Moral Complexity in the Lord of the Rings

just something I drew
I was talking with my reading friend about having morally complex characters in YA lit, and I gave the example that, in Tolkien’s book, orcs are all evil and wear black and Gandalf is good and wears white. You know who is good and who is evil.

She retorted that Gollum/Smeagol is a morally complex character because of the both good and evil intent, and I’ve been thinking about that. I don’t think he is. Gollum is evil, and Smeagol is good. It’s not really complex, because when one personality takes over then it goes from one extreme end of the moral grayscale to the other. Black or white. Either Smeagol is good Smeagol, help good hobbitsis OR Gollum *gol’lum* hates filthy fat hobbit and they stole its from us.

To really be complex, characters need to exist within that gray area. Smeagol/Gollum is always one extreme or the other. I think a morally complex character needs to make decisions where the reader doesn’t know if they would agree with the choice or not.

What do you think? Leave a comment and tell me!

Also, twitter with me! @Oxyborb

Writer's block, taking breaks, skipping over parts, working on something else, and other methods to run away when faced by a challenge

I am not a professional writer yet, so maybe my advice is not the first place to stop on your research. That said, I want to talk about what happens when the going gets tough, and how I see other writers handle challenges in writing and editing. I like to join writer discussion groups on facebook. I like to participate in sharing thoughts about how a writer can act to be successful.

Lately, the topic has been what to do when you’ve hit writer’s block or what to do when editing has you hung up.

I always see the same responses to these problems. They go something like this:

Take a break from it.
Skip over it and come back.

Work on something else.

I just want to say that I think that this is all awful advice. When you’re faced with a challenge, your first instinct should not be to run away from it.

so many writers

…never finish their manuscripts. So many would-be writers never even finish chapter one. They claim that they have writer’s block. They claim that they just cannot think it through, when I believe the truth is usually that they just don’t want to think it through. They don’t want to put in the work, the effort.

There’s a difference between planning a break between large projects and taking a break because you’ve hit a giant challenge. I always take breaks between finishing, drafts, and major goal points like that. Usually my breaks are about a week-long. But, when I have a major challenge in front of me, that is NO time for a break. That is a time to work.

time doesn’t heal plot

They say a couple should never go to bed angry, well I say don’t let your biggest challenges sleep. Challenges do not suddenly get easier over time. However, they will make you more reluctant to return if you try and hide from them. Facing your challenges doesn’t necessarily mean working on your keyboard, either. Get in bed, turn off the lights, and just think. Thinking about how to confront a challenge is working on that challenge. It feels like a break, because thinking is peaceful, but it will get you through it before running away from it will.

Truly, though, taking a break usually just gives you an excuse not to work. You’ll push it back, push it back, until your novel is just another thing on your bucket list that you’ll never complete.

skip it, skip it

Some say to skip over it and work on the next part. While I agree that this is better than running away from it, I still think that this is problematic. When you don’t face the challenge before you, it will keep on haunting you as you go. This is the snowball effect. Sometimes an issue left alone will only cause you to create more issues down the line… which will give you more to have to go back and fix… which will only make the work more overwhelming… which will only make you more reluctant to finishing your project.

Think about your job. Say your boss gives you what feels like an impossible task to do in an impossible time, don’t you usually find a way to make it work anyway? That’s why bosses do that: You’ll make it work somehow. Make your challenge work. Don’t give yourself excuses.

Chapter one is easy

Some say work on a different project, but I say that this only leads to a great deal of unfinished projects. Most writers have a stack of chapter ones from a billion different book ideas they have, but the difference is that professional writers actually finish stuff. If you start a project that you fully intend to finish, then finish it. Don’t start a million other projects, because then you’ll never get one finished. Chapter one is easy; Chapter eighteen is hard because it requires you have to completed chapters 1-17. Most people who wish that they were writers never get past the first few chapters. Most writers who wish that they were published never get through editing. Be one of the few.

Haha! Sorry I don’t sugarcoat this stuff, I’m just not a believer in writer’s block. I feel like writer’s block is an excuse to quit working through the hard parts.

A year since the split

I began writing a blog post about being a teacher again, cooking, and other boring mundane stuff, and I deleted it all. It wasn’t interesting. I wouldn’t want to read it. There was nothing worth writing about. I tried to think about an interesting aspect of my life to add to this blog, since I’m trying to do at least one post a month, and I realized that today was exactly one year from when I split up with the girl I was married to.

It’s a little taboo to talk about divorce/breakups/splits over social media. I had a goal from the day we split that I would not write anything I would regret over social media about the whole thing. I did well to reach my goal, mostly. I had a few moments where I wanted to pour my angst out over facebook in the beginning, but my friends Matt and Clayton kept me in check and reminded me about the kind of person I wanted to be.

The one thing I did do was write a blog post, mostly to quell the curiosity of my friends who wondered why everything happened. I thought a simple post would serve well to keep people from pounding me with questions, and I think it did. The post was fairly simple, with not many details, but a statement of my hopes for the future. I just reread it a minute ago, and I still like it. I think the words were right for the time. Heck, it was even trying to show empathy to her.

I’m not planning on going into more details now, or ever. Not over social media. But, I thought I would give an update to that blog post, since it quickly became my most-viewed post all-time. I want to write about it because it’s obvious that my friends were concerned for me at the time, and I wanted to update in a more substantial way than a facebook status update. I am going to try and hurdle the taboo aspect of it, since my life experience might help you if you ever get forced into this situation. I haven’t talked about it much, so really it might be nice to just freewrite on it, now that an entire year has gone by.

