I will never forget the first movie I saw of Gene Wilder: Young Frankenstein. It was so funny! It is probably the reason that I like to see the funny side of horror nowadays. I had my kids watch the movie years ago and they still sing ‘roll, roll, roll in the hay…’ (they had no idea of the innuendo 😀 ).
Rest In Peace, my friend, may you find humour wherever you go… and say ‘hi’ to Marty Feldman for me 🙂
After some issues with my internet yesterday I can finally post this review…
The film festival was on from Friday 26 August till Sunday 28 August, I accidentally came across it through a Twitter post. As an aspiring film maker I thought this would be my chance to get to see some great Indie work, make some contacts, learn something. So we booked our flight to Manchester, got up at 4:30am on the Saturday and spent two days at the festival before returning late Sunday evening.
I attended talks from Peter Beale (20th Century Fox producer who worked on Star Wars and Alien), John Glen (Director of James Bond movies), and Toby Whithouse (screenwriter of Dr Who episodes, Torchwood and Being Human). I liked the talk with Whithouse best as he was the most ‘down to earth’ person and easy to talk to. Peter Beale repeated 3/4 of his anecdotes the next day and blew off my question about the amount of interaction of a director and editor in post-production, but spent at least five minutes explaining what a line producer does when a guy asked that question (the answer can be found in any book on film making) . Maybe I should have asked John Glen… We saw some indie shorts and feature films, did some workshops on comics and played games on the top floor, where the kids (happily!) spent 95% of their time.
The organisers have a bit to learn about how to hold such a big event, like planning in some breaks and giving speakers comfortable seats and clip-on microphones (instead of noisy hand-held ones). There was so much to see and do, but there were no breaks! This meant that we had no time to talk to the movie makers, make contacts, and learn from their experience first-hand. I thought that was a great miss as this was the main reason I travelled all the way to Manchester.
Watching the indie movies of other amateurs was a great lesson though and I learned a lot. I will name a few:
Don’t film while walking (unless you have a stabilizer)
Do voice overs after filming in a moving car (too noisy)
Shoot from different angles while filming a conversation (to break up monotony)
Don’t film shadows (on walls or other people)
Film the faces of people talking (or make sure it’s clear who’s talking)
Don’t do actions too fast (actor actions or panning a scene)
Don’t cut sounds abruptly at the end of a scene (let them run over a bit in the next scene)
Use non-shiny make-up
Beware of reflections!
All in all it was a great experience and a fun filled weekend!
This past week I have made an effort to work on my re-write more than ever. I want it finished (and hence the few ‘extra’ posts)! This doesn’t mean I am completely closed off to the outside world though and I do follow up on any posts if I see something that can enhance me as a writer. One of those things I checked out this week is the Character Planner app, which a fellow author on FARG suggested earlier.
It’s a free app for your mobile and I think I am definitely going to use it when I will be writing my third book. You can fill out many characters, including their backgrounds, but it has many more options. I’ll give you the first three categories as an example.
Date of Birth
Place of Birth
Once Sentence Description
Other Facial Feature
Something always carried/Weapon/Tools
Other Physical Appearance
Area of Residence/Environment
As you can see it is very detailed. There are also the categories of Attitude, Past, Story, Relation and Custom. If you fill in all of these, you’ll have a very good idea of what your character is like. It may even reveal something about your character that you didn’t realise yet!
What I like about this app is that I can have it handy while I am writing. As it is on my phone I don’t have to sacrifice screen space to see it on my computer, or flick from one document to another. It keeps me on track of what my characters are like and I (will) use the app to make them unique, come alive. I doubt that your characters have the same looks, birthplaces and hobbies as mine, so they’ll all be different.
It can help you in making character arcs as you can jot down short term goals and long term goals. Their habits and character traits will influence on how they achieve these goals and how they cope if it doesn’t go as planned.
In my second book my MC ages ten years and at the end of it many things have happened to her and have changed around her. For my third book I can then make a new character sheet for her with the adjusted details, or just edit them in the ‘old’ file. It’s up to me what I want to do.
Yes, you could make your own document with the information, but why do so if somebody already did it for you? Give it a go, it’s free!
Last week I watched two fight movies. First ‘Warrior,’ a 2011 movie with Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte, directed by Gavin O’Connor. Now I normally don’t like fight movies as I find fighting a stupid waste of time. I have nothing against a bit of competition and showing off of physical prowess (hail the Olympics!), but to actually hurt another person on purpose for no good reason is too Neanderthal for me. So it was a surprise that I loved this movie, a lot. Hence I decided to watch Creed afterwards. What a let down that was…
‘Warrior’ has the perfect tension build-up. Slowly but surely we are fed information about the characters, their background and how they tie in together. It starts with normal situations (at all fronts), which during the movie escalates into incredible dramatic tension, coming to a final show off in the fighting cage. During the whole movie you only know one thing: that the brothers will be fighting each other. But what happens before keeps surprising you, as well as how the movie ends. Character set up is perfect, casting is perfect. I love Tom Hardy ever since I saw him in ‘Child 44.’ I didn’t know Joel Edgerton (although I have seen ‘Exodus’ and ‘Star Wars – Episode II’), but he was also very well cast. I really don’t like Nick Nolte, but I respect his work as an actor and thought he was extremely well cast for this role. The music was in line with the tension of the movie, didn’t distract and wasn’t flat. Flow was perfect, even in the fight scenes. The ending was believable and left me happy, even though not all fronts were covered in that happy ending. All in all a great movie that I won’t mind seeing again and would recommend everybody else to watch.
