Friday, December 31, 2010

Goes to 11...

Wishing everyone a great new year - the year of Nigel Tufnel!*
May you have a minimal amount of the rain that must fall
and prosper in the ways you wish.
And a special thanks to all the fans I've gained in 2010!
*Reference to the film This Is Spinal Tap

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'm Off Down Santa Claus (& Black Pete) Lane...

A little "Festivus Mircale"* -
I learned via posts and chats on the internet that both
Lemonie and Andrea Jones coincidentally watched 
Christmas in Connecticut on the same day/night
that Bart and I showed it to Josiecat
who watched it for the first time. She loved it.

I'll be away for Xmas
and be gone for a little over a week.
Wishing everyone lots of joy!

*Okay, not really.  But go with it in the spirit of the season ;)

PS - If you don't know who Black Pete is... that's your holiday homework  ;)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Living or Dead Is Purely Coincidental...

You know that disclaimer at the beginning of books and the end of movies that runs something along the lines of:

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Well, besides the fact that I understand why such a disclaimer exists, I now even more so do.  I just Google'd (as they say) the names of the characters in the novel I'm working on... and YES, all three of them are real guys somewhere in the world - or had been.  (One of them is deceased, appropraitely for this book.)  One is off by a single letter.

I went on to try the main character of What If It's a Trick Question?  Yep.  There's some guys out there with HIS name, too.

If only it were possible to come up with a character name that is not an actual person!

Actually, it is possible.  I've done it.  Well, I have at least done so in the sense of defying the 'almighty' Google.  The main character of my two-books-finished-and-one-other-started-Quadrilogy doesn't show up.   And neither do the main two guys from my novel Midnight Chaser... except in the boy's case to show up from one of my own posts.  Then again...these stand-alone moninkers are probably the result of my purposeful desire to create unheard of names.  For example, the boy's last name comes from a Danish word that's not used as a surname.  And the Quadrilogy character's surname is derived from a mis-spoken line of someone my best friend Laughter once knew.

I would prefer to always invent 'pure' characters, of course.  But I've learned that's not really feasible in the least.  I had such fun trouble finding the names of the guys in this new book that I can't imagine having to literally (pun noted) create some that didn't previously exist and then still have character approval/confirmation on them!  And besides, utterly invented names do not always sound plausible.

By the way, the 'disclaimer' in Peter Pan's NeverWorld, since it does in fact deal with some real places & events and Michael is partially based on a real person, reads:

References to real locales, people or historical events are used fictitiously. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of imagination and any resemblance to actual locales, events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

And yes, "are products of imagination" refers to/includes Sir J.M. Barrie as well, but of course.

There's an interesting origin story in its own right attached to the famous "purely coincidental" disclaimer, as told by Wikipedia.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just Not Rite for Me

Well, I think I’m going to have go ahead and call the “Writing Ritual” experiment a failure. (See this post.) It certainly isn’t working the way it had been intended.

For one thing, part of the “Ritual” requires it to be dark outside. And while yes, that goes with the elements of the book, that cuts my available work time in half. Not so much a problem, it would seem, assuming that I often compose at night anyway? Well, limiting that portion of time to being able to tend to a candle and such with some privacy doesn’t always happen. Plus, I can’t seem to set a specific time on account of all the other events and stuff in my life. In other words, before I’d write when inspiration struck, where or whenever it struck. Thinking “I’ll remember that for later” or even writing the idea down for later just doesn’t work. By the time that candle-induced later arrives, the guys have shut up.

Also, the times that the cards do conspire for me, it’s not like there’s a great flood of material coming right then. Whereas I feel like I missed out on listening to the guys when THEY wanted to be relating their story.

I know that writing at a scheduled time works for many writers, so I thought I’d try it out. Since I didn’t have any trouble composing stories before without a “ritual” I guess I’m just not one of those for whom ‘forcing a time’ or ‘environment’ does any good.

Oh well.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dawn Treader a Little Off Course

Perhaps you know from previous posts how excited I had been to see next Narnia movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I adored the last two movies. Both The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, in my opinion, had been brought to the screen in amazing glory – even with the rewrites, additions and changes. For these tweaks only served to strengthen and smooth out the story C.S. Lewis had put down on the page. Very little had been sacrificed to allow the revisions… and what had been brought to the tale fit in as if it had always been there. In short, I thought the film managed to improve the original books while keeping them primarily intact.

