Harry vs Neo

I saw Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. And with the slew of good to raving reviews that are out there, I’m not going to add to it.  Now, for you Potter fans, I’m not here to say how good or bad it is.  I love stories and always ask myself why I like certain stories in comparison to why I don’t. I liked this one, based on Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts.

J.K. Rowling has said in many interviews that the books would get darker, and this one, with the death of a main character, is definitely dark.

One other series I’ve been obsessed with are the Matrix movies.  The first one was a sleeper hit.  Every one loved it, critics and fans.  But once the sequels hit theaters, despite its financial success, not many really liked them.

And I think I know why.

With both Potter and Matrix sequels going toward dark, why did one do and feel well, while the other just felt monotone?

Humor.

The sixth movie had enough humor to bring the laughs all the way up to the climax.  The climax was the darkest part of the whole movie, so the laughs ended.  Makes sense.

Matrix had humor and sarcasm.  There were also different types of characters. One wished they didn’t take the red pill, another would pimp out a virtual girl, then there was one guy half black, half Asian who was enthusiastic, etc.  Those characters contrasted the war that was going on.

With both the Matrix sequels, there was no humor at all, no characters with color.  That’s why to me it felt monotone.  People will say that Neo and his crew were fighting a losing war.  But Harry and crew are fighting what seems to be a losing war, too.

Laughs.

Now the question becomes why laughs are needed in a dark movie?

I was talking to a coworker who is an avid churchgoer.  We were talking about perspectives on life, and I asked him what he thought about the world.  His response was this is a fallen world.  Then I told him mine, which of course is prettyPollyanish.

He countered with, “Then why is there so much suffering in this world?”

I imagined him and his choir of religious heathens eating this fallen view of the world and answered, “Because in order to have light, you must have dark.”

I personally don’t like it but understand the philosophical side.

In story, humor is not just a good release of tension.  It also contrasts the dark, making the dark darker when the dark comes.  As the story works toward its dark climax, we feel even darker as the dark falls upon us.  Which is the exact purpose of the sixth Potter movie.

Write What You Know!

Write what you know. Wise words given to beginning and experienced writers. Published writers also repeat this crap.

Oops. No I didn’t!

Did I say crap to one of the most repeated maxims—ahem—crap advice?

Hell yeah!

I can already see the comments and emails. What do you know? What have you been published? Blah, blah, blah.

Let’s take Star Trek. When Gene Roddenberry began his epic TV show, did he know what the future truly held? He definitely got a lot of things right. But he also got a lot of things wrong. But what do the millions and billions of Trekkies worldwide focus on? Their love and connection of the characters.

J.K. Rowling wrote one of the most published stories ever. Does she really know how to be a wizard? Or a witch? She’s got a good idea. But she doesn’t truly know. I use the word know in reference to having performed magic. Real magic. The kind done with a wand. She’s never said, “Wingardium Leviosa!” and, bam, her Rolls flew into the sky. Although, her bank account did.

Why do millions upon billions of people feverishly read her books? Cause they love and connect with the stories and characters. It’s totally engrossing.

Talk about engrossing! Stephanie Meyers wrote the Twilight series and millions and billions of girls, women, and ladies engulfed all four books in record time. However, she’s gotten severe criticism on her writing.

So what? Look at her fans, her numbers, her ability to connect her story and characters to her readers. Tell me if her writing sucks. Don’t even mention she sucks to her fandom. Images of teen girls tearing flesh off bone come to mind.

Has Ms. Meyers sucked blood? I don’t know the answer to that, but I would assume no. Nor is she a vampire. And no matter how Gothic you are you don’t know what being a vampire is like, to only thirst for blood, to despise the smell of cooked food, to see people—cattle—talk to you, smile, laugh.

What all writers, all artistes, anyone who is human, know is what it’s like to be human. We all know what it’s like to fall in love, to lose something precious (like a ring formed in the fires of Mordor), to be isolated, to be the underdog, etc. It’s the emotions that we should write about. That’s what we connect to. That’s what we know.

Don’t believe me?

