Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays, one and all.

(For those curious as to what Hanukkah is about, I gave an explanation in the comments)

I’m going to try to keep this post short, though there’s a great temptation to write a thousand words or more. And that’s because despite how crazy this past week has been, its also been kind of uplifting. Why? Because my organization really showed me how much it wanted to make sure all its associates felt included during the holidays. And that included the Jews.

Now as many of you know, I am Jewish (this will be important in a bit). And as many of you also know, I work for a supply organization in a role called an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist. It’s kind of like HR, but we’re focused on promoting diversity, accommodating associates with disabilities, and combating discrimination and harassment in the workforce. It’s an important job, because a properly diverse and accepting workforce is one with a wide talent pool and a healthy mental state.

Okay, enough background. Let me get to the important part. On Tuesday, I was sitting having breakfast in my office when our Director of Operations (hereafter referred to as the DoO), a member of our regional executive staff, came to visit me. Which is pretty unusual. I see him on occasion around the building and we’ll chat, but I don’t interact much with the executives in my organization. You can imagine my surprise when the DoO came to talk to me, and understand my first thought upon seeing him: I’ve had this nightmare before, but I was naked in it.

Turns out, the DoO wanted to consult me. You see, I did a stand-up routine at a company talent show last year (yes, that happened), and it was centered around kosher cooking. Since then, I’ve gained a reputation as the resident expert on Judaism. With that in mind, the DoO wanted to know if it would be a good idea to have a menorah to represent Hanukkah at the Executive Open House, one of our organization’s annual holiday events when you can go through the executive suite and schmooze with the top brass. That event usually has a lot of tinsel and Christmas trees, but no menorah. And the DoO wanted to know if including one would be a good idea.

I said yes, that would be a wonderful idea, and I gave some other suggestions of things to include (dreidels, chocolate gelt, etc). I then gave him some ideas where he could find all those. Less than an hour later, I was asked to go shopping with him at the nearest place to see if we could find a menorah. I said sure, hoping to God I wouldn’t embarrass myself, and we went shopping. We found plenty of gelt, but they were fresh out of menorahs. One thing you need to know about my organization, though, we don’t do anything partway. So I got into contact with one of the local synagogues, which I knew had a gift shop with plenty of menorahs. After work that day, I went straight there and bought a menorah, along with a ton of dreidels. Mission accomplished.

The DoO and I with the menorah. So grateful for this kind gesture.

Fast forward to today (Thursday, if you’re reading this later on), I brought the menorah and dreidels in. We set it up first in the DoO’s office after he invited me up to the Executive Suite, and then later it ended up in a more public space when another associate brought in their menorah from home. And I have to say, it looked really good there too.

But through all this, I couldn’t help but thinking how wonderful it was for the DoO and the rest of the top brass to be thinking of my people. As many of you are aware, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and attacks lately, the worst being the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October. These attacks on my people have been tough on all of us. I’ve been feeling an upswing in anxiety since October myself. However, I’ve been trying to fight back by staying strong and filling the world with more good and kindness than they can fill it with evil. And this simple thoughtful gesture, while small, was huge in its impact, and I can’t help but thank the DoO for helping to put a bit of good back in this crazy world.

I hope it’s part of a greater trend to make the world a nicer place.

Happy Hanukkah, Followers of Fear. I hope this brought some light into your life during the Festival of Lights. I’m heading off to bed. Until next time (possibly this weekend), pleasant nightmares one and all.

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The real Annabelle doll next to the movie version.

The other day I was driving home from grocery shopping, and this silly insurance commercial came on the radio about a creepy doll. According to the commercial’s announcer, the scary doll, which can’t help being creepy and claims horror movies as its natural habitat, knows paying less for car insurance is good sense. The announcer then says, “The only question is, how did the creepy doll get down the hallway? I would get out of the house if I were you.”

