Continuity: Examples from TV

My beautiful wife and I have just celebrated 11 years of marriage. Most of those years have been fantastic, even if there were challenges to overcome. Marriage is awesome when you both put in the effort to look after one another and keep the marriage healthy. It pays dividends like no other investment.

One of our traditions that has developed over the years is we like to celebrate our anniversary by completely relaxing. We buy the latest season of Law and Order SVU and NCIS and then binge watch over a weekend.

Today I’m going to blog about the observations I made on continuity watching both seasons. Continuity is important for all series, whether book or TV.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Big Budget Does Not Mean Good Story

With working some long hours, and over-taxing my body, I’ve spent more hours than normal in front of the TV in the last week. In hindsight, I realise it was time not well spent. Even though it was shows and movies I wanted to watch, I found most of them bland and uninspiring. Even high-cost productions lacked a good story line, leaving my overall impression at “bleh”. I moved from anticipating the new series through to just feeling obligated to finish it.

The one exception to this cacophony of lacklustre entertainment was the Marvel movie Doctor Strange. Spoiler alert: read no further. From a cinematic point of view it was too heavy on CGI for my liking, but in contrast to everything else it had a good story line, even if it was cliché.

Good: Doctor Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch is a deeply-flawed egomaniac who wants to win at everything. He ends up defeating the bad guy by being willing to fail endlessly.

Bad: I’d have to say I didn’t believe the transformation. I didn’t see him changing over time, it was like someone flicked a switch and all of a sudden he’d changed. Not so much a character arc than a plot-required u-turn.

Good: Being willing to fail is something that most people can relate to, and for the perfectionist it is a hard thing to accept.

Bad: In hindsight, it was kind of a weak ‘fail’. I mean he was willing to loose in another galaxy, population 1.. There were no witnesses. It’s not like he was willing to admit his mistakes on international TV.

Good: There was some good humour to break up the action. (Marvel are good at this). Take for example this where his cloak has ideas of its own.

Bad: And then the super-cheesy, I-so-didn’t-see-that-coming from the monk who never laughs. (Guess what he does?)

There were other problems with it too, which I guess just shows how bad the others were. From now on, I’m reading, not watching TV when it’s the approach of bed time.

On Villains and Heroes

Recently I watched the thriller Hush on Netflix. I’m not normally a thriller watcher, but every now and then the mood is (f)right. I enjoyed the movie and it got me thinking…

Hush is the classic psychopath-stranger meets lone girl in remote location. The victim just happens to be an author which is helpful in piquing my interest.  The twist this time is that the ‘victim’ or protagonist is both deaf and mute.

A protagonist should be placed in a vulnerable position by the villain and I can’t think of a more vulnerable position than being deaf and hunted. Imagine being worried about someone breaking into your house and not being able to hear them at all. Are they breaking down the front door or standing just around the corner? Sound is a pivotal sense when it comes to engaging the flight or fight mentality.

Imagine screaming in pain, and knowing that not a peep was coming out of your mouth. You can’t call for help no matter how hard you try. The twin duo of deaf and mute make you more vulnerable and less able to protect yourself. Kudos to the writers Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel for choosing a protagonist that maximised the suspense.

Then my thoughts turned to villains. An evil villain like a psychopath is a scary proposition. When I consider villains they fit onto a scale something like this (where the higher the number the more scary they are):

  1. At the ‘weak’ end of the scale is the incidental villain. This is just someone who is going along with the flow, perhaps being dragged somewhat unwillingly along by peer pressure. They made a bad decision and its putting them into bad situations.
  2. Doing slightly bad things from necessity not choice is the subsistence villain. They might steal to feed the family, but they’re going to avoid hurting people if they can.
  3. The social villain. The louts and idiots who enjoy committing ‘medium’ level crimes. They normally travel in packs and like to think they are smarter because they  ‘live outside the system’. Normally they started off as incidental or subsistence villains but then graduated up the food chain, so this group covers the boss down to the foot soldiers.
  4. Taking a giant leap in evil-rating is the sociopath villain. These individuals like to commit crime and hurt people. They can’t empathize and will only ‘behave’ if it is personally beneficial.
  5. Give a sociopath a high intellect and/or lots of money and they becomes a genius villain. They are the cream of the criminal crop. They’re not interested in becoming the biggest drug dealer, but running the entire city and/or world.
  6. The architect villain though is even scarier (in some respects). Sure they might be committing crime and hurting people, but their motivation is what makes them truly scary. They are doing it because it will eventually help us. They can see that our temporary pain will be to our eventual good. This villain will never rest because in their mind they are doing what is right.
  7. At the very top of the scale is the child sociopath.

looper

(Take for example the movie Looper … laying aside my general dislike for a 5 year old child playing such an incredibly dark role).

