One Chapter Down & Chapter 2 Starting

It has been an interesting and turbulent time in my life to be sure. I started this blog three years ago as an ambitions optimist with big dreams. Three years on and none of those ambitions have come true and I’m now a high strung depressed wreck of a person. About the only thing about me that has improved is my writing.

The coming weeks will bring some big changes. I came out to Los Angeles to chase my dreams, and thought I’d find a home in this bustling metropolis. Instead I found a place that was as cold and apathetic as the asphalt was hot on a summer day. I now look to my coming journey back to the midwest with a lot of apprehension and very little hope.

But my writing IS better. Even though my life is slowly but surely turning to a mound of fecal matter, I still know that much is true. Earlier this week I began writing a book, hopefully my last go around of a project that’s been in my heart for many years. This morning I finished the first draft of my opening chapter.

I’m surprised by how quickly the words are piling on. So far we’ve reached some 21 pages and just over 7500 words. The first days were a bit off. I wrote eight pages, four of which I liked and four I thought were garbage. I threw the latter away and got to work again, and then something just sort of clicked and the gears started working. It has pretty much been my only reliable source of comfort these last few years, something that I do hope will turn into a career.

I’ll keep you all posted on progress. If things go at their current pace, I should have another chapter or two done by week’s end.

Thanks for reading and see you all soon.

 

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I’m Now A Paid Writer

It was a hectic week. Several job interviews and rejections, going to a temp agency seeking work, completing three chapters on the book I’m writing, blowing through 117 pages of the book I was reading, preparing to patch a hole in the wall of my apartment, some good news and some bad. Today I got some very welcome news.

My application for MoviePilot went through. I will now receive my first ever meager payments for written work.

This had already been an interesting seven days, filled with ups and downs. My existential crisis continues with swings from optimism to bleakness, and I wonder which one I’ll finally land on. Hopefully the former because I don’t want to waste this life being a Bob Bummer.

But it had also been one of my most productive time periods, with bringing my manuscript past 115000 words and completing some 320 pages. With the cover ebbing onward and our next illustration taking exciting shape, I had a lot to be excited for.

Now I have one more thing to look forward to. I will now be able to count writing credits among my earnings. How exciting is that?

I will not be receiving too much for my work, mind you. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 dollar for every thousand views. But it’s still something. It’s still money I would be getting from what I wrote. It is the first step to making a living out of the craft, and there are few things that could make me happier.

I signed the tax paperwork and sent them my Paypal addy. It still doesn’t seem real. Maybe it will once that first deposit comes in.

I wonder what this means in the long run. Will my articles get more views because of this? How much will be added to my monthly income? Is this the second job I’ve been seeking or merely some extra creative work and money on the side? I don’t know. The future isn’t here yet. It’s still very dark outside.

Hopefully this news is the beginning of a bright dawn, and the exciting next chapter in my journey to master the craft.

VIDEO – Temple of Doom and My Attempt at Internet Reviewing

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is one of my favorite pictures of all time, and while some of the criticisms against it are not without merit, I can’t help but think they often get a little too harsh. So I thought I would take a crack at this internet reviewing thing and offer some compliments to the film and some answers to the criticism. Was the end result a nice retrospective or an abysmal failure? You will have to click the link to find out.

VIDEO – Temple of Doom and My Attempt at Internet Reviewing

Atticus Finch and the Adventures of the Next Draft

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s supposed sequel to her pulitzer prize winning masterpiece, was released not too long ago. It brought with it a shocking revelation.

Go Set a Watchman told the story of a grown Scout Finch returning home during the civil rights movement, and finding out much to her dismay that her father, Atticus Finch, was in fact a racist the entire time. She becomes progressively disillusioned with her home life, her father, and her roots, eventually cutting ties and moving on.

For a character as revered and loved as Atticus Finch, it came as quite a shock. Many viewed the character as a desperate plea to those in positions of power to treat their fellow human beings with compassion and understanding. To find out he in fact held similar views to the villainous Bob Ewell was a gut punch.

Of course, people are forgetting one little thing.

