A Book and a Video Game

I want to talk about a two random things that have nothing to do with one another, other than they are dear to me and I have enjoyed them.

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First, before he went to be with the Lord, Ron Baines gave me a copy of The Journal of Esther Edwards Burr, 1754-1757. He gave me two copies, “For his literary girls”, with the promise that I would give the other copy to my dear Stephanie Florentino. He then proceeded to read me a passage from it and explain that he thought I would enjoy the book because Esther sounds a bit like someone from Pride and Prejudice.

As always, Ron was right. I did enjoy the book very much. The Introduction is exactly what you would expect two modern feministic women to say about intimate letters written by two Christian women. Where they see chafing against male leadership, I saw sanctification. Where they see the trappings of a society that put women down, I see Christian women trusting the Lord.

I tend to be focused on fiction, books on doctrine, and military history. This book was my first venture into non-military biographies since I was a kid. It is a collection of the letters written by Esther to her best friend as she moves with her husband, deals with health issues, brings two children into the world, worries about her extended family, and tends to her hearth and home.

Because of her letters, I was able to live with her through fear for her parents from the Indians and French, through fear of sickness, through her struggles with trusting the life and death of her children to the Lord, and all the other things two women would correspond about.

The sense of loss which filled me when I came to the end of Esther’s letters surprised me. I had become attached to this woman. Knowing the book ended because she passed away, and not just because we lost the rest of her letters, saddened me greatly. But how different that sadness is when your reading about real people compared to fictional ones. I love Sam, Harry, Hazel and so many other characters, but they are temporary and all dust in the end. Not so with Esther. I will actually get to meet this dear saint who went to be with the Lord shortly after her husband and left her children behind. Ron is now with Esther in heaven. What a glorious hopeful thought.

I highly recommend this book. It is funny, dull, beautiful, hopeful, sad, and everything normal life is. I’m very thankful Ron gave it to me, and I will treasure it for as long as the Lord gives me.

 

Second, the game Price and I have been waiting for for a very long time finally came out this Fall: Final Fantasy XV.final_fantasy_xv_wallpaper__whit_new_prompto_by_realzeles-d9fy76x

After the huge disappointment of Metal Gear Solid V, we tried to go into this game with low expectations. That proved difficult after going to see Kingsglaive late one night like we were 20 again, and after the four anime shorts released on YouTube about the four main characters, and the free pre-game that included an adorable fox-like creature named Carbuncle. Just you try to stay calm.

In November, we got our copy and started to play. Right away this game was perfect. The story was perfect, the build-up was perfect, this game was perfect.

Before FFXV, Red Dead Redemption, Brothers, and StarCraft all proved to be moving stories that brought me to tears. Final Fantasy XV has replaced all of them except Red Dead Redemption.ffxv_key-art_tgs2014-noscale-1920x817

This story is a brotherhood story written from a man’s perspective. It is a very masculine game, which is refreshing when so many games and stories have lead females and are told from a feminine perspective. This game isn’t a romance story. There is love in it, but the focus is on the relationship between the four young men. Not their relationship with any girls. Its smart remarks, food, fishing, adventure, and battle.

This story follows four friends on a road trip. They are Noctis, the prince, his bodyguard Gladiolus, valet/cook/driver Ignis, and friend Prompto. Noctis is on his way to marry the beautiful Lunafreya, but taking his time to get there with no shortage of teasing from his three friends. While they’re having a good time on their road trip, their country is attacked. Noctis’ father, the king, is murdered, Luna is whispered to be dead, Gladio’s father is dead, and their capital city is destroyed. Darkness begins to encroach and deamons fill the land.

The rest of the game follows Noctis, now King, as he seeks to gain the favor and power of the gods so he can reclaim his kingdom. Gladio, Ignis, and Prompto follow faithfully after him, protecting him, encouraging him, and keeping him focused. Lunafreya, not dead, goes before him to prepare for each meeting with the gods.FINAL FANTASY XV EPISODE DUSCAE_20150317222557

Or, that’s what you think the rest of the game is going to be about. (SPOILERS AHEAD!)

In an epic battle, which has split the four friends up in defense of a city, Noctis is injured and Lunafreya is murdered while he watches. This sends Noctis into a tail spin of emotional gloom for weeks. Ignis lost his sight in the battle, but Noctis doesn’t seem to care. The four friends begin to fight as Gladio is torn between frustration with Noctis, who won’t shoulder his kingly responsibilities, and Ignis, who needs constant help. The game play became very interesting here, and emotionally painful. Through the first 2/3 of the game, you are literally tripping over your friends. They are always right there with one. With Noctis and Gladio fighting, and Ignis’ loss of sight, they are now always behind you. The fun joking turns into demands that you slow down and think of someone beyond yourself. As the player, you feel alone and isolated.

(At this point, I went to bed. I couldn’t handle the characters fighting. It was so painful. It made me realize that I would rather kill off a character than have friendships fall apart.)

