Another Monday, Post-Evisceration

Stomach is starting to heal from the hernia surgery. Turns out it’s painful for your guts to come out, and JUST AS PAINFUL to put them back in again. So, you know. Don’t do that.

Keep that shit on the inside, if you have the option.

Because I’ve been anchored to the couch for medicinal reasons, been watching a shitload of The Walking Dead, old episodes, and they just remind me how great season 1 and season 2 were. I know, everyone hates season 2, but on Netflix, in binge-form, it really works. It has some of the best character work in the series, and the Shane/Rick stuff is intense as hell. It’s funny because no matter how many tanks or evil baseball bats they give their new villains, none of them are as intimidating as Shane’s unhinged, slack-lipped murder stare. Jon Bernthal (Shane) was and is the absolute man. Probably the only actor on the show so far who could match Andrew Lincoln’s Rick in acting ability and gravitas.

Been trying to play Mass Effect: Andromeda too (with all my new couch time), and it just absolutely refuses to become good. Damn shame, considering how excellent the last trilogy was. Well, caveat – how good Mass Effect 2 and 3 were. Mass Effect 1 had a lot of the problems Mass Effect: Andromeda is having. The games work when they’re little episodes of Star Trek. The games fail when they try to present some wide-open boring landscape to putter around in in an under-powered space car.

Okay, those are all my thoughts for today.

Got some good writing in just now – Deadgirl 4 is finally starting to shape up into something I like. Easy realization that made it happen: Deadgirl 4 is not Star Wars. I kept trying to make it this big crazy epic story with all these characters and forgot that the series is about Lucy.

Now that I’m listening to her voice again it’s all rolling out.

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Deadgirl: Goneward Cover Reveal

Coming May 30th, 2017! Here’s the cover, by the hyper-talented artist Andrea Garcia.

deadgirl goneward cover.png

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Deadgirl: Goneward

Deadgirl 3 is officially on its way, and I cooked up a little promo poster:

Deadgirl Goneward Date

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This Year in Books (2016)

This Year In Books (2016)

So, it’s December 30th, and this fetid colostomy bag of a year has almost gone down. I’ll try not to die before I finish this article, at the very least.

I’ve been doing this “Year in Books” for a while, just running a quick rundown of the books I’ve been running this year. I didn’t read as many books as I normally do, but I also got a lot more writing done and also my son started walking. So I spend most of my time on Toddler Suicide Watch, which cuts into reading and video game time somewhat.

January: The Walking Dead Compendium 2 (Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard)

Why I Read It – Last year this (former) Walking Dead TV show fan finally took the dive and tried out the comics, specifically the first compendium, which covered issues 1-48, or, from the beginning to the prison arc. I chowed that thing down in like two days, so I decided to check out the second run, which covered issues #49 to #96, or the “Hunters” arc all the way past “No Way Out” at Alexandria to “A Larger World” where they meet other towns.

Did I Like It? – Absolutely! The pace of these comics is insane. People are always getting murderlated left and right, and the storylines open and close quickly . . . unlike the TV show. There’s a bit of a detriment – you don’t feel like you know the characters as well as you do in the show – but damn if they aren’t page turners.

I thought the show did the cannibal arc and the “throat-bite” better, but the comic did the whole Alexandria thing and “No Way Out” better. In the comics there are WAY fewer zombies, so what they do to deal with them makes a lot more sense than in the show, where they upped the herd of zombies to like 10,000 but kept the same solution.

This compendium was also notable because it’s near where I stopped watching the show, and what I know of what happens next, it’ll probably be where I stop reading the comic. I just don’t care about Negan. Sorry, superfans.

February: The Crimson Campaign (Brian McClellan)

Why I Read It – Because the first book in this series, “Promise of Blood,” was one of my absolute favorite books of 2014. A fantasy war story mixed with a Victorian noir mystery set after a French Revolution-esque conflict on another world? Where specialized soldiers called “powder mages” snort gunpowder like cocaine to fuel their magical powers? Uh, fuck yes.

Did I Like It? – Loved it. Loved everything about it. I’m obsessed with running a tabletop RPG set in that universe, that’s how bad I’ve got the hots for this series. This one ups the stakes of the first story, and sees Tamas trapped behind enemy lines, Taniel Two-Shot facing court martial while trying to hold a ragtag front together, and Adamat dealing with a collapsing capital. Plus you’re treated to a lot more backstory about all the characters, and it’s all solid storytelling.

This series is a must-read if you care even a little bit about books or fantasy.

March: The Magician’s Land (Lev Grossman)

Why I Read It – Because the previous books in the series, “The Magicians” and “The Magician King” were subversive, thoughtful, funny, sorrowful takes on the “normal guy sucked into a magical world” stories. They’re Harry Potter meets Narnia written by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s great stuff. So I had to finish the series.

Did I Like It? – Endings are difficult, but Lev knocked the ending of this series into an alleyway and then beat it with a broken mop handle. I’m not going to ruin anything, but I am going to say that the story somehow managed to wrap everything up and yet also leave plenty to the imagination. It’s a difficult trick, and maybe not everyone would appreciate how it’s done, but the ending is as clever as the rest of the story, and does justice to all the main characters that have drifted through the series.

April: The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

Why I Read It – My wife yelled at me to read it so I read it.

Did I Like It? – Yes! As a huge fan of sci-fi dystopias in general, this book delivered. It’s a slog in the beginning – I kept ribbing my wife about the three pages it took to describe eating an egg (that’s real, by the way, THREE PAGES) – but, that’s kind of the point of the story. Offred’s journey is about the mundane, the day-to-day horror of submission to fascist rule, and all I can say is that it’s a classic for a reason.

May: Woken Furies (Richard Morgan)

Why I Read It – As you can see, I continued/finished a lot of series this year. Woken Furies is the third book in the Takeshi Kovacs series, after Altered Carbon and Broken Angels. Woken Furies returns to the cyberpunk nature of the first novel, finally showing us Kovacs’ home and diving deep into his backstory.

Did I Like It? – Of course. Richard Morgan has convinced me with Altered Carbon and Broken Angels that he’s the heir to the William Gibson throne, the father of cyberpunk. The dude is a master. Woken Furies digs into the character of Takeshi Kovacs himself and it’s a fascinating ride. The ending is beautiful and sad and horrible and great, everything you want out of cyberpunk. There are ninja surfers and clone doubles and murderous robots; just check it out. Start with Altered Carbon.

June: What is the What (Dave Eggers)

Why I Read It – Because I’d been reading so many series that I needed to cleanse the palate. Try something new. My wife suggested this non-fiction story of sadness and something.