Go Set a Watchman is not a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird.

It is the first draft.

In Harper Lee’s own words, Go Set a Watchman is the parent of her highly revered novel.

Taking this into account, that gives the novel an entirely new meaning. Stories and characters, just like people, change. From the moment an idea is conceived, it is in a constant state of change and flux until it is finished. The bigoted fool in Go Set a Watchman grew to become the persecuted father in To Kill a Mockingbird. As such, literary nuts rest assured, the character of Atticus Finch remains the same saintly figure we can all admire.

This so called latest vision of Atticus was a work in progress, and provides an interesting look at Harper Lee’s original, and much darker vision for To Kill a Mockingbird.

Looking at earlier drafts of stories is a very fascinating look at their origins. One of my favorite examples is The Terminator.

The original script was a much more complex and multi layered story. James Cameron eventually decided he packed in too much information and edited the story down to its most essential elements, resulting in a very different narrative.

These changes included the villain. Originally, Sarah was stalked not by one, but by two killer cyborgs. One of them was a liquid metal shapeshifter. Sound familiar? This villain was excized from the first film and resurrected in Terminator 2 as the T 1000.

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By far the biggest change in the story was the loss of a complete arc. This segment actually made it into the can and was shot, scored and edited. Cameron again however deemed the scene unnecessary and removed it from the film. In this scene, Sarah and Kyle have an altercation where Sarah suggests they blow up Cyberdyne and prevent the rise of the machines.

Again, this element was cut out of The Terminator, and resurrected as the main story arc in Terminator 2. It even includes the signature “There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” line that many believed originated in Terminator 2. 

Many stories do this. The mine cart chase in Temple of Doom for example was originally written for Raiders, but Spielberg decided the script had too much action and put it on the back burner. It eventually became the signature scene of the sequel.

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This happens often in writing. Scenes and characters are excised, re-written, and sometimes re-used when they do not fit in the context of one story, but are perfect for another. My story is no exception.

Back when Zhyx first began to resemble a story it told a very different Wizard of Oz style tale. The plot was that three teenage boys on a camping trip are whisked away to a magic land by a yet unexplained phenomenon. The rest of the story is a chase, with these three boys on the run from a large red dragon who, in later drafts, would become the central protagonist. Though the dragon does save the boys in the third act, for the most part, he was a false antagonist, distracting the reader and viewer from a much more serious threat. That draft was a script written back in twenty ought twelve. Eventually it became the book, the dragon became the hero, two of the boys became and elf and an orc.

Writing a draft, be it a book or a script, is a way for an artist to get something on the page. This makes it easier to see what works and what doesn’t, and sometimes, in the case of Go Set a Watchman, show an author that their original story may be but a mask for something far more compelling.

Due to pressure from her publisher, Harper Lee began to elaborate on her character’s childhood, and something new and magic happened. Atticus sacrificing his standing to defend a wrongfully accused citizen, the whispered rumors of the mysterious Boo Radley, and the villainous Bob Ewell stalking two children on Halloween night. The bigoted Atticus Finch died, and he became a man of conviction, who would take the spit and insults of every one of his neighbors as long as he knew he was doing the right thing.

The same thing happened in Zhyx. While writing those early drafts, whenever the red dragon interacted with one of the boys, a shy and introverted lad named Derek, there was something there. Some kind of magic. Eventually the red dragon wrenched my hands away from the keys and told me something. ‘This is where your story is.’

I have been taking his advice ever since, because lets face it. The dragon can weave a much more interesting tale than I can.

That is the way drafts go. They are the birth of a story, and like people, stories grow up, they change, grow more complex, and learn new things. The tale of Scout losing her father to bigotry became the story of how he tried to protect her from it. The story of Sarah and Kyle trying to prevent armageddon became the story of them trying to survive it. And the story of a red dragon pursuing three scared kids became the story of how that same dragon had to save the world.

For those fearful or angry at this newly revealed Harper Lee novel, fear not. The story of To Kill a Mockingbird will forever remain the same treasure it is. This new book however does offer an interesting glimpse into what the story could have been, but ultimately was not.