Exploring

Writing a story based in a city I’ve never been in is interesting, and fun. I wonder how writers did it before the age of the internet. I can drop down into the streets and virtually walk them to get a feel for the city. I can look up bars and restaurants and read reviews and see pictures. Some even have virtual tours.

I have a feeling writers of the past had to be much more social than I do. They probably had to seek out people who’d been there and have conversations with them, pull out details, encourage descriptions of smells and sounds and ambiance.

Sounds like a lot of trouble!

Great humor

I’ve started listening to Great Expectations   and am finding it very entertaining. He is quite adept at painting his characters in very memorable and overblown ways, while still keeping them from being caricatures or ridiculous. I’ve been laughing out loud a lot with this one so far.

I wonder why all these classic novels have such boring covers that look like old paintings you’d find in a museum. It really doesn’t do much to give an impression of what’s inside the book at all. Maybe more people would read classics if they got updated covers and dust jacket descriptions…

Finished!

I completed a draft of the novel I’ve been working on since April! And… it’s not a novel, coming in at only around 33,000 words. Well, that’s where it ended, so that’s what it is. I may even end up cutting some, as I rambled quite a lot in the beginning.

It feels amazing to be done! Again, the feeling of open vistas and freedom is so exciting and fun that being done with something is almost the entire reason for starting it! Now I can write anything… anything!

But first there is lots of editing to do on the novel I finished in April, so I can actually try to do something with it.

Here I come, words!

Enduring stories

I just got some tickets to see The Princess Bride in my local theater for its 30th anniversary, and it has me wondering, what makes some stories stick around and stay loved over the years, and others fade away to nothing? It’s definitely not the ‘graphics’ or ‘effects’… yet this is what hollywood spends 90% of their money on.

Think back on the movies you watch over and over. Are any of them watched for the really cool explosion or fight scene, or awesome looking aliens or cityscapes? No… they’re watched because you love the characters, or the story is enthralling, or they are funny or scary or heartwarming.

I just read that more ‘Avatar’ movies are coming, at the expense of near 1 billion dollars. I’m sure they will be pretty, with all that money spent on computers… but will it have memorable characters or story? Does anyone remember any of the characters from the first Avatar? I vaguely remember an asshole general, just because I remember being irritated at how obviously I was being manipulated to dislike him. I remember the blue people… but not really anything about their personalities. I never watched it a second time.

The Princess Bride, on the other hand, I can tell you every character’s personality, their goals and desires, and a memorable line from them. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, probably more.  This is more than nostalgia. This is spending time and effort on having memorable, likable characters with full arcs and motivations and integration into the story, instead of spending all your time and money on making things look cool.

The problem is, looking cool is what makes money. People are attracted to shiny, neat looking things. The 90 second trailer showing explosions and fights and crazy looking things is what draws people into the theater, so that’s what the Hollywood machine produces. It doesn’t matter if you forget it immediately after, or even if you hate it halfway through. You went into the theater, they got their money, and now they can start making another one.

It’s not all bad though. Even if we don’t have good movies anymore, at least we have good TV. TV shows have to be good, because if someone gives up after the first episode, the show is going to fail. So they are forced to make it engaging and addictive, instead of just cool looking enough to get you to start watching.

I only wish some shows were shown on the big screen every week!

A short story appears

I’ve written one for the first time in months, and all in one sitting–something i haven’t done in over 5 years. It was exhilarating, satisfying and gave me lots of brain endorphins–it also turned out really good!

How did this happen? I signed up on Thursday for a contest which had a deadline of Sunday night, and the penalty for not turning anything in was some severe mocking and embarrassment… so I wrote it that day. Deadlines work!

It felt very good to see my own improvement. The fact that I wrote a story in two hours that was actually not bad, and probably better than a lot of stuff i spent weeks writing years ago… it means I am definitely getting better at this.

I’ll let you know if I win (though in this contest really, the goal is just not to lose) but I feel I already have, because I wrote something!

Books in a lifetime

How many books can one read in their life? I saw a nice quote from G.R.R Martin today, in one of his books:

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.

It made me wonder how many books I’ve read, and if it was near 1000.

I’ve been adding my reads to my goodreads account for the past 6 or 7 years, but before that it’s hard to remember what I’ve read. I know certain main authors that I’ve read everything by, but I’m sure there are one-offs out there that I’ll just never remember.

After a concerted effort today, I got my count on goodreads up to 320-ish. That seems a paltry number for 25 years of reading… and I feel I’m missing a big chunk somewhere. What era of my life am I missing… what adventures and travels and battles did I forget…

Keep going

Sometimes life is boring, repetitive, tiring, uninteresting, painful, frustrating, and upsetting. But keep going, one step in front of the other, one minute after the other, one day after the next, until you get to the next good thing. Even if you don’t see it on the horizon, it’s out there.