Dr. Strange: Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

dr-strange

Source: ComingSoon.net

MAGIC AND MARTIAL ARTS

This is a really interesting story.  In many ways it is the story that I was trying to write with my own story, I, Magi.  The creators manage to combine Magic with Martial Arts and the results come together surprisingly well.  Now, martial arts movies are a “guilty pleasure” of mine.  I know some of the earlier ones in the 70s and 80s aren’t really good narratively speaking and that the English dubbing is sometimes so awful as to have entered into the realm of cliche, but I love the action, the movement, and the artistry of the genre.  Recent entries, since the mid-90s have been much better and I feel they have come into their own thanks to great actors in the field.  I love (& have seen most of the practicing martial arts actors–male and female–and have enjoyed them immensely, but I have a personal fondness for Jackie Chan, mostly for the outtakes reel that he includes at the end of his movies).  There are two or three centerpiece fights in this movie and add in magic–and well, you have a strong action based movie.

If there is a downside, its that the movie is an origin story, so if you already know the origin of the hero, Dr. Stephen Strange, then you will have a pretty good clue to the first half of the movie.  Still, that is a minor complaint (similar to knowing the origin stories of heroes like Batman or Spider-man.)

A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR

This movie has a pretty good sense of humor as well.  From other reviewers, some of the jokes seemed to be hit or miss for them, but for me, I chuckled at the jokes, even when the set-up was telegraphed a mile away.  There were some truly laugh aloud moments, but the movie didn’t set out to be a comedy.  In many ways, the humor is much more sedate, more dry than say, the Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy.  The humor seems on par with Ant-Man.

COMIC BOOK MOVIE FATIGUE

Many reviewers seemed to be noting comic fatigue for friends who they took to see the movie and reported not like it.  I think that they fact that it is also as much of a martial arts movie as a “Marvel” movie also has something to with one’s enjoyment.  If you don’t like Martial Arts movies then chances are really good you aren’t going to like this movie as many of its set-ups and structure follow that genre and its conventions.

In many ways, the director and writers of this movie did what I wished Joss Whedon would have done (if possible based on studio notes) for Age of Ultron. They completely went to another genre–martial arts movies, just as the last two Captain America movies have done to a larger/lesser degree political thrillers.  Imagine if Age of Ultron had gone for a completely “horror” movie vibe with Ultron (and the twins) hunting/eliminating Avengers in pursuit of the “Vision” prototype.

I wonder if it is truly a case of comic book movie fatigue or rather a miscommunication of what genre to which this movie actually belongs.

IMPLICATIONS FOR MY WRITING

Fight scenes need clarity.  As I mentioned above, this is what I’d hoped I, Magi would be like, except that Magic is limited, so they (mages) have to rely on fighting skills to make up for the lack of magic available to them.  In the movie, however, I noticed that the fight scenes were clear.  I think that at times (especially when I try for action scenes) my own description breaks down and it is unclear who is where.

I intend to try to work on that and make might fight/action scenes more clear and more visual in the reader’s mind.

One is Not Enough, But Five is Too Many

motivational_quotes_bruce_lee

Found listed on Quotesgram.com

TWO MARKETS–JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT

So, I received a rejection this week on Here Be Monsters.  It stung particularly hard–not because it was a rejection or what was said in the rejection letter.  I was able to compartmentalize and objectively take the rejection in the spirit it was given: to help improve my writing for that specific market.  No, what stung was that I wanted to send it right back out, but I didn’t have a market ready for it to go to at the time it was rejected.  I had to wait (the WORST thing for me when I get a rejection) in order to send it out again.  That’s when I discovered a flaw with my submission process.  One market isn’t enough (& leads to the situation I just found myself in with HBM) and five (5) markets is too many.  Trying to decide where the story should go next, what market is open, how long it takes, do I have another market ready if this comes back too quickly, will this be out too long to keep if from going to this new anthology?  Questions like that make it too difficult to try to have a reserve of markets available to submit to after a rejection.  So, I’m going with just two (2) markets per story.  I submit to one and then have a backup market ready to go if the story is rejected.  Once I move on to the second market, I’ll then find two (2) more markets to submit to if it is rejected that second time.  This way, I will (mostly) have a market ready to send a story to immediately and I won’t feel so stung by a rejection–kinda’ hard to obsess about a rejection when you’re already hopeful that the next market will see the potential in your story.  As the quote above indicates–“adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own.”  I know obsessing about rejections doesn’t do me any good, so now I need to adapt a system that works for me and minimizes the time spent obsessing about a specific rejection when I should be getting the story back on the market.

