Tag Archives: July

Prism Sentence

Results of several InMon prompts from BeKindRewrite! The prompts are: Prism Sentence, Afraid of the Light, and, to some extent, Autoimmobile.

“Any parting words?”

Octavian glared at the ceiling and did not reply. The Lightkeeper pulled the final strap tight around his arms, then stepped back, out of sight.

“For the crimes of dream-theft, subconscious manipulation, and personality violation, you are hereby sentenced to ten years in Prism.”

Ten years. That number was bad enough, but in Prism, time was a variable. Once released, most of its inmates claimed to have wandered for hundreds of years, being pulled from dreamscape to dreamscape, nightmare to nightmare. They would have no more stomach for dream-crimes. Most were afraid to go to sleep, afterwards, and had to be drugged.

Octavian closed his eyes. Soon, the motion would have no effect. There is no closing one’s eyes in a dream.

He heard the first switch flip, and on instinct, opened his eyes again. The doors beside him slid back and he could see the Prism, it’s sharp edges just catching the ambient light. It was such a small thing, about the size of a grapefruit.

The second switch ticked over, and he was bathed in fractured light.

At the sounding of the third switch, nothing happened. He lay there, waiting.

Nothing.

Had he been reprieved? Had his lawyer caught, last minute, some mistake made by the prosecution?

“Hey, you bastards? What’s going on?”

The rainbow flickered. He looked at the Prism again, and his whole body tensed. It wasn’t a prism anymore. It was a lamp, an old gas-lamp with a blue flame in it. He shuddered. The light frightened him.

Without thinking, he sat up. A faint memory crossed his mind. Hadn’t he been strapped down?

But then it was gone. The light flickered again. The lamp had changed into a globe dangling from a curving stalk. It pulsed, bright, dim, bright, dim, as if it were breathing.

Octavian could feel his grasp of time slipping. The lamp had changed. It had, hadn’t it?

A sound came from the darkness on beyond. He stood up and made his way towards it. The light followed, and as he moved it changed again. Now it was a brazier filled with glowing coals. He took a few more experimental steps and realized, to his horror, that he was not moving. When he walked, it was the space around him that moved by him and his inanimate companion.

Dawn, or something like it, broke across the horizon and he watched the first dreamscape unfold itself. He was in a city, streets wet and shining from a recent downpour, air heavy with the humidity. His light-fetter shifted with the surroundings, blending in as an unassuming electric street-lamp.

People, or at least he thought they might be people, shuffled to and fro, backs bowed, heads low, all hidden under layers of dark fabric. One of them bumped into him, mumbled something that might have been an apology, and stumbled on.

Octavian closed his eyes. Nothing changed.


 

Part 2: Light Reading

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Cybernetic Mystification

Not sure where that title came from, but I think I love it. BeKindRewrite, that probably needs to be an InMon prompt!

So, I am mystified by the critics of the cyborgs. Of all the things I never thought I would say…

If you like The Terminator, and Terminator 2, go see Terminator: Genisys. Go see it in the theaters. It is well worth your time. But whatever you do, DO NOT WATCH THE LATEST TRAILER. It spoils a great twist.

Terminator: Genisys screen shot

Terminator: Genisys screen shot

The critics are raking this film over the coals, even moreso than the abysmal Terminator 3, and Terminator: Salvation. While I grant that the film is not as solid as the first two installments in the franchise, I contend that it blows T3 and T4 completely out of the water, and yet it’s rating from the critics falls well below them. Fan ratings are more mixed, thankfully. My brother and I are not the only fans who enjoyed it.

I’ve heard/seen all sorts of complaints about this film, but here is my non-spoilerific assessment:

Despite what a lot of folks have said, I found the writing to be solid. The dialog is effective, the call-backs are tasteful (which is a very rare thing in sequels) and the plot, though convoluted, doesn’t fall apart any more than that of T1 and T2. In fact, I have some very interesting theories about what is actually going on in this film, and I expect to see more explained if any sequels see the light of day. The writers have given themselves some very intriguing options.

Before anyone who disagrees with me decides to launch grenades, hear me out (it’s amazing how fast a fan-base can fall to vicious infighting). From the very beginning, The Terminator was a paradox. (Spoiler for the original Terminator film): You have John, born well before his own father, who sends his father back in time to protect his mother from a cyborg that would not have been sent to kill her if he, John, had not been born in the first place (/T1 spoiler). Terminator: Genisys complicates the timeline, but it does not hand me anything less believable than the original paradox. Enjoying the Terminator films at all requires suspension of belief.

Being familiar with the first two films will, most definitely, contribute to one’s understanding/enjoyment of this one. I did not watch it, the first time around (yes, I plan to see it again in the theaters), with an eye to how it would strike a newcomer.  My guess is that it would be overwhelming. Even with my background of being very familiar with the 1st 2 films, the pace in the second-half was a bit hard to follow.

