Saturday, January 30, 2010

Narration, narration, narration...

I love Terminator 2. It's seriously one of my favorite movies. Oh I whine and gripe about it all the time; from the acting to the time travel, I've probably complained about it at least once to my family members, who usually just nod their heads sympathetically and wonder why on earth I had to be related to them. But I do genuinely like the movie.

One of the things I like the most about it is how it does something correctly that so many movies do wrong: opening and closing narration. The movie opens with Sarah Connor narrating the history of things that have been and those that have yet to come. It ends with her acknowledging that she no longer knows what's going to happen in the future anymore. The two narrations play off each other and relate to one another and the theme of the movie, effectively bookending the film. It's quite lovely. And there's even a moment or two of narration within the body of the movie itself!

There are far too many movies out there that have opening narration, but then seem to forget it in the end. Granted, a lot of times, the narration is just to get the viewer up to speed on whatever happened in the past so they can enjoy the movie without having to see all the history leading up to the events of the movie (for example: The Dark Crystal). After the movie, the viewers are usually left to draw their own conclusions about what comes after, or it's being shown on screen and how lame is it to have something narrated to you as you are watching it happen? Pretty lame and usually completely unnecessary. I mean, in the beginning, you haven't seen any of these people or places or events before, so an introduction can be nice. By the end, however, you've been following these events for two hours and you are fairly familar with what is going down. A narrative can feel redundant unless done correctly.

But a movie done with narration in the beginning and none in the end feels so lopsided to me. I just watched Pitch Black recently (and actually enjoyed it more after the second or third watching than I did the first) and there is this great noir-type narration in the beginning by Riddick that isn't followed through anywhere else in the film. It's great narration, but the more I look at it, the less it fits with the portrayal of the character anywhere else in the film. He's an enigma in the film, both the villain and something of a hero, and you never really know what he is thinking. It's part of what makes him so badass. The narration gets you inside his head. It's badass as well, but a different tone of badass. The more I watch it, the less it seems to gel with the rest of the movie. And, to make matters worse, it is never reprised anywhere.

Yeah, it bothers me. If you have narration at the beginning of your film (this is more of a film trope in my experience), then at least try to reprise it or follow it up somehow in the end of the film. It just makes the whole experience that much more balanced. And if you can't do that, can you try doing it without narration at all? And if you can't do that, at least get someone like David Odgen Stiers to do your narration (like in Beauty and the Beast).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blood and flashbacks…

Last night I had an epiphany as to a potential opening for my second draft of Scorpion and Sandman. I started it and I am really happy. Basically, in order to skip the more tedious parts of the beginning, I'm going to begin later in the story and just have a bit of a flashback as to what their relationship has grown from. Thing is, I'm not quite sure how to do the flashback. I could either 1) do it as a separate part of the prose, but then I'm not sure how to distinguish it clearly with two point of views already being introduced on the first page, or I could 2) do it as flashbacks within each of their POVs in italics. I think the second is my best course of action right now, but we'll see how it goes, shall we not?


Also, I'm doing my seat-of-the-pants writing again for the second draft, all because I was able to throw some blood in right away. Seriously, I'm literally throwing blood. Or at least Red is. It's pretty awesome. Suddenly I have character chemistry again, which I just wasn't feeling in some other test scribbles for the second draft. I feel so happy about this right now! *squee*

It's not you, outline, it's me...

I realized why it is that I don’t like writing with outlines. When I outline, I write down the high points that I want to happen, along with perhaps a quick explanation as to what leads up to this point. An excerpt from my second draft planning for Scorpion and Sandman :

Next day, Red brings Leon into the ring
            Her POV: she had thought she understood what he wanted, but now she isn’t sure again and just watches
            His POV: is using Leon to vent as much as any teaching he is attempting (Red and Leon’s comradary)
The problem is that I have difficulty writing between the high points. When I write seat-of-my-pants (as I do in first drafts always), the high points come out of whatever the characters are doing at the moment. Their interactions lead me onto other interactions, which pave the way for events. However, when I try to make that work out from high point to high point as in one of my outlines, it ends up feeling forced.
It’s a major epiphany for me, this realization. It explains my loathing of outlines, which had previously been something of a mystery for me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Editings: I does them...

Note unrelated to anything but which, in my foolish way, I thought was funny: Greg House is rather angsty and troubled, pushing everyone away (though you wouldn't know it from that picture, wouldja?). Years before House ever existed, I wrote a character named Greg who was rather angsty and troubled, pushing everyone away. Just the fact that they have the same name tickled me a bit.

Anyhoo, onto what I actually was going to talk about:

Editing! I've been sitting on the roots of Scorpion and Sandman for at least six or seven years and the actual manuscript since November of 2008 (NaNo! *whoot*) and I've been meaning to edit and have made several short-lived attempts at editing, but they have sort of been gathered together and ignored. Well, I dug them out and intend to actually try hardcore editing.