WARLIGHT ACCEPTANCE (TENTATIVE)

This week hasn’t been all bad–I just found out that Carrol Fix, the editor behind the Visions series at Lillicat Publishers, has just ACCEPTED my short story entitled, WarLight!  It should be published in Visions VI: Galaxies!  It will be published fairly soon, the middle of November.  I’ll keep everyone posted on this exciting development and will blog about it again when the anthology is released.

CHILDE ROLAND ON SHORTLIST

Also, received an email letting me know that Childe Roland has been “shortlisted” for a market (that I will not name just yet).  Shortlisting means that it survived the first round of rejections and made it to the “short list” of potential stories.  This particular market will have a 2nd round of “voting” for stories and if it survives this test, it will be accepted for publication.  This is the 2nd story this year that has managed to make it to the shortlist (I, Magi made it earlier this year for a different market, but didn’t ultimately make the cut.)

So, I’m really concentrating hard on both the creative side of writing–I’ve finished two stories since summer, and on the business side of writing–refining my submission process and managing two publications (so far) this year!

Star Wars: The Key to the Force is Belief

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This week I find myself ruminating about the power of Belief.  I received my first rejection back for my story “Silence Will Fall.”  The story came out as well as I hoped.  It differed from my dream slightly (the ending), but matched the tone that I wanted.  I decided to submit it to a larger publication for SF, but alas, as always it seems, it came back fairly quickly.  Like, an earlier post this year, “The Well is Dry,” I find myself wondering what’s the use?  Publishing a story every 2-3 years is NOT the way to build a writing career.  Unlike that post, however, I find that I’m trying to take the lesson that Luke learns in the trilogy and apply it so as NOT to write another post like “The Well is Dry.”

STAR WARS

Luke, in Episode IV, gets a bum rap.  He gets tagged with the character traits of “whiny,” and “callous” and “annoying” in popular culture than he really should based on the movie.  The character is a product of his time and a teenager to boot, so it should come as no surprise that Luke acts like a (surprise!) a teenager from the 1970’s (yes, I know in the fiction, Luke comes from “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Away,” but Lucas’ model was the 1970’s–the fuzzy dice hanging from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon is a dead giveaway.)  Yet, Luke’s journey with the Force is the KEY to the character.  Luke goes from being able to sense the Force during his practice against the remote to actively using it in the battle against the Death Star.  They pivotal scene for me is when Luke switches off his targeting computer.  The power of Faith/Belief in something larger than yourself is on full display with this scene.  When Ben’s voice implores him to “use the Force,” his switching off the computer is an act that signifies that he can’t trust the information of the physical world to help him, but that in order to be successful, he MUST believe in the Force and use it to help guide him to the perfect time to fire in order to destroy the death star.  The movie even shows the result of blindly relying on technology when the first X-Wing’s trench run results in the “bomb’s just impacting on the surface.”   The Force is NECESSARY for the success of the mission–without it there can be no victory.

EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

“I don’t believe it.” (Luke)

“That is why you failed.” (Yoda)

This sums up the entire movie–the lack of faith.  Even though Luke is following his dream and learning more about the Force, he is living too much in the physical world.  He doesn’t have the same Faith in the Force.  Like any student, he must question his teacher and ask the why of things.  Now that he is learning about the Force at a deeper level, the need to know seems to override his instinctive reliance on the Force and listen to its rhythms.  Yoda, for instance, tells him that he will not need his weapons in the cave of the Dark Side, but Luke doesn’t listen.  The look on his face is actually one of incredulity and defiance.  What do you mean I won’t need my weapons; this place is dangerous, the look seems to say in one quick glance at Yoda.  What Yoda knows and Luke later discovers is that the cave is an illusion and is meant to show him what the Dark Side holds for Luke should Vader and the Emperor manage to turn him to the Dark Side.  Another instance where Luke doesn’t believe in the Force’s powers is when he rushes to save his friends before finishing his training.  Both Yoda and the spirit of Ben counsel Luke to stay and finish his training, but Luke ignores the  counsel of both of them who are far greater in tune with the Force than he is.

THE RETURN OF THE JEDI

If The Empire Strikes Back is a repudiation of the Force, then Return of the Jedi is a calm acceptance of the Force.  Han doubts Luke’s abilities (“you’re going to die here, you know,” as he tells Luke when the are on Jabba’s barge on the way to the Sarlacc pit.  Luke calmly tells Vader “that my father is truly dead,” when Vader prepares to bring him before the Emperor.  Even at the end, when the Emperor goads Luke to take up the Lightsaber and he has to fight Vader, he is able to stop himself before he becomes like Vader.  Even the resolution of the story rests, not on a massive fight scene to the death, but a son’s belief that there is still a good man wrapped in the evil shell that is Vader.  Luke’s agency in that scene is that he trusts in his intuition and insight into his father’s character.  Without that trust, without having faith and accepting the Force, even when it seems contrary to what is happening in the physical world, Luke would not have succeeded.