The call-backs and references to the earlier films are everywhere. I am VERY picky about call-backs in sequels. It is easy for them to feel forced, to be used as a crutch to prop up a weak copy. Done right, though, call backs can act as a touchstone for fans, or even an inside joke. This film, for the most part, uses them right. It reverences the first two films, but it manages not to rely on them. I like the way James Cameron puts it in his (The video contains SPOILERS!) Featurette endorsing the film:

I start to see things I recognize. It’s being very respectful of the first two films. And then, all the sudden, it just swerves, and now I’m going on a journey.

The writers paid attention to the first two films. I think they must even have loved them in order to get the feel of this one right. Terminator: Genisys, feels like it belongs with T2, it works as a continuation. It has a similar style of dialogue and humor. Where Genisys drops the ball is, in my opinion, in the pacing. There is so much crammed into this movie that by the time we reached the climax, we were still, mentally, lagging a few scenes back. Said climax is confusing, and fails, on some level, to work for me. However, it wasn’t enough to break the film. It’s several pegs below T2, in my mind, but that does not make it a bad film. It still works. I still enjoyed it, and I am still thinking about its implications.

I found the twists intelligent and interesting. I won’t go into them more, here, because spoilers, but I will allow spoilers in the comments, so if anyone wants to pick my brain, feel free.

Oh, and as a note, if you know anything about helicopters, you might want to shut your brain off when the whirlybirds show up in order to enjoy the scene. It’s fun, but it laughs in the face of physics.

The acting is effective. Reese was the least-right, in my mind, (a very different Reese from T1), but even he didn’t grate on my nerves. Watching how Arnold handles his role in this film is gratifying, (yay development!) and Emilia Clarke is very fun to watch. They managed, shockingly, not to sexually exploit her very much. The film focuses on her as a person rather than focusing on her physical attributes… yes, I am glaring at you, T3. In good Sarah-Connor fashion, she’s a person with agency, not an object. I’ve not seen Game of Thrones, so I’m not biased about Emilia one way or another.

So the long and the short is this: It’s a fun, non-cringe-worthy film. No, it’s not perfect, and no, it doesn’t measure up to its first two predecessors, but really, who was expecting that? It is smart enough to hold up under discussion, and I had a roaring good time when I went to see it with my brother (to whom I owe my introduction to the Terminator films). Also, lots of Dakka, but some very interesting non-dakka stuff goes on as well. Terminator: Genisys has earned a place on my dvd shelf, which is something T3 and T4 never even came close to doing. I finally feel like we have a trilogy of Terminator films, and I have some hope that any that come after this have a chance of also being good.

For those who are curious, my ratings of the franchise are as follows: T1: 9/10, T2: 9.5/10, T3: 3/10, TS: 5/10 (ok film, but NOT a Terminator film), TG: 8/10

I cannot vouch for the comments! Spoilers will be allowed. I do ask that spoilers be marked as such.

If you’re curious, here are some reviewers who have a similar opinion. I’ll add more as I find ones I like:

Angry Movie Review (Spoilers)

The Examiner

Bandit Incorporated (Despite what it says, a little spoilerific)

The Leisure Time Blog (a little spoilerific)

And, of course, James Cameron’s Featurette mentioned above.

For Fun

HISHE: Terminator – One of my favorite mashups ever

ERBoH: Robocop vs. Terminator  – be advised, this video contains some adult themes and foul language. But the Geek in me doesn’t care, it’s great!

Honest Trailers: Terminator 2: Judgement Day – contains spoilers (duh!)


That gun is loaded

Riza Hawkeye, from Fullmetal Alchemist by Arakawa Hiromu.

Nothing like a sniper to teach one gun safety. Riza Hawkeye, from Fullmetal Alchemist by Arakawa Hiromu.

Would you feel comfortable with someone waving around a gun they do not know is loaded? How do you feel about someone who is not a marksman doing trick shooting?

No, this is not a post about Gun Control or Firearm Safety, it is a post about writing.

No one in their right mind will deny the fact that stories humans tell have patterns. Some of these patterns, over time, become so common that they earn the title of “trope” or “cliché.”  You know some of them by sight, having seen them again and again. New ones appear every so often, Sometimes old ones go out of fashion, and sometimes they return and, for a little while, seem new again. Sometimes “new” tropes and clichés are actually old ones in disguise.

Let me pause a moment to define how I am using these terms:

Trope: a common or overused theme or device

Cliché: something that is so commonly used in books, stories, etc., that it is no longer effective

A trope can be a cliché, but not every trope has to be. “Cliché” is what happens when that loaded trope misfires and a character, scene, or entire story dies to the reader’s interest because of it. I know you know the feeling.