I had to wait longer than I thought possible to see the new film (after filling with such joy when I saw the trailer back in June). For the reason of trying to coordinate a few friends who wanted to see it with me: Cassidy, Buttercup and Bart’s sister Lage. Sadly, Lage couldn’t make the time that worked out for the rest of us, but she knew that might happen and offered from the get-go to opt out if need be. So as it turned out, we saw it a week and day after its release.

I liked it. No, I didn’t love it. I liked it very much. It’s quite good. But no, I didn’t go over the moon as I had with the first two. Why? Oddly, the very thing which made me adore those is what killed the joy in Dawn Treader. Rewrites. This one proved quite heavy on the alterations. Sure, the others shifted scenes and incidents and added much – but all the while it never felt as if anything had been lost from the book. Here, it did in fact feel like parts of the story were noticeably missing. Why? Because they were. What I imagine must have been time/length constraints, many chunks of many scenes did not occur. And some parts vanished completely. And then we had the problem of scenario overlap. Lewis’s narrative takes us across the sea and the ship and characters stop at many islands along the way, looking for the lost Lords of Narnia (the friends/supporters of King Capsian’s father who had been exiled by the villainous Miraz when he stole the throne.) Well, in the movie about three or so of these islands had been combined into one (and again, other parts didn’t make it in at all.)

One of these removed sections can be found on The Lone Islands, the place of the slave traders. As I expected from the trailer, they punched up this scene with some action/fighting. But unlike the others, when the extra peppering of action had been sprinkled into the tale, it didn’t enhance but rather negate the original intention of the book. Yes, it’s true they had a bit of fighting to free themselves, but in the film it’s an all-out battle. I wouldn’t mind that – except the entire conversation between Bern, the ruler of the island, and Caspian is gone. In it, the young king shows his forceful nature. In a grand and tempered manner he berates the misuse of power and speaks of the importance of freedom for all peoples. [It’s really not as heavy handed as it sounds!] I’d been looking forward to hearing/seeing the harangue played out. Nope. The issue is resolved with that bigger battle only. I just didn’t think that right… it went against the character of Caspian and the message of the book.

Besides taking out entire chunks of the Magician Coriakin's island, they even rewrote the reason the Dufflepuds are invisible… so as to help bolster the major change implemented into this tale. In the movie, they must gather the seven swords of the seven lords and place them on Aslan’s Table near the edge of the world to prevent the “evil” green mist from the Dark Island from stealing all the light in Narnia. In the book, breaking the enchantment is only about the three sleeping Narnia Lords asleep at the table and although there is an island in/of darkness, the green mist and sword gathering does not exist. Apparently the quest to discover what happened to the lords didn’t seem enough for the filmmakers. So they restructured the story around this “evil mist” concept…throwing in a “save the villagers who where lost to it” along the way. I could have done without that addition, especially the stowaway little girl who wanted to see her mother again.

I won’t delineate all else that had been axed or rescripted, but suffice to say it had been way too much.

And yet… I liked the rewrite on its own. Truth be told, it really did work well (except for the rescue of the people and the little girl.) Keeping the dragon around, for instance, so as to fight the Sea Serpent… a wonderful thought. And nicely executed. Plus, the circumstances surrounding that revision caused a much more compelling and powerful redeeming of Eustace. Admittedly in Lewis’s book it could use a little more oomph to his character development. And since he goes on to be in Narnia and is one of its best heroes, this new story twist made that even more plausible. Here, the “overlap of scenes” made entire sense, then, and didn’t seem merely a time constraint.  Even Coriakin sending them on the sword-gathering quest had been a nice touch, giving him a little more reason to be there than just one of the adventures they had along the way.

Another tweak I especially enjoyed is the doorway home. I think it’s much better than what Lewis wrote.  It ties it to the entrance much more logically and had been very fun to watch. And yet – it’s not entirely different from Lewis.

I looked up who the writers were for each film. For The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe it had been: Ann Peacock, Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus, Andrew Adamson. Peacock dropped out for whatever reason and the other three penned Prince Caspian. But for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader it had been just McFeely and Markus from that group with newcomer Michael Petroni. I should note that Andrew Adamson had also directed the first two films, whereas Dawn Treader had been helmed by Michael Apted. Hmm. Had Adamson had been the one keeping the stories in check?

