Such a Drag

I've harped on how the writers of The Walking Dead had made several mistakes. Lately, the writers have dragged the storylines out so much that it's transparent that they're dragging the storylines out.

With their spin off show, Fear The Walking Dead, there are two main things the writers are doing wrong. One is pacing. The other is rooting. Both are important, but if you root someone to your characters, then making mistakes such as pacing can be forgiven, as we see in The Walking Dead.

Pacing is the rhythm or momentum of a story, or really how those things feel. Like in life, when you're having fun, time flies. When you're bored, time moves like a molasses wave.

Rooting is showing a character in such a manner that the reader cares about that character. We saw this in Harry Potter with the murder of his parents, and when his aunt and uncle forces him to live under the stairs, do all the chores while they dote over his cousin Dudley, then Rowling further rooted us by showing Dudley receiving 38 presents, while Harry drawing himself a birthday cake on the dirt floor.

Excuse me while I cry my eyes out.

Fear The Walking Dead had two seasons, and the story takes place around a family right at the moment the zombie apocalypse begins to engulf the planet. The first half of the season felt like a molasses wave that had been in a freezer for a thousand years. From my point of view, the writers ran into a couple of major issues. One, the characters have never seen a real life zombie, and the show never makes mention that zombies were ever part of the popular culture like it is in real life. So the characters have to learn how to deal with these monsters, which is fine. The other issue is that we the people in the real world watching these fake people in the fake world already know how to deal with real zombies of the fake world. Uh what? The parent show has educated the audience about zombies and how to dispatch them. And that can mess with the pacing of the spin-off show. Big time.

The writers of Fear chose to actually show the family learning how to deal with zombies. But zombies weren't yet the prolific monsters we're used to. So there were barely any within the first few episodes, which meant realizing what they were let alone learning how to kill them took a really long time. It was painful to watch.

The writers could have taken a page from The Walking Dead where Morgan Jones educates Rick, the main character, in the ins and outs of the walking dead. But that wasn't necessary because Fear already had a way of educating the cast. There was a scene where a live newscast shows the police being forced to finally shoot a dead man walking in the head. This could have been the vehicle to educate the cast and get the story moving forward, asking questions like what would you do when the world you know and love falls apart. But that didn't happen. So the writers had to slow things down.

Cue filler. It's filler time. Filibuster. Phili steak sandwiches with no meat.

This brings me to their issue of rooting. To us, the educated audience, seeing these people bumble their way slowly down the dark alley of this world makes them look stupid. And it's hard to like stupid people, hence the rooting problem. The family is also dysfunctional, but there's nothing redeeming about the characters themselves.

They're not like Walt White from Breaking Bad. Having being diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, Walt decides to make and sell meth to not only pay for his treatments but to provide for his family after his death. That's a righteous dude.

Back to Fear, eventually we run into a character named Daniel Salazar, who actually has depth. And some redeeming qualities. He has a barbershop and hides his family inside it while the streets of LA are consumed in a riot. The cast finds the shop and convinces Salazar to let them in and wait it out. He questions their motives, fears for the safety of his family, his ailing wife, but also keeps a strong guard against revealing too much about himself and seems way more prepared to deal with the end of the world. Unfortunately, Salazar feels like he wasn't meant for anything more than a supporting cast member.

Because the audience isn't rooted to the main characters, meaning we don't care for them, we become impatient when it comes to the pacing. In other words, we're forced to wait for them to catch up to us. Story should lead us into mystery, into love, into enlightenment. Instead we're looking at our smartphones waiting for something to happen.

To help illustrate my two main points about Fear, I've found one favorable and one unfavorable review. It's not the reviews that are important, but the reactions by the commenters about the show.

Here's a link to a favorable review. Here's what one commenter said:

"i thought they did a fantastic job actually. especially the kid who portrayed the addict & i was on the edge of my seat a couple times through out the show!"

So through a 90-minute pilot, that person was on the edge of their seat twice. And that's good? For a zombie show?

Here's another review with mixed bag reactions from commenters.

