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Breaking Down Nemesis: Part Four

  • Posted on August 27, 2014 at 8:31 am

Welcome again, to another installment of Breaking Down Nemesis! Once again, we are here to learn and experience Miss Agatha Christie’s work, and perhaps find a link to the elusive Agatha Christie Code that I keep hearing about. Essentially, the idea is to break down and discover if an Agatha Christie novel really is addictive! For this experiment in literature, I’ve chosen a random novel from her Miss Marple series, titled Nemesis. 

If you’re lost already, please see Part One, Part Two, and Part Three for the previous installments, that way you can keep up with the mystery as it unravels! And don’t forget to subscribe to see future installments, as well!

In the beginning of this chapter, we are introduced to Miss Marple’s sneaky side. In chapter three, we get to see her be sneaky when she asks Cherry, her assistant, to phone Mrs. Anderson, in order to find out if she’s at home, or out and about. This plan included a caveat that was to have Cherry inform Miss Anderson that she, Cherry, was Mr. Broadribb (Mr. Rafiel’s lawyer)’s secretary, and that she was to meet him at his office, but only if Miss Anderson was out and not to be back today.

The brilliance of that plan still makes me giggle. Honestly, it sounds a little like something I’d have done when playing Dungeons and Dragons, and setting up a trap for someone! Unluckily for us, we don’t get to see how that might have played out. I’d like to point out that this sort of organic thinking is coming a bit more often now. Or maybe we’re beginning to understand Miss Marple’s thought process a lot clearer, now that we’re actually involved in her investigation? Miss Christie certainly has me by the ear.

It turns out that Mrs. Anderson was out shopping at the supermarket. And who should she collide with, but Miss Marple herself! And as if the old codger wasn’t planning the whole thing, the two of them talk as if they’ve just run into each other. Instead of having the conversation she wants to have right there, Miss Marple instead arranges to visit Mrs. Anderson at home, instead.

Now, this might seem odd, but if you think about it, honestly, Miss Marple has the right idea. Mrs. Anderson will be more comfortable at home, and we might get to see what it was that the two of them are so at-arms with each other about. I can’t wait to find out myself!

The two exchange pleasantries for a little bit, and then Miss Marple seems to try to slide small questions in there, to find out more about Mr. Rafiel’s supposed request. She also takes a moment to notice that the oppulence of Mrs. Anderson’s new home, and connected it with a possible inheritance by Mrs. Anderson from Mr. Rafiel. Miss Marple asks if he left anything to the Nurse-Attendant Jackson, and finds out no he did not, and Mrs. Anderson hasn’t even seen the gentleman since they worked together.

Another series of questions by Miss Marple, and I’m beginning to see that she has a bit of a built in camouflage.

“…I was thinking it only the other day, after I’d seen the notice of his death. I wished I could know a little more. Where he was born, you know, and his parents. What they were like. Whether he had any children, or nephews or cousins or any family. I would so like to know.”

Esther Anderson smiled slightly. She looked at Miss Marple and her expression seemed to say “Yes, I’m sure you always want to know everything of that kind about everyone you meet.”

We’re getting more hints as to how people see her. Mrs. Anderson clearly thinks of Miss Marple as someone who is overly curious. But it’s tempered by the old-woman camouflage I was talking about. Everyone expects her to be nosy, because that’s how old women are! Take this lesson to heart. Let your characters use their own camouflages. If a woman wears glasses, let her put her hair in a bun, and pretend seriousness, despite her real personality. If a man has a raspy voice, let him pretend that he is dark and dangerous, when necessary. And when a person looks younger than they really are, let them use that childishness to their advantage to make others underestimate them! Remind yourself constantly of who they appear to be to others, so that this can be turned one-eighty and used against them!

The two go on to discuss more information, specifically about how Mr. Rafiel lost his wife long ago, but had three living children. Two daughters, and a son. One of the daughters married, and now lives in america, and the other daughter died, very young. It turns out there was trouble between father and son!

Picture Courtesy of bildungblog.blogspot.com

Picture Courtesy of bildungblog.blogspot.com

Apparently, the son was a scandalous sort, and died a few years ago. Mr. Rafiel never spoke of him. Odd that a deceased son, who was involved in scandals shows up just as Miss Marple is looking for a mystery, don’t you think? However, the two of them quickly come to a derailment, as the events at St. Honore get brought up again! And it turns out that Mrs. Anderson is still upset with something Miss Marple did in the Caribbean, but instead of actually discussing it, Mrs. Anderson stares coldly at Miss Marple, who takes her leave.

