The Red Pill

The_Red_Pill

I recently watched The Red Pill. I enjoyed it as a thought-provoking piece. Contrary to all the negative criticism that I’d heard about it, I didn’t find it hateful toward women.

Despite my strong views in the next three paragraphs, I didn’t agree with everything the movie had to say (which I’ll discuss further on).

The first thing I heard about this movie was that screenings of it were being ‘shutdown’ amid protests from a vocal minority. If anything, the hysteria surrounding the movie only made me want to see it moreAnyone who tries to shutdown a debate is conceding they fear the opposing arguments. It seems, based on Google Play reviews, that a lot of other people also liked it.

red pill google reviews
GooglePlay reviews, 20/6/2017
red pill google reviews 2
GooglePlay reviews, 24/6/2017

Not incidentally, Channel 7 and Andrew O’Keefe owe the director Cassie Jaye an apology for their completely biased and ill-informed interview. O’Keefe starts the interview admitting that people not being able to see the film restricts the conversation “we’re able to have around this”. He then launches into a tirade of how the film represents certain things (which it doesn’t), then admits he hasn’t seen it, blaming Cassie for not sending him a copy (which she did). Then they tried to force her to remove the videos of the interview from her Facebook site. Stay classy, 7. (Here’s a thought, you could always just apologise. I’ll let you save face by assuming it was just a momentary lack of ethics and professionalism).

I commend Cassie Jaye for the courage in making the film and all those involved in the production, distribution and screening. For those who buckled under the screeching howls of protest… thanks for nothing and I’m glad you didn’t get my money.

There’s a few topics in life that I’m passionate about. Men, and marriage, are among them. Through a great marriage you bless everyone in the family. Get enough great families and have you have a great community and scaling up, society.

And great marriages require healthy men and women (holistically), regardless of their current marital status.

I believe men can only be great men when supported by other men and great women. Likewise, women need other women and great men around them. Only together are we strongest. Anything which pulls down either gender is therefore harmful to all.

The movie highlighted several valid points where society discriminates against men. These include the criminal justice system handing out harsher punishments, family courts preferencing custody to the female and the unequal spending on breast vs prostate cancer and how domestic violence against men is largely ignored by society.

Now in some cases, men are their own enemies. We aren’t good at going to the doctor regularly. We’re fueled by testosterone, which find us in dangerous situations (often when younger). Sure, I can make that jump. But it’s not all our own fault and we do need to find solutions. We can’t expect equal funding for prostate cancer unless we campaign and fundraise for it. (Politicians tend to do things that are popular instead of following evidence-based science).

The movie identifies that while women have been freed from the “house wife” stereotype, men remain locked in as the “provider”. Keeping a home functioning and providing an income are both important roles that need to be done. But both can be done by either gender. Society should frown upon either not being done, not by it being done by an alternate gender.

The male rights campaigners talk about society seeing men as disposal. They talk about the “women and children first” rule (in an emergency situation), or that society is more willing to lose soldiers if they are male. Men, they say, are therefore taught to consider themselves as of less value than females.

How do I see myself is a different question than how do I value someone else? I like the gallantry that a man will sacrifice himself to save a woman. I think that it is a positive trait that should be encouraged in both genders. The notion of sacrifice, and protection of others is a bulwark against the rampant ideology of self-first. We should each see, respect and value each other. And that begins with truly listening to one another.

I don’t see the Male Rights Movement as a backlash against female empowerment (as some claim). It is however resisting the push from radical feminism which thinks that men are obsolete, naturally evil and single-handedly responsible for the ills of the world. Clearly, that’s not true.

I encourage you to see the documentary and make up your own mind.

If you’ve seen it, what did you think?

Quick Update

I have a few things I need to prepare for the coming weekend, so I have to make this quick.

I was in the process of writing a blog post on The Red Pill movie. I’ve done about 50% of it, but I’d rather take the time to formulate it well than put it out quickly. So that might hit the blog next week.

