When I went to the cinema…

November 30, 2009 at 5:05 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , )

I recently went to the local cinema to see New Moon – no I will not be critiquing the movie because there are no words – and while I was there I fell into the practise of people watching.  Mind you, I should have been absorbed by the movie and unable to people watch but trust me, that wasn’t a problem.

First there were the people immediately behind my seat.  I think they were mother and daughter.  The younger one was obviously a fan of the books as she kept saying, “that wasn’t supposed to happen” and “No, that isn’t what came next”.  Normally this would bother me while watching a movie but in this instance, it was a welcome distraction.  The older one (mother?) occasionally hushed her but usually would sigh or laugh quietly.

Across the aisle from my seat were a group of teens, a mixture of boys and girls.  The boys had their feet up on the backs of the chairs in front of them and spent the majority of the first third of the movie throwing pop-corn at the screen, particularly when you-know-who started appearing in ghost form.  I think they only stopped the pop-corn throwing because they ran out but listening to them was quite entertaining.  Clearly none of the boys in the group had read the books and were mystified by certain things (obviously they had also avoided seeing the first movie).  The girls very patiently explained why the vampire was glittering and a few other key factors, and then re-explained them a few minutes later, and then told the boys to be quiet while they threw themselves into the backs of their chairs in a huff.  Which is where they stayed for most the rest of the movie, though the last thirty or so minutes of the film saw a riot of activity as one after the other they took turns to go out to buy drinks or answer their mobiles or the like.  They were really enjoying the film.

In the front section of the cinema was my favourite couple.  Late teens, maybe early twenties.  The guy had a cap on but his hair was gelled and sticking out from underneath in sticky tufts.  During the first Edward/Bella kiss he whoo-hooed loudly and was hastily hushed by his girl, though she made more noise than he had.  He continued to snicker and make various comments under his breath that I couldn’t quite make out but his tone was amusing and the girl was doing a good job of trying to slump down in her seat and disappear.  As Bella slumped into depression (skillfully and subtlety portrayed – I don’t think) the guy apparently had reached his limit.  His loud exclamation of “I can’t believe you made me watch this!” brought more laughter to the cinema than the entire rest of the film.

All and all, the attitude in the cinema was quite different from usual.  There was no fierce intensity of people leaning forward to catch every moment.  There was no one sitting passively, just taking in the movie.  People were chatting, constantly.  They were moving up and down the aisles and in and out of the cinema.  Nobody seemed to mind that there were constant distractions.  Usually someone would have gone to complain about this behaviour and how it was ruining the film, but no one did.  It was a unique cinema experience.

But it made me think.  Why were all these people in the cinema if they didn’t seem to care whether they saw the movie or not?  Why was I there?

I was there because I promised a friend and because I waded through the books and well, there is nothing else to see at the cinema unless I want to sit through 2012, though having actually been through New Moon, I think I should have chosen 2012.  I went in expecting to dislike the movie.  I went to the first Twilight film expecting to dislike it.  The difference, the first Twilight caught me off-guard.  It was half-decent.  Not good, but certainly a compelling enough one-time-watch film.  The second one didn’t.  Right from the start I was rolling my eyes at the clumsy flash backs, the tacked in exposition to fill in the plot holes left by omissions in the first film, the terrible acting, and the nail in the coffin had to be the rolling depression sequence that insisted on not only showing the climate change through the window but also writing each month name across the screen as if I was slow and needed to be hit in the head with the idea that time was changing.  Okay, I did a minor critique but now I’m moving on.

The boys were clearly there for their girls.  The parents were there because they brought their daughters for a reasonably wholesome family outing.  The teens were there either because they were fans of the books or they have become fans of the actors.  The different motives for being there meant people responded in different ways to what was happening, both on screen and off.

The lesson for my writing.  Know why my character is doing something and I can construct a more believable response to stimulus and therefore create a more believable character.

The lesson for life.  Stop going to the movies just to enjoy air-con for a few hours.

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Writing Lessons From Reading Pratchett

November 25, 2009 at 5:05 am (fantasy, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , )

A couple of weeks ago I did a post about writing lessons I learned from reading Ann Bishop.  While I was writing that post I realised that every book I read teaches me something about writing and I started to think about some of my other favourite writers.

Terry Pratchett writes the Discworld series and they are an incredible collection of books with some of the best fantasy characters, interesting plots and settings, and a hilariously satirical look at life.  Most readers of the series agree that they prefer some books over others.  For me, I like the stories that revolve around the witches, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.  These are two of my favourite characters.  Strangely enough neither actually appear in my favourite Pratchett story, The Truth.  One of my friends prefers the stories involving the night watch in Ank-Morpork and I find these the least interesting.

What I have I learned from reading Pratchett?

  1. Just because it is a serious situation doesn’t mean you have to take it seriously.  With the number of times the discworld has almost ceased to exist and the perils that the characters are constantly placed in, if any of it was taken seriously this would be a very dark, very depressing series to read.  Instead, the more dire the situation, the more inexplicably ridiculous the solution is likely to be and yet it makes a certain kind of sense.
  2. Creating diverse characters and developing them fully allows you to tap into diverse readership.  While I don’t like the guards so much, I read the stories because they are still well constructed characters, but I love the witches.  My friend isn’t a fan of the witches and prefers the guards.  Other people I know love the stories about Death and his grand-daughter.  We all read the same books but we are all reading for a different reason.
  3. When creating a realistic fantasy world, all five senses have to be engaged.  If you ever read any discworld novel and read a description of Ank-Morpork you would know that Pratchett is brilliant at this.  He really brings the place to life, particularly the smell.  Some of his descriptions of smell leave you literally gagging.
  4. If you aren’t Terry Pratchett, don’t try to write like Terry Pratchett.  This one I didn’t learn from Pratchett but I did learn from reading many poor imitations of his stories.  Very much like the Harry Potter phenomenon where suddenly there were dozens of knock-offs there are hundreds of want-to-be Pratchett’s.  I might learn a few things from reading Pratchett but I don’t intend to try to copy his style.  It is definitely his.


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