Inside Out – Review

For this post, I thought I’d do something a little different.  I wanted to take a literary peek at Inside Out, the Disney-Pixar movie.

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Special note:  There are going to be spoilers in here, so beware!

I may analyze a few more Disney (Pixar) films because there are some things that they do really well in their movies.

I want to call three out here for Inside Out.

  1. Pixar makes a lot of movies where they personify (anthropomorphize) things.  We’ve seen it with toys, fish, dogs, monsters, and now the human mind itself.  But the beauty with these movies (and Inside Out especially), these characters are believable.  Despite the various emotions representing extreme perspectives, we still relate to them and see each of their respective train wrecks as they happen.I’ll zero in on Joy for a second.  By the way, in case you missed it earlier… SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER! SPOILERS BELOW!

    She’s upbeat, constantly happy, and completely controlling of their child.  However, her darker side is that she will stop at nothing to ensure that her vision of what is “right” is realized.  It takes nearly being forgotten before she realizes that other views will be needed to make Riley an ultimately happy child.JoyForgotten.jpg
  2. EVERYTHING counts.  There is no wasted effort.  The movie gives us gems that are funny or cute when we see them, but we ultimately circle back up to them later.  Examples:
    1. Bing Bong cries candy.  This was a cute item when we introduce it, but later we use it to find him inside Riley’s subconscious…
    2. Anger is a hot-head… Literally.  We see him blow up a few times… But this becomes useful at the end to save Sadness and Joy.
    3. We meet an imaginary boy-friend.  At the time, makes plenty of sense, and gets a cheap groan from the audience, even capitalizing on melodrama to the point of “I would DIE for Riley!”  At the end, he gets to prove it.
      Boyfriend.jpg
      I’ll actually take this a step further.  We have a memory of Riley enjoying a trampoline with her family… which leads us to a trampoline represented in Family Island… which leads us to the launch point for Joy to rescue Sadness and help them back to headquarters.  Some of this is properly capitalizing on what they already have, but the big take-away I get is how they go back to create setup to make the big scenes that much more meaningful.
  3. Hero and World are mirrors.  If you put stock in John Truby’s “The Anatomy of Story”, you appreciate the concept of having a close link between your hero and the world.  Inside Out illustrates this perfectly.  Things begin generally positive and upbeat, but just as Joy gets more desperate to get back to head-quarters (and even tries to sacrifice sadness for this cause), the world itself is literally falling apart.After the recall tube collapses and Joy ends up at the bottom of the memory dump, she has reached a literal low in the world just as she has reached a low for herself.  After this, it’s all up hill (once again, literally as well as figuratively).

There are tons more great properties to this movie.  I’m not ashamed to admit there were at least two points I had streaming tears.  The end is worth the journey, and every point along the way, I was caught up in the momentum of the story.

Did anybody else enjoy Inside Out?  Am I the only one to dig so deeply into the literary strengths of the story?

Let me know if you’d like to see more movie/book reviews.

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Vampires

I did a critique the other day on a Vampire Story.

My first thought was, “oh… Another one of those.” How… commonplace.  I’m not going to lie; these days I wonder often which undead will win the great war between vampire revolution or zombie apocalypse. Don’t mummies or ghouls get love any more?

I’m not a vampire-phile.  I used to joke that I was a vampire (in the traditional sense… not the sparkly sense).  I burn in sunlight, I do a lot late at night, I can’t enter your house uninvited, I sleep in a coffin… errr, wait.

But I have only the most outsider’s view of the vampire culture.  I guess that was why when I read this, it got me to thinking… Does the market still have love for vampires, or is it saturated?

Vampires have been around a long time (hundreds or even thousands of years if you ask them). They were probably popularized by Bram Stoker’s famous novel, “Dracula” which went to print in 1897.

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In this, we see Dracula in all his glory, and really get that boogie-man effect. Dracula pretty much owns the vampire scene for nearly a century when a few more begin creeping onto the scene. The 1970’s especially bring a few more great strokes for Vampire stories, with Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot” and Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire.” The 80’s wouldn’t have been complete without Kiefer Sutherland and “The Lost Boys.”

Then with 1994’s silver screen adaptation of “Interview with the Vampire” landing some pretty big names, the industry had broken wide open.

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From here, things continue to spiral.

Late 90’s and early 2000’s were big.  1998 brings us the film adaptation of Blade, and our hero isn’t a stuffy Victorian aristocrat… He’s a really cool powerhouse superhero.  In 2003, we get Underworld, a vampire vs werewolf war that many will tell you was ripped off from the Vampire role-playing game.  But that doesn’t matter.  Our vampires are now walking modern streets, carrying modern weapons, and being extremely relate-able.

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Finally, I would be remiss to not mention Stephenie Meyer bringing us Twilight in 2005. At this point, all bets are off.  She has reimagined the vampire as something truly acceptable in a teenager fantasies.

Regardless of whether you think they were painful to read high-school claptrap or the most amazing thing ever written, you can’t argue with the results they produced. Her books definitely spoke to people (a lot of people) on some fundamental level.

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Now we have TV shows, a plethora of literature spanning all genres, and movies. So I ask you, my readers:

Is there still room for more fresh vampire stories out there, or have we reached the point it’s like the early Sci-Fi crazy (I think 1960’s, but pardon me if I’m off on dates)… Drivel that gets spammed out because it’s the current winning formula. Add a vampire and it will sell.

Are we done with Vampires?

Also, did I leave out any landmark vampire stories?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Shortstory Competitions

As I’ve meandered into this writing short-story… thing… I’ve recently been thinking about these competitions.

