The Hazards of Ever Increasing Anticipation

What happens when you pile anticipation on top of anticipation? And finally get to something that you are SOOOO excited about that it trumps everything else that came before it? This is the situation I find myself in now.

This weekend marks the opening of Avengers: Age of Ultron

A movie I have been looking forward to for some time, watched all the trailers, have the date marked on my calendar, etc. There are lots of other summer movies I am excited to see. Jurassic World, Ant Man, Tomorrowland and a bunch of others.

But then this came along

and everything else paled in comparison. AM I still excited to see Avengers? Sure. Dinosaurs rampaging through a theme park? Of course! George Clooney doing whatever the heck Tomorrowland is about? You betcha! But in ALL of those movies I will be sitting in the theatre, thinking in the back of my head, “But it’s not STAR WARS!”

Will all those other movies make a butt-load of money over the summer? Sure. Will I line up at midnight to see the first showing of any of them? No. Star Wars? Absolutely. When that trailer hit I had tears in my eyes I was so excited. How can anything else compete with that?

It can’t.

So, still excited about this summer, but CANNOT WAIT FOR DECEMBER!!

A note to casting directors

[SPOILER ALERT – if you have not watched the 23APR2015 episode of Elementary and intend to, stop here]

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Please, please, please stop casting recognizable actors in the role of bad guys. It totally takes the suspense out of the reveal.

Case in point – I was watching Elementary last night, and Fisher Stevens appeared about 20 minutes into the show. Right away, I said, here’s the bad guy. Recognizable actor, big enough name to have some recognition factor. Why cast him, and pay him, to appear in a relatively minor role of a dentist being extorted by drug dealers? BECAUSE HE’S NOT, he’s the bad guy. 40 minutes I had to sit through while Sherlock figured out what I knew as soon as Stevens walked onto the screen.

TV shows do this all the time. Josée has asked me to keep my recognition of actors to myself because for her, who does not recognize these people, she has no clue. Castle is especially bad at this, the casting of recognizable actors in “surprise” bad guy twists.

Now, I understand hat actors are people, and they need to work, so if they can land a job on an internationally syndicated TV show, that’s probably a big deal for them. Good job and pay for them. For those of watching though, it sucks.

And it’s not just TV shows either, they do it in movies [MORE SPOILERS AHEAD!]

Remember the Tom Hanks movie Angels & Demons. He goes to the Vatican and Ewan McGregor is the lowly priest assigned to show him around, and then he disappears. I was sitting in the theatre, thinking, OK, this is not some art house indie project where actors get some sort of acting cred or caché for appearing in movie or working with a director, this is a major studio picture with a major A-list actor in the title role, why is such a big name seemingly cast in a minor role. I had not read the book going into this movie, but I knew then and there that there was more to this character than meets the eye. Lo and behold, guess who the bad guy was?

So to all those casting directors out there, when auditioning roles, looking at head shots etc for shows where the reveal of the bad guy is supposed to be a surprise twist, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, ask yourself, is this actor recognizable? Have they done enough work in the past that someone is going to say, ‘hey, I know that actor, what the heck are they doing in such a bit part?’ then say sorry, not right for this role, and move on. Viewers like myself will thank you!

Facepalm writing

4425302-3887624468-11430Sometimes the stupidity of writing amazes me. This happens often in TV, lazy writing, or writing that just assumes the stupidity of viewers.

One such incident jumped out me the other day on Arrow. Josée and I are fans of the show but are a bit behind due to scheduling and vacations and such, so we were catching up on PVR’d episodes.

Keep in mind that we are now on season three of the show, three years of Oliver Queen running around in a hood and mask, with no one he knows recognizing him or cluing in to the fact of his secret identity. Suspension of disbelief is key for shows like this, and I don’t have an issue doing that, until the episode last week.

Detective Lance meets with Roy (dressed in his red hood and mask) in an alley and calls him by name. Roy is stunned and then detective Lance tells him that a mask and some leather doesn’t fool him.

WHAT?! Seriously? I hit pause and Josée looked at each other in disbelief. How stupid was that moment? Lance can recognize Roy, but hasn’t clued into the identity of any of the other masked vigilantes (including his daughters!) running around the city? Wow.

Game of Thrones – Show ruining books?

Game_of_Thrones_title_card

So recently there was a ton of talk about the Game of Thrones TV show ruining the next two books in the series.

