#writinglessons Serve the Tea

I watch a good amount of reality television when I have the time and I’m a big fan of some of the fabricated drama. Yes, I know it’s all created for the show and it isn’t as ‘real’ as the producers want me to believe. And yet, I curl up on my couch ready to be sucked into it all each season.

Why?

It’s all about the ‘tea’, if you ask me!

Continue reading “#writinglessons Serve the Tea”

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#writinglessons Um, Transformers The Last Knight

The weeks before Avengers Infinity War came out, my sons and I watched most of the movies in the Marvel Universe. Thor, Spiderman, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther. We were ready when we finally got to the Avengers flick.

After all that ‘studying’, I wanted some more action. Some more…franchise. And so, I opted for a goody I was familiar with–Transformers. Right now, I’m humming the theme song to the cartoon from the 80s, loll!

From the very start, it was clear the movie had an insane budget, I mean the opening sequence was nothing but a huge fighting scene from Arthurian times. Then, we were introduced to Merlin and things went left. Why? Merlin was trying to be funny. He really wasn’t funny and from that point, the more it went downhill.

As a writer, I’m always trying to learn from more experienced content creators out there. Hollywood movies are a goldmine to tap from and so despite my reservations, I chose to continue watching. I quickly realized that the movie had way too many ‘comedians’. There were all the transformer bots with their ‘witty ‘ commentary. Then there was the MC played by Mark Wahlberg, who always had something snappy to say. The little girl, who he called mini J-Lo, she’s apparently Latina and so must be saucy and comparable to Jennifer Lopez, I guess (my point being nothing other than the comment wasn’t funny). Oh, I better not forget the black guy who wasn’t funny either or the apparently Native American ‘Chief’ who came out of nowhere but played no role and didn’t need to be there.

Gosh, I started off talking about having too many comedians and have delved into having too many characters it seems. And in this case, both issues are connected in the movie. There were more characters talking and playing semi-important roles than necessary and I took that as a lesson to not repeat in my future books. Limit your story to essential characters. Remove those who add nothing to the plot.

As for the comedians, the lesson there was clear–unless your story is a comedy, rely on fewer funny characters. And actually make them funny. Too many cooks in the kitchen and all that. I don’t hold the Fast and the Furious franchise as an example of movie distinction but there’s a reason why the last movie did so well. (I watched that one again as well). The Tyrese character added a little bit of humor by being silly as did the character played by Ludacris. That was it. Light banter and chemistry, no full on jokes. Their story was cohesive and not disjointed with a bunch of irrelevant characters trying to outspoken each other.

Oh well, maybe I just miss the Transformer cartoons of my youth. They were straightforward — bad bots got crushed. That’s why I invested in the movie franchise, frankly. The Witwickis need to come back in the next installment. Now that was a funny family. That and Megan Fox.  Her replacement in the last movie was just fine but it would be nice to see the old gang back.

Gosh, I got distracted again.

I’ll end by saying my boys (both on 15) enjoyed all the explosions. Sadly, the story seemed disjointed and disconnected to me. I know the creative process is far from easy (boy, do I ever), and one additional lesson I’ve learned from this flick is you can’t distract consumers from the flaws in a story with…well, explosions.

#Writinglessons: Tomb Raider & the ‘status quo’

For writers, the first part of their book typically shows the main character’s ‘Status Quo’. By that, I mean a snapshot of what their life is like at the beginning of the story. From there, things typically go to hell or at least that’s what I aspire to do in my books.

I was recently watching the latest installment of Lara Croft–Tomb Raider starring Alicia Vikander–and the opening scene (which I’d equate to the opening scene and ‘Status Quo’ segment of a book) was an eye opening experience for me. No, not because the movie was an exquisite example of film making or storytelling, but simply because the filmmakers did something that I found instructive.


Now, if you are yet to watch the movie and don’t want it spoiled for you, I suggest you walk away right now and come back when you’ve watched the flick. If, however, you simply want to learn a storytelling technique, then forge ahead!

