Tuesday, March 29, 2016

DIY Developmental Edits

I remember, a couple of years back, I'd go to other story blogs and wonder why the blog's owner hadn't updated in months (if not years). Then I'd roll on to another blog, and it'd be the same thing over again. Nowadays (a year after my last post), I understand. Things were super different when I was just kicking around theories and making powerpoints for fun. These days, I pretty much have a 20/4 hour day. Work twenty, sleep four. Although seriously, sleep is way overrated.

I've been working on a new workshop called, well, in my mind--DIY Dev Edits, which is kind of weird, because all this time I've been trying to make some kind of interlocking system to write, not edit, and what do I end up with? In some ways, I really think it's about about a knowledge base, because it's really hard to explain something isn't working (because it has no arc) to someone who has no clue how arcs work, or what an arc is, which is probably the same thing my kid thinks whenever he fixes my car and tries to talk to me about exhaust systems. I could care less about mufflers and batteries. I just want to know if I get in and turn the key, the engine will turn over so I can go to the store.

Which means I basically I ended up with a lot of exercises that do two things: teach theory quickly, and explain how to use it so you get in the car and drive with minimal effort.

If you're interested, why not drop by? It's coming up soon :)

April 7-14th at All Writer Workshops

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Double Woot!!

After many years (thanks for reminding me, Facebook!) Practical Emotional Structure Part 2 is almost out. I just hit the "publish" button on Amazon and hope to have it live by Saturday, when it'll also be free. Whew, I hope it doesn't take another three years for the next book.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Good Idea, Bad Execution--Guardians of the Galaxy

I love movies. And in particular, I love escapist popcorn flicks like Sahara, 17 Again, and Con Air. There is no big angst or thinking style themes in these movies, it's just turn them on and turn off your brain for the hour and half it takes Dirk to save the free world or dig up a treasure, Zac Efron to look cool, or Nicholas Cage to rock a wife-beater and work on his pecs.

I thought I'd love Guardians of the Galaxy. The preview was good, the backstory was great, and...it should have been good, damn it! I have this bug up in my head, which sort of acts like an internal editor (lol, it "is" an internal editor), but most of the time, I can shut it down and enjoy a story for what it is.

I was a "little" itchy when the first thing on the screen was the death of Peter's mother, neatly shown in a brief snippet that cut the emotional component way short. I mean, come on--the woman is DYING. You figure the camera would linger, we'd get to see Peter's lip wobble, people (well-meaning people) would try to push him in closer to say good-bye, he'd fight them, his mom would die, big focus on his grief-struck, guilty face (because he didn't take her hand like she wanted), he'd cling to his gift like grim death and burst out into the hall with the camera following behind in the rush of grief and confusion that needed to propel him out into an open field.


Instead he's kidnapped with a ray of light (seriously!! Why not show him carried off kicking and screaming, would it have cost that much more??) and there's a nice montage of comic book images before we get to see the grown up Peter dance his way (okay, that was cool and I'd love to watch that small bit of characterization again) through an "alien" landscape. Does it remind you of Riddick? It reminded me of Riddick and made me wonder if they were recycling.

He steals the orb, the bad guys try to steal it from him, he escapes, he tries to sell the orb, the other bad guys try to steal it from him, Rocket tries to kidnap him for the bounty--and a pause for exposition.

Yeah, why not a police line up? That's a quick, easy fix. Somebody else can do the info-dumping rather than the characters, no need to use precious minutes on inserting everything organically. It made me wonder why (after the only bit of backstory Peter talks about is his conquests) Peter would even bother rescuing the girl, whose name escapes me.

Lots of escape action, lots of police running around, a nice posed still of the group framed in a doorway.

And I was still waiting for something good that never appeared.

The death of Peter's mom was just an excuse to bring in the walkman cassette player so Peter could freak out about seeing someone else touch it, and later (like it mattered) run back to get it during the escape. You figure something that important to him would be encased in some kind of impervious case or have some kind of Thor's hammer like homing beacon, because yeah--if that ravager guy could have a whistle-activated javelin, why not give Peter's walkman a homing beacon?

The whole show was full of unsupported weaponry, cool but unexplained doodads (if they'd just added thirty seconds for Peter to tell someone his nifty face mask was stolen during a previous heist, and ten seconds for Peter to protest the foster dad guy was always threatening him with the javelin Peter found and gave to him (taken during the same heist, which doesn't just add cred to Peter's background as a ravager, but explains the Deadly Space ToothPick, and Why Peter Can Breathe in Space, and also implies statuses and relationships going back for years)), backstory that was never used or constantly cut short to add in more explosions.

