Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tron-tastic

I went to see Tron Legacy today and it was about four thousand times better than I thought it would be. This was surprising because Hollywood has a way of resurrecting old, good things and remaking them into new, bad things.

This isn't to say the original Tron was top-notch. We're talking about a technological movie from the early eighties. How good can that really be? But after seeing Legacy in 3D at IMAX, let's just say I was impressed. Big time. Normally, I don't recommend movies. But, this one was different.

Now, I've already mentioned in an old post that you should never begin writing after having watched a movie and I am not encouraging that here!  What I am encouraging is for you to see what a story -- a good story -- is all about, and how it might just help you with your writing too.

  • It is Transformational: This story was all about THE story. You know, kid loses parents, finds out he has special gift/powers to help this other "world" from being destroyed, overtaken, etc, gains understanding and friends, and ... our hero transforms: he is a new creation and has a new meaning in life. Moral: This story concept, however many times repeated, if done right, makes a great story. (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings.)

  • It is Tribulation: This is where the hero has to learn and adapt in order to become a better person. And it's where the movie did a decent job. Sam Flynn has to immediately adapt in order to survive, mesh into a new world, and save his father. Our unlikely hero also has to, ultimately, risk losing him too. All of these are elements needed for a good story. And they're in this movie.

  • It is Triumphant: I won't tell you how the story ends, but I will say that the movie shows battles, gives the characters goals to reach and hurdles to jump over in order to gain victory. That's the essence of a great story.

  • It is Truthful: I don't mean in the sense of actual Truth. This movie is as far-fetched as me making it into the grid through my old Atari game console. But a timeless move transcends eras. We get truth here; we see the battle between good and evil, free will and the desire for perfection. (This is where the Jesus theme sort of pops into the story, but that's a whole different kind of grid).

  • It is Tripled: So, it's true that most movies -- ones that do well--come in threes. I'm expecting Legacy to have a follow up, since there was major room for various interpretations in the end. And if it is anything like the second one, I am all for it.
Maybe it was because I hadn't seen a movie in ages, or was getting over an illness. Or maybe it was because the movie brought back fond memories of my youth. Regardless, glowing lights in a digital world filled with motorcycles, sweet fight moves and a decent dance track was something that left me wanting more and wondering: How old will Jeff Bridges be in the next film?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sickness Can Improve Your Writing

Sorry for the delay in posts. I have been sick with the flu, and am still recovering. But, I finally feel like I can sit up at the computer without falling over ... hence, this blog post.

Even though lying down was my main goal through this ordeal, I had time to think about the benefits of being sick. I know. There aren't many. But, trying to be positive does come in handy because I came up with several things to improve my writing skills all whilst wrapped in blankets and coughing my lungs out.

Here's how your flu symptoms can help you:
  • Fever: I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but some fantastic ideas for stories come to me via a fever. Maybe it's the delirium or that parts of the brain come alive when they are on fire, but I came up with a great idea for a book, and I may even write it ... now, if only I could remember what it was.
  • Achy Body: Ever wondered how to describe your heroine's heartache and pain? Or your protagonists climactic dual with his evil nemesis? Try explaining the pain that comes with an achy body and put them in your text. There are words you could use to describe it that you haven't learned yet! Bust out a thesaurus, and get busy describing. It's great for the vocab and great for describing to the doc how you truly feel.
  • Chills: You know how you're supposed to describe that killer snow scene, filled with cold cliffs and icy roads, but it's in the middle of summer at your house? Well, chills are great for not only cooling you off but reminding you how to explain the climate. And what about chills in winter? Well, if you want to know what the antarctic feels like, then there you go. A great setting for your newest thriller!
  • Cough: So, having a cough is lame. Yes, if you're lucky, you may acquire a six-pack over time. The down side is you won't get to appreciate it when you're well because your significant other will have smothered you with a pillow for some peace and quiet. But, a cough is beneficial. How? You learn the difference between empty and dry ones to productive ones, or even simple tickle-type ones. It's good for your new mystery-- the one where the killer's cough implicates himself.
  • Bloodshot Eyes/pink eye: The only benefit? You'll look like a vampire. And tell me, who doesn't want this trendy look?
So, think of your cold as a good thing. You'll learn tons about your future characters emotions and feelings and also gain some scenery and setting for your new work. It's learning to be thankful in all things. And not to mention, Nyquil is an awfully nice friend to sit with you through those long nights.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

“A Cup of Blah To Go, Please.”

I was in Starbucks yesterday and over heard a man talking about a book he’s writing. His subject? How we all view things in different perspectives. I was immediately interested, not just because I like hearing about fellow writers and their material, but because he seemed so confident about his subject. I wondered what he meant by it.

He went on to explain, to the woman listening, that “For example, you may look at your cup and see it as a nice drink, or whatever. But, when I look at it, I think of all the resources required to make it, and how it has negatively impacted our environment, etc.” You get the idea.

