Cancer: The Convenient Device

Hidden cave at a nearby waterfall

Hidden cave at a nearby waterfall

So, I discovered I had thyroid cancer earlier this year (which I blogged about HERE,  and HERE )

Now we’re back into the ‘wait’ part of hurry-up-and-wait, until we hear from the hospital for a surgery date, predicted to be within the next six weeks, to take out my thyroid. (followed soon thereafter by radiated iodine to kill off any of the little buggers that dodged the scalpel)

UPDATE: The hospital rang today. (figures!) My surgery is scheduled for 2nd July. Let the games begin.

Apart from writing, and household chores, and general living stuff, I’ve been distracting myself by rewatching/watching some favourite TV shows and have come to an interesting conclusion … but first, and by way of introduction …

Today on Strange Ink, Kat Howard talked about ‘When Bad Things Happen to Good Characters’,  and what occurred on this weeks episode of the TV show ‘Game of Thrones’, based on the best selling ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ novels, by George R. R. Martin.

I started to comment there and realised what I was saying dovetails perfectly with this post, so I truncated my comment and saved the rest to go here … with a few edits – of course. I’m a writer, that’s what we do.

Ever since TV series were invented, we’ve been fed this line that heroines/heroes CAN’T die (what would happen to the ratings for one thing) because they have to be in next week’s episode. They’re called ‘anchor characters’ for a reason. What GoT, both the books and the tv show, did is turn that expectation on it’s head. Which I think is a good thing. Good for writers, good for viewers/readers, and good for the visual arts industry in general.

And here’s why. Each week the main character/s ‘MacGyver’ their way out of an impossible situation, or a force majeur to save the day at the last minute, or contracts a fatal illness/has an accident and is saved by a brilliant doctor. The list isn’t exactly endless, but the result is the same.

Writers have to ramp up the tension, not by having the characters succumb to these challenges, but to think up ways for them to survive. And the longer the series lasts the more absurd these devices become. (I’m looking at you, CSI)

(Joss Whedon (Firefly and Buffy, etc) and George R.R. Martin (A Song of Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones) shattered this model when they killed off main characters. Other creators have done this but these two are mainstreaming at the moment, so they’re ‘it’)

Absurd and repetitious. And this is where the cancer thing comes back into the picture. In all of the shows I’m slowly working my way through, there have been at least two episodes per season where cancer has been used as a plot device, either by a main character getting some form of cancer, or a family member/friend dying or miraculously recovering from cancer. (this excludes Greys Anatomy because someone has cancer every third episode – just joking, sorta, kinda)

In my BC era (Before Cancer) I was vaguely aware of this, but now, where I see it everywhere around me, it’s right in my face. I’m reaching a point where I roll my eyes and drawl, “puhleeeeze” when the big ‘C’ wends its weary way across my computer screen. (this reaction might be a tad excessive, but hey, it’s my cancer party and I’ll overreact if I want to)

Which is very reminiscent of one of a writers greatest bug-a-boo’s, the repeated word. We all have ‘em. That word that stands out like a sore thumb when we’re editing. (I’m not going to tell you how many times I removed the word ’that’ from this post before publishing it, but it was in the double digits)

So, to pull all this together – if you write (for TV, novels, comics, cereal ads, etc) in a specific genre, pay attention to your favourite or default storytelling device and throw it out the window. See what else you can come up with. Not for always, but every now and then. The universe will not end – unless that’s what you’re planning … even then try something else and see what happens.

The same goes for life.


“Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping … waiting … and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir … open it’s jaws and howl. It speaks to us … guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love … the clarity of hatred … the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we’d be truly dead” Joss Whedon


What, exactly, are they plotting?


1,000 True Fans

The blogs I follow are an eclectic lot. Like this one for instance, and this one, and my latest find (If you have the time read this one from the first entry last August, It’s quite an odyssey). Most of them are writers and all of them are on a Journey with a capital ‘J’, because we are, all of us wayfarers of one sort or another.

I have a file in my ‘Writing’ folder called ‘Tools’ and when I come across something that might be of use on my Journey to becoming published and rich and famous (maybe not the famous – OK, rich and famous too) I plunk it in my ‘tool-box’ for future reference.

Another of my blogistas is Free Spacer, which is the name of the RPG that they are developing over there. I’m not a RPG gal but it’s kinda fun to watch this evolution. In his latest post Christoph talks about the ‘1,000 True Fans’ concept. Which states (to paraphrase) that if an artist can gather and hold 1,000 people who will buy $100 worth of the artists work per year, then that creates a livable income.

Cool huh?

Not having heard of this before I thought it was a rather wonderful and simple concept. That all we need out of all the people who might buy our art, in whatever shape we create it, is 1,000 of ‘em to stick around. How hard can it be I asked myself as I made note of it in my tool-box.


“You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, because this is all part of experience, and the more experience you have, the better it is.. unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far”Alice Neel