The title of this post is the opening line to the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. The following is a review of the series I’ve read thus far, and a commentary on the motivation I’m gaining as I’ve been reading it: 

As you know I’ve been reading the Dark Tower series, and it’s safe to say I’m pretty hooked. I didn’t think I would get taken in this deeply by Stephen King (a author whom I have a very sordid history with). For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series it’s about a man named Roland and his journey to find the dark tower. He is a gunslinger (think like a knight of the old west) and he is defined by his antiquated nature and his devotion to honor and destiny. He is also the last of his kind.

Everything takes place in this “world” that’s a lot like our own, but it’s mixed in with a very dystopian western future/past. Think: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly meets The Lord of the Rings and then they made very good looking baby with The Postman (a Kevin Costner classic).

The imagery of this whole landscape is enthralling and makes you wonder about what’s lurking around the next corner. The humor (what little there is) is poignant and helps break up the very heavy nature of this tale. The story is a slow burn, but slow like a mine fire; there is a lot is under the surface, likely a raging inferno, but all you can see is the poisonous gases and smoke the seem to fill the air. But I feel the most important aspect of this story are the different characters. (Certainly, as all great stories have).

(Very mild spoilers ahead)

All of these characters have their major flaws; just like ourselves. That’s why you read. You start to realize that maybe you have the same demons as Eddie (an addict), or Susannah (anger), or Jake (naivety). But once these characters enter Mid-world (the name of this crazy Middle Earth) then they sort of get knighted by Roland as gunslingers. These people have their struggles but they learn to stop, listen, and aim true. They start solving problems because they remember their past and know it can help them. They know their roles in this world and do the right thing. (It also helps when they’re all obsessed with reaching the end of their journey)

When you reach the point in the story where I am you start to learn a little more about Roland’s past. This is remarkable because Roland is a character shrouded in secrecy. He says very little and usually let’s bullets do most of the talking. You learn that, as a boy, he had to watch his family get torn apart by deception. He had to witness the decline of his people and the love of his life.

Knowing all these hurts in his life you start to wonder “what is Roland really chasing?”. It’s not just a big dark tower in the middle of a field of roses…is it? What does he want from this journey? Redemption? Vengeance? Saving a damsel in distress?

I’m willing to bet, if I could ask Roland that question he’d likely reply with “I wot, maybe it’s not about what I’m chasing, it’s about what’s chasing me.”

Now, I still have a ways to go in this story, but that’s what keeps hitting me. What is Roland searching for? It’s the reason I keep picking the book up. Maybe I’ll learn more. Maybe I’ll be teased further. Either way, it’s good storytelling.

And that’s why I’m making this post. This story is pulling me in because, I feel, that it reflects our own journey much better than other books do. No, I don’t have a great deal of tragedy in my life that has left me rabid with a desire to chase my enemy to the ends of the earth. Nope, I haven’t tried to find meaning in life by devoting myself to restoring justice and balance in the universe. I mostly drink too much soda and spend too much time on the internet. But this doesn’t mean I don’t have my own dark tower looming on the horizon. I just haven’t really started chasing it yet.

I think my dark tower is the same as Roland’s. I think yours is as well. We are all looking for that one thing, we just don’t exactly know what that one thing is. When we find it, it will feel like we’ve found a key that finally fits the lock in our heart. Maybe you’ll get to that dark tower and it turns into a Super Mario scenario. Maybe you defeat the monster but learn that the Princess has been moved to another castle. Still, you will persist.

I think a lot of people get discouraged in life because of this. “What is the meaning of life?”, “How come nothing goes my way?”, “Life is so unfair.” are phrases that we all say (I know I’ve asked myself these once or twice). Some people ask themselves those questions and they just sort of give up on the journey. They tell themselves they’ve achieved enough and that will be okay or maybe they say they are not fit for the journey and can’t go on. But the truth is, they’re just settling with your weaknesses. You can make this trip.

So, using this odd source of inspiration, I’ve decided to continually improve myself. Maybe I need to stop making fun of people so much. Maybe I need to stop the soda and the internet (or mostly stop). Maybe I need to exercise more self control to find more self motivation. Maybe I need to go out into the world so I can really find my dark tower.

Do as Roland did; chase that thing which seems nigh impossible to catch. Walk across a desert, a place of death, and persist. Don’t give up. Even when the buzzards are flying overhead and you find new paths along The Beam, continue onward. You may have to establish new and unexpected relationships, you might even have to sacrifice some other relationships. Press forward.

So, if i can, I’d like to hand you a pair of guns. They have the same ivory handles and have been passed down from gunslinger to gunslinger for generations. They will always be by your side. They will always shoot straight. They will keep you protected. Don’t forget to treat them with the care they have received before. These will serve as your tools on your long journey to find the dark tower.

