Scenes & Point Of Views

Which is easier to write? Story or a screenplay? I’m not talking about the formatting and differences, just the creative freedom allowed. Seems to me screenplays have a lot more leeway in PoVs and jumping from scene to scene to skip the boring bits. Also, leeway in narration – How loosely should a writer break from the character PoV to insert his presence into the narration, perhaps just to explain certain things or make quick quip.

Lemme know what you think of the intro I’ve written below.

It includes: 

  • 3 scene, breaks represented by a space (no transition, just break and start again somewhere else)
  • One sudden change in PoV from intro character to main guy. I plan to play between the 2 PoVs later on.
  • Random dialogue from sub-characters.
  • Random insertions from a narration stand-point.

Too messy? If you don’t notice of the above, that means I’m doing something right. Cheers.

Continue reading

Do You Believe In Magic Part 2

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Cymbals clash.

Jake throws Dom’s cape into the air as he leaps onto the stage in a bloom of velvet red and black. With the spotlight shining on him, he gives a wide smile, waving to the silent crowd.
“Boooo, bring back the girls!”
Twirling his wand, Dom turns to face the heckler. “Trouble with men nowadays, they just don’t know how to treat a lady!” Dom lashes out with his wand, sending bouquets of flowers shooting over the audience towards the heckler, drawing grunts of surprised laughter.
“Tough crowd tonight,” Dom grins. Furling his cape, he flings it open with aplomb, sending a shower of poker cards flying through the air. “One… Two… Three.” He grabs at the cards fluttering down. “Four… Five!” With a flourish, he spreads out the cards in his hand, showing the royal flush of hearts.
The crowd starts to murmur, showing their approval with polite applause. From his position, Jake can see the men at the bar beginning to sit up.
“For my final warm up…” Dom runs, jumping off the stage and hooking onto the nearest stripper pole. Dancing a little jig around the pole, he waits for the spotlight to catchup before he spins around, drawing wild catcalls and howls from the crowd. With the audience riled up, Dom pulls his jacket open and thrusts his chest out. Laughter turns to open astonishment as five white doves flies out from his body, flying across the club.
The club remained silent for a split second, before breaking out in thunderous applause. Beside Jake, a dozen girls have squeezed up the stairs to witness the spectacular act.
“Oh wow, how did he do that?” the girl closest to him asks.
Jake grins. “Lady, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Dom returns to the stage. “For my first act…”
Jake reaches into the chest. He digs out the special torches, and lights them up with a flick of the switch.
“I give you… fire!”
Jake runs out across the stage, dragging the torches on the ground. The special cool burning spirit inside them spills onto the floor, leaving behind a trail of blue flame in his wake.
To the oohs and ahhs of the crowd, Jake crouches low and spins around, surrounding himself in a circle of flame. Rising up, he deftly juggles the torches before throwing one at Dom.
“Believe!” Dom catches the torch and flips it around, dousing the flame in his mouth.
Jake throws the other one at Dom before running backstage, grabbing two more torches. One of them, unlike the first two, burned with real fire.
“Volunteers?” Dom shouts from the stage. “Who wants to play with fire?” Hands go up across the stage while Jake lights up the rags at the end of the torches. “You sir!” Dom points at the heckler. “Why don’t you come up here and show the ladies a thing or two about magic.”
Goaded by the crowd, the man reluctantly obliges, stumbling onto the stage in a half-drunk state.
“What’s your name?”
“Billy.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a big round of applause to Milly!” Dom says, throwing one of the feathered boas on the floor around the man’s neck.
“It’s Bill…”
Ba Dum Tsss! The drummer plays, while the crowd roars with laughter.
Jake dances around the man. “Ladies and Gent…whoops!” Jake fumbles with the torch, swishing the flaming end past the man’s ear.
“Jesus!” The man squeaks, scampering to the side.
“Wrong club pal, Jesus’s is dancing over on Cloud Nine.”
Ba Dum Tsss! The audience is loving this.
Dom grins, feeding off the crowd’s energy as Jake hands him the fake torch. “Milly, the secret to magic…” Dom says, walking up to the man, “Is that you gotta believe.”
Jake smiles, he loves how Dom says that.
“Here, lemme show you.” Dom pushes the flame in front of Billy.
“Get away from me!” Billy runs, disappearing off the stage.
Dom laughs, “Sometimes, you just got to believe folks.” With a drumroll in the background, Dom lifts the torch to his face.”And tonight, I will make you believe. In magic.” Taking a deep breath, he blows hard into the flame.
The audience gasps audibly as a spectacular display of blue flames shoot forth from the torch and dances over their heads. Like a dragon, Dom waves his head left to right. producing a fiery display that sweeps through the air.
The crowd goes wild. Jake tries to shout above the noise, “Ladies and Gentlemen, give it up for Mago the Magnificent!”
Dom swallows the flame, ending his performance. Taking a bow, he moves to stand beside Jake.