I wanted to dump my drink onto his head and ask, “Aren't you grateful for anything?”

Normally, these things don’t bother me. I respect people’s opinion -- even if I don’t agree with it. This is what freedom is all about. But, what he was “trying” to explain -- or even defend -- wasn’t rational.

Here he was in a peaceful establishment, one filled with people so blessed --including himself-- that they could go in and buy a days’ worth of groceries for a family of three on ONE cup of coffee, plug his laptop into an outlet that sucked gobs of electricity, all the while sniffing that the very place he was in and enjoying was bent on putting our earth in the dump.

Really? Besides, doesn’t Starbucks use recycled materials for their paper cups already? How “green” does one have to be to be considered green?

And if he was so concerned about Starbuck’s adding emissions to the air, and waste into the earth, what was he doing there anyway? He should be at home, in the dark and the cold (because he isn’t using heat or electricity) writing by hand (no PC to plug in) and by candlelight, using a ceramic mug he can wash over and over. And then maybe I’d believe his words.

What’s worse? His subject wasn’t a new concept. Any editor would roll their eyes and say “Been there done that. Pass” We have enough literature and propaganda about keeping the earth green. I have enough commercials, paper advertisements, reusable bags and recycling cans to remind me constantly to keep the earth green. I keep my thermostat at 67 in the winter (or lower) recycle every glass or plastic item I use in the house, turn off electricity, and still … someone else wants to write about how my paper cup is ruining the world?

I’m not buying it. His words or the book. Until green people truly insist on being green--not just through driving a Prius or using recyclable shopping bags -- then I just DON’T BUY their unsubstantiated words. I do my part, but I am also grateful for everything I have right now: the freedom to drink at a cafĂ© without wondering if a suicide bomber will come in, to peruse the internet without restriction, to write what I feel without being thrown in jail, and drink my coffee with thanksgiving and joy… before the price of coffee goes up again.

Remember these three things: 1. Actions always speak louder than words. 2. Real writers don't "write" in Starbucks. And 3. most writers know to write something more original ... like "How Our Over-greening the World Made Us Wish We'd Never Listened to Al Gore."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Three Steps to a Great Story

Today we have another fabulous guest post by author Lori Sinclair, writing about her experiences for our column "Good Things Come from Threes." Enjoy!

Good Things Come From Threes - Three Steps to a Great Story

There is something almost magical about the number three. It has captured our attention as few other numbers have. From the time we are children and learn nursery rhymes such as Three Blind Mice, and The Three Little Pigs, to our adulthood when we are mesmerized by Larry, Curly, and Moe, or the latest trilogy at the box office, the number three is always a guiding presence. We hang out together like the Three Musketeers, and when someone is not welcome they feel like a third wheel.

Why is this?

I took a screenwriting class a few years ago. They taught that everything should be written in a strict Three-Act-Structure. This includes novels, short stories, screenplays, and even magazine and newspaper articles. For any story to be complete it has to have a very distinctive beginning, middle, and an end. The instructor felt that this was somehow connected to the Biblical meaning of the number three. It means “complete”, “entire”, or “finished”. Like a three leaf clover, God has three parts: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In all three parts, He is complete. We are somehow programmed or engrained that when the third piece of something comes around, then we are done. And, so it is with our writing as well.

The Beginning: An introduction. This should comprise 25% of your writing, or word allotment. This is where you set up your story, your characters, or your point of view for articles. To quote Kevin Costner from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, “and so it begins.”

The Middle: The biggest part of your writing. Like middle age, it is where all of the problems come in. This is where your conflict and drama takes place. It should comprise 50% of your writing, and will be the most intense. Throughout this time your readers should be on the edge of their seats for suspense pieces, make all of your arguments for documentaries and articles, or fall deeply and passionately in love for you romantics out there.

The End: Your conclusion. This will be the remaining 25% of your storyline. This is where you will tie up all of your loose ends. All of your arguments or points should be made, and the story brought to its natural conclusion. If you have a “happily ever after” ending, this is where that will be brought forth. For mysteries or thrillers, here you will reveal your culprits, or make your plot twists that keep everyone entranced. Ideally these will be in the last few pages of your story, but that depends on the ebb and flow of your writing. You also do not want a reader to be able to pick up your book from the shelf, flip to the very last page, and see how it all comes out. Waiting that long can drag out the suspense for too long. You run the risk of losing your reader’s attention. Keep your pace consistent with the story.

Of course, these are just estimates, but you get the point. Without all of these three pieces together, your writing will be incomplete at least, muddled and confused at worst.

“Good things come from threes” is a great theme for any writer. Breaking it down even more, with good plotting and writing, publication will follow, making the cycle complete.

Happy Writing!

Loretta Sinclair











Check out Lori Sinclair's latest Christmas book with a free copy!

Ho, Ho, Hey! What Just Happened?

Holiday enlightenment from an overworked Santa and his testy crew.

Sinclair Publishing, © 2010