Choice and Fear

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Here's a simple math problem. If I were to flip a coin, what are the chances of heads turning up?

A. 50%

B. 50%

I didn't say it was a hard math problem. Let's say the coin lands and gives us heads. Now if I flip the coin a second time, what are the chances of me getting heads again?

A. 25%

B. 50%

C. 75%

Ooh. Three choices! The answer is B. Let's say the coin turned up heads again. Flipping the coin once more, what are the chances we get heads again?

Believe it or not, the chances are still 50%. Each coin flip is completely unrelated to each other. They're separate events in time. I hope it's easy to see this truth.

Living as humans, we're constantly haunted by our past. Maybe it's evolution's way to help protect us from making the same possible fatal mistake. But when this fear of the past seeps into other parts of our lives that may not have the benefit of killing us, then issues may arise.

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I have a friend who has had a devastating past with men. In general, men have not treated her kindly. In many cases violently. Her current beau is a strange bird, a conspiracist, or a believer of such non-scientifically proven things as the earth is flat and the moon landing was faked and...well...to go on would be a waste of space.

Short story long, they've broken up numerous times, citing mental abuse, specifically him wanting her to believe in the crazy. After breaking up for the last time, she's told me she would never go back to him again, using the words, "Read my lips...no new taxes." OK. That was George. But we all know how that turned out. So, too, did my friend go back on her own word. But it's her life, and she can do whatever she wants with it.

I bring her up for a specific reason. When they had ended it for the nth time, she feared that she would not find anyone better than her ex, citing her past. So I gave her the coin flip math problem, which she answered correctly, and I said that her past does not determine who she dates in the future. She wasn't sure, but she put up a strong front on Facebook, posting happy pictures.

Several months later, I hear through the grapevine that she went back to her ex, well her non-ex now. I guess my coin flip analogy failed to imbue her with the courage to seek a new man. Hey. Who knows? They may work it out.

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So how do you know when to "get back on the horse" or when to move on?

Because if my friend works her relationship out, and they both live a life filled with happiness, then it doesn't matter if they broke up and got back together many many times. In contrast, if they fail as a couple, then she may have wasted a lot of time.

Sometimes you act in the face of fear because in reality it's all in our heads.

I remember listening to an interview with Kathryn Stockett, who wrote The Help. She was rejected 60 times before finding her literary agent. So if she had decided to give up at the 60th rejection, she may have not found the success she has today. Emotionally, she has gone through a rollercoaster of a ride trying to get her book published. All writers do. She must have had intense doubt as the rejection letters piled higher and higher. But something in her spoke to her, to continue submitting query letters, despite the fear of rejection. But she did it! If we look at the coin flip analogy, each letter had no effect on the other. She could have possibly received endless rejections because one rejection does not promise that the next won't be. And she could have received an offer letter if she had queried her current agent first.

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An example of real fear is when a grizzly bear is chasing you. As you're running away, you remember a frightening fact. They can run way faster than humans and over greater distances. You look back, and the bear is gaining on you. Fast. Good luck.

Let's get back to my friend and her beau. She decided to start the relationship yet again out of fear, which was that she wouldn't be able to find someone as good as him. We can't say that there is a better match for her because there are no guarantees in life. Save death. But we do know there are plenty of other men out there that she hasn't explored. So her fear that he's the best for her is unfounded.

It would be one thing if their relationship worked, then there'd be no need to look further. From what little I see of them, she's trying to change him, he's trying to change her, and that to leads conflict. In other words, they haven't accepted each other for who they are. Nor have they accepted themselves. Once those things are done, then getting along with each other becomes much easier.

Franchises

Most people abhor movie sequels. Not sure why since they usually do well in the box office. But I think the lost love comes from not being as good as the first movie. Part of that comes from character development.  With a lot of stories, the main character goes through a change like going from being unconfident to confident.  And once that's done that character becomes uninteresting.  The sequel now has to depend on plot. James Bond as a character doesn't change at all.  All of his stories are sold based on plot and fan base.  It's no wonder the actors change so much.  They have to to keep the audience interested.

Then came Casino Royale.  One of the things Bond doesn't do is fall in love.  He's a slam-bam-thank-you-mam kinda guy.  Nothing wrong with that.  He whips it out, tugs hard, holds tight, and bam.  I was talking about the gun.  But in Casino, Bond not only whipped it out--not talking about his gun--but let his love interest have it.  I'm talking about his emotions.

The man fell in love.

Add the banter between the two love birds, the plot, and a blonde Bond, and you get one of the best Bond movies ever made.  But once Quantum of Solace came out, it received mixed reviews.  And here we get into franchises.

