Back From Vacation (and Thoughts on Disney World)

Hi, everyone! I am glad to be back, and even gladder that I scheduled a few “recuperation days” after my travel; I was supposed to get back to Cedar Rapids on Monday evening, but thanks to flight delays didn’t end up getting back until Tuesday afternoon, which meant I had two days in a row of not-enough-sleep and too-much-airport (plus jet lag).

It took me until Thursday to feel well-rested again, at which point I spent half the day cleaning out my inboxes and processing all of the work-related stuff that had arrived or accumulated during my absence.

That meant I was ready to start officially working again on Friday — which is to say, today.

But enough about all of that. HOW WAS THE TRIP, NICOLE?

Here are a few photographs to sum it up:

The requisite Disney PhotoPass “glamour shot.” I actually got a bunch of PhotoPass pictures at various locations but only paid for this one; the other photographers didn’t pose me first and the photos didn’t look as polished.
I tried a character breakfast this time around, after being way too nervous to approach characters on previous Disney adventures. The characters play to type, which means that Mary Poppins gave me a lecture and Pooh gave me a hug.
The food was… not as great as all those Instagrammers made it out to be. It was fine, but nothing I’d call “outstanding.” (Think Applebees, or a college cafeteria.) It photographs extremely well, though.

Since I am all about transparency — though I understand that making this kind of statement is a total “your privilege is showing” move — I’ll tell you that I like Disneyland a lot more than Walt Disney World.

That is, I came back from this vacation thinking “well, I don’t ever need to go back here again.”

This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy myself. I did! There were a handful of truly magical moments, nearly all of which took place around 7 a.m. before the parks got both incredibly crowded and incredibly hot.

But it was a completely different experience than my previous Disneyland trips, and I wasn’t expecting that.

I thought it would be, like, visiting this place I loved, only now it’s larger and has more stuff to do.

It was more like this place is so big that we can’t do everything and we’ve spent so much money that we won’t be able to come back for a while and it’s so hot and the lines are so long and everything is a disappointing compromise and I didn’t want our vacation to be this way.

And this, by the way, wasn’t even what I was thinking. It’s what half the people around me were saying out loud, as we moved slowly through the crowded streets or inched forward in the standby lines.

I was thinking this place is fascinating and people are fascinating and I probably shouldn’t be listening to their conversations so closely but I don’t care and it is so hot I am sweating in places that I didn’t know had sweat glands.

I love the whole Disney immersive crafted experience thing, which is one of the reasons I’ve been to Disneyland multiple times as an adult and am still planning on visiting every Disney park in the world.

But when you enter Disneyland, the courtyards are open, spacious, inviting you to explore. There’s just enough to do that you can do everything in two days, with enough time for an afternoon nap.

When you enter the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, you get shunted down a path, with fewer open spaces. There’s so much to do that you’ll never do it all; thanks to the crowds and the FastPass system, you have to make choices about what you’ll give up before you even arrive.

And, honestly, I loved that part of Disney World — the big exciting spreadsheetable project, making plans about what to do and where to eat and how much to spend, but that’s because I assumed it would stop feeling like a project after I got there.

It doesn’t.

Now I’ll tell you about some of the magical moments.

The resort was outstanding. Port Orleans Riverside was beautiful, the nature trails were beautifully relaxing, and I saw magnolia trees for the first time.

Like many other people, I was completely blown away by Animal Kingdom’s Pandora section and the entire Flight of Passage experience, which included a 90-minute queue. There was so much to look at, with so much detail, that I never felt bored or impatient. Nor was I tempted to play with my phone (that was one of the best parts of the trip, by the way; staying off my phone).

My favorite part, however, was Extra Magic Hour at Hollywood Studios. I went in ready to rope drop Tower of Terror, since I wanted to get over my fear of falling 13 stories as quickly as possible, but the ride was shut down for the entire day. Slinky Dog Dash was also shut down that morning, which meant the lines for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and Toy Story Midway Mania were well over an hour long. (Only the big headliner rides are open during Extra Magic Hour, and the Disney sites claim that if you’re quick enough, you can do all of them. This was never the case in reality.)