That moment, in a movie, where that thing that always happens, happens and you groan inside. For that moment in the story, if not for the whole of it, the writers have lost you. You are back in reality and rolling your eyes at the choices made in creating the film.

The story lies bleeding. Maybe it’s just a fleshwound. Maybe it is fatal. Either way, it could have been avoided.

So the question becomes: How can we, as writers, practice acceptable trope-safety?

Step 1: Awareness

We are all inundated with tropes. Whether they would arise from our minds independently, or whether we are simply fed them from early childhood, they are in us. Chances are the first thoughts coming out of your head when you sit down to write, are tropes. In order to avoid any unpleasantness later on, you need to learn to recognize them, see them for what they are.

Step 2: Acceptance

I am of the opinion that tropes are neither good nor bad. I know people who struggle to avoid them altogether. The truth is, that is a trope in itself and often creates meaningless mush. Tropes exist, and continue to exist, because they serve purposes, and often serve them well. Fearing them is counter-productive. You will never be able to write anything meaningful by avoiding them completely. If you don’t believe me, spend some time wandering around tvtropes.org*. There is a trope for everything.

*Warning. This website will eat your time like a huge time-eating sarlacc.

Step 3: Education

So we cannot avoid tropes. What, then, should we do with them to prevent accidental story mutilation?

Before a firearm can be either safely used, or safely discarded (whatever your preference) the person who has it must know what it is and think about what they want to do with it. The key is education and thought. Learn to recognize tropes, decide not to fear them, and then be deliberate in how you use them. The difference between effective use of a trope and a trope-turned-cliché can be very slight.

This sounds vague, I know, but I cannot tell anyone how to use tropes because there are so many and I have no idea how any writer, other than myself, wants to use them. I think there are a few strategies, though.

a. Turn the trope a little. Don’t change it entirely, but tweak it (and make sure you know if the tweaked trope is also trope). Think of this like a feint. Your audience gets something just different enough from what they expected to cause them to look at it more closely.

b. Flip it. This one is pretty common, so be careful. It is usually referred to as an inverted trope. Princess saves knight can work quite well, but inverted tropes are tropes, too, and can become cliché or, worse, feel forced.

c. Play it straight. Be very intentional. Know what you are doing, and have a good reason why. It is a little safer to do with with less-common tropes, but sometimes it’s fun to go with the “well-worn.” Just try to avoid doing this by accident because purposeless tropes easily become boring or even annoying.

d. Subvert it. If there is a trope you really don’t like, consider using it to make a point against itself. This is the ultimate bait-and-switch of storytelling. I don’t particularly like this strategy, though it is sometimes very effective. Just be careful not to make war on straw.

e. Leave it. If the story will work just as well if you abandon the trope, or move to a less-expected one, then maybe you should do that. While tropes can be fundamental to plot or character, often times they are just trappings. Trappings can matter a lot, but not all are of equal worth.

f. Beware the implications of your tropes. This isn’t so much a strategy as very good advice. If you write about a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, make sure you don’t miss the problematic undercurrents. Whether you play them straight or subvert them, being unaware of them can undermine whatever story you are trying to tell.

Ultimately, this post is me working through these questions for myself. I value input, and if this post has helped make you more aware of tropes, or helped you see new ways of dealing with them, then I am glad. Many times have I seen a perfectly good story or character fall prey to careless trope-use. If I can see it less in my own work, and less in the work of others, I will be very happy.

Do your part to reduce story mortality!

Practice Trope Safety:

Awareness, Acceptance, and Education.

.

I would like to dedicate this to BeKindRewrite. I promised her, long ago, that I would write this post.  She has written many good articles on this kind of thing, too. For starters, check this out: How to Be Original

Riza Hawkeye from the anime Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, adapted from the Fullmetal Alchemist manga by She's awesome with handguns, too. Riza Hawkeye from the anime Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, adapted from the Fullmetal Alchemist manga by Arakawa Hiromu.

She’s awesome with handguns, too. Riza Hawkeye from the anime “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, adapted from the Fullmetal Alchemist manga by Arakawa Hiromu.


Hiatus

I am going to take a break from the Internets for a while.  Starting tomorrow, I will be A.W.O.L. and seek me as you will, I shall not be found for a few weeks. When I return, posts will continue and I will reply to comments as usual.

What shall I be doing with my time, you ask?

1. Prayer and meditation. There is always the next step, and for a while there have been some things I need to work through before I know which step is next.

2. Writing. Seriously.

3. Silly things like financial planning, scheduling a termite inspection for my home and finding a dentist that doesn’t scare me… much.

