Sunday, September 29, 2013

Critical Reading: 4 things I look for

Since I have started trying to take writing more seriously, I have noticed a change in my reading habits.  Before I would enjoy the story for what it was, and move on.  Now I'm looking at things with a more critical eye.  I make mental notes of what works and what doesn't.  I look for things that can help me improve my writing. Every good writer also reads.  It's not all research!  All work and no play makes John want to give Godzilla a hug.  Godzilla doesn't hug...

1. Dialogue

This is something I feel like I struggle with.  I have gotten complements about my use of dialogue, but I am never satisfied with the way it turns out. I enjoy reading witty banter between interesting characters.  I also observe the nuances that give each character their unique voice.  One character says TOE MAY TOE another says TOE MAH TOE.

2. Pacing 

For me this is all about filling the gaps between major plot points.  How do you keep the story going?  Is it unbearably slow in between points in the action?  Do the pages keep flying by?  My favorite authors seem to keep me up until 5 AM turning pages until I can't stay up any longer by keeping a fast pace.  Sleep?  What are you talking about?

3. Story Structure

I am looking for the Hook at the beginning.  Do they use a Prologue? Is there a Reveal of some sort?  Is it obvious?  What was the timing of the Reveal? What is the conflict? Did we ever find Waldo?

4. Enjoyment Factor 

I am a sucker for a good story.  Who isn't? I can forgive minor errors or terrible moments of dialogue.  Self-indulgent prose filling the gaps between plot points.  I just ask myself, "What made this story enjoyable?"  That's what I want to add to my own writing.  Then I say "Weeeeeeeeeeeeee", and run around in circles until I fall down.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rush

Rated R / 2 hr 3 min / Action - Biography - Drama

What is it about?

This is the real life story of racecar drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  Lauda is very intelligent and obsessed with winning. Hunt wants to be the best, but he also wants to party.  Lauda is socially awkward and very uptight.  Hunt is arrogant and lacks dicipline, but is very talented.  Their personalities clash from the start, and they are both willing to do just about anything to beat the other.

You will like it if... 

You like rivalry movies.  Movies like "Warrior".  It's hard to come up with a good comparison because they don't make a lot of movies like this one.  It's a mix mash of a racing movie like "Driven", a movie of drunken debauchery like "Wedding Crashers", and a season long rivalry movie like just about any sports movie ever made.  It's also an interesting contrast between a hard working uptight man vs. a supremely talented man who doesn't seem to take anything seriously.  This story has many levels to it.  This true story is interesting similar to a documentary, but also entertaining in it's presentation.  I  would recommend this movie for anyone that is interested in seeing it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Prisoners

Rated R / 2 hr 33 min / Crime - Drama - Thriller

What is it about? 

Two families are torn apart when the youngest member of each is kidnapped.  They were friends going down the street for a few minutes then they disappear.  Hugh Jackman plays one of the fathers whose grief and anger turns into obsession.  He enlists the help of his friend, the other father, played by Terrance Howard.  Jake Gyllenhaal plays the police officer who is looking for the girls, and he has solved every case he has ever been assigned to.

You will like it if... 

You like movies with a good story.  The pacing in this one is deliberate for dramatic effect.  If you are prone to falling asleep then you might want to invite a friend to elbow you just in case.  While lacking in action, the story is fantastic.  There are a lot of twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat.  It's a whodunit where breadcrumbs are left along the way that invite you to figure it out.  The cast is top notch, and they all do an excellent job.  My only complaint is that Terrance Howard doesn't have a bigger role, but the movie is long enough as it is.  If you are thinking about going to see this one then stop thinking and go see it.  This is a prime example of the kind of movie I enjoy the most. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

5 Tips towards Staying Positive in a Mad World

As I write this I have a horrendous headcold that is making my whole body ache.  In spite of this, I am happy and staying positive.  If you aren't happy and/or positive then you need to look at the picture of the sleeping puppy more!  Seriously..  Puppy!  OK OK..  this post isn't about puppies.  This is about keeping that positivity going, and how I am able to accomplish this even with all the craziness that is going on in the world.

