Just a bit of a head’s-up…

This is to let you all know that I’m a really, truly both frothing at the mouth about how I would have done Wonder Woman: 1984 differently, and trying to work through a sudden, but not entirely unexpected issue that has arisen. I’m posting this to keep the habit going. I am getting a three-day weekend coming up, and I plan on taking one of those days to do all the blog posts and put them up on an automatic schedule. I’ve written about 750 words on just the first quarter of the first act. There are two more acts and that’s only one movie.

Yeah. I’ve got some work ahead of me.

I will please beg to indulge upon your patience, and I will reward it to the utmost of my meager talents.

Until then — kitten gif!

The Three Hundred and Seventy-Fourth Post: The One Where I Talk About Wonder Woman: 1984! (Some spoilers)

So…I’ve watched Wonder Woman 1984 and I’m finding that the film suffers from what a lot of superhero genre films have as of recently.

I’m calling it the Two-Villain Problem. The problem is that there are two villains and no focus. This is a bad problem with this movie given that these are two marquee villains, especially with Cheetah being the Joker to Wonder Woman’s Batman. There were a lot of places they could have gone with this if they only had one villain.

It’s hard to manage two villains. Each one must challenge the hero in different ways. The next blog, I’ll get into how I would have done it with either one villain or the other. Right now, I’m going to just discuss the main issue.

Like I said earlier, each villain has to challenge the hero in different ways. In Wonder Woman 1984, the villains try this: Cheetah (in her later phases) matches Wonder Woman as far as raw physicality. She can take and dish out the punishment in equal measure which is good. In this film, Diana has to use tactics and cunning to neutralize (not kill…) Cheetah.

Unless we can get a three-picture deal…

In the first film, Wonder Woman has little in the way of physical challenges. Keep that in mind, I am going to bring it up in depth in the next blog.

Maxwell Lord is more of a societal challenge for Diana. Remember, Diana’s role nowadays is as Ambassador to the World of Man. She has to exercise hard power (beating the Huns) and soft power (talking people down). She can beat the crap out of Maxwell, but would she cut through a swath of innocent people to do it? Amazonian pragmatism (more on the opening scene in the next blog) would say yes, but not taking a life because they’re not really in control of their selves. Diana’s innate sense of mercy would make her balk for the same reasons. They’re pawns and don’t deserve it. Now, she must exercise diplomacy to get to the center of the issue – that center being Maxwell Lord.

In the movie, she does do these things but there’s no real impact. We just shrug our shoulders and say ‘well, that’s that’. This is the crux of the issue. We lose the focus. We don’t feel at any point she’s in peril. We don’t get the hat-trick moment where victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat.

We could have had a decent post credit scene with Cheetah to introduce a seriously long-awaited DC villain – that scene I will discuss in the next blog.

I have to keep you coming back somehow.

Anyways, the first Wonder Woman film works because there was one villain working the picture. The second suffers for two. Shazam has one villain and it works. I’m not saying there are pictures with two villains that don’t work, but it’s a delicate balancing act. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one that works very well with two villains, even if one of the villains isn’t revealed until the third act.

The Three Hundred and Seventy-Third Post: The One Where I Talk About My New Favorite Show…

It’s still Thursday here! I am still on time!

I know that I’ve harped on A Teacher, but this time I am going to talk about a show that I love and why you should be watching it.

Believe it or not…there are other shows out there.

Lovecraft Country is everything that I have looked for in cosmic horror. One of the things that I have lamented about as far as cosmic horror being on the T.V. is that there are key things in the way it’s presented that can’t really translate on the T.V. – on the movies, yes, you can get really, really close. Some of the best examples are from John Carpenter: In the Mouth of Madness, The Thing, They Live and Prince of Darkness.

Lovecraft Country, based on the novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, brings every little terror and point of dread to life. In just two episodes (I can’t binge series, sorry), the show puts insanity, monsters, old families, buried secrets and knowledge hidden from man and heaping on institutionalized Post-World War 2 racism for good measure.

And it doesn’t detract from the story. Here’s why.

One of the hallmarks of cosmic horror is The Other. The thing that exists outside our experience, and that we can not understand without breaking our foundational grip on reality. In Lovecraftian fiction specifically, madness comes at the price of understanding.

