You Pointin' to Me?

Do I look fat?

Do I look fat?

You pointin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you pointin’…you pointin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here.

When world building, indicating or explaining, using dialogue or exposition, is necessary. One of the biggest criticisms a published author indicated to me was my world. (Why do people say published author? Like that validates my work, their advice, or me.) That I had to give more details, really go into how politics work, are there classes in society, where and how do they live, etc. All the nitty-gritty stuff that helps ground the world into reality.

However, once you get passed that, indicating too much is too much. Cause it’s too much. I think that’s what writing folk call writing on the nose. I tend not to write on the nose cause there’s not much room there. The basic premise is not to be so obvious, to dictate, to indicate story to the point where it’s not fun.

You smell

You smell

An example of this was The Lost Symbol. Part of the premise of the book was how thought helps create and manipulate our world, something that I’ve been interested in for most of my life. As I trudged through the book, I felt like I was being lectured by one of those new age preachers asking me to give my lifesavings and body to the better good. Not sure if that’s an example of on the nose writing, but Dan Brown’s overuse of italics seriously annoyed me. Not because it was italicized. But because he was trying so hard, it felt to me, to indicate what these people were thinking and feeling. Why not use expository sentences in between dialogue to do that? But who am I?

I think a great way of showing what your character is about, or how your world works is layering different things that point to a certain idea.

The martial art school I used to go to played favorites in a big way, without explicitly showing it by hiding it in meaning.

Upon entering the school, a row of black belts’ pictures lined the wall above the mirrors. The center portrait was of the owner, the master of all masters, the one. Flanking him were black belts in descending degrees. When I was there, I had noticed that my personal teacher, who was third highest rank in the school, slowly moved farther and father away from the center until, ultimately, his image mysteriously disappeared. At the same time, new black belts edged their way closer to the center. It was explained that these individuals were contributing more to the school, while others who didn’t got axed from the wall of fame.

We be cool

We be cool

Automatically, you the student in the mirror was below the instructors of the school. And those who followed remained on the wall of shame, while those who didn’t were thought to be outsiders. But it’s those outsiders who usually make the biggest marks in the universe. Bruce Lee anyone? Whoppah! Now, of course, the author should not explain what was really going on, nor lecture his thoughts on being an outsider, like I did with Bruce. That’s for the reader/audience to figure out for themselves, if they so choose. And their interpretation is a good indication of who they are. Isn’t that the fun of reading?

Pot Holes

It was Bigfoot!

It was Bigfoot!

There are few things that could ruin a leisure drive. We’re not really concerned about traffic because we ain’t not going no wheres. I know. Bad grammar. Fresh air, people watching, feeling the freedom of driving, not being tethered to anything, maybe enjoying a cool drink, spending time talking to the love of your life, listening to her laugh, sigh, breath all add to the serenity of a leisurely drive.

Bam. Pot hole.

When we read a book, listen to a story, or watch a movie we’re in a similar mindset. We want drama, action, passion, adventure with none of the consequences. We may be invested in the characters, but we would never want to put ourselves in their shoes. Escapism.

Bam. Plot hole. OK. Nothing to worry about. Just like on our drive, one or two maybe three pot holes won’t ruin our enjoyment. But a dozen deep holes later, our experience will not only be marred, but we’ll not likely drive down that street again.

Ouch

Ouch

Prometheus has gotten so much flack for its story and plot holes that it has ignited the web. Just google Prometheus and plot holes and the result may surprise you.

There’s a special place in my heart for Alien. Not literally of course.

Hard Boiled

Hard Boiled

My 7th grade English teacher gave us a book report assignment and I had gotten my hands on the Alien novelette. She said she knew Dan O’Bannon, who authored the Alien screenplay, and were personal friends with him. I asked how, but I’d forgotten her answer. I know…bad, bad, bad. She asked if I wanted to write a letter to him and I said hellz yeah! Well, I just said yeah.

Then she asked my friend and I if we wanted to watch it after class. My friend was also a fan, but neither of us had seen the flick. We agreed and met with my teacher and watched Alien for the first time. The scene that everyone remembers and knows had left us speechless, scared shitless, where to this day any phantom lump in my chest or stomach ache brought fears of being infected with a chest buster. Fortunately for me it was nothing. Whew.

Dan O’Bannon graciously answered my letter and it’s something that I’ve been grateful for to this day.

