Two Faces Of The Same Coin

Welcome back folks,

Hope you’re well on your way to get all your holiday shopping done (cause God knows it ain’t about the holiday anymore…). If you got a minute, I’d like to let you in on a little (not very secretive) secret.

I like the bad guys in books and movies.

I have nothing against a good hero (as have been documented on this blog, more than once… Or twice…), but as likable, capable or strong as the on-screen good guys are, the protagonist is only as good as the antagonist makes him. Want to test this theory? Let’s look at some of the best protagonists:

  • Clarice Starling / Hannibal Lecter – How good is Jodie Foster’s character in this story? You got it. As good as Anthony Hopkins’.
  • We sure loved Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy as opposed by Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher).
  • Dr. Richard Kimble was framed and threatened by some devious men, making his flight and fight far more interesting.

We could run down the imdb database for hours here, but instead I wanted to talk about one “bad guy” in particular. Well, “bad guy” is not really doing him justice. He’d prefer “Outlaw“, or if you insist, a man living truly by his own set of rules.

Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins)

crowder1

(Image credit: http://www.breitbart.com)

I love Raylan Givens’s character. I love Timothy Oliphant’s job as the Marshal. But try to imagine this with a lesser rival than Boyd. Not only is this a match made in TV heaven, a phenomenal casting job. It is first, and foremost a well crafted character.

A villain can be extremely malicious, cruel, even psychotic. He can be a megalomaniac, demonic and a generally nefarious prick. But every once in a while, you find a villain who is not as extreme. In fact, sometimes, the better villain is someone who is just bad enough to oppose our hero but not very far at all.

The reason I love Boyd Crowder as an antagonist (again, with all credit to Walton Goggins) is that when things are said and done, he is Raylan’s childhood friend. He is a lot like Raylan in many ways (least of which is his attitude towards “norms”). He is nothing if not your normal small town Joe. Sure, he’ll go outside of the law to achieve his goals, and do some really bad things in the process. But not only does he truly believe what he does is right (my favorite kind of villain – a villain who thinks he’s not one), he always play right around the line between right and wrong. Is he hurting people? Yes. Is he looking to hurt people? No. Stay out of his way and you’ll be fine.

Put a Hero who’s all of the above, just inside the confines of law, and you have conflict, but with so much room for story development. These guys can interact in ways that others can’t (not believably anyway). You have freedom to explore developments which may put these rivals on the same side of a fight, while putting their own rivalry “on-hold”.

The amount of banter gold (see a few samples below) couldn’t have possibly be written in, unless there was a significant familiarity and shared experience (and shared partners).

Justified – one of my all time favorite TV shows – ended aptly, with these two friends doing what friends do. Sit down for a chat. There was no real need for these two to go out guns a blazing. It was never their weapon of choice anyway. Raylan might be the fastest gunslinger east of the Mississippi and Boyd was an explosive expert, but what they got, they normally did by using their deep well of words.

And on that note, allow me to end this post by sharing some of these words (credit: imdb.com):

Raylan Givens: I’m Raylan Givens!
Boyd Crowder: No, I’m Raylan Givens!
Raylan Givens: Are you trying to be funny?
Boyd Crowder: A little.

Another one:

Raylan Givens: You didn’t happen to bring your rocket launcher, did you?
Boyd Crowder: I didn’t think to pack one.

Another:

Boyd Crowder: Truth always sounds like lies to a sinner.

And another:

Boyd Crowder: Well if my survival is a happy bi-product of my selfless act, so be it.

One last time…

Raylan Givens: Well, I suppose if I allow myself to be sentimental, despite all that has occurred, there is one thing I wander back to.
Boyd Crowder: We dug coal together.
Raylan Givens: That’s right.

Boyd Crowder: We dug coal together.

If you haven’t watched Justified, too bad. Go watch it. Now.

Until next time,


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Book Report – December 11th 2014

Hello everyone and welcome back.

It slowed down here a notch this week, but that doesn’t mean I was idle. In fact, I was everything but idle.

While I enjoy writing these blog posts, I do have my main project in the works and have been for a while now. To recap, after writing a second draft for my first novel, I decided to use that experience and write the story that begged to be written. I’ve placed Novel #1 on figurative ice and started Novel #2 from scratch.

What that means is of course, coming up with a new idea, concept and create a plot, A to Z. It means a heck of a lot more, of course, but with your permission, I’d skip the lecture and summarize this by “writing a lot of words that move the story forward, from the introduction of my hero through to tying all loose ends.”

So words I’ve written this week. Plenty of those things. 14,068 words this week, but who’s counting? In terms of progress, I obviously feel great. I’m at the part of the story where writing becomes as fast as – hopefully – it would be reading. Think last quarter of the book when the heat is on.

You might be wondering what type of book I’m writing, to which the answer is – A politically charged thriller.

So there you have it. That’s what yours truly has been up to these past few days. I tried to keep this place interesting with a fantastic blog post by Jake Threadgood about his experience in Iran. Until I complete my first draft (Judging by current rate, we’re talking end of 2014), you may notice slower updates on this here blog, but stay tuned. I promise some shenanigans.

For now, I write, cause writers write, they just do, that’s how we roll!

madafaka1

About the size… Does it matter?

Hello everyone, and thank you new followers. I shouldn’t take that for granted of course, so if I haven’t told you lately that I love you, there you go 🙂

As you may have noticed, we’ve been talking about matters of life or death here lately.

