Posts Tagged ‘books’

Some characters in children’s stories are really annoying.

They try to be whimsical, but they are really just standing in the way of the plot. The butterfly from The Last Unicorn, most of the characters from Neverending Story. They all have their own worlds.

But at least they should be like the jesters in Shakespeare plays. They might talk nonsense, but the audience gets it. And they actually know what’s going on. They are even explaining everything to the main characters, but through a filter of whatever idiosyncrasies they have.

I’m sorry, I really am. But when I watched these stories as a kid, I appreciated them more. Maybe it’s true what they say “they added that for the kids.” Maybe I just don’t remember them or paid as much attention when I was a child.


All literary fiction is mystery

Have you tried to read modern “literary” fiction? It’s a mess.

Maybe it’s because I come from years of journalism where the most important parts of a story are up front, and then the least important pieces can be cut from the end. Reverse pyramid.

But I’ve also read in how-to-write books that you should lead off with something attention grabbing.

Yet most of the short fiction I read that’s being produced today is unintelligible in the beginning, and sometimes, unintelligible all the way to the end.

They are mini-mysteries. But you’re not trying to figure out whodunit, you’re trying to figure out what the fuck is going on. The writers are cheating you into reading more just to make sense of it. Teasing you with half answers decorated with careful, self-aware prose.

And when you finally do find out the secret, you feel a little swell of pride. You navigated the obscure references and half truths. Translated real information out of the metaphors. Tied together the web of fiction-writing rules that were broken just to be artsy.

That pride isn’t in the heart, it’s in the head. “Oh, I’m so clever.” You can pat your college education on the back. The writer, too, feels a surge to his ego that he was able to craft a riddle that only the most educated, patient and persevering could solve. If he had a point in writing it, it was hidden in a swamp of art.

Meanwhile, the average reader isn’t buying literature because it’s not written for the average person.

Just tell me a good story. Make me feel something. Make me learn something. Don’t waste my time.

Stories about finding love aren’t as interesting as keeping love.

This is a conversation my wife and I have had several times, touched off by watching relationship movies like “The Kids Are All Right.”

There are infinite stories about finding love. But maybe it’s because I’m married that stories about keeping love are more interesting.

What happens after the ever after?

I think part of this is that the audience craves conflict and drama. And sometimes the challenge of staying together isn’t so dramatic. It’s the little things. Your life is made up of finding something to do for dinner, finding time, finding new things to do together. This is not as dramatic or as visual as say, an affair. So maybe that’s why there aren’t as many stories about it.

I suspect that given interesting enough characters, this could be a good story. A challenge, if you will…

Review: Deathly Hallows Part One

This contains spoilers only if you haven’t read the books. Mainly you’ll learn about what was included and where the movie leaves off.

Was it a bad sign that I was actually nervous that this movie would be good?

I’ve been so disappointed with movies that I don’t let myself get worked up for anything lately. And maybe that was why I was surprised by how good it was.

No review of this movie can avoid comparisons to the book for what was put in and what was left out. I think the parts they left in worked, and the stuff they added in worked.

It still wasn’t better than my favorite of the series, “Order of the Phoenix.”

The things they added were really good. Harry trying to dance with Hermione to lighten her mood, the awkwardness of getting caught kissing Ginny…they all felt right. I don’t remember Hermione mindwiping her parents, but it was sad.

Some scenes were extended, like Hagrid and Harry fleeing Privet Drive, which made sense. It was an extended action scene to show how dangerous it is now.

The one where they’re running from the Snatchers was hard to watch. Too much flashing around. Why not just apparate?

I had seen Hedwig being freed in press photos, and thought he was going to be spared. I thought that would have been better. It was too sad to lose her in the book. But it wasn’t meant to be. I guess it was better than losing her in a cage, but still, she should have been free.

And I still never bought that Delores Umbridge was a Death Eater. A prudish, power-hungry, cruel bully, yes. But not everything needs to be so black and white. Not everyone needs to be on one side or the other.

Rufus Scrimgeour didn’t have much of a role in the movie, or a point really. I guess they had to explain that there was a new Minister of Magic, but for all his function in the movie, it didn’t really matter. Wouldn’t it have been great for Umbridge to become minister, the job she clearly coveted, and then it turns out she’s the one who’s murdered by Death Eaters when “the Ministry has fallen?” Scrimgeour has to bring Dumbledore’s will to the kids, but wouldn’t it have been painful if the person doing this was Umbridge? And with all the magic they have, couldn’t Dumbledore’s voice been recorded into his will?