IMPLICATIONS FROM MY WRITING

This is something that I need to remember for my own writing.  The rejection letter came from the first market on Wed. (10/19).  Add to the fact that I was sick with a sinus infection or something, and it really seemed like hopeless.  After reflecting on the movie, I just have try and believe–even when it seems hopeless.  I just sent the story to a 2nd market today and I have a 3rd market ready to go should it also quickly come back this week.

I really believe that Silence Will Fall is one of my best stories and that eventually it will find a home.  I just have to my part and keep sending it out until it does.

May the Force Be With You, Always.

Author’s Note: Silence Will Fall

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Source: Wikipedia (The Rover–from the TV show The Prisoner)

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Source: David-Stimpson.blogspot.com

AUTHOR’S NOTE: SILENCE WILL FALL

So I finished Project Silence this morning and I’ve officially titled it, Silence Will Fall.  The title comes from a line in Dr. Who (New version with Matt Smith playing Dr. Who) where he must defeat an enemy known as The Silence.  That line stuck in my brain for some reason (as has the enemy’s name of The Silence which I may use/revisit in another story some time in the future.)

STORY’S GENESIS

The genesis of the story is both simple and complex.  Simply speaking, the story originated from a dream where I saw the protagonist at a dam defeating a Floater in a novel and unique way.  With a few minor tweaks here and there, I tried to capture both the feeling of the dream and the actual events as best I could in the story.  The more complex version the image of the Rover (see above illustration).  My family has always been into PBS, and while I don’t watch period shows like Downton Abbey, I’m my uncle would have as he was hugely into Masterpiece Theatre.  However, somewhere along the lines, I must have seen The Prisoner (on PBS as rerun most likely as I remember the bounding ball of the Rover and I remember it killing someone) as a child.  That image has also stuck with me although I don’t think I consciously thought about it.

However, after that dream, I wanted to write about a “ball of death,” and see if my protagonist could defeat it.  I knew I wanted the story to be post-apocalyptic because that’s what I saw when I dreamed, but I also didn’t want to create a huge backstory for the Floaters.  I thought about Independence Day 1 & 2 and other invasion movies that tried to explain the aliens and I didn’t want that for this story.  So I decided that they would just descend from space down to Earth as if space was simply water and they were traveling from world to world (reef to reef to continue the water metaphor) in search of food.  The key is they are hunters of noise.  Any noise attracts them, so for humans to survive, we would have to be silent (hence the title).

KEEP IT SIMPLE 

So I wanted to try to keep everything in this story simple.  Three parts (Beginning, Middle, End) and about a 1,000 words for each section.  I managed pretty well with the 1st and 3rd sections, but I needed to have some dialogue between characters as well as to have the protagonist discover a potential solution to the story’s problem.  The 2nd section clocks in approximately at 1,800 words–a little longer than I would have preferred, but if it works, so be it.

I wanted to finish this story quickly, but right after I finished the 1st section, I started Orientation at MTSU for their program.  I don’t seem to handle transitions well and when the weekend came, I was mentally exhausted.  I didn’t actually pick up the story again until two weeks after school started (so approximately four to five weeks elapsed between the 1st & 2nd sections), but once I picked it up again, it took about three weeks to finish it.

REVISION

I don’t intend to submit this story immediately, although I think that it is one of my better pieces.  I want to “put it on the shelf” for at least a month and then look over it and revise it.  I still may not submit it for a while though because I have a “backlog” of stories out.  I currently have (with Silence Will Fall) ten (10) unpublished stories, with five (5) stories currently out.  I don’t want to try to have more than 5 out at any one time because with school, it gets too hard to coordinate markets (finding ones that are open and are good, and then formatting the story(ies) for those markets all take time that I could use for schoolwork).

My hope is that I can just submit my “backlog” of stories and hold off submitting this piece until the first of the year (2017).  I do reserve the right to revise this plan at any time however.

NEXT UP

So I have started two stories.  I want to start a longer project–I’m leaning toward the 1st issue of a four issue (or 3 or 5 issue) comic book mini-series.  I’ve got about 3 or 4 options, but I’m still deciding which one I want to go with first.  I think I may work on one more short story while deciding, or I may start on the long one and then switch to the story once I get a rough draft done.  I’ll decide after I finish the schoolwork for this week–at least, that’s the plan.  We’ll see how it goes.