I don’t see the big deal myself. So what? How many movies have I seen where I have read the book before going into the theatre? How many books have I read after watching the movie, thinking it would be better (and not always – looking at you Winter’s Tale)?  Did reading the book first ruin my experience of watching the movie? No, not at all (except when the movie sucked – I’m looking at you, Ender’s Game).

Movies and TV shows are an inherently different form of media than books, and so are bound to be different. GRRM is already on record as having said that this season of GoT (Starting 12APR2015, cannot wait!) is going to depart from the books, so who is to say that the direction the TV show goes in will have any relation to the direction GRRM takes the books in? I am sure there will be plot similarities, but again, who cares? The books will have so much more depth than the TV show, that it will be a joy to read the story regardless.

Seems like al to of pointless media hype over nothing. The TV show is awesome, the books are amazing, so just thank your lucky stars that you get both, and that both formats are equally as amazing (which is rarely the case).

Unexpected reassurance about putting before the horse before the cart

One of the things I often worry about is (and this is what I mean by putting the horse before the cart) is how to support myself as a writer. Many writers post about their incomes from writing, and that many of them have day jobs while they write. But from all of these I always took away how they hated their day jobs, and they would much rather by writing full-time. Who wouldn’t, right?

Today I read a post on Facebook that came at just the right time for me for some reason, and made me give a sigh of relief. This is the first time I have seen an author say (in a supportive and “don’t be stupid” tone) that it is OK to keep a day job while writing. It made me realize that part-time writing is fine, that I don’t need to have that fearsome goal of publishing and waiting my job. It made writing fun again (not that it wasn’t and hasn’t been) but it at least removes that weight of am I good enough to support myself and make my mortgage payment from writing alone? I can do both now!

If you haven’t read the post, you can link to it here

Changing your voice is not all about ventriloquism

I, like any aspiring writer, have read many an article on getting a character’s voice right. It is one of the more important aspects of writing. Who wants to read a story or a novel where every character sounds the same?

Every person uses the same curse word? Every person has the same turn of phrase? Every person sounds exactly the same? BORING!

You should be able to tell which character you are reading simply from their voice. If you close your eyes and listen to your family, you can tell them apart simply by the way they talk. Your characters should in your writing should be the same.

I am currently reading David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks and if you want a master class is establishing character voice, I urge you to pick up this book. Every section in the book is told from a different character’s perspective, and every one is unique, sounds nothing like the other characters in the book.

There are tons of books out there on how to establish voice, but is there any better way to learn than to sit at the feet of a master and watch him work?

The importance of a good/great/awesome/wicked/kick-ass adjective

Over this past weekend I finished reading Andy Weir’s The Martian.

It is one of those books that will keep you up all night, telling yourself as your prop your eyes open,’just one more chapter’. Then at the end of that chapter, you say to yourself, ‘just one more’. And again. And Again. And then again. Lots of space nerd stuff, suspense, humour – everything a great novel needs. If you haven’t read it, highly recommended! As I was reading it, one thing that stuck in my head, and I have no clue why I noticed this, I just did. The word cacophony was used to describe a noisy situation on more than one occasion.

Perhaps it is because I like that word and you don’t hear it all that often, so when I saw it, it stuck in my head. And then I saw it again, and then (I think), again. Is there anything wrong with this? No, it’s a great word, and The Martian is an AMAZING novel so this is not meant in any way as a criticism of the book, just something that I noticed that got me thinking about adjectives.

Google has this function that, if you are a word geek, you’ll love.

Type ‘define [insert word]’ into your search bar and it will display a definition that can be expanded to give the history of the word. For example. cacophony

cacophony

One word I used in my writing recently was ministration, check this out:

ministrations

See the difference in the usage over time? Neat eh? Anyway, back to adjectives!

In my own writing I will often find myself stopping part way through a sentence and thinking what word would go best in certain situations or backing up and changing a word to something else because it doesn’t convey the right tone for what is in my head.

As an example, I wrote this yesterday:

He nodded his head with an understanding smile.

But then I changed it to:

He nodded his head with a sympathetic smile.

Both are along the same thematic line, but each will give a unique tone and change the way a reader will read the sentence. Try Google’s define feature on both those words and see what I mean.