Did I Like It? – I honestly didn’t finish it, which means, as usual, I’m not qualified to review it. I can say that the writing is good, but I couldn’t deal with the pace. I tried my damnedest to finish this book, but after like two months of flailing I gave up. There’s an exhausting framing device to the story as it switches between past and present, but the “present” situation is dragged out and completely without tension. The main character is in a bad situation, but instead of trying to do anything about it he just lies on the ground and feels bad for himself. While he thinks about the past. For 12 chapters.

It honestly made the main character so unlikable I had to check out. I know it’s a true story, and I feel bad for the guy, but holy crap I need some agency in my characters.

July: Red Harvest (Dashiell Hammett)

Why I Read It – Dashiell Hammett is one of my favorite writers – he’s the godfather of noir mystery. I like the dude so much I named my son after him. Really.

Did I Like It? – It was the “flow doggity,” as the kids are saying. If you’ve seen “Yojimbo,” “Fistful of Dollars,” or “Last Man Standing,” you know the basic plot structure, because all of those movies were loosely based on this novel. Dude comes into town, plays two factions against each other, bad things happen, etc. This book is smart, fast, and written with the soiled-soul poetry that noir is so famous for. Highly recommended.

August: Red Seas Under Red Skies (Scott Lynch)

Why I Read It – Because the previous book in the series (sensing a pattern), “The Lies of Locke Lamora,” was dope. It was Ocean’s Eleven meets Kill Bill in a fantasy Venice and if that doesn’t entice you then you’re dead to me.

Did I Like It? – Yarp. It mixed up the story, introduced a high-seas pirate element, and told an emotional tale about true friendship. You gotta check it out.

October: Ghost Story (Jim Butcher)

Why I Read It – Blah blah, series, blah blah.

Did I Like It? – Except for the epilogue, it was perfect. The last book, #12, took Dresden through the meat grinder and took everything away from him. This story changes the formula up and tells a unique story about stuff I can’t talk about without it being a total spoiler. To keep it short: the whole book is rendered kind of pointless by the epilogue. It’s the only complaint I have.

November: The Diviners (Libba Bray)

Why I Read It – Another suggestion from my wife, and another unfinished book. The idea sounded great – a ’20s, flapper period piece urban fantasy story during Prohibition.

Did I Like It? – Yes, and no. Again, I didn’t finish it, though I threw like a month and a half at it. Libba Bray is a FANTASTIC writer, and I absolutely mean that. The prose is mouthwatering. It’s hilarious when it’s trying to be funny, it’s horrifying when it’s trying to be scary, it works. The characters are great, the setting is fully realized and well-textured. The pace, however, was just too slow for me.

I made it half way through the book and the protagonists hadn’t done anything yet. Like, at all. The main conflict and the villain were all over in this box, and the protagonists hadn’t left their starting position yet. The characters were great, and I liked reading about them, but at some point they needed to get off their asses and do things, and by 50% they hadn’t. I just couldn’t hang any more. I will absolutely check out more by Libba Bray because she’s such a good writer it gives me jealous, heart-stabbing spike of pain in my chest.

December: Star Wars – The Final Prophecy (Greg Keyes)

Why I Read It – I guess I felt a strong urge to finish as many of my lingering series this year as I could, probably because everyone in 2016 was dropping off like George R. R. Martin characters and I was worried about being next.

Did I Like It? – Sure. Okay, listen. I’ve been reading this 19-book Star Wars series (“The New Jedi Order”) since I was a sophomore in high school, which means I’ve been off-and-on following this particular series for 16 years. Half my life. Are Star Wars Expanded Universe novels good? Meh. The best ones are fun and the worst ones are excrement, and this one qualifies as “fun.” It’s the second-to-last story in the series, and since I haven’t read any of the series in like four or five years, I decided I should just knock this bad boy out.

It follows a few of my favorite EU-only characters that I really like, Tahiri Veila and Corran Horn, and it has a decent little “enemy mine” situation between the two Jedi and a trio of snakey Yuuzhan Vong that COULD BETRAY THEM AT ANY TIME.

I dug it, it was fine, but I’m most excited to just read the last book of the series and put a bow on 16 years of reading.

December: End of Watch (Stephen King)

Why I Read It – Well, it’s the end of a series (!!!!!!!!!!!), so there.

Did I Like It? – I haven’t finished yet – I just got it for Christmas – but it’s already doing some interesting twists and turns. The first two novels of the series, “Mr. Mercedes” and “Finders Keepers” were straight detective novels, a rare genre for Stephen King. Without spoiling anything, I’m just going to say that “End of Watch,” the last novel, is COMPLETELY different. And since I’m the kind of guy who likes when a story changes genres, I’m all about it.

Favorite Book of 2016

As is often the case, we’ve got a two-way tie: “Red Seas Under Red Skies” and “Woken Furies.” So, pirate-con artists and surfer-ninjas.

I like weird books, okay, DEAL WITH IT.

 

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A Walking Dead Quitter Tries the Mid-Season Finale

the_walking_dead_s07e08_still_1

A Walking Dead Quitter Tries the Mid-Season Finale, “Hearts Still Beating.”

Spoilers up to episode 7.8 of “The Walking Dead.”

Today, a former-Walking Dead fan gives the Mid-Season finale a shot and asks the question . . . is it a good time to get back into the show?

Why You Quit, Quitter?

In my last article about AMC’s hit mega-hit “The Walking Dead,” I swore off The Walking Dead Totes 4EVER. The show had gone from “must see, gather around the TV” to “this show can eat roughly 100 dicks” all with the execution of one incredibly dumb and bad cliffhanger, which a panel of multi-discipline scientists concluded to be “the worst.”

I haven’t seen a single episode of season 7, but I have been reading spoilers and summaries to keep an eye on the show. Why? Probably for the same reason you haunt your ex’s facebook page. Anyway, I read a summary of Sunday’s big “mid-season finale,” and it sounded, dare I say, not-terrible. I thought to my self, “Self, I know you’ve sworn the show off, but what if you could get back into it? What if you could feel the way you felt before? What if the show is lonely and misses you and is sitting by herself in those little boy-shorts you like so much?”

So I called her late at night and asked her if she was busy. This is the ex-girlfriend metaphor, it’s still going. And like calling up your ex-girlfriend, or executing an extended metaphor, it was a bad idea.

Why Now?

The next question is thus – why didn’t I check this season out until now? What kept me away? Spite, for one. But also, the episode summaries I was reading online were doing nothing for me.

Episode 1 – takes 30 minutes to find out who died, it’s exactly who you thought would die, and the rest of the episode is Rick crying like a hungry baby. Conclusion – Nah, bruh. Nah.

