Golden Nights

“What are you doing out so late?” The old man gave me a penetrating look, wizened eyebrows knitted together in thought.

“Same as you.” I flicked my hair back and pulled my scarf closer.

Why did anyone go out at night? That time when the darkness steals vision away, giving in its place the teasing small lights.  The lights and shadows twinkling like ghosts toying with mortals in the darkness.

He didn’t answer. Instead, just like the gentleman he had been for all his life, he took my arm in his own and we walked together in silence. The tranquility was a warm invitation for thought.

We watched the streetlights flicker against the golden colors of the leaves long into the night.

 

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Tools of the Trade: Paper for Planning

I typically do a good deal of my actual story planning on paper first. I would probably write a good deal more of my stories longhand too if it didn’t take so long.

In college I was around quite a few engineering majors who had piles of graphing paper. There was something about the way it could be used for notes, designs, and calculations without the sense of imposition that regular lined paper gave.

Then, I heard about bullet journaling and discovered the dot grid notebooks.

Both are now my preferred paper for story plotting and notes.

It gives me just enough to keep me linear if desired, without impeding my sense of freedom (though dot grid is a little better at this than standard graphing paper).

The Greatest Showman

I had just finished watching Logan a few days before the trailer for this movie was released. I think my first reaction was to be blown away by the range of characters Hugh Jackman can effectively play*.

My other thought? I have to see this movie.

Here’s a little pretext about me. I generally go to an actual movie an average of about 2-4 times a year, so anytime I see a trailer and think: theater, it’s a big deal for me.

The characters endeared themselves to me in even those first glimpses. The music was powerful, the characters looked like they had a good deal of their own struggles to deal with as the anthem of the movie “This is Me” played in the background.

The other aspect of the trailer that got me hooked was PT Barnum in the office. There’s these glimpses of Barnum in an office where he’s just another number cruncher, staring at the life he has and comparing it to the life he’s dreamed of having.

And that was me. In some ways, it still is me.

I’m in the midst of chasing a dream I’ve had since I was a kid, playing stories in my head while I rode the bus home. From when I was in fourth grade, picking at the computer keys as I tried to write my own mystery story. As a high school and college student, writing up plans for a story I’m still crafting even today.

And here’s the movie reminding me of someone who got to live out a dream.

Like I said, I was hooked from the first few moments of the trailer.

I went to see it a couple weekendsago. It was amazing. The music was powerful, the choreography was excellent.

And the characters were memorable. Relatable. Endearing.

And in the midst of it all, there was a believable, cautionary tale about allowing a dream to consume you.

I will tell you, my writer brain was over analyzing the story but I don’t think I will share those takeaways here, except for this one.

You don’t have to have a highly complex story, sometimes the simplist ones are those that touch the hearts of the viewer or the reader. It’s the stories with highly relatable characters living through adversity without losing their soul that touch us the most.
*End Note: This reminds me of a post for another day, I think authors go through their own version of method acting.

The Last Jedi

I feel like I’m being torn apart.” -Kylo Ren

I am conflicted about this movie.  On the one hand I loved it, on the other I felt it was too long and some of the characters weren’t who I was anticipating them to be.

I’ve also spent the better part of a month deciding whether to even put up a post but my love for Star Wars won out and I can only talk to my own friends for so long before talking the topic to death.

*From here on out there are spoilers, you’ve been warned*

Characters

One of my biggest problems in the new Star Wars trilogy: no one seems like the characters they should be.

Han, was more Luke than Luke has been.  And Luke is more like our first glimpses of Han.  Different motivations of course, but it is as if the two characters switched souls somewhere along the way.  Leia, C3P0, Chewbacca, and R2D2 are the only ones who seem like they are supposed to be.

It’s not because I don’t like these characters, instead, it has a great deal to do with not seeing what has happened to them, only being filled in briefly about their development as they interact with the new characters.

I think, once more books, comics, tv shows, etc… start coming out and filling in the gap between Episode VI and VII I’ll discover that I really like the direction the new films are going in.

Another quick note, I did not feel as emotionally invested in the Poe, Rose, and Finn storyline as I did concerning Rey, Luke, and Kylo.  In fact, I felt like the resistance storyline was more a distraction to the central storyline this time.  I think it was because there’s more mystery surrounding the other three and metaphysical ramifications to the overall storyline regarding what could have been revealed about the force and why the Jedi should end.