Until next time.

Errata

Source: http://www.l3s.de

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I have to apologize for not posting for these past few weeks.  I’m transitioning from 6th grade Language Arts teacher to a PhD Candidate student.  I’ve learned that transitions are hard for me.  New things require a lot of mental adjustment for me.  Between orientations & training, the first day of school, the first week of school, and relearning how to teach adult students vs child students have left me mentally exhausted over the weekend.  The Labor Day Weekend really helped to recharge and revitalize me.

WRITING

I started a project in the beginning of August (Project Silence), but haven’t worked on it since–until yesterday.  I had only intended to write a short amount (250 words–about 1 typed page), but I was able to pick up instantly where I left off.  I wrote 853 words (well over 3 pages) and I’m bumping against my (soft) limit of 1000 words.  My goal is to keep this project short & sweet, but I feel that it bodes well that I was able to dive right back in even with almost a month break in the middle of it.

SUBMITTING

What I have been doing over the intervening time is submitting my work.  I was looking at & finding 5-10 markets at a time, but that took too much time to research, especially once school started.  Over the past two weeks, I’ve discovered that finding 2-3 markets is better and then if those markets pass on the story, redoing the process with another 2-3 markets.  This is far more manageable–especially since my goal is to keep all of my projects out until they are sold.

Blindspot

I finished watching the entire 5 Season run of Stargate Atlantis via Amazon.  Last night, iTunes had a sale on the 1st season of Blindspot, so I decided to give it a try.  It has an actress that I like (she play Sif in Thor and Torres in The Last Stand.  I like her work, but the pilot was very rushed in terms of its plotting.  I think they are trying to imitate the same quick style of plotting that the Jason Bourne movies have, but right now it is too soon for me to tell if I’m going to like the series or not.  I’ll check back in later when I’m finished or deeper in and I’ll give an update on the show.

Well, that’s all I have time for this week–hopefully, I can get back to a weekly schedule for posting as that worked out well over the summer.  See you next time!

 

 

Jason Bourne (No Spoilers) Mini-Review and Writing Implications

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Source: JasonBournemovie.com

So, before I start, let me say that I’m a huge Jason Bourne fan.  That wasn’t always the case.  I’m a huge James Bond fan as well, starting with the Roger Moore Bond in the late ’70s and early 80’s.  I’ve seen every Bond movie (except 1) all the way through at least once (including the George Lazenby).  For the longest, I resisted watching the Bourne films, but there was a sale on the 3 movie Bluray boxed set that I couldn’t pass up.  I watched the first one and I’ve been hooked every since.  This one was the one I was most excited about all summer (hoping that it would top Bourne Ultimatum after the disappointing Bourne Legacy.)

Good, but not Excellent

This is a good, strong, solid movie, but it did not surpass Bourne Ultimatum in my opinion.    Rotten Tomatoes (as of current writing gives the score: 57% Critics & 68% Audience.  I would give it a B- (80-83) if I were grading it academically.   That would put it right on the edge of being above average.

It is an above average movie that is hampered by two significant story problems (and several other smaller problems) that I think hold it back from delivering on its promise.  The characters are well done and their lives seem to logically transition from the old Bourne trilogy to where they begin this movie.

Unlike Star Trek Beyond, I saw two glaring problems that were large enough to affect the entire movie (& that’s why I think the review scores are a little on the tepid side.)

Problem 1: Good Beginning, Weak Middle, Strong Ending

The movie starts with a strong beginning.  All the pieces “are in play” to use terminology from the movies.  And it doesn’t take long for the set-up to pay off and for the action and intrigue that are the lifeblood of the Bourne movies to start.  However, after the good beginning, the Middle of the story seems be a series of moves all designed to get all of the relevant players into one city (you know it from the trailers–but I won’t name it less it may be construed as a spoiler) for the Ending.  You can almost “see” all the pieces being moved around on the “board” to get this person to the city, that person to the city, these two people to the city, etc.  There’s also a “ripped from the headlines” subplot that wasn’t very well developed and might have made the story better had the filmmakers not included it.

Problem 2: Deja Vu’

For me, who has watched the boxed set of the Bourne Blurays multiple times, I felt like the filmmakers made Jason Bourne too similar to another movie in the trilogy.  I won’t name which one specifically as I feel that would definitely be too “spoilery.”  My contention is that many of the things that happen between that movie and this one are almost beat for beat identical (story-wise).

While there were similar elements shared by the original trilogy, each movie presented an original idea and expressed it originally.  This film presents an original idea, but presents it derivatively.  

