Friday, July 26, 2013

The Wolverine

Rated PG-13 / 2 hr 6 min / Action - Adventure - Fantasy

What is it about? 

Everyone's favorite mutant is back. This time in Japan. He is there to say goodbye to an old acquaintance whose life he had saved back in World War 2.  His friend is dying and is offering to take Wolverine's healing factor for the low low price of free.  Wolverine isn't playing that game, so he refuses.  His friend dies.  That same night, while he is sleeping, something is done to Wolverine to make him lose his healing factor.  Now everyone wants to kidnap or kill his friend's granddaughter for some reason, and Wolverine decides to play the hero again.

You will like it if...

You are a fan of comic book movies, and like the character of Wolverine.  There are a lot of things that they do right in this film, and it is much better than the first abomination of a film that was made for the same character.  They try to tie in the X-Men trilogy, and also reprise one of the first and best Wolverine stories from the comics.  The issue being that in order to do this they have to mess with the story and change things around.  Most people won't notice, but true comic book nerds will (That's me!).  The story is solid and the acting is good, but the execution is just average.  For something that should be a flagship franchise this movie is a bit disappointing.  It is still entertaining, but not as good as it could have or should have been. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Character Building in 4 Steps

I wanted this blog to document my journey, and also be useful to other authors.  I haven't been very good about documenting my journey, but I hope to start fixing that problem now that the first draft of my novel is done.

Building a character from scratch can be quite a daunting task for some.  What is their history?  their beliefs? Where do they come from?  What kind of skills do they have?  Sometimes while writing a story you may come across a question you haven't answered already, and then you have to stop and make a decision.  It can really mess up the flow of your writing if you constantly have to stop like this and figure out what your character can and cannot do.  At the same time if all of your characters can do the same things then they all seem like the same character.  Each one needs to be unique.  They also cannot be perfect.  Even Superman fails sometimes.  I have developed 4 steps to help build characters.

1. Make a Character Sheet

There are tons of resources for building a character sheet.   The best character sheets you can use are already there for you to use for free.  Many pencil and paper role playing games have done all of the hard work for you.  You just have to fill in the blanks.  There are also several programs that are free to download that can help you on your way.  I do not use any of these programs, so I do not have any recommendations.

My preferred character sheet utilizes GURPS.  GURPS stands for Generic Universal Role Playing System.  You can learn more about it, and download a free copy of the blank character sheet at http://www.sjgames.com.  You don't have to use their source books, but I find them highly useful.  There are a lot of attributes in these books that can give you ideas to help you decide how you want to craft your character.  Sometimes you will come across things that you hadn't thought about, but will be perfect for your character.

This can be a time consuming project, but it can also be very rewarding.  You get to lay out all of each characters skills and attributes.  This will help make your characters more realistic by giving them limitations.  Holding your characters to these limitations will keep them from doing something out of character.  That doesn't mean that your characters can't evolve.  Update the sheet as needed.  The GURPS system is very flexible, and there are guidelines for adding anything that may have been overlooked as needed.

2. Write a Description 

This would be a physical description of your character.  Some character sheets will give you a space to write this, but I always find that they don't give you enough space.  Most character sheets will leave you a small space to draw a picture also, but if you are anything like me then your character will end up looking like a stick figure at best. Frankenstein with balloon animal hands at worst.

The basics are obvious like height, weight, eye color, hair color, etc..  I also like to include a few other things.  Personal fasion, how they carry themselves, hair length, and unique attributes.  Personal fasion depends on several things like their position and station in life.  They may wear a uniform most days, or they may wear a suit and tie.  If they are young they may follow whatever recent trend there is. If they don't care about fasion they may dress for functionality or comfort.  Unique attributes could include anything from a mole on the upper lip, to scars, or perhaps an unusual birthmark.

 3. Backstory

This is a personal history of your character.  Again the obvious comes into play like where they were born, their parents, what they do for a living, etc..  I like to craft it like another short story.  A synopsis of  their life story up to this point.  It doesn't have to be entertaining.  Just a list of events and facts.