So while everyone else was waiting in line, I went in the other direction and began exploring the park. Like, “get up close, read the fine print on the MuppetVision 3D signage” exploring. I looked up, to see the jokes and references Disney placed at the tops of the buildings; I spent time examining structures that I might otherwise rush by. There was something magical or unexpected or humorous everywhere I looked, until Extra Magic Hour was over and the park got too crowded to stand still and look carefully at anything anymore.

That’s one of the reasons why I like going to Disney alone. If I’d gone with a group of people, we’d probably have queued for Midway Mania instead.

That said, the next time I go to Disneyland — and I will go back to Disneyland, though I’m somewhat ambivalent about returning to Disney World — I’d like to go with family or friends.

I’ve experienced the magic for myself. Now it’s time to share it. ❤️

NEXT WEEK: how much I spent, plus some of those spreadsheets y’all asked for.

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On Community Service and What Makes a Community

I spent most of Memorial Day at our local cemetery, accompanying a choir at a Memorial Day service and then attending a post-service luncheon.

This was the kind of thing I used to do in high school—which was one of the reasons why I volunteered to do it—but I found the experience much more rewarding as an adult.

I think it’s because this time I actually feel like I’m part of the community.

I was trying to put it together, afterwards—like, I did all kinds of volunteering and community service stuff as a teenager, but it was easy to feel disconnected from those experiences first because I was doing them for external reasons (college applications, my parents said I had to) and second because I was not viewed by the community as a peer.

I was a part of the community—I literally grew up there—but I was also just a kid, and was treated as such.

When I did volunteer work in Seattle, well… first of all it was hard enough finding volunteer work to do in Seattle, because every organization had more applicants than open spaces. I ended up finding a volunteer gig at a tutoring center, and while that experience itself was fulfilling, it didn’t really integrate me into the community. The kids came from all over Seattle and its suburbs; the tutoring center wasn’t in the same neighborhood as my apartment. It wasn’t the type of activity that helped connect any of us to the rest of the city; it was a room we all met in, a few times a week.

Yesterday I felt like I was an important part of something important—an event that helped people share stories, remember loved ones, and connect with each other. An event that made the community stronger not just because we were gathered in that room, but because we’d see each other again, in other rooms (and grocery stores, and at other events, and so on).

I don’t know if it took me until adulthood to figure out that this is how community works, or if the way childhood vs. adulthood is structured means that young people are always going to feel slightly isolated from their communities. (How exciting was it, as a teenager, to finally find your people online or at summer camp or wherever you ended up finding them?)

Or if it’s just a matter of Cedar Rapids being a better fit for me, as a person, than the rural town I grew up in.

But I really like being part of this community—and I really like being able to serve it. ❤️

On Following Your Dreams

You know that song I shared in Friday’s Open Thread? One of the handful of songs I wrote all those years ago that I still like?

It came to me in a dream.

Melody, almost in full, and several of the lyrics.

I sang everything I could remember into my phone’s voice recorder as soon as I woke up, and spent the next few days putting the piece together.

The mysterious house at the core of NEXT BOOK was part of a dream, too.

A recurring dream, spent visiting the places in the house that I had grown to love in previous dreams. Attics and basements and secret rooms and staircases that went up and up and up forever.

I hope I end up loving the book as much as I love that song. ❤️

On Storytelling and Tension

We’re in the final week of rehearsal for the Brahms Requiem, and I was going to use this blog post to share the lyrics to the piece and make an observation about how Brahms crafts a narrative arc that takes us from “I am mourning a loved one who has died” to “This mourning reminds me that I am anxious about my own death” to “I have accepted death by accepting God’s love.”

Of course, this particular narrative arc requires a little bit of interpretation on the listener’s part—I mean, Brahms doesn’t come out and say any of this in his lyrics, he just drops in quotes like this:

Lord, teach me
That I must have an end,
And my life has a purpose,
and I must accept this.