Listen to all the previews shown before the feature film. A deep voice:

The use of structure is superb. Dialogue written so realistically, it’s realistic. The scene breaks done so well you don’t know if there was a scene break. But there was. Or else the whole movie would be one big scene! Opening in June with the perfect first line EVER!

You’re more likely to hear this:

In the barren city of San Francisco, a lone straggler wakes to the cold realization that he’s alone. His screams are unheard. Thrilling! The eerie echo of his foot steps lure predators scarred by terrors unknown. Gripping! He retreats into Starbucks only to find brewing coffee. Stimulating! But where is the barista? Spellbinding! He finds an adult bookstore. Movies are still playing! Exciting!

One drill my friend and I use is tell each other what we feel when we read each other’s work. Do we connect to the characters? Who do we care about? Why? Do the events make logical sense? If not, what’s missing? I ask these questions when people read my fascinating stories. Hoping that the compelling nature comes across grippingly.

Check out my episodes. I’ve done my best to do this.

Good Idea vs. Inspiration

Living in a metropolitan area allows me to encounter tons of people.  In talking to them, almost every one I run into have a good idea.  Either they have a book they want to write, an invention that would revolutionize daily life, a hobby they'd like to explore, a business they want to start.  Just to list a few. Question is how many of those people explore or pursue it?

I'd venture a guess that it's 2% or less.

So what's inspiration?  Is it the same as a good idea?

In talking to all these people, a lot of them also have inspirations.  They have a book they want to write, an invention that would revolutionize daily life, a hobby they'd like to explore, a business they want to start.

Again, I'd go on a limb and guess that less than 2% pursue or explore their inspirations.

When you walk into a store, like a Walmart, you're surrounded by tons of merchandise.  Think about this.  Where did all that stuff come from?

A factory in China.

Ha!  Yes but no.  Go further back.  Where did any of those things--George Foreman Grill, flat screen TVs, gum, textiles--really come from?  Someone's mind.  Think about it.  A long time ago someone who loved fish said, "I'd love to have live fish at my house, so I can look at them when I come home."  Hence, fish tanks came to existence.

Any of you know how J.K. Rowling got the idea of Harry Potter?  She had a vision, an inspiration, of this boy.  She then spent the next several hours imagining the world of Harry Potter, spent the next five years writing it.

Look at all the movies that come out every year.  All of them started in someone's head.  Sometimes it took several heads to come up with the story idea.  But it got made and released.

The difference between a good idea or an inspiration becoming real is action.  Go out and do it.

Collecting Golden Nuggets of Inspiration

My first post in Writer's Journey talked about where I got the idea for my hero of my book.  He's single handedly inspired me to create the world he lives in. In my bio, I talk about recurrences that happen.  A lot of self-help teachers call these inspirations, nuggets of gold, moments of genius.  Over the twenty or so years, bits and pieces of ideas have come and gone, all pertaining to this particular story.   Then someone in my imagination said, "This would be cool for your story."  I might need to seek some help.

I've mentally collected different nuggets of gold and stored them  in my noggin.  When I got serious and decided to write this book, I bought a tiny notebook and wrote down every single nugget of inspiration.  To my surprise, I've used most of them.  About a quarter of the ideas I threw out.  That's fine.  Better to have more than you need.

When I read or hear other artists talk about where they get their ideas, a lot of them use this method of collecting, writing them down.  JK Rowling did this.  I saw a special on her where she would write on napkins, cards, anything that would take ink.  I think if I tried to write this story early on in my life, I may not have had the opportunity to gather the ideas that I need.

Get a notebook.  For me ideas come when I do the most mundane things.  I'll be walking and all of a sudden, pop.  An idea.

A word of caution.  These ideas are fleeting.  There have been a number of times when I'm taking a shower, I get an idea, I take a moment to remember it, and poof.  It's gone.  Take the time to write these golden nuggets down.  It's these gold pieces of ideas that may change your writing, project, life.

Happy gathering.

Way of Success

People are always concerned with the ‘how’. How’re you going to do that? How are you going to lose all that weight? How are you going to be a big time movie star? How are you going to afford that expensive home? I’m struggling with this as I look to buy a house in CA. Yikes!