It doesn’t matter who your family is, what creed you follow, or what (sub)culture(s) you claim as your own. What matters is you learn from your past, get things done in the now, and look toward the future.

 

You have been knighted, so steady your hand, aim true, and pull the trigger.

The dark tower awaits.

D.A.

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An Event

September 14, 2011

So, Mr. King and I have been working together.

You see, I’m still reading that book On Writing and I came across something that really made me stop and say, “Woah.” And yes, I said it in my best Keanu Reeves voice.

No, I did not learn Kung Fu.

Mr. King has described writing as one thing.

Telepathy.

We can literally transfer our thoughts into the minds of others by using the silly medium of written/printed words.

For his example he described a very unique setting.

Look –  here’s a table covered with a red cloth. On it is a rabbit with a pink nose and pink-rimmed eyes. In it’s paws is a carrot-stub upon which it is contentedly munching. On its back, clearly marked in blue ink, is the numeral 8.

While that is very little description, it’s done just right to make you imagine what that looks like. You actually did envision a cute little bunny who was gnawing away at an orange stick. Perhaps it was making those adorable little crunching sounds as it was nibbling. Maybe you imagined the rabbit as a white one with red eyes, or maybe it was a brown and white mix. The point is, you literally saw exactly what he wanted you to see. A rabbit with some very mysterious number on it’s back.

How awesome is that?

I read that and had to stop for a moment. I had to collect my thoughts.

I’m literally trying to make people think a certain way when I write…

That’s not only really cool but it also makes me tense up as I contemplate what power that could wield. Do I have a talent or skill developed enough to actually allow this to happen in my readers’ minds?

Quite honestly, no. I don’t think I have developed that far as of yet. I’m too busy trying to figure out how things are even supposed to look or feel. I’m too worried about if my story makes sense. I’m too nervous on whether I will say enough…

But Mr. King speaks on this again. (Since I can’t find the quote I’ll just paraphrase). He says something along the lines of “trust your readers.”

Trust them? How can I trust them with this world/character I create? They are mine. I want them to see the character as I see them. Nothing else…

Then i realized I’m a selfish writer. I write for me.

Yes, the name of the blog is bookforme, but that doesn’t mean my actual writing has to focus on what I want. I can reach out to my audience. (Since I don’t really have an audience, I will just pretend I have a certain group of individuals I want to read my work.)

So I can feel free to stop worrying about silly details about a characters past. As long as the character is real and easily relatable to the reader, what do I have to worry about? They will take care of them. They will give them a face, a walk, and voice, and an attitude that I couldn’t put into words anyway.

Okay readers, I’ll try to start trusting you.

D.A.

Who doesn’t love interesting characters in stories? Characters are the whole point of every story. Even if the story is about a whale that saved his sea shell money to buy a dolphin a new golf club for his birthday, the story is still about the whale.

Atticus Finch. Forrest Gump. Luke Skywalker. All great characters.

Interesting characters make us relate to the stories and make us interested to find out what happens next.

For me, the best place to find great characters is in comic books. (Or trade paperbacks/graphic novels, whatever you poison)

Now, I read many different kinds of comics. You can find a much more comprehensive list of what those are in my about page, but right now I would like to talk about the “Super Hero” genre.

I’ve dabbled in reading comics among the big two publishers, Marvel and DC. And I’m a much bigger fan of DC. I think the big difference between the two is this:

Quality vs. Quantity.

Marvel has some really popular (and fairly interesting) characters, but mostly they have just made so many different characters (mostly mutants) that they haven’t really had the chance to invest in characters the way I would hope they would. DC, while still having many characters, manages to add real depth and feeling to them as well. DC also does a great job in taking a more mature approach to the whole comic book thing in general.

They also have something else going for them as well…

Batman.

When I was three years old the Tim Burton film Batman came out and I decided that I knew what my career was going to be. I was going to be the Masked Vigilante. I knew how to recite many lines, even though I had no idea what they meant. I wore a costume. I begged my parents for a Batmobile Powerwheel (which I never got). The tree in my front yard became my Batcave and at 7 a.m. I would rush outside, in full Bats regalia, and protect the world from certain doom.

I. Was. Batman.

Flash forward nearly twenty years and I still wish I was Batman.

Why?

Back then I wanted to be the Dark Knight because I just thought it was cool. He was a good guy beating up bad guys. That’s what good guys are supposed to do. But today I love him because he’s SUCH a good character.

There is something to Bruce Wayne/Batman that is unlike any other super hero.

He’s NOT a super hero.

Batman is not super strong. He has not been bestowed with any abilities that allow him to do anything unnatural. He doesn’t run super fast. He can’t regenerate. He’s not the world’s smartest man. Does not have super speed. Can’t mutate into some other form. Will never be able to talk to animals. He’s not capable of growing a beard that can stop bullets. And he’s certainly not immune to lava.