After leaving Mrs. Anderson’s home, Miss Marple determines that maybe, just maybe she was wrong to visit Mrs. Anderson, and thinks that perhaps there’s nothing to do with her at all in this mystery. I’m not quite so sure, but I think Miss Christie wrote it that way. I still can’t tell if this is a red-herring, or if I’m honestly right when I think that Mrs. Anderson is going to have something to do with it.

Eventually, after doubting herself a little bit, she comes to the same conclusion I have, which is that her old-lady-camouflage is a wonderful trait to have, and that she comes to recognize what people are like, based on who they remind her of. After that, she goes to sleep, thinking that it is entirely up to Mr. Rafiel to give her some sort of sign as to what exactly she is supposed to be doing.

This chapter in general, I think, was to show us more of Miss Marple’s character. I’m not sure anything really got done, other than, perhaps, clearing Mrs. Anderson of suspicion, and refusing to hand us any real clues as to what it is that Miss Marple is really supposed to be doing. Another point towards the Agatha Christie Code, as I was told that there was to be a lot of description, and slowness getting to the main plot. Which this chapter seems to embody quite a bit.

I find myself, however, instead of growing intrigued, growing a little bit bored of it. I’m starting to wonder, just like Miss Marple, if there really is any mystery to be solving at all! Which, I’m not sure if that’s a good way for a mystery novel to begin. However, dear reader, I will slog on, in order to find out! Just for you!

Please, however, do me a favor! In the comments, give me an idea or two of what you think the mystery is going to be! Do you think it’s Mr. Rafiel’s deceased son? Do you think Mrs. Anderson perhaps murdered someone? Do you think something entirely different is going to happen? Let me know!

9 Ways to Fix your Stereotyped Character – A guestpost by Cindy Grigg

  • Posted on August 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm

So You Wrote a Stereotyped Character…9 Ways to Fix Your Story

 

I’ve recently been doing a blog post series on How to Write Well-Rounded Female Characters, which included a list of 19 Female Character Stereotypes to Avoid.

Since Nicohle and I are swapping blog posts today, I would love to take that list one step further and show how I would fix a stereotyped female character (but the same concepts apply to any character).

Why You Don’t Have to Start Over

If your female character falls into a stereotype, it’s not so much that you’ve written her wrong as that you’re just not done writing her.

Writers revert to stereotypes or tropes rather than fully articulating what makes a character unique. It’s tricky because you may not feel lazy as you write a stereotypical character. You’re still sitting in the writer’s chair fulfilling your daily word count or time quota, but essentially you’re being creatively lazy about who you are writing about.

1. Rearrange what you’ve got. A lot of creativity is a matter of how you arrange the disparate parts of something to make a whole. Which aspect of your character is the focal point? By restructuring which personality traits are pivotal, you could create a more fresh character.

2. Add something to the character that scares, stretches, or otherwise challenges you. If writing about a certain characteristic your character possesses makes you think about the world in a new way, it likely will do the same for many readers.

3. Change how long your character stays a stereotype. Maybe your character can start out as a character but be changed by a new event. Maybe reveal they were hiding their true nature for some good reason. Think: Scarlet Pimpernel.

4. Look around you. Think of the most unique people you know and add some part of their personality to your character.

Rarity gives you an example reaction.

5. Add more weaknesses, flaws,  fears, and losses! I like the trick of thinking, What is the worst thing that could happen to my character? Then consider adding that to your plot so your character has to really solve and struggle.

6. Put your character in strange situations. Brainstorm several seemingly unrelated scenes and put your character in them. Consider crossing genres with this exercise. Put your fantasy heroine in a murder mystery and see how she behaves, etc. You may stumble upon an interesting nuance to add to your story.

7. Change your character’s past or future. If the character seems flat or one-dimensional, hook the audience into caring based on something terrible or wonderful they went through or will go through.

8. Give your character a unique motivation. Most of humanity is motivated to some degree by love of family, romance, personal gain, or moral/spiritual paradigms, for example. But what if you made your character also motivated by something kooky like a love of snails, and wanting to save those snails from extinction, for example?

