Check this out on Amazon

24 02 2022

Turn Your Fandom Into Cash: A Geeky Guide to Turn Your Passion Into a Business (or at least a Side Hustle) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FSC7D8H/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_4VGJT68S12DVXEGA14RE

Carol has been a friend for decades. She writes reviews for Fandom and is an Grade A Number 1 Nerd. I’m buying this book because I know there will be fun, useful advice.





Ari Aster Movie FREE On YouTube, Plus Other Horror Movies

20 01 2022

It’s worth just searching stuff on YouTube to see what shows up. Like the first movie made by Ari Aster of Midsommar and Hereditary.

The Strange Things About The Johnsons was released to festivals in 2010. It introduces Aster’s recurring themes of betrayal of the family contract, denial, and society as oppressor. Unlike his later movies, his first film reveals the horror early on, and makes the plot about how the Johnson family copes with that horror.

Come And See often appears in critics’ lists for “Best Movie Of All Time”. After the German invasion of Russia, partisans recruit a teen boy. The boy finds starvation, random death, and finally an einsatzgruppen. The teen survives, but is shattered and still has the rebuilding of his country ahead. The teen is played by an actor with no previous experience, which just adds to the rawness of his emotions. Trauma therapists were on set to help all the actors. Not as intense as say Saving Private Ryan, but ten times more believable. As above, YouTube won’t let me link directly.

Wisconsin Death Trip is not as horrid as the title implies. Imagine Ken Cook documenting the rough decade endured by a rural Wisconsin county. An influx of immigrants copes with land fraud, brutal winters, an overwhelmed health care system, disease, and crime. No, it is not contemporary; this happened in the late 1800s. The stories are respectful. They remind that our current woes are truly quite old, and that our ancestors were just like us, people just trying to get through. Come for the scandals, stay for Mary the Wisconsin Window Smasher.

I don’t get why YouTub is restricting this link. You see worse on PBS, seriously.

I don’t know why I’m watching things like this. I used to write humor. I used to perform sketch and improv comedy. Comedy on TV doesn’t make me laugh anymore. There isn’t anything worth binge-watching. Improv based movies just annoy me at the moment. It’s expected that nothing will compare with what I liked as a teen, but even Monty Python is not aging well. Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are still my faves. Does anyone do smart comedy with good sight gags anymore?





Neat Writing Tricks From “The Ruins” (If you are from Ireland and usually read this, you are my sole reader from Ireland. Thanks for reading!)

13 01 2022

While I had COVID, I took a gift card I had won at a work-place raffle and I ordered some books. The first to arrive (used from ThriftBooks) was “The Ruins” by Scott Smith. A movie had been made and is available for streaming. I had watched the movie and was really impressed. Over the years, many writers I respect had claimed that the novel itself was a compelling page-turner.

They weren’t kidding! It’s 500 pages and I tore through it in 24 hours. I hadn’t read a novel so eagerly since I was a kid. Despite knowing how the novel was going to end. Despite the characters being obvious redshirt/victims and the monster being a Pottsylvania Creeper that can do impressions.

SPOILERS

The plot: six generic white college age tourists in Mexico go off the beaten track, ignore multiple harbingers, and find themselves forced to stay in Mayan ruins covered with vines that are predatory, carnivorous, and intelligent. The natives know the vines are dangerous and will not let the kids leave the ruins, lest a tendril hitch a ride on them. Lacking resources or means to call for help, the six die rather quickly. You’d think that this plot couldn’t last longer than a Tales From The Crypt episode. But Smith makes it a compelling read over 500 pages.

How did Smith do this? I studied the book as I read and have some answers. Let’s look at style and structure first.

The POV shifts in third-person limited between the six characters. The language is contemporary with little artistic flourish. There are no chapter breaks. There is very little to break the narrative flow. I skimmed the prose easily. Jumping POVs kept scenes from being too long and gave moments where characters could assess a situation from different perspectives.

The plot is a basic Four Beat Structure. The McGuffin for going to The Ruins was to find a missing brother. That drew the plot up to Beat One about 20% in. The brother’s body is found literally when a character notices the vines seems crowding him. The plot questions shifts from “Where Is?” to “How?”. Within that 20%, all the plot elements have been established: a phone ringing in a deep pit, birdcalls from within the vines, and the vines’ peculiar growth.

The other three beats are Reveals Of Horror and the characters’ reactions. Beat Two is discovering the vines are acidic and grow quickly to eat any meat. Beat Three reveals the starving characters discovering the bird calls are actually coming from the vines’ blossoms, and that the vines are as fast as snakes. In Beat Four, the ringing phone is also a mimicry to lure them into the pit to be digested. Characters die on the way, of course, and after each horrid realization there is a POV change where the next character summarizes anew the whole dire situation.

Another group of tourists is supposed to come looking for the doomed, but even that isn’t taken seriously. That group shows up at the end much too late, only to climb The Ruins to presumably seal their own fate.