So, all in all, it’s okay. It’s a very good movie. I just wish it followed suit with the other two and kept closer to the book (while allowing rational additions and changes.) Assuming that they continue on with The Silver Chair, here’s hoping Adamson will return at least as a writer.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hammering Out Well, It Seems

Back in January, I mentioned Kenneth Branaugh's helming of the movie Thor.  In a quick recap, after a table turned in Hollywood and the focus came back onto Asgard, my interest piqued. 

To keep some sort of progress report, here's my thoughts given what's transpired since.  I'd seen some stills prior to the recently released trailer .  I neither loved nor hated the costumes and sets in the images.  But I guess it's only fair to say my feelings wobbled toward it not being quite right for my tastes, assuming I even know what those are when it comes to the character of Thor - not to mention while balancing the look of a comic book character.  Well, I must say I'm much more pleased than I thought I would be.  There's something about seeing the costumes and sets in motion, combined with the delightful and obligatory action sequences that casts aside the doubts I had.  From what I know off the top of my head of the Marvel comic, it appears that they are changing it up a bit. Which goes with the trend of revamping a comic when presented with a new adaptation, especially when changing media.  I like the simplicity of how this familiar scenario is presented amid all the pomp and circumstance.  It seems well played.  I really like the way the hammer zips back to his hand.  Nicely done.  At this point, I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spotlight on the Coming Shadows

I’m guessing that these two movies will spring forth a barrage of comparisons or mentions of Peter Pan and his shadow. And yes, I’ll be slightly irked about it when it happens. See the post: Shadow of a Doubt

I can’t decide if this movie will be good or not. It looks like a lot of fun, but it also borders on the bad kind of silly. I’m teetering. Plus, I’m not so very fond of the one actor in it... but I can overlook that if it turns out to be a good film.

And this one, which is forthcoming from DreamWorks Animation SKG, especially seems like there will be people who bring Peter Pan to mind:

Me and My Shadow The story of Shadow Stan, an extremely frustrated shadow who yearns for a dynamic life but happens to be stuck with Stanley Grubb, the world's most boring human. Finally pushed to the brink, Shadow Stan breaks the singular rule of the Shadow World ("They lead, we follow"), and takes control of Stanley!

Here’s a little tidbit for you -- given that the “living shadow” idea is so prevalent in Pan pop culture, I’m playing with the idea for the second book of NeverWorld.  It’s partially (probably half) written and one day I will get back to it. Although truth be told, I’m much more interested writing the third book. Why then isn’t that the second one? Among other factors, it’s a storyline time frame issue.

Well, here’s hoping we get some stories out of these two films.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Which Words Last as Last?

Since I don't really focus on Captain Hook much (since he's out of the picture for my purposes) I tend not to remember or notice as many details concerning him.

I did recently stumble across something to be curious about though - his last words.

What are they?  Well... that depends - are we going by the play or the book?

When it comes to being "canon" I go to the book first.  But that's only because when I expand on Pan, I'm doing so in novel form. 

In the play, he invokes his Alma Mater:  Floreat Etona
In the novel, having goaded Peter to kick him rather than stab him:
"Bad form,” he cried jeeringly, and went content to the crocodile.

Now since the book came second, one must think that Barrie consciously changed his mind as to what the pirate lord said.  I'd imagine that must be the case, since in the novel the whole good/bad form is played up to a large degree, especially concerning Hook.

However, when checking into the last time he revised his own story (a la his unused screenplay) Barrie again uses Floreat Etona.  As a second however, though, it is not written with quotes around it as are the other bits of dialogue (on the screen, as it would have been a silent movie.)  Thus, we can see that it is definitely important that Hook be associated with his school as he comes to his end.

So perhaps we can reconcile this non-threatening incongruity in this way:  Hook said "Bad form" and thought Floreat Etona.