In Lovecraft Country, the main character is the Other – just by the virtue of being black in post-World War 2 America. We’re treated to an unblinking look of how the Other is treated: sundown towns, hostility, and segregation. This is only in the first episode and in the first 2/3rds of the show. We don’t hit “Lovecraft Country” until almost the end of the show. While there are numerous tips of the hat to Lovecraft and his circle of writers none of it is a distraction.

But back to the madness.

Madness is subtle here – suppressed memories, flashbacks, and PTSD, but it’s there. No screaming and gibbering about what man is not meant to know. Just the innocent ‘what happened?’ that can be explained away with the mind refusing to correlate its contents. When that happens in the second episode and the ensuing revelations, we get the screaming madness we are waiting for.

This book is on my short list to read in the New Year, right after Radium Girls is done, I will get to this book. If you have the opportunity, get this series, and watch it during Christmas. You will not be disappointed.

This is going to be the final post for 2020. I am happy to have survived it – looking at the beginning posts of this year will tell you how I started this year. I am going to face 2021 with optimism and success. I hope everyone will join me.

Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and enjoy the New Year.

The Three Hundred and Seventy-Third Post: The One Where I Shout: “Insanity?! I’m Marinating in it!”

You’d think that some point, I would learn. I mean really learn.

I am aiming for literary fiction, and I have an idea that I’m cribbing a little from the book and the movie The Man Who Laughs. So, I thought I would read the source material and see how I can take a little bit from here and there, put it into the book as a way of giving thanks to the inspiration.

Here’s the problem I have with that.

The saying that fits is ‘eyes bigger than your stomach’. Coming on the heels of Thanksgiving, it’s an apt metaphor. Starting to read this book, I was making notes, getting little ideas which lead to more research topics – topics more grounded on the actual book, such as the daily life of an influencer and ASL poetry.

“When did you become an expert on Nautical superstitions?”
“Lunch time.”

The book isn’t boring, but there is a difference in 17th century French literature and 21st century American literary fiction. The first half of the book deals with the origins of the character unfolding very slowly. I’m not going to ditch it. As much as I espouse ‘reading outside one’s genre’, I’m really sticking with horror, biographies, and history. So, picking up something new and novel (ha-ha) is good for me.

This is how I tend to stumble through research. Start in a manic ‘learn all the things’ mode, then realized that this isn’t what I need and stumble into what I really needed to know while kicking myself on wasting time. Good thing that research-mania didn’t really seize to the point of trying to learn 17th century French. I mean, jeez…I barely passed 20th Century French in high school. How am I going to get a tutor without breaking out a Ouija board?

“You mean I didn’t have to learn the lifespan of dozens of sorts of data storage?” *sigh* “No…I’m fine…really.”

So, here’s what I am going to do.

Breathe. Let the mania wash over me. As I would counsel my little sister: get all the sillies out, first. I don’t have as many sillies as she had, so this will be fast.

After breathing, I’m going to really focus on the meat of the book. Work on the characters. Make them the best they can be. Get their backgrounds solid and research the needs about them first. After that, work on the themes and plot. Once all of that’s done, then I get to work. That’s what I am looking forward to doing. Gotta stay hyped. The best way to do that is focus on what’s important.

The Three Hundred and Seventy-Second Post: The One Where I Can’t Look Away at FX and I Kinda Hate Myself For It…

I have in my cubicle at work a quote from Werner Herzog: “I’m fascinated with trash T.V. The poet must not avert his eyes.” This is approach I am taking when it comes to writing. I mustn’t look away from the accident. I must take it all in. I must observe and record.

Saying that – I’ve watched the first episode of the glorious train-wreck that is FX’s A Teacher. This mini-series is based on the Mary Kay Letourneau case. I’ve linked a Wikipedia article to it in case you weren’t around for it.

What makes me want to close my eyes, or at least change the channels, is that we’re given a sympathetic view of the Mary Kay character. In the first episode, we see she shoplifts (because the poor dear is under stress), wants to get pregnant (when her husband seems to be around, which so far is not that often) and is in a new school environment. Do we blame her for wanting to hook up with a male teen who looks good, and is ambitious enough?

The show seems to be telling us ‘no’, and this is one of the problems I have. Even at the outset, we’re warned that there will be scenes of sexuality and ‘grooming’. For those of you who may not know – grooming is when a person gets the target of their affection to lower their guard enough to make a sexual advance. This is usually done by catering to their target’s whim – buying them gifts, inviting them over to hang out and other things. We even see it in the first episode when the teacher covers the meal of her intended target and his friends. The show ends with her tutoring him on poetry because he needs to raise up his SAT scores.