I noted the McGuffin handoff when the missing brother is found dead. That handoff is made into a “What Is Happening” through the world-building of The Ruins themselves. The brother is found amid the wreckage of an archeological dig. No other bodies are found. There are notebooks, though, and passports and other documents. I was waiting for them to try to piece together the clues. But Smith quite rightly made the paperwork a tease to keep my attention and concentrated on the character interaction. It was the same when the archeologists remains were found, when the natives (rendered in ways sympathetic and distinct) organized, and in examining The Ruins themselves. Just enough world-building to create believability, then moving on with the plot.

The most important aspect of the novel comes with establishing the six redshirt/victims themselves. We learn about them through description and behavior. There is almost no dialogue for the first forty pages. This perspective one step removed shows that this is “an ensemble” so to speak and there is no main character. What is vital is that it sets us up as watchers and not sympathizers. We are set up to watch flawed WASP college kids get drunk, make a lot of assumptions, and Get What’s Coming To Drunk Assuming WASP College Kids.

One could argue that what kills them is White Privilege and this is addressed in the book. It’s touched on only briefly, because deep sociological reflection would create sympathy and ruin plot momentum.

The first forty pages also set tone really well. From the first sentence, the characters spend their time with churning hangovers, sizzling sunburns, bleary from lack of sleep, resentful of another’s actions, menaced by snarling dogs, unsettled by disease and poverty. I’m going to pay more attention to using environment to create tone.

The horror I felt for their fate came through the sensory descriptions. Tendrils squirmed under skin. Acidic sap burned hands. Hopes dropped into chilled horror. Amputations cracked and snapped. I found myself thinking “these guys were dopes, but day-um they didn’t deserve all this.”

This is a good book. The movie has a better ending, in that it follows a Main Character out of the six who becomes the sensory touchstone for the viewer.





This Week I Had COVID, So This Is What I Did (Hello DirtySciFiBuddha and Literary Titan)

8 01 2022

I’ve been looking through “Idea Book” by Jack Heffron. Heffron uses exercises to find personal experiences as inspiration. I like this and will let you know how this goes.

Here is a found footage movie review site. It is comprehensive and the reviews are thorough.

I won a raffle at my job and got a $50 gift card, which I spent on books, of course. First in is this anthology. William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki The Ghost Finder has been a favorite. Had no idea so many authors wrote occult detectives, including Robert Chambers and Dion Fortune. Many names new to me in the ToC and I’m looking forward to sampling in the coming weeks.





Horror Podcast and How It Relates To Humor

12 12 2021

Try this podcast called “Wrong Station”. I’ve listened to a couple of episodes so far and the writing and directing are very good.

Here is Episode 88 “The Sea Provides”.

The podcast is written by three guys involved with the satirical site “The Beaverton”, which is also very good.

Are horror and humor closely related? Comedians and comic actors seem tor take on dark acting roles, at least in the US. Robin Williams played the disturbed villain in a few movies. Jordan Peele is creating horror satire. Michael McKean played evil characters in “Law and Order” and “ST:Voyager”. Scads more examples abound. Speaking for myself, I used jokes to avoid difficult emotions. Once I recognized that I started writing horror and that let me frame those emotions in a fictional context. I haven’t really turned back to humor even though I joke quite a lot in real life.

That reframing encourages me to look at the world through a “frame”. When I examine current events through that frame, I see foible and anguish everywhere. A timeless perspective; “A Modest Proposal” and so on. Humor and horror can be equally numbing. They can be equally useful tools for imagination.





Good Movies Made By People At Home

8 05 2021

These movies have different comedy to horror ratios. If you can handle “X-Files” episodes, you’ll like these movies.

Murder Death Koreatown: This movie leans hard into its Found Footage premise in that there are no production credits at the end, nor any credits in its IMDB page. What looks like a True Crime story turns to Weird Horror.

The protagonist has been laid off from his job and is producing little video projects on his phone instead of looking for work. The townhouse he shares with his sullen girlfriend has an access street behind. One night there are gunshots. A neighbor shot her husband and instead of running for help, he staggers to die near a set of garages. Our protagonist is puzzled and records his investigation. The investigation does a neat trick in riding the edge between the protag’s dissolution and a realization of a Weird Horror. The filmmaker used elements of his neighborhood: bodegas, graffiti, anonymous storefront businesses, street corner preachers, to hint at otherworldly connections.

On Amazon Prime

Leaving DC: Why don’t White people leave their haunted house? “Leaving DC” comes up with an off-beat, elegant answer.

The protagonist is a tech engineer moving from Washington DC to a rather nice house in the West Virginia mountains. Ghostly stuff happens, etc. The man’s money is tied up in the house, but that reason to stay always came up short in other movies. Why doesn’t he leave? *Because he is chronically compulsive*. We first meet him in DC with his OCD Therapy group. We watch him move into his spotless house devoid of personal affects. We watch him crater his relations with a visitor, who then leaves because his house creeps her out. Does he leave? No, he will not be bullied. He will understand what is happening by buying cameras and microphones and scrutinizing the late night flute playing, the apparitions, and the Mysterious Signs In The Woods. Then he will formulate a detailed action plan. The end is inevitable, but like I said, elegant.