Also interesting to note the contrast of what Peter Pan said as his last words when he thought he faced death:
To die will be an awfully big adventure.
I say interesting because either way as per Hook's last words, he's being childish.  That is... with his Alma Mater quote one can argue he's longing for his boyhood school days.  With his other words he's reduced to mocking his foe, as a child might do.  Pan, on the other hand, seems to face it bravely and with a very mature philosophical spin.  In Hook's defense regarding the screenplay:  He does walk the plank with commendable bravery (while thinking of his Eton days) and dives straight into the crocodile's mouth.

Just me over-analyzing again. In either case, at least ol' Pirate James knew that he'd be speaking his last words and could choose them. Someone else I'm thinking of didn't have that luxury!  What also comes to mind is that if we're dealing with the alternate timeline of the Barrie universe, a la the Neverland of author Andrea Jones, what would Hook's final utterance be then? (Just fun to think about - this is in no way meant as any kind of indication as to upcoming events in her books.)

And that's the last word on the last words.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Peter Pan in Kensington Broadway?

Don't worry (that is, if the title makes you worried) as of right now such a thing is not going to happen.  But I came across this article on the 'net and apparently it almost did.

Colin Meloy
The Decemberists regularly perform with stage props and weave complicated storylines into their songs. Their 2009 album The Hazards of Love was a rock opera that they performed in full on tour. You’re never going to believe this, but frontman Colin Meloy grew up doing theater. For years, talk has swirled about Meloy writing a Broadway musical; in 2007, he told The Portland Mercury, “There was one that nearly worked out, but it fell through. It was based on Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, which is the prequel to Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.”

Link to page.

 Quite interesting indeed.  I'm not so sure it wouldn't work, actually.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thrice Upon an Epic...

Lately I’ve heard/seen the word “epic.”

The three best (okay, probably only) examples are:

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - with the tagline An epic of epic epicness.

Epic Mickey - a video game adventure for the famous mouse allegedly grand enough for the title and supposedly finally doing him some kind of justice among a myriad of Mickey games.

And, well, sort of, the movie of The Smurfs. NOT the upcoming one, but the one which had been tinkered out by two guys well before the 50th Anniversary a couple or so years back. Quickly: They over-analyzed and studied all comics, TV episodes and all things Smurf info to hammer out a logical (since it otherwise is a sea of seemingly contradictory and/or incomplete info [for instance, we don’t even know what Gargamel wants with the Smurfs]) storyline that had been meant to span a three film arc and thus had been described as, yes, an epic. (It’s too bad we aren’t getting these guys’ tale and instead get a rehash of Enchanted.)

Anyway, it got me thinking about the word “epic.” Sure, I/we know what it means. But do we know the actual definition? Moreover, are these uses then warranted? Or are they just touting the word to make themselves seem more grand?

Another way of saying it... do words, too, as well as characters, sometimes reach beyond the scope of themselves in everyday use? Have we put the word “epic” for example, on a level higher than itself? I mean, not everything can be an epic... and when something is described as one, the expectation is for something pretty magnificent.

So, knowing our tendency to be over-superalitve, as well as my penchant for etymology and true definitions, I decided to go back to the ground roots of this word.

Note that such descriptions as “impressively great” are in fact part of the meaning. So it’s no wonder it became a lofty description.

As it turns out, I would classify each example above as worthy.

Yes, I realize that Scott Pilgrim is making light of the word in that tagline, perhaps even bringing my point across in and of itself. But truly, the film does fit this mold: centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style. There's definitely a series of achievements going on... and the very world the characters live in has a level of heightened reality

I can attest to Epic Mickey as worthy as I have gotten through the game once already as a “good mouse” [It can be played more than once as per the choices in gameplay one makes affect the outcome of the game] and it does in fact feel very long, as per the definition. Just the opening animation/cut scene along brings with it a sense of the majestic. It’s one of those games that seems like the end is nigh... and then a barrage of new and extra-cool stuff piles on for more adventure. And Mickey, if anything, turns into quite the hero on a variety of almost never-ending quests.  Even more interesting, it brings to light a lesser known and unintentionally "lost" character of Walt Disney himself - his first creation, Oswald the Rabbit.  Truly an epic feel.

I cannot for sure say how the abandoned Smurf trilogy would have played out, but since it had been compared to The Lord of the Rings in terms of its complexity and scope, one can only assume.  And I have to give them credit for undertaking such an endeavor as bringing focus and concrete answers to the deceptively simple creation of Peyo.

