A Hole

Plot holes. A writer's nemesis. One of many.

Showtime's mini-series, The Night Of, has a lot of great storytelling elements. The first episode does a great job of rooting the viewers to the main character, Naz, played by Riz Ahmed. Naz is an American born Pakestani student living in New York. He's a little socially awkward. He's not great with girls. Lives a conservative life that was forced upon him by his parents. And he steals his father's taxi to get to a party. But when Andrea, a young attractive woman, steps inside the cab, his life changes. He drives her all over Manhattan, does drugs, stabs her hand, then has sex with her. Then he gets arrested for her murder. We've all been there, right?

Most of the show is done well.

The characterization of Jack Stone, played by John Turturro, is fantastic, who I feel steals the show. He's a low level lawyer, feeding off of the dregs of society. But he has heart. We see this when he takes on Naz's case, believing in his innocence, and further more when he adopts the dead girl's cat, who was on its own death row in an SPCA center. Stone has a Columbo feel as he begins to piece together the truth behind the case.

When the crime scene is revealed in all its horror, blood has spilled from 22 stab wounds, covering Andrea's body. Blood is splattered everywhere. The bed is soaked red. Walls look like an abstract painting of Death in its throes. The cops nab Naz as a suspect in the murder. All of this is in the first episode, which is so well paced, by the way.

SPOILERS

Right away we know Naz cannot be the murderer. There's no way. He and his clothes are clean of blood, aside from a hand wound, which we saw him cut on broken glass. So, as I devoured each episode, watching Stone brilliantly find new clues, plan new defense strategies, I waited for him or someone to explain why Naz has no blood on him.

And when the credits of the final eighth episode rolled by, I was like What the fuck? Did the writers forget that big ass plot hole that stared millions of viewers in the face? To be honest, there were several holes in the story. A lot for a show that has received well-deserved positive reviews. And you needed to watch all eight episodes to see the story collapsing under itself. However, if they filled in just some of those holes, the mystery might have disappeared and the resolution probably couldn't withstand eight episodes.

So is it cool to withhold information to the point of creating plot holes, to prolong the mystery and the tension?

I'm not sure.

I'm workshopping my book with other writers, and they've asked me similar questions. Why hold back information? The simple answer is to further the mystery. But holding back information when it doesn't make sense can create plot holes.

In The Night Of, the lead detective and a female defense lawyer peruse street and security footage that plague New York City. But it wasn't until the last two episodes when the writers revealed that there's more footage that could have pointed to another suspect, poking holes in the prosecution's case against Naz. They might have done that to focus the story on Naz and the weaknesses and prejudices of the justice system. Which is fine. But dummying down intelligent characters is not the way to do it. And for me it did take away from the brilliant pacing and genius storytelling because there were too many inconsistencies.

Do Ya Feel the Heat?

Push it.  Push it good

Push it.  Push it good

A couple girlfriends ago, I was left devastated by the breakup. She was one of those that felt like the one that got away, but after getting over the hurt, I realized, as she kindly stated, we weren’t meant to be. In the moment, it was hard to imagine not being with her because I couldn’t see a future without her, like breaking up salt and pepper, except I was the less common sea salt and she the ghost chili.

We had been dating so long that I had no idea how to get back into the game. Nor was I ready, and the pain lent itself like a muse to write NIGHTFALL. After a few months crawled by, and I do mean slow crawl filled with balling my eyes out, I decided I needed to learn more about women for the day when I’d be ready to plunge back into the dating world.

This is the true Secret

This is the true Secret

Spending most of my nights alone after my writing sessions, I explored the free content my cable provider provided. And was pleasantly surprised by what I found. They had videos from Neil Strauss who authored the very popular book, THE GAME, and Lance Mason, who runs the PUA (pick up artist) school Pick Up 101. Granted, what they showed and talked about were basic things, since they are trying to get you to sign up for their programs, but it opened my mind on ways of approaching and connecting with women.

Now, before you ladies swing your steel tip stilettos, give me some credit and read on.

Am I mysterious?

Am I mysterious?

This lead me to reading some blogs, watching more videos and even the reality TV series, The Pick Up Artist, hosted by Mystery, a renowned PUA, who teaches the Mystery Method, something he calls the venutian arts.  Creative and...um...hmm...

Hold on ladies, no thrashing, yet.

Using my past experience as a barometer for what worked and didn’t work for me, I distilled all that crazy PUA (sounds like someone’s spitting) stuff down to two basic things: Connect with women on an emotional level (confidence and sense of humor being the two most requested qualities from the ladies), and be aware of stalkish behavior.

The other stuff these guys teach, at least for me, such as routines, levels of escalation, and pea cocking (wearing outlandish clothes/accessories to get noticed) got too complicated for me. From countless days soul searching what I wanted out of life, at the very least, I had to be true to myself. I did not connect with most of what they taught, though, that doesn’t mean it would not work for anyone else.

There're no necked pics!

There're no necked pics!

By this time, I was fast approaching the end of my curiosity with the PUA world, which led me to David Wygant, a real life HITCH. It was his advice that I truly connected with. What had worked for me in the past he teaches. What did not work for me, he advises against. So there was some consistency.

But the main thing that I got from his videos, blog, and products (he sells many and I tried one out), was have fun. If you have fun, others will want to be around you, something I to take to heart. He tells you to listen and observe (something I love to do), and from there you can create conversation, but at the heart of it all, being and having fun was central in attracting both men and women. Not that I’m bi, nor do I judge, but David does consult with both sexes.

OK, ladies. Hurl those stilettos.