Episode 2 – Carol meets a new community, there’s a tiger. Conclusion – Ehhh, so they don’t touch on the emotional aftermath of the first episode? They’re still stretching that shit out? Tiger? Pass.

Episode 3 – 45 minutes of Daryl being tortured. Conclusion – Wow, they’re really dragging this bad boy out. I’m all good, I’ve seen Daryl’s “angry sad” face, I can just imagine that for 45 minutes.

daryl

Episode 4 – Negan shows up to Alexandria and acts like a wang to everyone for 60 minutes. Conclusion – That sounds like literally the most boring story of all time.

Episode 5 – Hilltop episode. Trevor from GTA acts like Trevor from GTA, and the most suspensful part is “Which closet is Maggie hiding in?!” Conclusion – Literally fuck no.

Episode 6 – A Heath and Tara episode. Conclusion – Hahahaha

Episode 7 – Carl, the only character who has balls, cries multiple times because Negan is mean to him. Conclusion – Fart noise.

So Why Was the Mid-Season Finale Bad?

Because, if you couldn’t tell from that list above, this season has been nothing but filler and padding. I’m not sure if filler and padding are really different things but I’m listing them both. For filler and padding purposes. So, what happens in the Mid-Season finale?

The Escort Mission of Daryl Dixon

Daryl escapes from his prison cell at Savior Central. When I read the summary, I was like, “Hey, I could watch that!” What actually happens in the show is that someone else gives Daryl a key, he opens his cell, and walks out of the Savior compound with absolutely no resistance. He runs into exactly one person, the one who happens to have Rick’s revolver, and kills him without a fight. He then escapes because Jesus is there with a motorcycle, thus robbing Daryl of any actual agency the entire episode. You could not write a more boring escape from the villain’s hideout if you had set out to write the most boring escape from a villain’s hideout.

The entire point of the Saviors is “omg ho shit look how many there are,” which is even made a plot point IN THIS VERY EPISODE, and yet the Sanctuary is a ghost-town when it’s time for Daryl to stroll out? Sometimes the Saviors are ultra-competent whistling forest ninjas who know everything you’re doing, and other times they’re all the mookiest dudes in all of mookdom. So, what happened?

what-happened

What happened is the writers needed to fill the first half of the season, so they locked up the most volatile character who would actually be pushing the group to do something. Once it came time for filler-season to end, the writers quietly unlocked his cell and let him out. The note that came with his key might as well have said, “Dear Daryl, Have a great time! All the Best – AMC.”

I think anyone would have enjoyed an episode of Daryl escaping super-jail (with actual consequences and conflict) over a Tara episode about how sand is scary.

The Mouth Flaps

Is bad. As a dialogue enthusiast, it’s a legitimate struggle. There is not one line of dialogue spoken by any character that resembles words that would come out of a real, human face. The entire cast speaks in homilies and speeches, and it’s exhausting. The writers go for “vague and poetic-sounding” instead of “actual words” everytime. Mad Men, a far superior show, occasionally had the characters dip into this kind of “interpret for yourself” dialogue, but A) it wasn’t every goddamn line and B) the characters were all over-educated creative types or people putting on airs. For the most part, every character in Walking Dead is a blue-collar normie from the South.

The dialogue is so deep-fried in attempted-allegory that there’s an entire scene between Michonne and a female Savior that is indecipherable. I have no idea what the Savior was saying, and Michonne’s responses were vague enough to have been written by a computer that speaks solely in Mad Libs. Then they both look at something really far away that the audience can’t really see, and the Savior says “there’s a silencer in the glove compartment.” Then they drive away and we don’t see the Savior again.

So the Savior was suicidal? And Michonne capped her in the face at her vague request? If someone asked me to kill them, I’d need a little more than “there’s a silencer in the glove compartment” to convince me that was REALLY their intention. And the scene suffers from it – they were going for quiet desperation and achieved loud eye-rolling. When the character doesn’t seem real (the female Savior who’s apparently suicidal but I can’t tell because she speaks like she has to pay by the word), the sad things that happen to them don’t seem real, so they don’t connect with the audience.

Example: Marvel movies. Marvel movies are great and also ridiculous. Thor is a Norse God who hangs out with a weather scientist. Why does Thor work? Because the people around him talk like normal people. They react to crazy things like a normal person would. They have normal-people wants and desires, and it sells the ridiculous aspects of the movie. Zombies, by contrast, are also ridiculous. In the early seasons of the Walking Dead, the characters actually talked to each other. They told funny stories. They sang around the campfire, they went on quests for booze. So when they were suddenly fighting a one-eyed pirate with a tank, you could buy it, because the world AROUND the one-eyed pirate seemed real.

governor

Now we’ve got a guy praying to his evil baseball bat in the middle of what is supposed to be a dramatic scene, and because nothing “real” has happened, and all of the characters are jokes, the whole thing collapses in on itself.

The Jeffrey Dean Morgan Of It All

Let me freeze-frame and do a big jumping ’80s high-five here – I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He’s incredible in Watchmen, he’s great in Supernatural. The dude can act. He’s a known quality. So when I rip into him right now, know that I’m not really blaming him – either he made a bad choice and has to stick with it, the higher-ups are pushing this comic-book Negan thing, or the writers are simply giving him nothing to work with. But, let’s get real: Negan is bad.

Not “baseball bat your friends’ craniums into strawberry yogurt” bad. More like, “I’m embarassed to be seen watching this show” bad. Negan, as presented on the show, is ridiculous. He’s too skinny to be intimidating, he’s too subdued to be audaciously funny, he’s too juvenile to be likable, it’s a mess. A villain needs to be scary, fun, or relatable, and Negan hits none of those notes. He’s just kind of a dumb corny asshole who can play one trick, which he plays badly.

They’re pulling his lines wholesale from the comics, “I guess the guts were inside you the whole time!” without realizing that some things that play in print don’t work in live-action. For instance: The Governor, in the comics, is a cartoon character. He’s an R-Rated Cobra Commander, basically, a completely off-kilter psycho with no redeemable qualities or even an ounce of realistic motivation. This is fine in a comic book, because your brain tends to see written dialogue and spruce it up or gloss over it.

That Governor, if transported 1-for-1 in to the show, would have ruined it. Instead, we got a nuanced portrayal of pride and rage tearing a man’s mind apart. And in so adapting, they made the Governor work for their show, which has always played at being a realistic drama in spite of the zombies.