Plot holes are to be expected in a story written by humans. It’s difficult to account for everything and have certain things not coincide. If we look at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, there exist societal classes. We see this with Ron representing the poorer class, while Draco represents the higher, noble wizarding family. But if there’s magic, why doesn’t one just whip their wand and create money? We don’t find out till later in the books that magic in Harry’s world can’t create wealth and food. Since we in the "real” world live in classes, we accept classes in Rowling’s story without questioning it. So our experience isn’t ruined.

Do I have a zit?
Do I have a zit?

But when I, and apparently the rest of the world, watched Prometheus, the major plot holes became the focus of our disgust with the film. And it’s these inconsistencies that ruin the serene drive that we all paid good money for.

Many on the net tried to defend the plot holes. Some made sense. For example, the moon in Alien was labeled as LV-426, but the crew of Prometheus lands on LV-223. Prometheus the movie was the prequel to Alien. But the mystery of where those chest busters came from started on LV-426 and is where so much havoc resided during the sequel, Aliens. Many called this a plot hole. Since the ending of Prometheus left much to be desired, it also may have indicated to us that this is indeed not LV-426. OK. I just geeked out there.

This same person also said this is science fiction. We’re supposed to suspend logic. No. We’re supposed to suspend our disbelief. Like the existence of sound in space, gravity in a spaceship, or an alien growing in our bodies as big as our arms without us knowing.

So here's a small plot hole. I credit this to Red Letter Media review. One of the world building scenes where Guy Pierce plays an old guy hologram (get it?) looks at actual individuals who he calls to the stage, then continues to look at them when those individuals are on stage. Either that was a mistake by the filmmaker, or that is some gawd dayem advanced holographic AI.

This sun tan lotion better work. I'm pale as a ghost

This sun tan lotion better work. I'm pale as a ghost

The first scene is also questionable. If the Engineer killed himself to seed planet Earth, supposedly, then why did the dinosaurs evolve first? Did writers forget about the over hundred million years those big lizards ruled the planet? Well, it could be argued the Engineer seeded the planet after the dinosaurs died off. Then how do you explain the vast different number of lines of the genus homo? Like homo erectus, homo neanderthalensis, and the slew of other homos? Don’t laugh.

Sure, a species could evolve into divergent lines due to geographic barriers, food limitations, etc. But somehow homo sapiens made it, which coincidentally look pretty much like the Engineer. If I were to seed a planet with my DNA, I’d make damn sure it’s that exact form that evolves.

I don’t want to list all plot holes. They’re all documented. Here’s one place where you can find some: http://www.movieplotholes.com/prometheus.html

As storytellers, we try to minimize plot holes. I’m not sure if it’s possible to get rid of them all, especially when you’re writing sci-fi/fantasy. Just look at the Bible. But we should be able to at least get rid of the major ones and not ruin the experience of our audience.

Make Perfect Mistakes

Look at the board!

Look at the board!

I was talking to my best friend, whose wife had just given birth to a son, about the best way to practice writing. Taking heed to Buddha's words, I said dive into the work. He went on to tell me his preferred method. That he analyzed other writers' work to find what made it click. That he worked with a writing coach. That he practiced specific techniques that he found valuable. And that practicing needed to be perfect practice.

I then calmly asked him, "What the hell is perfect practice?"

To me, it sounded like you couldn't make mistakes while practicing when it's really the best time to make mistakes. It's those mistakes that we make in practice or immersed in our work that can give us some of the most profound insights. I told him there's no one correct way of doing anything well.

It's the geniuses, the innovators that create the rule, the market. Just look at the world of media. We have books and TV shows about wizards and vampires and wolves.

Eddy: I will suck your blood.  Buffy: I'll suck your blood, sucka!

Eddy: I will suck your blood.  Buffy: I'll suck your blood, sucka!

When I had my teaching and mentoring business, I was all about changing behavior. Shit. I was one of the laziest people I knew. I watched TV to no end. I had little passion for anything, or at least I thought I had little passion for anything. I slept for most of the day when I could. That was the life! Then something changed. A yearning grew. Not that yearning. Well...not the place to discuss.

I started to think about the things I wanted. Things I wished to accomplish. And somehow I was disciplined enough to go to the gym, write, have a social life, teach, and still have free time to just chill. How did I become disciplined? Hell if I know.

Hey! Up here!

Hey! Up here!

Actually, they were things that I wanted to do. Loved to do. I mean going to the gym was easy. There's a lot of hot chicks there.

