I worked at NeXT the summer of 94. I was in the break room with 2 colleagues when Steve Jobs walked in and started making a bagel. We were sitting at a table eating ours when he out of the blue asked us “Who is the most powerful person in the world?” I said Mandela since I had just been there as an international observer for the elections. In his confident fashion he stated “NO!…you are all wrong…the most powerful person in the world is the story teller.” At this point I was thinking to myself “Steve, I love you but there is a fine line between genius and loco..and I think I am witnessing this right now”. Steve continued, “The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come and Disney has a monopoly on the storyteller business. You know what? I am tired of that bullshit, I am going to be the next storyteller” and he walked out with his bagel.
Update: I’m writing this in a semi-haze, so please forgive if I sidetrack. I don’t intend to edit this post. Just a random series of thoughts.
1. Looking back at what I have done.
Had a long time to ‘debrief’ myself on my plane ride from Singapore to San Fran – freaking 20 hours in the air with 3 hours of layover time in the now Wifi-enabled Japan Narita airport. Being alone in the plane, away from my keyboard did me a lot of good in terms of thinking about what I want.
Personally, I felt that the last story opener I wrote The series on Goodbyes taught me a lot on two things:
- What I can leave out in a story and let it be said in the white space
- Weaving some subtext into the dialogue, which I will explore next time, but not in the next few works (don’t think this works that well for the superhero genre)
And with that… well, I think I’m ready to start writing something more substantial. Hence, in this post, I shall present my thoughts on my writing future:
2. The promise I want to make myself going forward
Today is the day – No more unstructured, whimsical writing. I’ve pandered long enough with half-written openers and plot lines in the last two months to know what I want. From now on, everything shall begin with a draft, a complete draft from start to finish including all plot lines, sub-plots and whatever internal message that I would like to convey with the story.
Here the limitations I will set myself to in future as I narrow down what I want to write about:
- Basics: Semi-fantastical worlds anchored in the modern society.
- Genre: Action. Science-Fiction deviating slightly to the macabre.
- Word Length: 15,000 – 25,000 (Lemme bang out a few of these first)
- Editing: No more editing in the middle of writing! This is the reason for drafting
- Preferences: I would still like to explore the super-hero theme at least initially.
- Writing Speed: Bang out more words, less thoughts. 1500 a day is the bare minimum, either in drafting or actual writing.
3. Drafting Requirements:
- Scene by scene drafting, no ’empty’ space aside from actual dialogue and action sequences.
- No posting on the Blog.
- Each scene draft must be complete with purpose and nature of dialogue and what I want to achieve.
- If I run into trouble with the main writing, refer and change the draft first.
- Draft first, write later. If I get stuck, always refer to the draft.
4. Starting Now!
Today I officially began to draft a complete story from start to finish, looking at it from a top-down perspective instead of living scene-to-scene and moment-to-moment. So I’m embarking on my own little NaNoWriMo (since I’ve away from home and can’t commit every single day.) But let’s set a weekly target of 8,000 words considering I still write 3-4 days a week.
For my first story, I’m going back to superhero fantasy again. I initially chose horror, but well, I don’t think I’m good at hidden scares, more of a grotesque person.
5. Why suddenly Drafting
From all the research I’ve done about great writers… none of them honestly just pick up a pen and write. I don’t intend to flutter from a structure to another anytime soon. From my earlier works, you can probably tell I’ve a formula I use in my openers as well as my character archetypes. Now it’s just extending the practice into a novella-length work first before extending it again once I get comfortable with it.
I have 2 10,000+ word semi-stories which while I think they are readable, aren’t exactly what I want to introduce myself with. The writing is tolerable but I still want something tighter instead of having a chunk of explanation and dialogue in between. To me, that’s just not good. The story should flow, particularly in shorter pieces.
6. What I want
- Short: 15,000 – 25,000 words
- Action to Action – Explanation kept to a minimum, hence my choice of universe
- Short and curt dialogue, which works well with male characters anyway.
- No half-page explanations. If it doesn’t work, just change it.
- Basic formula – Action opener -> Cue to smaller event -> Cue bigger event -> End.
- By final third of the book, everything should be resolved except a twist.
- One constant moral throughout the book.
- Currently I’m looking at Wreck-It Ralph as a good example of how to pull all the above all. Honestly, the cartoons have still the best storylines in modern storytelling except they tend to whine on too long on relationships.
End post. If anyone of you have any exercises, cues or articles on drafting, lemme know.
Wanted to write a post about the woman of Game of Thrones, but ran out of time as I have a plane to catch. So will have to push it back to Monday if I do the write up on the plane, or most likely Tuesday since it’s a 20 hour flight. The theme of the post is simple – Why woman should read and watch Game of Thrones – It features the strongest female cast in the fantasy realm, if not the entire fictional realm in both TV and books outside of dominatrix fetishes . Remember – Cast, not just female lead.