JDM has also picked up some weird character ticks and is playing them full tilt without a break. The “Leanin’ Negan” meme is no joke – Negan performs what I’m calling the “Negan Maneuver” roughly twenty-five times in the Mid-Season Finale. The Negan Maneuver goes like this:

Negan says something shitty / cornball.
He grins.
He leans back and pops his knees.
Optional: Swings Lucille vaguely at the end.

negan-lean

The Negan Maneuver represents roughly 75% of Negan’s body language. He also delivers every line in exactly the same smarmy, grinning tone, but it’s too relaxed to have any impact. For a pro like JDM, it’s inexcusable. Negan can work one of two ways in live-action: A) make him more serious and sinister or B) make him the Joker. Just a loud, insane, unhinged maniac dropping stupid jokes and butchering people – but, then you can’t make him leader of a thousand hardasses and a wannabe emperor.

Grim, sinister Negan could manage something like the Savior organization, but cackling-insane Negan couldn’t. The writers are trying to have their cake and beat it too, and it tears any sense of reality right out of the show. No one would actually follow a baseball-wielding murderer who steals your wives and makes fun of you all the time. A Savior who got tired of Negan sticking it to his wife would gently place a grenade in Negan’s bed while he was sleeping and call it a day.

It’s not good. I hope it’s danger-sirens and frantic meetings at the AMC headquarters right now. To put it plainly – every scene with Negan subtracts roughly 50 points from an episode.

The Timely Re-Penising of Rick Grimes

By the end of the episode, Rick has located his testicles (and his Colt Python) and is ready to fight Negan. For . . . reasons. Killing Abe and Glenn didn’t seem to motivate him, but the deaths of Spencer (the guy who hates Rick) and the character whose name is I THINK Olivia finally pushed him over the edge. You could say, “Well, Rick thought if he behaved that Negan wouldn’t kill anyone anymore,” but that only makes Rick look like the dumbest motherfucker on the planet. You mean the grinning psycho who bashes brains in and takes photos of their bashed brains and threatens to make you cut your son’s arm off isn’t a TRUSTWORTHY GUY?! Ho-lee-shit, stop the fucking internet presses everybody.

Then why, why oh why, is Rick suddenly becoming effective again? Because the plot calls for it. After 8 excruciating episodes of Rick being a total poo-swah, they have to start progressing the story. Even they know that 8 episodes of filler is a little fucking much for most audiences. So instead of an organic in-story reason for his dramatic turnaround, it’s just “shrug, okay, let’s be my ACTUAL character again.”

Considering they’re planning on stretching this arc out into two seasons (Jeffrey Dean Morgan even said as much), don’t get too excited about the back-half of season 7. Though things are FINALLY starting to move, bet your ass these next seven episodes are going to be more of the same (except with slightly fewer shots of Rick weeping).

rick-gun

How Can they Fix It?

If I were to be arrogant enough to suggest a solution (and I were), it would be this: back off the comics a little. The past season or so has featured the TV show hewing closer to the comics than ever before, with whole scenes lifted line-for-line. If the Walking Dead subreddit is anything to go by, the comic fans are loving it. If the perilous drop in ratings (and the comment section of every review on the internet) is to be examined, then it’s clear the casual fan is getting bored.

The problem with cleaving to the comics is this: the show hasn’t really been doing that up until now, so the scenes and characters aren’t matching up. Watch the pilot episode and ANY episode from season 7 back-to-back and tell me they’re even the same show anymore. Where began a thoughtful character-study in the apocalypse there lives now a goddamn cartoon. Okay, so the comics had a CGI tiger in them – that’s not this show. It doesn’t fit. It’s weird and silly. So Rick caved to Negan in the comics – who cares?

Rick in the comics and Rick in the show are completely different people. It makes sense for Rick in the comics to play it more carefully – he’s missing a hand. His people are less competent than show-Rick’s people. He doesn’t even have a Daryl. Comic-Rick fought like four “hunters” and it was a harrowing experience. Show-Rick and his team slaughtered AN ENTIRE TOWN of well-organized cannibals at Terminus. They’re not the same people, they haven’t gone through the same shit.

Show-Rick, if he was acting in-character, would have never submitted to Negan. This is the guy who, at Terminus, was belly-up to a  cattle trough, a knife at his throat, a baseball bat to his head, and yet  still promised to kick their asses. And for all he knew THEY WERE GOING TO KILL AND EAT HIM AND HIS SON. But the idea of someone cutting off Carl’s arm is his breaking point? What the fuck? “You can kill and eat my kid and I’ll still be a badass, but threaten his arm and HERE COME THE WATERWORKS.”

rick-crazy

It doesn’t make sense. Rick didn’t cry and weep when Joe and the Claimers were literally about to rape Carl. He bit Joe’s fucking throat out, even though they were outnumbered and overwhelmed. Show-Rick is a certified badass psycho-dad. Show-Rick is not the kind of guy that breaks, he’s the kind of guy that snaps.

Having him suddenly “break” to Negan’s dumb theatrics when he’s faced WAY worse is nonsense. It’s “following the comics” when it no longer makes any sense to follow the comics. Show-Rick would have hatcheted Negan to death in the RV, grabbed his machine-gun, and sneaked out the back of the RV and jumped the Saviors from behind.

Hell, show-Rick would have just machine-gunned the first Savior roadblock and roared through it on his way to the Hilltop.

So, What’s the Plan?

I really, REALLY wanted to be seduced by the Walking Dead again, but after a half-hearted tug job and some mutual weeping, I left the apartment unsatisfied and slightly disappointed in myself for the relapse.

I won’t be continuing. If the season finale sounds inviting I MIGHT check it out, but considering we probably won’t see Negan’s inevitable downfall until the finale of NEXT season, I’m not expecting a lot from this show.

riker-chops

(Article originally appeared on “Agents of GUARD.”)

 

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3 Movie Conspiracy Theories That Gotta Die

As movie fans, we love digging into the meat of a movie’s plot like a cyborg velociraptor with obesity issues. We even love constructing new narratives within existing narratives, like Russian nesting dolls shaped like cyborg velociraptors.

Unfortunately, just because a theory sounds cool, doesn’t mean it holds any weight, much like how the tiny hands of a cyborg velociraptor have difficulty holding weight. Here’s three AMAZING theories that are completely bullshit, ranked from least bullshit to most bullshit.

3.) Skyfall’s Villain is M’s Son

THE1

Skyfall’s enigmatic villain “Raoul Silva” was one of the better Bond villains to emerge in years, and was played with a fascinating yawning malevolence by Javier Bardem. One of the scarier things about him (besides his melting face) is his mystery – even after the credits roll, we never quite learn what Silva’s deal was. We get vague hints: he was an MI6 Agent, he worked in Hong Kong, he got a little too big for his britches and M had to trade him to the enemy to grease some diplomatic wheels. Still, by the end, we never quite learn why M seemed so disgusted with him, or why Silva appeared to be nutbars in love with her, or even what kind of man he was before his transformation.