The Writing Dead

The Walking Dead spoiler alert muthafukkas!

He's alive! Glenn is alive! Who is this Glenn that you are referring to?

In season six of The Walking Dead, one of the mainstay characters, Glenn, had plummeted into a sea of zombies. Nicholas, a minor character, had given up, seeing no way out, and shot himself in the head. The falling dead body pulled Glenn off the top of the dumpster, and all we saw were starving zombies grabbing and ripping. Blood spilled everywhere, guts poured onto Glenn, and the fans were shocked to see the only Asian in the show to die. Or had he?

Then one of the writers/producers of the show released a statement through the follow up show, Talking Dead, "So I'll say this: In some way, we will see Glenn, some version of Glenn or parts of Glenn again, either in flashback or in the current story to help complete the story."

Theories arose of his survival. So of course everyone tuned in the next week, a whole seven days later, to find out Glenn's fate. Not only didn't we find out, but we got a flash back to another character, at this point a minor one, Morgan Jones. A ninety minute episode.

Some fans were pissed. Others loved the episode. I saw a fan comment, "Glad for the break. It's been intense." Uh…it had been a whole seven days. That's 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, 604,800 seconds. If watching a TV show gets you pent up for that long, I might suggest going outside for a walk.

It took three episodes before the fans found out that Glenn is alive. And I sorta get it. If the writers' intention was to put the audience through a period of tension, withholding Glenn's fate, so we would feel what it's like to live in a zombie apocalyptic world, then fine. Badly done. But OK. However, what the producer did by releasing the statement afterward was gawdawful stupid.

Why?

Let's take a simple magic trick: A magician stands in front of a black armoire and opens the double doors. His attractive assistant steps inside and waves to the crowd. The magician closes the doors and turns to the crowd. "Don't worry. We'll see her in some way, shape or form soon." Then waits three weeks before opening the doors to reveal that the assistant is still in the armoire. She's dead, though. Oops. 

But, braddah, she no disappear or nuthin'. Supwitdat? 

I know, cuz.

Here's a small list of things the writers had fucked up:

  1. A basic law of the show is that anyone can be killed, save Rick. Kill Rick, and the show is over. Killing Glenn would have been good for the story, supporting this basic law.
  2. Another basic law is that zombies will eat anything that is alive or freshly killed. Keeping Glenn alive after falling into a sea of zombies destroys that law.
    1. The writers can say that the blood and guts covering Glenn camouflaged him from the zombie horde. But this only works if the blood and guts came from a zombie. Nicholas wasn't "ripe" yet because the zombies were still eating him.
  3. This also destroys the law that anyone can be killed. I'm not saying Glenn can't be eaten in another episode, but saving him here takes a lot of sheen off of Death can come to anyone.
  4. Zombies don't give up. They have no reasoning, so why would they? If they smell fresh meat, they'll go after you. Even if a barrier like a fence stands in their way, as seen in the prison episodes, they'll continue to claw at you.
  5. They messed with our emotions, which is good. But they also revealed their hand when they released their statement. And by doing so, they manipulated our emotions by breaking the fourth wall, the TV screen. That tatters if not severely beats our suspension of disbelief.
  6. As I said earlier, theories of his survival arose. The shitty part is that we were right, and as a result we were not surprised (see the comments in the link).
  7. And much like the assistant who didn't disappear, nothing changed. Glenn didn't become a better person. He didn't become worse.  No one was around to see his miraculous act of survival, so no change there. Since there was no change in this pivotal cliff hanger, then why show it? To piss us off?

I think for most fans of the show, they won't care but are relieved Glenn is back. As a storyteller, I care. But I currently don't have to balance storytelling, ratings, and selling commercials. This is something the writers/producers have to do, especially during sweeps.

Spoiler alert again, muthafukkas.

And strategically, they may be waiting to kill Glenn when a character from the comics named Negan comes to the show. He's a baddie. Actually, he's a bad muthafukka. Cause he does do Glenn. Well…not do Glenn, but does do Glenn in, or do does Glenn in, or doo-dah doo-dah-day.

