In Depth #5

In Depth is going great. I had my fourth official meeting with my mentor on Wednesday, March 6 from 4:00pm – 5:00pm, and my fifth official meeting on Thursday, March 14 from 4:00pm – 5:00pm. 

I transcribed a piece of a conversation I had with my mentor on March 6. We talked about the developmental questions I had come up with and answered. For those who don’t know, a developmental question helps eliminate plot holes and clarify the rules and logistics of a novel after you plot the story but before you write. It gives you a better understanding of how everything in your novel works and is especially helpful when you have a complex story with ideas such as prophecies and alternate dimensions. 

Note: I tried to transcribe the conversation in a more general form as we talked very deeply into the logistics of my novel I would need to explain in person to understand at the point I’m at now. I’ve still included the topic, but I took out the complicated terms that only myself and my mentor would understand. Even still, some of the developmental questions will seem strange without context. I apologize.

M: Myself L: My mentor

L: “So what is your plan for today?”

M: “Well, I was hoping we could go over the developmental questions I finished from the last meeting and then if there’s time go over the next steps together.”

L: “Alright, so let’s see your work!”

(I pulled out my computer with the developmental questions)

M: “So the first thing I did was puzzle out how the prophecy works. Who made it, what it means, why it’s under the school, where it came from, that sort of thing.”

L: “Okay.”

M: (I explained my ideas)

L: “So one thing, how would this General know about the prophecy? How does the General write about Raven if it hasn’t happened yet?”

M: “Oh, I thought about that and I had a couple of ideas. (I then explained my ideas)”

L: “Okay so that’s good, I understand how that would affect the prophecy and the General. Personally, I see (the idea) laid out like this. (Explains her understanding of my explanation)”

M: “Yes, that’s what I was going for.”

L: “So how do the readers find out about this?”

M: “Oh, I had an idea about that. I was thinking something like (explain).”

L: “Now, would that be a prologue or a separate piece?”

M: “It would be a prologue that sets up the story for the characters.”

L: “Ah. Well, based on my experience you would have to be careful about it since story should begin with your character.”

M: “I understand, so I thought it could be a half scene as a hook then transition to the characters.”

We then continued to talk about the rest of the developmental questions in a similar pattern (I would explain, my mentor would sometimes ask for deeper clarification, I would dig deeper prompted by my mentor, repeat).

In that part of our conversation, I identified 5 hats: the white hat, the yellow hat, the black hat, the green hat, and the blue hat.

The blue hat came first: 

L: “So what is your plan for today?”

M: “Well, I was hoping we could go over the developmental questions I finished from the last meeting and then if there’s time go over the next steps together.”

L: “Alright, so let’s see your work!”

Just like the start of every meeting, after greetings and catching up my mentor would ask me what I wanted to accomplish in that meeting. I would explain my ideas and run the plan by her, and she would then agree and follow/lead when required. The blue hat defines the focus of the conversation, and it allows the other hats to fall into a pattern that repeated for each developmental question.

Next came the white hat:

M: “So the first thing I did was puzzle out how the prophecy works. Who made it, what it means, why it’s under the school, where it came from, that sort of thing.”

L: “Okay.”

M: (I explained my ideas)

The facts and information were laid out every time I explained my ideas/answers for the developmental questions. My mentor would follow up with what else the reader would need to know and what other questions were related to the discussion question. Each explanation was converted into hard facts within the story; the laws and rules as to how the ‘supernatural’/indescribable worked in the context of my story (ie. the prophecy).

The white hat led to the black hat:

L: “So one thing, how would this general know about the prophecy? How does the General write about Raven if it hasn’t happened yet?”

M: “Oh, I thought about that and I had a couple of ideas. (I then explained my ideas)”

——————

M: “Yes, that’s what I was going for.”

L: “So how do the readers find out about this?”

——————

M: “Oh, I had an idea about that. I was thinking something like (explain).”

L: “Now, would that be a prologue or a separate piece?”

My mentor analyzed my answers and responded with critical questions that indicated logic I’d overlooked or hadn’t explained. The idea of a developmental question is essentially looking at a novel with the black hat lens, finding the plot holes/faults and problems in story/logic, and fixing it through critical and creative thinking.

Following the black hat was the green hat:

L: “So one thing, how would this general know about the prophecy? How does the General write about Raven if it hasn’t happened yet?”

M: “Oh, I thought about that and I had a couple of ideas. (I then explained my ideas)”

——————

L: “So how do the readers find out about this?”

M: “Oh, I had an idea about that. I was thinking something like (explain).”

The questions my mentor proposed led to me coming up with ways to solve and fix the problems in logic. My mentor would quite literally ‘ask for ideas’, and if I hadn’t already solved that question I would have to come up with a new answer, often on the spot. In other words, the critical judgement of my mentor led to creative ideas and alternatives to solving the developmental questions.

Finally came the yellow hat:

M: “It would be a prologue that sets up the story for the characters.”

L: “Ah. Well, based on my experience you would have to be careful about it since story should begin with your character.”

M: “I understand, so I thought it could be a half scene as a hook then transition to the characters.”