Now ‘Creed,’ a 2015 movie with Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan, directed by Ryan Coogler. Everything I just said about what was great about Warrior, wasn’t there in Creed. I felt the actors were ‘acting,’ Stallone was often mumbling (as he does) to the point you had no idea what he was saying, the music was laughably far removed from the movie action, the characters were extremely predictable. DH and I actually predicted that the downstairs neighbour would be an Afro-American female even before she opened the door. The dramatic action that was supposed to compare to Rocky reaching the top of the steps in the first movie was just ridiculous. Watching the movie I mostly felt like being at a reunion for the Rocky cast. All in all I am glad I didn’t pay money to see that movie in the theatre. I will not lose a moment’s sleep if I never see this movie again.
So if you want to learn about good story and tension build-up, watch Creed before you watch Warrior (which you should anyway if you haven’t already!) and note the difference.
(Translation: Fighting for his honour, Fighting for his family)
Today I want to share with you what I learned about tying character arcs, flashbacks and pacing together. I only recently became aware that there was such a feature as pacing in writing. I know about pacing in music, and I hate it when they get it wrong in movies (flow of the movie). The latest moan about movie flow is the one for Suicide Squad, where the first third of the movie is a drag of background information of the main characters. But I never stood still realising that this was also a part of writing. And it’s important to do it right. Here’s a way to use it.
But lets start with character arcs first. I read about it in a screenwriting lesson a while ago (heavens knows which one). It was describing a couple in bed getting up and dressed. The situation started very amicable, but with every sentence, every action, the relationship deteriorated and became downright hostile by the time they left the bedroom. The lesson was that not only do you need your characters to develop over the whole play, they need to develop within every scene too. Quintessential Editor wrote a nice blog about self editing (you can look for it here) (sorry, the page itself wouldn’t copy) and it was point 11 that caught my eye.
Suddenly the quarter dropped as to why one of my readers mentioned she didn’t like one of my main characters, but absolutely loved one of the side-characters. Unknowingly I had developed the side-character throughout my story, but totally did nothing with the main character! He stayed as bland as anything from beginning to end. No wonder she didn’t like him. So make sure all your (important) characters develop (for better or for worse).
You probably get sick and tired of me saying I’m using flashbacks by now, but it ties in with this week’s lesson. They are a major tie between the character arcs and pacing. As you want your readers to get to know your characters, you give them little snippets of information about them. Flashbacks are just one way to do this. It gives the reader the reason why your character does things, feel, act, react in a certain way.
Now, pacing is the most difficult thing to learn in writing (or so I am told). I read this in an article on Flipboard today, called The Art of Pacing (you can also find it under the blog heading here), by Jack Tyler. It reminded me of the article on flashbacks I read yesterday by Neil Whitman (you can find the link to it here). Somewhere else (and I’m so sorry but I just spent thirty minutes trying to find the article in vain) I read the magic words ‘a flashback needs to follow an intense moment to have purpose.’ And this is all to do with pacing. Readers don’t want to get bored with flashbacks left, right and centre so you can inundate them with background information. Flashbacks slow the story down, the action here and now isn’t happening anymore. Flashbacks have to make sense, they need to have a purpose. And the best time to put them in is right after an intense moment. The readers can then take time to process the action and in the mean time get some more information as to why the action has happened.
In my book, for example (spoiler alert!), I talk about Charlie for a chapter or four before there is a bit of a clash about ‘who sleeps in the big bedroom and who sleeps in the tiny room with the bunk beds.’ Charlie is sent packing to the bunk beds ‘as he is better sized for that room.’ There are a few more hints leading up to this statement, but they are minute. The characters go to sleep and in the next chapter a flashback describes my MC spending an evening with Charlie during which it becomes clear that Charlie has achondroplasia (he is a dwarf). This set up has the reader at first wondering what is going on. Why is Charlie sent packing? What is meant with ‘he is better sized’? Then, while the characters are sleeping, the answers are revealed to the readers. Hopefully their minds will then have an ‘aha’ moment when they remember the little comments about Charlie’s size I put in earlier (but that is a topic called foreshadowing).
This is one way to incorporate character arcs, flashbacks and pacing, I bet there are more…
As I upheaved my chronological timeline in my first novel, I have to make use of flashbacks in my story now. Although I had already figured out how to do this (note the past perfect tense here 🙂 ), I found this article today that summed it up very neatly. Have a look at it Grammar Girl‘s hints and tips.
Let me know if you handle your flashbacks any different.
As I find it very hard to get away from my computer I am happy to say I have wasted my sunshine time wisely and finally made that email list for you to sign up on! Check out my Home Page for the form. I’m handing out free ebook copies to the first 25 to sign up!
Just when the kids have gone back to school, just when the DH has gone back to work, just when I as good as finalised the work on the constitution of the film club, and I finally think I can go full steam ahead with my writing… the weather turns good and I have to spend my days restoring the old window frames while I can…
First stripping them of paint, then sanding , repairing rotted bits, sanding again, (undercoat) painting, sanding, painting, sanding, painting. And all in the next four days before it starts raining again. But when these two are done I only have eleven to go… 🙂