On Embracing Your Inner NPC

We’re often told to romanticize our lives. That we’re the Main Character in the story and the rest are just extras. We are told to find our light and to shine brightly. And that makes a ton of sense…if you are a raging sociopath who doesn’t care about others. It’s easy to say that we’re the main characters of our own stories but the truth is we just can’t be the main character to everyone’s story. 

I am a comic book character. I live a bombastic life with larger than life stories and a healthy and unhealthy amount of trauma to go with it. To those close to me I seem extroverted, charismatic and am eager to bring my friends along with me on my many desired adventures. I am a shonen leading man complete with dead parents and trauma-induced mental illness. And while I am enamored with the idea of being the main character in even the stories of my dear friends I am also keenly aware of the fact that every opera can only have one prima donna and I don’t realistically want to be the main character of any of my friend’s or anyone else’s narrative. To many people from my best friend, to the lady at the bank, to the guy at the sandwich shop or my coworkers and those I pay to make me feel pretty: I am an NPC. 

An NPC is a non-playable character and in video games they fill in several roles. NPCs can either give you items or goods, be merchants or those that have items, they can help you as members of your party or they can just be truly background characters; static and never moving from their assigned spots. 

Think about a game like Legend of Zelda which is full of annoying charming NPCs who have a myriad of items for you and are there to help you, the main character, survive your death quest to fix the world’s evil or something. Some of them have items, some are just there, some may even help you along the way. 

It may just be the part of my brain that tries to romanticize my own life that makes me nearly obsessively concerned about my impact on other people. It isn’t an entirely altruistic thing; it’s more of a morbid curiosity and nearly paralyzing fear. I am worried that I have left a bad taste in someone’s mouth or that I was the one bad interaction someone had that put them over the edge or something. I am very aware that I am one of possibly thousands of interactions any given person has in a day so I do my best to not just be pleasant but to be overly-accommodating at times because even if to them I am an NPC, I’d like that memory not to be a miserable one. 


I’ve been listening to Nujabes since the mid 2000s with their many hits off the Samurai Champloo OST and was immediately struck by the not just lyrical genius behind many of the songs but the flow and how they could instantly make me feel like I was part of a movie or video game. It was easy to fall into the world of Samurai Champloo in part because it has such an amazing soundtrack that leads you on a journey with the characters and one that is as fluid and hip-hop inspired as the fictional Edo the series is set in. 

I noticed particularly how much I liked their music when I had some of the most aesthetic songs pop up during my commute home from work. It just felt utterly right to be driving (at a responsible speed) down the highway with the stereo on and feeling like I was both my own main character but someone’s NPC. I was at peace with my twoness and the romanticization of my life was not something in conflict with the fact that to many I am an NPC but it was at harmonious one with it. I am the main character of my own story and to my friends, I’m trusted companion, to those I meet I am a seller, confidant, advisor or person crying in a Starbucks. 

My story is still ongoing and told from many different perspectives and I am not the most reliable of narrators. You may be asking why I mentioned Nujabes earlier and outside of it just being amazing music, it’s also helped me realize this duality due to the simple fact that every romanticized character should have an amazing soundtrack. 

So here it is: my OST. Let’s jam.

Walk Cycle
Nujabes – Tsurugi No Mai

Character Theme
Feather

Triumvirate (Me, Ricky & Carlos)
Samurai Champloo – Hiji Zuru Style [Impression OST]

