(Fear The) Fear The Walking Dead

Hello world.

No preamble today, as time is of the essence.

I don’t like Zombies. I don’t like Zombie movies. I don’t like Zombie books. That’s me. But there are a couple of exceptions. Among the very few is the series “The walking dead“. Continue reading

Advertisements

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,


About One Punch and Combinations In Films

Welcome folks for another quick post, as my mind is spread thin between work, back to school adjustments and of course plotting a book.

Last night, I needed a distraction and found it in a movie which I will leave unnamed as I don’t want to be a Negative Nelly… it was so bad that I just had to follow through the pointlessness until the very unsatisfying end just to figure out if a movie could actually be so bad… It can. The only detail I’ll give you is that it was – supposedly – about boxing.

So, to cleanse my brain of this unanimous decision loss, here are my 5 favorite boxing related films (In no particular order):

Raging Bull

IMDB log line:

An emotionally self-destructive boxer’s journey through life, as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring, destroys his life outside it.

ragingbull

The Fighter

IMDB log line:

A look at the early years of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980s.

thefighter

Rocky II

IMDB log line:

Rocky struggles in family life after his bout with Apollo Creed, while the embarrassed champ insistently goads him to accept a challenge for a rematch.

rocky2

Million Dollar baby

IMDB log line:

A determined woman works with a hardened boxing trainer to become a professional.

milliondollar

Ali

IMDB log line:

A biography of sports legend, Muhammad Ali, from his early days to his days in the ring.

ali

Now, what do all these movies have in common? regardless of whether they’re biographic or fiction, they tell a story. Happy ending, Sad ending, doesn’t really matter. They tell an interesting story that the viewer can follow and identify with. Another thing they have in common is that the story is related to boxing, but it’s not a-b-o-u-t boxing as much as it’s about the lives of these boxers, and the impact boxing had on everything other than. They all had a few lessons for us to learn with the characters on the screen and they all ended in a way that made some kind of sense.

In essence, everything that the movie I watched last night was not.

It’s the difference between a one punch strategy and leaning on combinations. One punch could get exciting, but the chances of landing it are slim, while utilizing combinations make for a far more entertaining fight and and is sure to score more points.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against movies that are made “just for fun“. I watch my share of explosions and steamy sex scenes. But when a movie is made on some premise, and then turns out to be a flat-line all geared towards one meaningless event (from which nothing is drawn), I tend to become somewhat grumpy…

Have a nice weekend folks. Don’t hesitate to point out what great movies I neglected to mention. Of course, I won’t knock anyone out for sharing and liking this post 🙂

Hero under fire

Hello everyone, yes yes, I was away for a moment. Yes, I was busy with my “day job” as well as with work on what is now the fourth draft of my book.

During this time, I allowed myself the occasional stroll down Facebook lane and the corner of Twitter ave, just to check that the universe hasn’t in fact blown away in my absence. Good news everyone! The world is still there. At least to the best of my judgment.

Now, during one of these strolls I stumbled upon a post that was shared in a writers group in Facebook. The title itself caused the predicted knee jerk reaction. You know the one where you just HAVE to comment on the post. But since I have matured somewhat in recent years and learned to count to ten, I bravely fought that instinct and held my tongue until I had the time to… you know… actually read the post.

By the way, the post in question was titled – Eight Reasons Why The Hero’s Journey Sucks (Link at the bottom of the post – please visit and read).

Hence the title.

Since I’m not one to just bash anyone’s opinion I decided to take the time and respond to that post right here, with some depth, rather than whatever thought I could’ve half-assedly compiled in a distracted Facebook comment.

Ok, let’s dive in to a journey, eight points long to see if we can help our hero (Not that our hero is really being attacked, mind you – nor does our hero need my defense):

*Disclaimer: I will do my absolute best to speak to the topic, not at the author (though will make reference to quotes from the author for… well… reference). None of that is meant personally obviously. The writer wanted to spark debate and I’m only too happy to jump in.

