I guess my blog is viewed by more people then I realize because my lyrical post about The Magicians landed me an interview/discussion about the show for Wired. Here’s the link where you can listen in while David Barr Kirtley interviews Andrew Liptak and me about the show.
I can’t watch every show that out there. Not with some 144 scripted dramas currently showing on various platforms, however, in the shows I do watch I’m noticing a trend that is bothering me. Extremely interesting and charismatic male leads, and woman characters that aren’t as strong or interesting. It really hit me last night as I was watching the latest episode of Lucifer. A very problematic show that I keep watching because of the amazing job being done by Tom Ellis in the lead role as Lucifer. The show has improved once they got away from the “case of the week” set ups and are dealing more with supernatural issues. It also drives me crazy that women are all ready to drop their panties for him, but not men. They tried to take some of the curse off that by showing him in bed with both men and women, but it hasn’t taken away the bad taste. But I digress.
Here’s the problem when it comes to gender issues and I’m going to stay on Lucifer since it’s the one that made my head explode — Chloe has to be the worst cop ever to wear the badge. The violations of basic evidentiary rules make me nuts, but putting all that aside. She’s not a strong character. The actress just can’t hold her own against Ellis or D.B. Woodside who is compelling as Amenadiel. They are finally giving the demon Mazikeen something to do, and that’s helping, but it seemed to take a long time for them to realize she might be interesting, and instead we were treated to the psychiatrist and the police captain, and every random woman going cross eyed for Lucifer and Chloe being maudlin and incompetent.
Then there’s Arrow and the problematic Laurel. Up against the sister Sara played with great verve by Caity Lotz poor Laurel is very weak tea. Felicity was great but the ditzy but brilliant thing was starting to wear a bit thin for me, and her reaction to Oliver’s decision to keep his son secret weakened her in my eyes. I liked Thea a great deal, but the character seems to be less and less present in the cast. Which leaves us once again with powerful male figures in Oliver, Diggle and Malcolm Merlyn.
Castle — I gave up on the show because the only thing propping up Beckett was Nathan Fillion in the lead role and the two cops in her unit who where terrific.
Gotham — the only stand out female character is Cat Woman.
The Magicians — Poor Alice is no match for Elliot and Penny or even Quentin. Julia — everything she tries seems to end in disaster.
The Flash — the woman portraying Iris is improving, Caitlin gets to mope a lot, and they are playing against Barry, Joe, and the terrific Tom Cavanagh as Harrison Wells.
Last night I found myself longing for Buffy.
Some of this is the fault of the writers for not giving these women something meaty and powerful to do, but some of it is due to casting choices picking actresses who aren’t able to show strength and I’m not just talking about the ability to kick ass. It’s their ability to be as compelling, charming, threatening, witty, in short as interesting as the men with whom they are matched.
And it’s not impossible. I’ve already mentioned Buffy where we had not only Buffy but Willow and Arya and Dawn. On Agents of SHIELD we have Skye/Daisy, and May. Person of Interest — dear god, what incredible characters starting with Detective Carter, Root, Shaw, Zoe. Orphan Black — many of the various clones are fascinating and of course you have Tatiana Maslany in the role and she’s stunning.
I’m sure people will be able to come up with shows that have powerful female leads of which I’m unaware — The Good Wife, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal? But for a lot of the genre shows that I have been watching the presence of powerful, interesting women are pretty slim. I find this depressing and I’m not sure how this can be countered. But I’m going to try when I have the opportunity.
I generally don’t get political here. I talk about movies and games and books, writing, riding, etc. But as this long (too long) campaign season winds toward its conclusion I have to speak up, and plead with Democrats and Independents and progressives to think very hard about wounded feelings.
I have repeated stated that I am team blue. I will vote for which ever candidate wins the nomination. For the record I will vote for Secretary Clinton in the New Mexico primary, but if Senator Sanders takes the nomination I will happily vote for him for president.
There have, however, been many calls — from both sides, though my personal experience has been more calls from Senator Sander’s side — that if their preferred candidate doesn’t take the nomination they are going to take their marbles and go home ie not vote, or vote third party, or vote for Trump or Senator Cruz because that will show them!
First, it’s a great tragedy to not exercise that right. Countless numbers of Americans fought and died so we would have that right and even now we are seeing that precious right being rolled back by Republican state legislatures and we have a Congress that won’t re-authorize the voting rights act. So please vote, but think about the power of that vote and use it wisely.
Which brings me to the plea. Please, please do not allow your personal feelings to have potentially dire consequences for real living, breathing Americans. If we don’t unify and come out in strong numbers to vote in November we make it far more likely that a conservative will win the White House, and in the worst case scenario have control of both the House and the Senate. Please consider what that would mean for —
The poor woman in south Texas who can not afford to make the drive to San Antonio and wait days to have an abortion. There are already woman who have endangered their health by trying to self abort. Consider this exchange —
Amy Hagstrom Miller, owner of Whole Woman’s Health… tells the story of a woman who called her clinic in McAllen to schedule an abortion. It was the day after HB2 had taken effect, and the clinic was unable to provide abortions under the new law.
A clinic worker told the woman that she would need to travel 250 miles to a clinic in San Antonio, get initial counseling, and wait 24 hours for the procedure.
Ms. Miller said the woman responded: “I’m a working mother, I have a job, I have two children at home, and I absolutely can’t travel to San Antonio.” The woman added, “But I need this abortion, I can’t afford to have another child.”