Stephen L. Carter, a writer for the BloombergView, released an interesting theory about the movie last November. According to him, the answer lies in anagrams. He posits that since Raoul Silva’s self-made name can be translated into an apropos anagram – namely, “a rival soul” – that Silva’s message to M – “THINK ON YOUR SINS” – must also be an anagram as well. I’ll save you the trip to grab a pad of paper – the anagram, according to Carter, unfolds into “YOUR SON ISNT IN HK.”

HK stands for “Hong Kong,” which is where Silva was operating before he was betrayed by M. Thus, Silva must be M’s son. It explains the strange love he has for her, the weight of her betrayal (and later his own attacks on her). The reason he hesitates when killing her at the end, and the reason she hesitates to kill him when the gun is stuffed into her palm.

THE2

LET THE SKYYYYFAAAAALLLL

Why It’s Wrong: It’s an interesting theory, and I enjoy gliding my brain-jet through the theory’s air-hoops. I’m a big anagram nerd (whilst reading the second Harry Potter book, I figured out on my own that “Tom Marvolo Riddle” translated into the name of our favorite dark lord), and the idea that a huge plot point would be stuffed into an anagram makes parts of my anatomy stiffen.

Unfortunately, it completely misses the point that the movie is trying to make. Skyfall is about who we become, not where we came from. It’s about duality, and outlining the paths we take. Bond and Silva are supposed to be similar – Silva even explains that once upon a time, he was M’s favorite agent. Silva (really Tiago Rodriguez – anagram “A Gooier Drug Zit”) was the one saving the world, getting the girls, and being kind of a dick.

Silva’s origins are left smoky because so are Bond’s. Like Silva, we get small tastes – we visit Bond’s childhood home, we meet his groundskeeper, we learn his parents died and he didn’t take it very well. However, when M tries to explicitly ask Bond to share his origins with the audience, Bond himself steps in to preserve the mystery: “You already know. You know the whole story.” What he’s really saying is “it doesn’t matter.”

Not Pictured: Fucks Given

Not Pictured: Fucks Given

This is proved later in the story when Skyfall burns around him. We expect some kind of grand moment of catharsis where Bond makes peace with his unhappy childhood (or maybe even squirts nostalgia), but all he says is “I always hated this place.” Then he actually takes part in making sure the building is demolished, without a hint of pathos. He knows his origins don’t matter – he isn’t where he was born. He isn’t what happened to him. Bond is Bond because of his actions, and nothing else. He’s not even a man who puts much faith in words.

Bond, in the very beginning of the story, is betrayed by M. She orders Bond’s partner to take an unsafe shot that nearly kills Bond. In fact, everyone thinks he’s dead for a long while. Bond plays the part of the retired agent, but when he spots a dire news report he straps on his Walther and goes back to work. Silva, as a direct contrast (“a rival soul”), turns into a murdering, raving loon after being betrayed by M. Silva tries to get us to sympathize with him, something M starkly brushes off – there’s never any hint of guilt on her face. This is a spy’s game, and though she felt a connection with Silva (like she does Bond), his actions are his own. Silva wasn’t forced to become the thing he became. He chose to, and he’s going to pay for it.

For England

For England

Silva definitely views M as a mother figure – as does Bond. But the idea that M is actually Silva’s mother is taking a beautiful metaphor and crushing it beneath the boot heel of literalism. It doesn’t matter where Silva came from. It just matters what he chooses to become.

Plus, anagrams are like prophecies – they can mean whatever you see. For instance, “James Bond” breaks into “a job mends.” Pretty revealing, for a deeply-flawed person who’s only redeeming quality is the work that he performs. THINK ON YOUR SINS can break down into lots of phrases, like “Honky Intrusions” and “Uh try onionskins.”

2.) Ferris Bueller is a Figment of Cameron’s Imagination

THE4

You know the theory – like Fight Club (spoiler alert?), the milquetoast character’s raucous best friend is actually a mental projection who doesn’t exist. Jack had his Tyler Durden, and Cameron Frye has his Ferris Bueller.

The theory goes that Cameron is suicidal from loneliness, and is deeply ashamed of the lame nobody he’s spent his high school years as. His dad hates him (and abuses him, let’s be honest), his mother is distant, and he lives in a cold museum-like home that appears to actively disdain children. The only attention Cameron gets is from playing sick, which he frequently does whenever he succumbs to his boredom and melancholy.

Enter Ferris Bueller, the ridiculous, over-the-top, supernaturally successful high school star that everyone loves. He’s got a beautiful girlfriend, he’s always the smartest person in the room, and all the other students seem to worship him for no real stated reason. Ferris Bueller then goes on to fake an illness (Cameron’s constant move) to skip school. It has the side-effect of garnering attention – except, unlike Cameron’s illnesses (that gets a slight nod from his parents), Ferris’ illness sparks a grass roots “get well” campaign that would rival something created for a fascist dictator.

THE5

Throughout the movie, Cameron learns to embrace the wild side as he starts to perform the actions that “Ferris” does, and the story culminates with him finally throwing off the shackles of his abusive father and demolishing his beloved car.

There are actually two versions of theory – the more “Fight Club” theory where Cameron is actually doing what Ferris does, and the “complete fantasy” version where Cameron imagines the whole adventure from the comfort of his sick bed. Then, having had an epiphany, he goes into his father’s garage and wrecks the car as his first stepping-stone to becoming a strong person.

Why It’s Wrong: The theory is cute, and it’s definitely a fun lens through which to rewatch a classic that you’ve probably seen dozens of times. Ferris Bueller is practically effervescent in his puckish charms – it’s not a stretch to wonder if he’s even real to begin with. That’s pretty much the only way to view this theory. Taking it seriously is just sillypants.

THE6

Neither version of the theory works because of perspective – mainly, the story is told from multiple viewpoints. Fight Club, by contrast, is told from Jack’s perspective. Every scene features Jack, because he’s hallucinating. Fight Club plays fair – it’s possible to figure out that Tyler Durden and Jack are the same person. In contrast, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off tells the story from Ferris’ perspective, Cameron’s, Principal Rooney’s, Sloan’s, and the most damning of all: Ferris’ sister Jeanie.