Eventually, through several trials, Noctis becomes who he is supposed to be. Ignis demands Gladio and Noctis heal their relationship. And, Ignis learns to fight by sound instead of sight. Prompto is captured by the enemy, and they go to rescue him and find the crystal which will heal their land.

As the player, you’ve acclimated to Noctis being out front with his party behind, and are really happy everyone is friends again. Then, you have to abandon your three friends in a battle against the deamons to reach the crystal. Noctis’ only hope is that by reaching the crystal he can save his friends. Instead, Noctis disappears inside crystal he thought would rid his kingdom of darkness and deamons. Noctis is lost and his friends must carry on without him.

While inside the crystal, Noctis is told by the gods that the only way for him to save everyone is to die. He must sacrifice himself to bring light and peace.

When he returns, ten years have passed. There is no light. But, his friends are waiting. They are waiting for the King to come back. They believe and have always believed Noctis would return. (Seeing this Christian theme played out brought me to tears. They waited on their friend. They waited for the King.)

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There are many more sub-plots, side quests, unique monsters, and even a whole other villain I haven’t talked about who is behind all the evil and treachery. This is a dense game with a very ‘living world’ feel. The ending fights and scenes, with characters 10 years older than before, are very moving. Noctis willingly gives himself to save his land. The last campfire scene where he tells Gladio, Ignis, and Prompto how much he loves them hurts with its beauty.

Uniquely, Luna’s entire role is to help Noctis. She goes before him to demand the gods help him, which is her role as Oracle. She could have gone down a different path, but instead she chose to help her intended husband become the man he needed to be. How rare is it to see this feminine virtue praised and shown as honorable in any modern media?

This is an excellent game for young men to play, because it honors the relationships between men without turning them into any weird homosexual thing. It shows warriors fighting for their home, setting aside boyish things to take on responsibility, and standing together against darkness. It shows a King taking on his burden, and it shows the men around him helping him. This is a beautiful game about masculine friendship.

I loved everything about this game. I loved the story, the characters, the brotherhood, the music, the setting, the gameplay. I always enjoy any story which focuses on masculine friendship and the strength found there. FFXV did just that.

Rated PG-13: There is a bit of mild language in the game, but this rating is mostly for the handful of scantily clad women. The girl who runs the garage and one of the summon spells are far from modest. This would be the main issue for me in recommending the game for young men. It’s probably nothing worse than what you see in most movies, like Star Wars, but I still wanted to give a heads up about it.

I just couldn't resist this perfect picture. lol

I just couldn’t resist this perfect picture. lol

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There is Beauty Even Here: All the Light We Cannot See and Hamburger Hill

 

It seems odd to connect the book All the Light We Cannot See with the violent war movie Hamburger Hill. One is filled with elegant and gripping prose. The other reeks of dirt, blood, gore, language, and nudity. And yet, a beauty resonated within them both.

All the Light We Cannot See is the story of a blind young girl, and a smart, small boy caught up in WW2. Werner is a German and Marie is French. Their lives touch for the briefest of poignant moments. Instead of getting down in the muck of war, Doerr captures haunting horrors in words of longing, and broken grace. You know all that is happening is gross, mean, and destructive, yet you are removed from all that by a prose that takes you higher. And somehow this lofty view makes it all the more terrible. It paints death with beauty which only makes the death more jolting, more revolting. Your heart weeps at the loss of innocence, family, goodness. You see souls torn more deeply by the careful choice of each perfect word.

Hamburger Hill is as opposite as you can get. There are no majestic shots, no moving music, and no quotable dialogue. All there is is a handful of very young men cussing, fighting, and lusting. They are covered in dirt, sweating, and unattractive in every way. But, as the movie culminates, beauty blazes through. It is seen in the worst guy who hasn’t said one pure thing about a woman, hugging the other guy who’s girl just dumped him. It’s seen when a Lieutenant weeps as his men are mowed down by friendly fire, when a sergeant explains why he came back to Vietnam, when race is sponged away between white boys and black boys cause they’re all dying, when a private wipes his sergeant’s face, and when a man holds so gently his dying buddy. Great tenderness blooms between these men as they attempt to fight their way up a hill for ten days.

Beauty is found even here.

Two stories of war, as different as can be, and yet both show a light burning bright in the darkness.

Reading/watching these back to back was emotionally taxing, and yet it reminded me of why I’m drawn back to war stories over and over. I love seeing the light in the darkest moment. I love the beauty that blooms in battle. I love brotherhoods. There is something magical about men who have fought together that we’re losing in our feministic culture. I plan to go down kicking and screaming. I will be a woman who honors warriors without demanding to be one.

I love these stories because they capture the reality of my existence. I am not what I seem on some level. It’s true, I am a middle class, white, suburban housewife. But, I’m also a saved sinner, a healed monster, and a warrior in the battle against sin. War movies are my unseen reality and my church family is my band of brothers. I may not want women to be forced into the bond of battle formed between men, but I can also be part of that great friendship in the spiritual army of the Lord. When I see them fighting down in the dirt, when I see two children suffering all that war brings, I look with my Christian-colored-glasses and see the spiritual battle I engage in every day.

