Friday, May 23, 2014

Shall We Play A Game?

I suppose that for my third post, I should actually talk about writing. This is a writer's blog after allit's expected. But I have trepidations about taking on that subject. Its an important one and one that, if I flub, could really be detrimental.  Whys that the case?

The answer isnt all that simple, and, besides, I have to make this entertaining for myself. Why else write it? So we're gonna play a game called Is It Enough?

(Insert cheesy game show music)

The rules of the game are simple. We'll keep it to three.

1) Play along. You'll miss out on the whole point if you don't.  So no finding and exploiting loopholes. Play by the spirit of the game.

2) Everything  must be read in one of those stereotypical, overly-friendly and exaggerated announcer voices. Starting now.

3) Be honest. That should be pretty self-explanatory.

How to win:

I will give you a set of situations.  For each situation, you answer Enough or Not Enough. Answer Enough if you think you have plenty of whatever it is in that particular situation. Answer Not Enough if you want more.  The more Enoughs you have, the higher your chance of winning. You win by having more Enoughs than Not Enoughs.

Got it? Good. Let's start.

1: Free cheesecake made by your Great Aunt Bethel (Damn, she can cook.)

2: Dog poo on the bottom of your foot (Barefoot)

3: Exams (Doesnt matter where or whenjust exams)

4: Time to do that thing you like to do

5: Batman and Robin (The George Clooney film from the 1990s)

6: Pastoral scenes from paintings in hotel lobbies

7: Money

8: Halloween candy when you were nine

Final Question:

9: People who write novels, but start talking about the nitty-gritty details of writing long before the book is ever published

You can drop that announcers voice now.

How'd you do? I suppose I tipped my hand there.  You can guess which question is the serious one and the crux of my problem.

I come from the world of academiaor at least a form of it.  Everything has quantifiable proof, and everyone has proven experience.  You keep your trap shut until you have enough papers, experience, and chutzpah to weigh down an elephant before speaking out. At least that was the case with my wifes and my own experience.  Maybe we are far enough removed now that the past is blurred. Or maybe that was the atmosphere at the schools we attended. I don't know, but what I remember coincides.

Yet, here I am, doing just the opposite. 

Perhaps thats why Im keeping my silence on writing for a while. I can write welldamn well.  My head is filled with definitive ideas on story construction and flow and all those little bits which make an entertaining tale. They bustle about like ants on a trapeze, and I never have to distinguish thought from instinct.  Im not perfectno one isbut I am good.

So why not share? Because I believe that multiple roads lead to the same destination. I think we can all agree that many authors are talenteda simple enough fact. But not everyone does it the same way. Many roads lead to success.

Just the other day, I had a conversation on Twitter about authors.  We discussed those who we felt were talented writers and what made them so good. Several names came up, including Robert Jordan and Anne McCaffrey. Both are incredibly talented authors, but I know for a fact that neither writes in the same manner. Fundamentally, Robert Jordan was an outliner.  You can see it in his notes and interviews about his writing after his death.  According to Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey claims to never have written an outline in her life. Both talented authors. Both took different roads.

Add to that the fact that my instruction on writing comes from names a bit larger than my own.  And I am not talking about Joe Smith, who wrote a book on how to write a novel, or some English professor I had in college.  My bibles are On Writing by a hack called Stephen King, Sometimes the Magic Works by that no-name Terry Brooks, andabove all othersWilliam Strunk and E.B.Whites Elements of Style. They obviously had no idea what they were talking about.

Looking at them, who am I to tell you how to write? In good conscience, I can't. Question #9 from above is a whole new ball of wax. Some day, I may explore it.  But today isn't that day. Really, all I'm going to say about writing can be summed up below.

Writing sucks. But it's also our heart blood. We need it like air, food, and water. That first draft tears your heart out. The lines suck, the paragraphs dont make sense, and let's not even start about the plot. But that's its jobto suck . That's why we have editors and spell check and dictionaries.  No novel is complete without your own blood, sweat, toil, and tearssometimes literally and oftenmixed into those of your characters. Without it, our novels just aren't complete. And we want them complete. Need them complete. It's what we do and who we are. We're writers, damn it, and we arent going to stop any time soon.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Miscellaneous Thoughts of a Spiderman Nature

Sometimes you just have nothing to say. And when thats the case, your mind can go amazing places.  Those places could be fantastically wonderful, with dragons smote by knights in shining armor. They could be horribly dark, exploring parts of your psyche youd rather remained buried, never to see the light of day. For me, my mind just tosses random things together and says, "Entertain yourself."