I responded to said commercial, “Well, you’re not me. And after I finished going ‘Oh holy shit, the doll moved!’ I’d take the opportunity to find out as much as I can about the doll and the spirit possessing it.”

Yeah. That’s me in a nutshell.

My relationship with dolls have gone through a transformation over the years. At first I was freaked out by them, but over time I’ve become enamored of them, and even have a small collection of dolls and figurines. And the idea that some dolls and figurines might be inhabited by spirits fascinates me. I enjoy the Annabelle films and would love to own the collectible version of it (I hear the actual Annabelle doll is a little hard to come by, especially since it’s under lock and key. So that’s out). I enjoy watching videos about haunted dolls on YouTube, including this one from Buzzfeed.

I seriously thought this doll was haunted at one point. For better or worse, it’s not.

And it probably won’t shock you that I once suspected one or two from my own collection were haunted (I swear I thought I saw the arm of a figurine move, though that particular arm has no joints). I even checked one of my dolls, the one I thought most likely to be haunted, to see if it had any spirits. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on your opinion), my dowsing rods experiment didn’t yield any meaningful results, so I’m going to have to say that’s a no.

But a part of me would like to own a haunted doll. Why? Well, I guess for the same reason people collect salt and pepper shakers or go out of their way to get comic books. Something about the item in question appeals to them. Dolls already appeal to me, and I’ve been to haunted locations before.  Seems like just a great meeting of two loves, like scaring people and writing.

And as the Buzzfeed video above says, you can find those pretty easily on sites like eBay. I was actually on Etsy the other day and saw this one haunted doll that I felt almost drawn to. And it was reasonably priced. You know, for a doll that might actually have a self-aware spirit or intelligent entity attached to it.

Of course, the problem there is that, yes, the doll has someone or something attached to it. Some dolls, like the actual Annabelle doll, supposedly have one or more demons attached to it. Imagine taking something like that into your home and being negatively affected by it. The doll or its spirit could destroy property, threaten lives, etc. Robert the Doll supposedly curses anyone who takes pictures with him without permission, which can lead to financial ruin and physical harm.

And if it does have something nasty attached to it, what would I do to contain it? I’m acquainted with one of the former owners of the Dybbuk Box,* and he had to go to all sorts of lengths to keep that box from affecting him and his family. Imagine what I might have to go through to keep that doll from messing with my life.

But I guess that’s the risk bringing anything into your home that’s alive. Yeah, a haunted doll would be a lot more complicated than a pet, but it’s still something I would like to try.

Perhaps in the future I’ll be given the chance to bring a haunted doll into my house. And who knows? It might not lead to anything, but I’ll hopefully have fun and get a few story ideas from it.

But tell me, do you think haunted dolls exist? Do you have any stories you’d like to share? Would you own one if you could? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading another post by me about just how strange I am. As always, appreciate the support. I’ll hopefully have another post out later this week. Until then, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

*For those of you who don’t know, a dybbuk is a ghost in Jewish folklore that’s turned away from Heaven and Hell and possesses living people to interact with the real world. The dybbuk box is a wine cabinet that supposedly has a malevolent dybbuk attached to it, and has been blamed for a number of misfortunes that befell past owners. Currently it’s housed in Zak Bagans’s Haunted Museum, where you have to be 18 or over and sign a waiver to see the box, as it curses anyone near it, including rapper Post Malone.

If you think you’ve heard of this before, that’s because the Dybbuk Box was the inspiration for the horror movie The Possession (which I highly recommend), and dybbuks in general have inspired countless pieces of literature and theater, including a famous play and ballet, and even a certain short story from my college days.

Some days it’s harder to know where you stand than others.

Last month, a white supremacist went on a shooting rampage in Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All of the victims were senior citizens and a few were Holocaust survivors. That they should live so long and survive so much, just for one hateful man to snuff out their lives, hurts and horrifies me and several other members of the Jewish community on so many levels. In my own response to the shooting, I mentioned I felt connected to the attack in a very personal way. I almost ended up living in Pittsburgh when I was a kid instead of Columbus. Imagine what mght’ve happened if I’d stayed there, and if my synagogue had been Tree of Life?