Battle Theme

World’s end Rhapsody

Background Music
Nujabes – Aruarian Dance (Samurai Champloo OST) . Track 03

An Ode to the Selfish Creator

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In our last discussion on the importance of endings, I said something that I’ve said many times before: I am a selfish and self-indulgent writer. I don’t think that on its own is negative on its own but before I continue on with my thesis on the praises of the selfish creator, I want to talk about what I mean when I say that and then when it can fail us.
When I say a writer is self-indulgent or selfish, I mean that they do as they wish. Maki Murakami in writing Gravitation comes to mind. She wrote the series as she wanted and didn’t care about basic things like plot structure or continuity or canon. If she wanted to treat a character terribly for several chapters for no apparent reason, she did. If she wanted a robot panda fight sequence, she got one. The thing was, people read it. Well, I read it. And while sure, I like most people, did struggle with her dips in and out of logic I was always inspired by her willingness to do what she wanted as a creator and even though this was a widely syndicated manga, she basically got away with literary murder.
In a statement on why I write, I say that I write for revenge. My words are a spell. Oftentimes I am writing to right a wrong. Character I like doesn’t get enough screen time? There’s a fanfiction for that. Not satisfied with the way a pairing shakes out? There’s fanart for that. Unhappy with a series’ ending? Keep the story going. One of the longest running stories I have going is purely to spite Jo Rowling and her apparent hatred of Slytherins.
But I am not famous (yet) and while my occasional conflama post online may get some traction, I’m far from someone who does this for a living. One of the biggest reasons I’ve been so stingy on publishing my fiction recently (I had no qualms about it when I was younger and thankfully, those places on the internet no longer exist) and I’m acutely aware that if I were to return to posting fiction, I’d likely be more considerate about how and what I post. I keep a regular schedule here because I know it’s what you all, my lovely readers, expect of me.
And sometimes that’s hard to do. But I feel like I owe you all, my fair readers, a regular schedule. But I am selfish in other regards as I’m sure you’ve noticed by the months heavy in discussions of framing or the occasional rant about feminism. And because I do still feel beheld to an audience, there are things I still temper and keep quiet on.
Which is where I’ll pause to talk about when being a selfish creator is less than ideal. I’ve ranted enough about Sister Claire but it’s a good place to begin. You can see where the creators are now just sort of writing whatever they’d like and it feels less and less like a narrative story and more like the create-your-own- lesbian adventure they really wanted to write. And webcomics may be one of the mediums where you can be the most self-indulgent, as a reader unless you are a patron, you can sort of just bail.
But that doesn’t mean that you should.
Remember that long standing grudge I have against Jo Rowling? She’s sort of the self-indulgent creator’s patron saint. Her prose is full of moments where you can practically see her oozing over her own brilliance. And I roll my eyes at every instance of it. Because there is a time and a place to be self-indulgent…taking several words to discuss how clever a name pun is simply is not the place. And her selfishness has affected fandom. She’s quick to correct people and tell people how to read her work and while I could and have discussed plenty on death of the creator, I am annoyed any time a creator tells me how I should read a piece. I will continue to advocate for a Draco Malfoy that gets things done and a House system where not everyone is a rival except for Hufflepuffs, they can stay on the outside (I’m kidding, mostly).
And there’s no part of me that’s advocating for being a total sell-out. I can’t stand when a work gets watered down because it has to appeal to the masses. We’ve all seen television shows and books lose their edge once muggles find it. Lookin’ at you, seriously most comic book tent pole films. Watering down a work for mass appeal is frustrating. I myself has struggled with staying niche and not compromising myself and my style of writing or paneling versus trying to screech a little less about feminism and gender roles for a wider appeal. I am much happier in somewhat obscurity if it means never having to dilute what I have to say. I’m also far from saying we shouldn’t challenge creators at all. It’s about balance and knowing when and where it’s appropriate to do as you wish. Remember, we never reigned in Stephen King and now his cocaine-fueled nonsense are some of the most important parts of beloved horror stories and some would likely argue that It is somehow better with an uncomfortable sex scene and a giant world turtle (I am not making this up).
There’s something to be said about not giving a hoot; a dear friend of mine produces art for a ship that I have researched just so I can admire and appreciate her wonderful art. I’m surrounded by wonderful creators who are happy to knuckle down and make what they love but are still willing to compromise when it really does matter.