That said, I liked Rose really well until the very end when she suddenly decided her new love interest was more important than saving the Resistance: a move that felt completely out of character.  It felt like it also missed Finn’s moment to shine and make his character become more impactful.  

Interrupting the Flow

I have several standards I use to determine how much I like the movie.  One of them is in world believability or how close the story sticks to its own worldbuilding rules.

In The Last Jedi (hereforth referred to as TLJ) there were several moments where characters had something or said something that reflected our own world too closely. In books like the Wheel of Time this can be fun because it’s like putting a puzzle together trying to figure out the real world influence but the author has built it into the narrative and world history.

The Star Wars galaxy has always been on its own plane of existence, sure, there was a game similar to chess but it was different enough to be believable.  To the best of my knowledge we never saw ying and yang symbols or heard the utterance of “Godspeed”.  And no one ever ploughed into a string of porch lights during a chase. 

A final note on these mental interruptions:  I often know if a movie is going too long if I mentally think, how much longer does this movie have?  Which I did, on several occasions when I was watching TLJ.

Space Battles

One of the scenes I greatly appreciated was the opening battle.  I appeared to me to have a good deal more strategy to it instead of: here’s a small target that will blow everything up if we hit it with a small blaster cannon.

I also enjoyed the nod to Rose’s sister and Leia simultaneously using the force.  I believe the yin and yang necklace was a hint to that.

Hope

While the other Star Wars movies have always been implicitly about hope. TLJ and Rogue One both discussed this more openly.  They are both grim movies compared to the typical tone of what I associate with a Star Wars film, but I like it because it helps the viewer understand just how large the stakes are and that there is no guarantee of success.

Overall

I am being harsh on this film and I know it.  For example, I love Marvel’s movies, not because they’re masterpieces, but because they are fun.

Star Wars has a special place in my heart which makes any little issue I have with the new films so much bigger than I would otherwise hold a movie to.  And at the end of the day, TLJ is still a good movie.  It’s beautifully done.  It has good messages.  It has characters I am growing attached to (thought I would have hoped for more Holdo than what we got in one film, I liked her character a lot).

And at the end of the day, even in the face of darkness, light still persists.

And that my friends is why this movie matters and why even my dissatisfaction doesn’t outweigh the whole.

Welcome to 2018

Happy New Year to each and every one of you!

I hope the holidays were fantastic and you all got to spend some quality time with your family and friends.  I know that I sure did.

I’ve been hard at work on my stories, hope to share them with you all soon!

JR

NaNoWriMo 2017

Project: Renegade

My project for NaNoWriMo this year was to work on the rewrite of Renegade, the novella I finished drafting in March of this year.  What had happened was that during my review of the first draft, I discovered that I liked the story better in a completely different POV and that it was a premise that worked far better as a full length novel.

My goal for this rewrite is in the range of 80K-100K words.

While I must confess I started the rewrite prior to November I did not hit the 50K goal for the month of November.

The Takeaway

I made a rather important discovery through all of this: rewrites do not work well for NaNoWriMo.  The entire goal of NaNo is to write a first draft in a month, which truly is a feat in and of itself, but a first draft lends itself to this time constraint, a rewrite does not for the following reasons:

  1. Copious note checking – I was constantly going back and forth between notes in several file locations to ensure I was keeping characters in, well… character.  I know a weak point in my first drafts is consistency as I’m discovering the characters and the plot.  I did not want to deal with the same quantity of this in a rewrite.
  2. See the above
  3. No really, see the above.

Worldbuilding Questions and Writing the Second Draft

I did run into a couple other world building issues that I needed to think about as well.  For instance: Is sitting upright on a flying griffin the best way to fly on a mythological creature?  Am I really using feet and inches as measurements in this completely made up world?

I think you can see why this is taking longer than I had hoped.  And while I know the second draft does not have to be perfect either, I would rather put in the hard work now so that I can get the story out there sooner than later.

In Summary

While I did not “win” NaNoWriMo this year, I did have a fairly reasonable average word count of 713 words per day (though probably closer to 500 given the extra words I added prior to November).

My NaNo lifetime count over the past two years has increased to over 90K.  And Renegade rewrite has come up to 21,000 words.

All in all, I’m a little disappointed, but I am pleased with what I did complete last month.