Since that horrific day, there have been more anti-Semitic incidents. None on the scale as the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, but still horrific. In Baltimore, a man interrupted a performance of Fiddler on the Roof, a play revolving around Jewish characters dealing with change and anti-Semitism, by shouting “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!”; in Wisconsin, nearly an entire class of graduating high school boys threw up the Hitler salute for a prom photo; in Cleveland, flyers with links to a neo-Nazi website around Case Western University; and in Argentina, soccer fans rioted and shouted “Kill the Jews to make soap!” after a team composed of mainly Jewish players defeated the team whose stadium they were visiting.*

And that’s just the ones I know about. There are probably other incidents that have yet to reach my ears.

I know that what I and the Jewish people is nothing new or out of nowhere. Many minorities are facing discrimination and harassment right now, and it seems to only be growing. Regardless, all these incidents happening within such a short span of time, and after the Pittsburgh shooting to boot, have me on edge. It makes me wonder if this wont become a much bigger trend, where anti-Semitism becomes an everyday occurrence.

It makes me wonder whether or not it’ll be safe to stay in this country much longer. And if it should become too dangerous, where would I go? Canada? Europe? Israel? Would it only be a matter of time before more violence broke out? Before I had to flee from those who would see me dead just for being born a certain faith and heritage?

Still, I have reason to hope and to stave off the fear.

We’ve all heard the poem by Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller, but it bears repeating.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and i did not speak out–
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

While there are still plenty of people who aren’t willing to speak out,** I’ve had the pleasure of knowing plenty of people in and outside the Jewish community and the United States who will speak out against injustice. Many of them I’ve met through blogging and online interaction as well as face-to-face communication. They’ve reached out to me when I needed it and have stood up for me too. I know that well before things get too harsh to live safely in this country, they will come to my side and stand by me.

So if you’re reading this, I urge you to speak out when you see hatred and injustice. Right now it may seem like a struggle not worth going through with insurmountable barriers to face, but it can be done. By showing up to events, by giving to causes, by voting in every election (especially voting in every election!), by sending your voice out through the world to be heard, you can make a difference. And I urge you to do so. If not for us, for you. So you can say you fought to keep the world a little less hateful and a little more kind.

Thanks for letting me talk about this, my Followers of Fear. I know it’s shocking that some things scare me, but it’s true. I’m trying to channel that fear into the story I’m working on now, make it an even better story. Until then, keep safe and pleasant nightmares.

*This incident feels eerily like deja vu to me, because something similar happened to my school’s soccer team in high school. As some of you know, my high school was a Jewish day school, so all the students and half the staff were Jews. One day in my junior year, the soccer team won against another school, and the latter started shouting anti-Semitic names and rants at my school’s team. I don’t remember much beyond that it nearly came to blows, but it goes to show this isn’t a new thing or coming out of nowhere.

**The superintendent of the school district where those students gave the Nazi salute, for example, said she couldn’t punish them for their acts because of First Amendment rights and she “couldn’t be sure” of the intentions of the students. Seems pretty obvious to me, and people get fired or punished for things they say all the time!

I was nominated by my friend and fellow writer Kat Impossible from the blog Life and Other Disasters. She rarely nominates me directly for these things because she knows I don’t always have the time for them and because they don’t always apply to me, so when she can nominate me for one, I do try to do it. And the Rising Author Tag, to boot! It means so much that she thinks so highly of me, especially since she’s not a fan of horror and that’s mainly what I write. Danke, Kat! I really appreciate it.

Okay, on to the tag rules:

  • Thank the person who tagged you.
  • Answer the questions they came up with.
  • Nominate four people to do the tag (no tagging the person who tagged you originally).
  • Come up with 10 new questions for the people you nominated.