“Skip the hoops. Bring out the saw.”

Author’s notes
– I am having a lot of fun writing this, didn’t know writing about magic can be so relaxing.
– Left myself plenty of loose ends in this intro, along with the rabbit in part 1, to play around with the story. Will remove the bits I choose not to follow up on next time.
– Last post of the week. Cheerio.

Do You Believe In Magic

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“Hurry up boy, we’re late for the show!”

“I’m coming,” Jake pants, trying his best to keep up. Behind him, he drags along the heavy wooden chest, filled with the wondrous gadgets that are the tools of Señor Dom’s trade.
The Señor looks at him and sighs, shaking his head impatiently. “This way.” He pats his face dry with a handkerchief, turning into the alleyway leading to the club.
Jake grunts. Covered in sweat, the brown-haired boy with the disheveled locks mops his brows. Aside from the trunk, he is also carrying the Senor’s cape, wand, and top hat in his other hand.
A rabbit sticks its head out of the hat. “I’m hungry, when do we eat?” Timmy puffs his cheeks the way rabbits do when they speak. He looks expectantly at Jake, wiggling his paws as he begs for a treat.
“Not now Timmy! After the show.” He pulls up to the alley just as the Señor stops at a faded blue door, squinting at the sign.
“Ah, this is the place.”
Jake looks up. The Tigress. He breathes a sigh of relief and pulls the trunk to the door, letting it fall with a loud thud.
“Careful with that!”
“Sorry,” Jake mumbles, rubbing his sore arms.
“Timmy hungry!”
Jake pushes the rabbit back into the top hat, handing it back to the magician. “Rabbit’s whining again.”
He can wait.” the Señor says, glaring into the hat before flipping it onto his head, He smoothens his threadbare tuxedo and straightens his bow tie. “How do I look?” He asks, facing Jake.
Jake pulls at his own faded dress shirt trying to air himself dry. Summer time in Miami is hardly the season to be walking around in this get up. He shrugs. “Like a eighties magician.”
“Coming from you, that’s a compliment.”
Jake smirks and helps the man on his with his cape and hands him his wand. “You know, if you’ll let me find you some new threads…”
“For the last time, stop comparing me to those Hollywood magicians.”
A latch on the door slides opens, revealing a pair of intense eyes. “Yea? You the magic guy?”
“That’s right.” Dom says with a flourish. “Mago the magnifi…!”
“Whatever. You’re late.” The man slams the latch shut.
Jake suppresses a snigger. Behind the door, He can hear the sound of keys jingling as a burly man in a suit opens up. He has a bald tattooed scalp.
“You’re on in five. Sign in with Dorothy first.” The man indicates with his thumb. “The one in the green feathers.”
The señor smiles, trying to be polite. “Err…Dressing room?”
“Mirrors in the bathroom. Come on, we’re behind schedule!” He pushes Dom unceremoniously through the door before looking down at Jake. “Whoa, this is a men’s club, why you bring a kid here for.”
“He’s my assistant.” Dom says, signaling for Jake to bring the trunk in.
“No can do old man. The boss will have my ass for this if he finds out.”
“But he’s part of my act.” Dom protests. “I need him.”
Jake tunes out of the argument as a pair of dancers walk pass the door, flaunting their bits. One of the girls looks over at him and gives him a teasing wave. With his mouth hanging open, he waves back.
“Come on, he’s older than he looks.”
The tattooed man narrows his eyes. “Alright, but if I can catch him trying to get into the booze or the ladies…”
“He won’t” Dom slaps Jake hard across the head, pulling him out of his stupor. “Get the stuff!”
Master and apprentice settles into the bustling room as a dozen dancers in nothing but pink feather boas run pass, climbing up the stairs leading to the stage.
“Zoobies on stage. Mago, you ready?” A lady draped in green feathers and the face paint shouts, looking around.
“Here!” Dom says, raising his hand and waving at Dorothy.
“We’ll be making some changes to your act.” The green lady says, referring to her board. “No big deal, just some dancers to spice things up.”
Dom shrugs, turning to face Jake. “You ready kid?”
Jake is looking all around him, a wide grin splitting his face. “Yea, sure, whatever you say… ow!
Dom slaps Jake on the head again. “Cape.”
Jake ties the cape around the magician’s neck, taking extra care to make sure the props are tucked properly in their sleeves. Satisfied, he hands Dom the wand.
“Checked the batteries?” Dom says, making his final adjustments.
Jake nods.
“Flowers?”
“Try it.”
Dom snaps the hidden lever on his wand as a bouquet of plastic blooms burst forth from the tip of the wand, drawing applause from a few dancers relaxing nearby.
Jake smiles at them. “So we’ll start with fire, go into hoops, levitate the table, make yourself disappear, and end with the rabbit?”
Dom shrugs. “Management wants me to pull the stops, thought we might wanna jazz it up a bit to get some extra tips.”
“So skip the table, and bring out the saw… got it.”
Dom looks proudly at the boy, putting a hand over his shoulder. “Soon Jake. You’re almost ready to be a magician.”
“About time,” Jake says with a chuckle “Maybe then, mama don’t need to work no more.”
“Perhaps.” Dom says, smiling.
“Mago the Magnificent!” Dorothy shouts, “You’re on!
“That’s us.” Jake says, helping Dom to make some final adjustments. “Let’s kill this crowd tonight.” He drags the chest up the stairs and places it just off-stage, before unlocking it with the key around his neck.
A quiet applause signals the end of the last act as The Zoobies run off stage. One of the girls comes up behind Jake and gives him a kiss on the cheek. “Good luck!”
Jake turns to see the girl who had walked pass him at the door. He smiles at her. “Maybe we can hook up sometime,” he says, blushing at his own boldness.
“Maybe.” The girl giggles, running off to join her friends.
Dom comes up the stairs in time to see a flustered Jake smiling after the girl. “Keep your hands off the merchandise kid. Barrett will kill you if you touch any of them.”
Jake laughs. “You’re just jealous.” he says, watching as the announcers walks back out onto the stage,
“Here we go kid, big smile.”

