My parents were refugees to the United States. I have always thought their story was a fascinating one, especially the unspoken story that's in between-the-lines (and it will probably always remain unspoken). I think, as their child, there's a lot of things they probably will never tell me. And, unfortunately, I don't have the advantage of having a loose-lipped aunt or uncle with stories to tell (or perhaps I do--I guess it really depends on how I play my cards).
Well, the truth is, I think Western prose and American story-writing champions a very gritty, genuine, and realistic truth--be it taboo or righteous. Being a product of this country (I was born here), part of that is infused in my blood. You may think, "Gosh, what story is not like that?" Well, in my culture, people tell stories like Grim Brother's Fairy Tale--I'm completely being honest here. Certainly there was a reason why a wolf would devise a ruse (one in which he lured Red to a bedside); certainly, there would have been much easier ways if he simply wanted to eat her. I think the Western audience (at least Hollywood) has tried to address these questions (at least in my humble opinion) in blundered movie productions. In the case of my culture, people prefer the luxurious spaces in between-the-lines to save face--or perhaps the idea of coming up with one's own ethical judgment is more entertaining (because I know for sure people like to come up with their own interpretations in private).
I think the practical question that I ask myself is this: should I write a fictional story loosely based on my parent's story simply because I will probably be tempted to fill in between-the-lines? And if I do fictionalize between-the-lines, does it then require that I fictionalize everything else completely? And do I lose out on an opportunity to write an otherwise fascinating non-fiction story? Hmmm. It's a tough call.
I've said it so many times here, almost apologetically, but I didn't grow up reading books--I mostly watched movies; however, even in the books that I have read (or the mere fact that some types of books far outnumber other types) seemed to cater to Westernized crowd; and I'm almost hesitant to say a "white" crowd, but that's what I'm trying to say. I live in America (which I am quickly learning is something I have to say on the Internet, since there are so many people who are from all over the globe) and America is by far, in my opinion, quite a diverse nation! I mean, there are conservative pockets like in the South. For example, I just moved to a small town in Missouri and, for the first time, I got that awkward look when my wife and I went into a random diner that--let's just say--was very homogeneous.
As a first generation Asian in the United States in my family, I found it disappointing that the leading role in the 70's TV Program, Kung Fu, had David Carridine play as an Asian character which, according to conspiracy theory, was originally considered for Bruce Lee. I'm specifically referring to stories that are told from a Western point of view (which is distinctly different from stories that, for example, are told from an Asian point-of-view, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, etc.). Well, you may argue that Jackie Chan has had his fair share of crossing over to the American market, but many of his roles are that of a goofy, awkward character whose leading role is usually carried by an American actor (such is the case with Jennifer Love Hewitt in The Tuxedo). If you want a modern example, just take a look at Avatar: The Last Airbender, where much of the fantasy lore is borrowed from Asian mythos and folklore, yet, the casting role was given to a Caucasian actor. Speaking of lore, Hollywood tried to bridge the gap by casting the Norse God Heimdall, in the Marvel Comic film, Thor, as an African American, which was subjected to many complaints. According to one blog, Heimdall was the "Whitest of the gods". So why is it not troubling that a "white" person is playing an extremely "yellow" character?
I say all this because, as I try to come up with stories and plots, I come to realize that there is a part of me that is heavily influenced by Asian mythos, traditions, wit, and humor. It seems that Hollywood is not ready to cast Asians with leading roles; and aside from a few Amy Tan books I read growing up, many of the books I've read were very American. And you know, America is supposed to be a meltingpot, but I find that pop culture is still slightly biased. I'm not saying that there is racism involved, but it is a racial topic. And I'm not trying to convince people to like Asians. Maybe I'm just simply frustrated at the moment as I try to come up with story ideas and plots. And it frustrates my thoughts of a potential future selling stories to a public that may not identify with my ideas.
It reminds me of one time when I was younger. I was leaving work and walking to the car with a (white) co-worker. He was telling me some story that I no longer remember, but it was about The Doors. I looked over at him confused. "What's that?" His response? "Oh, nothing. They're only one of the most influential rock-and-roll bands in the entire history of the world. Holy crap, have you been living under a rock your whole life?" Actually, I grew up watching dubbed Jet Li kung-fu movies and listening to Faye Wong and Thai rock songs.