I’ve already thanked Kat for this, so I’m good on that front. Here are the questions she has charged me with answering.

What is your current WIP about and what is its status (plotting, writing, editing, etc.)?

Well, I’ve got a few stories that are in various stages of writing and editing. However, I think I’ll talk about Rose, as it’s probably the one I need to talk about the most! So if you haven’t heard, Rose is a novel I originally wrote in my senior year of college as my thesis. Last year I began the long process of editing and shopping it around, and Castrum Press, based in Belfast, North Ireland, accepted it for publication earlier this year. At this time, they’re looking it over to see how much more work needs to be done before we can talk publication dates.

As for what it’s about, Rose follows a young woman who turns into a plant creature (yeah, you read that right). She beomes that way when a young man claiming to be her boyfriend performs magic to save her life after she suffers a terrible accident. However, she starts to suspect that not all is as it seems, and as she looks deeper into her savior, she finds things out that will put them both on an unavoidable path of destruction.

Do you plot things out and/or outline, or do you just figure it out as you write?

With very few exceptions, I plot and outline my stories out before writing them. I find that trying to write by the seat of my pants leads to long pauses where I try to figure out what happens next and come up with nothing. When I plot/outline, I have an idea of where I’m going, which allows me to imagine out the story before I sit down to write it.

There are a few stories where I don’t need to outline, but the plot’s usually fully-formed in my head with those stories, so I don’t think it really counts.

What are some book ideas you want to write in the future?

I keep a list of story ideas I’d like to write in the future, so I don’t forget any good ones. I doubt I’ll get to write them all given how many there are (not to mention short story ideas), but I’d like to write stuff that people will remember for years to come. In the meantime, I’ve had some thoughts about what I’ll write after Rose and River of Wrath (the other novel I wrote) are out/in the process of being published. There’s one about a school haunting that appeals, as well as one partially inspired by the Salem Witch Trials, and a few more.

We’ll just have to see what feels right when the time comes, shall we?

Out of the characters you’ve written so far, which one’s your favorite?

I’m not sure I have a favorite. After all, these characters are like my own children. I can’t pick a favorite among my kids! Even if some of them are dangerous killers or demons or whatnot.

What’s your writing routine, if any? (location, time of day, snacks, music, etc.)

I usually write on my couch or at my desk with some sort of music playing in my earbuds. What sort of music changes pretty frequently. These days, it’s mostly the albums from various musicals. Not sure why, they just appeal right now. I also mainly write in the evenings, just because that’s when it’s easiest for me to write: no work, no dinner to prepare, no emails to answer. Obviously, if I’m able to write full-time one day, that’ll change, but at the moment it works for me.

Oh, one more thing: I always make a goal to write at least a thousand words when I sit down to work on a story, up from two hundred and fifty earlier this year. After that, it’s pretty easy to keep going, but it can be a challenge to get to a thousand some days. Still, I manage to do it, and it helps my output in the long run. Maybe someday I’ll be able to make a minimum of twenty-five hundred words a day (Stephen King’s minimum threshold, or so I hear). Fingers crossed that someday I can make all that and more happen.

Show your WIP’s aesthetic in images and/or words.

Kat did one with images that’s supposed to get to the basics of what she’s written, so I tried to do something similar. Once the book’s out, most of these images will make a lot more sense.

Who or what motivates you to write?

I think I would write even if it weren’t for anyone other than myself. I have so many stories floating in my head that I need to exorcise them through writing so they can get out of there. But at the same time, I write because so many people want to read my stories and I want them to read them, so I keep trying to get those stories out there and build my audience. With any luck, I’ll be able to get a lot of people interested in my stories and they’ll come back to them time and time again.

What do you find the easiest and hardest parts of writing?

The easiest is coming up with the ideas for my stories. There are so many ways to scare someone, they just pop into my head and become stories. Sometimes I have several ideas in a single day just going through my daily routine. The hardest, however, is staying on task. My ADHD sometimes makes it difficult to concentrate on getting my daily thousand-plus words out. Once I reach a thousand, that’s usually not a problem, but until I do, it can be difficult to stay focused.

