Monday, July 29, 2013

Different Strokes

I entered my first RWA contest in 2007, the Romancing the Tome First Five Pages. I read my entry to my husband, who makes no bones about what he thinks of reading. The word "book" is spoken with vehemence in our household, unless it's a L'Amour or Johnstone or Brandvolt western ;) (A book arrives in the mail and he announces, "You got a "book!" as if I'd ordered by accident.) He only reads when he's forced to; when he's been forced inside for weeks at a time and has run out of taped "Pawn Stars", Pickers, duck and deer hunting shows, "Strike Force" ad Encore westerns. You get the picture.

So I was astonished and pleased when he listened to my romantic suspense entry and was very complimentary. And then, when I received my constructive and kind rejection letter from Wanda Ottwell at Harlequin SR he was incensed on my behalf. It was sweet. That was then.

When I wrote the next contemporary romance based on my experiences as a rural carrier, he praised the story and the snippet I read to him. But then I felt like something was missing and turned it into a paranormal. I got ready to enter it in te WRW contest and handed him the first pages expectantly.

After much eyebrow scrunching, grunting and several sidelong glances, he handed it back to me with a sigh. "You'll have to give this to someone smarter than me. I'm totally in the dark." (He doesn't do vampires, fairires, or anything that goes bump or hoodoo.)

Encouraged by the WRW judges and not daunted in the least by his opinion I pitched the story in Atlanta at Moonlight and Magnolias to an HQ editor who seemed excited to hear more. Ironically, she also wanted to see a contemporary version! This WAS daunting. I coudn't see myself doing two entirely different genre versions of the same story.

I also gave it to my girlfriend who reads epic fantasy. After reading it and the C.L. Wilson Tairen Soul books I'd sent her, she told her boss with whom she shares her fantasy reading, "Who knew? There's such a thing as chic fantasy!"

What is the moral of this story? I guess it's that there is a genre out there for everyone but if you really want beneficial feedback for your story, search for someone who reads that subgenre.

Do you, like me, read across genres of fiction? Do you read different genres for different purposes? I tend to read historical romance when I want to relax, maybe because I couldn't in a million years actually write it.

I guess another lesson for me was not to let friends and family read my writing. ;))

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Looking at Two Pop Culture Staples


By Eilis Flynn

Over our anniversary week, the hub and I went to see three movies. Since I was laid off, we haven’t been indulging in such expensive fripperies, but it was our anniversary week (29 years!), so we figured, heck, why not. Last week on Otherworld Diner, I looked at the first of these three movies, Iron Man 3, and why it just didn’t have the same charm and even, if you’ll pardon the term, magic of the previous two. And The Avengers, but since that movie made more than a billion dollars, it must have charmed a lot of people (or magicked them, but that’s another topic altogether). Today, I’m going to tell you why Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness also didn’t have quite the charm and (yeah yeah) magic that we were hoping for. It’s a good thing we had a good anniversary week, because otherwise, collectively they were three movies with serious flaws.

First of all, Man of Steel. The hub and I met through comic books, particularly from the source comic book company, so we have an emotional bond with Superman and his Supie family. But the previous Supie movie, Superman Returns (SR), was terrible. No way around it, it was terrible, terrible, terrible. I will never be able to look at Kevin Spacey or Parker Posey again, and let’s not mention Brandon Routh. (Seriously, let’s not. He was tolerable in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but I get a tic when I think about his performance in Superman Returns.) Man of Steel was much better. It still had pretty serious flaws, but one of them was not the casting of Henry Cavill, an Englishman best previously known for another costume drama, The Tudors. Cavill was (I assume) cast for his acting credits and not because he had some vague resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve, because he really made me believe that a man could fly. And be all Midwesterny super-heroey. (His line toward the end, when he comments that the American military wants to know “where I hang my cape,” must have been one that a native Brit had fun chewing on. And why not? You don’t get to use idioms like that in The Tudors!)(Then again, knowing Shakespeare’s tendency to come up with slang that has lasted through the centuries, maybe he invented that too. Anyway.)

So Henry Cavill was the bright spot. As a villain, Michael Shannon was good too. Except for the disappointing casting of Amy Adams as Lois Lane (better than Kate Bosworth, but still not very good), I couldn’t complain about the casting that much. Too bad they couldn’t bother to think about the script as much as they did the casting. I have a rating system that, instead of stars, uses “rewrites.” Great movies don’t require rewrites at all or very few, while bad movies need many. (Example: Superman Returns I rated a four to five rewrites. And that was kind. I also wanted to dump my stock. In fact, I think I did.) This was a movie that did fairly well in that regard: There were chunks that clearly needed rethinking—Jonathan Kent’s death was horribly orchestrated and frankly made no sense, for example. It was a bit that read as though it had been written by a video game junkie who hadn’t been allowed out of his room for a decade. The destruction and carnage of not one, but two cities/towns, had clearly been plopped down there by the same video game junkie who sat in front of the screen drooling and no longer had the higher mental capacity to come up with a more sophisticated scene. And the final solution for the villain? Sloppy, sloppy writing. So many better choices, but the drooling video game junkie can only come up with a poor one.

