I have focused a lot recently on the aspects of storytelling like subtext and narrative– the elements which are not committed directly to the page, but are nevertheless understood. There are, to me, the most vital elements, for they transcend the story itself. For the most part, this is a positive thing. Generally, we plan for these things, what we want a story to be, what we want it to say – but there is another side to it.

Just as much can be said by what is not there as what is, and how what is there is treated. I have poked at the notion of “write what you knowbefore, and this is basically why. We are, obviously, limited in the experiences we have. They are ours, they shape us. But we are not limited to them.

Allow me to speak more plainly: if you are the average white person, and you make no effort to include experiences aside from those of an average white person in your writing, it will really show. Maybe not to me, I am a fairly middle of the road white dude, demographically speaking, and for those of us in that ‘majority’ or whatever, it is very easy to gloss over it. After all, it speaks to us, it is relateable to us.

sarahAnd, frankly, that’s a problem. It’s a problem in publishing. I don’t think the majority of editors and agents primarily accept books from straight, white people (mostly men). I think they read it, relate to it more than the book by the queer person of color, sign off on it and move on. But it comes back to effort. Did you ever read something you really can’t relate to? It is just so alien to your own experience that it makes you uncomfortable? That’s what we do when we make no effort to include other voices.

There are those who decry this as ‘diversity for diversities sake’. I reject that notion. For one thing, we are richer as a culture with more diversity, even in small increments. And we are going to need all that we can get over the next four years. And secondly, hell, just look at it economically. All it does it open more readers to you, and how is that a bad thing? And if you lose readers who refuse to read you because you make an effort for diversity, well, do you really care?

But there is an inherent danger in just jamming characters in there, and that is again linked to our experiences. We have these narratives in our culture about different races, genders, religions, etc. Please, please, please, stop falling into these. There are any number to pick from, but the Trinity Syndrome/Hyper-competent female sidekick is probably the most common (via this must-read article):

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I have covered Leia before, but holy shit when you look at it like that. That’s not even all of them. And you could name ten other ways characters of a certain demographic are consistently handled before you take your next breath. Put some effort in and treat these characters differently. Stop pigeonholing them into the same tired roles. Does it take effort? Yeah, it does. But what in writing doesn’t? But it’s worth it. Maybe it doesn’t make you millions, or get greenlit as a Hollywood blockbuster, but I promise you it is worth it to the person who reads it and has seen nothing but the characters they can relate to marginalized in every work of fiction.

DESR

The Dirtiest Pokemon Names

Is this blatant Pokémon clickbait? MAYBE. Is it funny as hell? I sure think so. Am I a curmudgeon who doesn’t see the appeal of Pokémon at all? Most assuredly.

Jigglypuff. Never let your friends find out you like Jigglypuffs.

Koffing. You’ll try it once because it sounds fun, but then it’s just too complicated and not really worth it.

Chansey. We all knew a Chansey, didn’t we? Yeah, we did.

250px-007Squirtle

sure it hasn’t

Swinub. Just… don’t ask. It’s better if you don’t know.

 

Togekiss. Kids these days, always Togekissing.

Probopass. Hurts at first; totally worth it.

Rotom. Hurts at first; not worth it.

Snivy. Probably what Chansey has.

Tepig. You tell people you Tepiged, but you never actually did.

Slurpuff. Don’t do drugs.

Licklilly. I mean… come on.

Squirtle. “I’m so sorry; that has never happened before.”

How to Make a Good Video Game Movie

Video game movies have the same kind of reputation right now that comic book movies did. There is no way to make a good one! Lo and behold, you sure can make a good- even great- comic book movie! This summer, there was a lot of optimism surrounding the Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed movies.

The jury is still out on Assassin’s Creed, but the early reports on Warcraft is… not good. And I am not even a little optimistic about Assassin’s Creed, but more on that in a second.

So what does it take to make a good video game movie?

mass effect

      Please let me write this movie

 

Make it a good movie. Video games can tell very cool interactive, immersive stories. BioShock, Fallout, and so many others take you and immerse you in your story, via first-person narrative. It’s a great way to tell a story. Movies are also a great way to tell a story, but different. Embrace those differences rather than just trying to follow a story from the video games. That’s what playing the game is for. If you just try to give viewers the same experience as playing the game, it’s doomed from the start. While there are things you can do with a video game that you can’t with a movie, there are things you can do with a movie that you can’t in a game. Do those things.

