The Problem with Passable

This video from Nerdwriter explained something I’d felt but never been able to put into words:  so many movies today don’t observe, imitate,  and speak to life,  but rather to other,  older,  usually better movies. 

This is a temptation for a lot of writers, I’m sure; it certainly is for me. 

Why? Because we know the movie, tv,  and fiction tropes. We’re confident that.  We’re not always confident in our own insights into people. 

We don’t feel like we really understand people that well,  and we don’t want to not write because of it. 

We also don’t want to take the risk of writing what we see as real,  and then having people tear it  apart. 

But I think that is the risk we must take. Otherwise, we’re just adding to the passable problem. 

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The Brilliance of Moana’s “Shiny”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93lrosBEW-Q

In one scene, Disney accomplishes so much:

  1. A fun and catchy song

  2. A memorable (if minor) villain

  3. A great action sequence with brilliant visuals

  4. A great reminder/introduction to just how vast the supernatural world is: Tamatoa is bigger than any house Moana has seen,  and he lives in a giant clamshell

  5. Tamatoa’s expression of terror when Maui takes hold of his hook for the first time shows just how powerful and feared Maui was back in the day. It proves that “You’re Welcome” wasn’t just puffery and showing off.

  6. Setup for an ongoing difficulty/twist: Maui’s inability to use his hook’s powers like he used to, and his sense that without his hook, he’s nothing.

  7. The sense that Maui isn’t the only one who thinks he’s nothing without his hook: Tamatoa agrees.

  8. Demonstration of Moana’s fear when faced with the supernatural world, then her courage to recover, and her resourcefulness to trick Tamatoa

  9. Revelation the Maui was abandoned at some point, feels alone, and does great deeds for humans mostly to feel wanted and accepted

  10. Moana saves Maui, which elevates her to his level, and puts them on more equal footing.

All in less than four minutes.

As they say on Firefly, “Shiny.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFpgtYJLVW4

Wanna see something else shiny?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knlw6kFP_RU

Don’t Proceed with a Boring Lead 

Looking back at NaNoWriMo 2016, I can see a few mistakes I made. 

The first was trging to do NaNo in the stressed out state I was in. I should have just started my self care resolution two months early. 

But then,  I didn’t realize how much I needed to address my loor self care until December, so maybe NaNoWriMo helped me realize it. 

The mistake was writing something that was too … undemanding … with a lead who was just too blandly “good.”

It was the best I could do in the state I was in,  which was itself a clue. 

She wanted to save the village because out was her home and she loved it and … yawn … what was I saying? I  nodded of there for a second.

I think I will revisit that story,  and my first change well be her backstory and motivations.

The story will take a slightly darker tone,  she’ll be slightly less sympathetic, but it will all be a lot more interesting. 

NaNoWriMo Final Report: Victory!

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winner

I actually crossed the finish line two days early, late Monday night. Woohoo!

Things I learned, in no particular order:

  • For me, the most important part of writing is making decisions. Writer’s block is often just the fear of making decisions. Be Bold!
  • I have a bit of a depressive personality, which I mostly manage through self-care. Writing dark, morally ambiguous, cynical stories is not good self-care
  • Writing can and should feel good. If it doesn’t, maybe I’m writing  the wrong story. That’s not to say that it will always be easy, or always flow freely, but it will be feel right and good.
  • I need to simplify characters, starting with a couple of broad roles (this time, I used the four classic temperaments and role within the classic “five man band”), so I can differentiate them early. Complexity will come from the interaction of roles and their interactions with other characters
  • “Surviving in nature” shows are good inspiration for nonviolent action and peril scenes (Dual Survival, Remote Survival, River Monsters, etc.)
  • I still need help with plotting. The Hero’s Journey (especially Christopher Vogler’s simplication of it ) and Kenn Adams’s Story Spine (aka “The Pixar Story Spine”) are good guides to keep me on track.
  • Back to characters, to keep myself from making the same characters over and over and muddying them up, I made cards, shuffled them, and randomly drew for role, temperament, etc. I didn’t bind myself to the results, but I used them to get myself flowing.
  • The key is making decisions, being bold, and not being afraid to try something new, to go against the mold … especially the “white male antihero solves problems by beating up the right bad guys” mold. 🙂
  • Nightwish makes some great writing music

NaNoWriMo 2016 Preparations


I’m planning to do NaNoWriMo this year,  and like my Disney trip,  I’m starting to prepare for it ahead of time. Here are a few of my preparations: 

Going to bed earlier (by 11). I have such limited time and energy after work and after we’ve had family time and put the little one to bed, I know I’ll have to do a lot of my writing before work. I’m not a morning person by nature,  but I will be by necessity. 

Reading novels to help get my mind ready to write, and to surround myself with positive writing influences of the type of writing I’ll be doing. Good movies may help the general narrative sense, but only novels are novels. 

Writing scenes as exercises to get myself used to writing fiction again. 

Reading a few books on writing craft, so my results will hopefully be better. 

Watching nature documentaries, because I get inspired by cool landscapes and wildlife. River Monsters with Jeremy Wade is my favorite. 

I’m also trying to get ahead on my blog posts so I can focus more on fiction during November.