Now, my style of editing is very often rewriting at least once, followed by tweaking and whatnot. Mainly a lot of wordy parts need to be fixed in Scorpion and Sandman because of it's NaNo origins. That and some loose threads that go nowhere (though S&S was much better about tying everything together than Dirt Queen was... I read DQ recently and *shudder*... the plot holes...) lead to having to carve up some parts of the story.

Anyway, I started rewriting some beginning drivel. I cut at least two or three chapters from the beginning and am basically going to begin when Quina and Red first meet, rather than anything beforehand. In fact, I'm actually starting in-between their first and second meetings, but Quina doesn't recall the first one. Red does though and refers to it, so I'm hoping it will be intriguingly confusing at the beginning and smooth itself out by the end.

My scribbles thus far (written in math class, I might add) which probably will need editing to make pretty, but are just concerned with story now:

The light burned at her eyes, too bright after her having been in the dark so long. It blinded her and she stumbled along behind the hands that gripped her arms on either side as her eyes frantically worked to cope with the sudden stabbing rays of light. The grips on her arms pinched painfully and the force with which they pulled was inexorable. She tried to backpedal with her feet, trying to slow or reverse, but the hands merely jerked her along. So all she could do was squint against the light and try to avoid tripping as she was pulled along.

When the hands finally released her, she stood and blinked. Blue spots danced before her, but around them, she coudl see a broad expanse of red. It swayed beyond the blue spots and she staggered a little, teary-eyed and squinting. Finally the red resolved itself into a fenced ring of red dirt.


Red eyed her as the handlers shoved her into the ring. She reeled drunkenly and blinked at the ring, but she seemed even less alert than the first time she had come. She just stood and blinked.

I dunno... I'm working on things. Having read Spunk and Bite recently, I feel as if my writing is woefully inadequately clever. But I ascribe to solidness of story achieved first and then prettiness of prose. I just need to get the story hashed out on paper first and then things will improve, methinks.

Monday, January 11, 2010

In which I dump forth my poetic scribblings...

Yeah, poetry scribble dump.

spring time
the light falls down
upon my face
and warms it
moon glow
shine over me
the crickets' song
I sleep
(written stream-of-conciousness with "Sora" stuck in my head)

my muse waits
in a small, tremulous huddle
for the harsh glare of criticism to end
and the soft shadow of inhibition to fall

great pillars of terrible shining glory
soft beams gently carressing
a warm glow
a cool shine
filtered into dazzling colors
shattered into deliniating shadows
bright glare
stark illumination
blinding rays flaring into being
suffocating radiance fading into nothing

Yeah, they were just scribbles.

It'll show you your dreams...

In storytelling, presentation is everything. Regardless of how cool an idea for a character/book/movie/graphic novel/speech/blog entry (*cough*) is, it will not work if it is not presented well.

The plague of many an aspiring writer seeking publication is an awful or lackluster cover letter. Many a movie has been butchered by bad acting or failed special effects. There are plenty of novels in the world with blindingly original ideas that are hampered by blindingly horrible writing.

Even a mediocre or unoriginal story can benefit from good presentation. How many "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back" movies have been made, yet with the right actors and setting, they feel new and fresh, despite having been nearly the same story since the beginning of time.

However, poor presentation can cause a brilliant idea to be discredited, a mediocre idea to become just plain bad and an already bad idea to become laughable.

An example of  presentation making or breaking an idea is the graphic novel series Return to Labyrinth, an illustrated sequel to the cult classic Jim Henson film Labyrinth. If you haven't seen Labyrinth, I highly recommend it "(It's one of my favorite films of all time, for all of it's quirks, telling a rather deep story of growing up in more ways than one), but the premise is fairly simple: A daydreaming girl named Sarah (Jennifer Connely) wishes her baby brother Toby away in a fit of teenage angst. However, Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie) takes the wish quite seriously and takes Toby to the Goblin City. Sarah has thirteen hours to solve the Labyrinth, but the Goblin King is going to do anything he can to stop her.

Spoilers ensue a bit from here on in.

The movies ends in a fairly happy way conventionally, with Sarah defeating the Labyrinth and reclaiming her little brother. For the hordes of Sarah/Jareth shippers out there, however, the ending is disappointingly ambiguous.

Cue the fanfiction. Many writers have put fingers to keyboard in desperate attempts to rectify the film's lack of any sort of overt romantic conclusion.

Then along came Return to Labyrinth. Playing on some hints in the movie and its accompanying novelization, "Return" focused more on Toby, now a teenager himself, getting dragged into the Labyrinth to be the new Goblin King due to some finagling on Jareth's part. Meanwhile, Jareth is trying to come to grips with his relationship with Sarah and a horrible decision he made about her.

