Wake Up

Jean Shelton

Jean Shelton

I was talking to a friend of mine today. We met during my acting days when we both attended The Shelton Theater school for actors in San Francisco. Man, I miss those days. Jean Shelton had been around since The Group Theater in New York, and for those of you who know that lineage, they produced some of the best actors the world had literally seen. I’m talking about Marlon Brando, Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, famed director Elia Kazan, list goes on and on. She’d also met the greats like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Her history is simply amazing.

Is my teef big enouf?
Is my teef big enouf?

My friend and I were discussing his history with women and how he only felt comfortable dating Asians. I asked him why, and he stated that he didn’t venture outside of our own slanty-eyed folk because he didn’t want to get rejected due to his ethnicity. During his formidable years in high school, he was bullied due to being one of the few ethnic kids in a town that was predominantly white. Of course, after many, many years his past still haunts him. And really, it’s not his past, but his constant thinking of it, blaming it that limits him.

This brought to mind almost all of my characters in my fantasy, Nightfall. Every one of them has a past that has directly affected their actions and decisions in the present. And almost all the time, those decisions have helped moved the story along because the choices they made were based on limited thinking and fear, resulting in disasters.

And disasters are great for storytelling. “We need to get this amulet to save the world. After acquiring it, the enemy stole it and will use it to conquer the world over. What do we do?”

My main character, for example, lost a toddler through a horrible, tragic accident that was outside of his control. (Read the prologue) Guilt and hate and fear swirl around him and his wife, weaving through out the story, churning their decisions into bad ones. And they can’t seem to get themselves out of their past.

Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. But then, I’m not saying it needs to be difficult. For me, it took time to get over my relationships that ended, for example. And it did n’t take much for some of my exes. Not sure if that’s saying something about me. Nah.

Eventually, I did let go of the trauma, which you need to understand was self-inflicted. I know this because sometimes I kept those memories alive. And in those rare moments where I was steeped in something else, the pain disappeared. And I guess that’s why rebounds are so common. The new relationship takes your mind off of the old one.

Going back to my friend, he hasn’t let go of the fact that his ethnicity is not to be blamed for what he perceives to be a limitation. It’s his continued belief in that idea. I told him my nephew has a black girlfriend, and they absolutely love each other.

I was like what...cuz he was like this much

I was like what...cuz he was like this much

Once you go black, you don't go back. That apparently doesn’t apply to Asians. One of my first exes had dated two black guys before me. I guess you can go back.

I personally understand the stigma of being Asian. I was bullied during school in a different way. Many of the jocks sat close to me during tests because they wanted to copy my answers. I shrugged because I wasn’t the best student in school. But they assumed that I studied hard when I hardly studied. Those same jocks were shocked when I could keep up with them in P.E. class. What they didn’t realize is being chased throughout the school helped me run faster. The threat of wedgies scared the shit out of me, so we nerds had no choice but to book it. Most of us never got caught, but that’s because we were forced to be fast.

Wayne Dyer, a well known self help author and speaker, said that the wake is the trail that’s left behind…the wake can’t drive the boat. So it is with our own pasts.

Reading People

How do you read people? Go with your gut. What more is there?  Body language.  It's said that at least 80% of what people say is through body language.  And in fact, people intuitively read body language.  They may not be conscious of it.

If someone is assertive, their posture is straight, chest out, shoulders back, head craned like a flamingo.

What if someone slumps, hesitates to look you in the eye, crosses their arms, and even angles their body away?  Could be signs of deception, signs of low self worth or esteem.  With everything remaining the same, but you add the characteristics of someone who's assertive, then we can assume that person simply doesn't find you attractive.  Or they can be looking for someone and just doesn't see you.  Or they may be angry because someone stood them up.

But when reading people, I tend to go with my gut.  I do this with women.  Friends of mine have tried to set me up on blind dates.  The problem with that is within the first minute I can tell whether I have a connection with the woman or not.  And I'm old enough to realize the difference between lust and like.  Lust for men is pretty obvious.  Let's just say feelings toward the woman I'm in lust for don't originate anywhere within my chest.  And my eyes will most likely be focused on hers.

It sucks when I don't feel a connection.  Cuz I gots to talks to her.  Kinda like talking to a blank wall.  I'm sure it's the same for her.

Most people can't seem to read people.  Why is that?  Have they lost that special power?  Can anyone read people?  First off, any human can read another human, unless said human doesn't want to be read.  And you can lose that power by mistrust.  Whose trust?

Going with your gut means that you have to trust yourself.  Do you?  Well...do you need or ask others for their approval or opinion?  Read my post onGo with your gut. It'll give you an example of how I seeked approval outside of myself.

The way to practice this is by people watching.  Sit in a mall.  As a person walks by, let your mind create a story.  And trust that it's true, no matter how strange.  If you want to take a step further, go up and talk to them.  See how close your story came.

A better way of doing this is bring a friend.  My best friend and I used to do this a lot.  Most of the time we came up with the same story.  If our stories didn't match, then we'd discuss why we read what we read.

Writing the emotions of different characters can take the form of telling:  He's mad.  It can take the form of action:  He slammed his cup down.  It can take the form of body language:  She shoved him off and turned away.  Or it can take the form of dialogue:  "Get off me!"

Oooh.  Too much information.

Actors people watch a lot.  When I studied acting, I spent a lot of time people watching.  Now, I use that resource in my writing.  Because if you communicate emotion through just one way--telling, action, body language, dialogue--it can get boring.  Combining different ways allows for character development and variety.

Most important of all, trust yourself.  As kids, parents tell us 'No', 'Do this', 'Do that'.  As a result, we've become reliant on others.  Rely on yourself, open your mind, and let the stories come about.  You may be surprised.

Do we need loyalty?

What do you think? Is loyalty something we need? If you ask most guys who are in a monogomous relationship, they'll say yup. Then why in both life and fiction we see cheating as an explored theme? Look at the show Desperate Housewives. What if you're commanding an army? Is loyalty needed? That would be a hell yeah! Without it the commander's army would fall into chaos.

In friendships loyalty is important. My best friend and I are both writers, and when we read each others work we're also honest. We're honest because our friendship is strong enough to withstand honesty. Because if your friendship is built on niceties, then that house of cards is easily destroyed.

I can tell a lot by reading a person's level of loyalty. Do people invite you to things for their own reasons, or do they leave you out to fend for yourself? Do people call you if they need you or just because. Seeing the differences can tell you a lot about a person's character. And when I write, I do everything that I can to infuse physical and conversational elements to communicate their level of loyalty. I think this technique can be called foreshadowing because I am foreshadowing what the character might do when put between a rock and a hard place.

Stories like Braveheart and Bridge on the River Kwai explore the theme of loyalty well.

Loyalty to yourself, your passion is the most important. For example, are you at a job where you have passion? If not, then admit it. Take the time to ask what you'd love to do if money were no object. A truth in life I see repeated over and over is when one follows their passion with great commitment, everything else like money falls in place. I've experienced that many times in my life. True success comes from living a life of passion and purpose.

So I ask you to answer this question. Do you wish for something more in life right now? If you do, then you've taken the first step to change your life. The realization you want more. Find what it is, dream big, and take the next step to do it.

Want to be a bestselling author? Then you must first write a book. Want to be a great actor? Learn how to act, then go out and act. You must start somewhere. Inaction is a sure way to failure.