Miller recalled the woman’s next words. “She said, ‘If I tell you what is in my medicine cabinet and what is under my sink, can you tell me how to do my own abortion?’ ” Effect of Texas Abortion Rules
Think about that for a minute. This is a real person. Maybe a neighbor who is willing to risk her health and possibly her life. How much worse will it get if a Republican fills that vacant seat on the Supreme Court? I’m old enough to remember when women went into back alleys for illegal abortions and they died.
Or the minimum wage. There are millions of Americans working two and three jobs to try and support their families and keep a roof over their heads. Do you think they’re going to get that minimum wage increase if we stay home and don’t vote?
There are children whose only meal is the lunch the receive at school. The Congress would like to cut funding for those programs.
There are elderly people who are no longer allowed to vote because they can’t gather the proper documents or can’t afford them even if they can locate them. Students whose college Id’s aren’t considered valid identification, but by god you can vote if you have a concealed carry gun permit. (Perhaps we ought to start a fund so every minority voter, elderly voter, or college kid can apply for the concealed carry.) Consider this situation in North Carolina — North Carolina’s Voter ID Law.
And how about health care? The Republicans have sworn to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If they do that and roll back the medicaid expansions millions of people are going to lose access to doctors and hospitals and many of them will die.
Immigrant families that are going to be torn apart, separated by borders, and if Trump has his way, walls. Or our Muslim citizens who are going to becomes The Other in their own country and subjected to more and more suspicion and harassment.
The LGBT community that will find their right to marry rolled back and disallowed. Or find themselves unable to adopt. I can’t imagine how that must feel for a family. And then there are the so called religious liberty laws that are merely an excuse to discriminate.
What I’m saying is taking a “principled” stand and staying home because your guy or gal didn’t get the nod from the voters and the delegates might make us feel good or happily bitter (I’ll show them), or noble, but it might very well have dire consequences for our fellow citizens. Real world consequence as in hunger or death.
I also don’t buy the argument that by allowing a man like Donald Trump into the White House will “bring the revolution sooner.” First it’s not going to happen and second revolutions usually don’t turn out well. We have a constitutional system in place that has allowed us to work toward a more perfect union. Do we wish certain things could have happened more quickly? Of course. Were there missteps? Naturally. But overall it’s a system that has allowed for progressive change without violent upheaval.
So please, let’s all of us swallow our resentments and set aside our personal feelings and think about people outside our own circles who are hoping we’ll all remember them and their needs. I think the motto of our nation sums it up pretty well.
E pluribus unum — Out of many, one.
There have been questions about how I plot and outline. I learned this technique when I was working on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it’s used on every television show. I use it for the movies I write as well. And then it occurred to me — this could work for novels too. Not in as much detail, not every scene, but the big scenes, the “tent pole” moments could be laid out.
I’m going to actually put up a photo of the next Imperials novel, but please don’t study it too closely. I’d hate to spoil the plot for people. Just get the overall sense of how this works. Because my cork board is in Los Angeles and I’m in New Mexico I used a white board for this plot break.
What you need: A white board and colored dry erase or wet erase pens. That’s how we did it on Trek and it’s a pain because you have to try to carefully erase a scene if you decide it’s in the wrong place. On Profiler we used a cork board, pins, cards and colored pens. If you use cards you just pull off the card and replace it.
Next step. I write headings — Teaser, Act One, Act Two, Act Three. If it’s a really big book you will need five acts. The example I’m going to show you went to four acts which suggests this next book in the Imperials saga will be bigger than the one I just delivered.
I then assign a different colored pen to each view point character. This is challenging if you are doing a huge fantasy with seven or eight view point characters. Since I have never gone past four it hasn’t been an issue for me yet. I sometimes will pick a new color to indicate a crowd scene where all of my characters will be present and no one person is dominate in that moment.
I then go to the end of the final act, and I write down the final scene of the book with the appropriate color depending on whose view point will carry the climax.
I then go set up the teaser. Something interesting and exciting that will convince that person who is casually flipping through the book that they ought to buy this book.
Next I try to fill in the act outs for each of the other acts. Once those finales are all in place it becomes relatively easy to figure out the scenes you will need to get to those various act outs and the final climax. Sometimes you do go down dead ends and something that sounded good doesn’t look good when it’s laid out. This saves me writing fifty or a hundred pages and then deciding that was the wrong direction.
The reason for the different colors is so I can see if I’m losing track of a particular character and need to up their profile. Or conversely it might suggest that I don’t need that character and they need to be dropped as a POV character.
The other thing I’m studying as I lay out these scenes is how they flow. I think of structure like relay race. A character has to smoothly hand off the baton to the next character who is going to continue to carry the plot forward.
This makes each day’s work very easy. I get up in the morning, eat breakfast, gather up a cup of tea or coffee, glance over at the board and know what is the task for that particular day. I understand this doesn’t work for everybody, but in the high pressure of a TV show or when you have a lot of contracts with hard deadlines it’s invaluable.
And now here is the photo of what will be TIME AND CHANCE.
A final note. You don’t have to do this alone. Bringing in two or three other people who you trust and respect to brainstorm with you can also be very helpful. That’s how it works in Hollywood. The staff works together to lay out the season arc and then plot the individual episodes.
(And yes, I know I have terrible printing.)