And don't get me started on the word "Asshole." It says a lot about a movie where every single time someone says asshole people stop to stare or there's a dead silence. It's not that it's a horrible, bad, evil word, it's just that it's thrown on top of already bad dialogue like a cherry. "...Yeah, he was a real...asshole." I'm not sure if it's because the screenwriter thought it was a super-powered bad word, or the director thought it was a super-bad word, or if it was supposed to  be funny, but it was cringe-worthy.

So before I go off on a ten page rant about how I want my money back from Fry's, ta-dah! Jodi's Top Ten Instances Where Just a Little Effort Could Have Made This a Fabulous Popcorn Flick.

1. The death of Peter's mom (seriously!! Show emotion, let the kid cry and scream)
2. Peter's abduction (no scary blue men?? Why the hell not? Drag that kid kicking and screaming for his mommy into the light)
3. The cops taking away Peter's walkman (this should have been a no-brainer. If it's important enough to go back for during a jailbreak, why isn't his fury over it being taken from him shown? That half-baked scene where he gets shock-sticked is just an excuse to strip him down. Yes, he was hot, but he could have been hot somewhere else. Multiple times.)
4. The half-baked scene where he gets shock-sticked (he is so wussy, seriously. Have him win first! Have him win first! Can I repeat that?? It would have deepened his character, shown how capable he was, and made his take down even better, especially if he'd curled around the walkman while being shock-sticked! Argh!)
5. All the nothing where he should have been interacting with the girl before he rescues her (c'mon, give me a reason. Yes, she's hot, but that's not enough)
6. Rocket's drunken fit (he has good backstory, use it!! Give him rage, instead of drunken sot self pity. It was so neatly set up with the close up of his back in prison. Wasted, totally wasted)
7. Peter and the girl (was her name Zamora? I think it was) out on the balcony (what is it? No soppy stuff for the guy crowd?? Why not let them dance to a moldy oldie and share a brief deep look into each others eyes before the next round of explosions?)
8. The Liberace kind of guy and the villains (there are too many villains in this show and they all want center stage. I know it has to work within the Marvel Universe, but condense or put off (until the next show) the villains and show the Liberace guy right up front with Peter (maybe on a vid screen or something, they don't have to be together) to set up his involvement from the beginning. Otherwise he's just a golly-gee whiz look at more "aliens")
9. The entire Zamora Peter relationship arc (uh, where is it?? It's like the highlights were picked out, shortened to a couple of seconds and someone went in to cut more in order to add more explosions)
10. Use of backstory. Every. Single. Thing. In this show was set up so it'd have a nice arc, good structure, and support. Peter's backstory, Zamora's backstory, Rocket's backstory (and his relationship with Groot). And the walkman. Too bad none of it was used except by mistake. They must have missed cutting it from the final product.

Is it worth seeing? Sort of--I love that scene where Peter is dancing through the waterspouts and he's hot as hell during the delousing. Pity the rest of it isn't worth the media it's recorded on.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Emotional Resonance, the #1 reason a reader rejects a book

What “is” emotional resonance?

According to google definitions “resonance” is the "the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface” which is just a complicated way to say resonance is the interaction between a force

And an object

In the movie Avatar, by James Cameron, the protagonist, Jake Sully, is a paraplegic space marine. More than anything he wants the use of his legs back, so when he gets the chance to take his deceased brother’s place by putting his conscious into an avatar on Na’vi, he takes it. The problem is that he starts feeling emotions in reaction to the situations his avatar experiences, which is the way it should be… because Sully and his avatar are the same.

He is literally living through his avatar, which is the same thing your reader does when they experience a book they resonate with—they aren’t reading the book, they’re living the emotions you’ve laid out for them to feel.

The interface between book and reader is their avatar

And your book is their Na’vi.

Sully is emotionally resonating with his experiences on Na’vi in the same way you want your reader to resonate with your book because you aren’t creating a book—you’re creating 1/2 an avatar, a vehicle to carry your reader’s conscious—to allow them to experience the protagonist’s emotions as if they were their own.

And what does that mean?

It means, if you are writing a romance, your reader wants everything from the first look to the last kiss, they want a cohesive roller coaster ride of emotions, they don’t want bumper cars—where the protagonists go around randomly emoting or the Junior Grand Prix, going around a flat track at 5 miles an hour. Which leaves little room for error and leads to another--even bigger question.

If millions of people watched Avatar, and enjoyed the emotions Cameron laid out, what about the millions that didn’t? I didn’t watch Avatar; I just couldn’t get into it. What is it about some stories that sweep you away and others you delete from your reader or throw under the bed?