In my search for a literary agent, I came across an article written by one.  He wrote something that made a lot of sense.  As writers, we have to know that the publishing industry is a business.  As a business, once a platform does well publishers will want to build off it to make more money.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a five-book series.  I haven't read the books, but I've spotted them as I walk through Borders.  There are tons of Trilogies.  But they're small potatoes.  There are book series that last a dozen books.  Some series are even ongoing.  Publishers often urge the writer to continue the series before venturing outside of that domain.

It's a business.

The problem, as stated above, is character development.  How can a writer continue to make the character interesting?  Put her through a lot of crap through plot?  Maybe.  How about having change occur in supporting characters?  Or what about creating new issues with the main character, and adding change in supporting ones?

Here's where J.K. Rowling did a great job.  As Harry grew up in those seven years, he changed just like a real person.  Shocking.  That and the red herrings, plot, the close knit friendships made for a great read.  Rowling satisfied the publishing world's philosophy of building on a fan base, but satisfied her fans by creating incredible plot with highly relatable characters.

As writers, we need to keep at heart the art but also keep an eye on the world of business.

 

Transformers

Transformers, more than meets the eyes. Transformers, robots in disguise. I loved that show. The cartoon movie after the original TV show ended got critical acclaim. Watch it. You'll see why.

I love movies. I'll watch anything from mindless blockbusters to sappy, chick movies.

But here's the thing. I've listened to teachers of story, and those who teach writers of screenplays state one truth: The talent out there is amazing.

Really?

Sam Witwicky is the main character. His character arc is...wait for it...wait for it...committing and saying he loves Megan Fox. I understand not making yourself totally available to a girl, but common!

Then for him to be able to vow his love to this girl 20 million tons of robots have to fight eah other, military soldiers die, a famed Autobot dies, attempted assassination on his life, and being brought back to life from the brink of death.

Huh?

None of the other characters go through any change. Am I missing something? Well the girl vows her love, too. And, yes, I enjoyed it as entertainment.

But shouldn't that be a subplot?

Now, I'm not a screenwriter, nor do I have an interest in it, but I think there's still room for great screenwriters. As the saying goes, "There's always room at the top."

Changing Role of Parents

If you've watched any movies or films where there's a parent/child dynamic, the parent always views their child as children, no matter the age.  My mom does this to me a lot.  When I visit her for dinner, she'll make three dishes-chicken, beef, and a vegetable entree.  She makes enough to feed an family of four, but it's just the two of us eating. First she'll say that all of this costs less than a single entree at a restaurant.  Then as I take a piece of chicken, she'll point to the beef dish and ask if I don't like beef.  I take a piece of beef, and she points to the vegetable dish and ask if I don't like vegetables.  I take some and put it in my bowl, and she points to the chicken.  She asks me why I won't eat the chicken.

Over the years of mediating between parents and their children, I've noticed that parents are reluctant to change their role.  As babies, parents provide everything-food, clothing, healthcare, etc.  When children get older, the amount of care needed lessens.  Obvious, right?  You're not going to prop your ten year old on the table and change their diaper.  If you do, then there are issues of discipline you'll need to deal with.  During the teenage years, kids tend to want some sort of independence.  That's why they don't like to be seen with their moms or dads.  It's totally uncool.  Once people grow into young adulthood, then further on as adults, parents still care and worry about them as if they were little kids.  As children grow, so must the parent's role.

When I taught privately, my advantage was not having any emotional attachment.  I would listen to my students problems or issues, and I wouldn't judge them.  Some had sex early on.  Other's cussed a lot.  Many had complaints about their overbearing parents.  They told me everything.  I'd help them if they wanted, but left the subject if they didn't.  Parents would be thankful that I was there to listen to their children's problems, but didn't really know how to gain their child's trust.  It's simple, but can be hard to do.

Listen to them, ask questions about what they're talking about, and do your damned best not to judge.  Don't overreact, yell, scream, or solve their problems.  Ask if they need help, for sure.  But just listen.  If you want to give your two cents, then ask if you can give your opinion.  Trust me, if they want it, they'll say yes.  IF they don't want it, and you give it to them, it'll go out one ear and out the other.  That doesn't mean you don't make them aware of issues of sex, drugs, or alcohol.  You do.  I'd recommend not to be overbearing.

I live by two guidelines when I teach.  The teacher appears when the student is ready.  So if people are ready to learn, they will listen.  When I teach, I don't teach, nor do I take the role of teacher.  When I teach, I take the role of guide.  Life is a massive landscape of unknown.  Just as you would hire a guide for a safari, be your children's guide when they need it.