4. Masks. I have six in the works and they plead to be finished.

5. Organizing things around my house. All those photographs and papers. I hate papers!

6. Reading. I have several borrowed books that need finishing… or starting.

7. Canada! I will post about that when I get back.

8. Canoeing or kayaking. Jubilare needs water travel. Manni, my dog, has lost his kayaking privileges. Not that I think he minds.

9. Yard work. My poor, poor yard.

10. Making fire-starters. Because, in my family, they are a necessity.

If any of you are in danger of being bored (which seems unlikely), I suggest checking out my links to the right, there.  Eyemaze is dangerous and addictive. TV Tropes can be useful for those of us who write, and amusing for everyone. Lackadaisy is… Lackadaisy.

Also, Hark a Vagrant! has amusing comics, some of which have to do with history and literature. Serious nerd-fodder. For those who like to know, the comic has some “mature content,” just as history and literature do.
This comic introduced me to people such as Emperor Norton! Seriously, look him up!

Au revior!


To the rain on my soul

Redbud with Drops
Photo by Jubilare

The drought that was June has been broken by rain. My home is greening, the trees can drink, and there are beads, brighter than silver, on the leaves.

I am grateful.

Waterpearl
photo by Jubilare

The day before yesterday, without visible reason or explanation, a drought in my soul was quenched as well.  I was doing a job for which I have no fondness and listening to music that I have heard many times before. As I wiped coal-dust from the 1800’s off fragile pages, I realized that my soul was singing and I did not know why. It certainly had nothing to do with the bitter estate-dispute I was cleaning.

I have been praying. For a while, my mind being what it is, I had found it difficult to pray, but in the past few weeks I have pushed on and forced myself to do it. In order to focus, which is difficult for me, I write most of my prayers out. I look at them now, and most are short little nothings, like touching base with a family-member in passing. A complaint here, a thank-you there, a rant or a statement of love. There are many requests for rain, both literal and metaphorical. They are the bare minimum.

Apparently God is willing to answer even small and pathetic attempts to seek Him. For that I am grateful. It is easy to take up the false assumption that only truly great and faithful people are answered by God. Jesus, of course, shows us differently by his behavior, but the false assumption still crops up like a weed to strangle and discourage us from making any effort. “What is the point of doing anything,” I ask myself, “if I can’t do anything worth doing?” “Why pray if I have nothing to say? Why try if I expect to fail?”

But He has placed the answer in my soul, and my soul sings it to me without words. I am unfaithful, and yet He does not abandon me. He seems to value even my attempts at fidelity.

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love! Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it…”  There are many lines in that hymn that speak to me at this time, but that one is the loudest.

My mother recently said, quite rightly in my experience, that spiritual things come in waves. Others have described mountains and valleys. It is clear, though, that walking with God is anything but monotonous.

I will continue to strive for my soul’s desire.  I know that I will stumble, wander off, get lost and get hurt, though I will try not to fail. I know, also, that I will never be abandoned.  As always, I feel that words fail to do justice to what I mean, but at least language allows me to release some of this fullness in praise.

“Here I raise my ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.”

Water Chain
Photo by Jubilare


The Bots of Insanity!

This photo belongs to the user Khaki on stockvault.net

After a dry spell, I have been targeted by three very interesting bots at once.

Successful Bot: I definitely wanted to construct a small comment in order to express gratitude to you for all of the amazing at this website.

Apart from the 5 subsequent advertizing links which follow your comment, you have indeed constructed a small comment! I think I may have to incorporate “the amazing” into my repertoire of appreciation.

Random Bot: I like what you guys are up also. Such intelligent work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my web site :). “Royalty has always been an unconscious but all-consuming goal of the European immigrant.” by Vine Deloria, Jr..

You have successfully convinced me that you are a legitimate commenter because your random quote has so much to do with the beautiful photograph of Grotto Falls on which you commented… as if your vagueness and your insistence that I am more than one person are not enough to inspire complete confidence.

Obvious Bot: ZM52x7 Once adsl over isdn blocked initial monarc buterfly fase barbarian world bupropion bells restraints diet syrup disappeared sweating reglan withdrawal agitation slumped ill choosing.

Set down the mangled thesaurus and step away with your hands up!


I’ll try not to do this often

I try to avoid re-blogging, but this was posted over at Wanderlust . As a writer, I find that this contains some good food for thought, and I thought I might as well post Pixar’s Emma Coats 22 guidelines for storytelling, which she apparently posted on Twitter.

Pixar’s 22 Guidelines:

01. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

02. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

03. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

04. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

05. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

06. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

07. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

08. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

09. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

I work in the opposite direction to some of these,  but most of the principles seem to apply anyway, especially those that pertain to the physical act of writing. It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that the doing is far more important than the thinking. Just because thought is an integral part of the process, does not mean that it is the most important part.


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