9. Create personality contradictions. I love giving a character two characteristics that seem paradoxical or at odds with one another, then showing why they are this way.

Both fixing characters or scrapping them will require a lot of editing, so I figure you might as well refurbish your stereotyped character rather than starting from square one.

While it takes more effort, it’s more fun and interesting to write well-rounded characters. For me, this comes down to asking, But who else is she/he?! By consciously steering clear of stereotypes, writing becomes more adventure. More fun.

Cindy Grigg

Cindy Grigg writes speculative fiction and instructional non-fiction. She is the author of the HULDUSNOOPS series, a middle grade mystery and fantasy adventure about Icelandic Huldufolk or “hidden people”. As About.com’s Office Software Expert, Cindy also writes about technology and productivity (www.Office.About.com). Find her writing advice, blog, and other projects she’s working on at www.CindyGrigg.com.

Oracle Reading – 08/01/14

  • Posted on August 1, 2014 at 1:28 am

When I was fourteen years old, my dad got me a deck of oracle/tarot cards. For those of you who don’t know, Tarot cards refer usually to 78 cards, the four suits (Cups, Swords, Wands, and Pentacles), and the major and minor Arcana. You might be used to seeing them like this:

Wheel of Fortune as well as others.

The deck my dad got me, however, was an oracle deck. Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle, to be specific. A deck devoted entirely to the Fae and everything about them. It quite literally called to me, then and now. This deck has been with me my entire adult life, and has never once mislead me. In fact, it has, on occasion, saved my life. In a more general sense then say, the Death appearing just as someone was about to murder me.

My deck

Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle, with Text by Jessica Macbeth

When I was homeless, my cards told my mother, and brothers and I, which direction would be most fortuitous. Now, since I find myself lacking in direction, I intend to consult them again. But since I hadn’t planned a good blog-post for tonight, I decided to explain how it’s done, and basically go over the reading right here, in this blog post!

To explain the situation, just a little, I’ve just broken up with my boyfriend, with whom I had eleven months of psuedo-happiness. Now, I seek wisdom from my cards so that I might determine which direction would be right to go in my life.

Instead of asking a question, however, I’m going to just let the faeries choose the layout, and read it from there. Now, to explain the shuffling process. I literally hold the cards in my hands and shuffle side to side, instead of bridging the cards. That way they don’t wear out as quickly. These cards lasted me eleven years. They can survive a little longer.

Once I feel that the side-to-side shuffling is done, I lay them down and shuffle them face down, so that cards turn sideways, upside down, all over, and mix up real well. Sometimes I don’t have room, so I have to do this in my hands. That’s alright too, and the Fae tell me when to stop, that way I can deal the cards they ask me to deal.

Celtic Cross Spread

To specify which card is in which slot, we’ll be using the numbers. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting too confused, and you can follow along.

1) The Fee Lion

The Fee Lion is in the first spot, which, usually, indicates the querents present state of mind. Me, at this moment, in card form. Since the Fee Lion represents promises unkept, things undone, and duties unfulfilled, it seems to indicate I’m feeling guilty over the split up. That I feel there is much unfinished business, that needs tending to. He looks at me with the same eyes as a kitty that hasn’t been fed today. He might represent the worry I have of missing out on things in my life by not finishing the things I set out to finish. Who even knows?

2) Himself (reversed)

Representing Influences or events in the very near future, Himself is reversed, currently. Which means, he could mean blockage, twisting of meaning, or destruction. In this case, the meaning that resonates most with me is blocked. When the energy of Himself is blocked, one can feel limp, depressed, hurting. Energy is locked into obsessions and out of control behavior.  This seems to refer, to me, of the severe depression I suffer from, as well as the overwhelming hurt that came from the (amicable) split up between myself and my ex. While still amicable, it was a large period of time in my life, and I feel almost bogged down with the leftover feelings and thoughts.

3) Geeeeeooo the Slooow

This position represents the best course of action, and the consequences of ignoring it. Geo, one of the slowest, and calmest faeries in existence, represents here, sitting back. Taking time, and pausing, to begin  to experience the world properly. Allowing yourself to calm down saves on a lot of stress. This card seems to recommend taking a while to get back on my feet, and consider what I need to do from here. Instead of trying to push the river, settle back and enjoy the ride. If I don’t, I’ll only further confuse myself, and cause even bigger issues. My best bet at the moment? Relax, get back in touch with myself, and learn from what has happened.