Share a tiny snippet/excerpt from your WIP, if you’re comfortable.

Since Rose is still under renovations, so to speak, I’ll hold off for now. When the book’s a bit closer to publication, then I’ll give you all some excerpts.

 

And now for my questions for those I tag:

  1. Tell us about what you’re working on or recently released.
  2. Where in the process of writing are you?
  3. What is the most difficult part of writing the story at this point?
  4. What about your main character do you like the most?
  5. What is your writing process/routine, if you have one?
  6. Do you pants your way through a story, or do you plot it out?
  7. What are your characters’ musical interests?
  8. What’s next for you in terms of writing?
  9. If you could pick a narrator for your story’s audio book, who would you pick?
  10. Share an excerpt or snippet, if you’re comfortable.

And I tag my buddy Matthew Williams from Stories by Williams, Angela Misri from A Portia Adams Adventure, Ruth Ann Nordin, Joleene Naylor, and ANYONE ELSE WHO WANTS TO DO THIS TAG!

That’s all for now, I’ve got to get dinner on the table in a few minutes. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the States, a day to be thankful for what we’re given (as well as gloss over some of the darker aspects of our nation’s early history). And as cliche and cringe-inducing as it is, I thought I’d take a moment to post about what I’m thankful for this year. Why? Eh, it just felt like something I ought to write about.

And with that established, what do I have to be thankful for? Well, plenty. 2018 has been a fucking good year for me. Yes, you read that right. 2018 has been a fucking good year for me. On a number of levels and in several areas of my life, it’s been good for me:

Writing. Obviously, things have been great on the writing front. Back in March, my novel Rose was accepted by Castrum Press for publication, which is a pretty big deal. Not only that, they pointed out the issues with the novel that gave me insight in how to fix it in rewrites. Right now Castrum’s probably looking over the manuscript, figuring out what else needs to be improved before we publish the book.

Not only that, but my short story “Car Chasers” was accepted for publication in the anthology The Binge-Watching Cure II from Claren Books, which will likely be out sometime in early 2019; I ended up writing another novel, River of Wrath, and I still get a kick out of all the craziness that came with writing it;* I’ve managed to increase the input so that I get a minimum of thousand words out rather than just a minimum two hundred and fifty; and I passed a thousand followers on my blog.

This is going very well for me lately.

Plus I’ve written a whole bunch of new stories and edited a few more over the course of the year. Hopefully some of them will get published someday. I’m really proud of them, an I would love for you to read some of them.

Work. My day job can be pretty demanding and stressful, but it’s very rewarding. In case you weren’t aware, I work for a supply organization in a sort-of HR position that involves helping employees with disabilities get accommodations so they can continue working, as well as helping to run programs that emphasize the different ethnic/specialty groups in the organization. A lot of people my age have trouble finding jobs, so I’m incredibly thankful that my work helps so many people and that I’m paid enough so I can keep afloat and put something away in savings. Hell, I got a really nice raise earlier this year, which has been really helpful for reasons I’ll get into.

And while I’m working there, I think I’ll continue to soar in the position. Last month, I led the effort to put on a program for National Disability Employment Awareness Month that was very well-received, and I’m being trained on a whole bunch of new tasks. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll soon earn the privilege to work from home once a week by this time next year, among other things.

Life. Ooh boy, life’s been good lately. My back issues have improved immensely this year, to the point that I don’t feel pain every day any more, and when I do it’s usually a dull ache. And of course, you may have heard that I recently got my driver’s license and my own car, which has been a Godsend in my life. Yeah, it’s another bill or two, but thankfully I can afford it. That, and a whole bunch of other things that I won’t get into (they’re a little too personal) have made my life frankly wonderful.