There’s nothing wrong with wondering how anything is going to happen. But most people are afraid to take the first step because they can’t envision every step of the way. A lot of personal growth guru’s say don’t worry about how to attain something. I never understood it until I researched J.K. Rowling. She’s always wanted to be a writer, to publish a book. Simple enough, right? From all the interviews I’ve read and heard, the one thing that she didn’t concern herself was the ‘how’. She had an inspiration, a vision of Harry Potter. From there, she took steps to develop the wizardry world. She wanted to build a foundation of what magic could and couldn’t do. Then she focused on the plot, focused on the goals of each character, thought out the massive back stories. What’d she do next? She began writing. Not rocket science.

For most writers, published or not, the publishing world is a mystery. Even literary agents who’ve worked in the industry for decades still don’t know exactly what makes a book a bestseller. But if you want to be a best selling author, then you must first write. Once you’re done, the next step is revise. Get outside help. Then revise again. Send out query letters, and so on and so forth.

Look at it from Tom Tom’s view, or any other GPS. Enter the starting point. Enter the destination. Tom Tom takes you from the starting point, tells you to drive a couple of miles. Once you get there, make a right at Main St. Drive three hundred yards, then turn left. It does this until you reach your destination.

Life works in the same manner. Know where you are. Know where you want to go. And proceed. The how will present itself. You’ll never see the whole map. It can be detrimental. You might miss a turn. You’ll never see more than a couple hundred yards in front of you. Don’t need to. Stay the course and know you’ll get there.

Most important of all, enjoy the ride. Why do anything if it’s not fun?

Revolutionary Road Review

First off, I’ve never read the book.  But when I saw the trailer for Revolutionary Road, I knew what it was about.  I watched the movie and loved it.  I resonate with its message.  If you haven’t seen it, and you work in corporate America, go see it.  It’ll open your eyes.

I was talking to a coworker of mine, and all her friends who saw it or read the book said it was depressing.  I asked her why?  She said the ending was just so sad.  I agreed.  The question becomes why it ended like that?

Then I asked if she knew what the movie was about?  She thought for a moment.  I proceeded to tell her that the insane character in the story was the only sane person in the movie.  That I thought he was the voice of the author.  He used the words “Hopeless emptiness”.  What the insane person was referring to was corporate America, following the crowd, doing the safe thing.

My coworker then realized something.  The book and movie made everyone rethink their lives.  A huge smile grew on my face.  “That’s exactly right,” I said.  But not everyone wants to look at their lives and realize what they’re doing might not be what they want.  Why not?  Is it better to live a life of hopeless emptiness than to find something that is meaningful?

What’s the difference between working at a job that has no meaning, and a homeless person who begs for money?  You might answer, “Working people don’t have to beg for money.  They have a house, can buy their own food, go on vacations, blah blah blah.”

Please!

How many people out there, working in a job they have little passion in, yearn for the weekends?  Or are afraid of losing it, so they put in countless hours, toiling away at something they don’t like?  How many of us wake up and can’t wait to go to work?  I can safely say that 95% to 98% of the American population have no passion in their jobs.  It’s not a criticism on them.  It’s a criticism on the system.  Most people need their jobs to support themselves.  Have your day job.  But find your passion.  If money were of no concern, what would you love to do?  Paint?  Write?  Teach?  Be a world traveler?  Be physicist?  What?

Look at all the people we admire.  I mean truly admire.  People like Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Cate Blanchett, Robin Williams, etc.  They all have one thing in common.  They’ve followed their passions.

The couple in Revolutionary Road had passion early in life.  Then they veered away from it and became unhappy, unsatisfied, following the crowd, molding themselves to be liked by others.  When they remembered and pursued their passion for life again, making the decision to move to Paris, they became enthusiastic.  They were energized.  But the character played by Leonardo Dicaprio had severe doubt and fell back to his limited ways of thinking.  And that is the true tragedy of the story.  Everything bad that happened afterward was the result.

Are you brave enough to look at your life?  To say I want something different?  To go for it?

Ask yourself this.  When you’re at work, what do you feel?  You don’t have to tell me, or anybody else.  Be honest.

Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.  –Benjamin Franklin.