The Three Hundred and Forty-second Post: The One Where I Pick From The Cards Because “Joker” Isn’t Out Yet…

What talent would you most like to have? What would you do with it?

 

This is an easy question.

Draw. I can’t draw to save my life. I can’t even draw a stick figure with someone standing in front of me as a model, much less draw people off the top of my head. Whether or not the 10,000 hour thing is correct or not, I’m pretty sure I’ve spent most of that trying to progress beyond crude stick figures. As much as I try, and I’ve had some private lessons from friends, but it’s like there is a mental block keeping me from progressing.

Which is a shame because the Internet is a visual medium.

If I was talented as an artist, I’d take all my novel ideas and turn them into webcomics. Some of them I would love t see sketched out. The Dreaded Day Job, for example, would be a great one to see done. Actually, I might try to turn that into a screenplay. When I write, I see everything like a movie in my head. Translating that visual image down onto paper (or tablet) is something I can’t do. In fact, my visual artistry is restricted to still photography – and I’m not very god at that when it comes to the editing of the photographs. I am trying to get better, but with everything I seem to have more things to do than time to do it in.

I should dust off the camera at some point, just take a day and say, “I’m going to do nothing but photograph stuff.” There is a junk yard near to my house, so I am not going to run out of subjects there (or diseases caught). I think I should try to cultivate photography as one of my few hobbies where my mania for writing can’t apply. I do play role playing games, but that ends up being a joyous exercise in character creation which turns into an excuse to build another novel. Almost all the books in my head started out as game characters.

Another talent I wish I had was music. I played guitar, but it was always that plateau I couldn’t surmount. I can appreciate music – despite what my detractors say about my taste – and I can play a very little bit. I just can’t make that leap to the next level. While I am willing to accept this more than my lack of visual artistic skills, it would be nice to be like Stephen King and rock out with the Rock Bottom Remainders.

Is it envy? Or is it more of a matter of the grass is always greener? I’ve had people tell me that they wish they could write. It’s not hard – just sit down and start. I guess that’s how other people feel when I say ‘I wish I could draw like you’ or some such. I think this Saturday, I’ll whip out the camera and take a small safari. If I want to get good at anything, I need to start.

The Three Hundred and Forty-First Post: The One Where I Review ‘It: Chapter Two”!

I finally saw ‘IT: Chapter Two’ in the theatres, by far one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Stephen King adaptations tend to run in only two directions: great (Misery), and not so much (Maximum Overdrive). While I was worried that the second half wouldn’t translate well, and I do have a couple of bones to pick with it – all in all, it has been one of the better adaptations. Nothing is better than Misery as far as film-to-movie goes.

One of the things that I noticed with the second one that didn’t happen with the first were the jump scares. There were fewer ones in the second, and the ones that were there (only three) you could see coming. I think this was a stylistic choice. The first movie dealt with the characters as children, so they’re going to be many more things to terrify them. The director made a good choice in really amping up the horror, but also giving the audience time to cool down…much like the children had with the summer. The second movie had the Losers Club as adults. Fewer jump scares, because they had already been through the hazing that was Pennywise twenty-seven years ago, but now their fears were reasonable, adult fears. The only character that still had that childish scares was Patrick Hocksteller. He was still trapped in that child-like mind set from being in the sanitarium.

The great thing about both the novel and the movie was the message about not giving up a child-like mind. Not letting the wonder fade into the grey ennui of mortgages, 401k and the comfort of a good marriage. All the Losers Club went on to jobs that benefited from that young spark of imagination mixed with the very adult toolset of intelligence and wisdom. One thing that I really liked in the first movie that carried over to the second one was things happening in the background. One of hte more remarkable scenes featuring a chronically underused Bill Hader was his confrontation with Pennywise during the festival. Pay attention to the background. I don’t want to outline it for fear of spoiling it. Given the nature of the confrontation, and what happens the director gives us a very unsettling reinforcement of Pennywise’s subtle control over the whole town.