My car, the Unholy Roller. So glad to have a set of wheels of my own.

The people in my life. Including you. While I like living on my own and having my own space, I’m lucky to have a good group of people in my life. Friends to hang out with, family I can go to for advice and hugs, coworkers who help me out when I have a question and even make sure I get home okay when I get sick at work (that happened just the other day). And I’m thankful for all the people who follow me and my work and even read my stories when they’re published. Having so many people encouraging me every day and showing an interest in what I write is a big deal for me. So thank you, Followers of Fear. I’m thankful for you being part of my journey through life.

 

That’s all for now, My Followers of Fear. I’m sure I’ll have another post out before too long, but for now I’ve got to go get some cooking done for tonight. Whether or not you’re celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving my Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares.

*Not kidding, I never thought it’d be longer than twenty or thirty thousand words, but it ended up being sixty thousand! But the real crazy part is that I started that novel on October 29th, 2017 and finished it a year and a day later on October 30th, 2018. The novel takes place on October 30th and 31st, 1961. And I finished it at 3 AM, the Devil’s Hour, which is fitting as it’s a novel partially inspired by Dante’s Inferno. You can’t make this shit up!

If you weren’t aware, I recently got my own car.

This is a pretty big deal for me. You see, like many Ohio teens, I started learning at age fifteen and a half. However, for a number of reasons, including my own mental temperament (I’d actually freak out a little if I went over the speed limit by a single mile per hour), I stopped trying to learn by seventeen. When I was a student at Ohio State, my college ID got me free access to the buses, and I could walk or bum rides off friends and family for anywhere else I needed to go. Eventually though I started learning again in my senior year, as I knew with graduation approaching I would need a car to get many places.

Since then, I’ve been taking my time in learning, putting my priorities into making sure I had a mastery over driving rather than making sure I got my license and a car already. It may have made my life a bit more difficult than it could’ve been and even limited what jobs I could apply for, but in return I was sure that I was ready to handle a car on my own by the time I was ready to take the test. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a lot of people seem to forget how to drive safely or obey traffic laws as soon as they get their cars. They change lanes without tun signals, use their phones while driving. etc. I treat any car I drive as a giant, lumbering beast that requires a lot of work to control, moving alongside hundreds of other beasts that may or may not be as well-controlled as mine. That’s why I wanted to make sure I was ready before I went for my license.

All that hard work paid off. This past July, I went and got my license. And on October 29th, I bought my first car, a Honda CR-V you can see in the photo above. It shouldn’t surprise any of you that I nicknamed my car the Unholy Roller (get it?).

And I have to say, I love my car. It meets many of my needs and then some. And I like the independence and ease which driving brings to my life. I can get many places easier now, including to and from work or the movie theater (which during the winters can be a hell of a trip). And I’ve been taking a certain joy in every “first” I take with my car. First drive to work, first grocery run, first trip to and from the movies, first night drive. I’ll probably be doing a musical number when I do my first tank fill up.

Still, I never forget that a single bad decision, on my part or someone else’s, could cause irrevocable damage. To that end, I usually drive a little under the speed limit, sometimes more depending on the time of day and weather conditions. And I get more than a little anxious every time I have to get onto the highway. Okay, I get very anxious. I’m working on that and it gets a bit easier with every exposure, but it’s still a process. And I haven’t even attempted to drive downtown yet (that area is a zoo!).

Well, with any luck I’ll be able to grow as I continue to drive the Unholy Roller and get better used to driving in those areas. Perhaps by this time next year, I’ll be able to drive all over the Midwest for book tours and whatnot. Anything’s possible, so long as I pay the dealership and insurance, keep the tank full and don’t get into any accidents.

Wish me luck on the roads, Followers of Fear. And if you see the Unholy Roller by any chance, RUN! IT’S ACTUALLY DEMONICALLY POSSESSED AND DEVOURS THE SOULS OF PEDESTRIANS!!! And you don’t want to know what it does to bad drivers!