Implications for my Writing

Without spoilers, the resolution of the story was great.  But even better was the denouement, or the wrap-up, of the movie.  That one scene seemed to turn the audience (the ones that I saw it with in my theater, at least) from neutral to somewhat positive about the movie.

What I learned from watching the audience’s reaction to the end of the movie is that a strong denouement can turn the audience to your side even if your overall structure isn’t the strongest (although it really should be).  The movie’s denouement comes directly from who Jason Bourne is as a character.  It might even be the movie’s THEME statement about what Jason stands for as character in that film world.

So, when I’m considering what my character’s inner conflict should be, I might always want to consider deciding at the same time what is my THEME and what might be a really unique and inventive way of showing that through the main character’s action in the denouement of the story.

 

 

Star Trek Beyond: Mini-Review (No Spoilers) & Implications

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Star Trek Beyond International Movie Poster from Shockya.com

Fun

So I saw the 3D Imax showing of Star Trek Beyond yesterday and I was really impressed by it.  Not to mince words: I loved it!  It was a fun movie and harkened back to the things that made Star Trek such a global phenomenon in the first place.  There are no spoilers in this mini-review as this is really more of “impressions” than a true review.  Currently, this is sitting at an 84% (critics) and 86% (audience) score on Rotten Tomatoes  and it is deserved.  On a quick side note: see how closely critics & audiences scores are when one side or the other doesn’t have an ax to grind (i.e., Batman v. Superman or Ghostbusters).

Good Plot, Action, & Characterization

Why are both critics and audiences liking this movie?  In short, it has a good plot, lots of action, and strong characterization.  Again, with no spoilers, the plot is strong.  It has a very well defined beginning, middle, and end.  The beginning reacquaints us with the characters and starts the problem.  The middle is tense and the end ratchets up the stakes in a totally believable way.  It follows “Fryetag’s Pyramid” perfectly–in a way I haven’t seen in a while.  The action is very well done, in fact, it is second only to Captain America: Civil War this year (so far).  I was very impressed with several of the set pieces in the movie.  If you can see this in IMAX 3D, do so!  It is well worth the extra cost for the action set pieces.  Finally, the characterization in the movie is also very well done.  One of the most fun things about both Star Wars and Star Trek is the interaction between the characters.  The script separates characters in a unique interesting way–it doesn’t stick with the “expected” pairings of characters and this allows us “fresh” perspectives on the various characters through their dialogue and actions.  I really like the way the dialogue especially was written and this is the first Star Trek where I feel all of the characterizations “match” completely with those of the original cast.

Rating

I give this one a solid A (a 95-98 if I was grading it academically).  Why so much higher than Rotten Tomatoes?  Remember, I’m a Sci-Fi/Fantasy reader and writer.  This movie was made for me–I’m its target audience.  Does it have problems–a few small ones, yes.  Some characters don’t get enough screen-time in my opinion, for one, but on the whole, this is a very enjoyable movie that has great action and great heart.  It is everything that I aspire to when I write (or what I’m looking for when I’m reading/watching genre works).

Implication for my Writing

So this is a new section that I thought I’d add to (most) every review/mini-review of works as I learn things that I can try to add into my (creative/writing) life.  One of the things that I noticed that I liked about this movie was the idea of inner conflict for the main characters. I’m currently stuck on “Project Storm.”  I’ve written the first scene and have an idea where to go for scene 3, but scene 2 just won’t come out right–and now I know why.  It’s the same reason that many of my characters are “ciphers.”  The protagonist for Project Storm has no inner conflict.  He has an outer conflict–to save his ship–but there is nothing inside him that he is struggling with.  Several of the characters in Star Trek Beyond have a clearly inner struggle that they are struggling with and must find their answers through course of the plot.

I think that I start drafting too soon.  I often know the plot (or most of it for short works).  I usually have a good grasp of the setting.  I don’t think that I often know what my main characters are struggling with when I begin the story.  I know what they want or what their problem is (sometimes), but I often can’t say why it matters to them.  I’m missing their internal motivations–why is escaping so important to my protagonist of Project Storm?  “To stay alive,” would be my answer to that question, but that’s not really an answer.  To be alive or to be free AND alive?  Those are two entirely different motivations and they change the entire story.  Scene 2 will play out much differently if the protagonist just wants to be ALIVE, or if he’s willing to die to stay FREE.  And I don’t know yet which one my protagonist would choose.  So, to my mind, I’ve started drafting without giving enough consideration to my character (& that to my mind is why I’m stuck!)

So, I’ve gone back and I’m trying to figure out what is the inner conflict that my characters are struggling with before I begin drafting to make the drafting process easier.