Translation © 2010 Ahmed E. Ismail

And then he lets us put the piece together (literally).

So I was all ready to write about what I thought Brahms meant to do with this piece and how it fit in with the Hero’s Journey, and then I had a conversation with our conductor.

Basically I babbled out a bunch of thoughts about whether Brahms was a character in his own piece, and whether Brahms-the-character was discovering that death had no sting or communicating something he had already discovered, and whether we, as a choir, should treat it as a revelation we’re just now learning or a statement meant to comfort others.

“Treat it like a release of tension,” the conductor said.

And my immediate thought was of course, that’s exactly what it is, I should have realized it myself.

Not just because it’s difficult, if not impossible, to do something like “sing the Requiem as if you were Brahms discovering its message in real time” in a way that effectively communicates that to an audience. (You could always write a note at the beginning of the program telling everyone how to interpret your interpretation, or put up some projections of an actor playing Brahms as he walks back and forth and worries—but if you have to explain it in a matter extraneous to the text, you’re failing at your job of performing the text.)

Nor because everyone in the audience is going to come up with their own interpretation of the piece, the same way I created my interpretation of Brahms’ narrative arc. (In other words: if you’re listening to the music, you’ll understand that it is about coming to terms with death. Any additional thoughts or emotions you experience while listening are your own.)

It’s because of this: when I attended Maggie Stiefvater’s Portraits and Dreams writing seminar, she explained that storytelling, at its core, was about tension and release. A good story has the right amount of both, and puts them in the right places.

Tension and release are what provide the emotional journey—and after you’ve experienced that journey, you can sit back and ask yourself whether Brahms meant to write himself as a character in his own Requiem, or what Sean wished for in The Scorpio Races, or whether The Wizard of Oz is really just a giant allegory about the gold standard or whatever.

I feel like a bit of a goober for not having figured that out on my own.

But I’m glad I’m thinking about it now. ❤️

One More Thought on Characters and Conflict

If you follow me on Twitter—and you should—you might have seen me tweet the following:

As I explain in the subsequent tweet thread (and here, in the promised blog post): if you want character conflict to work, the two characters have to be in conflict.

Maybe they both want the same scarce resource (first place in the karate championship, the Iron Throne).

Maybe one character wants something and another character is either deliberately or inadvertently preventing them from getting it (a parent telling their daughter she cannot participate in the big soccer game because it’s on the same day as her sister’s wedding, a boyfriend telling a girlfriend that her new job at the fashion magazine can’t be more important than his birthday).

Maybe two characters want the same thing but in ways that conflict with each other (two childhood friends trying to maintain their friendship after one proposes marriage and the other says no).

What doesn’t work—and I can’t believe it took me this long to figure it out, but it also looks like some storytellers never figure this out, so okay—is the type of conflict where two characters both want the same thing but they’re caught in some kind of contrived misunderstanding that could be solved by literally two seconds of communication.

The character with the ring box in hand, watching as their beloved embraces another person (who is actually a cousin or a good friend or whatever, but our protagonist won’t even bother to ask, they’ll just stuff the ring box in their pocket and walk away).

The two siblings who both want to keep their childhood home safe but almost end up sororiciding each other after the younger sister misunderstands a letter that the older one wrote five years ago (I told you this whole thing was originally prompted by Game of Thrones).

The reason writers come up with this kind of conflict, as far as I can guess, is because they can’t figure out how to generate an authentic conflict between two sympathetic characters without making one of them look “bad.”

But conflict isn’t always about who’s right and who’s wrong. It doesn’t have to be about good and evil. It can be about two people who want different things, or who want the same thing but in different ways, or who are working towards the same goal but want to take different paths to get there.

To solve that kind of conflict, one or both characters will have to learn, grow, or change. The relationship will evolve in a way that is emotionally satisfying. We’ll learn something about ourselves by watching these characters process their conflict, vs. the kind of no-change-required conflict where all we learn is that we really should ask our significant other whether their cousin happened to be in town last week.