The answer is here (do not go here if you are easily upset!)

And here.

This first picture is a picture of a firefighter carrying Baylee Almon out of the ruins of the Oklahoma Federal building.

The second is the iconic flag raising on Iwo Jima.

Both pictures are highly emotional, and resonate on a very deep level, but they resonate differently. 100% of the time I do not like the Baylee Almon photograph, because the emotions are so deeply disturbing to me as a parent. I don’t read books about dead kids, dying kids, or kids in danger. And while I might read about a kid in danger as part of a romantic suspense, I want that kid to be alive and well at the end, because I don’t want to experience the emotions of losing a child, or suffering while my child is hurt. Ever. And heaven forbid you betray my trust as a reader by springing a dead kid on me as a “surprise”.

The biggest reason people delete or reject books isn’t because the writing is bad or somebody didn’t proof the upload, the biggest reason people reject a book is because they’re not interested in the emotions laid out in the story. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wrap up on the Portland workshop, Practical Emotional Structure Part 2 coming out, and workshop starting soon

Whew, it was a long trip down to Forest Grove, OR and the Rose City Romance Writer's Spring Retreat. The good thing was that it was a beautiful day for driving, nice and overcast, not too hot. The bad thing was that I didn't realize my car (an absolute tank!) doesn't like going seventy. Not that I like going seventy, either, so I guess we're well-matched.

The workshop went well. Nobody threw pens at me, or disappeared never to be seen again--which would have sucked, since I'm guilty of disappearing from boring workshops at Nationals and kept thinking--please don't let this be a case of karmaisabitch. I only shook and stuttered for the time it took me to get used to all those eyes staring at me. My fault, I'll admit it. If I hadn't cornered Jenna Bayley-Burke for pictures, and she hadn't caught me with my eyes closed and mouth open, I wouldn't have lost my self-confidence. You know something is bad when the person taking your picture says, "Uh, that's a bad one."

It's funny how you can know something to be true, but don't really "know" it until you're confronted with the evidence, but my mental self-image of myself got stuck at forty. The whole growing older thing doesn't really work for me, and I've got to wonder why I was hunched over.  Lack of coffee probably. Later in the morning, I got some food in me and felt like the hungry caterpillar (and he ate a nice green leaf and felt much better).

The venue was fabulous. The room was a lot bigger than I expected, and the building looked more like something back east, rather than part of a hotel in the middle of Oregon.

The Rose City Romance Writers were great, and managed to get me into a bar. No, wait--that was also Jenna. Lucky for me I don't drink, so there are no pictures of me (with my eyes closed and mouth opened) sprawled under a table, hugging someone's leg.

I had a wonderful time, got to talk to lots of people who shared my fascination with geeky story theories and managed to visit with EJ Russell and Cynthia Young. I also got to see what a scooby snack is, and couldn't figure out why anyone would call them scooby snacks when "mini corn dogs" are so much cooler. Maybe it's just me, but that scene in Kim Possible where Ron is in Senor Senior Sr.'s evil lair, and there are mini corn dogs is a classic. I mean, little did we know that Senor Senior, Jr. was really Kim's soul mate all along--and what does that mean to Kim and Ron??!

By the time I finally started for home, I was exhausted and needed to stop for a double shot mocha frappe. I've heard of Dutch Bros, but never had a chance to try them, They were super busy and had a guy taking advance orders from the line of cars. Starbucks is way overrated, because this coffee didn't just give me brain freeze, it ate the tired and cleaned my teeth at the same time--talk about strong.

I was about halfway home (kicked back, drinking my frappe at a rest stop) before I realized I'd just written Practical Emotional Structure part 2, lol. The cover should be going up at Amazon soon, and the arcs should be going out in another week or so, depending on my workload. Maybe I just needed some kind of deadline or something, because it's weird how it all came together.

I've got a workshop at All Writer's starting this coming up Sunday. It's all about conflict and motivation, so if you have a saggy middle or bad pace and want a little help (or a lot of help, I tend to live in my workshops) come on over. I really like the All Writer's format. It's a lot more like an online school, and less public, so if you're shy or don't like the exposure of a forum, this would work a lot better for you.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Free open house and QA 3/16-3/18

Want to talk craft? Maybe figure out what's happening with your website or get a little free coaching? Come on over to the new All Writers Resources open house and win prizes, ask questions and talk to me--while I can't offer tech advice, I can offer free troubleshooting!! Dianna Love, Mary Buckham, Scott Martin and Misty Evans will be there, too. It's a good opportunity to troubleshoot your wip, ask craft questions and brush off your website skills. You have to register, but it's free. And I love free :)