The Day the Tweets Died

August 2, 2010 at 5:40 am (Author Info, Weekly Review) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Not really. As I mentioned in a comment last week, I managed to finally hit my download limit – all legal of course. That means ridiculously slow internet until the next period which is still about a week away. Which means that twitter is just not working for me at the moment. I can see the top couple of frames, and then it times out an dies. This is also a problem for some of you with really big blogs that have a lot of stars and bells and whistles. Love them usually, at the moment, I can’t actually view them.

What it all really boils down to is I can’t do my coming to a usual round up of tweets concerning excellent blogs I’ve read, not because I haven’t read some excellent blogs, but because without the twitter list telling me where I’ve been, I don’t actually have all the links.

In lieu of having some great links, I thought I would share a few random facts about my blog.

  • Since I started this blog in November last year I’ve had just over 15000 views – though while it doesn’t count me viewing my own blog it will count you every time you visit the site so I’m certain that a lot of those views are from people I know are reading the blog regularly.
  • My worst month was April of this year (not surprisingly) with only 384 views. This could be because I didn’t post during this month due to the flood, power cuts, clean up effort and just being overwhelmed by everything else that was going on. I’m not certain, but I think that would be a good guess.
  • Twitter is my most regular referer and posts that I tweet tend to get more immediate hits than those I don’t – which is tough luck for me at the moment given I can’t tweet.
  • Most people who comment on my blog (in fact nearly all) are people I have visited first.
  • The number one search term to find my blog at the moment is still “reasons why books are better than movies” which makes the post 10 Reasons why books are better than movies and its companion post, 10 Reasons why movies are better than books, two of my most often hit posts from the past.

What did I learn from this?

If you don’t post, people don’t visit. If you don’t tell people you have posted, they won’t visit. If you don’t visit others, they won’t visit. And it really is worth using the tags and categories because sometimes really random google searches find your site.

Sorry for the lack of links, a couple of weeks and they will be back.

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One for the good guys

July 31, 2010 at 5:27 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I love watching old movies. The good guys all wear white or at least tan and other pale colours and manage to keep their hair in perfect formation (maybe one strand will blow across their face) and they save the day with minimal loss and pain. Perfect feel good moment. I hate reading stories like this though.

Maybe it is because I look for different things from the movies I watch to the books I read. Movies can have a terrible story, bad acting, awful effects, it doesn’t matter as long as I’m being entertained. Yes, I prefer movies that actually have a story and good actors, the effects can go either way, but entertainment is all that is required. From books, I expect far more. I expect an intelligent and intriguing story and characters with depth that draw me in. I expect that the good guy won’t just be good because he’s (she’s) written that way but that they are actually given some sort of purpose and motivation.

My favourite protagonists when I read, have flaws. Massive and horrible character flaws usually. While I love reading David Eddings stories (the Elenium Trilogy is amazing) there is only one David Eddings character that ever made my list of favourite characters and that was Althalus. All of his other heroes are good because they are good and work together because it is the right thing to do. Althalus on the other hand was a thief and was coerced by a goddess disguised as a cat into saving the world. That appealed to me on a number of levels.

People in real life are never all good or all bad. And they aren’t the same in every situation and around different groups of people. I think characters in stories should reflect that to an extent.

That said, just going entirely the opposite direction and having an anti-hero can feel a bit old as well.

Who is your favourite good guy and why?

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The ‘And Then This Happened’ Approach to Writing

July 2, 2010 at 5:30 am (Replay) (, , , , , , , , )

I’m on holidays at the moment but I’m reposting some of the more popular posts from my old blog, Darkened Jade. If you leave a comment I’ll be sure to catch up with you when I get back.

Those following me on twitter will probably remember that I saw ‘Land of the Lost’ on the weekend and was somewhat less than impressed with it. To be perfectly honest I hated it, and I probably would have walked out if not for the fact that I had bought a frozen coke and it would have been a waste.

My problem with ‘Land of the Lost’ is the same as the problem I have when I read a lot of drafts for stories. Instead of some sort of plan or cohesive idea that is explored within the text, one random event after another is squished together, pasted and held by improbability, and linked only by chance.

Caution – spoilers ahead.

For instance, early in the movie, Will Ferrell’s character meets a young scientist who respects his theories and inspires him to get on with inventing the time travelling device. Fair enough. She found out about him at college and tracked him down. No problem believing that.

Then she returns the next day to find him in a sugar coma. After his response to her the day before, why she returns is never adequately explained, but fair enough. She decides to have a second go and there she is.