I'm not one to believe in gimmicks when it comes to writing (or anything for that matter). I like to think of myself as a practical person. I sometimes spend several hours outlining plots, scenes, etc. on paper or simply mentally brainstorming ideas, emotions, concepts (some great places for this--for me--is on the track while jogging to some inspiring music and surprisingly, on the bowl--okay, TMI, but it's true). For me, it's sometimes like being a kid and doing an Easter egg hunt. I run around moving rocks and looking behind trees for a lead. Something may catch my eye--like an idea that grabs my attention--but it turns out to be a dead end or a dry hole. Sometimes, I do find something that leads me on for awhile. It's like one time when I stopped up a nosebleed with a ball of tissue. After removing the tissue, I pulled out a long, glutenous, congealed strand of blood that seemed to pull forever. How far will this idea go?
I find that when I delve into some of these ideas, especially in character development (sometimes in writing, but mostly in concept), it can be a little taxing on my emotions. For example, after writing or conceptualizing something that is very, very emotionally sad or disturbing (especially for longer than a couple hours), I find myself just slightly tainted for a little while. My wife would be talking to me about something cheery and I'm still grieving for my character. It reminds me that I need to take a break sometimes.
Any writers ever get this? Maybe I'm just kooky.
I have been trying to find a mechanism or system for improving my creativity--that is, having creative content to write about. Seriously, I thought about pinning words to a dartboard and throwing 3-4 darts. The funny thing is that I imagine a lot of people here would draw from their extensive mental library of books they've read. I have to admit, I can count the number of fiction books I've read (cover-to-cover) on my hands and perhaps with a little assistance with my toes. I have watched a lot of movies, though.
So this week's weekly writing contest's theme was Dystopian Fiction. My first thought was: What is Dystopian? Is that when you grew up in a family where your Dad beat you and your brother made you smell your own fart? Thanks to technology and the Internet, I was able to google the term. I won't lie. I looked at the list of dystopian fiction movies before the books.
As I came up with ideas, I would say to myself: Grrr... this idea is a little too much like Planet of the Apes. This one is a little too much like A Boy and His Dog. I eventually settled with a world where women dominated men. It was very difficult for me to write, since, as a man, I can claim that I know very little about women's plight. Who knows. Someone probably already wrote a novel about it. I hope you guys enjoy it. I look forward also to reading others' pieces for this week's contest.
In the seventeen days I've been a member at writingforums.org, observing and judging (we all judge) the community has been interesting. I am beginning to see whom the regulars are. The handles of which writers stand behind become characters as their personalities paint their personalities. It's like the first day of class at a new school or the first day of work. This guy reminds of Joe from my other school. This gal reminds me of Alice from the last job I worked at. And this process seems to be at play no matter which community I go to. It is mildly exciting and it is fun.
I am finding that there is a diverse set of people here, unlike some writer's post I have been on. There are some who seem to be just beginning the craft. They may struggle with grammar, etc. There are some who may be a bit more experienced, but still struggle with effective methods for drawing in the reader, and there are yet others who write gracefully and are inspiring to me. I think I probably fall somewhere between the spectrum of the first- and second-mentioned classes I've defined.
I would like to explain who I am so that there is a little context behind the name--with the caveat that we all hide behind our handle in some shape or form (such is the nature of the Internet). I am in my 30's. I am married. My ethnicity is called Hmong. I find that very few people are aware of what that is. The Hmong are are tribal group from Southeast Asia. Many of them found their way to first-world countries after the American Vietnam War (well, the CIA-led secret war in Laos). I suppose allowing refuge was compensation for helping their American allies. Anyway, I was born here. I feel I am as American as pie.
In my recent years, I served the US Army for several years--spent just shy of 3 years in Baghdad. I eventually served as a geopolitical analyst, where I learned a writing tradecraft for my department. The time I have spent reading about various countries and their policies has sort of made me cynical about life. On top of that, my wife assures me I struggle with PTSD from my tours. I know I need to try to not let that affect my writing so much. I am going back to school because, unfortunately, I never took it seriously when I was younger. Now, I am very appreciative of the opportunity to finish my degree.
In my earlier years, I used to love recreating stories--which I've learned is popularly known as "fan fiction". It started when I was in first or second grade. My parents had a typewriter. I was so captivated by the idea of putting neat fonts onto a bright piece of paper. I took some of my Nintendo game stories and recreated them: soldiers would go on special missions; my friends would end up in a Super Mario-esque world; etc.--nothing too extravagant.
One important aspect of me is that I am/was an addict to World of Warcraft. I can snicker about that as I say it. I've recently tried to put that behind me. In my life, I have put away cigarettes (cold turkey), so I am confident I can put this away. Nobody understands an addition unless they have been addicted before--so in some case, it's not really a trivial matter. I hope that fiction writing (again, as an adult) can fill in this void.
If you've gotten this far in this blog, thank you for reading. I hope to get to know you during my time here at writingforums.org.
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