Do something different. Not just with the way the story is presented, but different than the game itself. Like a lot of early comic book movies, video game movies try to stuff it full of characters and locations from the games. Hey, you loved [character X], right? Here they are on the big screen! Whoop-dee-do. Add some originality! Keep the flavor, but give people an experience that playing the game for two hours won’t.

Don’t take it too seriously. Even if it is a serious story, have fun with it. Do you see how much fun Marvel has in the movies? It’s what makes them great. Think about Hawkeye’s crack in Age of Ultron about having a bow and arrow. It has fun, even in the climax of the film. And it elevates it, since pretty much everyone was underwhelmed with it. So don’t make another dour CGI spectacle. Relax, tell a good story and have fun.

bioshock

I will do this one for free

 

Focus on What Works: Going back to the comic book movie thing, what made them work? There were adaptions (see: Snyder, Zach) that are very, super true to the source material, but suck. Why? Total lack of depth and subtext. Sure, they are shot-for-panel recreations of a comic book, but a good movie that does not make. Video games like BioShock and Mass Effect (two of the best games out there) are deep and say a lot more than what is right in front of you. Borderlands is goofy insanity. Capture the essence of what makes a game good, as Marvel has done with the MCU, instead of just cloning the game.

 

And if you need any help with this, Hollywood, my fees are very modest.

DESR

Stories I want to Read

We focus so much on the big names- Batman, The Avengers, Luke Skywalker, etc., which is fine and good, but what about everyone else? Here are stories I want to read:

Insurance Claims Adjuster in the MCU: His name is Marvin. He always wears a white shirt and black tie, the knot is always loose by noon. He is a little pudgy, and plans to go to the gym, but there just isn’t enough time. His marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s OK. His wife talks about Captain America a little too much for his liking, but she doesn’t have to deal with the damage that shield causes, ya know?

Bruce Wayne’s maid: Esmeralda. Let’s be real, Alfred is the butler, but he mostly dispenses sage advice. He doesn’t clean shit. Esmerelda keeps the manor clean. She has a son, and Mr. Wayne has always been good to her. She likes him as more than an employer, but doesn’t want to be forward, since it’s a good job and she’s not sure if he has noticed her. He has, and they would be perfect together, but neither ever makes a move. One day, she notices something amiss with the secret entrance to the Batcave (which she doesn’t know about), and almost opens it, but doesn’t. She moves on, and forgets the incident.

wink gb.gif

this has nothing to do with this post. It’s just great.

 

Moisture Farmer on Tattooine: Just kidding, this is way too boring.

Random Soldier who Dies: They joined up for a decent reason. They’re not super patriotic, but hey, you get to see the universe and get an education. Turns out they’re a pretty good soldier. Not the best, but a couple promotions and medals. Kept in touch with their BF/GF throughout, and they’re planning on getting married after this last hitch. They are the first one the alien/big baddie kills in a forgettable scene which establishes the plot (of someone else’s story).

I kid (mostly), but in all honestly, those are the people that inspire me to write. We read for lots of different reasons, but the heroes journey works because it lies to us- in real life, there is no ring to throw in Mount Doom, no Darth Vader. In real life, we go to boring jobs, and never go on grand adventures. These stories let us pretend we can.

3024_Kindle_2015But what about the average person in those universes? And what about the momentous events in history, just like the real ones from our history- what are they like in those far-flung universes?

Thinking about those people is what drove a lot of 3024AD- there is something happening, but it is happening outside of the lives of the people met in this series of stories – but it still affects them. They’re living ordinary (sorta) lives, and the universe is changing. Some of them have a  hand in it, some are just along for the ride. Some will be at the center of it, but like real history, are actually powerless to change it.

