"As I get older, the more I stay focused on the acceptance of myself and others,
and choose compassion over judgment and curiosity over fear."
~~Tracee Ellis Ross

Hi all,

Yours truly is dealing with some rather major plumbing issues in my house.  It's all on schedule to be fixed but coming right after Mousegate, I've been a bit stressed and scatter-brained.  As I've had time and clarity, I put together some questions that have come up in conversation or that I just plain wanted to answer whether anyone had asked or not.  ;-)  There's no real theme or anything.  But I hope you get something out of it!  And, hopefully, I didn't repeat myself though it's possible!

God bless,

Ask a JABB Co-Founder... Misc. Stuff

Question: Why did you pick Froot Loops as Joshua's favorite cereal?

Answer: I think it was a somewhat random choice.  I also think I wanted fruit in the name so I could have the line "Froot Loops don't grow on trees."  "Rice Krispies don't grow on trees" just didn't have the same ring to it since fruit does actually grow on trees and rice doesn't.  I also thought Joshua would be drawn to the rainbow colors since rainbows are associated with God.  What makes it random is I'm not sure why I chose Froot Loops instead of, say, Fruity Pebbles which I actually prefer.  Maybe I thought Froot Loops seemed more wholesome somehow? 

While I enjoy the occasional bowl of Froot Loops, they're definitely not my favorite.  That honor would go to Lucky Charms although I sometimes swing to chocolate Frosted Mini-Wheats.

Yes, I'm 36 years old and still eat cereal with cartoon characters on the box.  ;-)

Question: TBAA had a sort of "10 Commandments" for the writers.  Do you have a similar rule book for when you write the Dyeland stories?

Answer: Yes.  Some of the rules can be found here: http://www.dyeland.onthisside.net/writingguidelines.html

But then there are also a lot of other rules I hold myself to that aren't really written down any where like:

1.  Don't sacrifice goodwill towards God for a plot point.  By this I mean I wouldn't do something like TBAA did with "The Blue Angel" and have Gloria believe she was going to need to strip on TV.  I'm sorry but that's twisted as all get out.  I don't honestly know how that got into an episode except to say that a lot of us felt uneasy and not quite ourselves after 9/11 and maybe that showed in some poor choices and maybe the writers weren't immune from that.  I'm not interested in eliminating all suffering and confusion from my stories, of course.  It's a fact of life that we all experience that and part of faith is believing that God will bring good from both.  But if there was an upside to a one year old angel thinking she was going to be exploited... well, that was lost on me.  It made God look like a sucky parent.  So I want to avoid that.

2.  Emotion is not inherently sinful.  So it's going to sound like all my rules are reactions against TBAA.  And maybe they are?  But stuff like Andrew getting chewed out by Tess in "The Violin Lesson" really bothered me.  Righteous anger is a legitimate thing.  Speaking truth even when it makes people angry can be a very healing thing.  TBAA seemed to get this in many other episodes.  I'm not sure what happened with the otherwise stellar TVL.  So I'll never show an angel or human getting chewed out by Joshua or a spirit or angel just for being emotional unless they actually did something else that harmed someone.  Joshua Himself was known to have emotional outbursts, including at least one that got a bunch of stuff smashed in the Temple.  If that's okay, I can't imagine how Andrew's intervention with Jordan was bad. 

3.  Not every "villain" gets or even deserves sympathy within the confines of a story.  One of the many nice things about having Joshua as an active, present, visible character is that I can kinda dangle loose ends on him.  I can introduce a character, have them do terrible things, and yet give some possibility that, through God's mercy, they might be redeemed... but allow that to happen "off screen" at a time suitable to the reader's imagination.  I think the nature of a 45 minute drama sometimes made TBAA rush to a redemptive spot with their problematic characters.  One example that comes to mind is Carl in "Full Moon."  While it's a matter of my faith that even the vilest of people can be redeemed, I can't in the span of 45 minutes watch the aftermath of a rapist's attack AND feel sympathy for said rapist just because we get a glimpse of their horrible childhood.  That takes a lot more time.  So I have no problem leaving a "villain" in a bad spot with simply an implication that Joshua is working in their lives.  I don't expect readers or even the other characters to forgive them by the end of a story.  Forgiveness is a process that sometimes takes years and years and that's as it should be.