This strange little journey also taught me something unexpected. In listening to a seminar, the speaker said people sense energy without even knowing it and that women are more sensitive than most men. Given that women are allowed to feel and men are supposed to man up that made sense to me. There’s no real way to scientifically quantify that, I suppose, but an example was given. If someone flicked a cigarette lighter on under your ass, you’d feel it even if you didn’t see or know it. Fire is a form of energy. OK…makes sense.

Is that the funky bunch?

Is that the funky bunch?

Going back to being stalkish. Women have been dealing with this from an early age. Look at all the icky stories of uncles, fathers and grandfathers being creepy. A report stated that one out of three women has been sexually assaulted. Guys look and holler at women as they stroll by, all the while the media is telling women to be easy, breezy, beautiful, covergirl. I can’t even imagine the crap women go through on a daily basis. One thing's for sure, they can sense stalkish behavior like a shark senses prey.

I understood this from an intellectual point of view. But I began to internalize it when hanging with a friend. As a side note, my friend is harmless, friendly, and means well. I love the guy.  But when we go out, women tend to shy away when he tries to connect with them. Having little to do one day, I recalled conversations he had with women, his body language, his actions, and couldn’t figure out why he was striking out. Then it hit me.

We’d gone to a picnic where he talked to an attractive woman and he asked for her email. He told me the email bounced back, meaning it was fake. Then he told me he friended (I know, not a word) her on Facebook.

“How the hell did you do that?” I asked. He didn’t have her last name, no phone number, just a first name, a common one at that.

Well, he knew where she worked, where she had worked, what city she lived in, and through some special websites had found her profile on Facebook, friended her. He found out how old she was, where she lived in the past, and other information I thought wouldn’t be public knowledge.

“Uh,” I intelligently said. “That’s kinda stalkish.”

He rationed that all this information is somewhere on the net and is available if you look for it. Stalkish? You be the judge.

Here’s the issue: From my perspective, he’s stalking even if he means well. In his defense, he does. But due to women’s sensitivity, like a shark, I know they sense that stalkish energy. From my own personal experience, women are turned off by this.

I’ve tried to advise him, but all he does is poke fun at my mightier than thou advice. I get it. It’s my fault really. He never asked for my advice, and what works for me may not work for him.

We’s all be different, ya na mean? Sorry. Ghetto Jimmy came out.

Loss of Subtlety

Belieive it or not I'm walking on air...

Belieive it or not I'm walking on air...

Subtlety has escaped Hollywood. Hollywood, however, is a representation of what the market will bear. Market being the peeps. Us. What we’re likely to pay a whopping twelve bucks to watch.

To be more homogenous, movies must have:

• Action • Suspense • Romance • Mystery • Redemption • Revenge • Comic relief • Strong female lead • Coupled by a backward-thinking male lead who learns to love the strong female lead finally realizing that she’s his everlasting soul mate for all time and beyond • A chase scene either by foot, car, truck, or air, with shoot outs that lead to a climactic battle between God and Satan, where armies of orcs, elves, muggles, wizards, witches, followed by mere men and women, and a child who was born with a butterfly tattoo preordaining her to cure the virus that has threatened life as we know it and must complete a special training that will make him (wasn’t it a her?) nearly invincible (nearly because we have to have tension in our epic fog of a story) • And a Hollywood ending where the child cures Satan of his issues, and both God and Satan float off into the sunset • The End

Ebert and Scorsese

Ebert and Scorsese

One of the things I do is read reviews of movies, Roger Ebert being my favorite. They don’t have any bearing on what I watch. But I can learn a lot about story telling by people’s likes and dislikes, and they’re fairly common. As a story teller, the market is important to a certain point. But as J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyers has proven, good content creates the market. We see this in the explosion of wizardry and horromance in the media today.

I see you

I see you

When reviews are either good or bad cohesively, there may be some merit. On Fandango, I had looked up the times for Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Matt Damon. Part of the movie was filmed in San Francisco in an apartment building my friend lives in. So it was cool hearing stories of how filming went.

Fandango had a rating of yellow, meaning most of the people who saw the movie thought it was “so-so”. That’s the middle rating. But Jackass in 3D got a bright green rating, the top, a “must go”. A red means “oh no”, stay away or lose two hours of life you can never get back.

Most people complained Hereafter was slow and uneventful. But you can’t have a good story with substance based purely on the afterlife. You may point out Paranormal Activity, but it’s just cheap thrills. Would you stay in a house that haunted you for any length of time? I’m brave. But I ain’t that brave. And none of the Paranomal movies explored why they stayed or what issues being haunted brought up. It represents nothing. It's like going to a strip club, paying to get a hard-on, then walking home with with no relief.

Not that I know of those kinds of naughty, naughty things.

A good story with substance uses something as the backdrop, like the afterlife, to show case interpersonal issues. Hereafter does that from three different perspectives: a psychic who can communicate with the dead, a journalist who had a near death experience, and a boy who yearns for his dead twin.

Work it, work it

Work it, work it

A good example of backdrop is Casino Royale. I'm not a huge Bond fan. I never knew why until I started to study story. James Bond is a classic character. He's suave. He likes all women. He sleeps with all women he desires. He likes his drinks to be shaken, not stirred. He can get out of any situation. He's a master fighter, can wield any weapon made available, and is witty.

But as a character, he never changes.  He doesn't go from having no confidence to being confident. He doesn't realize the error of his ways. He doesn't learn to be loyal because he already is. He doesn't have any bad qualities.  Qualities that a writer can hang his hat on to change.

Except for one. He's emotionally detached to the women he's intimate with. He never falls in love. Then Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green, shows up in Royale. She's confident, brash, reads Bond for who he is, and just as every bit competitive. Through their competitiveness, Bond falls in love with her. A huge change in both character and in the movie. When Vesper dies, he must struggle with the pain, something all humans go through. As a result, Casino Royale is one of the best reviewed Bond movies.

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