During the years that I taught, I made a slow discovery. As awesome a teacher as I was, I couldn't make my students do anything. Yes, they listened to me. Yes, they behaved when I shushed them. But they eventually fell back to their shenanigans.

What I could do was listen to them, guide them toward their own well being, help them realize their own potential in real time physical exercises, and help them realize what they truly wanted in life. Their behavior was outside of my reach, outside of anyone's reach, except their own.

Your Breath Stinks
Your Breath Stinks

One parent came up to me and was extremely concerned about her child's time management skills. He loved to procrastinate. She was my client, so I did my best to try and change that behavior, asked him why he procrastinated, gave him specific things to do to swerve him from waiting till the last minute.

He made the changes for a day. Then he reverted back to his old ways. His grades never improved from the mostly A's and B's he already received. I know, I know.

Now in college, I asked him how school was going. He loved it, tried a slew of different things, as I suggested, so he could have a better idea of what he might love to do in life. I asked him how his grades were. Mostly A's and B's.

I asked him if he was ok with that. Totally fine, he answered.

Do you still procrastinate, I asked. He reluctantly nodded.

I laughed, told him that this was his method and that it seemed to work. If he felt bad about his grades, that he wanted to improve, then changes may need to be made (depending on why he felt bad). Since everything was fine, there was nothing to do but catch up on old times.

I had told my best friend this story, as he's also close to this family, and the silence on the phone meant he didn't agree.

He has his way toward excellence. I have mine. And as long as those methods work for us without any feelings of guilt or anxiousness, but with peace of mind, then whose to say that were wrong?

Home Security With an Unbalanced Samurai

Last night was one of those nights.  I couldn’t sleep.  No diet Coke.  No late night coffee runs.  No chocolate.  Nothing that would turn me into an insomniac.  In fact, I’ve had more nights of insomnia in the past few years than in my whole life.  Which is interesting.

My sister had a Feng Shui master come into the house.  The master saw my room and asked my sister if I was sleeping well.  My sister didn’t know.  The master masterfully suggested in her wisest of wisdom that I move my bed to another wall, turn it so my feet would point east, and my sleeping problems would be solved.

All righty then.

One day, I came home and found my bed pushed against the other wall.  At the time, I didn’t know why.  Nor did I know a Feng Shui master had wisely assessed my sleeping arrangements, using thousands of years of Feng Shui know how.

That night I lay my head down to sleep.  My feet pointed east, though I normally don’t make a note of where my feet point.  An hour goes by, and I’m like, WTF mate?  I’m still awake.  It usually takes me fifteen minutes to say hello to the sandman.

Another hour goes by.  Crap!

An hour later I’m still freakin’ awake.

I got two hours of sleep that night.  I remember because it was the start of a line of sleepless nights.  A month later my sister was kind enough to inform me of what the master had suggested.  A few years had passed since then.

I had turned up my workout up a notch yesterday.  Summer is coming so I gotta look nice for the ladies.  When I went to bed, my body was desperate for much needed rest.  An hour goes by and I’m awake.  But a few minutes later Mr. Sandman was knocking on my door.  Not only was he knocking on my door, but the floor just outside my room creaked.

I listened.

Nothing.  House was settling.

I twisted and turned, found a comfortable spot, and began to let the bits of consciousness drip away.

Floorboards creaked.  Someone was walking around the hallway.

My sister went to sleep before I did, so I knew it wasn’t her.  Hallway light wasn't on because it didn't creep under my door.

I sat up and my bed squeaked.

The steps stopped.

I could feel my heart hitting my chest.

Floorboards creaked again, I heard shuffling outside, and it sounded as if someone was walking on the roof.  I was surrounded!

I jumped off my bed, grabbed a katana—Samurai sword—and waited for whomever to barge through my shut door.

C’mon, man.  My hand squeezed the hilt.  I could see the path of the sword.  C’mon!

No one came in.  The steps disappeared.

I turned on the light, opened my door.  No one stood outside.  I proceeded to check the whole house with sword in hand.  There were no signs anyone was in the house.  I eased back upstairs.

Here’s the funny part.

My Samurai sword is not real.  The blade is not tempered steel.  If there were a Samurai in my house, his katana would slice through mine like buttah.  But what are the chances a Samurai would show up in my house?

Second, my fake sword is so unbalanced that if I swung and missed, it’d take me a hundred years to recover.

Third, beyond swinging the sword like a bat, my skills with a katana is like my skills of levitation.  Non-existent.