He’s flawed.

He is obsessed with trying to avenge the deaths of his parents. He works tirelessly until exhaustion. He uses the money from his parent’s estate and business to allow him to continue his one man war. He has a secret identity. He neglects making meaningful relationships in order to work toward his goal. He goes to sleep many nights wondering if it’s all worth it. He ponders if his job will ever be complete.

Despite this, he was invited to join the Justice League. And he still hangs with real “superheroes”. And many even fear him.

He seems to overcome adversity on a regular basis as well. Even one of his many enemies, named Bane, broke the Bat’s back in a well renowned issue. And even after being overwhelmed and broken, he recovered and kept up the good fight.

But, as Bruce Wayne, he keeps it all hidden. To everybody else he’s just a rich dude doing his thing. Being rich. Making money. Living the life.

But it’s all just a facade. His real identify is behind a mask. He real love is his work. And he wouldn’t change that for the world.

Despite all his faults. His mistakes. His pain. His weaknesses. His regrets. His obsessions. His conflicts.

He still tries to do the right thing. He wants justice. He hopes.

He’s a lot like all of us.

We’re all flawed. We all have our secrets. Every day each one of us has to get out of bed and fight our battles. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Sometimes we feel like our back is broken and there is nothing left. But we keep at it. We persist. We strive for better. We try to not fear what’s around us. We fight.

 

Now, let’s look at another DC character that I’m not really a fan of.

Superman.

He’s faster than a speeding bullet. Can fly.  Has X-ray vision. Has super hearing and likely super smell. Can travel in space at will. Can pick up just about anything and spin it on the tip of his finger. He can’t get sick. He can’t get hurt. He can’t die. And he only has one weakness.

Even as Clark Kent he’s too good. He always manages to be polite. Does what’s asked of him. Doesn’t force his way into conversation. Kept a cordial relationship with Lois Lane for forever and a day. Even manages to show up to work everyday, shaved, showered, and peppy, to help with the paper.

Even if these are really great qualities for a person to have, it’s still inhuman. We all can’t do this all the time. We all slip up, but not him.

It helps to portray him as too impersonal. Not real.

He’s basically a god on earth.

I am no god, and can’t really relate to one. (This is also one of my issues with Thor).

Now, as a hero, who would I want to sweep in and save the day?

Come on, of course it’s Superman. I’d have him on speed dial. He’d probably get the job done lickety-split. Batman would take time, not to mention, isn’t even guaranteed to show up. And I’d probably have to wait until nighttime and when his third shift begins.

But who is a better character?

Mr. Bats wins it. Clearly.

Yes, yes. I know my scope of both of these characters is quite narrow. And I’m not considering all the different things that have happened in the DC Universe as a whole. I’ll admit, I’m not too familiar with it. I’m just speaking in basic terms here.

I should also note that there are a few different versions of Batman (and Superman). Frank Miller in particular was known for putting a very gritty (and non-cannon) spin on the Man in the Cowl. Batman was mean, driven, ruthless, even vicious in his pursuit of vengeance. He was even old in some cases.

He perfectly fit the mold of an anti-hero. And still, at the heart of the matter was his desire to do good, despite all those shortcomings.

Now I’m not going to blather on about who would win in a fight for too long, but…

Batman has “defeated” Superman before but he needed help and he really didn’t kill Superman. So how can I really say “defeated”? And we all know that Superman, in the blink of an eye, could rip Batman apart like a train hitting a cow. But he hasn’t. Probably because he’s too good to do something like that. And Batman probably didn’t kill Superman because he knew that the world would be much less safe without Superman flying around.

Since I don’t want this post to blather on more than it already has, let me just make a few more than a few bullets about different reasons why I like Batman more than any other “super hero”.

  • He wears all black
  • He works in the shadow
  • He’s about as tough as a normal human can get
  • He’s surprisingly business savvy
  • His movies are the best comic adapted movies. (I’d watch Batman Forever way before I’d watch Superman Returns)
  • Sometimes has stubble for facial hair.
  • Different interpretations have him at different ages.
  • Has had some pretty cool sidekicks/allies
  • He has THE BEST VILLAINS in all of comics. (This is really really really really important, but deserves it’s own post)
  • Talks differently while he’s in his suit.
  • If the world found out who he really was, it would all come crashing down, unlike other heroes.
  • Vigilante is such a cool word.
  • Is not only hunted by bad guys but is also hunted by the police.
  • Doesn’t kill people. (Even though I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule)
  • Fights crazy good.
  • Can exit a room/scene without anybody noticing.

So there it is. 

I hope this helps explain a little bit of the childishness inside me. I also hope it sparks even more entertaining and fun to read comments like my last post did. But I’m sure you’re all tired of that subject now…

The Bruce Wayne of the the blogosphere,

D.A.