Finding the right word for any given situation is not as easy as plopping down in front of your keyboard with a thesaurus and picking a 5-cent vs a 25-cent word. Proper consideration needs to be given to just how each word will play in the reader’s mind. The imagery, the emotion, the feeling it will evoke. All are critical to the overall feeling of your story and deserve to be chosen with care. Sympathize is listed as a synonym for understanding on synonym.com, but each bring their own specific connotation that needs to be carefully considered before choosing which you will use.

Anyone can write, but it takes care to be a wordsmith (or at least an aspiring one I suppose).

The pitfalls of prequels

I was watching the latest episode of Gotham yesterday and got to thinking about the dangers of prequels.

My knowledge of Batman is limited to the campiness of Adam West and the movie incarnations of Batman. I was never a huge fan of the Batman comics growing up, just never got into them. I read a few here and there, but was not a huge fan. SO, that being said, my knowledge of the back story of what is going on in Gotham is somewhat limited. Appearances of different characters on the show that would make some fans squee with joy go over my head.

All this aside, I do know the major players – Penguin, Riddler, James Gordon etc. And here is my issue with Gotham, and most prequels in general: we KNOW that these characters have to be around later in the mythology, so there is no sense of danger or suspense.

This week for example, Oswald Cobblepot was (yet again) getting the crap kicked out of him and in danger of being killed by another gangster. But we know that Cobblepot will survive, because he becomes a crime kingpin that will face off against Batman. So, what’s the point in watching? Shows like The Walking Dead are so riveting because you never know who will die, or how, or when, so if someone is in a fight, there is a sense of actual danger and fear. Not so with Gotham, because no matter what happens, you KNOW the character HAS to survive. What’s the point in watching?

Yes, the show is an interesting character study in how characters evolved, but that will really only hold my interest for so long. Something else needs to happen to up the ante. Will I keep watching? Probably, for now, but for season 2? Not sure, will depend if the writers can somehow dig themselves out of the prequel pitfall.

Are you watching Gotham? What do you think?

Blissed out – when writing goes well

How many times have I sat down to start writing and been faced with a blank page, the cursor mocking me with its incessant blinking? Too many. There are times when that blank page got the better of me and I walked away defeated. Thankfully, those times are not many and I have usually been able to get something down.

Some days are a struggle, writing 100 words is a chore. Somedays those 100 words are full of blood, sweat and tears and you feel more than satisfied with what you have written, knowing that what you wrote is true. Other times, those 100 words are drivel, and will not make it past the first edit.

Some days you unexpectedly find yourself in a state of bliss. The day starts out the same, blank page, blinking cursor, but then you start to write, and then write some more, immersing yourself in the story, the words pouring from your thoughts and appearing on the page. When you finally come up for air, you’ve written pages. It’s like those days when you drive somewhere and then blink, arriving at your destination, not remembering any of the trip or even fully knowing how you got there. I love those days. Today was one of those days. A great way to start the day!

How do you bliss out when you are writing?

Time To Get Creative – When do you write?

Writing for me, at the moment, is all about finding the time to do so. First novel, still in progress, nothing published means no one is paying me to write, so I have a day job. An awesome day job BTW, that I love, and totally appreciate so am in no rush to ditch if/when I ever get published (not that it is advisable for any writer to quit their day job upon publication of their first work – see this for proof).

This past week at work was busy, and add to that the fact that Cass was in exams at school so home more than she is usually, and my time for writing suffered. I didn’t make my weekly target (but thankfully I was able to shut the anxiety and critical monkey that rides my back up about it as there were REASONS, so not my fault!). Josée and Cass went out Saturday morning and I opted to stay home to try and make up  that missed target, which I did (Yay for me).

This was a rare time for me to write in the morning, usually it is later in the day after work is done etc. and I found that I flew through the pages. I doubled my usually daily output. Having the time to write before I get tired and wrung out from the day’s work makes a difference. I would love to write in the mornings. For a while, I tried this, the very early mornings. I set my alarm for 5 AM and wrote for an hour before anyone else in the house woke up. It worked, but 5 AM writing comes with its own challenges, the least of which is clearing the sleep from your eyes to see the monitor.

My current schedule works for me, I (most of the time) make my target and am happy. There is no one harping at me about deadlines, no one waiting for that first or final draft, so for now, I can take my time and do what can when I can. If I ever get to that day when I am published and someone IS waiting for that first or final draft, then I can look again at my schedule and see what needs to be changed, if things will allow it. For now though, I write when I can, for the enjoyment and make sure I find enough time so I don’t get cranky from NOT being able to write, and that is OK.

When do you find the time to write?