“Gentlemen of the Tigress. For one night only, I give you your next act. Magoooo… the magnificent!”

Author’s Notes
– Was thinking of writing a piece about magic ever since watching Oz.
– Trying to tow the line between fantastical and possible here, like Oz
– Gonna try going for a very simple theme here, something like the Old Man & The Sea.
– Still too many as, when and whiles. Not sure if that is better or just quick full stops and short sentences.

World War Z: Screw The Movie Edition

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

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.

For Writers

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)

Using Dialogue More Effectively

Too much dialogueSearched for help on the internet again when I ran into trouble with my last story. I had pages and pages of nearly unbroken dialogue, which while tells the story, is kinda flat. Aside from inserting action bits in between, I was wondering how else I could make the dialogue read smoother. i.e. In more direct term, less stunted.

Important: What I want is smoother, more flowing, not more emotive or dramatic. That gets tiresome after a while. The problem with dialogue is when you try to add structure to it. He says “something” in one paragraph, she says “whatever” in the next. Then to break up the monotony and make it seem like there’s some up and downs going on, we rely on describing how she is feeling or how the words come out.

Using an extreme example I found online from TheWriterlyLife

This is bad:

“You broke my heart!” she screamed.
“It’s not my fault!” he growled.
“But you cheated on me!” she wailed.
“I’m sorry — it just happened,” he stammered.

This is better:

“You broke my heart!” she said.
“It’s not my fault!” he said.
“But you cheated on me!”
“I’m sorry — it just happened.”

