Ever been locked in your bathroom? Now I can say I have.

Today I, and my entire family, got locked in our bathroom. Considering that we have sixteen inches of snow, not to mention the pile of it that has come down off of our roof, I am happy to report that I was able to break out of the bathroom with a cuticle scraper. Murphy, with all of his good humor, couldn’t have chosen a better time to make our doorknob decide to stop working. :)

Writing: A Barometer of Mood

The more I reflect on my writing, the more I learn about myself which is, of course, a good thing. Ever since I began writing my mood has improved overall and my all time low moments are no longer quite so low, nor do they last quite so long, but I can always tell when I’m not feeling my best for one simple reason. When I don’t seem to want to write, or can’t seem to make myself do it, that’s when I know I’m not at my best. My bouts of depression, which of course come and go, are quite often the things that prevent me from writing, and that quite often puts me in what seems like a worse mood, but overall I have to remember that since writing I am no longer quite as much of a downer as I used to be.

I know that in the paragraph above I sound like quite the Donald-downer (couldn’t force myself to say Debbie-downer, sorry ladies), but I don’t ever believe that I was quite such a thing. I have always been quite the enjoyer of life, extracting the great moments of fun that I could from every day life and relishing in them, but I have had my moments, and still do. A doctor would probably prescribe me with one or more mood altering drugs, but I refuse such chemical dependencies for a variety of reasons. The main one being that I believe anyone can overcome and choose to be different from what they currently are, but that is another matter entirely.

Leave it to be said that writing is a gauge of my persona, and whether I write or not helps me decide what is truly going on in my life. Whether I ever publish, or even finish a single story, will not matter in the scheme of whether or not writing has improved my life. It has, and I am thankful for that to no end. Now if only I could plant my ass in the seat more often and focus to the end of a story, then rewrite and revise until completion.

Thou Hath Smiled Upon Me, Universe

I told you earlier that I intended to write posts with a modicum of regularity. I wish not to digress from that goal, yet at the same time never do I wish to spoon feed you crap on a platter of any kind. I desire nothing more than to have words worth writing and readers ready to read…how’s that for alliteration? Anyway. I come to you tonight exactly one week since my last posting (mere coincidence mind you, nothing more) and I am pleased to say that a nice little development has turned up in my own work, and it comes at no better time than the present.

I may have told you recently about how my littler brother and I brainstormed a few ideas a while back, and it set off a frenzy of new ideas for me. I straight up borrowed a story idea of his because it had pure zing, and like a zealot I ran with it back home, to the keyboard, and away I went. I’ve been going for some time now, but not without my usual ups and downs, and lately I had been hitting more of a down, but…aha! Just when I needed it, my little brother responded to the first pages I had sent him some time ago. He read them over. He had some thoughts and notions of his own, and although he had criticisms, he delivered them with brotherly flair, and his words gave me the inspiration I needed to jump back in.

I can’t hope to believe that this will work always and forever, but for now I am enjoying the camaraderie this little endeavor has given us and I hope that it does continue at least for a time, if for no other reason than brotherly love, but also because I suppose my little brother has officially become my first Alpha Reader. For that I am to-no-end excited.

Thanks a lot universe for giving me such an awesome little brother!

“Jack The Giant Slayer” A Review

Once again, what is old has become new, and Hollywood has taken it upon themselves to reap the rewards of our desire for old tales retold. In the way of fairy tales reimagined, ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’, delights and awes as it delivers the familiar tale of a boy who trades for magic beans. Throughout the movie director Bryan Singer weaves new thread into old, and never lets go of what is, and always has been, at the heart of this story–the wonder and delight of a simple farm boy growing and changing as he discovers the much wider world around him–and it is all the better for it. Whether it is a particularly well written script, a fine bit of acting, or director’s vision, the overall direction of the movie, and its underlying story, is a fine one.

At the outset, the movie caters to a bit of back story, and though it could be argued that this tale is all too familiar to be needing back story at all, it does do a fine job of not only introducing the back story itself, but it also introduces Jack as a young lad recounting the tales of Eric the Great, King of Albion, and renowned imprisoner of the giants. Jack asks at the end of this scene, “Father how do you know there are not giants?”–a perfectly apt question from a child who trusts his father’s words–and the father does not disappoint. “I don’t,” he responds.