Back to what I learned. In the beginning of the movie, Lara Croft is in a boxing match. She faces a stronger, more skilled opponent and yet in the face of certain defeat, she doesn’t give in. She rather lose than capitulate.

The filmmakers used the status Quo segment of the story to highlight a major characteristic trait of hers. This stubbornness, or as her father later said to her in a video, “I know you don’t like being told what to do”-plays a major role in the decisions she makes later in the film. (Sort of).

For me, the lesson is to use the status Quo section to not only show the character’s life but to show who the character is. What makes them who they are. Plant the seed of an important part of their story that influences the plot later on. That should arguably help for the creation of a satisfying read for the reader.

As to whether I learned anything else from the movie, the answer is yeah. However, in my opinion, I learned what not to do. For instance, when a character does something that doesn’t make sense, expect a readers suspension of disbelief to abate. (I feel like I notice this more than anything in books and film because it is a problem that terrifies me as a writer.)

Specifically, Lara Croft boxes and when she gets to Hong Kong  (spoiler!) She is able to chase down a petty criminal and retrieve her stolen bag. Then the thief pulls out a switch knife and all of a sudden this boxing, bike racing (yeah, she lives for a thrill) chick is running away from some punks? She didn’t even try to put up a fight.

It didn’t jive well with me though I assume the filmmakers wanted to show an uncertain Lara Croft before she became the adventurer and kick ass Lara Croft fans expect. Maybe I’m just having a hard time adjusting to a Lara Croft that isn’t baddie Angelina Jolie.

Nah, the filmmakers didn’t realize that making Lara Croft scared one minute then able to swing herself off a crashing boat in the middle of a storm the next, would throw a viewer (me) out of the story.

Anyway, now I’m yearning to watch Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life. Maybe after I’ve re-watched John Wick and John Wick Chapter 2. I’ve got a beef shawarma and a bottle of Riesling. Yup, that’s what I’m about to do tonight!

writinglessons: The Good Fight

I spent a few days watching episodes of The Good Fight with my cousin recently. She’s pregnant and the baby had her sleep cycle on ridiculous, so scripted tv programs were a perfect way to bide the time.

She (my cousin) informed me that The Good Fight (TGF) was a spinoff of The Good Wife. Neither shows had ever been of interest to me and with an already stacked to-watch-list, I didn’t think I should add TGF to my schedule. Boy, am I happy I did.

the-good-fight

Source: Variety

The show is set in the city of Chicago and specifically in the offices of the city’s most prestigious all-Black law firm. You’d think it would be a show about black people and the crucial or tangential issues involving them.

Instead, and quite cleverly, the story is really about three female attorneys trying to find their way at the firm. Two of those attorneys are white (yes, I know it’d obvious from the poster above).

Their race, while sometimes important, is far from crucial to what makes the show so incredible. Its the complicated relationships between themselves and the characters they encounter that produces the tension, conflict and pleasure of this program.

Take Ygritte Maia (lady number 3 in the poster). The complexity for her lies in her relationship with her parents and particularly her father.

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#writinglessons: Wonder Woman

I recently watched the Wonder Woman movie and …

The movie was very simple – no complex plots to decipher – and it was just long enough. It had action, a tiny amount of romance (you could have missed it if you weren’t paying attention), a big bad and lots of chuckles brought on by interesting characters and situations.

What stuck out for me?

I like that at all times, Diana reacted as expected given the cultural difference between where she came from, Themyscira, and World War I Europe. Her home only has women and warrior women at that, so of course, she’d be confused by having to wear heels and not being allowed to engage in significant discourse simply because of her gender.

And that comment about secretaries?

 

hahaha! No, I won’t spoil it for ya.