I’ve also made a good start on the next installment of my audience-driven story The Guardian. Remember, I’m looking for your input in directing the story.

I’ve decided to excise out the first few pages of “source material” from Vengeance Will Come. I really like these pages (draft here). The idea was that they set the scene for the series (not just the novel). But I also know there’s a real danger in having material which doesn’t relate to the book (setting promises and expectations, and then not fulfilling them). So I’m taking the pages out and instead turning them into a short story. I’ve started to mull it over in my head, and I’m calling it The Heretic.

halo halo brochureAlso, the other day the beautiful Mrs Ezard and I went out on a date. We thought we’d re-live the memories of visiting the Philippines by getting a halo halo dessert. (It didn’t matter at all to us that it was only mid morning).

Here’s what it looked like in the menu (right).

I don’t really remember what it tasted like in the Philippines except for really yummy. Pieces of jelly, beans, fruit, ice and delicious purple ice cream.

halo halo real

This is what it looked like when we received it. Ignore my smile, I wasn’t really sure what to think at this stage. I was thinking something along the lines of “wish I’d gone somewhere else…”

And I’d have to say, the resemblance to the menu is very lacking. One could say, fairly, incomparable.

I didn’t eat much of mine. No point consuming calories if the taste buds are whingeing.

 

 

halo halo 2

But I was on a mission to find good halo halo for the nephews and nieces so I tried another place a few days later. (The sacrifices I make, honestly 🙂 ).

The results were better (far nicer), but I’m not sure if the price justifies it.

Audience-driven Short Story: Guardian (1)

The Experiment: An Audience-driven Short Story

Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure genre? The reader would reach frequent decision points and choose what the point-of-view character did. These decisions altered the story line and possibly the eventual conclusion.

In a similar vein I’m going to try to write an audience-driven story. Periodically (weekly? fortnightly?) I’ll add a slab of text to the story and then present a choice for the readers. Based on votes (or suggestions they propose), I’ll then write the next installment of the story.

Obviously given the timeframe involved and my other writing projects, I can’t promise a highly polished story. (I also reserve the right to ignore suggestions if they’re obviously designed to ruin the story).

This might work out or it might fail, only time will tell. One thing is for sure: audience participation is required.


Guardian (Installment 1)

(Please note: this story is a work of fiction).

I’ve always had exceptional hearing, and ears appropriately sized for the task. I’m not sure if there is a hearing-equivalent of 20/20 vision, but if there is I’d ace it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not super-human, just well above the average. My ears got me into trouble a lot as a kid, with nicknames like Dumbo, Wingnut and Radar.

After I left childhood I thought my ears wouldn’t cause me any more trouble. When I heard the faint cry I should have let it be drowned out the other ambient street noise, like it was for the dozens of other people around me.

The noise drew me into the alley between the shops. Just a few steps: I’m no fool. I wasn’t going to leave the safety of the road and all its witnesses. It was early afternoon and the alley was well lit, covered only by a few shadows at the back. I heard the cry again. My heart sunk. It was unmistakably a human cry so I couldn’t ignore it. I looked back to the street and the passers-by.

“Did you hear that?” I asked back toward the street. A young woman looked up from her phone. She shook her head but I doubt she even really heard me. Her electronic-possession reasserted itself and her attention returned to the phone as she walked off zombie-like.

There was another cry, a sad whimper. No one else seemed to hear it. Or maybe they just didn’t want to. But I’d heard it and had to investigate. The alley was empty except for two commercial bins on both walls part-way down. The cry must have come from behind a bin. I had no intention of putting myself in danger. Reality, however doesn’t consider intentions.

“Hello,” I called, hoping they’d show themselves, “is anyone down there? Do you need help?”

No movement. Nothing.

I hoped it was an abandoned baby or child and not some thug with an iPhone recording. No sooner had the thought occurred that I felt bad – why would I wish a child abandoned? I patted my pocket, annoyed to remember I’d left my phone at work.

I had to go down there.