The yellow hat is for sharing experiences and finding some insight into why something works or doesn’t work. My mentor shared her past knowledge on prologues with me, and how they are not always the best for a story. I used the information she taught me to find an insight; would a prologue add value to my story? In my case, I believe yes because it sets up the world with a hook that you don’t get the conclusion to until later. The idea could not have come without the conversation where we discussed what would best suit/benefit my novel.

Is Canada a Country, a Nation, and/or a Post-National State

Canada is a nation and a country, but not a post-national state. 

Canada is a country is based on legal and political geographical borders, not the people. Canada is recognized internationally as a country with borders to the US and borders between provinces and territories. In addition, Canada has a GNI (Gross National Income) of a High-Income Economy ($12,236 or more per capita). GNI is calculated by the average income of the citizens of a country divided by that country’s population size. GNI is a common calculation on classifying countries, and Canada passes the test. Canada is also recognized by the World Bank, which classifies its countries by income, operational politics, and by geographical regions.

Canada is also classified as a nation because the people are connected through culture and history. A nation is a stable community of people connected by a common language, territory, history, ethnicity, or common culture. Canada is the most culturally diverse country in the world, with 96% of the world’s population of visible minority people living here. In Canada, the majority of people speak English or French with only 6.2% of the population speaking another language as their mother tongue, and the majority speaking two languages. Canada is also a huge geographical area with a big but spread out population, and ranks in one of the top High-Income Economic countries. Although it only ranks in the top 20 military powers of the world, Canada, as seen by battles in history such as The Battle of Quebec (1775), is one of the hardest countries to battle directly because of the geographical size and unity of population. It is because of these abilities that Canada has been able to grow as a nation. As Charles Foran of The Guardian stated, it’s “Being liberated from the economic and military stresses that most other countries face (that) gives Canada the breathing room, and the confidence, to experiment with more radical approaches to society”. Canada has such a strong economy and military compared to other countries that there is room for innovation and growth. Like the invention of farming changed the lives of hunter-gatherers, Canada has “the history, philosophy and possibly the physical space to do some of that necessary thinking about how to build societies differently” (Charles Foran, The Guardian). 

In addition, Canada has a long history starting from before the Canadian Confederation and leading up to the present day. Although not all Canadians are born here, the general stories that immigrants have gone through are similar. Canada attracts immigration because of its lifestyle, culture, and laws that allow people to keep their own culture and heritage. Being a nation does not mean that everyone must conform to a certain tradition and culture. Canada thrives in the fact that ‘‘there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada. There are shared values — openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice”, but no oppression of culture. (Justin Trudeau). As Douglas Todd stated, “Many immigrants seem to realize that it’s not normally nationalism that foments catastrophic division, it’s religion, race or tribalism. Some of the world’s most economically successful and egalitarian countries have a sense of mutual trust and appreciation for good government that is in part based on the glue of nationalism”. Canada does not force the complete change of one’s culture, but rather allows others to live their own traditions and heritage as long as the collective values and morals of the country are upheld. Because of this, “Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity” (Marshall McLuhan, 1963). There is no true single culture that unites everyone, only bonds that hold together a nation. To summarize, Douglas Todd stated, “Healthy nationalism encourages diverse people to cooperate”, which explains how immigration and different cultures have managed to live together in Canada. There is no true identity, only a collage of pieces that form the puzzle of our nation.

Because there is no one identity and multiple cultures tied together by shared language, space, and heritage, Canada is not yet a post-national state. For a place to be post-national, it needs to be so united under one culture that the government does not need to step in to uphold equality. The trouble with having no identity is that there is no one culture that can be used as a backdrop. In Canada’s case, a question rises: “Can any nation truly behave “postnationally” – ie without falling back on the established mechanisms of state governance and control?” (Charles Foran, The Guardian). There are currently two sides to this question. The first, as outlined by Justin Trudeau, is that “(Canada) is a place where respect for minorities trumps any one group’s way of doing things”, meaning that the cultures of Canada are united by the respect we have for each group. However, I am part of the other side who believes Canada is not at post-national state status. There is still discrimination for race, identity, religion, and culture in our country, and even though Canada is better than most, there still is a long way before equality for human rights is achieved. The problem lies in how you would make a country post-national. If you conform everyone to a certain amalgamated culture, what would happen to those oppressed into this united area that isn’t that united? As the short story “Harrison Bergeron” shows, if everyone’s equal, that means that certain people have been forced into that equality. 

The side opposed the ‘Canada is a post-national state’ argues that while Canada has some bonds, the strength and amount of those bounds are not enough to be a post-national state. Currently, I believe we are at a healthy nationalism where different cultures and groups can be expressed and shared, but not at a complete unified state. As Scott Gilmore stated, “It is almost inevitable that this country is one day going to face some unexpected shock. When that day comes, we may realize that we took for granted those few ties that bound us, and we did far too little to add to them and to draw them tighter”. Canada has had opportunities in the past to put away differences and educate and learn about the cultures that make up the mass identity, but until the day arrives that equality can be achieved without oppression, Canada will remain a country/nation and not a post-national state.

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