- King Joffrey Baratheon and his Lady-In-Waiting Margaery Tyrell
- The Late King Robert Baratheon and his Queen Cersei Lannister
- The Late Khal Drago, and his Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen,
- Robb Stark, King Of The North, and his mother-prisoner Lady Catelyn Stark
- The King Slayer Jamie Lannister, and his guard Brienne Of Tarth
- The Late King’s Brother, Stannis Baratheon, and his Witch and Council Meslisandre
- “Littlefinger” Petyr Baelish & The Dumped-As-Queen Sansa Stark
- Jon Snow Of The Wall & His Wildling Captor Yigrette
- The Former King’s Hand Tyrion Lannister & His Lady Shae
- Theon Greyjoy & The Wilding Osha
All titles present to current season of Game Of Thrones Season Three Episode 2.
Any how, the reason why I am unable to finish the post on time, is because that Poster above took me some 2 hours to assemble from Google Images. Surprisingly, there are no group shots of the Games of Thrones cast on the web. Even if you justify it by saying because most of the characters lead separate story lines, I still think some fan service is in order.
For now, I leave you with a teaser of what the post is about.
CERSEI LANNISTER – POWER IS POWER
If you want to use the pic, be my guest. Credit would be nice though naturally. If you want me to edit it to include others or remove some, let me know as well. E.g. most probably some of you would like to see Ned Stark or even Bran inside. On the female side, I’m missing Arya Stark and Greyjoy’s sister. Might replace the Wildling girl Osha with the sea-faring princess. I intend to do some other things to it. The two new characters that appeared with Bran… I’ll wait till their role gets fleshed out in the later part of the story.
This will be my last post for a while. Till my next one, I bid you adieu. See you on the other side of the globe.
- Game of Thrones breaks piracy records with over 1m illegal downloads (telegraph.co.uk)
- HBO is Considering a ‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel Series, Says George R.R. Martin (slashfilm.com)
- Game of Thrones: The story so far… told in funny GIFS (thesun.co.uk)
Tonight on AMC – The Christina Hendricks show! …I mean Mad Men.
One of the most well-executed original shows in television history makes it’s long awaited return this Sunday evening, taking us on a meandering journey through the lives of the Madison Square advertising executives of the 60s.
The superlatives I have for this work of art is endless. Iconic, memorable, classy, smooth… and oh yes, they also have Christina Hendricks, one of the most beautiful woman alive today and my vote for the Marilyn Monroe of our generation. Heck she doesn’t even need to try.
However, as much as I worship her as the goddess amongst the mere mortals on this earth, and constantly try to find a way to switch bodies with her husband, I have a blog to maintain. So let’s focus on something more relevant to boobies.. I mean writing shall we.
Plot vs Characters
Is there a overall plot to the show? Maybe. Is there a point to the show? I don’t think so. Yet, one of my biggest regrets is ignoring watching Mad Men until its 4th season.
Without so much as a unifying plot, the characters of the show are all allowed to live their lives without the need to intersect or cross paths to form a bigger picture. Don Draper might be somewhat the star, but the show still provides brief glimpses into the somewhat tragic lives of Peggy Olson, Joan Harris, Pete Campbell, Roger Sterling and recently Megan Draper and Betty, the former Mrs Draper.
A brief glimpse, but I assure you, you will not be forgetting any of these characters soon. They are not there to be fodder to feed the ego or storyline of the main character, they are all fleshed out and oozing with personality and their own chest of secrets. I personally find Roger Sterling’s tragedy the best one of all.
If you’re here because you clicked on the picture, naughty naughty! But here’s another 121 photos of her from Mad Men. From what would seem to be a bit-role in the first season, Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) has risen to become one of the leading lights of the show, fighting against the male dominated culture of the advertising world with her own brand of guile and competencies that see her rise through the ranks. She’s not just a flower pot, she’s one of the stars.
Best song on television
No, not the theme, the fantastic performance by the French girl. If you’re interested in one of the most iconic moments in the show and television history in my opinion, click here for Jessica Pare‘s rendition of Zou Bisou Bisou.
I just hope this season doesn’t disappoint me like with recent season of Spartacus which started pretty horribly but is getting better somewhat, and the recent season of Walking Dead, which started pretty well but ended pretty horribly.
Zooby Zooby Zoo…
Tags: Beautiful, Sexy, Woman, Hubba Hubba, Wow-Wee, Heart Attack
Wow, great trailer right! Now that I got your attention, kindly get this upcoming movie starring Brad Pitt out of your mind. I want to talk about the novel here. You know, pages, words and stuff.