So that’s my final thought on characters and conflict.

For now. ❤️

More Thoughts on Character Conflict in Storytelling

I finished my Game of Thrones rewatch on Monday and caught up with the newest episode on Tuesday—and without spoiling anything (well, nearly anything) about the series, I’m struck by how well my recent “discovery” that conflict between characters is an essential part of storytelling holds up.

Here’s the part that might be a teeny-weeny spoiler: this last season of Game of Thrones comes down to:

  1. Fighting the Big Bad.
  2. Deciding who wins the Iron Throne (assuming it is not destroyed in the big fight).

Okay. At this point, I doubt many fans are hugely invested in the boss fight. I mean, sure, people want to see explosions and whatever, I understand that part, but… there are basically two outcomes here.

HUMANS DEFEAT EVIL

or

EVIL DEFEATS HUMANS.

Of the two, I am pretty sure I know which one is going to happen.

So why keep watching—or, for that matter, why watch any of the series, since we knew from the very first scene that EVIL HAD RETURNED TO THE LAND and SOMEONE WOULD NEED TO DEFEAT IT AT SOME POINT, probably WITH EXPLOSIONS?

Because, eight seasons in, we want to know how the character conflicts will be resolved.

It’s super easy to thwap fireballs at a bad guy until he goes down.

It’s much harder to tell someone, particularly someone you love, that SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. There were plenty of reviewers and bloggers and Redditors arguing that the penultimate season of Game of Thrones felt “contrived” or “boring.”

Not because much of that season was about people preparing to fight a giant evil supermonster, which is literally the most contrived thing ever.

But because the interpersonal conflict didn’t make sense.

Again, teeny-weeny spoiler: the show did the thing where one character finds a letter written by another character, misunderstands the contents of the letter completely, and launches the type of conflict that could have been solved in two seconds if the two people involved had just talked to each other.

The conflict, between two characters who had previously been allies and whom we correctly predicted would be allies again once the misunderstanding got cleared up, felt forced. Unearned. Boring.

This, by the way, was coming from a show that had previously been so nuanced that it made multiple child murderers sympathetic.* No human was fully good or fully evil (with perhaps one exception), and no family was fully on the right side of the argument. People did the best they could with the information and resources they had.

And then the storyline outpaced the books that were its original source material and the characters started acting more like one-note action heroes (and coincidentally uninformed romantic comedy heroes) than people.

Which meant the conflicts became less interesting, since—just like the fight against the Big Bad—we already knew how they were going to end.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about, as we enter our final season of Game of Thrones and I continue drafting NEXT BOOK.❤️

*Yes, that means both “multiple characters that murdered children” and “characters that murdered multiple children.”

Why I Love Les Mills Classes

I didn’t always hate gym class.

During elementary school, I maintained the delusion that if I tried as hard as I could, I’d hit the ball instead of flinching at it. If I ran as fast as I could, I’d win the 100-yard-dash on Track and Field Day.

By middle school, when gym began to include lockers and showers and bullying, I gave up. I still dressed out and hustled and did whatever the gym teacher said I should do, because I was that kind of student—but I did it badly, was made fun of, and (like many seventh-graders before me) decided I wasn’t a Gym Person.

In my junior year of high school, a new gym teacher saved my butt—literally. If we didn’t want to play flag football or basketball or whatever sport he’d set up for the day, we could walk the track. I began taking 90-minute walks twice a week, realized how mentally refreshing a long walk could be, and kept up the habit long after that gym class ended.

This year I picked up a new gym habit: Les Mills classes at the YMCA.

If you aren’t familiar with the Les Mills method, it’s essentially a cross-training system: one day you do weights, one day you do Pilates, one day you do cardio, etc. I started with just the weights class because I read Casey Johnston’s Ask a Swole Woman columns and thought I’d try weightlifting, and now I take all of them.

Here is what I’ve learned:

I love gym.