Your protagonist is faced with a terrible choice. Whatever choice they make, they’ll be gaining one great thing but losing something else that’s equally important to them. Which one do they choose? Why can’t they have both? And is that even a possibility?

Sound familiar? This is actually a pretty common trope in a lot of fiction, the “Two Big Life Choices” trope. And I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of it, at least in theory. I see its use, but as the title of this post indicates, the trope has its limits.

Let’s quickly go over it with a hypothetical example, shall we? You’ve got a character, a protagonist who has a big life choice set ahead of them and they have to make a choice soon. Let’s say it’s a young man who is given the chance to be the leader of a powerful mafia clan. His parents, friends and the clan itself want him to take over the clan, and saying no could lead to consequences for him, his parents, the clan and many innocents. On the other hand, he has a girlfriend and child that the former doesn’t know about just because of all that drama, and he wants to stay with them. Problem is, if he accepts the leadership position, he’ll have to leave his family forever to keep them safe. Which will he choose?

This is the Two Big Life Choices trope. And you’ll find it in many different places throughout fiction. Most recently, I found it in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix, and that inspired this post.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has a great example of this trope in its first few episodes.

But as I said, this trope does have its limits. To be specific, while in able hands the trope does create for some strong tension and storytelling while the protagonist goes back and forth between their choices, it will eventually lead to a choice being made. Otherwise, the audience will lose interest with the constant hemming and hawing.

In our hypothetical example, the protagonist could choose to join the mafia clan, destroying his relationship with his girlfriend and child, as well as hardening/numbing all of them to everything that happens from here on out, but allowing one of the most powerful mafia clans in the story’s world to survive under a strong leader. On the other hand, he could give up the mafia clan and run away with his family, leading to his happiness but the dissolution of the clan or it being passed to a leader who will hunt him down for leaving the clan in the lurch, which means they’ll be on the run for the rest of their lives.

You can see where my problem with this trope comes from.

Sometimes though–not every time, but sometimes–there’s a third path to take. This is when the protagonist actually decides to defy convention and take both options or neither one, forging an entirely new road. In the case of our hypothetical story, the protagonist could demand that since all the other options for clan leadership suck, he’ll take the job but only if he’s allowed to marry his girlfriend and raise his child with her under the clan’s protection. This could lead to all sorts of interesting conflicts as the protagonist deals with the strains of trying to be a husband and a father while at the same time dealing with the demands and politics of leading a powerful mafia clan. And for many audience members, this could be the most wished-for option, even when it doesn’t seem all that likely.

Conversely, the protagonist could decide “screw it” on both options and just run in the exact opposite direction, but I’ve never seen that option employed and I have doubts about the quality of the story if it is used. Or the quality of the character.

The managa Nisekoi uses this trope very well, especially in the final arc.

Now, despite its limitations and while I’m not exactly a big fan of this trope in theory (which might limit how much I use it in my own fiction), I do admit that when done right in practice, it is amazing. One story that uses this trope extremely well is the manga Nisekoi, where the “Big Life Choice” is the protagonist trying to decide between two girls he has feelings for in the final chapters of the story. I freaking loved that manga, and looked forward to every single one of its twenty-five volumes. Another great example is the above-mentioned The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, where this trope is a driving force through the first couple of episodes of the first season. And as we can see from the show’s critical reception, people (and this half-human demon lord) love the show and can’t wait for Season 2.

So yes, while this trope does have some limits, it can make for some fun storytelling. The thing to keep in mind while using it is, beyond an interesting set of choices for both character and audiences, keeping the drama and tension high while at the same time keeping it from being melodramatic, as well as figuring out how best to handle the drama that ensues once the choice has been made.

If you can do that, you might just have the makings of a very engaging story. One that can last quite a long time, and will have fans for years afterwards.

What are some good examples of the Two Big Life Choices trope?

Do you use the trope in your own work? What tips do you have for using it?