So, my update is this: I’m happier now than I have ever, ever been.

I want to be honest about something. I do hold anger about what happened. You know that feeling where you’ve been greatly wronged by someone and you wish you could just yell and yell at someone, perfectly spouting all the right words? I have that, packed away somewhere inside me. I also carry embarrassment for putting my friends and family through a wedding, and that I put them through a marriage that was destined to not be much better than a Britney Spears’ marriage. That may sound crude but I’m trying to be honest. I am not proud of those feelings. I don’t feel them often, but I do feel them sometimes.

I have those feelings in the pit of my mind, yet the person I am is still overwhelmingly happy. Life, all in all, is better than it was, perhaps better than it has ever been. I have hardly thought about my split up since returning to Belleville, truly. I haven’t talked about it with people much because I haven’t thought about it much. Because I was in Seattle and then returned to Belleville, it never felt like I was going through a breakup/divorce. Seattle was another world, an alternate universe, and my troubles stayed there. The end of my marriage felt more like a TV sitcom rerun that I had once watched, and I only realized that I was a cast member when someone would occasionally ask me what happened.

And the first half of the year-long span of time was spent constantly being surrounded by friends and people, so I didn’t really get a chance to feel alone. January of this year was a harder month, since I had just gone through a traumatic experience (not related to the breakup) and the two friends I had been hanging out with moved far away, so I was missing companionship.

But that all quickly melted as the snow did, and I’m feeling better than ever. Really, my life is just working on my book and teaching at the moment. It’s nice to be on a teacher’s schedule again, which means that I have SPRING BREAK next week! Party! I’m excited.

I guess that’s all I care to say, really. Having just reread this, I don’t really say all that much. Certainly not the juicy, gossip-worthy topics, sorry to tell you. I guess the takeaway is that I’m fine, and I have been fine. I hold a little anger but I haven’t felt any pain. I have hardly even thought about it, to be honest. Most of the promises I made to myself in that previous blog post have come true, to which I am thankful and fortunate. Right now, I’m more focused on the future, and I am happy about my life and the direction my life is going in.

Thanks for reading. Keep up with me at:
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I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag

And I’m loving it very much.

I played the very first Assassin’s Creed on PS3, and I enjoyed it well enough. I did, however, get bored at a certain point, and I found the missions to become the same thing over and over.

Lately, however, I’ve been needing some pirate in my life, and so I made the purchase of Black Flag on that whim. Let me tell you, the game never gets boring. Ever. 


This is some of the most varied gameplay I’ve ever experienced in a single game. Every time I began to feel like I was hitting that “peak” moment where I’ve experienced everything, they threw something new at me. Other than the basic Assassin’s Creed stuff, you can hunt whales/sharks, dive into sunken ships, go hunting for jaguars/monkeys/wild pigs, purchase art for your home, craft health upgrades/clothing/gun hostlers, capture rival ships, build a fleet and send them around the world to trade, capture naval fortresses, have bar fights, sail around with pirates singing sailing songs you can collect, explore smuggler’s dens, pet cats, feed chickens, rescue pirates and add them to your crew, use blowdarts to put guards to sleep, and upgrade your hideout cove by purchasing shops, brothels, and guest houses...

I honestly couldn't imagine a better pirate game, and just when I think I've seen everything, they throw out new gameplay that I wasn't expecting, like finding Mayan ruins, obtaining Templar keys, or hacking computers. And, of course, there’s also multiplayer on top of all of that. I’m overwhelmed by how great this game is. It’s LOADED with content, and I give it my full recommendation for anyone who wants an amazing collect-a-thon to play in a pirate setting. 

The gripes I had

 ...were very, very few. One was that there’s no way to run without accidentally clinging onto stuff you didn’t mean to. Another is that, when standing on a “sync” tower with the hawk circling around, they decided to use the same button for descending that they do for syncing, so I inevitably sync several times in a row if I want to climb down without jumping into a haystack.

The last thing I think is a shame is the lack of ship battles in multiplayer. The best part of the game, for me, was battling ships on the seas. I really wish that they had made naval combat the focus of the online multiplayer, rather than the hide-and-seek gameplay that is. The multiplayer can be fun, but I probably wouldn’t play it as much if I didn’t want the platinum trophy. If it were ship battles, you’d bet I’d be playing it all the time.

That’s all! Buy Black Flag! It’s amazing!

April showers, bring many days to sit inside and write.

I’ve been feeling really good lately. I just finished my fourth “draft.” I use the word with quotes because I’m a new writer and I’m perhaps using it differently from the industry standard. My drafts are the points at which it feels like my work has leveled up. Usually, I say it’s a new draft when I’ve completed working through the book of notes I’ve taken for my upcoming edits.

Anyway, I flew through editing. I mean, I spent hundreds of hours, but they were hundreds of hours of pure fun. I love this stuff.

Next week is spring break in the schools, and, as a teacher, I am lucky enough to get the week off. I’m planning on spending my vacation from work working on my new book, the one I’m not editing. I’m really excited to work on it more, as I’ve also put down about 15k words on it. My finished novel is soaring at the 100,000-word mark. I’d love to cut that down to 95k, but every time I cut out something, I find something else to add. That’s probably a bad practice, haha.

But, that’s my life. Teaching and writing. I’m very happy about where I’m at.

Well, that’s all I really wanted to say. I haven’t blogged as much because I’ve been spending every ounce of my free time writing and editing. Anyway, keep it up! Stay positive and rock on!