I did not expect to become a Gym Person. I never imagined myself voluntarily purchasing a YMCA membership. I’d always been “reasonably physically active,” in the sense that I walk and I bike and I do yoga, but I’d strategically avoided the kind of physical activity that makes you sweat.

Now I love it.

What changed? Probably the fact that we’re all adults now, and nobody’s bullying anyone else, and none of these activities involve a ball being thrown at my face. (I still have a chipped front tooth from a sixth grade gym class and a basketball I couldn’t block.)

Here’s what hasn’t changed:

I am still bad at gym.

When our teacher says “run,” I am always at the back of the pack. When she says “sprint,” I can only get halfway across the room. There are some activities I do pretty well (like tuck jumps), and others that I do extremely poorly (like lunge jumps).

I have made some small improvements since I started Les Mills classes, mostly in the amount of weight I can bench and press and squat. I do not see myself ever becoming a better runner, nor do I predict that I’ll be able to increase the speed at which I currently burpee (I can only do one in the time everyone else can complete two).

I do not care—and more importantly, no one else cares either. The Les Mills ethos, as our teacher keeps reminding us, is “keep moving.” The Les Mills system includes a number of options for people at varying levels of fitness and ability; if you aren’t running today, for example, you can always jog or walk. If you can’t do a particular exercise, you can march in place until it’s time for the next one. Just keep moving, and fitness will happen.

Which brings me to:

I have gotten more physically fit than I previously thought possible.

My fitness metrics, from resting heart rate to body fat percentage to muscle visibility, have improved dramatically since I started taking Les Mills classes. Despite the fact that I can only do 80 percent of the exercises and am the slowest one at many of them.

This is making me rethink the way we teach people how to be fit—or, for that matter, the way we teach people anything.

There are plenty of kids going into middle school who have already decided that they aren’t a Gym Person or a Math Person or a Music Person or a Writing Person. There are plenty of adults who realize they like group fitness classes a lot more than flag football, or that they can play most of the pop songs out there by learning four (okay, six) chords on the guitar. Why can’t we start teaching this kind of stuff—low-stakes, do what you can, just keep moving classes—to young people?

The first obvious reason is that adults who take group fitness classes want to be there, while young people rarely have a choice. This means you need external stakes to keep young students motivated, e.g. grades and peer-to-peer rankings (even though many students ignore that type of motivation and spend their school days checked out).

The second obvious reason is that we want to give at least some students the opportunity to master a subject. Yes, a lot of that mastery happens outside of the classroom, whether in sports practice sessions, private piano lessons, or robotics clubs, but—well, I can play six self-taught chords on the guitar. I had sixteen years of piano lessons. There is a huge difference in mastering vs. dabbling.

The third obvious reason is that I can’t find a good analogue for math. Sure, you can do 80% of the math you need in life once you understand basic arithmetic, the same way you can play 80% of the pop songs out there once you learn four-to-six chords. But you can get physically fit without being able to do a lunge jump. You can’t learn algebra without learning algebra.

I don’t know where to go from here—like, there’s no way I can legitimately make pompous statements about education reform, the only classes I teach are group writing classes for adults who want to be there—but now that I’ve discovered how much fun gym can be, with the team camaraderie and the pumping soundtrack and the teacher who encourages us to keep moving, just keep moving, I feel kind of cheated.

Now that I know that gym class doesn’t have to be terrible, even for the haplessly slow and uncoordinated, it makes me wonder why I wasn’t able to get that experience as a child—and whether other educational experiences can be made less terrible as well. ❤️

Lessons Learned From a 67-Hour Game of Thrones Rewatch

So here’s how my 67-hour Game of Thrones rewatch has gone so far:

Season 1: This is so much fun! I remember why I used to love this show. Look at all the visual detail! The foreshadowing! The impressive amount of history and backstory and emotion these actors are able to communicate in a single glance!

Season 2: Heh, this is a lot of television to watch at one time! Still going to be totally worth it, though. I’m participating in a cultural phenomenon!