From here the story never ambles about, and a parallelism between Jack the farm boy, and Isabelle the princess quickly transitions us into the rest of the story as well as giving us reason to believe that these two characters are destined for one another. The inciting incident, as we all know, is of course when Jack obtains the beans, but Bryan Singer and team, don’t deliver this to us on a platter, but instead gives us some rich context, and deepens the world further with details that set the stage for future conflict; this story may be based on Jack and the Beanstalk, but it is more than that, and the sum of its parts adds more and more until, at the end, it is worth more than all its individual components.

I am a big fan of the story’s overall concise structuring and, as a writer, I enjoyed the way the story made it easy to dissect and learn from. Each plot point presents itself with a clarity I have not always seen in other films, and even upon reviewing the movie again, I was able to discern more than I had upon first viewing. The Hero’s Journey is, to a degree, adhered to though I am hard pressed to say anyone was Jack’s mentor–not even Ewan McGregor as the appreciable Elmont.

I much enjoyed the moments of wit offered, and even the giants of the story have their charm. Ralph Brown plays a particularly good General Entin, and he reminds me so much of the acclaimed Bill Nighy that I in fact mistook him right up until doing this review. Even Fee, Fye, Foe,  and Fumm make an appearance, giving the giants not only their own unique, and apt, naming system, but also a reason for having what would otherwise feel like a tacked-on line in the movie.

Throughout the entire movie, other than one brief moment in the climax of the story, the giants always feel larger, and more in charge, with an authenticity that must have taken more than a little Hollywood magic considering the giants are digitally created, and even the beanstalk is given its due with a ripping good scene that, though some moments defy belief, is still fun to watch.

I’ll end this review in short by saying that ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’ does more than just take us on a wild ride. It can, at moments, be funny with spot on humor*, raise questions about prejudices**, and even teach us the value of self-reliance. I won’t go so far as to say that everyone will see the movie the same way as I do, but like all good fairy tales it does make you want to believe that there is out there a terrific, and wonderful world beyond our own that is full of possibilities. If you watch ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’, I hope you enjoy it as I did.

*————*

* Pigs in a blanket comes to mind, as does the incredulous line “You can choke on my bones!”

** The fountain heads came from somewhere, so there must have been a giant somewhere along the line who favored art over bashing in people’s heads.

 

–Thanks for joining me, I hope you enjoyed this critique as well. It was fun to do, and I’m sure I will do another one soon.–

Cooling Off and Setting the Tone

Wow! These last few days have been doozies. I have–since my last post–created an expansive budget spreadsheet for me and my family that includes historical data for the whole year, average expected incomes vs. expenses, assumptive projections that will allow us to plan ahead for all upcoming expenses, and a detailed breakdown of where our money is currently going; I have re-watched ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’, and taken notes while doing so in an attempt to better understand why I think this movie accurately uses story structure to make sure that it is the best story that it can be; and I have participated in my very first parade ever. Being thirty that feels like some sort of accomplishment. That was fun; the kids, and their parents, were genuinely happy to have me out there passing out lollipops and Frisbees.

I look forward to expounding on one of those subjects above, and I am sure you can tell which it may be. When I get a chance to cool of and gather my thoughts, I’ll be happy to put together a post on ‘Jack’ and provide you all some examples of how this story, at least for me, really pulled off an old tale we are all comfortable with, and made it into something more than what we might expect. I will warn you now, I don’t intend to hold back on the spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you may just want to go do so. Pick it up at redbox for a dollar, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

A Paraphrasing of Ideas, but A Blog This Is Not

Finding myself to have slept less than well last night, I am also finding myself less than able to put together a well-meaning blog post this morning. I have several thoughts. For example; I am an avid movie watcher, and have considered reviewing one, or both, of the movies I have recently watched–‘Pacific Rim’ and ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’.

I am also considering starting a local critique group here in the central Vermont area because I know how powerful a good group can be, and I cannot afford to travel the hour to the one I have previously attended. If I continue to think that I may do this, I will likely find myself writing about that decision-making process as I go along. Does anyone have any experience with starting a writer’s group of any kind? I’d love to hear your ideas on the matter.

And last, but not least, I am considering expounding upon my earlier post of story structures. I say this because no matter how much these topics are discussed, there always seems to be more that can be said.