  • It’s a formula – Well, no argument here. Since Campbell looked for similarities, it makes perfect sense that at the end somewhat of a formula would evolve. Now it’s easy to take George Lucas as the example and dub the use of this formula “lazy”, though I’d argue with anyone that Star Wars holds some aspects that are nothing short of genius, with depth that rivals any masterpiece both ancient as well as contemporary. Why not take other writers’ adherence to this formula as an example? whether by choice or by default? The simple truth it, it works. It works very well. And really, I can put many things into formulas, including love life, painting, mix martial arts. Which leads me to…
  • It discourages originality – I beg to differ. I don’t call Star Wars mythic because it’s about a hero who’s singled out – as the original post accuses – again, not every story written based on Campbell’s hero’s journey is Star Wars. Some are quite different. Some are considered – with pretty good reason – classics. Some (Lord of the Rings for example) are super original. Moreover, in quite a few of them our hero is definitely NOT singled out. He or she (we’ll get back to that one shortly) might be accidental heroes. Now, we can definitely champion great stories, based on the journey or not (and I have). That in itself does not make the journey suck.
  • Why is one hero so special anyway? – I apologize, but this point I don’t really understand. I read a couple of books in my life and on so many more than one, our hero does not come pre-installed with every skill and good quality known to man… In fact, I like it far better when our hero is just a simple person (just a slob like one of us…). Nowhere in the journey does it prohibit such a hero. So not sure what the complaint is about… Next, the author of the original post asks the following questions – What about a hero who’s the greatest because she decides not to put up with the shit that everybody else is putting up with? Like 1984’s Winston Smith or Fahrenheit 451’s Montag? Yep, they’re way up there on my favorite protagonists list. What about a group of people who decide to work together to change the crappy status quo? Excellent, now I hear that one quite a lot. Here’s what I have to say about a “group”. A group has no personality, nor characteristics. A group is not an organic being. A group is made of more than one individual. So my suggestion is – If you’d like to make a group your hero, in my mind you have two options: Either you focus on the most interesting character who’s part of that group, giving her the fair treatment of a character the reader can get behind, Or – write as many books as there are people in that group, dedicating each book to a member of that group. Here’s my question – who was the hero? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? or “the movement”? I’m by no means saying that the millions of people who rightfully supported Dr. King are any less important. I’m saying, that people rally behind an individual who represents these values we hold dear.
  • The “hero” is always a d00d – Really? Really? That’s because of Campbell’s Hero’s Journey too?… Silly me. Here I thought it’s because society is still mostly chauvinistic. These are concepts. Yes, the goddess can be a dood… It’s up to the writer.
  • It’s cheesy as hell – Well I can’t help you there. What you find cheesy, I may not. Tomay-toes / Tomah-toes and all that. However, new-agey or not, there’s nothing wrong with looking into the soul of our characters (Hold that thought as we will get back to this in the last bullet point).
  • He shoehorned a lot of myths into his theory – Again, I do not see this as a contributing factor for the suckiness of the journey. The fact that Campbell might have not chewed our food for us does not make it suck. As the author says, he consciously looked for similarities only. Which alone can say that there is a lot of room for differences, which in turn might say that the formula is not the limiting cookie cutter the author makes it out to be.
  • It confuses personal growth with solving problems – It does not confuse. It claims that in order for the story to be more than a sequence of “things” happening, and in order for our hero to be more significant and identifiable (i.e. more like a real person) to the reader, the hero should learn something, some things. Does it not make sense that the story would be far more compelling if the person we cheer for is a little more than a device? Even when the solution to a problem is – as the author says – “fighting like hell and doing what has to be done, and there’s no time to meet the goddess or touch your magic wand or any of that stuff“, wouldn’t the hero need to know when to fight? Wouldn’t the hero need an ally? or allies? Wouldn’t the hero (since we don’t want an Ender Wiggin type chosen one hero) need to learn anything before going into a fight? and would it make any sense at all to the reader if that hero wins the fight (which should be a significant one) with zero development? and most importantly, if we don’t look at that new-agy, physiological “stuff” and reveal to the reader some things about the make up of our hero, background, past experiences, state of mind etc. would the reader care to follow her into battle? I think not.

Bottom line: Yep. If one thinks about the hero’s journey as a manual, takes every word literally, ignores the importance of building a character who evolves during the story, focuses on the less stellar examples of the use of the hero’s journey and forgets that at the end of the day it’s up to the writer to write the story then yeah, the hero’s journey sucks. Only it doesn’t.

HERE is the LINK for the original post.

Comments, like, shares, they’re all welcome of course.

And until next time,

Want to write a novel? How about writing a novel first?

Welcome everybody!

Today I celebrate. But just for a moment. because, as advertised I was committed to completing the first draft of Novel #2 by the end of the year. Guess what? I did! Hurray! Huzzah! and other strange words!

Now, Instead of boring you with what I already wrote, let me share a little advice. This is mostly for any of you who ever thought about writing a novel. Whoever is wondering whether they can. And keep in mind that my advice is not Isaac Asimov’s or Stephen King’s. Just little Ole’ me.

Disclaimer in place, let’s move on.

So you want to write a novel. I got plenty of advice for you. But perhaps, one advice needs more weight in the grand scheme of things.