The Killing Mood

Oh shiet!

Oh shiet!

Lately, I’ve been a bit obsessed with zombies: Walking Dead TV show and comics, Warm Bodies, the CDC’s warnings of a zombie break out, Zombieland, World War Z book and movie, on and on. This is partly because I had gone to school for kinesiology and know that the exact definition of a zombie can never be. That doesn’t mean that what zombies symbolize don’t exist. They do. Everywhere.

I’d bought the Max Brooks’ book before seeing WWZ and found it fascinating. I didn’t know why until I read a critique of the movie of the same name. The book is a collection of first hand accounts of the zombie take over and the fall of the world. Each chapter represented an intimate look at how certain emergency initiatives, government agencies, armed forces and advanced weaponry failed, from every corner of the globe. It was all incredibly convincing, and I began to contemplate the very real possibility of The End. The movie, on the other hand, didn’t do a good job of that.

Gawd, I'm prettie

Gawd, I'm prettie

An article in Vanity Fair suggested that fifty or so first hand accounts does not a good movie make. From a moviegoers’ perspective, Hollywood thinks that we need a main character to root for. In a way, they’re kinda correct. But the movie makes a fundamental mistake: it wasn’t intimate. Part of the reason we need a main character is because once we’re rooted emotionally to him, Brad Pitt in this case, we’re then drawn in. However, nothing about most of the movie is intimate because he deals with massive zombie attacks over large groups of people. The only real intimacy we get is his love for his wife and children…and then at the end when he has to travel through a maze of offices—alone—to find a potential solution. With each turn of a hallway, entrance to a new room, opening of a new door brought the real possibility of confronting a fast running zombie, the most intense part of the whole film. And I think the fast running zombies, not written in the book, but chided by some hardcore zombie traditionalists, was a great choice. It broke convention of the slow lumbering dead.

You
You

Lumbering through the above three paragraphs brings me to the one show that has taught me something about storytelling: The Killing.

The AMC show is currently in its third season, and I’m still hooked. But it was the first two seasons, the Rosie Larsen murder, that hooked me in. Out of all the procedural shows—all the CSI’s, Bones, Law and Order, etc—Killing brings to the forefront the epic hole that is left in the surviving family and friends. To say the show was heavy is an understatement. I’m sure less than a quarter of the show was dedicated to the mother and father and two brothers whom had to deal with the very tragic and mysterious death of Rosie. Each character showed through conflict or flash backs their pain, memories, guilt, and regrets. Here, the writers took their time, using the smallest detail and stretching it over a whole scene that laid a feeling thick with anguish and sadness.

Scene
Scene

For me, there was a sense of real loss, a real feeling of death, and the scent that only a murder could bring. Not that I smelled anything, but somehow the smell of rot entered my mind. And you would imagine that the murder scene was gruesome, especially if you’re used to shows like Dexter, which I’m a fan of. In terms of visual intensity, Killing was very tame but creepy (See above: Rosie found in a trunk of a car). But the experience of watching the show was weird, and the only way I can explain it was the intimacy each character brought. From that perspective, the writers of the show did a wonderfully morbid job.

Intimacy. That was the key.

Intimacy. The most intense scene of WWZ was the climax, where Pitt’s character had to confront zombies face to face, literally.

Intimacy. Romance novels are king in this area, so of course makes up at least 50% of the fiction sales.

Intimacy. The one thing that people want in their relationships, whether they know it or not.

Hostile Hostel

Hawaii Estimated Arrival

Hawaii Estimated Arrival

Most people who go to Hawaii spend a lot of money on two basic things: Airfare and hotel accommodations. You can mitigate the price of airfare by points or planning way ahead of time. Combining them with hotel and car can definitely help. But if you do a little research and maybe talk to people who frequent the H.I., they can help reduce the cost and spend your cheddah (cash for you Ebonics challenged) on other overpriced things like food and tours.

