Saturday, September 28, 2013

Walk Like An Addiction

For the past 13 years, I have been chasing the dragon. It’s a hard drug. One that many people try to gain but some fizzle out with less than nothing to show for it. I began at the age of 14. A young age. I was unsure and always stumbling. I charged forward, trying to chase some semblance of an existence where I could cling to my addiction while still maintaining a healthy, sane life.
          In the beginning I tried jokes. I aspired to be a comedian, learning the greats…also a bit of the weird icons of my youth. Eddie Murphy, Andy Kaufman, Richard Pryor. I studied all of them. While I lacked the physicality of Jim Carrey, I tried blunt force trauma with my humor. A dash of deadpan, a bit of bravery and I was on my way. I even went as far as perfecting the Eddie Murphy laugh and the simple action of joke and punch line. My segments were normally done in two acts.
          No problem, I told myself, I’d get discovered eventually.
          I was basing this pipe dream on one twenty minute act I had done at a talent show when I was eleven or twelve years old. That’s when I was first introduced to the drug.
          I stumbled, naturally, twice, taking the audience of about fifty or so by surprise by coming out with it and saying, “Oh boy…am I nervous.”
          My quips were met with respectable chuckles but what really floored them was my ending joke. No, I did not wow them with my puppet act which only lasted five minutes or my quick-thinking distraction of pointing my parents out in the audience. But what really let the dam burst wide open was when I said, somewhat abruptly, wiping the sweat from my forehead, regretting wearing a small suit with slicked back hair, “Man, how many times am I gonna be nervous already? Usually they have a glass of water up here.”
          That’s when it hit them.
          It started like a wave.
       One kid, my brother’s friend, fell out of his chair, clutching his stomach with laughter. My father, by the end of taping remarked, clear as day into the microphone of the camera, “I almost pissed my pants.”
         But even after, the drug would not do it for me anymore. I didn’t let anyone know I was taking it.
        Later on in life, I turned, while intoxicated on the drug, to a new way to unleash my eccentricities on an audience. I turned to magic. Even then I was unsure of myself, feeling darkness in the pit of my stomach whenever I tried to abuse the drug.
         One night I foolishly did a practice run of a magic act for my sister which I would perform at someone’s birthday party. Don’t ask me whose house. I have long forgotten that. You would too. I started this sentence with foolishly because anyone would be considered a damn fool for revealing anything to their sister. The sibling rivalry we endured over the years reached epic proportions. But no match was won so brutally on such a bitter night then when my sister, in the middle of a group of kids nearing fifteen in all, loudly proclaimed that the act was flawed. I quivered in my top hat, was shaking with uncertainty as I started my program.
          With each trick she gleefully pointed out all the secrets of my act. I’m talking every…
          “The cards are marked!” she cried. “The tube has a mirror, the plates are an optical illusion, there’s a hole in the back of the deck, a string is attached, etc.”
          And on and on it went.
          I was down to the last two tricks in my bag but, in a fever of hate, packed up my briefcase and foldout table and stormed out. I circled the block, dragging the table with me. It made a horrible scrapping sound on the road. It echoed my distaste for such a mean trick. I thought I would get the drug that night, but it couldn’t be found. I had misplaced it.
          As a film director, I carried this burden. I guess I was well in line with everyone else because at that time, in my teens, all the would-be artists were taking drugs.
        Then, like most of my phases, I fell out of it. The drug was there, pedaling around inside my head, but there was still a void.
         It was the month of being a sophomore that I was struck with four ideas. If I remember correctly, these four ideas said something to me in the computer lab on the third floor of my high school that day. They said that they could not be filmed. Sure, they could, but with my budget, a film would not do them justice.
          So I wrote.
          I wrote and set the four ideas aside.
          I wrote a list of more ideas.
          I began writing a novel.
          I began showing people the first twenty pages.
       Now I knew the name of the drug I had been chasing all these years; Awe. I wanted to shock, entrance, hypnotize, command, terrify and juggle with people’s imagination. It was the drug of Storytelling. It was a drug so sweet when you get a taste, that you always go back for more.
        Yes, I have seventy or so ideas waiting to be written, but something tells me, when I’m in my seventies, I will well have surpassed that number in stories. What I’m trying to tell you, friends, is that Storytelling is a very powerful drug. One which I hope to never recover from. For I am happily hooked on it.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Feed Em After Midnight

I am a night owl.

Always have been, always will be. That said, I think many more writers would benefit from one solitary exercise to help you write more. Yes, we know that you must kill your darlings. We also know we must write what we know and to begin at the beginning. But here's what they are not telling you that it took me 13 years to figure out.

When it comes to night owls  its best to not drain your brain with late night TV or endless computer games. If you stay up past midnight and you are a creative person than there's only one thing you can really do...


Think about it.

This whole time you've played it safe, let yourself wind down, letting your mind to be entertained into pudding. But how much writing have you gotten done? Hmmm?

The only way you can zap your mind out of entropy is to feed it after midnight.

Take Gremlins for example. I'm sure we've all seen it by now. (By the way, don't hold out hope for a Gremlins 3. It ain't happening.) In this movie a father buys a new unique pet for his son. It's cute, its furry and all sorts of cuddly. The only rule: No feeding after midnight.

