Character Study: Sarah Manning from Orphan Black (and, yes, a hero IS a special snowflake)

I first learned of Orphan Black when it was just an obscure, homegrown program on Canada’s Space Channel.

And in my customary inability to pick a winning horse, dismissed it without watching a single episode, deeming it just another sci-fi show on Space – a network whose programming quality, let’s be honest, varies.

But recently, my blog-buddy Eric J. Baker wrote about Orphan Black, recommending everyone give it a try.  Plus, with the second season having recently started, news of Orphan Black and its success was everywhere in Canadian entertainment news.

So, I decided I’d watch a bit, and thus far am halfway through season 1.

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On Suspense in Storytelling, pt. 1 – The Predictable-Yet-Still-Desirable

Suspense, as a concept, is something I’m pretty sure all writers comprehend.

Suspense (/səˈspɛns/):

Noun

“A state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen.” (Source: Google.)

After all, most writers begin their journey as a reader, and most readers love the thrill of a story unfolding – of experiencing every reversal and triumph that befall the characters as the plot moves along its way toward an as-yet unforeseen conclusion.

True, some readers do read the very last page of the book first – perhaps to ensure the story will have a happy ending.  However a last page really doesn’t convey much when taken out of context of all that comes before it, so even such a reader will be forced to weather the ebbs and flows of a storyline in the sequence in which they occur.

As a reader myself, however, it occurred to me recently that there are actually two types of suspense in storytelling.  Taken in turn, each type produces the following reaction in my head:

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My Writing Journey – finale

Continued from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4:

England’s Parliament building and Big Ben shot from the London Eye, in the rain (Photo: J. Noelle).

I told myself it would be best to take a short break from writing – just until I’d had a chance to settle into my new job and home, and establish myself socially.

That “break” lasted six years.

They say that love is blind.  I’d like to submit my own saying: love can make you stop writing.  Especially when it is unrequited love.  For my time away from writing my novel did indeed involve unrequited love, as well as obsession of an entirely different sort, rivalry, a joking/not joking threat of getting shoved off a boardwalk, and is practically a novel in its own right.

I’m not going to discuss it in any detail, for though it was a significant experience in my life that would go on to shape many things to come and perhaps even still does, it’s not a part of my “story” that I wish to continue living and carrying around with me.

I will concede that it was a time that allowed me to develop other interests, skills, and facets of my personality.  Yet my pursuit of all that stuff (not to mention “the guy”) was no less balanced than when I was deep in the throes of Obsessive Writer’s Disorder – writing nonstop during meals and when I should have been sleeping.

All that’s in the past.

This is the future.

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My Writing Journey

Many writers are familiar with the concept of the Hero’s Journey, as elucidated by Joseph Campbell, which forms the backbone and structure of mythic narratives across all cultures, and strongly influences modern storytelling as we know it.

Every writer undertakes his/her own journey as well, beginning as an aspiring writer with an idea and a dream and setting forth in pursuit of becoming a published author.  In this journey the writer him-/herself is the hero, facing all a hero’s necessary obstacles along the way.  In effect, the writer is authoring his/her own life story while simultaneously writing the story of someone else, which is often the writer’s life story yet again, only this time in camouflage.

Author and activist Mary McCarthy wrote that, “We all live in suspense, from day to day, from hour to hour; in other words, we are all the hero of our own story” (“Characters in Fiction”, Partisan Review, March/April 1961).  This is the story of me and the view from here: my writer’s journey, thus far.

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