thor wants to do his own thing. Iron Man’s too arrogant to ask for help. All of these and more prevent the group from developing into an effective team. “What are we a team? No, we’re a time bomb.” – Bruce Banner

NORMING really starts when the team thinks Agent Coulson was killed. Nick Fury uses this moment to inspire the group and get them all on the same page. In the following scene they stop trying to do it their way (individually) and start respecting each other’s talents and skills. Norming suggests synergies. As a team they are greater than the sum of their parts.

PERFORMING happens right at the end. The Avengers spent some time Norming, figuring out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And then Captain and Iron Man really start to employ the others and work as a team.

The following is the culmination of the performing team and my favorite clip of the movie.

Jace KillanI live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and a little dog. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with a little short horror on the side. I’ve hold an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.

I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.

You can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page and learn more at www.jacekillan.com.