So, with that said, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to decide on any one topic just yet which means that you can reasonably expect that I will be talking about these subjects in the near future. Consider this post to be a reminder for me in the future to come back and highlight these topics. Is there any topic in particular you would like to seem me write about next? Let me know in the comments.

Story Structure, or Here’s the Rub

Alright! Hello and good morning,

Quick detour, and then off with the planned post. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Everyone’s enormous amount of support (3 follows, and 4 likes in seven of what is typically the darkest, quietest hours) means a lot to me. For one it means you are all either more of a night owl, or an early bird, than I am. It also means that my readership is not dead, even though it perhaps deserves to be. So for that, I will say it again. Thank you.

Okay then, on to the topic of the day. For today I want to talk about: my up and coming project The Digitante, dissecting plot structure, as well as how to–or, in some cases, not to–construct story from such basic derivatives such as story structure.*

As of last night, I am proud to say that I am 11,000 words into my newest story. The Digitante is a creation of two minds, mine and my little brothers, and that makes it all that more dear to me. If I were to throw labels its way, I would say things like Cyberpunk, Dystopian, Science-Fiction, and other such labels that only tell you what it might be, not what it is. But I am not sure just how much I want to share yet, so I’m going to keep this one close to the bone until I am good and ready.**

So here is where we come to the crux of the problem. This story, like all of my stories, knows where it wants to start, and where it wants to end, but not all the comings and goings of that gigantic, unbridgeable middle. It is always here that I turn to things like lectures on plot structuring, story arcs, and the like.

Of late I have been reading up on, and watching, things like Dan Well’s 7 point story structure. There is a good write up of it here, as well as a video of Dan lecturing on it. I first came across Dan’s take on structuring via Writing Excuses here, but the example didn’t translate well for me. Despite the fact that it didn’t translate, I was intrigued by Dan’s concept the same as I am by most anyone’s…i.e. if you talk about writing fiction in any intelligent way, I am ready to listen.

Now there are many Point-of-Views on Plot Structure, and with each one comes a new way to dissect it. Take for example the basic Three Act Structure made famous by every ancient Shakespearean tome, play, Hollywood film…etc.

This is an easy format from which we see the simple process of building tension, a.k.a. ‘throwing rocks at your protagonist after forcing him to climb a tree’.

This format is almost synonymous with Dan’s 7 Point Story Structure. His includes: Hook, Plot Turn 1, Pinch 1, Mid-Point, Plot Turn 2,Pinch 2, and Resolution. After looking at enough of these you will quite see just how synonymous each one is to another, and that’s the rub. When you look at say, The Hero’s Journey, The Three Act Structure, the four structures represented within the M.I.C.E. Quotient, or any other format you can find; you come to ask yourself which one is right for your story. Or, worse yet, you start to wonder if your story is defective because it doesn’t seem to conform to one of these structures.

I’ve already made it clear that I have a hard time with the middles of my stories. I always seem to know what I want to start with, and that informs me of where I might want to end up, but the ‘how-do-I-get-there’ stage is always the hardest for me. Now that I’ve given you lots of material to peruse, and maybe even raised a few questions for yourself, I think I’ve come to my own conclusion.

#

I think that all of these structures, although never meant to be ignored or forgotten, are meant to inform you of the basic way stories are read, not created. I at least seem to be too organic for this kind of structuring. I don’t mind tearing a story apart to get at the bones of their story, but to build from the bones out is, to me, barbaric. I suppose this plants me in the discovery writer category, but that wouldn’t be entirely true either because if I went all willy-nilly on a story–which I have done–the end result would be a hot, jumbled mess often too difficult to slog back through and parse out any semblance of story. I have to attack story somewhere right smack dab in the middle–a little structure, a little organic searching, more structure, and then more searching.

This back and forth seems to work well for me. What works for you? I’d love to hear in the comments the different ways you’ve made a story come together. Tell me about how you jumped for joy when you finished, tell me about how you had a moment of inspiration and, if you have any plot theories of your own, I’d love if you shared those too.

*To say that plot structuring is basic is, I know, sacrilege to anyone who struggles with it, but please know that, in this instance, what I mean is that any singular component of a story must be in and of itself, basic in comparison to the story as a whole, and that to create an entire story from just the idea of structure is, at least for me, near impossible. (Wow that was a long footnote!)

**In my experience, the sharing of something often times dilutes the purity of what I am holding within, so…my apologies, but I can’t share. Not yet.

***For the most part