I tried to loosen my shoulders and ready myself for anything even as my legs stiffened involuntarily. I tried to walk softly down the alley, one cautious step at a time. I glanced over my shoulder to reassure myself the people were still there, only a dozen or so metres away. If something bad did happen, they’d help me right? That’s what I told myself, but I knew in this day and age it was a 50/50 bet.

I looked around for a weapon, but there was none. My two flailing fists were all I had. They would flail if required…but given I’d never been in a fight, it was doubtful how effectively.

I was near the bins now, hoping that there was no one waiting inside of them ready to spring out on me. I heard the cry again and was relieved to see a child’s auburn-covered head behind the bin.

“Hi,” I said in a gentle tone as I walked around the bin, “what’s wrong?”

“Oh, crap!” I called out in surprise. Lying at the little girl’s feet was a huge African man, slumped against the wall. He was holding a wound in his chest, and there was a pool of blood growing around him. His face was covered in sweat, fixed in a grimace of pain and stubbornness.

“I’ll get help,” I promised.

“No,” the man said in a tired baritone voice, “just look after the girl.”

“Someone call 000, I need an ambulance. A man’s been stabbed,” I yelled at a passer-by. The rude woman pretended not to hear, but her pace increased.

“Look after the g–” he tried to say.

“You look after the girl,” I retorted, “we’ll get you help and you’ll be fine. She’s your daughter,” I said, before realising the only way this Caucasian child belonged to the dark African man was adoption.

“You can’t help me. Medicine won’t help–” the man grunted.

I tried to reassure him, like I’d seen them do in movies. “Don’t be silly, you’re not that far gone–”

“– me. I’m an Angel.”

It took a few seconds for what he’d said to register. And then a few more before I had any idea of how to respond.


What happens next? Post a comment below or send me an email to vote.

guardian-option1


Help over the fenceWant a beta-reader? I’ve been helped in my development process by other beta readers and now it’s my turn to ‘pay it forward’. Each month I’ll read a chapter of someone’s story and comment on it. To be eligible, just comment on one of my posts with “*Review*” in the comment and you’re in the running.

Making Readers Care

Does the reader actually care about the protagonist? If they don’t, it doesn’t matter what happens – they just won’t care.

I am indebted to one of my readers who reminded me of this scene from Pixar’s Up (and the uploader… and Pixar). I can still remember being affected by it at the cinemas when I first saw it. In just four and a half minutes, we are deeply emotionally attached to the protagonist.

It shows massive skill when a cartoon (that we know is entirely fake) can cause a strong emotional response in an adult. (In fact perhaps they did it too well, I think that sad-feeling lingered with me throughout the movie).

Looking at the components of the clip:

  • it starts by showing us two people in love.
  • They establish their life together and have hopes and dreams, which they start out achieving. They are romantic and optimistic.
  • They prepare for the future with children and then their dreams are dashed with loss of the child (and the dream).
  • He does what he can to lift her spirits and they start to dream again, making a promise to one another to achieve it.
  • Then life happens. They are still in love, enjoying one another’s companionship.and then he realises their chance of reaching their dreams has almost passed.
  • And then, before he can remedy the situation, unexpectedly illness strikes. No longer together, he must live on without her.

At this stage the hurt is palpable in the watcher. I can feel it in my throat as it tightens.

This is such a powerful scene because we can relate to it.  We all want the best for our loved ones, to have their dreams and to always be with them.

Now I just need to work out how to do this with words (without being cheesy). Any recommendations of stories where other authors do this well? Continue reading

VWC Revision: Renaming Characters

Still learning how to write, I don’t always do the right thing at the right time.

The writing luminary Orson Scott Card has rules for naming characters (here and here). The primary rule is that character’s names should not start with the same letter or sound. A sensible rule.

The image below lists all of the named characters in Vengeance Will Come and highlights the problem.

VWC Named Characters Original

(Those in grey are minor characters who don’t get a point-of-view. Some appear repeatedly, and others are only in a single scene).

Too many names?

There are, arguably, too many names and if possible I’ll cull a few of them during the course of the revision by de-naming them.