So I do.

Which leads to this. This being a long series of thoughts strung together in bite-size chunks easy enough for the average diet. Piecemealed over the course of a day, it's part of your daily nutritional content. Bet you think I made that up. Prove that I did, and you'll get todays rewarda hearty pat on the back. The ten million dollar giveaway was yesterday.

See, this is what I mean. Random thoughts thrown together for my own amusement.  Please see the name of this blog. Now, Im sure that Ill write more than just random musings strung togetherany sane author willbut I'm also sure that this won't be the only time I do this.  Sometimes what you want to say can only be expressed in little pieces.   But I'll try to restrain myself and not make it a common occurrence.

And now, on with the show.

             My wife, K, and I just finished watching The Amazing Spiderman. As a comic book guy, Im more than a little chagrined that it took me nearly two years to watch it. In fact, if it wasn't for K's insistence on seeing the sequel with friends, I probably wouldn't have even now. I like the character (though I'm a DC man myself), but those Toby Maguire films left such a bad taste in my mouth that I couldnt find the interest. But now I've seen it and Im actually finding myself looking forward to the sequel. More on that later.
            Of all the tragic turning points for heroes in comicsthey all have themI have to admit that (spoiler alert) Uncle Ben's death is the worst for me. Sure, Batman lost his parents as a kid, Tony Stark got stuck in a cave for quite a while, and Bruce Banner ate up some bad mojo on an epic scale. But no other superhero seems to go through that same heartbreak.
Let's use my second worse turning point as an example: Batman. Wayne lost both his parents as a kid, while Parker lost Uncle Ben when he was much older and still had Aunt May in his life. But the big difference is this: Bruce Wayne was a kid when his parents died. He was still a child. What could he do? The question still haunts and motivates him.  Parker was acting like a child. He knew better and knew what he could have done to prevent Bens death.  That physical difference is huge in metaphorical standards. And it makes that tragedy much harder on me.
It's not unusual for me to slip during that part or ask for company. Ill admit itI just dont want to experience it alone.
            Speaking of Spiderman, this is what worries me about The Amazing Spiderman 2: three villain disease. Name a good movie that has three villains. It's impossible. And I'm not talking about three bad guys working for the same organization, à la Raiders of the Lost Ark. That I can handle.  Besides, they should only be counted as one villainthe Nazis. No, what I'm referring to is what happened in Spiderman 3, Batman and Robin, X-Men 3, et cetera. Introduce three separate villains with their own motivations and interests, and it clogs up the plot and creates some real stinkers at the box office. So what do they do with this Spiderman sequel?  Three villains. Cause obviously more is better.
             That makes me think of Batman and Robin. That film was horrible.
            I do have to wonder about Hollywood, though. Do producers think "Oh, the hero survived X, so we must add Y and Z to make it feel more challenging" and then increase by one for every sequel until the script collapses under its own weight?  By the way, I imagined all that with a deep, fake voice and an abnormally puffed up chest. Please recreate for optimal effect.
But think about it. That seems to be the case. And it drives me nuts. But then you have Nolan's The Dark Knight. Batman faces essentially one villain in the sequel.  And its fantastic.
            The Dark Knight is the only reason I wont judge Ben Affleck as Batman until I actually see the movie. My reasoning is this. I saw Heath Ledger in A Knight's Tale and other films before he starred in The Dark Knight. Much like everyone else, I thought he'd be horrible in the role of Joker. And he knocks it out of the park. While Jack Nicholson portrayed an accurate Joker from the comics (and did a very good job), Ledger caused a revamping of the character in its source medium. That isn't easy. Using that reasoning, it makes sense not to judge Affleck too harshly yet. He could still be very good in the role. Only time will tell. 

But if he sucks, I'll be right there criticizing Warner Brothers.

Authors Note:  By the time you read this, Ill have already seen The Amazing Spiderman 2.  Actually, I went to see it yesterday.  It had its ups and downs, but it was, overall, an enjoyable movie.  And it didnt suffer from three villain disease at all.

Mainly because there were just two.