Sunday, January 28, 2007

Writing Lessons From the Sci Fi Channel

I just watched a very bad Sci Fi Original Movie called Gryphon. There are a few writing lessons to be drawn from this movie, mostly about what not to do. The movie is set in a fictional pseudo-medieval world with two warring kingdoms that were once one land. An evil wizard brings the ancient Gryphon to life in order to rule the world and the hiers to the kingdoms must work together to defeat him. Surprise! The heirs are male and female and they fall in love. This movie has every possible cliche every imagined. In fact, I think that every single line of dialogue is advancing some kind of cliche. Also, the special effects are cheap and cheesy, even by TV movie standards. But all that does not make up the lesson for today.

The acting is horrible. The dialogue is incredibly bad and melodramatic. Now what are the similarities to writing? There are two parts to unbelievable acting, the dialogue and the actors. The dialogue is your fault. If you write schlocky melodrama then you can only be saved by some supremely talented actors. Question: Who are the actors in your writing? Answer: Your reader plays all the parts. Readers invent character voices and looks and actions in their head. Some readers can take great writing and ruin it by not being able to visualize it in their head. Some can take terrible writing and turn it in to mental Shakespere.

The lesson here? I don't really know. However, this does shed some light on how very bad novels get published when some works of genius are overlooked. It also is a warning to all writers; you may be writing the next Really Bad Novel.

(By the way, to see melodrama done right, you must watch Invader Zim FOR I COMMAND IT!)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Number Two Goes to Work

Today was fun. Son number two has been bugging me for some time to go to work with me. I finally let him come in and taught him how to generate invoices, mark up a sale item, drive the forklift, pressure wash our trucks (OK, my truck), take inventory and assemble trench boxes. We even got to drive out and see some customers. He stayed with it until the end and I'm pretty proud of him.

As for son number one, he went out in the new backyard and cleaned up renovation debris for about two hours last weekend. No complaints and two bags full.

I thank the Lord daily for the incredible family I have.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Recipe For An Interesting New Year


1 Unsuspecting Family
Raised Rent
1 Better House
4 Children
Several Unexpected Renovation Delays
Good Friends
3 Good Friend's Children
1 Dog
2 Moving Trucks
Random Assortment of Too Much Stuff
Storage Unit
21 Days of Freezing Weather

In a large bowl, add unsuspecting family and suddenly introduce raised rent. Beat to a froth. Add better house when unsuspecting family is stiff and holds its peaks. Sprinkle in 4 children, one at a time, and let them become familiar with the mixture. Begin adding unexpected renovation delays (reserving one) and mix well, then remove children slowly and place in oversized Ziploc bag with all 3 good friend's children. Set aside first bowl. Add dog to bag and shake well. Let both mixtures stand after folding in several days of freezing weather. While mixtures are firming up, take first moving truck and insert a handful of good friends and as much of the assortment of too much stuff as will fit. Repeat. (Optional: scatter many scoops of too much stuff into other locations and collect up later for finished product.) Place too much stuff into storage unit and bake at 25 degrees for 7 days, add last unexpected renovation delay and bake at slightly colder temperature for 7 more days. Take second moving truck and any remaining good friends (there will be much fewer this time, that is normal) and remove too much stuff from storage unit. Place directly in better house. Open bag and separate children and dog with a fork. Run first mixture through a sieve and remove unsuspecting famliy, reunite with children and insert in better house. Garnish with 2 more days of freezing weather. Serve chilled.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Briar King

I just added The Briar King to my list of recommended or reviewed books on the right hand side of the blog. I've been meaning to do this for some time but never got around to it. Since I just bought The Charnel Prince, book two of the series, I thought I should finally officially post a review.

The Briar King is just all around excellent. It has all the heroes and villains and strange magics you need in epic fantasy. The royal family is beset by intrigue and treachery. A young noble knight must protect the realm. A ranger in the King's forest must unravel the secret of the awakening legendary Briar King and his unnatural herald. A headstrong princess escapes would be assassins and finds an unlikely protector and ally. Good stuff. The writing is crisp and moves along, the characterization is realistic and the dialogue just corny enough to be epic without being cheesy. Another good thing that the book's plot has going for it is that everyone has their own part in the tale, with their own bad guy to deal with. The different stories are loosely intertwined and do come together near the end before running off on their own again. I can't speak highly enough about Keyes and his ability to tell a great story.

Get it and read it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Faith Update

I sent a quick query email to the fiction director of Leading Edge magazine to see if 'Faith', which is technically an historical, would be appropriate to send to them. Hopefully they will take their time in answering because I still need to revise it.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Writing Lessons From Jack in the Box

A Fascinating Thing happened at Jack in the Box the other day. I sat down for lunch near a rather loud female type of young age. She went on about how difficult a job interview was for "a stinking $12 an hour job" and how the questions seemed like they were targeted at a corporate CEO. What's fascinating is not the whiny nature of this person and what that says about American youth. My interest is also not piqued by the singular perspective on today's job market. No, what is fascinating is the fact that a sniveling, ungrateful, future loser like her never seems to be the main character in a novel. I've read Clancy, Grisham, Koontz, and King and none of their main characters act or talk of think the way this person does.

Why? Most likely it's because she is simply not heroic. Who wants to read about her pedestrian travels through a world that she will always think is stacked against her. Now if there is change of some sort, which is what all stories lead to, then you might have something. But I think any reader would never make it past the first couple of pages. This character type does end up as a minor character and I remember a bit of writing advice from somewhere that states 'every minor character thinks they are the hero' but my bet is that she would not work out as that either.

Jack in the Box can be useful for a few things after all.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Robin of the Hood

I had some extra time yesterday and sat down at a Barnes and Noble to browse through Hood by Stephen Lawhead. After reading through the first several chapters I decided I couldn't wait and bought it. This book is outstanding. It's a retelling of the Robin Hood myth except this time the Prince of Thieves is a young Welsh nobleman, Sherwood Forest has been replaced by the wilderness between Cymru and England, and the bad guys are French. It just couldn't get any better.