Smart Ass

In my most recent post, I'd mentioned that a reviewer who defended the atrocious plot holes of Prometheus had said we are to suspend our logic because this was a science fiction movie. For any storyteller, we know that's not true. We suspend our disbelief. Logic is the hallmark to any good story. Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, truth isn't -Mark Twain



I had watched several flicks with the backdrop being aliens invade the world. More often than not, we humans at the very least kick enough ass to survive: Independence Day, Battle Los Angeles, Battleship. Of course the only way we could win is by dumbing down the aliens' tech.

Come on.

It be right here

It be right here

It's fairly common knowledge that Alpha Centauri is around 4.4 light years away from us. So common that I had to look it up. It's more common knowledge that it would take us hella days to get there. Shit. We don't even have the tech to do that. As a freakin' result, any alien peeps that could come here would have weapons beyond any common man's imagination. I would think they'd kick our asses, if they so choose. They'd be like, "Nuclear missiles? Are you kidding? What is this? The Stone Age?"

When I created my antagonist, the bad dude, I knew two things. As a former actor, one of the pillars of acting is not to judge your character. For example, if an actor was hired to play Hitler, the last thing he (or she) should do is judge the character. Or else you're playing character (scowl and yell and be a real meany) instead of being Hitler. I think he truly wanted to improve the world by creating an Arian race and committing genocide on the Jewish. We know that's wrong, but that's for the audience to decide.

Secondly, he had to be smart. If I dumbed down the bad guy, any wins the good guy accrued would mean nothing. Any losses would make my good guy look stupid. They complete each other.

Samurai male pattern baldness

Samurai male pattern baldness

The movie 13 Assassins is a great example of this. Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu is just an asshole. He rapes and kills simply because he can. He's sadistic. So a government official realizes that things would get worse once this Lord ascends his political position. So he hires a Samurai who then gathers a dozen more, the best of the best, to assassinate the Lord. You'd have to. Any Lord in Japan during the Edo period is gonna have awesome Samurai to protect them. Thirteen against the Lord's countless horde. Odds are against the thirteen. If they lose, it's to be expected. If they win, monumental accomplishment.

Now. Imagine this. Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu has a squad of twenty Samurai who are dufuses. Type of guys who wouldn't know how to use toilet paper. Don't know if they had toilet paper in the Edo period. Then this government official hires thirteen of the most ruthless, skilled Samurai to kill the sadistic Lord. Not much tension or conflict.

What did you do!?

What did you do!?

The antagonist doesn't always have to be a person or a group of people. One of my favorite Samurai movies is Twilight Samurai. Here, we have a father, a Samurai on the floor of the totem pole. He lives life, saves money by not taking baths and reeks of fish, and wears rags for clothes. He makes wooden cages for pet grasshoppers that aren't in great demand, and barely has enough money to feed his two daughters and ailing mother. He can't get ahead and the need for Samurai dwindles. We're told ronin are becoming the norm, Samurai with no Lords looking for independent work. We know from hearsay our hero is a great swordsman, so we are guaranteed an eye-popping sword fight. He down plays his skills, which only speaks truth to the rumors. But where is the bad guy? Where and how will this epic event happen?

Then I realized something. The antagonist is society, his situation, ultimately, himself. Light from the heavens beam down all over me as I jump for joy. Angels sing as the warmth of my ego's hug tighten. In the end, we do see a great and very realistic sword fight, but it symbolizes his view of himself. He becomes the person he should be, completing his character arch.

Moral of the story: run away from aliens, sadistic dudes should watch out for thirteen assassins trying to kill ya, and don't make dumb assess of your bad guys.

Monkey Behavior

Have you seen those wild life specials where a group of congregating chimpanzees are screaming, slapping their hands above their heads? Sometimes I have a sneaking suspicion they have their own language that we don't know about. Anyways, that's another post. Animal behavior often explains some of the odd things, sometimes called sins, that we humans portray.

When a father kills his wive and children, when a woman cheats on her man, when a boy goes to strange lengths to show a fifth grade girl he likes her can come from animalistic behavior. Thanks, Darwin.