What the hell is Jeanie doing in a story about Cameron’s imagination? She clearly lives in a different house than Cameron, and has a whole adventure that only marginally relates to Ferris (and has nothing to do with Cameron’s coming-of-age story). Cameron would have had to imagine her story from whole cloth for no other reason than to add an interesting side plot to his own story, which is a level of insanity reserved for Daffy Duck and fiction writers. Jeanie adds nothing to Cameron’s “becoming a man” fantasy. Principal Rooney at least creates an opposing force for Ferris to humiliate. On the other hand, Jeanie’s plot ends with her and Ferris learning a lesson about family. Cameron is an only child. Ferris isn’t real. Cameron and Jeanie don’t even interact in the story. This lesson is nonsensical if either she’s fictional, Ferris is fictional, or they’re both fictional.

THE7

Sloan herself also presents a problem. If she’s real, then Cameron has a beautiful, charming, confident girlfriend – hardly someone who would hang out with a perpetually ill, mopey, delusion loser like Cameron. If she isn’t real, then what’s her function in the story? They don’t have sex, so boner-bait is out. He sees her naked once, but that’s a pretty lame fantasy life. And, they’re on the verge of a potential break-up due to college – again, another odd thing to fantasize about.

The “Cameron imagines the whole thing from his bed” angle is preposterous for obvious reasons: every movie could be just a hallucination starting from the first scene. Actually, all movies are made-up starting from the first scene, so it’s kind of a pointless “revelation” that doesn’t improve anything. So yeah. Cameron, take us out:

THE8

1.) Deckard from Blade Runner is a Replicant

This is one of the oldest fan theories in modern cinema – the insidious idea that Harrison Ford’s “Rick Deckard” is in fact one of the human-looking replicants that he’s been hired to hunt down. In the original cut of the film, proponents claim there are a few hints – the sterile photographs in Deckard’s apartment, and the fact that he never answers the question when Rachel asks him if he passed the replicant-identifying “Voight-Kampff Test.”

THE9

Those are both pretty thin – the photograph complaint can be dismissed out of hand, and the test non-answer is easily a character move. The person asking him the question in the movie is an angry replicant being subjected to that very test – it would be like screaming at an IRS agent and asking him if he’s ever been audited before. Silence is basically an attempt to let the other person calm down, and to not argue on their level.

The biggest damning evidence actually comes from the Director’s Cut released years after the movie, the one that inserts a deleted scene where Deckard dreams about a unicorn, and is later handed an origami unicorn by a smug Detective Graff. This, proponents of the theory claim, is Graff trying to tell Deckard that he’s a replicant, and that his dreams were implanted.

Conspiracy theorists love it because it’s subversive – look at the big hypocrite killing his own people. Plus, it’s twisty, and people like twisty – it’s fun to imagine that the whole story has been flipped on its head. People feel smart for guessing it. After all, it’s certainly possible within the context of the universe, so why not? There’s also another reason this theory has survived the ages – its biggest fan is the director himself. Ridley Scott believes that Deckard is a replicant, so he must be, right?

Robo-Rachel is not impressed.

Robo-Rachel is not impressed.

Why It’s Wrong: The biggest reason it’s wrong is that, like the Skyfall theory above, it completely pooch-fucks the message of the movie. “Blade Runner” (and the book it’s based off) is about living life. It’s about succumbing to the grind. It’s about learning what to live for and embracing it with all your heart.

Deckard (the human) is a nine-to-five kind of guy. Sure, his job is exotic (hunting mandroids through a cyberpunk megalopolis), but that doesn’t make Deckard any less of an empty shell. He’s a classic workaholic – he eats crappy food, he goes home to his empty apartment, and he works. He doesn’t have a girlfriend or a family; He seems to barely exist outside of his job – like a robot.

His prey, whom he murders, is the exact opposite. They only have a tiny lifespan (as opposed to Deckard’s science-improved long lifespan), were built for one purpose (unlike Deckard), and yet seem to be adore life. They’re fascinated by art, mechanics, even fucking rain. They are gripped with perpetual child-like wonder – they live every moment to the fullest. They cherish all the amazing emotions and experiences they’ve been given. The replicants are literally “more human than human,” the ironic tagline of the company that created them.

THE13

“Einhorn is a man!”

Deckard (the “hero”) murders them one-by-one, and we’re treated to a fantastic reversal in the final reel – though Deckard is the underdog (because he lacks Roy Batty’s enhanced strength and senses), he’s actually become the villain. Roy Batty wants to take revenge on Deckard, not just for murdering Roy’s friends, but for wasting his life. For Deckard being an empty automaton in a magical world. Roy laments his own approaching death and lives his last moments like Deckard never will.

After Roy dies, Deckard actually learns the lesson. He takes his short-lived replicant girlfriend and decides to flee and live what life he can.

If Deckard is a replicant, the whole message of a human learning how to live from a robot is completely obliterated. It just becomes a weird robot-to-robot mentor message that sinks all the irony and beauty in the name of Shyamalalalamanian twistiness.

THE11

“Quiet. Daddy’s talking.”

If that’s not enough to convince you, consider this: Philip K. Dick (the author of the novel), Hampton Fancher (the writer of the screenplay), and Harrison Ford (Harrison Ford) all thoroughly intended that Deckard be a human being.

Philip K. Dick said it best: “The purpose of this story as I saw it was that in his job of hunting and killing these replicants, Deckard becomes progressively dehumanized. At the same time, the replicants are being perceived as becoming more human. Finally, Deckard must question what he is doing, and really what is the essential difference between him and them? And, to take it one step further, who is he if there is no real difference?”

THE12

Article originally published at Agents of GUARD.

 

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The Wafflers Review of Star Trek: Beyond

STB1

So, I just caught up on the newest entry in the NuTrek saga, and boy was I surprised.

I REALLY took the piss out of this movie when that first, widely-maligned trailer debuted. It seemed like it had been concocted primarily to anger Star Trek fans: rock music, sweet dirt bike jumps, the Enterprise being destroyed IN THE TRAILER, and “from the Director of Fast and Furious.” For me, the only thing that’s fast and furious in Star Trek should be Worf at the helm of the Defiant.

See, it’s a fast ship and he’s angry, so that’s a joke. The joke I just said.

I (and the internet) heaped so much abuse upon the trailer’s back that the writer of the film (and co-star) Simon Pegg had to come out on social media and both A) apologize for the trailer and B) insist that it didn’t truly capture the Trekkian nature of the final film.

So, was Pegg right? Could the director of Fast and Furious make a good Star Trek film?

STB2

Kinda

Okay, so I had a hard time writing this review/essay, primarily because it took so long to process my feelings about the flick. I’m still not 100% convinced of how I feel, but I figured this review might help me find my own thoughts. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll help you find yours.

The question is: was it good? Yes? I think yes.