Then there’s Star Trek Into Darkness. Sigh. Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel were remarkable in their widespread carnage and destruction, and that seems to be the theme for the summer. While there are rough totals out there on the Internet about how much projected damage would have been caused in a real-life situation in both cases (if, of course, a super-humanoid had fallen to Earth and an insanely wealthy genius had built a computerized, sophisticated suit of armor), there can be no such projected damage for that caused in this latest Star Trek movie, being as it’s all set in the future. At first glance, the destruction on first glance is less, until you start thinking about the destruction caused across space. The first Trek movie by JJ Abrams had promise; for the most part I liked the casting, even though the script there had its own problems (including the equivalent of Dad giving Junior the keys to the Ferrari because he’d done an adequate job of washing it). This film wastes that potential, and it was clear that the drooling video game junkie was at it again. The battle scenes were less onerous and a bit shorter, but the logic was equally missing. (Benedict Cumberbatch must be the palest human being on Earth not actually suffering from albinism. No spoilers or anything, but the casting here, even though he is a wonderful actor, is just WRONG. And also: at one point he twists his lips in such a way that it became obvious to me that he had studied the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas cartoon. He IS the Grinch!)

Anyway, there are plot points that make it clear that rewrites have fallen by the wayside in favor of destruction and slapping in bits from the original Star Trek TV series, courtesy that same drooling video game junkie. Not to mention the Starfleet Academy uniforms reminded me of Nazi uniforms, which really was an uncomfortable realization. Was it Abrams making a point, or did he let that video game junkie drool on something he shouldn’t have?

All three movies had good points, and they all had bad ones. If nothing else, all three gave us hours of discussion over dinner. And after 29 years of marriage, that’s not such a bad thing!

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook (@EilisFlynnAuthor), Twitter (@eilisflynn), or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com. See these movies to make up your own mind! But keep an eye out for the drooling video game junkie.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

More boom! More bust! Is that all there is?

by Eilis Flynn
To celebrate our 29th anniversary, the hub and I decided to see the three movies out currently that we've been meaning to see: Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and Star Trek Yet Again (sorry, Star Trek Into Darkness). Today we saw IM3, the first of the three. We enjoyed it. I rated it as a half rewrite or one rewrite, which in our rating system is quite good (the numbering refers to the number of rewrites the script would have needed to reach perfection, which of course is not easy at all).

But ... it could have been better (which is why the rating). Robert Downey was fabulous, but even he seemed a little strained to sell the anxiety-plagued Tony Stark. And that's why I knew that the final rewrite I thought it needed would have helped. Downey has shown himself to be capable of breathing true life into what was (in my opinion, but then I'm not a Marvel fan) a flat character. He infused Stark with charm, reason, and even GMC (that's goal, motivation, and conflict, for those of you not in the writing game). But he seemed to press at being afflicted with PTSD. (That the character would suffer from it would make sense; the events--referred to in passing nicely, and reacted to logically by Stark--would be enough to unnerve someone who lived solidly in the real world.)

The other events and characters--the cute kid, the near death and coma of another major character--also seemed to be calculated, and the previous movies didn't have that quality. Again, it's not that I didn't enjoy the movie; it just seemed less organic than the others.

Or maybe I'm just too jaded. The big explosions, the army of empty suits, Gwyneth Paltrow in a sports bra--it seemed like it was pandering to the main part of the audience, males 13-49. The army seemed more than a little nightmarish, the big explosions just there to be the big booms that the audience expected. Paltrow had more to do this time, which was a good thing. (I didn't think hanging around in the sports bra was necessary, but again, clearly I am not the target audience!)

In all, though, I think those things basically denote what this movie, as enjoyable as it was, really is: a summer blockbuster. So it worked for what it was designed for. But I can't help but wonder how much better it could have been with just one more rewrite.

Eilis Flynn is the author of fantasies and, many years ago, a few comic book stories. She lives and works in a fantasy world when she's not editing professionally as Elizabeth MS Flynn. She can be reached at eilisflynn.com, emsflynn.com, or Facebook, Twitter, or ... aw heck, just do a search. She's always around!
 
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