I find a child psychopath more disturbing than an adult and I don’t think I’m alone. Is it because we inherently know that children are supposed to be innocent? Does a criminal act feels even more criminal when committed by a child? Is part of our fear related to their potential to hide their true nature? We know adults can be evil, but what if a child is evil now… how bad will they be in the future?

The mentally-deranged child is by far the worst villain.

Comical Characters

My wife and I have started to enjoy watching The Good Wife on Netflix. I know we’re a bit late to the show, but we got there anyway. 

One of the things which I really appreciate about the writing is the host of comical judges that come through the courtrooms like an assortment of clowns on a pageant float. 

There is the judge who insists on lawyers caveating every statement with “in my opinion”. Or the judge who makes lawyers “excuse themselves” if they try talking over anyone, virtually making them stand in the corner like a naughty child. Or the ancient judge who despite having two hearing aids and looking not-long-for-this-world is incredibly tech-savvy. 

Television has taught us over the years that judges are serious and often pompous individuals. These reoccurring characters break the mould, pleasantly surprising and shocking the audience. Their unique and individual behaviour injects comedy into the stories. And the pattern of always-odd judges means that we anticipate meeting new judges to see how they will be humorous.

There is something in these comical characters that we can apply to writing. Even in a serious book not every character has to be serious. Or perhaps they just have a strange character quirk that makes them interesting. 

Author’s Notes: When Nightmares Wake

This post is my author’s notes to When Nightmares Wake where I describe my thought processes, decisions and mistakes in writing the story. Think of it like the Director’s commentary on a DVD; only better because it won’t be in monotone (unless you read it so).

Continue reading

Skit: Mates Stick Together

About a month ago I blogged about a bit of fun that I’d had experimenting with skit (short-play) writing. I thought I’d share it and then provide some brief explanations as to the choices I made while writing it.

The skit was designed for church, as a bit of a promo of Men’s Ministry. The purpose of the men’s ministry is to support the men of the church, and to build a culture of doing life together. Life can be hard and it is important that we have some close mates or other men we trust who we can rely on. They can help or give a slap on the back of the head (Gibbs-style) as required.

I’m also passionate about healthy marriages. If the relationship between spouses is good, it is a blessing to the entire family unit. And marriage can be hard. Really hard. My early years of marriage would have been a lot easier if I’d had someone who could give experience-earned wisdom.

And so it is with these two foci that I wrote this skit.

skit1-1skit1-2skit1-3skit1-4

As you probably noticed I hit on several themes: mateship, marriage difficulties, work stresses, pornography/lust.

The way it plays out in my head also contains some humour: the prancing of the devil, the devil eating the husband’s snacks, the man in the towel with a frying pan. I was hoping that the humour lightens the subject matter and provides something that will be remembered.

There is also a good helping of truth in the skit:

  • How the man and woman are biblically supposed to act toward one another.
  • How a wise person’s response to challenge is to ask for help.
  • How we should be there for one another in times of need, even if it means abandoning all considerations of fashion sense or pride.
  • Even with others willing to help, they can’t help unless we agree to be helped.

And that, dear readers, is my first attempt at writing a skit.

A bit of fun

skit: a short comedy sketch or piece of humorous writing, especially a parody.

As some variety, and partly to fill a need, I have been having a go at writing some skits lately. The surprising thing is how enjoyable the experience has been.

A skit is essentially a super-condensed short story, which means when writing dialogue it has to be concise. The necessity to compress dialogue has made me more aware of how to use movement, props and facial expressions to broadcast the intended message to the audience.

The very nature of a skit also allows me to indulge my quirky sense of humour in “hamming it up” with over-the-top humour and acting, to get a laugh from the audience and make it memorable and engaging.

Vengeance Will Come update: I’ve just completed editing chapter 5, which is the longest chapter in the whole novel. Unfortunately the structural changes I am making are creating havoc with my pretty graphs. So far I’m at 21% reduction in the overall word count (though I expect that to reduce over time).