Let me explain my reticence – Star Trek Beyond is EXACTLY what I thought it could never be: an old Star Trek movie. What’s an old Trek movie? As a lover of Star Trek, I gotta say this: those movies aren’t GREAT if you don’t like Star Trek already. In fact, I’d argue that as stand-alone movies they don’t really work. Not to say that they’re bad (most of them aren’t), but they are very much tied to the assumption that you know these characters, you care about the world, and you’d rather see them in action that worry too much about filmmaking. They are big-budget episodes of the show WHICH IS FINE because they’re for people who watch the show. Like me.

As contrast, let’s look at the last two movies. Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness are BOTH movies that I really enjoy, both as a Star Trek fan and a general movie fan. However, I would say that they weren’t made for Star Trek fans. They were meant to be blockbusters, standing on their own without any knowledge of the Star Trek universe. My wife, who didn’t give two rat turds about Star Trek LOVED those two movies. She loved them so much it kindled a curiosity about Star Trek, one I was happy to sate with choice TNG episodes and old Star Trek flicks.

Now, why? Well, because J.J. Abrams wasn’t a big fan of Star Trek, and wanted to make movies that appealed to EVERYONE. Which, I can’t say I blame him – there are a lot of upsides to his approach. The characterization is really tight because they don’t assume you know the characters. The stories are self-contained and fast-paced. There’s a lot of action and spectacle, and it’s done in an entertaining way.

So, why is Star Trek Beyond different?

STB3

It’s For Fans

Yeah, really. Justin Lin (who it turns out is a big Star Trek fan) directed a movie that feels like a Star Trek: The Original Series episode on tetrameth. Unlike the cranked-down polish of the Abrams movies, Lin instead went with the humor, character moments, techno problem-solving, and philosophical bombast of a true Star Trek episode.

It’s a relatively small story, and could easily be paired down into a 45 minute episode. Visit weird planet, get in adventure, fix a tech thing, credits.

Now, I’m not saying one approach is better than the other – I think Beyond might be a worse movie than the Abrams movies. However, it is paradoxically a better STAR TREK movie than the other two, which is a weird contradiction that hopefully you understand after that setup from earlier.

The movie is filled with character interaction – you could say the whole plot is just an excuse to pair off the cast and have them bounce off each other. The whole middle of the movie is just Spock/Bones, Kirk/Checkov, Uhura/Sulu, and Scotty/Jayla exchanging dialogue and overcoming natural obstacles, and it’s GREAT. Really.

Also, and this is the part that shocked me the most – remember that scene in the trailers where Kirk decides it’s time to abandon intergalacatic diplomacy and officer-decorum and start doing sweet jumps on his dirtbike? It’s actually pretty organic in the movie, and makes perfect sense in context. I know, it shocked me too. Why in God’s name would Kirk have a dirt bike? Explained. Why is he using it for transportation? Explained. Why did he just do a jump off a ramp? Honestly? Explained. By the time the sequence ended it didn’t bother me at all.

Destroying the Enterprise – which is not a spoiler because it’s in the fucking commercial – wrenched my guts. I’m not sure if I hated the scene because I love the Enterprise or I hated the scene because it was unnecessarily pornographic in its glee for destruction, but it made me sick to my stomach. In Star Trek: Search for Spock the Enterprise explodes, and it explodes/crash lands in Generations. But the way it’s done this third time is actively gross, and it really bothered me to see it go down that way. There is an incredible upside to the scene, though – it’s probably the hardest the Enterprise crew has ever worked to keep the ship alive.

No self-destruct, no immediate “abandon ship” when things start looking grim. The crew fight tooth and nail for every square foot of deck plating, and they don’t so much give up on the ship as the ship just doesn’t exist anymore by the time it’s over.

That's . . . that's not really relevant here.

That’s . . . that’s not really relevant right now.

The Villain

The real downside to the story is the plot, which is basically an after-thought. The villain (who faciliates the plot) is equally under-developed. Like Star Trek villains of old (looking at you, Christopher Lloyd), his job is to walk on stage, kick the crew in the balls, and then be safely dispatched before the credits role. His backstory makes no sense, his motivations are both unclear and kind of unbelievable, and the source of his incredible power (and the effect it should have had on the sector) is swept under the rug. Don’t worry about why he wants a McGuffin when his current tools are WAY more powerful than the McGuffin he’s trying to obtain.

The Dumb Climax (No Spoilers)

I’m going to avoid spoilers here, but I am going to say there’s a sequence near the climax which is somehow both the DUMBEST thing I’ve ever seen in a Star Trek movie and also one of the most AWESOME. I think I loved it, but man was it dumb. Still had a grin on my face the whole sequence, though.

So Which Is It

My wife, lover of nuTrek, thought “Star Trek Beyond” was worse than the previous two movies but still entertaining, which I agree with. Hardcore fans of Star Trek seem to think it’s WAY better than the other two movies, which I agree with.

So, I guess I’d say “go watch it.” You’ll find something to like (or love), and it’s definitely not the reeking dumpster fire we all thought it would be. It’s a fun-ass movie with great moments, and I highly recommend it.

stb4

Article originally posted by B.C. Johnson on “Agents of GUARD.”

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Deadgirl Sequel Out Now, Author Pees in Excitement

Hey, good and gentle peoples who read this blog! I try not to spam you guys because you’re all so attractive and swell individuals, but it’s not every day the sequel to your first book comes out. Which it did. It does. For me. I mean.

My book is out today. Kindle / Ebook / Phone right now, but the paperback is coming soon. Anyway, I’d really appreciate it if you checked it out or at the very least sent the word along to someone you think might dig it. Anyway, here are the links to Amazon and then I’ll leave you alone I promise.

Here are the Amazon pages for Deadgirl: Ghostlight and the original Deadgirl if you missed it. They’re basically Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style adventure/thrillers narrated by a smartass.

ghostlight review sheet

 

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Smile!

LucyClose

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The Asshole’s Guide to Editing: #4

Assholes Guide Banner

Previous Guides: #1#2, and #3.

Last time: Solin walked down a single street. No, seriously. Also he vaulted over a cow, I guess?

EXCERPT

The Morali land was large, but Solin was soon at his destination (passive – watch those “was”es). A copse of trees rose up in the middle of the plains, following the course of a wide stream that broke off of the Sabrienne river to the east. As he got closer he slowed down, both for fear of disturbing his friend and simple exhaustion. He slowed to a jog, and finally a brisk walk (unnecessary comma, the sequel), allowing his muscles to stretch out and his blood to slow down. (Okay. This is a common move I still have to try hard to keep out of my writing. So first I said “he slowed down.” Then, in the next sentence, I DESCRIBE what slowing down is. In case you don’t know. It’s partially my tendency to over-explain, and partially an artifact from the first draft. This kind of thing is okay in a first draft because it’s really just telling the story to yourself. Later drafts need to be leaner. Take out the tell “he slowed down” and leave a punchier remnant of the show, like “His run decayed into a jog, then a leisurely stroll.”) It felt good to be tired, properly exhausted. Solin didn’t fear toil; he was just terrible at it. (STAHP. We get it. We all get it.)