They travel into an alternate dimension, by means of a waterfall, which makes no apparent sense (but there have been worse ways to travel between worlds so I will let it go), somehow they survive and are now stumbling through a desert (what happened to the waterfall) where they encounter a group of ape people sacrificing another ape person.

After saving the sacrifice they then chase him, to fall through a pit of sand to land upon a pile of bones. Lots of falling and landing in random places without any real point or link, other then the writers decided they were bored with the old set and couldn’t be bothered writing some kind of transition.

And on it goes.

The part that made me want to walk out was when the writers clearly decided the bit with the dinosaur was getting old, and suddenly our ‘hero’ receives a psychic message from an injured lizard man in a tunic seeking help.

This is very much akin to dropping a clown from the sky and saying ‘ah-ha, the story goes this way’ and waving your arms vigorously in front of the audience and hoping they are too caught up with that ‘wacky’ gags to care, only we aren’t because the script is flat, the acting mediocre and the best performance is delivered by a computer generated t-rex.

Now, I don’t expect a lot of story from a comedy. A loose sketch of characters in a basic setting with a barely plausible context will usually do, as long as it keeps heading in some sort of coherent direction.

Incidentally, foreshadowing is an important writing technique. ‘Land of the Lost’ demonstrates how not to use it, with their “If you don’t make it – it’s your own damn vault” poster at the beginning of the movie, and the line used during the confrontation with the T-rex. This is not foreshadowing, this is a desperate attempt for the writers to remind us that at some stage in the story, there was a point to all the ridiculousness.

As far as cheap laughs, the movie does have them, but that is about the only thing I found to recommend it.

And here’s the link if you haven’t yet checked out the blurb or excerpt for Death’s Daughter.

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The Dirty Dozen

June 21, 2010 at 6:02 am (Other) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m participating in a blog hop set up by Alex J. Canauagh today. The question being – if I could only round up 12 films which 12 would I choose.

Tricky question and I had to really think about this and in the end I decided to go with the idea that I was going to be stuck in isolation for the rest of forever. Which movies did I have to take and what combination?

I decided to start with the child-hood classics.

1.  The Dark Crystal – Jim Henson at his finest. An epic fantasy tale told with muppets with some of the most interesting characters I ever met as a child. I love Kira and her matter-of-fact nature as well as her ability to talk to pretty much any animal with a reasonable expectation of being answered.

2.  Willow – Again, epic fantasy. This time it is a combination of Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer who are the defnitely draw though the shield bob-sled over snow we probably could have done without. Fairies, trolls, witches, prophesise, what more could a movie want?

3.  The Princess Bride – Because it is awesome. Fantasy and romance and action and adventure all rolled into one very entertaining story.

Moving on some old favourites.

4. Indiana Jones (If I’m not allowed the entire trilogy I choose Temple of Doom – though many fans think that this is the weak link) – With the exception of the Crystal Skull (which I still maintain is not Indiana Jones) these movies are incredibly fun, action packed and scenic.

5.  Clash of the Titans – The original. Clunky stop-go animation but that vulture is hilarious and this was my gate-way to Greek mythology. Can’t be without this one.

6.  The Trouble with Harry – Hitchcock at his most amusing. I just like the twisted sense of humour.

The B-Grade Collection – I have this thing for really bad horror movies.

7.  Tremors – If I can have all four of the movies I will, but otherwise I would have to choose the second one. Underground monsters that get smarter by the minute and eat anything that moves. A great laugh with one or two jumps thrown in (just so you remember it was sort of supposed to be a horror).

8.  Ginger Snaps – Possibly the best werewolf movie I have ever watched and yet you end up laughing more than being scared by this coming of age movie mixed with horror. I will say that the scariest thing in this movie is Ginger’s mother (creepy).

9.  Scream – This one was a toss up between The Faculty and Scream but Scream came out on top for two reasons. One – it gave us one of the best quotes from a bad villain ever: “My mum and dad are going to be so mad at me”. The second reason is that they made sure the last hurrah wasn’t dragged out. Short and sweet and done.

Finally, the feel good movies.

10.  Elizabeth Town – Most people will hate this choice. Yes, it is Orlando Bloom. Yes, it does start with him trying to commit suicide. Yes, it mostly deals with a funeral. It is light and amusing and by the road trip at the end you are genuinely feeling good about yourself. This is what I want in a movie when I need cheering up.

11. 10 Things I Hate About You – An updated take on the Taming of the Shrew and my introduction to Heath Ledger, I love this movie. It is well done and uplifting.