Seasons 3–5: I NEVER WANT TO WATCH FIVE HOURS OF TELEVISION A DAY AGAIN.

At this point, the primary reason why I’m still watching Game of Thrones is because I’ve watched too many episodes to quit now. I am almost done with Season 5, which means I’m finally getting to the episodes I haven’t seen before*, and I should be very nearly (if not completely) caught up by the the Season 8 premiere on Sunday.

However, every other life metric over the past week has gotten worse.

This isn’t, btw, because I’m canceling other plans to spend more time with Game of Thrones. In the eight days since I started this watch-a-thon, I rode bikes with my dad and had lunch with my parents and met up with friends and went to multiple choir rehearsals and so on. I kept up with my exercise and my sleep; it wasn’t like I was watching these episodes into the wee hours of the night or anything.

But my sleep got worse, even though I spent the same number of hours in bed—probably because I skipped my usual “wind down with a book” time to fit in one more episode.

My mood got worse, even though I was doing something I theoretically wanted to do, probably because I was spending too much time focused on a single activity (and a single laptop screen). Sometimes I chose to give Game of Thrones partial focus while I did the dishes or whatever, and that just made me worry that I was missing something important, either with the show or the dishes.

My creative output (and the NEXT BOOK drafting process) got way worse, probably because I eliminated all free time that might have gone towards making creative connections. There was no opportunity for new thoughts to occupy my thoughts. Any spare minute was spent staring at Game of Thrones — and although I hoped it would teach me something important about storytelling, it mostly taught me about how formulaic these episodes actually are, when you watch them one after the other.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s a very effective formula. Cliffhangering every scene, for example, is a great way to keep people watching. So is having a character reveal a profound childhood memory right before making a big decision or launching into battle… until you see it happen 40 times in a row. (Then you start wondering why none of these people ever learned anything important after the age of 10.)

I am not going to use this as an argument for television being bad or anything. There’s a lot of really great television out there, and I’ve seen my share of it.

The real lesson is, of course, about balance — and I have lived a very unbalanced life over the past week, and have a few more unbalanced days to go. ❤️

*As you might remember, I stopped watching Game of Thrones after the first episode of Season 5, due to a combination of heartbreak and a disastrous season premiere party.

On Storytelling and Perspective and Re-Watching Game of Thrones in Two Weeks

Last Wednesday, I made an extremely foolhardy decision: I was going to re-watch Game of Thrones, in its entirety, before the final season.

Here’s the background: in 2012, I dated this guy who was all “you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, let me fix that for you” and so I watched the first two seasons and read all of the books.

I continued watching Game of Thrones after that relationship ended, in part because I started dating another guy who was also a GoT fan, and after that relationship ended—and after going to a Game of Thrones Season 5 premiere party by myself and getting inadvertently alcohol poisoned*—I was all I am done with this show, it has only led to heartbreak and vomit.

But I’m a sucker for cultural phenomena—especially when it’s related to storytelling. I started showing up at Harry Potter midnight release parties not because I cared about Harry Potter (I enjoyed the series, but it didn’t shape my soul the way other stories did), but because I cared about experiencing this story simultaneously with the rest of the world.

So I decided I didn’t want to miss out on the pleasure of discovering how Game of Thrones ends at the same time as everyone else, which meant I needed to get myself caught up.

I have re-watched 30 episodes of Game of Thrones in the past five days. (Yes, I could have started with the first episode I hadn’t yet seen, but I figured that if I was going to do this, I wanted the emotional experience of the entire epic.) Turns out you can watch a lot of TV, without cutting back on any of your other commitments, if you just leave the TV on all the time. I’ve been making dinner while watching Game of Thrones, folding laundry while watching Game of Thrones, etc.

It has been surprisingly exhausting to pay 30 hours’ worth of attention to a story in such a short period of time—and I have 40 hours left to go before the Season 8 premiere on Sunday. (I suspect I won’t get fully caught up until the second episode of Season 8, which is fine by me. As long as I’m ready to watch the series finale with everyone else, I’ll be satisfied.)