Solin moved into the shadows of the trees then (Delete “then.” Why is that even here?), great willows that stretched their wispy canopy over his head. In the center of the copse the stream passed (Yoda, is that you?), crystal clear waters from the Sabrienne, a river that traced back to the great mountains to the north (Second time you’ve described the course of a distant river for literally no reason at all – well, kinda. Spoiler alert, this river starts somewhere mystical, which is why I felt the need to mention it twice. It’s still ham-handed, though). The stream split there beneath the willows, and most of the water cut south and no doubt hit the sea at some point (“No doubt?” It does or it doesn’t. Pick one). But Rion’s father had dammed up a portion of the stream along (two words there, son) time ago, and created a little shimmering pond. Solin and Rion swam and played there in their younger days. Frayed lengths of rope still hung above the pond, aching to be swung on. (Great imagery trapped in a pretty good sentence, even with the preposition wonkiness. So far, the count of pretty good sentences is “2,” for those keeping track at home.)

But that was a while ago, and Rion used it for fishing now. He claimed that was the only reason he came down here, but Solin knew better. (Delete this and inject it into dialogue later. Have Solin bust Rion’s balls. “Waxing nostalgic?” “Not at all. Trout are jumping this time of year.” “Oh yeah? Is that what the sketch pad is for?” Or something. Bring it into the character’s actions, not pork-fingered exposition.) It was a place of memory, and reflection, and at dawn or dusk Solin always thought it had a magical look to it. The way the willow branches crept down and filtered the light into shining specks that danced across the water. (By the way, this is the REAL reason Solin likes getting up early. See how unnecessary all the times he hemmed and hawed about it earlier? All those can be cut completely).

Solin noticed a handful of trout hanging by hooks from the branch of a low-hanging willow. (“Hanging” is twice in this sentence. Fix.) A few extra spears were leaned up against the tree (“A few extra spears leaned against the tree.” Boom. Passivity gone. Watch those “was”es and “were”es, right?). A pair of boots sat just on the edge of the water.

Solin leaned against the willow and watched.

Rion ett Morali stood on the shallow bank of the pond. The biting cold water (This could go either way, but Solin doesn’t know that the water is biting cold. Sure, he could deduce, but it feels like perspective flopping. Cut it) lapped around his ankles, though it didn’t seem to be bothering him. His long brown hair fell in waves to his shoulders, and high above his head his arm was in an arc, aiming the spear in his hand toward the waters (Not horrible, but the wording is so clunky. It just needs a clean rewrite). His back was to Solin. He couldn’t see his face, but it was no doubt arranged in its perpetual look of peaceful concentration, with nary a wrinkled brow to give away his thoughts.

(YUCK! Solin just described something he isn’t seeing just so he can describe the character to the audience. Also, don’t be so quick to description – you don’t need to fix your description in the mind of the audience right away. In fact, and this took me a LONG time to realize, you really don’t need to describe your characters at all.

I know that sounds weird, but bear with me. Your job as a writer is MUCH easier if you let the reader take over some responsibilities. Let’s say you have “Helen,” and Helen needs to be beautiful for the story to work. And I mean, NEEDS to be. The plot hinges on it.

You don’t have to go into crazy detail. Don’t describe her eyes, the upturn of her nose, the slender calves, whatever turns your key. Have other characters react to how beautiful she is – have men constantly hit on her, have woman envy her, have a photographer stop her in the street and ask if she’d like to do some modeling. Have her blow off all of these advances in a nonchalant way, letting us know she deals with this all the time.

That’s how you make Helen beautiful. The reader will then pick up on this and conjure a beautiful woman in their mind, and their beautiful woman is going to make the Helen of your tedious description look like a pig. Reading is interactive, if you let it be. Let it be.

Hypocrisy alert: You’ll find some in-depth descriptions of characters in my books, and I regret almost all of them. If a physical signifier is 100% important to the character – Morgan’s stunning beauty in Deadgirl, for instance – then include the stuff I talked about. If it doesn’t really matter, don’t put too much energy into a physical description. Let the reader fill it in, and they’ll never forget the character they conjured.

I’m still working on this because it’s a really hard habit to break, especially for us visual types. But remember, books aren’t a visual medium. Use the best tools at your disposable. Don’t try to hammer a nail in with a saw.)

Solin had tried to get him to play cards with some of the guys in town; Rion wasn’t much for games (Semi-colons again, you old dog, you!). He’d win a lot of money with that unreadable gaze, too. Solin moved forward a step, about to break the silence, when Rion lunged.

His arm moved in a blur; (Oh shitttt, makin’ it rain semi-colons) Solin could barely follow the path of the spear. Droplets of water flew through the air around Rion, and he gripped the submerged spear with both hands and tugged it out of the water. A monstrous trout squirmed on the tip of the spear, and Rion turned and whipped the spear above his head. The fish sailed through the air, and Solin jerked to just narrowly avoid its flight. (There are some repetition problems here I would fix. Air, water, spear, air, water, spear. Maybe just delete a lot of it).

“Want to hang that up for me?”

/EXCERPT

I’ve seen a lot, A LOT, worse. It’s not good, don’t get me wrong. To semi-quote one of my agents – “Look at every paragraph – can it be condensed into a sentence?” You’ll find it often can, especially if you tend to overexplain, overdescribe, and overwrite (like, for instance, me).

Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about:

“Solin had tried to get him to play cards with some of the guys in town; Rion wasn’t much for games. He’d win a lot of money with that unreadable gaze, too. Solin moved forward a step, about to break the silence, when Rion lunged.”

Well, in all honesty I’d just delete everything but the last sentence and then perk it up bit: “Just as Solin opened his mouth to break the silence, Rion lunged.”

The stuff where I nearly break my back trying to not use the phrase “poker face” is unnecessary and should go. Rion will either seem stoic to the audience or he won’t – stop telling them who people are. If Rion is relatively quiet and strong in his actions, then we’ll get it. But don’t just unzip the sentiment and ram it home – romance the audience a little.

I’m still not convinced anything in this chapter shouldn’t be cut entirely. In fact, once we get to what I think the starting point should actually be, I’ll let you know. See you next week for I think some actual danger/conflict. I think.

My memory blocked out huge chunks of this book for safety reasons.

 

 

 

 

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