There are some problems I found with the second film, and they aren’t very spoilerly if you’ve read the book and seen the movie, but you should also know that adaptations are rarely faithful – but if you want to go to the theatres with an untainted mind, skip the next paragraph.

Aubrey and Mike – Bill and Beverly’s spouses respectively – don’t make much of an appearance in the film, while in the novel, they’re powerful pawns in Pennywise’s defense. I understand that there might have been more, but it was either not present in the screenplay, or their material rests on the cutting room floor. Mike should have gotten more screen time at the beginning, just because I would have liked to have seen Beverly having to face down him down in the final showdown. While all of them had to face more nebulous psychological fears, it would have been nice to see Bev face down and conqueror a very visceral fear in Mike.

All in all – It: Chapter Two is worth the price of admission, in theaters right now. Go see it. Next week…I don’t know. I might do another card just to try to stay in the habit of scrambling to beat a totally arbitrary deadline. Writing is continuing on as it slowly does. I am finally getting to write one of the scenes I’ve been waiting to do for a while involving Ehren and the reason why he sells barely functioning potions to people who really don’t want or need them. I can’t wait!

Stay safe, Ignore any clowns offering you balloons. I’ll see y’all later.

The Three Hundred and Fortieth Post: The One Where I Try to End It Well, But Can’t…Just Like “Dexter”

I just finished Legion and Chernobyl. I am satisfied with the way they ended (well, as satisfied with the existence of a 2,600 square km Exclusion Zone that’s going to be there for another 100,000 years). Dexter, Game of Thrones and The X-files? Not so much, really. There are a lot of series and movies that, to me at least, ended unsatisfactorily. It’s not just limited to T.V. shows. The Dexter novel series also didn’t stick the landing for me either.

What I don’t understand is while it is hard to end a series, why would you metaphorically sow salt into the earth and then burn it? A lot of good series have ended in less than optimal ways. Yes, I can understand that most times, the writer is not in control of when a series is going to end. One day, you’re in your bean bag chair thinking of what to get for lunch from the studio commissary…then the showrunner comes in, says the series has been canceled and every loose threat needs to be tied up in three episodes.

I’m going to admit, that I don’t have a lot of knowledge of what happens behind the scenes in the writer’s room, but I have seen my fair share of series go belly up. I can understand if you have no time, but as far as I can tell – “surprise firings” only happen in offices and the set of the Drew Carrey show. I’m sure you’ve got some time to get things together.

Is it really a case of ‘I am taking you with me’ in a literary sense? I don’t get it from a writer’s (as shaky as it is in my case) point of view. You spent this time in creating a world and characters that breathe, walk and talk as you will it. You build a fan base person by person with glances into your world. You add other writers to it and let them run with whatever threads you left, either seen or unseen. Slowly, that story becomes a world, a galaxy and then a universe. Unlimited in scope you marvel at your work.

The pink slip comes. Your universe begins to crumble at the edges.

If it were me, I would plot out a season, but I would have a contingency plan for when the axe hits. Have a script outline ready to go with a satisfactory ending ready to go. Why burn and salt when you can go out with a bang and a bow.

Did you know that when J. Michael Straczynski wrote Babylon 5 he wrote it every episode for the whole five season run? He ended it all in a good way, and even when the studio threw money at him, he kept it to a five season arc. Yes, he wrote a ton of movies following the end of the series, and he tried to keep it going with another series, but when push came to shove in his original baby, he stayed true to his word.

I think more series would be better for a limited arc. Write a limited arc…say…three seasons with a way to squeeze in one more if it’s popular. That way, if the series is trash, but the studio is going to commit to an arc, to either get to the magical syndication number or to get the writer under a contract for some real work, you have a way to wrap it up. If the series is popular, you have a way to keep it going. If the series sucks more than the black hole in the center of the galaxy, then you don’t have to worry about sustaining an arc because they’re going to pull it anyways.

Of course, this is all predicated on the old-fashioned notion that a season is 22 episodes with a break at the end of the season. Tell you what – I’m going to end this here, but next time, I’ll give you my opinion of the current status of season planning.

Please feel free to drop a line or a comment. Ta-ta for now.