First, a nod to some locales that I think are great to find contests/opportunities for short stories:

http://www.freelancewriting.com/
http://writingcareer.com/

Thank you to the creators of these sites for compiling lots of opportunities to write into a single(errr, dual?) place for my ease.

Now, on to the rest of this post… I want to talk about the types of contests I see. First of all, I love writing competitions. I find I write a lot better with constraints. Situations where my brain has to find a solution that fits all the required components.

There are a few properties that you can find in writing competitions. Most are word-bound, and some have a topic (Construction, or Unicorns). I don’t want to cover those. I’d rather focus on the more unique/fun ideas.

First Line/Last Line – These have a line fed that you have to then build a story around.
“Bob, take out the trash before you kill your mother.” Go forth!

Picture – I really enjoy these contests. A picture is provided and it is our job to write a story inspired by the picture.

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What is this picture telling me?

3/4/5 Elements Challenge – This is probably my favorite. As author, you are given some number of seemingly disparate things, and then you have to find a way to link them all into a short story.
Rain, Chapter-Books, Chicken, September. Write something where these are all prominent features of the story.

Do you enjoy writing challenges? Where do you find yours? Are there other kinds of writing challenges you enjoy?

Pantsing vs Plotting

I wanted to take a quick stab at “pantsing” vs “plotting.” I know I referenced this in a prior blog, and thought I’d expand here.

Let’s define.

Pantsing – To fly by the seat of your pants. Just write and let it flow.
Plotting – Build an outline. Come up with your story and points, and then execute on the plan.

First, which is better?

The weak answer: Neither. Both are more a representation of style, and different authors have different styles.

The strong answer: Depends on where you want to spend your time.

Lets look at each and think about how each go.

A pantser is going to sit and write, and whatever comes out of the pen (keyboard) is where the story goes. Live dynamically and just let it flow.
Pros: The story probably feels more organic because each scene led to the next; you actually start writing
Cons: A lot of what gets written may end up getting thrown away because it meandered

A plotter is going to spend some more upfront time planning out how the dominoes are going to fall.  However, once that plan is done, the story is pretty much halfway there.
Pros: Writing the first draft can often go very quickly because a lot of key details are mapped out, reworks are minimized because you know what you need to set up for
Cons: Some authors get trapped to their outline, trying to “force it” to work even if the story moves in a different direction, some people spend so much time working on the outline they never actually write the story.

I think most authors are probably somewhere in the middle of these two poles, but I know I’m more of a plotter. I often envision the end of my story and several key moments in the story before I begin writing and those form the framework of my outline, which I then flesh out. Here’s a summary of 4 things I plot, and 4 things that break my plot.

Plotter

1) The End – I often write this scene first because it’s so emotionally charged. It serves as my north star as I write that I want to build setup for.

2) Characters – I often created fleshed out character bios because it tells me who they are, and helps me think about how they’ll respond to situations. I also list which ones I think will be point of view characters.

3) Key Moments – Especially in novels, I have a few scenes that I know I want to write. Those become marks on my outline.

4) Build-up – I may not know how I want to do it, but I will write on my outline things I want to build up to. An example might represent a character falling from grace. I know I want him likable at the beginning of the story, but a complete tyrant by the end. So my outline will include notes that a scene needs to exist to show the decline

Pantser

1) Characters changes – I’ll outline a major character, but as I write, that character changes and now what once was a heroic backup has now become plucky comic relief. What once was a bit character has become a “mini-boss” frequently showing up and foiling the main character. These changes require me to change things around.

2) Plot tangeants/shifts – I remember on my Greyscape novel, I had a character I sort of wanted to cameo… Not major, but it was going to be setup for a future story. However, as I started to write about the relationship between my hero and this other character, they forged a bond. There was no way Nathsh was going to leave Gevok. Now I had a companion for a scene to come later, a companion that had a far more meaningful part to play… And a far more meaningful exit in the event I build story around that character later.

3) “Whoops” Moments – I’ve accidentally killed some one. That’s pretty tough. It’s even worse when they die halfway through the book and you had already written a really epic death scene later. It wasn’t nearly so epic, but the moment the character died was hugely meaningful because it created a weakness in my hero at a really inopportune time. Hadn’t planned it that way, and certainly I had to rework several pieces of my plot… One more big reason to not start editing until after you finish your draft.

4) New Characters – Sometimes as I’m writing I add somebody in for the moment and end up having to figure out how I’m going to work them into the rest of the story.

Are you a pantser or a plotter? Which do you think is better?

Getting Going Again

Wow, so it’s been 6 months since I’ve done anything with this blog.  If you are still following… I admire your dedication!

I have continued to write during this time, but didn’t make huge progress on any of it.  I have a 70,000 word novel that is probably half done, and in dire need of revisions.

I’ve also written about 30 short stories that I would like to start seeing the light of day.  The biggest breakthrough is that one of those short stories actually made it to a “final draft.”  By this, I mean I finished writing all of it and did a proofreading/editing pass to cleanup.  I’ll have a post to follow on editing, and what that experience was like when I haven’t edited anything beyond 500 words.  5500 is a lot harder… And I’m really dreading 55,000 or 550,000.

It really makes me appreciate how long so many books take that I am chomping at the bit for.

For today, I wanted to call attention to a site that I am now trying to use to help improve my writing:

http://www.critters.org.

The premise behind this site is that users can submit new manuscripts for critique, and then perform critiques on others.  While I will never release the content of the documents I am critiquing, I will say I am impressed by the quality I’m finding, and I am already finding ways of improving my own writing.

Anyways, this is my “back to blogging” post… Hopefully I stick to it!