And as TheWriterlylife explains:

The problem with this passage is that the tags start overshadowing the actual words being spoken. They’re completely unnecessary. They are often crutches in our writing; in reality, the words themselves should suggest the tone with which they are spoken. In fact, using “he said” and “she said” is so familiar to readers that the words blur into the background, retreating so that the main action of dialogue can come to the fore. That’s why it’s best to keep wordy dialogue tags to a minimum and just use “said” for most of your dialogue.

Often you try to describe what she is feeling. This is simply TELLING the reader instead of EXPRESSING it to him. I’m looking through some of my past writing and realised that I’m pretty guilty of it. I’ve read about it before, about how the simple “said” is actually more invisible and thus better than laughed, growled, snarled, chortled. One is a speech, one is an action, putting them side by side tends to draw the attention away from the other.

I’m going to be slightly more mindful of this moving ahead, which includes using the following in dialogue more often

  1. Better use of punctuation. Question, exclamation points and the infamous incomplete sentence like but… have to be used more correctly and to have more impact.
  2. Expressive Words Adopting the use of exclamation words or expressive words more (which I’m having some trouble with) like What the hell, damn you — Admit it, you automatically exclamation pointed the words without even thinking right?
  3. One action per dialogue Trying to let one single action at the start of a mini-conversation drive the emotion and action of 3-4 lines of to-and-fro dialogue.

One book I can recommend where this is used a lot is The Bookcase by Nelson DeMille. There’s a lot of interrogation scenes in it where it’s just 2 people going back and forth for quite a few pages. So basically, he had the same problem as me – crapload of dialogue, but he handled it like a best-selling author would and I didn’t.

Here’s a lengthy chunk from Nelson Demille’s The Book Case

“Good luck.” Every store clerk and waiter in this town wants you to know they’re really a writer, an actor, a musician, or an artist. Just in case you thought they were a clerk or a waiter. I asked Scott, “What time did you get here this morning?”

He replied, “As I told the other policeman, I got here about seven thirty.”

“Right. Why so early?”

“Early?”

“You’re scheduled for eight thirty.”

“Yeah…Mr. Parker asked me to get here early.”

“Why?”

“To stock shelves.”

“The shelves look stocked. When’s the last time you sold a book?”

“I had some paperwork to do.”

“Yeah? Okay, take me through it, Scott. You got here, opened the door—front door?”

“Yeah.” He reminded me, “It’s all in my statement.”

“Good. And what time was that?”

“I opened the door a little before seven thirty.”

“And it was locked?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you know that Mr. Parker was here?”

“No. Well, not at first. I noticed the lights were on in his office up in the loft, so I called up to him.”

“I assume he didn’t answer.”

“No…he…so I thought maybe he was in here—in the stockroom—so I came in here to get to work.”

This basically follows the principles I stated above. Doesn’t look half-bad at all without any crutched expressive words and it’s a very decent chunk. One benefit of this style is how flowing the dialogue goes. In your mind, you don’t really stop to think until the end of the conversation.

To conclude, read the article from MyWriterlyLife, read a few technically-well written books like The Book Case and just be mindful.

P.S: I’m currently reading Bag Of Bones by Stephen King as well, realised the conversation pieces are written pretty much the same way. So remember, let your words do the expressing and flush the telling expressions down the toilet.

P.S: As to what happened to my dialogue in my story as mentioned at the start of the article. After cutting out all the saids, chides, rebukes, angrily and hesitations, I think i shaved off close to 500 words without losing any intent.

Until next time…

Backtracking

Well that just happened. I went off track with my story on the last 5000 words and it reads more like a fantasy / sci-fi novel with a horror theme than a horror story. Backtracking a little to see what I can salvage, but it’s a big slap in the face for me. Spent the whole of today creating Story / Character / Idea chit sheets with a whole bunch of checklists this time to make sure it won’t happen again.

Feeling the burn. Fortunately most of the parts can be dissected and reused… oh well. Started another story as well, will upload it tomorrow. Next time, I’ll write off the seat of my pants only for the first 10K words before I sit down and plan things out… or you know, just plan things out from the start.

P.S: Apparently Big Bang Theory just used the immortal Jellyfish as a conversation opener for their last episode, so I just received quite a bump on my Immortal Jellyfish post. The power of the media. This post and another Ang Lee one I wrote are my most popular posts right now. Kinda sad about it, but oh well, a view’s a view.