But none of this is the point.

The point is that, a day into my rewatch, Maggie Stiefvater posted an analysis of contemporary storytelling that focused on our relatively recent shift from single-POV narratives to massively-multi-POV narratives.

The shift from Harry Potter to Game of Thrones, as it were.**

Now, I know that A Song of Ice and Fire was written before the Harry Potter books were published (though not by much; the first ASOIAF book published in 1996, and the first HP book published in 1997). But Harry Potter became a cultural phenomenon before Game of Thrones did, and in between 2007, when Deathly Hallows released in hardcover, and 2011, when Game of Thrones premiered on HBO, the type of stories our culture valued had changed.

To quote Maggie Stiefvater:

Readers and viewers no longer believed in the straightforward hero’s journey. No one was that simple. Batman got rebooted, James Bond got some consequences. Heroes got more and more morally gray. The world was getting more and more morally gray, too, after all, and narrative kept up. What was the price of privilege? What was the price of winning? Was this really a happy ending?

Narrative answered the question by glancing at the situation from other points of view, and those glances got longer and longer and longer. One POV became two. Became three. Became four.

One of the responses to Maggie’s blog post identified television as the impetus for this trend-shift:

The format of television shows almost REQUIRE several multi-character arcs, because the main goal of a show is usually to stretch the story into as many seasons as possible, and you can’t easily do that with just one protagonist. You need viewers to stay to watch every episode every season, and you need a lot of different types of stories to keep their interest. Of course, this leads to a big cast that grows as the show goes on, and viewers get more and more used to connecting with several different characters. Think of Friends, which started with Monica as an everygirl kind of protagonist with a group of eccentric friends, and then gradually morphed into a show that gave equal weight to every character in the main group, because that’s what the show needed to be to keep its viewership. 

If we’re citing television, of course, we have to go further back than Friends; this type of narrative has propelled soap operas, for example, for as long as they’ve existed.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if the internet, with its ability to provide us with thousands of points of view at once, has made us more interested in telling stories that feature a multiplicity of perspectives—and if authors don’t provide us with these perspectives (and even if they do), we write them ourselves, fanfic-style.

The other point of all of this is that I am currently writing a novel that is told entirely from a single character’s perspective. I have asked myself, more than once, if I should pop into someone else’s head for a bit, or if I should do the thing where I divide the book up into multiple sections and give each section to a different character.

But that doesn’t feel like the story I want to tell, even though that’s what the SF&F genre is all about these days. I want the readers to have the same experience my main character has: to be given the call to adventure, to have to choose whether to follow that call, and then SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER.

To write a chapter from the perspective of the character who asks my protagonist for help, for example, would feel like giving my reader more information than my protagonist has, which would make her emotional journey and her discoveries less compelling.

I’m not even jumping to the omniscient viewpoint; you only get to experience what the protag experiences, and her limitations are your limitations.

One of the reasons I made this choice was because I just finished writing two books from a multi-character perspective and wanted to try something new.

The other reason, I think, was because I wanted to cycle away from stories like Game of Thrones, where we follow multiple characters and multiple plots and ask the audience to choose where their alliance lies and create surveys that determine which house we belong to.

I wanted to explore humanity by focusing on one human, the same way other writers wanted to explore humanity by focusing on many different people.

We’ll see if I made the right choice. ❤️

*The party was at a bar, and every attendee got one free cocktail with their ticket. I was not aware that the cocktail, which was handed to me as I walked in the door, was nearly pure alcohol (think Long Island Iced Tea but with a Game of Thrones-inspired name). I knew something was very wrong about five minutes after finishing the drink. I generally vomit after three ounces of liquor, which is why I try not to drink more than two at any given time. That night, I puked so much I had to throw away everything I was wearing including my purse.

**Yes, I know there are these little blips in Harry Potter where we step outside of Harry’s POV, but the books are still Harry’s story.