The reason for so many characters is two-fold. I admit I find it awkward and unnatural to refer to someone multiple times without assigning them a name. Occasionally I’ll give them a nickname (like “Tuxedo” or “Double Muscle”), but doing that too often also feels unnatural – unless that’s a point of view character quirk. Also, like a good fan of Robert Jordan I plan to take a few of the minor characters and elevate them in subsequent books.

Breaking Uncle Orson’s rule

This is a problem I should have fixed much earlier, but better late than never. You’ll also notice in the original image there are a heck of a lot of characters named with similar letters (S, T and M). So here are my proposed changes:

VWC Named Characters Revised

I’m achieving a few goals with these changes:

  1. I’m de-stacking the heaviest use letters.
  2. I’m strategically changing the gender of Teskan (see upcoming post about gender balance).
  3. I’m structuring names in-world. It’s always bothered me that some characters have two names while others only have the one. This was just how it was and I had no good reason for it. Now I do: important individuals (the elite) in the world get two names, whereas everyone else gets one.

The only difficult, and possibly controversial change I wrestled with was “Three”. My opinion pivoted like a see-saw.

On the one hand some reviewers found it understandably difficult, because it’s a real word with a different meaning. It can therefore trip the brain up for a while.

However some respected reviewers liked it and were upset at my thoughts of altering it.

It does breach Uncle Orson’s rule, and is especially dangerous because another major character (Terefi) use the same letter. I can’t change Terefi because of the origin of his name.

But I was also really fond of the name. It’s so different that I think it helps put an “other world” spin on it. (Which, in hindsight, is kind of ironic because we have some crazy names being used on this planet). As I originally conceived it, it is also more than just a name, though that won’t become apparent until later in the series.

So eventually the see-saw motion stopped and Three remained.

A final warning

The other draw back I’ll warn you about is using words that the grammar checker will work itself into a lather over. Because three is a legitimate word, but capitalising it in the middle of a sentence is not kosher, the grammar checker has a perpetual hissy-fit. Even worse (and I’m not sure I should admit this) “Three” started off as “X”. Just a bad move; I don’t think I could get the spellchecker to ignore the single letter.

Hopefully these changes will help to balance out name-usage and make it easier for my readers. Now it’s just a matter of retraining my brain and muscle memory to type the new names instead of the old.


Help over the fence

Want a beta-reader? I’ve been helped in my development process by other beta readers and now it’s my turn to ‘pay it forward’. Each month I’ll read a chapter of someone’s story and comment on it. To be eligible, just comment on one of my posts with “*Review*” in the comment and you’re in the running.

Nerd-Author Fun

I’ve spent a few days goofing off from writing. Well, kind off…it was writing-related.

I wrote a Java program that can load and process my novel. Now having done that load work will enable me to add useful tools in the future, but for now I just did some basic word frequency analysis. Sounds like some nerd fun? And it was.

First, technical stuff and then some results:

Technical stuff

Loading it into the program turned out to be more difficult than I expected. Part of the difficulty was how I defined things on the page. When I was younger I’d have told you that anywhere there is a gap between blocks of text then it is a paragraph. In my mind, at least, the concept of a paragraph is stretched out-of-shape by the frequent carriage returns of dialogue.

Paragraph
Is this a paragraph? Two? Three? I’m so confused…

I’m sure there’s probably a technical term (which I’m happy to be told)., but I didn’t want to research it. So, I solved the problem like any fiction author: I just made words up.

