For those playing at home, you’ll probably realise I’m much more of a panster than a planner. But as I’ve discussed previously, I think its good to have both capabilities as tools to use for writing.
However because of the way the dissertation is set up (and also to give a certain amount of clarity and direction that teaching staff can use to advise and assist), I have to do a pitch and plan first.
In short, I have to be a planner for this. That isn’t a bad thing, it just means I get to hone a skill that isn’t necessarily natural to me, and because staff understand writers, there is always scope to change if the original plan isn’t working. The reason I’m sharing this is because this week and next week will be focussed on my pitch – the first assignment that sets up the next two semesters for me. After all, context is important.
But onto the journal entry. . .
Journal – Week 2
This week has been focussed on developing the elements essential to my creative artefact in order to inform what kind of story will fit the question I am asking. The question focusses in the intersect between internal identity, impacting how a community sees an individual or demographic (external identity) and broader conflict (such an total war).
Regarding identity, I’m using a business definition for two reasons. First of all, as this is about contested and manipulated identities, it makes sense to use a definition applied to a deliberate attempt to form an identity. From their inception a business will need to drive its central, enduring, and unique qualities are (Bouchikhi & Kimberly, 2008), and as such this is the definition I will be using.
External perspectives are more framed as reputation, however this term usually refers to a more utilitarian factor in business (Deephouse, 2000, p1093), however this is not relevant to what I want to explore. The societal view of which qualities are attributed to an individual will remain focussed on what is externally perceived to be central, enduring, and unique about another subject. This applies both in the negative (driving towards conflict) and the positive (driving towards acceptance)
Using Orson Scott Card’s MICE quotient, any change in identity and community will need to focus on Character and give a full arc for any change in identity (2015, pp80-81).
Using the same technique, Event will also be a major focus. To engage an existential threat or total-war scenario, the ‘E’ will also need to be high. This naturally guides the genre to science fiction and fantasy, both of which regularly focus on the individual and their impact on the meta-conflict. Lord of the Rings set the theme of an individual’s impact and series such as A Song of Ice and Fire, The Wheel of Time, and Mistborn have followed the trend of an individual having a world-wide impact. From a science fiction perspective, novels such as The Forever War, Dune, Old Man’s War, and Card’s own Ender’s Game follow the same structure of an individual’s impact on the meta-conflict.
A similar theme can be found in many spy-thrillers and adventures. However spy-thrillers generally involve iconic heroes without a major change in identity (Sanderson et al, 2018), such as James Bond, Jack Ryan, and Jason Bourne. While there are discernible arcs, the characters maintain recognisable central, enduring, and unique qualities that exist across series.
Adventure stories often involve both existential threat and a full character arc, however often this is tied to a speculative element. For example, classic adventure stories the do not involve speculative themes, such as those by Alexander Dumas, sail era novels such as Master and Commander and Hornblower don’t have speculative themes. Those that do have existential threats mostly cross into speculative, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Hobbit.
In film, the 1999 film The Mummy demonstrates this must succinctly – while there is definitely a full arc for Rick O’Connell (from irresponsible, selfish criminal to respected public figure, husband, and father), the direct reason for this is the interaction with a supernatural creature in Imhotep. There are likely examples that run counter, however for the high C and E factors of MICE, fantasy and science fiction are the natural genres that support the question and theme of my artefact.
Bouchikhi, H, & Kimberly, J. (2008). The soul of the corporation: How to manage the identity of your company. Wharton School Publishing, New Jersey.
Card, O, (2015). ‘Where does the story begin and end?’, Writers Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy, F&W Incorporated, Cincinnati
Deephouse, D. (2000). Media reputation as a strategic resource: An integration of mass communication and resource-based theories. Journal of Management, Vol 26(6), pp1091–1112
Sanderson, B, Maetani, V, Wells, D, Taylor, H, (2018). ‘Iconic Heroes’, Writing Excuses Podcast, Dragonsteel Productions, Utah.
Works cited (for series, date represents publication of first instalment)
A Song of Ice and Fire – George RR Martin (1996), Bantam Spectra, New York
Dune – Frank Herbert (1965), Chilton Company, Boston
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card (1985), Tor Books, New York
Hornblower – CS Forester (1937), Michael Joseph, London
Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (1954), George Allen & Sons, London
Master and Commander – Patrick O’Brian (1969), Lipppincott, Philadelphia
Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson (2006), Tor Books, New York
Old Man’s War – John Scalzi (2005), Tor Books, New York
The Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis (1950), Geoffrey Bles, London
The Forever War – Joe Haldeman (1974), St Martins Press, New York
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (1937), George Allen & Sons, London
The Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan (1990), Tor Books, New York
Jack Ryan – First appearance The Hunt for Red October – Tom Clancy, (1984), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis
James Bond – First appearance Casino Royale – Ian Fleming (1953), Jonathan Cape, London
Jason Bourne – First appearance The Bourne Identity – Robert Ludlum (1980), Richard Marek, New York