Just another case on injustice done by Hollywood as per I Am Legend, which I have reviewed before here. My beef is this, two of the GREATEST vampire / zombie horror novels ever written by man, turned into star-driven dull-a-thons which totally destroys essence of the movie. I’m referring to I am Legend by the way, as for World War Z, we’ll know how the movies turn out this summer, though I’m pretty certain I’ll be on the right track.
The NOVEL, World War Z, is absolutely nothing like the trailer. The entire setting is wrong, the entire description of the zombies is wrong, the entire approach to the conclusion of the zombie outbreak is wrong. And that’s just from the trailer, what right do I have to prejudge the movie? Well, let’s just say anyone who has read the novel will know what I’m talking about.
Update: For those more interested in a debate between the book and screen versions of WWZ. Kindly refer to this article on Screenrant.com – World War Z Movie Debate: Too Different From The Book.
World War Z: The Novel – in a nutshell
Firstly, think Wikipedia. Now think of a Wikipedia about Zombies. Great, Now think of a Wikipedia about a Zombie Invasion that forces humans to learn from their mistakes, adapt to their environment and very methodically, fight back.
What do you know, that already exists – The Zombie Wiki
Now this wiki isn’t exactly the wording in the book, but honestly, it comes pretty darn close in terms of presentation. The novel is essential a fake-mockumentary about how humans handled a zombie outbreak, minus the dramatisation, and minus the character point of views (except one particular storyline about a survivor from Japan).
Horror – Slowly, Surely, Methodically
World War Z is a horror novel. There is no doubt about that, but it’s not about senseless scares or shadows in the night. There are no suddenlys, plot twists or miraculous escapes here. It’s horror comes from the way the writer chooses to feed the information and plot to you – slowly, and bit by bit, letting you savour each zombie lumbering towards you and each human very slowly chewed up.
By the time you finish reading half the novel, you probably learnt more about zombies then all the rest of the Resident Evil movies put together, such is the difference in approach.
The Telling In This Story Works
They say telling a story doesn’t work. You have to express it, emote it instead of simply telling it. Not for Max Brooks. Taking the style of adventure guides and documentaries, he takes the present fiction as fact approach and puts his storytelling high up, away from the action and in a “this is how things went down” manner.
Some of the most incredible scenes in the book are retellings of epic battles that changed the course of mankind. These include the Battle Of Yonkers and the Battle Of Hope, basically the two big pillars in the book that swung the war in favour of whoever won them. He methodical describes the build up to the battle scene by scene, and then proceeds to dissect the action post-mortem, again scene by scene. You literally feel utterly hopeless and depressed by the end of the battle of Yonkers, and liberated and cheering by the end of Hope. And not once did he use emotive writing to create this whirlwind of feelings.
An Excerpt Of The Writing
ADS, that was my enemy: Asymptomatic Demise Syndrome, or, Apocalyptic Despair Syndrome, depending on who you were talking to. Whatever the label, it killed as many people in those early stalemate months as hunger, disease, interhuman violence, or the living dead. No one understood what was happening at first. We’d stabilized the Rockies, we’d sanitized the safe zones, and still we were losing upwards of a hundred or so people a day. It wasn’t suicide, we had plenty of those. No, this was different.
Stripping Storytelling To Its Essence
I don’t think this happened by chance. Max Brooks is able to accomplish this because of the risk he took in planning out the novel. He strips away almost EVERYTHING you ever cared for in a story – characters, emotions, choice, opinions – and presents just the story and nothing else.
P.S: He did leave some bits in, particularly in telling the story of individual survivors.
If you ever read a history book about World War 2, and remember how you felt as you went along with the rise and fall of the Allies, that would be basically what he managed to accomplish in a fictional novel.
Even if you’re not a big fan of zombie or war novels. You really should give this book a chance, if only to learn his technical prowess in telling the story – the method to his madness. Not only is the story itself very popular, but the individual scenes themselves became major references and talking points. Don’t believe me? Google them.
For Everyone Else
Please, please, please, for the love of God and all humanity, don’t just wait for the movie and ignore the book. This is a fabulous piece of fiction that brings the “B” grade zombie genre up to the level of Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker in terms of monster fiction. Fifty years from now, when people talk about THE zombie author, it will be Max Brooks, while the movie will wither away with sub-50% tomato ratings.
If I can convince 1% of the people who will spend $10-$15 to buy the book instead of watching the movie. This book will probably shoot back up the bestseller’s list. Book! Book! Book!