We see all of this in the animal world.

Today I was eating at a ramen house and saw a group of young Asian boys hanging outside. One of them wore his sunglasses backwards, shading the back if his neck from the hot afternoon sun. He must have said something funny. Because one of his friends started laughing, screaming almost, slapping his hands together above his head. Sound familiar?

Is this important in story telling?

In my currentEpisode,my character is faced with an opportunity to prove his innocence. He has a choice. Prove it with dignity or with violence. Why the two opposite choices? If you'vereadwhat he's been through, then you'll undersand why he could choose violence.

Sometimes in life we don't see how our behaviors can originate from our innate animal behavior.  If we are closest to our chimpanzee cousins, then how can we deny the strange behavior that some people exhibit?  Do I agree with it?  Not all the time.  But as story tellers, we should allow for some raucous action.

One that comes to mind is Hermione punching Draco in the nose in the third Potter book.  I thought that scene was right on.  A bigoist taunting someone should get their nose punched in.  Not because it was right.  Because that kind of behavior would elicit another.  Cause and effect.

I once had a student who was constantly bullied by another boy who didn't respect my student's ethnic heritage.  The bully called him obscene names.  My student asked him to stop and even avoided him.  But the bully looked for him like  a shark.  Heckling my student.  Barraging him with physical threats.  So my studentslappedhim.  Hard.

That bully never bullied him again.

The alpha male was now replaced by another.

Reading People

How do you read people? Go with your gut. What more is there?  Body language.  It's said that at least 80% of what people say is through body language.  And in fact, people intuitively read body language.  They may not be conscious of it.

If someone is assertive, their posture is straight, chest out, shoulders back, head craned like a flamingo.

What if someone slumps, hesitates to look you in the eye, crosses their arms, and even angles their body away?  Could be signs of deception, signs of low self worth or esteem.  With everything remaining the same, but you add the characteristics of someone who's assertive, then we can assume that person simply doesn't find you attractive.  Or they can be looking for someone and just doesn't see you.  Or they may be angry because someone stood them up.

But when reading people, I tend to go with my gut.  I do this with women.  Friends of mine have tried to set me up on blind dates.  The problem with that is within the first minute I can tell whether I have a connection with the woman or not.  And I'm old enough to realize the difference between lust and like.  Lust for men is pretty obvious.  Let's just say feelings toward the woman I'm in lust for don't originate anywhere within my chest.  And my eyes will most likely be focused on hers.

It sucks when I don't feel a connection.  Cuz I gots to talks to her.  Kinda like talking to a blank wall.  I'm sure it's the same for her.

Most people can't seem to read people.  Why is that?  Have they lost that special power?  Can anyone read people?  First off, any human can read another human, unless said human doesn't want to be read.  And you can lose that power by mistrust.  Whose trust?

Going with your gut means that you have to trust yourself.  Do you? you need or ask others for their approval or opinion?  Read my post onGo with your gut. It'll give you an example of how I seeked approval outside of myself.

The way to practice this is by people watching.  Sit in a mall.  As a person walks by, let your mind create a story.  And trust that it's true, no matter how strange.  If you want to take a step further, go up and talk to them.  See how close your story came.

A better way of doing this is bring a friend.  My best friend and I used to do this a lot.  Most of the time we came up with the same story.  If our stories didn't match, then we'd discuss why we read what we read.

Writing the emotions of different characters can take the form of telling:  He's mad.  It can take the form of action:  He slammed his cup down.  It can take the form of body language:  She shoved him off and turned away.  Or it can take the form of dialogue:  "Get off me!"

Oooh.  Too much information.

Actors people watch a lot.  When I studied acting, I spent a lot of time people watching.  Now, I use that resource in my writing.  Because if you communicate emotion through just one way--telling, action, body language, dialogue--it can get boring.  Combining different ways allows for character development and variety.

Most important of all, trust yourself.  As kids, parents tell us 'No', 'Do this', 'Do that'.  As a result, we've become reliant on others.  Rely on yourself, open your mind, and let the stories come about.  You may be surprised.