If you want to write a novel, perhaps try writing a novel first.

Wait, what?

Yes, I said that. But what I mean is that perhaps you need to write A novel before you write THE novel. Makes more sense? Let’s wrap our brain around that one.

I’m a true believer in the idea that everyone has a story in him/her to tell.
I’m also a firm believer in that everyone is capable of telling a story.
Another adage I subscribe to is that “If you ever wonder ‘Why isn’t anyone writing a story about____?’ it’s your responsibility to write one.”

But how? How to I write a novel?

Oh, the tools are plenty. Just try google for size. Knowing what I do today, I’d advise you to be very prudent before you put your trust in any of the following search results. I know of at the very least 5 different “methods” or “techniques” or “philosophies”. I read my share of “How to” books, not the least important ones are Stephen King’s ‘On Writing‘ and Larry Brooks’s “Story Engineering“. These two are polarizing examples of really great pool of knowledge and experience. If I was to start from scratch today, I’d say start there.

But that’s just the start. At least for moi.

Working with a writing coach has been the greatest choice for me.  Participating in a really honest writer’s group is priceless. If you’re a first timer like I was (and to some extent still am), I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of guidance and brutally honest feedback (Yes, that excludes mom).

So, here’s why I suggest to write A novel first:

It takes time to write. It takes time to write well. The more you write, the gooder you shall be. Well, in most cases.

So why not write A novel? Shave on its figurative beard, Make all the classic mistakes, get lost on the way, find Jesus (or Allah, or Moses…) and get to know the effort and sacrifice that writing a novel takes. Then, when you have A novel written, it’s time to write THE novel.

This time with fewer mistakes. Note – ‘fewer’. not ‘none’. This time getting just a little lost but finding your way quicker.

I can tell you that while writing THE novel was by no means easy, it was far less frustrating than the first time around. If only due to the fact that I was less defensive about it.

Now listen to me. with an impressive track record of 2 drafts unpublished (as of yet). But I’m merely repeating a lesson I learned for myself, which was taught to me by far more experienced and prolific masters of the craft. My current draft will change, and the end product? well, it might not be the peak of my creative magnificence. But it sure as hell is going to be better than the first 🙂 and guess what – the third will be better than this one – provided I don’t slack off.

So write A novel. Then please – write THE novel and let me know. Just finished a really good book.

Questions? Comments? Tips? Write them all down here at the comments section.

But what about the reader?

Welcome back folks, no time for much preamble as we have a score to settle here!

I told you I was writing and I wasn’t lying when I said that either. Now, in our little writers group we had a little debate. See, when you write, there are two things you need to know very well:

One is what you – as a writer want to accomplish. What do you want happening in that chapter you write? What do you want to show the reader? How are you going to move your story forward?

The other thing you need to know is what does your character want. What does she want to accomplish?

Without knowing that, precious time might be awasting… You might write some really nicely crafted paragraphs that would amount to not much more than fluff.

Now, we all read Stephen king, and if you didn’t, I suggest you get going! And we know that the most important person related to a story is – The reader.

And so, the question was raised – should we not think about the reader?

But of course! We most definitely should. Otherwise, we might as well write a nice journal. You know.

“Woke up this morning at 6:34 am, brushed my teeth and ate half a piece of toast with my primrose teas.”

Yup, the kind only we would ever read.

But here’s the thing.

You can control your character – after all, you created the little bugger.
You can control your story – You – and only you – should know what you’re going to tell.
You absolutely cannot. Repeat – cannot, control the reader. Nor should you. You’re (hopefully) not a control freak! The reader will read your story and feel whatever the hell she does.
You can use many devices and stylistic measures to “nudge” the readers in the direction you think they should go. There’s a lot to be said about settings, dialogue, dramatic irony and whatnot. But that is all you can do.

You can’t seriously believe your role as a writer is to tell the reader what to think and how to feel, can you? Cause if you do, here’s a suggestion. write a paragraph before every chapter with directions.

“In this next chapter, I’d like you to be afraid. Be very afraid! Bwahahhaha!”

Seriously now, as the irritatingly popular song goes – Let it go, let it go.

It’s your story until it’s the readers’ story.

Consider this – before you publish – If you’d like to set a mood, it’s up to you to write it that way. Once you have. You did your part. Now the reader didn’t tell you what to do, right? So don’t tell her. She knows. Just write your damn story already! Keep the reader in mind when you decide how to tell it, but for the love of Isaac, let it go.

So there we are. I had my say. Now while I go on writing in the free world, feel free to tell me what you think. There’s a nice little comments box right here.