4.  A story can be really dark... but it has to end with hope.  That doesn't mean every little thing has to be neatly tied up (see above) because that's not life.  But nihilism isn't allowed.  Nobody needs that. 

Question: So there were obviously some things TBAA did that bother you.  But are you bothered by anything you wrote?

Answer: Yes!  Pretty much everything marked as noncanonical on the Story Index... and even portions of the early canonical stories.  That being said, I was very young at the time and it's certainly better than other things I could have gotten into.  But still... ::shudder::  I actually won't reread them.

But there's even some stuff in the more legitimate Dyeland stories that now bother me.  Firstly, I don't like how JenniAnn and others basically demanded that Andrew confide in them when assignments got him down.  It makes sense and their pleas/threats are in character.  But it bothers me that I thought their behavior was not only okay but actually warranted.  Andrew shouldn't hold things in, true, but demanding he unload his emotional turmoil on them on penalty of the loss of their friendship...  That's not cool.  

I also don't like how incredibly slowly Andrew's and JenniAnn's relationship evolved.  Again, it's pretty much in character for them both to be reluctant to push any buttons.  But I'm bothered by the fact that I was myself so prudish that I wouldn't let them evolve any more quickly.  I truly never intended for them to be as close as they now are.  And that's unfortunate.  I think some of the earlier stories would have been richer if I'd known exactly what I was building to.

Question: This has been on my mind since the last couple episodes of This Is Us...  Could you foresee Andrew and JenniAnn having a big, blow-out fight?

Answer: Never say never, I guess.  As I wrote above, they already have diverged from what I imagined for them even five years ago.  But they're no Randall and Beth.  ;-)  I think they're both much more low-key and, unlike the Pearsons, highly value downtime.  The idea that either of Andrew or JenniAnn would go full-throttle on anything (career, politics, arts) seems out of character.  So the whole "you following your dream leaves no time for my dream" problem is non-existent.  But... there's already some evidence of potential disharmony.

Andrew and JenniAnn have similar outlooks on parenting and what they need to do for their kids... except when it comes to Violeta.  Andrew views her as more of the adult that she was created as.  It's not that he's not protective of her.  He just expects a bit more from her.  JenniAnn, on the other hand, almost seems to have start counting Violeta's age from the time she appeared in Dyeland.  So, to her, Violeta is a little girl who just happens to be in college.  Thus far, this has caused only minor bickering but I think that could get a little more heated further on down the road.

And in the name of all that is holy... Andrew and JenniAnn would NEVER bring up the other's mental health struggles in the midst of a fight.  I absolutely cringed when Beth said what she did on TIU.  Low, low blow...  And sorry for anyone who doesn't watch TIU but ugh...  Just had to get that off my chest.

Question: So is there anything you miss from the older stories?

Answer: From the non-canonical ones?  No!  I do miss some of the characters and their creators from the older stories, of course. 

I also really miss the mythical aspect of earlier stories.  I've kinda just stalled with the Cupid/Psyche/"Beauty and the Beast" angle with Andrew and JenniAnn.  I think the last time I did anything with a mythical angle was Isolde's backstory.  I was going for a feminist take on the Dearg Due and really like how that came out.  So maybe I'll get back to something like that eventually.  Spinning Christian tales is a lot of fun, of course.  But seems like I should be able to find a way to do both!

And that'll do it for now!

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for inspiring this safe space that is JABB/Dyeland.  I've just started the movie Hereditary and I think I may need that safe space real soon...  Creepy!

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