#writinglessons Using parallels in storytelling

I’m sure a more sophisticated writer has a fancy definition for what I’m about to expound upon, but I enjoy a good box of wine so … yeah.

Parallels are where a particular story theme is repeated in more than one character’s story arc. In my book, The Paladin (book 2 of The Nome Chronicles series), my two main characters experienced a sense of betrayal from the ‘fathers’ in their life. In the case of Neith, she learned her father took a gamble that put her life at risk. Invier was equally betrayed by Karax, who revealed he was using Invier for his devious designs.

I was reminded of the importance of parallels as a storytelling technique when I watched Season 3 of the Showtime series, Billions.

Billions TV show on Showtime: season 3 ratings (cancel renew season 4?)

This show is a favorite of mine. Its an interesting look into the minds of the super rich and their quest to maintain their dominion over others.

One recurring theme in Season 3 was the conflict between father and son. A main character, Chuck, is at odds with his father for most of the season. He even goes as far as to take a stance simply to change the power dynamic in their relationship. Similarly, Axe and Taylor constantly butt heads in an effort to steer the firm.

From left: Condola Rashad as Kate Sacker, Toby Leonard Moore as Bryan Connerty and Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades in season one of the TV series "Billions." The television show premieres Sunday, Jan. 17, at 10 p.m. EST.  Jeff Neumann/Showtime via AP

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Another theme is ‘parricide’, that is the act of a child murdering his/her parent. In Billions, Chuck gets hammered by not one but two of his proverbial children. That plot point is mirrored in Axe’s story-line when Taylor makes a significant move against him.

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Now, why is any of this important?

Parallel stories allow for a richer reveal of a character’s flaws and needs. It’s a way of making a story more complex and thereby interesting. By examining the parallels in two character’s lives, the author also highlights the similarities between two distinct individuals. It can give your reader an aha moment of sorts when they recognize a particular failing or issue in the life of a character as one in their own life. Or that of someone they know.

That’s what author’s do – shine a light on the human condition by using their characters to  to tell readers a great story. Using parallel narratives is a great way to do that and it’s something I hope to use to good effect.

Got an example of parallel storytelling in a book of yours or someone else’s? Feel free to share in the comments. I’d like to know.

 

Till next time includes LM

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#writinglessons Game of Thrones Season 7

I’m re-watching season 7 of Game of thrones and it’s been interesting to analyze the story as a writer instead of as the average consumer enjoying some great content.

Warning, if you are yet right watch this particular season, please don’t let me spoil it for you. Come back and read this once you’ve indulged. Continue reading “#writinglessons Game of Thrones Season 7”

#writinglessons What To Do When You Don’t Know How Your Story Ends

I’m working on two books at the moment but one of them has been giving me a hard time. ISSUE: I have no clue how the book will end! Continue reading “#writinglessons What To Do When You Don’t Know How Your Story Ends”

#writinglessons: Hotel Artemis

(Caution: Long post ahead!)

Image result for hotel artemis

I just watched Hotel Artemis and was loving the movie right until the ending. Have you ever seen a movie where it’s obvious the producers/directors just wanted to round up the story arcs as quickly and neatly as possible? Well that’s what this ending felt like and it left me…slightly disappointed.

Anyway, let me get back to that ending I mentioned by discussing the rest of the story.

Ready? Please look away if you don’t want spoilers. You can skip to the end to read how I would have ended the movie. I’ll put a big sign for you so you won’t miss it, okay?

Continue reading “#writinglessons: Hotel Artemis”

#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!

Improve a scene: Urban Fantasy story

I’m currently reading an urban fantasy tale. It’s all part of developing a stronger understanding of the expected Tropes in that genre so I can write stronger stories.

Anyway, the book is super fast-paced. WOW! As in if a story is supposed to have peaks and valleys, this one is all peaks. There’s very little time to breathe. I know authors are told to pace their stories and the action in their stories but something tells me breakneck tales are beloved by a large number of readers.
giphy2 Continue reading “Improve a scene: Urban Fantasy story”

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.

Continue reading “writinglessons: The Good Fight”

#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!

Continue reading “#Writinglessons: Embarrassment – A Storytelling Device”

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”