Now, if they aren't fed at midnight, we would have been treated to a family friendly Boy-and-his-Mogwai story of hope, endurance and the cute things that help us analyze life.

Good story but where's the drama?

Feed em after midnight and what happens?

Why chaos ensues! And yes, it is startling, but honestly, a Mogwai is the perfect metaphor for writing. The act of writing itself presents chaos but with it also fear, drama, comedy, horror, heroic feats, tender moments, shocking revelations and stunning plot twists. And if you can accomplish all that by sitting in a chair and writing, who knows the new stories you might unleash?

So feed your imagination...but make sure you do it after midnight, K? ;)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Now You're Just Some TV Show I Used To Know...


It's a word we often hear but seldom see it done well. What's the last good adaptation you've seen? Was it faithful to the book? Did it stray from the source material? How about the Characters? Was each one represented well?

I think the last good adaption I saw was The Shawshank Redemption by Frank Darabont. I read the novella years after seeing the movie and, y'know what? It's pretty much on the mark.

So what is it that has me so frazzled, so steaming that I absolutely 100 percent had to blog about it?

That would be...



So, okay, let's get into it.

In the past I have seen phrases like this on a movie poster:

Based on true events, Based on a True Story, Based on the Book, Inspired by The Article (Live Free or Did Hard)

I think we should add a new category: Loosely Based on the Book.

At least with that subtitle, you know full well what you are in for. 

Since then, I've heard nothing but constant buzz about the movie and how it finally evolved into a show. So when I saw that it popped up on Amazon Prime a month ago, I flipped it on and started watching. For the first three episodes the show was solid. But with each episode after, I started getting aincy. The characters were not being themselves.

Granted, I was up for some changes. But each episode is changing too much.

Changes I don't mind:
- In the original opening of the novel, a woodchuck is severed by the dome. We even get a peek inside his thoughts. In the show, it's a cow instead. I see why they did this. A woodchuck would be silly and a cow being severed in more visually shocking.
- The people within the dome can see through the structure but can't be heard on the outside. Likewise, the people outside it can't hear them either. That's going to be tough to get around, I thought, seeing as how in the book, people held entire conversations with each other through the dome.
- Phil Bushy is a good guy. I don't mind that. He was a good character and I thought, well, it'd probably be more compelling for him to turn bad if people see he was a likable guy before.

Now here's where things start going south:
- There are not enough shots of the dome.
- People seem to carry on as normal at times.
- Barbie, instead of being the drifter not looking for trouble, is now a hitman. (Seriously?)
- Julie Shumway used to be a no nonsense reporter but is now shoved into the vulnerable widow category.
- Junior is psychotic but he doesn't kill Angie. Only holds her captive. In the novel he was way more menacing and a definite threat.
- Big Jim Rennie is now someone who wants the town to like him. (Quick note: None of these criticisms are slights on any of the actor's performances. Given what they had, I think that they act well when they had good dialogue in the beginning. But the more the show strayed, the more the script, in my opinion, took a hit.)
-It can rain in the dome. (Wait. What?)
- Now a new character shows up, Maxine, and tells Jim Rennie and Barbie, "Oh, guess what? I've been watching everything going on inside the whole time. So now, since I'm bored. I'm going to blackmail all of you. Soooo yeah. That's happening. So everyone get used to it because now I have the power. Mah hahaha!" (Okay, she didn't quite say it like that but I was rolling my eyes. This started feeling like a whole other dome on a whole other town. Where were all the characters and situations I had once connected with?)

After the 10th episode, I gave up. It just felt formulaic. But I'm not the only one. Many people have been burned by this show, filling the message boards with nothing but hate. Enough to a point that Stephen King himself wrote a public message on his site, praising the show and its courage to strike out on whole new story avenues. 

Can't fault him for that, right? He's a good writer and if he wanted to sell his work, good for him. He knew there were going to be changes to it. But something about it bothered me.

Then I finally figured it out.

It's not that I hated the show. It's just that it exhibited traits that I had seen before. Gimmicks that I was burned by once before...

That's right. Lost. 

One of the writers on Under The Dome is responsible for Lost.

I see all these traits:

- People asking questions and getting no definitive answer.
- Characters attributing every mystery to the Dome, like the island.
- Villainous characters turning good and good guys turning bad. Then they swap back.

It all just pisses me off.

So I left that show.

Then I started getting interested in reading the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Storm Front and Fool Moon.)

I liked it a lot and will read more of the series but I wanted to check out the show which had one season on SyFy and just so happened to be in my Netflix Queue.

Why is it that a television show will never give me the story I want from the book? 

All of a sudden, I've got nothing but questions: Who is this girl in bed with Dresden? Isn't he supposed to be chivalrous and not a chick magnet? Jeep? What happened to the VW Bug? Bob's out of his skull? Why does he look like a white-haired Tim Curry? Where's the classic Harry wit? I dunno, I guess once tv execs get their hands on it, the source material goes out the window.

So, in the end, I'll just read the books. I like them better. A show or a movie cannot capture what a novel does to you. Maybe that's just the way it is.