Sorry for the commercial (sorta). This started off as a semi-serious post about those stories, then I got on the “that’s-what-I-write” tangent. If that sounds good to you… *nudge nudge*

DESR

Yogurt

Once upon a time, when ebooks were first a thing, and the ability for readers to have a critical voice via reviews was new, I was optimistic. Cream will rise to the top, right? Traditional gatekeepers will be eschewed for the true voice of the reader.

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You are so right, Tom Hardy. This is why one should never be optimistic or trust humanity, because people are terrible and stupid. Because this is the kind of crap you see: Books that come out and within days have hundreds of glowing, four- and five-star reviews. However do they do it?

In a tale as old as time, to paraphrase Beauty and the Beast, they buy them. Yup, packaged reviews. Go for it. My favorite bit is where they promise it won’t look sketchy. What do you think, Stitch?

stitch eyes

I feel ya. The cream is rising, only the cream is curdled and a lie. I don’t have words for how low, how cheap, how wrong this is. Just bribing their way around terrible writing and lack of any actual sales appeal.

But at least that’s as bad as it gets, right, Minion?

minion no

Crap. Posing as a fake Penguin employee? How stupid can people be? If you want to get sued and ridiculed on the internet, there are far easier ways to go about it. But, no, you have to do this. Again, words fail me, and I’m a writer. Words don’t fail me very often. Do you have anything to say, Captain Malcom Reynolds?

mal

You too, huh? But the words I do have are unfit for a family blog (not that families read this, but whatever) (let’s take a moment and imagine the idyllic American family gathering in the evening to read this blog. No, stop crying).

Go back and sink to the bottom where you belong. Take it away, King Julian.

shut up

DESR

Star Wars: A New Favorite

Spoilers follow. You have been warned.

I have been kicking this around for a while, since the very first scene of The Force Awakens, but I think it is solidified for me:

Poe Dameron is my favorite character in Star Wars. Not in the Force Awakens, in all of Star Wars.

Most of you know my affinity for ‘bucketheads’- Phasma, Fett. I like characters with mystery. Phasma was a bit of a letdown, I think, but maybe she had to be- Fett worked because there was so little known about him, you can create your own mythos.

poe 2.gif

Aw, look, he’s happy

But Poe, damn. I love flying, so pilots are characters I tend to like. Poe is just that, brashly so, and loves it. The Han Solo parallels are obvious, so why Poe and not the in-four-films-and-is-classic Solo?

 

One of my favorite things about TFA is the subtle changes to parallel characters, and where Han learned to care about others over the course of the OT, it is part of Poe’s soul. He cares about BB-8, even more so than we saw people care about R2. He instantly cares about Finn- “Yeah, well, I’m not calling you that.” He refuses to accept that this person doesn’t have an identity. And when he sees Finn again, this bad-ass, tough-as-nails smartass almost cries. And when that person asks for his help, he barges in on his boss (who clearly likes him and respects him, but still) to make sure that happens.

To me, that sets him apart. For all my love of a lot of ‘bad’ characters, I love that Poe so genuinely cares about others more than himself. Combine that with everything else he is, and he takes the top spot for me.

Oh, and that hair? Just look at that hair.

DESR

The DESR Guide to Avoiding Spoilers

Look, I get it. Star Wars has been out for a few days, and if you hear one damn word about what happens it, SPOILED. Why even bother seeing the movie? What’s the point of seeing Citizen Kane if you know (SPOILER) Rosebud is his sled? Or The Maltese Falcon if you know (SPOILER) the Falcon is fake? Or The Passion of the Christ if you know (SPOILER) Jesus dies? Or Star Trek Into Darkness if you know (SPOILER) it’s actually shitty movie?

bb8.gif

‘Boop’ is droid for ‘Are there spoilers?’