On Amazon Prime.

Creep: Movies with tiny casts work if the cast is compelling. This movie’s co-writer and lead Mark Duplass radiates charm.

When his character hires a videographer to come to his remote house and record sentimental messages, you pay attention. Mark’s character reveals traumas, only to admit he lied. He takes menacing objects and gives them absurd histories. The videographer is pulled between getting paid, politeness, and fleeing Mark’s increasing menace.

On Netflix along with its sequel Creep 2.

I guess I like these stories because they are efficient. As writers we are taught to write characters who are flawed with a recent tragedy highlighting those flaws. (Note that Duplass subverts this expectation by implying then denying any tragic backstory, which frustrates and adds to the unease). Writers are told to keep the motivations simple and relatable. Last, stories are to be economic in word and action.

A common criticism in the Amazon comments is that these movies lack strong endings. That makes sense, because none of the characters are given resources for a satisfying character transformation. “Murder Death Koreatown” and “Leaving DC” remains committed to their goals to their unfortunate endings. The time constraints keep the writer from introducing a secondary plot to give impetus to transformation. Changing their minds and fleeing would also bump up their budgets. That said, the videographer in “Creep” does flee and his arc is the more satisfying for it.

Or maybe I’m wrong. The movie “The VVitch” was shot with a cabin, a farm, and a bonfire. The parents each had a heartbreaking transformation. Certainly that movie was great and had few resources, but then it comes back around to character portrayals.

Strong character voice and motive. I’d been fixated on compelling images, but I need to work on characters more.

PS: Happy Birthday, Me!





Writers: For Amazon and Goodreads Reviews…

13 10 2018

Reviewing on amazon





Stuck with Your Story? Why You Keep Hitting Walls and Dead Ends in Your Writing — A Writer’s Path

27 08 2018

by Lauren Sapala For the longest time I had major problems doing revisions on my writing. It seemed so easy for everyone else. Why was it so hard for me? Of course, I also had trouble writing. I hardly ever experienced that state of “effortless flow” everyone talked about, in which the words […]

via Stuck with Your Story? Why You Keep Hitting Walls and Dead Ends in Your Writing — A Writer’s Path





New Fave: “Spooked” by NPR

25 08 2018

spooked

How does a story seem “real”?

How can you tell if a story is “true”?

Part of it is the structure. If someone tells a story that they swear is true, yet that story has three-beat escalation and a clean conclusion straight out of “Save The Cat”, then I’d say that someone is embellishing. Fiction has to have a pattern for it to engage our emotions. Real Life is messy, confusing, and often has conclusions or realizations decades after key events.

This is a podcast called “Spooked”. People have contacted the producers with their experiences of the supernatural. There is some great stuff here. Some stories are obvious BS (“Time Warp Saloon” in the ep “Lost In Time”). Others have been embellished (Tale One of “Creepy Crawly”). But others have that off-key clang of truth that gets your imagination moving. Try “The Iron Gate”, the second story of “Creepy Crawly”, or any of “Borderlands”. Really, try any of these episodes and get your creep on.





Deadpool Is More Edgy Than You Think. Your Writing May Benefit….

24 05 2018

 

 

 

deadpool

Does Deadpool want to be transgressive? Or does Deadpool just want a white picket fence with a beautiful breeder wife and family? Or does he want to do whatever’s funny at the time?

This article from The Guardian wonders.

Contrast it with this article from Film Hulk about creating emotional resonance.

Can Deadpool have depth? Can any horror comedy? For such questions, I make comparisons to “Shawn of the Dead”. Surely Shawn of the Dead was evocative and memorable.

But had Shawn of the Dead wanted to be a franchise like Deadpool, I could see only two options. It would have to put off Shawn’s maturing, which would have made Shawn a glib punchline like Ash from “Evil Dead”. Or each sequel would have to be a new life lesson where the character is changed, which could reduce DP’s zany energy to “The Addams Family”.

All of the movies are horror comedy, sure. But I worry that DP is going to burn out quickly cycling through cartoon shocks, like ED did. I like that DP tests boundaries, not only in breaking the fourth wall and its casual inclusiveness. What other superhero is enthusiastic about having children? What other hero fails with such spectacular realism? What hero isn’t a millionaire living in a mansion?

The DC Universe is gritty. Do you care about it? I have a hard time caring, because the heroes seem to care about so little. Is DCU’s grittiness realistic? Not when Superman destroys whole cities without carnage or remorse.

The only thing DP lacked was Negasonic and Yukio bickering. You know, the thing we never see superhero couples doing, especially teens:

Negasonic: “Just swing the chain.” Yukio: “But you like my Gogo Yubari kick!.” N: “We don’t have time!” Y: “You took like a year to power up!”

The Film Crit Hulk and Deadpool have given me a lot to think about.

  1. Back story creates empathy.
  2. Relationships must evolve.
  3. “Grittiness” is not the same as “realism”.

 








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