Their history is what makes them what they are today.  Try to explain why they are who they are.  When a sensitive subject comes up that could cause the character to become agitated or violent.  The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  This for me is the easiest part of creating a character.  I start coming up with ideas before I do anything else.  The only reason this is third on the list is the fact that the time it takes to complete the first two steps gives you time to think about the story of this character's life.

4. Find the Character's Voice

You have all of the pieces.  Now it's time to figure out how your character will sound to your readers.  Everyone has a way of talking that includes phrases that most others do not use.  If you don't craft a voice for your characters then they will all sound the same.  They will sound like you.

Each piece of the character will influence how they sound, but where they come from will have the biggest effect on their voice.  For instance, different areas of America will call beverages like Pepsi different things.  Some areas will call it soda or pop or coke.  I have heard the shopping carts in stores like wal-mart called buggies.  You know where they come from by now.  Decide what that means as far as how they speak.  Would they have an accent?  Do they use terms to describe everyday things that are different from what other characters might use?

Other parts of the character's past will also have a large influence.  If they are deeply religious then they will make many religious references.  If they are into sports they may make baseball analogies.  Create certain phrases that the character likes to use that are unique to that character.  Other characters may use the same phrase now and then, but not every character will. 



R.I.P.D.

Rated PG-13 / 1 hour 36 min / Action - Comedy - Crime

What is it about? 

When you die, time stops.  You get sucked up into a vortex that takes you to the afterlife.  If you have a certain set of skills then you may get recruited to the R.I.P.D.  Officers in the R.I.P.D. arrest dead souls who have refused to move on.  These dead souls rot, which causes other things to rot and die around them. They protect the world of the living from the dead.

You will like it if... 

You have undying loyalty to Ryan Reynolds.  This is a painfully average movie.  Think a semi-generic version of Men In Black.  There are some amusing moments in the film but they are few and far between.  The movie works best when it sticks to being a comedy, and Jeff Bridges makes the movie entertaining.  He basically reprises his role from True Grit for the most part.  The dialogue is just a bit more amusing.  Now I am going to rant a bit.  The executives do not want to make a Deadpool movie because it would be rated R.  Instead they made this movie which was not terrible, but it wasn't good either.  If they do end up making an R rated Deadpool movie, in the same vein as the opening scene of the terrible first Wolveriene movie, it will be vastly superior to this.  I'm referring to the scene in the elevator with Ryan Reynolds as the quick witted merc with the mouth.  They did their best to maul and ruin the character after that, and that's one of many reasons why the First Wolveriene movie was terrible.  The people who made that movie should be forced to watch it over and over again until they agree to sign a contract agreeing to never make another movie that bad again under penalty of death. 


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pacific Rim

Rated PG-13 / 2 hr 11 min / Action - Adventure - Fantasy

What is it about?

Massive alien Godzilla-like monsters have started appearing from a rift deep in the Pacific Ocean.  After realizing how much power needed to take one of these beasts down, the world's governments work together to create these massive robots.  The robots work, but the monsters keep coming.  They keep getting bigger and nastier too.

You will like it if...

You like epic action movies, monster movies, or movies with giant robots.  Guillermo del Toro does the best he can with what he has to work with.  The acting is sacrificed in order to include gruff unshaven men with perfectly cut abs.  The real reason to watch the movie is the special effects and action scenes.  Both of which are masterfully done.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Despicable Me 2

Rated PG / 1 hr 38 min / Animation - Comedy - Crime

What's it about?

Beee Doh Beee Doh Beee Doh!  Yes Gru is back with his adorable phonetically challenged yellow minions.  He has retired from being a supervillain, and is now trying to start a homemade jelly/jam business.  The Anti-Villain League recruits him to help stop another supervillain who they are having a hard time locating. 

You will like it if...

You liked the first one.  It's basically more of the same.  The minions are just as cute and funny as they were in the first movie.  They didn't fall into the trap that has plagued the Ice Age franchise.  The minions have been worked into the story, and help move it along with their jokes added in.  The squirell in the Ice Age franchize keeps getting added in for seemingly no reason other than someone thinks it's cute/funny, but it adds almost nothing to the story.  Unfortunately they do try to add a romance angle for Gru which is painfully forced into the movie.  Overall it's a cookie cutter animated movie with some funny moments, but it's not anything special.