I knew that the movie would end where it did. Dobby’s death and the escape from Malfoy Manor was a key point-one where there were a lot of characters around. It was an emotional touchpoint that a lot of people focused on. I also appreciated that there wasn’t any wrap-up dialogue at the end, which always seemed hollow in the other movies. They always had a few words exchanged between the main characters, and no amount of words could sufficiently sum it all up.

People watching this movie all have the book in their minds, they’ve read it recently. So the argument has changed: There’s no “they needed to explain this for people who didn’t see or read previous movies and books.” No one’s going to see the 7th installment without prior knowledge. And if they do, they accept that there’s no way to get all the references. But will it hold up in 20 years, if they haven’t reread the books during that time?

Again, there’s too much to explain to get everything. There’s only so much dialogue you can give to Ron to push the plot along and fill in the holes.

Looking at the ads, people I know didn’t understand why they were introducing a Snatcher with such a prominent role this late in the game. But it makes sense to have some of the Death Eaters more prominent-something I wished they had done from the earlier movies, so it didn’t seem like these people came out of nowhere.

At least in this one, they weren’t even pretending to have a full movie. That was the problem with “The Half-Blood Prince.” It was trying to be a movie, when in reality, it was just a chapter.

Every children’s book I’ve read has a character crying out something.

“We’re going to find Nemo,” Marlin cried.

“Squeek,” cried the little red wagon.

Not even a “Franklin shouted” or “Little Critter said angrily.”

Every time I read it, it stands out, like someone flicks me in the forehead with a finger.

They must be sick of saying “said.” Combine that with the urge to use more exciting verbs with children’s books. But it’s overdone.

I’ve heard that writers, maybe journalists specifically, are allowed three exclamation points their entire career. Maybe that should be applied to “cried.” They should be allowed one per book. Or one per three books. That’s it.

When Gladiator of the Shi’ar Emperial Guard first appeared, he was the gold standard by which all other characters were judged. No one could beat him, it seemed.

But now, he’s become the punching bag of every tough character coming down the pike. If a writer wants to prove how tough their villain is, he shows him punching out Gladiator.

The most recent one I saw was in She-Hulk, where the Champion of the Universe laid waste to Silver Surfer, Thor, Drax and a bunch of other toughies.

Hell, even Cannonball took him out once.

The lesson learned is this: Don’t let your character become a plot device. If someone is nearly unstoppable, don’t be so flexible on the “nearly” part.

Of course, the opposite is also true: Don’t have a character be so unstoppable you don’t know what to do with him.

Power levels have to be watched very closely.

Maybe book submissions don’t have to be perfect.

I just finished writing a picture book. I like it, but it’s not quite perfect yet. The age level for the readership is still a bit high. But I don’t know if that’s a deal breaker.

Reading advice from agents and editors keep repeating the same thing: be prepared to make changes in your story. Then what defines a “finished” story?

Every time I send something out, I tweak it again. Sometimes the changes are big. Most times, little. But if a publisher picks it up, they could change it more. And if there’s an agent in between there, there’s another change.

I’m not saying send out rough drafts. But in this particular case, the story is strong enough (in my opinion) that if an agent or editor was interested in it, the weaknesses in it are not insurmountable. They would see the potential in it.

But is that too much of a bridge to accept? We’ll see when I send it out this week.

Last night, I went to a B. Dalton book store that was closing. 50% off. I read very slowly, so I really didn’t take full advantage of it. I bought Ray Bradbury’s “From the Dust Returned.” A collection of super hero short fiction called “Who Can Save Us Now?” 3 Get Fuzzy collections and X-Men Secret Invasion.

But here’s the thing: Except for “Who Can Save Us Now?” I didn’t really browse for anything. I’d already read the X-Men. I know I like Ray Bradbury and Get Fuzzy. There were lots of authors I thought I might like. Series I might try. Titles that sounded interesting. But, really, who browses anymore?

When was the last time you bought something off the shelf that you had absolutely no prior knowledge about?