12.  Just Like Heaven – I needed at least one genuine, sickly sweet movie on this list. This is my choice.

You should head over to Alex’s blog and check out the rest of the blog hop.

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Twitter Links

June 14, 2010 at 5:53 am (Death's Daughter, Weekly Review) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I haven’t done a review of writer links in awhile – I used to do them weekly but now find myself just not having the time to put them all together. Here is a recap of some of the links I’ve been sharing on Twitter recently. Sorry if some of the links don’t work – I tried to test most of them and they seem to be up and functioning.

My Links:

Excellent and interesting writing links:

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Stuck In My Head

June 1, 2010 at 6:27 am (Author Info) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

So I’ve read pieces of more texts than I can remember today and one of them has gotten stuck in my head. I’ve read essays and reports and narratives and this and that and every other kind of text imaginable and do you know what got stuck in my head? An analytical exposition on the Raiders March (from Indiana Jones).

Okay, I’m at this conference learning about different text types and literacies and I’m actually finding it really interesting, when not being overwhelmed with content. What I need is a good month to sit down and digest everything because a lot of it is a rehash of stuff I already know but being told to me in new ways and mixed in there is new content and some of that is really, really important but is going to get lost somewhere inside my head if  I don’t have the time to sort it out. However at the moment my real problem is I’ve got this John Williams song bouncing around inside my head.

The problem being that I studied this particular song when I was at school and also wrote an analytical exposition on the text so even though I only read three paragraphs about it today in the midst of six hundred other things (slight use of hyperbole) it is just stuck there and I’m remembering watching the movie, making notes, replay the scene, make notes, replay the scene make notes, watch the whole movie, make notes. It is one of those songs that I could recognise from two notes I’ve heard it that many times.

Other than that – why is this song stuck in my head? Because it is brilliant. It is the perfect song to create character and mood and it is used brilliantly within the movie. Why do we remember things? Usually because they are really incredible, really terrible or really weird.

Anyway – just a quick post because  I really have a lot of reading to do for tomorrow and I do still want to do some writing this week (though I’m definitely not going to get much done as far as writing). I’m glad I’ve got some internet access and am able to check out some blogs this week because so far I’ve read some really interesting posts that I probably would have missed out on.

Hope everyone is having a great week. What songs are you getting stuck in your heads?

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Best Movie Endings

February 3, 2010 at 5:36 am (fiction) (, , , , , )

The Best Endings For Movies (Yes there are spoilers if you have not watched the movies):

  1. The Matrix (the first movie) – The story itself had ended. The protagonist had gone on his journey, discovered the truth and learnt to use his inner power. Yes there were still problems but they weren’t important to this story. This story was about Neo finding out what the matrix was and who he was. He did that. The end. No sequels. I loved the ending of this movie.
  2. Once Upon a Time In Mexico – I think I have to love a movie that ends with everyone really getting exactly what they deserve. The ending is explosive, it is a little gory and it brings together multiple plot threads in a really interesting way.
  3. The Princess Bride – Classic fairy tale ending for both Buttercup and Westley and the grandfather and his grandson. Beautifully told and it just leaves you feeling very happy.
  4. Willow – Same as the Princess Bride really. He saves the day, returns to his village, is reunited with his wife and shows the bully what for. Classic ending and well-executed.
  5. Kill Bill Vol 2 – The ending of this surprised me. The violence throughout the story kind of had me anticipating a massive fight sequence with way over the top gore but instead it ended with a more intimate family note. Yes there was still a bit of violence but it was definitely a sequence more about experiencing emotion. Plus, Bill’s speech about Superman has to go down as one of the most interesting monologues in a long time.

I think what all of these movies have in common is that the ending fits the plot, it resolves the main issues, it is interesting, and it ends. That might seem odd but there are quite a few brilliant movies and books out there that just don’t seem to know when enough is enough. We don’t need to see anymore of Westley and Buttercup. They kiss as the sun is setting the end. Yes they are then going to have to find somewhere to stay for the night and figure out what they are going to do now that Westley is no longer a pirate and Buttercup is no longer a Princess but we don’t really need to see any of that.

What are your favourite movie or book endings?

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Avatar – The Movie, The Discussion

January 14, 2010 at 5:25 am (Other) (, , , , , , , )

It kind of amazes me the number of blogs I’ve visited just in the last four days that still have Avatar as a major discussion point.  Admittedly, I really loved the movie (flaws and all) but the movie is beside the point. What really is interesting is how much discussion this movie has generated before its release and continues to generate weeks after its release.   Everyone seems to have an opinion and it is ranging from how brilliant and amazing this movie was, how mind blowingly unique and stunning, etc, etc, to how pedestrian the story was and how bland the characters seem, etc, etc.  Love it or hate it, everyone is still talking about it.