So if I may (and let’s face it, I may. My blog my rules!), Allow me to indulge in a question that’s on many people’s mind which is not a life/death scenario, yet intrigues men and women alike. The question of… sizedoes it matter?

See, from my experience, these things come in all sizes and colors. There are big, thick ones. There are big but thin ones. Small and thick, small and thin. Personally I don’t care, as long as they give me enough pleasure. Of course, there are times when I look at one and say “How the hell am I going to take all this in???”

I’ve heard people say “but it’s too short.” or “It’s too thin”. I’ve heard people complain that it should be bigger. Hell, I even heard people say it should be shorter. Much shorter. But really, what counts? The quality or quantity?

Let me ask you people this then – What do you intend to do with this thing? Well, can you do it regardless of size?

Oh, excuse me just a second.

Just so we’re all on the same page here (pun intended) – we are talking about books here. You knew that, right?

What else did you think I was going on about? Oh, do you kiss your mama with that mouth!?

But I digress.

So. Sizes.

As I said, I don’t really mind how thick a book is. I’ve read a series of 4 books, with north of 800 pages each by Tad Williams and enjoyed them just as I enjoyed a 180 pages book by Ursula Le Guin.

The answer to this question, at least in my book (notice the crafty word-play…) is shorter than a novel.
Your book should be as long as it takes to give the reader your story from start to end, but no longer than that. Now, putting aside style, editing, and other aspects of writing without which there shouldn’t even be a book to begin with…

Consider these:

  • Your plot is complete, from the introduction and through to a satisfactory conclusion.
  • Your sub-plot/s have been resolved.
  • Your characters, mainly the protagonist and the few other significant ones have gotten the chance to come to life.
  • Your story delivered on its premise.
  • Your book includes only what is necessary to move your story forward

Well, in that case, does it matter if it took a 100 pages or 1000? Well, putting aside questions like “Who would buy a book with 1000 pages?”
Of course, different genres have some “standards” and you might want to think about these points above if you’re way off.

In other words – “Too short” likely means you didn’t tell your story (not all of it), and “Too long” might mean you either should have stopped writing sooner, or you may want to check for “filler” (Those pages where there are a lot of words but little story).

I’m going to stop this post right here, as to not make it too long. If you think it’s too short, and that I missed something, why don’t you tell me about it right here?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Thank you all for stopping by. I appreciate it year-round.

Back to the drawing board. Don’t be scared.

Welcome back one and all. The title might be a little misleading but hang in there. I promise no politics, no music and no religion for a change 🙂

drawingboard

If you follow my blog for a while, you know I’m working on my first novel which is a science fiction slash supernatural. If not, now you have it. You might also remember me working with a writing coach and attending writers groups. If it’s up to me, I’ll be doing that forever as the advantages are plenty and the disadvantages are… nonexistent.
I have minced words, spun plots and in general tore down keyboards like a mad man. I wrote north of 50,000 words for a whooping total of 15,000 as of this moment.

How is that possible?

I wrote a post a while back which I lovingly call “The drive to California“. It had a lot to do with outlining, pantsing and plotting. See, I like to think of myself as a plotter, but I moved a bit away from sticking to a very tight route towards driving from one milestone to the next while taking the liberty to write with some abandon.
This proved to be advantageous on one hand, as I truly believe it improved my writing and the way I can build a scene, stay true to my characters and move the story forward.
The pitfalls are few but nonetheless dangerous… The greatest one is straying away from your route. If the story moves forward, but no longer in the direction you need it to… you might end up in Oklahoma instead of California. And If you want to splash in the water of the Pacific ocean… well you’re in for a little surprise.

So, I first wrote a hell of a lot of filler. We got rid of that. I then moved to writing more to the point. Alas, there were significant holes in the story, characters misbehaving and sounding pretty much the same. After that, well, we killed a bunch of unnecessary characters. Erased them in cold blood. And then… and then we found my story. It was hiding right behind all that smoke screen I USED to call my writing 🙂

So… I found my story, my REAL story. I was happy and even somewhat proud of my improving skills. But then I realized I needed to go back to the map and make sure that I was still going to California.

What I’m doing these past few days is basically restating my main milestones. You know, Start at Atlanta Georgia, drive West towards Alabama, proceed through Mississippi, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, Arrive at California, Hit big blue sea.

I feel pretty good with myself now, knowing I can write much better than I did when I started. I know I’ll be able to write even better as I make my way to the final destination. I just need to make sure that I’m driving my novel to the right place. When I’m done re-drawing that map, I can get back behind the wheel and step on it!

MapOfUS

You’re all welcome to come along by the way! So feel free to comment, and hopefully we’ll get there sooner than it might seem.

Knock knock! Who’s there? A new can o’ worms, that’s who!

After the celebrations, it’s back to work on my blog. Let me share something with you. I completed just about 20% of my novel. I wrote about 20K words and they are beautiful! They are ordered nicely in chapters and if you read them, my story will begin to unravel in front of your eyes. You will get to know where my story takes place, in which time and who my main characters are. You will also get a glance of the external antagonistic forces and perhaps you might even think there’s a good story about to unfold. This Saturday and Sunday I heard a knock on my door. The sky got darker and I heard ominous music play. It got louder as I came closer to the door. I opened it and… Continue reading