The Bus, Hawaii's bus system, is incredibly convenient and cheap. There's even an app called Da Bus that you can download that will give you real time arrivals and maps. Combine that with Google Maps and you got the islands in the palm of your hand. Why do people say that? Where else is the palm gonna be? Da Srings? For at least Oahu, The Bus takes you pretty much everywhere including the North Shore. It'll take time due to the many stops the bus makes, but for the month that I was there, I saved a lot from not renting a car, which by the way you can get good discounts at discounthawaiicarrental.com.

I sound like a freakin' commercial.

only twenty million a nite

only twenty million a nite

When I go with a girlfriend, I usually stay at hotels. The ladies like the comfort. But when I go alone, I book a stay at hostels. They're cheap, convenient due to their proximity to the beach, and the best part is the communal kitchens/common area. They're highly conducive to meeting people from all over the world. Many think hostels are for young people like us (wink), probably due to their associated name youth hostels. But there's no age limitation, and most have rules like no drugs, alcohol, and quiet times at ten or eleven at night.

Issue with the hostels in Hawaii, specifically Waikiki, is that all of them will let you stay for a limited time, like two weeks. Some even require you to show a plane ticket back where you came from. I've never really understood the logic until I found the one hostel that let people stay indefinitely, which worked for my month stay. When I arrived I mumbled, "What da fuck?"

Where's the toilet paper?

Where's the toilet paper?

To say this was the worst hostel that I've stayed at would only glaze over the real issue that the Hawaiian Islands is facing, the homeless. My first room consisted of three bunk beds, six guys, and one bathroom.

Now, ladies. If you've ever lived with a man, stayed over a man's place, or gone into a man's bathroom, you understand keeping the water closet clean isn't our number one priority. Getting you to his place was (wink). Now, imagine six dudes with little care to a bathroom that don't belong to them, what do you think the condition of that bathroom would look like? And continue that image with blokes that give less care to hygiene cuz they's took a dip in the Pacific Ocean where things there take a piss. And, yes, I'm talking about kids. Talk about B to the O!

The guys in my room were smoking cigarettes, pot, drinking beer, and laughin' an' hollerin', and keeping me awake. I have to wake up at 5 freakin' A to the freakin' M for work. And all these guys have night jobs. With rent being so cheap, many locals live in these places because the only real industry in Hawaii is tourism.

To make things worse, there's no lockers for me to use. Steal my iPhone, my wallet, my iPad, whatever. It'd suck, but they can be replaced. Steal my work laptop, and I'd lose my job. Every single hostel I've ever stayed at had lockers. You know, things to lock yo shit in. If we be livin' all togethers an'all, with strangers, peeps I've never met before, I's gonna need me a locker.

Common!

Dental care...look into it

Dental care...look into it

And what really capped off this wonderful experience was the process of checking in. What I didn't know then, was the front desk was really just a wooden box at the front of their garage, filled with parking spaces for four cars. This woman, who liked to dress like a man, signed me in with their fancy advanced system of erasing my name from the reservation list, a piece of paper written with pencil, then penning me onto another piece of paper, then logging me into their log book, then writing me a receipt, highlighting it so it's highlighted, and telling me I had to give that back to them along with the room key in order to get my $35 cash deposit back. Can't ya just check my name off your log book that's written in pen. Why do you need this flimsy receipt to give me my deposit back? And let's talk about this young woman's enthusiasm. Done.

What I had found out was most of the front desk people were residents of the hostel. They got free rent for working there. Many quit, which is a small indicator of the working conditions presented by this fine establishment.

Fortunately, I moved to another room with a big black dude, who was the literal definition of gentle giant. Easily the nicest guy in the whole hostel, and very considerate. Another fine dude who spent five years in lockup and actually learned his lesson. And a fifty-seven year old dance instructor and street performer doin' what he luvs.

My new roomies were awesome! Much better than those whipper snappers, who didn't realize that closing the screen door didn't prevent smoke or their loud voices from entering the room. And I don't know why they gave me a key, since no one ever bothered to lock the door, which left the issue of my work laptop.