Related Articles (All about books not the movie)
- The Battle Of Yonkers (The Zombie Wiki)
- The Battle Of Hope (The Zombie Wiki)
- I Am Legend Rant (wilsonkhoo.wordpress.com)
- World War Z Movie Debate (Screenrant.com)
Turns out, and this is my personal opinion by the way, there is a good reason why M.C. did not want it published. I found it to be as good a novel as any, for lack of a better way to describe it, it is just not a Crichton book. Having read it twice (I love the setting by the way), it lacks the scale and flair of his previous adventures, and it also lacks the blurring the lines between science and fiction that he is so well-known for. There is still some of it of course, but most of it is lost in translation when you’re talking about gunpowder and rat intestines, instead of lasers and computer-programmed nanobots.
Still a good read, just not a typical M.C. read. Will I recommend this – Yes, highly entertaining, though the proper ending should have come much earlier instead of dragging it on for the low-key ending.
Unlike Pirate Latitudes, Micro is a completely different beast. Firstly, a bit of background, M.C. did not complete this novel in time before his unfortunate demise. HarperCollins, his publisher, chose science-writer Richard Preston to complete the novel from Crichton’s remaining notes and research, and it was finally published in 2011, three years after M.C.’s passing.
Unlike Pirates, which was announced pretty close to his passing and thus enjoyed quite a bit of publicity. Micro was a pretty low-key release. Unless you happen to be specifically watching out for it, there was little about this book in the mainstream media, which led to me getting this book only recently. (I don’t live in the states, books here are a bit more limited.)
In a nutshell, I read about a third of the book a couple of days ago, and haven’t picked it up again since. I was skeptical when I picked it up, and when I started reading it, turns out I was right.
Firstly The Good – This is typical M.C. stuff here, but smaller in scale, a contained adventure which harkens back to his days of Jurassic Park and Sphere instead of the global catastrophes in Next or State of Fear. Pick a group of experts specifically chosen for the purposeful scientific adventure that goes horribly wrong, and push them in the right direction using science-blended fiction goodness to move the plot along. It has worked for Crichton his whole life, it works here as well.
The Not-So-Good – M.C. was never known for tight writing, but this is ridiculous. When I put down the book, I was close to one third in, and it still hasn’t gotten into the main adventure yet. We’re introduced to a bunch of characters and a plot (murder) that just seems pretty meh by Crichton standards. It trudges along for way too long, especially given that Crichton already has taken the liberties of making sure the ENTIRE freaking group knows each other from the very start!
Shortcut to character intros – Crichton’s novels always starts of as an assembly of special talent from across the globe. Even in the case of Timeline, where the cast is pre-assembled in the setup, at least it still makes sense. Micro however, takes the short cut and just dumps the entire cast conveniently as a bunch of scientist-to-bes who happen to not only be in the same university, but also in the same lab, studying completely different things side by side but still behaving like old schoolmates trying to get into the book goods of their professors. By chapter 4, I was already like… why is the botanist in the same lab as the guy extracting Cobra venom. To worsen this introduction, the main protagonist basically goes round the lab talking to each one of his friends and that’s how their work and personalities get introduced. That’s it. At least in Timeline, the protagonist is introduced via his hobbies, the cave-climbing girl via exploring a cave etc. Here, they’re all thrown into the lab and revealed in a contestant 1-2-3 manner.
Poor sub-plot leading to main plot – Lastly, the first pillar, or the point that drives them towards the conflict. It was just too convenient. A minor character dies suddenly and suddenly the protagonist is thrust into action via a sub-plot that somehow leads to the main plot. It was pretty ‘forced’ honestly, like two stories taped together to make it flow.
Forced initiation of main plot without input from main characters – I’ve read just up to the point where the adventure officially begins, but by then I was already half-asleep. Again, not helped by the ridiculousness of how they ‘translated’ into their new settings for the main adventure to being. (WTF moment 3 and game-breaker) Basically, it’s just ‘Follow me! You stand here! You stand there! No questions? Good, fire the laser!” A room full of characters and no one reacted….zzZZZzzz. Sure you can say the subplot led to this point, but given how badly that plot has begun, no surprises that the end fizzled here.Should I finish reading the novel? Maybe. Is it fair that I reviewed the book only on the first 1/3? Why not, would you sit through a bad movie just because it has a super ending… hmm reminds me of StarWars: The Clone Wars.All in all, I think this novel was just the first draft of M.C.’s work and shouldn’t have been released to the public. It makes a mockery of his earlier work in my opinion, and I was so hyped for this just month back. Now, I think I’ll go back to Prey or AirFrame.
- On Michael Crichton (sistersofthepen.wordpress.com)
- The Two Pillars Of Plot Progression (wilsonkhoo.wordpress.com)
- Michael Crichton: The Method Writer (wilsonkhoo.wordpress.com)