Cliche

Cliches. Adverbs. Telling. Flash backs. Talking heads. Exposition. Predictability. Inconsistent point of views.

These are some of the no-no's of writing fiction. There's a ton more. So it's no wonder that writing something original can be difficult. They say there's nothing new under the sun. I don't know who they be, but I never seen them.

It's been six months since the start of the writing group, and so far we've all been pretty consistent. One of the writers remarked that one of my characters seemed to be God-like. Not that the character had magical powers, but the way I characterized him made him seem that way. He's sorta the Yoda of this book, where around he goes and wisdom he dispels.

In one scene right before the first major battle, he flies along side the main character and has a short but deep conversation. One of the critiquers said that a God-like character should have a God-like entrance: the clouds parting and the sun shooting rays. This writer meant well and often has great input. But I can't think of anything more cliche than having such an entrance, except having birds chirp, cherubs circling the character, playing violins and trumpets, throwing flower petals, while angels sing angelically.

Now, doing the opposite is becoming all too common. The anti-hero is one example.

I love Breaking Bad. You have this character, Walter White, a father of a son with cerebral palsy, married to a devoted woman who's pregnant with their second child, working a thankless job teaching high school chemistry, making barely enough money to support his family. Then he gets diagnosed with terminal cancer. The procedures to fight the cancer alone would destroy his family financially. What is a man to do? Partner with a small time drug dealer and make meth.

Unlike other attempts at anti-heroes, Suicide Squad...cough...ahem, excuse me, Walter starts out as a redeeming character in that we can relate to his troubles. We understand not making enough money. We understand working thankless jobs. Corporate world anyone? We understand sickness. In the face of it all, he tries something unconventional to earn that paper. Money for any of you ghetto-challenged.

I think that being unconventional is the key to skirting the trite. But what do I mean by unconventional?

Thinking from a normal person's perspective, Walter could have gotten another job. Or a higher paying job. Or begin a startup. Or given up and die.

However, going the deep end, like whoring out his wife would make Walter unlikeable. At least in the beginning. He does a lot of despicable stuff in the nine seasons that the show had ran. But hooking the viewers first is important. And it's a good hook.

Obviously from a storytelling point of view, he can't sell meth forever, so upping the ante by having Walter commit increasing heinous crimes pushes the envelope. But he's doing them to protect his own interests, his family being one. And that helps keep the audience sympathetic.

In the aforementioned Suicide Squad, no one has any redeeming qualities. The closest that I can think of is Will Smith's character, Deadshot. He has a daughter that he loves, but that's it. To say that a father loves his child isn't enough to hook us to a character. There's no conflict. The film also doesn't do a convincing job showing his daughter being disappointed at knowing her father is a killer. And Deadshot doesn't show that he regrets letting her down. There are scenes that depict these things. But Deadshot doesn't do anything to try and stop. The tone of the the character is that he's an assassin. It is what it is. There's no real guilt, hence, not redeeming.

With Mr. White, we see him taking the time to calculate the cost of his procedures, calculate his family's financial needs after he's gone, assuming the procedures didn't work, and made the total amount as his goal. Noble.

People understand doing bad stuff. But doing bad stuff for the purpose of doing bad stuff has no emotion behind it. For most people who aren't psychotic, they can't understand that and will not feel sympathy for the character.

Karate Kid or Is It?

Always look eye!

Always look eye!

One of my top five movies is The Karate Kid, 1984, starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. Ralph played the unconfident Daniel Larusso, and Pat played Kesuke Miyagi, Mr. Miyagi.  It's one of the coolest stories because it's aboutbelieving in yourself.

Both at the time were relative unknowns. Macchio had only acted professionally, according to IMDb, since the early 80's. Morita had been acting since the 60's, possibly earlier.  I do remember him as Al in the sitcom Happy Days. Mr. Miyagi was his role to play, and from the DVD extras, the voice and mannerisms came to him instantly. A sign of this was his nomination as best supporting actor both in the Academy and Golden Globe awards.

Ooops, that was me

Ooops, that was me

When I first heard they were remaking this, I cringed. Then I heard Jaden Smith, Will Smith's son was starring in it.  I felt Smith was grooming his son to follow in his stardom, which is fine. And I think it worked.

Honestly, I wasn't going to watch this.  I loved the original too much, but then I told myself, "I gotsa support my Asian brothah, Jackie Chan!"  If that were true, then I would have watched The Spy Next Door.

I've always been a proponent of knowing why you like certain things, and The Karate Kid, 1984 was one. I've watched the movie dozens upon dozens of times.  Analyzed it as much as I could. And my most favorite part about the story is the relationship between the student and teacher. The relationship has a rocky start since Mr. Miyagi is cold and distant in the beginning. But as Daniel's needs become apparent, Mr. Miyagi makes the reluctant decision to teach him, putting him through day-long chores, which are really karate lessons. You can feel that their relationship is real.

Remember "Wax on, wax off"?

Dude, why are you touching my hand?

Dude, why are you touching my hand?

The newly released version replaces Daniel with Dre, played by Smith, and Mr. Miyagi with Mr. Han, played by Chan.

The feel of an intimate relationship is what's missing from The Karate Kid, 2010. Both Smith and Chan act well, but their relationship never blossoms. We see there is supposed to be a connection when Mr. Han gently pats a snoozing Dre, or when Dre realizes that taking his jacket off, throwing it on the ground, picking it up, putting it back on a thousand times is a karate lesson...I mean a kung fu lesson.  But I'm writing about The Karate Kid. Ah...huh...anyways...

The awe, the holy crap I am learning karate...argh...I mean kung fu...wasn't totally realized. And it's in that moment, in the original, is where their relationship solidifies from mere student/teacher...

Attitude!

Attitude!

to mentor/believer...

That was totally awesome, dude! Touch my hands again.

That was totally awesome, dude! Touch my hands again.

and moves on to BFFs...

Get out of my cah!

Get out of my cah!

Another problem I had with the movie was personal.  I've seen the original too many times.  I know it too well.  And they really didn't do anything new with the story.  Well...there's new names, new actors, better martial arts choreography, and two big names playing the main parts, and China, but that's it.  It wasn't really a remake as much of a regurgitate.

A lot of the dialogue mirrored/copied the original.  The story structure and plot mirrored/copied the original.  There was a moment in the movie where I told myself, here comes the humanizing of Mr. Han, jokingly.  Then that scene came when Mr. Han shows Dre, and the audience, that he's human.  I often found myself comparing the two movies.  And I don't think I would have had the dialogue, scenes, and when they happened didn't mirror/copy the original so closely.

One last thing.  Macchio played the role well, swimming in and out of self-realization and fear.  In the last climatic fight, Daniel-san's leg was kicked, rendering unusable, and Macchio sold it.  When the same thing happens to Dre, Smith doesn't sell the injury at all, walking as if he stubbed his toe.  Despite acting well, Smith didn't have opposing sides of fear and self-realization, something that would have given the character dimension.

"[Is] unacting acting, or acting unacting..." -Bruce Lee

Objectively, the movie worked, albeit without the relationship. The audience cheered the ending.  Most were too young to have seen the original.  It's one thing to remain faithful to the original, like translating comic books to the silver screen.  It's another to copy the original.