Why do I need to stay positive?? I'm cranky and I want my MTV to have music again!

In a world of negativity, you can be different.  You can be the light that everyone gravitates towards.  There is the saying that "Misery loves company", but that's more for people you already know.  Think about who comes by when you're sick.  Your mom?  girlfriend/boyfriend?  Everyone else is like "EWW Germs!"

As a writer I am always trying to reach new people to build up a bigger following.  People always follow celebrities because they are successful or sexy or have money etc..  They think of all of the positive things that those people have.  It makes them feel better to root for something positive even if it's for someone else.  If you project that same kind of positivity then you can make others feel the same thing.  Being positive makes it easier to make connections.

Below are some tips towards staying positive that I use:

1 - Choose to be Happy!

I know I know..  I never said this would be easy.  I realized that happiness is a choice several years ago, and worked towards the goal for several years.  I do still have my down times, but I remind myself that no matter how stupid or evil the situation is, I am still alive. Even when everything seems stacked against me, I know that it will be OK. Sometimes it's impossible to stay happy all of the time, and that's OK too. It's impossible to stay positive in every situation, but the point of all of this is to try.

2 - It is NOT that Serious!

"But Brian it IS that serious!"
Is there a PEZ gun to your head?  I didn't think so.  What happens if you don't get to 5000 followers on twitter by Friday?  Not much.  What happens if you don't write 2000 words today?  Not the end of the world.  Your book getting rejected by every agent and/or publisher is not going to be the cause of the zombie apocalypse.  Use it as motivation to do better, or as a sign that you need to do another revision. 

3 - Other people's problems are not your problems

Unless, of course, you are both being chased by Godzilla.  Then you might be in trouble.  Sometimes people will try to bring you down because they have their own personal problems.  I try to be supportive and help if I can, but when they try to rain on my parade.  I  get an umbrella and keep things moving.  It helps a lot to remind yourself that it's their problem, not yours.  Especially when it comes to dealing with people who hate you for no reason.  If you have no idea why they hate you and they won't tell you..  their problem not yours.  Don't let others drag you down into the pit of despair.  I guarantee you someone will try.

4 - Words only have the power that you give them

Anything that is said that will make you offended, angry, or otherwise flustered can be avoided.  Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never pee in your corn flakes.  People give power over to words, and let those phrases effect them emotionally.  Don't let them effect you in a negative way.

5 -When in doubt, throw a tentacle monster made of Jello at it!  

Sometimes you have to take things to the silliest extreme that you can.  Whenever you need a pick me up, think of the most comedic way to describe something.  You can also try to make something up.  Write a bunch of silly words on small slips of paper, and put them in a cup or a hat.  Pick out 2 or 3 of them at a time, and make up an origin story for your "Flying Spaghetti Toaster".
  
I hope these tips help some of you to stay positive when the walls are closing in.  Just think "What would Indiana Jones do?" If you have any other tips please share them in the comments!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Building Your Brand

I have been posting here about the writing process and the steps I am taking in becoming an author.  I have thus far been neglecting one of the most important topics in becoming a successful author (OH NOES!). That is the promotion side of things, or as I have heard others call it "Building Your Brand".  I think this is just as important as making a quality product, and you should treat it that way.  You should spend just as much time building your brand as you spend working on making your product the best it can be.  Below are the steps I am trying to take towards this goal.

1 - Social Media 

Sign up for all of them.  Yes I mean ALL of them.  You need a presence on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Wattpad, Linkedin, etc.. Every major website you can sign up for that could get you visibility with potential readers is a good one to sign up for. Getting closer to your readership is always a good thing.  Just don't get so close that they start getting restraining orders!  I will be going over my approach to each of these in future blog posts.  Right now I have links to my Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook fan page, and Google plus profile on the upper left hand side of my blog.  I will be adding more to that list as I go. 