Life is more than it seems, both uglier and more beautiful.

Sometimes as a writer, I lose my way. I forget what story I’m telling when I’m in the middle of plot lines, time lines, and commas, but movies and stories like this help re-align me. They help me keep fighting. They help me to pray for my family. They remind me to hug and hold cause I don’t know the battle my fellow soldier may have engaged in this week.

There is beauty even here.

 

Quote of the Weekend

“He glanced aside a the young Celt now. Brychan looked very happy. He came of a people to whom fighting was the very flowering of life. Aquila, coming of another people, could not feel that, only a cold, knife-edged sense of waiting, but something leapt between them all the same, binding them for the moment into a brotherhood.”

– The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutciff

Writing Journal: Introducing Sisterhood

492599If you follow me around in real life, on FaceBook, and or read my Blog, you will quickly realize that one of my favorite concepts in stories—right after the idea of the Undeserved Rescue—is Brotherhood. I love action flicks with a core group that would kill for each other. I love stories about enemies becoming inseparable friends. I love stories about cops and their partners. I love war stories because of the brotherhood concept. Band of Brothers is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, but I feel like you see this same idea play out, to lesser degrees, in StarTrek: NG, Firefly, Sherlock, and Chuck. It’s all about the person next to you. It’s all about the guy willing to spill blood to defend you, even his own. It’s what I love about Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. It is what I love about Lord of the Rings.

With all that said, it’s not surprising that my Fairytale has at least two brotherhoods forming in Book 1. I’m diligently working on a brotherhood within the antagonist’s army and a brotherhood centered around my protagonists. Since brotherhoods tend to form in the middle of intense situations like combat, and since I’m a bit conservative and think combat should be left to men, and since it typically has been left to men so men are the ones forming these brotherhoods, my protagonist is a male. In fact, most of the books I’ve written have a male protagonist.

Why?

Most of the books I enjoy reading have male protagonist. It’s not that there aren’t books with lead females out there. It’s not that women don’t have adventures. It’s just that I never find books and stories with lead females as interesting or as fun as I do the ones with lead males. This started back when I had a choice between the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Can you guess which one I picked? (If you guess Nancy Drew you need to start this article over and try again. 🙂 )

Why is this?

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I’ll be honest, and a bit hard on my own sex, I find stories with lead females a bit annoying. Either the woman is doing something completely ridiculous in some vain attempt to prove that she’s just as big and bad as the guys are, or she’s standing in a corner screaming with a phaser not three inches from her hand while her man gets beat to death, or she’s eye candy. There are very few stories where the woman is a woman. And the ones where she is being a woman can be a bit harder to make interesting because they can end up catty, manipulative, and self focused. I just don’t think they’re as fun as male driven stories. (And yes, if you’re wondering, I was a Tomboy growing up.) What it really came down to was boys had adventures and girls had boyfriends. I would rather have an adventure.

Me and my Bestie!

Me and my Bestie!

Then, a dear friend laid down a challenge. She pointed out the many wonderful relationships I have with other women. I’ve been blessed with a wise mother and extra mother, grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-Christ, wise older women, and a very dear best friend, and many nieces. I have more dear women than I can possibly name in my life right now. I have women who are going before me into old age and widowhood, I have young women coming up behind me into marriage, life, and adulthood. I wouldn’t trade these women for the world. I love each and every one of them. My dear friend, who is a woman, asked me why I don’t have more of those types of female relationships in my books? They are some of the best friendships I’ve had, why don’t I mirror the brotherhood concept with a sisterhood concept? If I hated women being written just to have boyfriends, why was I doing the same thing. (Don’t read this the wrong way, I think loving a man and being loved by him, being married, is one of the most wonderful and rewarding relationships you can have.)

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I was floored. I couldn’t believe how long I’d missed the opportunity to share something that has always been a part of my life. Facepalm.

Again, I find myself beholden to a woman while I write about a man. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be: Women supporting women who are helping men? So now I’m weaving women together. I have a mother and now I have a GateKeeper and a few elements who are women, plus some other girls. I’m shooting for a story that has brotherhoods, sisterhoods, and also some marriages.

I hope to show the positive sides of women and sisterhoods without reducing them down to catty relationships. One of the things I hated most about the Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan was his sisterhoods. Every woman in the book constantly manipulated the men around them for their own ends. It grew very frustrating. It was like watching all that is the worst part of you instead of being encouraged to be better. I want to have a story more like Lord of the Rings that makes you want to be a better person when you finish reading it.

With this challenge accepted, I will be working on my female characters. I will be exploring what makes women and men different and how those things compliment each other. I have some good books to read, good movies to watch, and of course some interesting personal experiences to draw from. Plus, I have a whole host of Godly women ready to help me! I’m gearing up and ready to go!