So how do you avoid spoilers? Never Fear, gentle reader, for I am here to help you. Follow these simple steps and you’ll remain unspoiled:

 

  1. Stay off the internet. This is probably pretty obvious, but avoiding spoilers is like a diet- you gotta be committed. Log on to the internet once, and Google a recipe for an aioli, and it autocompletes to Kylo Ren is Luke Skywalker’s sentient Aioli. See? You just read a spoiler. All because you got on the internet, you dumbass. Don’t bother seeing the movie.
  2. Throw your phone away. “But Dean,” you say, plaintively, “Can’t I just turn it off? Log out of my social media accounts?” You can. If you want spoilers. Because your BESTIE, BFF, or whatever you young folks call friends these days, they will text you. They will call you, and they will say “OMG THAT PART WHERE REY IS ACTUALLY HAN’S ILLEGITIAMATE MANDALORIAN JEDI CHILD” and spoiled. Throw it away.
  3. Move to a mountain cave. Again, possibly the obvious thing to do, but if you had done it and the steps above, you wouldn’t be reading this. So pack your crap- not anything that can be used to communicate with you outside world- and find a nice hole somewhere secluded. One word of semi-oscure caution: Make sure no time travelers have used the cave and scrawled spoilers in cave paintings on the walls. You know that’s what cave paintings, done by time-travelling trolls, to spoil movies for you. They’re on Twitter now, Time machines in the future. And, technically, the past.
  4. Cut off all human contact. And I mean all. You have a spouse? They would love NOTHING more than to spoil it for you. You have tickets for it tomorrow? As you’re drifting off to sleep, they will whisper Snoke is really a giraffe and, boom, twist is spoiled. Say goodbye to your kids, too. Some snot-nosed classmate saw an advance screening and blabbed all over school, and as if your kid has the good sense not to come through the door screaming the entire plot. So say goodbye to you family, your friends and get to the cave.

Or you could just stop whining and see the movie.

 

[EDITED TO ADD] None of this is to say you should try to spoil a movie for someone. If you’re one of those people, stop it, you’re a dick

Storyboarding

So I have been absorbed in two large projects lately, and have hit that point where I need to flex some different muscles. So I am going to ask you guys to chip and give me some ideas.

Tweet me (or drop in the comments) a pin (or something easily pinnable), and I will pin them all to a board, and then write a short involving all the suggestions.

That’s it, really. Can be any image, objects, etc. Lemme see what you have!

DESR

Idris Elba Should Not Be James Bond (but not for the reason you think)

I was going to write this morning about plot and character development. It was great, and made several fine and informative points. But now, because Anthony Horowitz is an idiot, you get this rant instead.

Look what you’ve done, Anthony. I hope you’re happy.

In any case, Mister Horowitz chimed in on the ongoing Should-Idris-Elba-Play-James-Bond debate, saying Idris was “too street”, which, as far as idiotic statements go, should put him between “Donald Trump Speechwriter” and “Justin Bieber”. But there it is, and in true internet fashion, the internet has responded by saying, no Idris should play James Bond, you racist piece of trash.

Allow me to take a third party stance (that’s two Trump jokes, if you’re keeping score at home): Idris Elba should not play James Bond, because James Bond sucks.

Anthony, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but your character, and your stories are terrible. We can- and will- start with Bond being a misogynistic… something. Adjectives fail me. Cad, maybe? That seems appropriate. Go through and count the times a woman tells him “no” and he just kind of… keeps going. And somehow, she ends up just swooning over this.

We have a word for that. I don’t think it’s found in any of Flemming’s works.

Women tend to get smacked around quite a bit by Mister Bond, but at least he’s not shooting them? Silver linings, I suppose.

CLEARLY too street

CLEARLY too street

Then there is the story itself. “Story”, I should say, since Bond relies on plot conveniences that even Harry Potter is dubious of. To say nothing of the fact that most of his antagonists employ plots so convoluted that it’s a wonder they are any real threat at all. Most Idris could sit back, look awesome, drink a few martinis, and wait for something to go wrong.

It would save millions in property damage.

Every film, save for the recent Craig films (again, with the actor changing, thing. Crap, I promised myself I wouldn’t even go there), presents itself as juuuuust too campy to be taken seriously, yet too serious to be simply camp. You end up with a complete waste of two hours.

The whole premise of Bond is a contrivance to appeal to some ‘basic male fantasy’- virile male who is an action hero, has awesome cars, guns and the ability to drink heroic amounts of alcohol (are we sure Bond isn’t American?). It’s stupid, the character is stupid, and the plots are stupid.

Too street? Idris Elba is too smart to play such a stupid character.

DESR