4) The Singer of Initiation (Reversed)

This card represents an event or situation in the past that has an effect on the current event. The Singer of Initiation is the gateway we pass through when we make a decision, one that affects our entire life. As I have apparently been standing in this gateway for quite a while, it turns out that I have now passed through it. However, I was quite stuck there for a little bit, and that worried them. Perhaps that’s why I’m finding myself so distressed about a decision that I made for myself. Now, I just have to take Geo’s advice, and sit back to see where the choice I’ve made puts me.

5)UnDressing of a Salad

An Event in the more recent past. This most likely means the last few days or so. Things have been in motion, and they commend me for having a clear head here. I needed to use discretion and delicacy with my words and power, and this has in fact yielded the result I wanted. A genial split between myself and someone with whom I do still want to have a friendship with. I care for my ex greatly, and while we will have sore feelings for a little while, it is worth it in this instance.

UnDressing Of A Salad. Look at all of those balls in the air!

6) The Rarr (Reversed)

The Rarr is a Faery of incredible energy. It adds energy to all of the cards around it, making it clear that this was a very, very important event in my life. This card also represents the immediate future of my life, within the next six months or so. It seems to indicate, when reversed, a severe lack of control. A thrashing around of energy and intent. In this case, it represents a cool shower, meditation, and grounding exercises. So it looks as if I’m in for a really wild time soon. One can only hope to keep a clear head during all of this.

7) The Gaurdian at the Gate (reversed)

This position reflects the possible influences, or events, within my own work. Now this could mean my novel, my housekeeping, my job as a jewelry consultant, just about anything. In this case, the Guardian seems to indicate that I’m stepping into things I’m truly not ready for. I feel that this is an admonition against attempting to publish too soon. Which honestly, after doing a bunch of research, I feel might be correct. The Guardian also asks me to prioritize my moves, because otherwise, I’ll find myself flailing, like the Rarr says.

8) The Oak Men (reversed)

The Oak Men are an interesting card, as they do not have a reversed interpretation via Jessica Macbeth’s starter information! Instead, they ask you to interpret their expressions. To me, they look approving. Which is interesting, since in this case, they represent influences or events within my home life, or social life. So, most likely, my home life is going to become very important soon. Those that I care for and wish to spend time with will be important in maintaining the clear head I need to overcome this situation.

9) The Bodacious Bodach

This particular brownie tends towards trouble really quickly, which would explain why he’s in the slot that represents my belief of how the situation will turn out. I am expecting sabotage, and happiness to be short-lived, due to someone’s interference. Perhaps my own, perhaps someone close to the situation. This is completely at odds with the rest of the reading, however, which gives me hope, that perhaps my belief here is completely unfounded.

As any good card-reader knows, sometimes you need additional clarification, and it looks like this one might need it. So, I’m pulling the tenth card anyway, to see if perhaps they’d be willing to give me a bit more insight.  And the tenth card certainly does surprise me! I’ve never drawn this card before, even in readings for other people!

10) Ekstasis (reversed)

Pulling the final card, to get clarification on the final outcome of the situation turns out to be enough to almost make me cry.

You may be feeling sorrowful or grieving. Remember that these feelings, too, are a part of the great song. They are a part of love. Don’t try to block them, don’t try to deny them. Let them flow… There is a saying, ‘This too shall pass.” It is true about everything, all of our joys, and all of our sorrows.

-Jessica Macbeth

The outcome is pretty clear. Letting go, learning the lessons needed, and moving on. Which is just what I needed to hear from this reading, really. It’s refreshing to know they still don’t let me down.

Putting it all together reveals a really important story. With the Rarr and Himself there, along with Ekstasis, it turns out that this was more important than I believed it to be. Leaving my relationships is never easy, but this one, it turns out, I made the right choice. Geo gives good advice, that is backed up by the presence of the reversed Rarr. Rest, learning, and calm is what I need right now.

So, definitely no jumping into new relationships, or new jobs for me. I might, however, jump into a new book, or maybe a nice bubble bath. However, Dear reader, please leave me a message, telling me how you interpreted this, if you saw anything I missed. Or maybe you’d like to share your experiences with a tarot/oracle reading?

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