Facebook? Do… do people use facebook still?

I have an author page on facebook that my posts have been auto posting to, and I pretty much never think about. I figure I better start doing face book related things there, so if you have any interest to follow me on the social media, click below:

https://www.facebook.com/thejonasdavid/

Thanks!

Take the ‘tell’ out of storytelling

I’ve been off and on watching the Netflix original ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, and although it is lovely to look at with great production value and an all-star cast, it is really quite infuriating at times.

My irritation is due to the narrator. The story is framed as research done by a man named Lemony Snicket, many years after the events actually happened. The narrator (played by Patrick Warburton, one of the more recognizable voices in Hollywood) is constantly telling us how terrible and horrific the story is, often interrupting a scene to warn the viewer that something horrible and shocking is about to occur.

This, I suspect, is a strategy to make the story less scary, since it is after all a story for kids. This constant talk of how awful things are is somewhat humorous, and does effectively take a lot of the punch out of the shocking scenes. If that was their intention, then well done I suppose, though children are not such fragile flowers as people seem to want to treat them when it comes to entertainment, and I think would more appreciate not being treated so.

Even more frustrating is when the narrator interrupts the story in order to tell me what happened. Like, literally what just happened in the scene I just watched.

Take a paraphrased example: At one point early on, the orphaned children (the protagonists of the story) are playing at a lake with some bizarre contraptions they’ve built, and doing some kind of scientific experiment to see how far they can skip a rock. During the scene, the narrator shows up to tell us how smart and resourceful the children are, and how they like to study, and create inventions… yes, I just saw that.

The narrator appears many times this way, explaining things we just saw, as if we are incapable of detecting emotions or desires in the characters on the screen. Yes, I realize that child actors are generally terrible at getting the point across, but these children are actually pretty good, and even if they weren’t, explaining every scene is an awful solution!

I expect it is more a style choice, an attempt at quirkiness. The narrator has a funny, overly eloquent way of speaking that is humorous at times, but no amount of humor is enough to overcome the infuriating feeling of being told something directly after you’ve been shown it so nicely.

I wonder how the show would play with all of the narrator’s scenes cut out. With such a great cast (Neil Patrick Harris? Joan Cusac? Will Arnett??), and knowing the usual awesomeness of Netflix shows, I expect it would be a pretty great story once all the ‘tell’ was removed.

 

 

Don’t be afraid to fail

Failing is part of success. No one gets it done on the first try, so better get it out of the way so you can learn and move on to the next thing!

It’s not whether you win or lose, fail or succeed, produce a masterpiece or a piece of crap–it’s the doing that matters. To quote a couple more go sayings that I’ve applied to writing:

“Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.”

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried. ”

So do it! The only failure that matters is a failure to try in the first place.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

This is the first experience I can remember of being really impacted by a short story. I read it in high-school, at 15 or 16 years old, and have remembered it ever since.

The story tells of a man about to be executed by hanging, from the aforementioned bridge. When he is pushed off, however, the rope breaks and he falls into the water and swims to safety. After running through a seemingly endless forest, hearing voices and hallucinating, he comes home to his wife–but before he can embrace her is struck on the neck from behind and gone in a flash of light.

It is revealed at the end that the whole escape was imagined in the seconds during his fall, before his neck was broken.

This may sound a common theme for stories, but this one was written in 1890, and so I’m sure has influenced many a writer over the past century!

This story was the first one I can remember that made me question reality, and wonder about death and the brain and our perceptions. I still think of it every now and then to this day. Click the link at the start of this post and read it if you haven’t!

Immortality

I wonder if Shakespeare ever suspected his writings would be the subject of entire classes, hundreds of years later. Did Van Gogh ever imagine even in his most optimistic dreams that replicas of his works would be hanging in dorm rooms across the world in the 21st century? I doubt it.

They are still influencing minds today, long after their own deaths. They managed to send some effect to the future, to reach out through time in some way. That inspires me. Not to be famous, but to create something that will last longer than me. Something that might in some way affect the minds of people in a future I’ll never experience and could never understand. But to still be part of it somehow, through a creation.

That’s the dream!

Editors are good, you should get one!

When writing, I know I will always get too close to the work and be unable to see it with clear eyes. This can lead to either hating something good, or being enamored with something sub-par. Second opinions are a must, but you have to be sure that opinion is coming from someone who knows what they’re talking about–not just a casual reader (who are good for general opinions) and certainly not a friend or family member (who are good for encouragement). Other writers are great for this kind of thing (writing groups) but when it comes down to CT scanning the final product for cancers and tumors, you need someone with expertise with a scalpel.

What you need is a professional who won’t care about hurting your feelings, and who can point out every little thing that is or may be wrong with your writing, and also help you to fix it.

This is the magic power of an Editor! Someone who can say ‘you use this word way too many times’ or ‘you don’t understand semi-colons’ or ‘this character has blue eyes in one scene and brown eyes in the next’ or even ‘this plot makes zero sense and I don’t understand anyone’s motivations’–all without cringing or worrying for your precious feelings.

If you aren’t fortunate to know such a person, it’s worth it to seek one out when the time comes. Having the kind of attention an editor can give to your writing will drastically increase your chances of success. They aren’t cheap, but boy are they worth it!

Always getting better

Writing is one of the best hobbies to have, because you can always get better at it. With most things you reach a peak, then your body starts to fail you and you’re done with. Writing, though, can only get better with experience, and as long as your mind is healthy you can keep doing it until you die.

The older you get, the more you will have read, and the more  you will have done and experienced, and the more interesting ideas you’ll have. And thus, the better writer you’ll be! It’s nice to know there’s no ‘prime’ I’m going to be past, until my mind starts to go, at which point there is nothing else to do anyway.

Read, write, repeat!