The teacher is played by Kate Mara – who is absolutely hot. Speaking as a former (very much so) sixteen-year-old boy, if I had an English teacher who looked like her – grooming wouldn’t be a problem beyond whispering to me ‘wanna screw?’. This is the truth.

Let’s have a little thought experiment: reverse the genders. Now the English teacher is a man, wanting to be a father, but his wife is usually out of town on business. He finds a girl in his class who needs help getting into a good school for pre-med. She’s athletic, smart but needs a leg up. Let’s even say that this teacher looks good – George Clooney-esque. Let’s even extrapolate based on the real story, that the girl wants to be a mother, but knows that her education comes first. Are we going to have the same feelings for this couple?

No. We decry the teacher as a predator, the girl as misguided and naïve, nay be bordering on troubled if we find out she was a little more aggressive about having that child. The teacher ends up in jail on a sex offender’s list, and the girl gets a book deal.

The other problem I have with this is that, as I mentioned earlier, the teacher is hot. I know, I know – Mary Kay wasn’t ugly, and no doubt that the show’s writer would mention this as a defense. Why not make this into a demonstration of abuse of power? Why not make the teacher look less like Kate Mara in a low-cut sweater and more like Danny DeVito in drag? Hell – let’s put Danny DeVito in drag and put him in the show. Let’s really crank up the uncomfortability on this show! Rather than showing us Kate Mara pleasuring herself to a fantasy of her chosen victim, and brow beating her husband into having sex with her (despite his protestations) – let’s see Danny DeVito in a doggy position moaning.

I’m not happy with FX reaching for the lowest of the low hanging fruit on this show. They had a chance to challenge our views of sexuality and power, but they went the predictable route.

The Three Hundred and Seventy-first Post: The One Where I Give You the Keys to Perfect Unproductivity!

I am trying to write something that’s literary, but I have no idea what it means to be literary or what qualifies as a literary novel.

Let me introduce you to my personal Lord and Savior:

Okay…my other Lord and Savior…

TVTropes.org, when you absolutely, positively want to spend a whole afternoon doing nothing productive.

I typed in literary fiction and got a bunch of useful references. What was even better – I got some ideas. I am trying to write something that is literary (or so I hope) and with that in mind, I am reading up on the source material – Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs. I think this explains it well enough:

…and it’s not like he’s around to sue me, right?

The main female character in the original books is blind, and it’s a cliché I want to avoid. It’s not that I can’t write blind people – under different circumstances, I’d revel in the chance to layer on descriptions without visuals cues. However, I need to stay true to some of the circumstances of the novel. The source novel has the main female lead, named Dea (“goddess”) is blind. She can’t see the main male lead’s disfiguring scars.

Wait ’til they get a load of me…

How do I change this? I want to keep the flavor – the FMC doesn’t see the scars, but the personality and falls in love with that.

This is one of the reasons why I love writing. Giving myself a problem and finding a solution.

Ladies and gentlemen – please allow me to introduce you to the wacky world of prosopagnosia. Also called “face blindness” (the word comes from the Greek words for ‘face’ and ‘no wisdom’), it is the inability of the person who suffers with this to recognize or even remember faces. I’m currently trying to find people who have this condition so I can get the finer points on it, but she gets to be “blind” and keep the gist of her story while I’m not hamstringing myself when writing her.

As I do research for this – reading Victor Hugo’s work, hunting down a copy of the movie and working on an outline in my head – I’m also working on Nanowrimo. I made air quotes when I typed ‘Nanowrimo’ because worked isn’t really the best word to use. I procrastinated over Nanowrimo. Yeah, that’s better. I’m a day behind on the word count, but we’re not even halfway through the month. I can make it up.

Stop laughing. All of you.

I can do this. I’m still enthralled with the story and the challenge of writing a sweet romance while not making the FMC too onerous or unlikeable. I’ll have it out before Christmas. The hardest part will be trying to find a place to make a couple of custom d20s for me on the cheap. I might have to hit up some friends.

Last, but not least – I was interviewed as part of a male writer’s panel last Saturday. It was on Facebook Live, so I don’t know if it will be hosted on a podcast, or site. When it is, I will let you all know.

Thank you for stopping by. If you’re interested in my writing, or the writing of good friends, check out the links on the left. I also accept kofi.com donations. Hope y’all have a good day.