Wouldn’t everyone just love that much discussion about their own writing, whether it be good or bad?

The main arguments for Avatar being amazing (that I’ve come across) are:

  • Visually stunning
  • Dramatic
  • Cool action sequences
  • Characters who become beloved by the end of the movie (though that is a very debatable issue)

The main arguments for Avatar being somewhat underwhelming seem to be:

  • The story is not original (though I’d love to ask what movie anyone has seen recently that has had an original story line)
  • There is an over reliance on special effects
  • The characters are flat and uninteresting
  • Neytiri crying (apparently some people found the sound of her grief irritating – I can’t imagine why. I thought everyone loved ear splitting shrieks)

I loved Avatar. I know the story is not particularly original.  There are moments during it where you could almost swear you were watching a more sophisticated version of Fern Gully (particularly when the forest starts lighting up underfoot) and there are no surprises in the plot. The characters are not fantastic. They are archetypes that are barely fleshed out and in many stories that would annoy me but it isn’t a deal breaker with Avatar. Yes, it is visually amazing, and I really want one of those glowy, spinny, lizard things because they are so cute but that wasn’t why I loved it.

I loved Avatar because it is a strong story, well put together.  Each scene and each character serves a very specific purpose and they all work. You are swept up in the story, you follow along, the tension builds, you reach the climax and you are satisfied with the resolution. That to me is a successful story and the visual effects simple support the story and help to make you believe in a world that couldn’t possibly exist.

For me, the worst part of Avatar wasn’t the storyline, it was the slight extension on so many sequences and scenes just so they could show off the visual effects for that little bit longer than necessary. Look at each of the flight sequences.  Every single one could have been shortened (whether they were in helicopters or on the dragon things) without changing the story in any way.

I am now jumping off the Avatar bandwagon. I’ve watched it twice and I’ve read so many discussions about it and now I’ve posted my own thoughts and I am putting it to rest until the DVD comes out. I would however like to know what you think about Avatar and the ongoing debates about the movies ‘greatness’.

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Characters are like onions

December 29, 2009 at 5:33 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , )

You’ve probably all seen the original Shrek movie where Mike Myers as the title character explains the ogres are like onions, they have layers.  Personally I would have gone with the Donkey in that cakes and parfait both have layers too and they don’t smell half as bad but Shrek was determined to stick to his onion story and not be derailed.

Whatever image you like, the point remains.  Ogres have layers and yet Shrek is probably the least complex character in the story.  Ugly, smelly and bad tempered on the outside and vulnerable and bitter on the inside, with the tiniest centre of sweetness and love that reveals itself just enough that he doesn’t alienate himself from everybody in the story.

All characters (or at least all of the well constructed characters) have layers.  They come with pasts and complexes and unresolved issues and passions and friends and families and they have desires and weird motivations that on some level have to make sense.

Still on Shrek, I just want to quickly look a Lord Farquaad.  People tend to forget about our miniscule tyrant when talking about Shrek.  They mention the dragon, they mention Donkey, they mention Fiona, Gingy, Puss in Boots who wasn’t even in the first movie.  Lord Farquaad is disappeared from people’s minds.  Yet he was my favourite character from Shrek because even though his screen time was limited, as was his height, he made quite an  impression.  Why?  Because he is motivated and driven.  Every other character in the story reacts to events around them while Lord Farquaad takes control of things every step of the way and seeks to use events to his best advantage.  Lord Farquaad isn’t just the villain of the story he is the centre piece that the story revolves around.

Now Shrek himself points out Farquaad’s main problem and that is he is overly short and feels the need to overcompensate but that doesn’t begin to give enough reason for Farquaad’s actions.  Certainly it gives a reason for him to want power.  But he is already in control of the kingdom.  He is in charge.  Why does he care so much about being an actual King?  More importantly, why does he deal with Shrek rather than sending one of his knights after Fiona as he was going to?  Why does he think fairy tale creatures are destroying his perfect kingdom?  Not one of these questions can be answered by saying he is short and power hungry.  Farquaad has more depth than is at first apparent.  It would have been really interesting to find out something about Farquaad’s past.  How he came to be in charge in the first place and what has driven him to the point where we first meet him in Shrek as the gingerbread torturer.

I would love to hear your thoughts:

Who are some of your favourite characters and why?

Writers, how do you create layers for your characters?

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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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