I’m happy to hear feedback and criticism and I do listen to most of those things. But then I go back and write a fluff piece about a franchise I love or go on a long-winded rant about how much I dislike the way comics are writing Jason Todd right now.

Your Narcissism Is Showing

 

“For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.” ― John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent.pngI am a creature of the Internet. I’m a social media manager by day and by night I am a community manager, podcaster, moderator, social influencer, blogger and content creator. Like a Social Media Sailor Moon I am fighting evil by moonlight and by evil I mean spam comments and Nigerian prince scams and winning love by daylight and by love I mean the likes, comments, clicks and retweets of my fans/followers. It’s a delicate balancing act of managing this for my clients and then for myself. But I wanted to talk about when your personality and your content is quantified and how that feels.

Before we dive in too deeply I wanted to discuss a word I’ll likely be using a lot in this post: narcissism. The word itself stems from a Greek myth about a man named Narcissus who was so enamored with his reflection that he literally drowned in a reflecting pool after gazing at his reflection in the still water and some strange nymph creature said “Wow, this is totes sad. I should like make this dead dude a flower instead of like bringing him back to life or anything.”. The psychological use of the word describes a series of personality traits that then can lead to a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. NPD is characterized by an inflated sense of self-worth, egoism and immense self-preservation even in a negative light. The Narcissist does not care for others, only for the self. The Narcissist only sees people as a means to an end and that means is for adulation, praise and attention. When I use the word narcissism, I mean less the disorder and more the trait. It features all the same egotistical behavior as the condition but not in a pathological way. A person who is narcissistic may be annoying but they probably can’t hurt you. On the other hand someone with NPD may be more troubling and difficult to deal with.

I like most young people display a fair amount of narcissistic tendencies. A coworker casually commented on my despondency over a low number of Facebook friends and she asked rather coldly “What is the point?” to which I audibly gasped. The point? For heaven’s sake, I am a social media manager. What am I without a sizable following? And the pressure to maintain numbers is quite daunting. I was elated to reach over 2000 followers on Twitter and the fact that this humble blog here is quickly approaching 2000 views makes me happy while also puts a fair amount of stress on me. I am worried about the content I produce, I am worried about schedules and graphics and everything. I want people to see what I do since I am going through the trouble of posting it. I am not aiming to shout into the ether.

But what really got me thinking about self-worth and numbers was the release of analytics for personal accounts. Most social media platforms only allow and collect data for businesses: I’m a social media manager so I use this data for a wide variety of functions at work. I’ve never had to worry about my own analytics. Twitter was first and I did more and more to increase that number of followers, even setting goals to reach at least 1000 people per day. I beat myself up emotionally when those numbers fell and that determination led me to where I am on Twitter. Facebook then allowed a similar metric rating of your own personhood. Facebook suddenly let you see how many people were commenting, how many reactions you got and how far your content spread whether it was a brunch photo or a touching in memoriam to a lost loved one. I blog here on WordPress and I am very aware of how many people see what I post. I am due to the hardline nature of my social media role concerned with numbers but also as an image-conscious person I am enticed and drawn to pulling in bigger numbers. I have had some narcissistic personality traits for decades: I am an only child, after all. But this drive to succeed and to be seen is a hollow one.

There’s a funny trick about narcissism. A true Narcissus doesn’t actually like themselves very much. It’s all a show, it’s all a carefully planned out act. Think of the Insta-famous models and influencers. No one does this because they enjoy it. They do it because they feel like that have to. It’s exhausting to whittle down your self-worth to a series of numbers. It’s tiresome to be awoken by every alert and notification. It’s not fun to see your entire point as a person reduced down to how many clicks you get on a post.

So instead of just calling your social media concerned friend a raging Narcissus, consider the society we live in that values a woman more for her likes than her opinions. Consider that this is our making. And consider that maybe just throwing around a buzzword as a psuedo-insult doesn’t make anyone feel better: it just makes us all look a bit reductive.