Hence forth, for all time until I find a better name, they shall be known as minor blocks (green) and major blocks (blue). The term paragraph may now be discontinued.

blocks

(I suspect I’m already in the process of changing my mind…)

Results

Before you peruse the results, you might wonder what possible good a function like this might be? (Admittedly at the moment there is too much information). The tool could be used in the following ways:

  1. There are some words, which are so peculiar or powerful that they should only be used once in a story. This tool will help locate those words. For example: gruesome (0), or horror (4). Wow, there’s a lot of cry (10) / crying (5) going on. I really need to check that… Point proven.
  2. There are also some words that mean-nothing and should be replaced with more descriptive terms, like interesting (3).
  3. It could help expose word-use problems. For example, when my characters want to swear they say “frak”. If I find a “frack” or a “fak” then I know I’ve made a mistake.
  4. Nerdy pleasure (hey, it’s valid for me)

When considering these results please note the following caveats:

  • Not all bugs have been ironed out; give me a 5% margin for error.
  • Contractions are included (so “don’t” and “do not” is counted as 2 words)
  • There are no exclusions yet (“a”, “is” etc are included)

For a novel slightly over 86K words, I was surprised with the results.

  • 8,443 unique words
  • The top 10 most frequent words account for 18,624 words. (the, to, and, a of, he, you, was, his, I).
  • Most frequent words per first letter: Unsurprisingly mostly character names. (A = and; B = be; C = could; D = Danyel; E = even; F = for; G = get; H = he; I = I; J = Jessica; K = Keeshar; L = like; M = Menas; N = not; O = of; P = people; Q = Queen; R = Regent; S = said; T = the; U = up; V = very; W = was; X = Xu; Y = you; Z = Zekkari).
  • Everything above 15 characters long was a processing error 🙂Words starting with letter

Length of words

 

Blake Crouch’s Pines

This review is SPOILER FREE.Pines by Blake Crouch

I recently read Pines by Blake Crouch after it was  recommended to me. I’d characterise it loosely as an x-files-type mystery.

Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.

(Before I begin with my review, let me just say I love the cover art. The upside-down nature of it starts telling you things aren’t as they seem, and that the character is disoriented).

Crouch did an excellent job of planting a mystery in the opening pages and dragging me through to the last page. I read the book in a weekend which is a reflection of its addictive nature. I was shocked to discover its 80,000 words: it feels short, such is the pace that it maintains. Had I posted a review as soon as I’d finished, here’s where it would have ended, short and sweet. In the past week though, I’ve reflected on it more from an author’s perspective, growing to appreciate it even more.

Character

The mystery is compounded and made even more intriguing by the fact that the main character ‘comes to’ after a car crash, without their memory. This confusion in the point-of-view character translates through to the reader. As an unreliable witness (amnesia) the reader is unsure if they should believe events through the eyes of the character.

The character in some respects is extra-ordinary: an ex-military pilot and a Secret Service agent. I’d normally consider this character to be ‘too strong’ and likely to overshadow any challenge before him. However his skills and expertise are significantly moderated by the car crash and past trauma he has suffered. Far from being a Rambo or Chuck Norris character, he only just manages to overcome the obstacles, and thus becomes a common man, surviving heroically. (If you can overlook the list of injuries and their likely effect on the human body, which I could.)

There were a few instances where the reasoning was a bit thin or the structure slightly problematic for me, but this is only with hindsight. This teaches an important lesson for aspiring authors – it doesn’t need to be perfect as long as your reader is engaged in the story. Unless it’s a HUGE blunder, they simply won’t notice. Plus, of course, perfection is subjective and a mighty hard goal to attain.

The one aspect I noticed immediately was the ending ‘hook’, or lack there-of. At the end of the novel is a sneak peek from the next book in the series. Naturally you’d want to grab the reader and, under the influence of extreme curiosity or excitement, have them insta-buy. I personally didn’t feel that compulsion. I wasn’t sure how the main character felt about his ending circumstances. This lack of clarity meant that there was no mystery, adventure or crisis I knew he’d be solving.

(That’s not to say I won’t read it in the future, only that I don’t immediately have to). It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it for what it was.


Help over the fenceDear Reader if you’re an aspiring author, chances are you know how hard it is to get feedback on your writing. I’ve been helped in my development process by other beta readers and now it’s my turn to ‘pay it forward’. Each month I’ll read a chapter of someone’s story and comment on it. To be eligible, just comment on one of my posts with “*Review*” in the comment and you’re in the running. The odds are good, I don’t get many comments 🙂