It's no Watchmen as graphic novels go, but some of the ideas presented are kind of neat within the Labyrinth universe. The writing isn't stellar, but it's enough to keep me reading out of curiosity. I'd class it as at least a mediocre story. Nothing special about it, it's not puke your guts out horrible, and it's touted as the "official" sequel to the movie. (For the record, I no more consider this an "official sequel" than the slews of other "unofficial" sequels, many of which are better written. I have my own personal canon, thank you.)

What would make or break this piece and ultimately breaks it is the presentation. The art for the books is usually awful. It has its moments of legibility and even fairly good-looking-ness, but overall, it's just plain bad. Set this in contrast to the cover of the first volume.(And the artist doesn't seem to understand the whole concept of Jareth's gloves... *facepalm*) The covers are dropdead gorgeous, making the poor quality of the art within all the more inferior by comparison.

The presentation kills it. The idea could have limped by, maybe even been a big more well-recieved, had it only been drawn better. As is, the art just draws attention to itself and to the writing's weaknesses.

So all of these issues with the poor art and lackluster writing... and then comes the time it is taking to make the frickin' thing! I discovered this piece just a few months ago and waited rather impatiently for the third and fourth volumes at my library (since I didn't care to purchase them). Well, I read the third volume and in the author's note, I discovered that this thing has taken four years to get out. This is just three books out of a four book series and it takes them four years. The writing certainly couldn't have take that long and I have no experience with drawing regular sequential art, but seriously, a year and four months (if that time was divided up evenly) per book is a bit ridiculous.

Even as a casual reader with no vested interest beyond curiosity about a well-loved movie, this is incredibly frustrating. Maybe there are perfectly good reasons for the delay. But as a casual reader, it is very off-putting. Why be interested if it's going to take so long to get the last one out, the art is bad, and there are better fan works that update regularly otu there? Personally, I was effectively repulsed just by the time (and I'm willing to wait quite a bit for things).

Presentation: the "make it or break it" factor.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Confessions of a disgruntled fan...

As a writer and an occasionally disgruntled fan, I can see the appeal of fanfiction sometimes. Sometimes there is just a brilliant idea that isn't treated well, or a great story that just has the least satisfying ending of all possible endings. Sometimes a hint of something is presented and one expects it to turn into a plot element, but it's just ignored. All of these things are frustrating and reasons for turning to fanfiction.

I know there's a lot of people out there who dislike fanfiction. I myself used to scoff at the very idea. I mean, why fanfiction? The story was finished when the author was done with it, right?

Here's where I start to run into some contradictions even within my own mind. I mean, the author decided how the story should go, yes? I know with my works I would take issue with someone going in and mucking them up with their poor grammar and strange shipping ideas, but at the same time, I have read some stories and watched some movies that just beg to be expanded upon. I myself have written a few short fanfics (mostly self indulgent) as I try to read deeper meaning into a relationship or happenstance that seems to be too skimmed over in the original work.

I justify myself with an idea gleaned mostly from Inkheart, and other such works that imagine the creation of a work as the creation of a whole world and even if you don't focus on the entire world in your original story, it still goes on and all the little minor characters have their own stories and interests. The news quote at the bottom of this strip of The Zombie Hunters sort of helps articulate my position. Jenny's just showing a different side of a character there, but what if the story were to focus on another side of the character or another character entirely from those found in the original work?

It's the basis for a lot of retellings of fairy tales. What are those but fanfic works? Alternate origin stories for comic book characters and expanded universe novels for such things as Star Trek and Star Wars? Basically canonized fanfic. 

Now, granted, there are a lot of horrible stories out there. I mean, really really awful. It's there that fanfic gets its bad name. Between out-of-character-interpretations and Mary-Sue inserts, there are some really bad stories out there. But it's really no different from original writing in that way. It's just that fanfiction gets slammed for it moreso in the public eye because it's based off of someone else's work and thus can be poked fun at because it fails to live up to the original.

 In which case I'm like "Canon is sacred! Zomg! What is your problem?" I mean, I don't like it when fanfics start to get screwy. I prefer stories that either expand on the original (whether prequels, sequels or just interstory expansion) rather than alternate continuity fics (unless, of course, the continuity does not play out the way I want). It's pretty much a subjective things, methinks.

I guess that's what all fanfic is: subjective.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Inspiration will kick you in the butt sometimes...

Recently having watched quite a few documentaries and behind-the-scenes commentaries and whatnot for several movies, I want to try making a short film so badly it isn't even funny. I mean really.

I haven't written really anything too recently, so maybe I'll consider trying to write a short film script.

I really just want to try.