I could carry it around, but having to worry about that thing 24/7 for the next four weeks would have sucked ass. And yes I have, so I know. Actually, sucking ass was better. Again, fortunate for me, the manager of the place was nice enough to lock it in her office, a door like any door in your house, accessed by one key. No dead bolt, no alarm system (yeah, right. Remember the front desk?), no guard dog. Fantastic. And this woman looked like death with bags under her eyes. You know how you get those baggy eyes when you wake up from an unsatisfying nights sleep? Beat up bags, not the luxury kind from Luis Vuitton. The kind where they've seen Hell, spent a long time there, then for some reason Satan said, "All right. I've decided to let you leave," when He's never let anyone else leave before since the beginning of time. Those bags. But I used my manly wiles to get her to lock up my laptop everyday, a slight inconvenience on her part. Then she got that look in her eye, and I stopped using my manly wiles.

This sounds like an article about not using hostels. Nope. It's an article of what to look for in a hostel. Do they have rules about alcohol, drugs, and quiet time? Is there plenty of parking? Free Weefee? Is there a real communal kitchen. This one was located in another guests' room. Serious? Read the damn reviews, which I did and should have gotten the clue when I saw better reviews at the other hostels. Do the dregs of society live at the hostel? Unlikely if there's limited stay, which most should have. And location (the one redeeming factor here). This one was located in Waikiki, which is what I wanted.

Most hostels have semi-private and private rooms, so lockers may not be a concern if you're reserving that. But all hostels should have lockers. Jeez.

Again, hostels are a great way to meet different people, stay close to the sights, and save cash. You can meet people at hotels, but I found they aren't as conducive.

One last thing is make sure the reviews state the rooms are clean. Bed bugs are a real issue. I was bitten no less than a hundred times, sometimes over a dozen a day. I get Hawaii is a tropical place, and mosquitos are supercharged there, but I got bit a lot while working on my bed. Oh, yeah...my office:

I don't make my bed

I don't make my bed

Flashbacks

A fellow writer and I were talking about flash backs.  Flash backs takes us back to a time before the current moment of the story, be it novel, TV show, film, etc.  And, as this zombie dog growls, there's a guideline in storytelling that states don't use them.

The reason is simple.  The threat of death to the character having the flashback is removed.  Makes sense. Makes even more sense when the reader/audience is supposed to be connected to the main character, the heroine.  We see a lot of supporting characters die.  Rarely do we see the main character die before the climax.

Then the hero can die.  Otherwise, who will finish the story?

The problem is exacerbated when we're reading a series, watching Showtime's Dexter (I watched four seasons knowing Dexter wasn't gonna die), or a movie franchise.

But can flashbacks work?  Yes.  Here are some examples:

Pulp Fiction

Memento

Slumdog Millionaire

Pulp Fiction shows pieces of the story out of order.  And we don't know who to really support or connect to until the pieces start to fall together like when loyalties form between enemies Butch Coolidge, Bruce Willis, and Marsellus Wallace, Ving Rhames.  Where before we were rooting for Butch to get outta there before Marsellus Wallace gets to his ass.  Then a cop has Marsellus Wallace's ass, literally, after being kidnapped.  Butch is about to escape but decides to save Marsellus Wallace's ass, literally.  And at the end of that scene, we feel for both characters.

Memento directed by Jonathan Nolan, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, was critically acclaimed and has a cult following.  Basically, it shows the movie from end to beginning because the main character has short term memory loss.  A piece of genus.  Here, the end scene shows someone shot, but we don't know who.  And as we watch the story barrel to the beginning, we're in anticipation of who died and what happened.

I loved Slumdog Millionaire.  Talk about a sleeper hit!  Most of the movie depends on flashbacks.  But the goal is to figure out whether Jamal Malik, played by Dav Patel, was cheating.  As we go along for the ride, tension rises because of the things that happen to Jamal, and whether the supporting characters will live.  Some do.  Some don't.

So do flashbacks work?  Hell yeah.

Just as long it serves the story.

Do you know any other movies, shows, or books that depend on flashbacks?  How about any movies, shows, or books that have the main character die before the climax?