Commit log #40

My English tea pot

Three good things!

1. It’s the second day in a three-day weekend. I got to sleep in, had strange but not horrific dreams. I’m getting to watch lots of Sailor Moon, which I’m sure is affecting my dreams in a positive (and weird) direction. Of course, this is the anime, which is lighter and softer than the manga. Relatively speaking.

2. Learned about some Inuit gestures. Body language is an important part of writing realistic characters, even if they happen to be aliens. Otherwise character interactions can either be strangely sterile or, well—why would aliens shake their heads to say “no” if head-shaking isn’t a universal “no” even among humans? The other end of the spectrum, of course, is carrying body language to stereotypical extremes. And this is just one aspect of cultural world-building; even for your own culture. Gotta be observant. I also think a lot of writers don’t give the difficulty of writing outside of their own cultures enough credit.

3. I’m starting to see the point of 45 Master Characters, even though I’ll probably bend the rules on some of the archetypes, and my characters tend to combine aspects (both approaches are encouraged by the book author, so that’s good). Some of those archetypes hit too close to home, which made it difficult to accept them—“Father’s Daughter” for instance. I am rather ashamed of having treated other women exactly the misogynistic way as described in that entry. Still other archetypes strike me as rather Western and not universal (which is perhaps unavoidable). Despite this, the archetypes, if not taken as absolute templates, are useful. And again, culture will alter the archetypes.

4. Ursula Vernon’s Digger series won a Hugo! I am so pleased. I can’t wait to listen to their next KUEC podcast.

Even though some of that stuff is more critical than completely happy-yay!, they’re still good things as far as I’m concerned. Opportunities to grow and learn are great. And perhaps it’s a sign of being able to see the good even in what could be cast as dismal.

Thing I like about myself: my gods I can be tenacious at times. That quality gets me through an awful lot of difficult times in life.

Writing stuff: well. Translating from one language to another has interesting pitfalls. For instance, inua means, at the most strict level, “master”; but would that translate into English as noble titles, such as Lord and Lady, to communicate the power that inua wield? But the Inuit don’t use titles, much less the idea of “nobility”. I mean, heck, there’s not even an ultimate head god like most pantheons (you’ll find old papers that claim Sila is a head god, but in actuality sila is a complicated concept, and in some ways more like Gaia than Zeus, Osiris, etc).

And then there’s the fun of dealing with a language where most names are both masculine and feminine, and natively there’s no gendered pronouns. (Yet there are clearly delineated roles for the sexes.) So far I’ve been using, per scene, a very clear communicator of gender (“the man”, “the woman”) before falling into gendered pronouns in English. Of course, there’s also the approach of “just use English gendered pronouns anyways.”

Oh, and I must mention some amusement in hindsight. At first I regarded Sedna/Sanna as perhaps a loving, encompassing mother goddess figure, because that was what I was used to. And some interpretations of her are indeed this… but the majority of interpretations? Well, she’s a mother all right… a vengeful sea goddess who still feels the deep betrayal by the human race, in particular her father, and if not pleased can cause disease and starvation of resources for the people. She’s also in charge of providing food for the Inuit in the form of marine animals. If she’s a Demeter (as in 45 Master Characters), she’s a consistently angry one.

FUN FUN FUN. Some of these details can really shake out how a plot develops, particularly if your story has supernatural elements to begin with. (The Inuit have a wealth of interesting monsters, so that’s an interesting weave.)