All this because my sister listened to a Feng Shui master.  And I never found the source of the ruckus.

Mother Is God In the Eyes of a Child

In my book children are a huge part of the story. They serve to move the plot forward, present obstacles to both the hero and supporting characters. Children represent innocence in many societies, and I’ve definitely made it that way in the world I’ve created. They are precious because they represent infinite potential and advancement in evolution, as a result, they’re the best of mothers and fathers.  And my hero believes this and loves his children to death.

I was taking a break from my mundane day job, walking down Market St. and enjoying the sun. Suddenly, a streetwalker accosted me—get your mind outtah the guttah. She asked me if I wanted a child.

“Whoa lady," I said.

“What I’m talkin’ about is sponsoring a child,” she said.

She proceeded to tell me about www.children.org, how it’s a non-profit organization, most of the money goes to the children, and I can pick where my money goes. After an hour wrenching my arm, she was quite strong, I agreed.

Check out the child I’m sponsoring below, the letter she wrote me, go to my personal link, and if you feel like giving, then give. If not, then no plobrem

There’s a saying: It’s better to give than to receive.

Crap.

It is better to give, you may say.

Crap.

Let’s take a simple concept of giving money. To give money you must have money. To have money you must receive it. If I wanted to give twenty bucks, I have to have twenty bucks. However, if I only had ten bucks, then I can only give ten bucks.

The idea of giving is that you’ll receive.  We live in a world of dualities.  The Ying and Yang illustrates this perfectly.  You can't have a front without a back, an up without a down, the good without the bad, giving without receiving, etc.  But beware. Don’t give because you want to receive. Give because you want to.  It will return to you in ways you've never imagined.

getattachmentaspx

img_0002-1

Do You Feel Guilty Feeling Attractive?

In my side story, the character, Noshee, was a cheater.  It's part of his backstory.  If you'd like to read the side stories check them out here. I'd talked to a friend about attraction.  In the context of marriage.  He's been married for several years and loves his wife dearly.

One day he stood in a never ending line at Starbucks, totally submerged in his crackberry.  A woman bumped him from behind by accident and apologized.  My friend turned around, smiled, and said, "No problem."

Her red lips widened, revealing her white teeth.  "Aren't those addicting?"

"Ugh.  I can't help but check my emails everytime my phone vibrates."

The blond-haired lady took out her iPhone from her purse and waved it.  "Tell me about it."

After receiving their coffees, they stood off to the side.  What happened next was a fury of non-sexual flirting.  My friend found himself cracking jokes.  She laughed and crinkled her nose.  He  listened to her personal stories of work life, egged her on with penetrating questions.   She noticeably became intrigued by him, not taking any notice of the morning sun glinting off his wedding band.

Interesting.

It wasn't until he mentioned his wife did she withdraw and exclaimed she'd better not be late today.

Unlike my character, my friend didn't follow through with his instincts.  But was he in the wrong for feeling attracted to the nice blond lady?  Most people would judge him in the wrong.  And for those who would dare judge him, he felt guilty.

Everybody gets up in morning, brushes their teeth, washes their face, fix their hair, applies makeup if you're a woman, or a guy if you're like that, puts on nice duds, maybe spritz some eau de toilette or parfum, and leave the house looking like a million bucks.  Lo and behold even married people do this.

Why?

"I wanna look nice."

OK.  Why?

To look attractive.  What my friend did, by following his instincts to be attractive, to lure the woman in, is his way.  It's always been  his way.  It's how men through out our animal history have been.  We want to attract women.

Are women guilty of this?  Hell yeah!  Married or not, women love it when guys find them hot.  It makes them feel good.  It can help boost their confidence.  And I'd suggest they play along.  Have fun.  That's why they have girls' night out.  They want to be checked out in a protective environment among other hens, while the cocks, that's roosters for you gutter-minded, prance around in heat.  Stalkers please keep out.

I told my friend not to feel guilty.  Guilt, something I explore at length in my book, is a victim emotion.  That is left for another post.  His instinct of  feeling attractive, to want to talk to other women, is an ingrained behavior.  That's how his greatest of grandfathers, the Geico caveman, spread his genes.  The human side, the conscious side of our minds, shouldn't follow through with an affair, like Noshee did.

In the end, my friend went home with a surprise bouquet of bright red tulips.  He realized through his guilt that he loved his wife, appreciated the home they've built and got it on.  Actually, I don't know if he got it on.