That consistent behavior from the character made it easy to stay glued to the story and not get distracted by other aspects of the movie, such as wondering how exactly that truth lasso works. As a writer, I must remember that a character’s reactions must make sense given the surrounding circumstances. They must react to the world and the people around them the way we all expect them to unless there’s a good and digestible reason for that not to be the case. If not, we end up with readers who are unable to suspend their disbelief and enjoy the story.

For instance, a beta reader pointed out that the emotional reaction of one of my characters in The Paladin was shocking and that threw her out of the story.  I therefore had to go through the book and make sure to plant clues that help explain the outburst when it finally happens. Failure to help readers digest such intricate parts of a tale can lead to disappointment and disbelief later on. And when that happens, the reader is more apt to put down my book for another one which is no bueno.

Another part of the movie I liked was how (semi-spoiler alert!) there were at least two obvious big bads but at the end of the movie, they switched things up and it was good. I will say, I suspected the eventual big bad though – the benefit of being a sneaky writer who likes to surprise readers, hehe.

Anyway, this tactic kept viewers (like myself) guessing all the way to the end and that keeps their interest. Obscuring the big bad in the story is a tool I used in THE PURSUAL and it was so rewarding to have readers declare their shock. The surprises were not obvious but made sense. I can only hope I successfully repeat such a feat in another book in the future.

If you are wondering whether or not to go see Wonder Woman, I say do it. Get some popcorn, a fizzy drink and enjoy a good time.

Check out my other posts in the #writinglessons Series –

  1. #WritingLessons from Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens
  2. #WritingLessons from Nollywood
  3. #writinglessons from Independence Day Resurgence
  4. #writinglessons: Mike & Dave Need Dates
  5. #writinglessons: Star Trek Beyond

Till next time, (1)

#Writinglessons: Embarrassment – A Storytelling Device

Empire is one of the scripted television shows that I enjoy watching. Check out my post on the shows I indulged in last year. The show is a combination of several things I enjoy watching – it’s got a lot of drama, high levels of family conflict (I grew up watching Dallas with my mom in the ’80s), ratchet galore (uh, I watch LHH and the Real Housewives franchise) and fabulous clothes!

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Struggling with the sin of Passive Voice

Yup, that image describes me to a T right now. Well, not really because my hair is in a bun but you know what I mean.

I’m currently fighting against the sin of passive voice. Some instances escaped the last few edits and so here I am trying to eliminate them one by one.

Passive voice occurs in writing when the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb. It’s the opposite of active voice where the subject of the sentence performs the action or the verb. Continue reading “Struggling with the sin of Passive Voice”

#Editingtip: Kill Your Echoes

No matter how many words you know in the English language, you’re bound to use a handful over and over again. I’ve never been so aware of this as the hours tick down to the release of my first book, The Pursual. These words can become echoes in your story – words that jump off the page to the reader. And not in a good way. Some words will always disappear when a reader sees them. Think of he, she, says, said, a etc. Those words are used so often in the English language that they aren’t special anymore. We don’t notice them in a sentence most times.

Echoes are words that haven’t achieved that ‘disappearing’ status and thus stand out when you read them. When they stand out, they pull the reader from being in the story, making her blink and say to herself, “Didn’t he just use that word a few paragraphs ago?”

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Learning & Loving Story Archetypes

When author and writing guru (can I call her that) Becca Puglisi makes a recommendation, I daresay it’s a good idea to consider it. And that’s how I ended up at Sara LeTourneau’s website and Archetypes.com learning about character archetypes.

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#writinglessons: Mike & Dave Need Dates

Have you ever watched a movie that you’ve wanted to turn off once or twice but then you somehow managed to watch it to the end?

I’ve done that before. The first time (as far as I can recall) was Showgirls. Have you seen that movie? It’s so bad that it’s awesome! I even re-watched it with a friend some years ago.

Anyway enough of being sidetracked.

The last movie I watched but wanted to quit was Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates. It was bad. As in. Truly. Really. Honestly. Bad.
Image result for Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates