Thursday, 30 June 2011

What you've written is rubbish

That's what I tell myself twenty-four hours after thinking I've written something brilliant (I sometimes think in the third-person, this may or may not be a problem). It goes like this:

Immediately after writing:

This is the most brilliant and insightful thing that I've ever written.

Twenty-four hours later:


After coming back you can see these things for what they really are. The reader with fresh eyes can see the rubbish bits. Then it's time to rewrite it, or just to change most of the words. There's a difference. Rewriting involves dramatically deleting everything and starting again. The other is surgically removing every piece of wrong. Afterwards you're left with something new and shiny, and almost always better.

This is harder with things like blog posts, since it's out in the world straight away. Which is why I'll put up any old nonsense. What? I mean, um, finely crafted blog posts. Yes.

Monday, 27 June 2011

First chapter needs more bombs

Writing a book is really easy. Writing a good one is hard. And one of the hardest parts of all this hardness is the first chapter. It has to be good or nobody's going to be interested in the second one. There's lots of ways to start.

1. With an interesting incident

The bomb will explode in one minute.

This interesting incident hits you in the face straight away. Is there enough time to defuse it? Is there enough time to run away? You would have to read on. Unfortunately, my book doesn't have any bombs in it. Yet. I could rewrite the first chapter to include more bombs. Alternatively:

2. Be abstract
Bombs are a bit mainstream. What if it was an existential bomb?

Why is the bomb? What is its purpose? It might not really be there. Probably is, though.

Yes. This can only be the opening chapter to a very serious book. It will make you ponder and pretend to be better than it actually is. Lots of interesting things will happen in this book. Or will they? Maybe it's just best to start with - 

3. A really long sentence
This is a good way to trick the reader into reading more than they intended to. By the time they finish the first sentence they'll be so far into the book they'll think they might as well finish it.

The bomb will explode in one minute, which reminds me of a story my old bomb disposal teacher told me, it was a very long story and he told it all in one breath, he said...

If the sentence looks like it's about to wind down, that's the time to break out a semi-colon; an under-used punctuation mark for people who fear full stops. 

The whole business of first chapters is so hard that I skipped to the second and the third and the fourth. They're easier.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The box of Thrones

If ever I wanted a nice big boxset of something, it's of Game of Thrones. And it doesn't even exist yet. The final episode of the first season showed that they're playing the long game. They plan to film all four books and they want us to watch one after the other. HBO would be mad to cancel it. They love big boxsets as much as anyone. In five years time this thing will exist. Seasons one, two, three, and four. Maybe coming with a fold-out map. It needs to happen. The first season finale was like a prelude to everything else. The Watch rides out beyond the wall, the Starks gear up for a big fight, the dragon princess gets some real dragons, and Joffrey proves himself to be the evil bastard you always thought he was. He was just slapping children before. Now he's got heads on spikes. Put him in a room with Arya and a sword and he won't last long. Or Tyrion can sort him out. Tyrion, who's the cleverest person in the Seven Kingdoms - clever enough to want to stay away from all this war and nonsense. If the last episode seems uneventful, think back to the start of the season, and how much has happened since. Little things turn into wars and major characters die without warning. Game of Thrones is The Wire in Middle Earth, literature on screen.

Which makes me wonder if I should read the books. I could read the whole story right now. But the show is so good I'll wait for it to come back. The books seem like spoilers at this point. They can stay in their own boxset. Unless the show gets cancelled of course, then I'll read them in a week.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Playing chess with Professor X

Move your rook. 'What?' 'I didn't say anything.' 'Okay. I just... thought you said something.' Move your rook. 'You're doing it again.' 'I'm not.' 'I try to have an honest game of chess with you - ' 'I'm not doing anything.' 'Okay, okay, let's just move on.' ...You should definitely move your rook. 'We can play Kerplunk again. Is that what you want?' 'No.' 'Then stop it.' 'Sorry.' ...How about that rook though? 'That's it, I'm taking your knight.' 'Check.' 'I hate you.' 'Would you like to play Battleships instead?' 'No.'

X-Men: First Class is pretty good. As other comic book films dig deep to bring up characters nobody has ever heard of, the X-Men franchise puts them in their place. The first three films were so long ago that they've had the time to get round to an origin story. And it all still makes sense. Fun, entertaining, and predictable. The best so far. But how much can we take? There's a whole list of possible and upcoming X-Men films. Maybe too many.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

It's a long way to walk

Walking. Walking. Walking. They're walking. Through Siberia. Through deserts. Up mountains. Down mountains. More cold. More hot. More dying of hunger, then thirst, then hunger again. Not having a good time. It's a long way to India. Poking holes in bark to make a mask for the snow storm. Running and hiding from the sand storm. Drinking mud. Eating snakes. Up mountains. Down mountains. It's a long way to walk when your feet hurt.

They're doing this to escape from a Soviet prison. The Way Back is the sort of film where people walk in the desert until they collapse. Is that a mirage or a refreshing pool of water? Do they go off course to have a look? Either way they're not getting out of this desert for a long time. At times it's a bit like Defiance, other times it's an endurance test. Not much fun, but not bad at all.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Red or green or orange

It's blue. Very blue. I don't know why it's so blue, but it is. They must have had a meeting about it. They could have made it red, green, maybe a nice shade of orange. Instead they made it blue. It's blue in the caves. It's blue on boats. It's even blue in people's houses. It's all blue. Apart from flashbacks. They're sort of... yellow. Nice flashbacks to happier times when the sun was out and everyone wasn't trying to bite your face off.

The inexplicably successful Underworld franchise just keeps going. Film four is going to be released next year. I mean, proper franchises don't get that many films. There'll probably be a lot of bashing about in caves and unexpectedly complicated backstory. In its defence though, it's blue and has werewolves in it.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Charlie sitting by a typewriter

After John Malkovich and Synecdoche, the only decent thing to do was to watch Adaptation. It's writing about writing, about Charlie Kaufman writing the film itself. He lies around the place with a blocked head, trying to find the inspiration to adapt the book he's been commissioned for. If Malkovich is where all the big ideas are, this shows how hard it is to invent them. Is it cheating to write about yourself writing, rather than thinking of a 'proper' new film? Maybe. It's self-indulgent, but he gets away with it. It becomes about different views on screenwriting, and how that effects the film. At first he wants to write a screenplay where nothing much happens, and we watch that. Then he's told to make the ending an 'event', so we get murder and crocodiles and swamps. Everyone's acting out his meta world that he can change and manipulate. His brother Donald is having an easier time, writing a script about multi-personality killers and car chases. Charlie looks down on this. Like in Synecdoche, he's trying to make a film about everything at once, about trying to find some existentially truth. Or, he's making a film about trying to make a film about everything at once. When he succeeds he can write something focused about portals into actors minds, when he's stuck he has a bit of a crisis and grabs for everything at once.

I know how to finish this script now

Being John Malkovich is still the best. Adaptation is about the writer's block that comes from trying to write something as good as it. It's a film for writers. Nicolas Cage does a good job of looking extremely anxious through the whole thing. You probably won't sympathise with this strange and awkward man if you're not a writer. It might be a warm up for the madness that comes later.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

You'd need a corner cell for that

Breaking out of prison is hard. Really difficult. You might just have to stay here. I've read a few books, and I've asked Liam Neeson, and it doesn't seem like a thing that can be done. It's really dangerous, and expensive, and... well, I just can't be bothered. If you want to do it yourself I can get you a chisel and a big poster. Apart from that I can't help you. I've brought you a few magazines instead. Should keep you going.

You'll have never felt as sorry for Russell Crowe as you will in The Next Three Days. He has to break his wife out of prison and it doesn't look like he's very good at it. There's some especially precarious running-away scenes. You can't run away from the evil state, after all. Unless you can. The whole thing is more entertaining than you'd think.