So, I’m happy to say that these epics haven’t abused the word.

And it’s not just that we often over-build up words. We deteriorate them, too, such as “awesome.” That’s bantered about constantly to describe everything from a job promotion to the taste of French Fries. “Awesome” has lost a bit of its luster and original meaning... as in the Grand Canyon is awesome, not necessarily a cool TV ad or a cup of coffee.

I just think too much about such things, I guess...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why Do They Fall for It?

What’s with Disney disposing of their villains via having them fall to their death?

Sorry for the spoiler if it is one, but Bart and I saw Tangled not too long ago and it hit me.
It happens way too often in Disney’s flicks.

Is it a way to be a little merciful (so as not to show the hero actually kill the baddie)? No, that’s been done.

Is it a lack of creativity? Possibly, but that assessment is rather harsh... especially given the satisfying explanation as to why it’s done in the movie UP (Pixar) in the DVD “extra features.”  Also, it's not as if they don't have other ways to kill the villain in other movies (although arguably some of those had already been established as per the story from which they'd been adapted.)

Is it that fitting of a comeuppance? Perhaps often (as it is in Tangled) but certainly not every instance.

It just seems rather wearisome. It reminds me of the alien, from the Alien movies.
Is there seriously no other way to get rid of them than to blow them out an airlock?

I’m hoping I never have to have a villain fall to his or her death.  At least I know in the current book that's a definite impossibilty!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chapter the None

Who says there are rules on how to write a book?

Okay, there probably actually are a few...

...but I'm thinking I'm going to blur one of the basics while writing this new novel.

Usually my chapters are about 10-15 pages long.  There are always exceptions, of course, as per the needs of the story.  Andy's adventure has chapters which are only 1-5 pages long.  And though Jeremy generally follows the 10-15, he's got some bits of his story which are much longer.  So it's not like I've not changed up this aspect of my novels before.  But it seems I'm going to be even a little bolder for this book.

I'd been thinking about the scene I'm working on.  It's just about finished with it.  But if so, then I am left with just a chapter of about 2 pages.  True, I've had that before.  But as I ponder it further, there's just something about this novel that isn't fitting into the mold of "chapters."  I'm realizing that the perspective of the characters don't lend themselves to "chunks of time."  Rather they're more in an amorphous and free-flowing river of it.

Thus, I just might forgo the idea of "chapter" altogether.  How about that?  A novel with no chapters.  Breaks - yes.  The standard  chapter - no.  If you're asking "Would not each break constitute a chapter, then?"  I respond:  Not how I'm thinking of it.  There will be no headers/titles to each one.  There will be no numerical progression.  Just a stream of breaks and chunks of text with no minimum or maximum length, as per the mind-set and interactions of main characters.  When you're somewhat outside of Time, it would definitely appear and behave unconventially.  Therefore, why not reflect that in the writing of it?

It might be "fun" and/or useful for the reader, too.  S/he can create personal stopping-points.

As I've said before - every novel is different.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Names Beyond the Book

Isn't it wonderful how sometimes a character becomes so ingrained into (pop) culture that its very name becomes a meaning or condition to describe a real life person? For instance: Scrooge. As in “Don’t be a Scrooge!” Other examples are Walter Mitty, Don Juan, Sherlock Holmes, Romeo and Simon Legree. Then there are the occasions where the character’s name is modified a bit to create a new word: Quixotic. Or adding a word in conjunction: A Mickey Mouse Operation.  And, of course, Peter Pan Syndrome.  Which, of course, brought on this post.

What author wouldn’t want their character immortalized beyond the scope of the page?

Then I realized something.

In every instance I can think of the moniker is used pejoratively.

You’re not supposed to like being called Quixotic (impractical, impulsive and rashly unpredictable).  If you’re a Walter Mitty you’re got your head in the clouds. “No sh**, Sherlock!” is said to someone who’s being an idiot at the moment.

Are there any used which do not “bad mouth” someone? Even “Romeo” has come to mean someone who is overly-sappy or lovey to the point of nausea.

It might not be so wonderful, then, for the author. Then again, it’s no less grand that the reach of a character’s popularity moves beyond mere story.

So now I’m torn between wanting it to happen to one of my creations and not.