2 - Engage 

So you've signed up for all of these social media websites.  Now what?  You can't just let your profile sit there hoping someone will find you.  Explore.  Most of these will have a messageboard or a search function that will help you find like-minded people to expand your circle.  I don't have as much time as I would like to work on this, but I try to do a little every day. I haven't linked to my other social media profiles because I haven't reached the level of engagement that I am comfortable with sharing.  This is something that needs to be worked on every day.

3 - Provide Quality Content 

As an author, you are your brand.  Everything you post to the public reflects on your brand.  I see people constantly spamming "Buy my Book!!!", "Like my Facebook!!!", "I Overdosed on PEZ!!!".  How many people are never going to visit their website because of it?  How many people are going to tune out whatever they post to facebook or twitter?  When they finally do post something that their readers would find interesting, the readers miss it in the mass of spam they have been pumping out.  If you are always posting something of value then they will stop and look.  They will go back to look at older posts, and recommend you to friends.  Word of mouth is one of the most powerful and cheapest advertising tools available, and this is how you get it.

4 - Help Promote Others 

If you help others with promotion then they will be more likely to help you!  This can be a double edged sword though.  It's important that you check out their content.  When you forward someone else's content to your readers, you are giving that content your stamp of approval.  It will reflect back on you and your brand.  If you retweet it without checking it out, you may find out later that the site supports extreme ideas that are very offensive. Do you really support a company that is trying to genetically engineer a real life Godzilla?  Even if you do, you may lose readers who have lost loved ones to the carnage that the beast has unleashed in the past!

5 - Be Prolific 

Go forth and reproduce!  In writing anyway.  This is something that I have struggled with.  I have decided that I am going to try to post on this blog every day.  Even if it is just to say "Hi" to your readers, it gives them a reason to come back every day.  If you don't have anything to talk about then make that nothing as entertaining as possible.  If you aren't in the right mindset to do that then look online for something new and interesting that you can write a short comment on.  Ooo..  they are making a new Godzilla movie!  See how easy that can be?

6 - Newsletter! 

I know I know..  Where is my newsletter?  This is something I need to put together pronto!  I have heard other authors swear up and down that a newsletter is the best way to maintain a fanbase, and it is especially good at pushing sales for a new release.  
Well that is all that I can think of at the moment.  I am sure that I am missing something or several somethings that are important.  Do you have any suggestions or ideas? Post them in the comments!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Family

Rated R / 1 hr 50 min / Action - Comedy - Crime

What is it about?

Deniro plays a former member of the mafia that is now in witness protection. His family just moved to Normandy, but they never quite kicked the mafia lifestyle they were used to.  Tommy Lee Jones plays the FBI agent that is trying to make sure they stay alive. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the wife who likes to blow up grocery stores.  Dianna Agron plays the daughter who is not afraid to beat the crap out of any guys who try to play tricks on her.  John D'Leo plays the son who is a criminal mastermind in the making.  Their antics make the FBI's job much harder.

You will like it if...

You like any movie that has the mob in it, mentions the mob, or has the word "mob" somewhere in the script.  Saying this movie is a comedy is laughable.  There are a couple of moments where it could have been funny, but not really.  That doesn't really make it a comedy.  I found the antics of the son the most entertaining as he breaks down how he is going to take over the new school.  The first 3/4 of the movie is standard fare for mafia movies. It's mildly entertaining, but the movie doesn't really pick up until it's close to the end. The movie has it's moments, but also has moments that will put you to sleep if you're not wary.  Wait until it is out at Redbox if you must see it. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Riddick

Rated R / 1 hr 59 min / Action - Sci Fi - Thriller

What is it about?  

Riddick starts off where Chronicals of Riddick left off.  The Necromongers made him king after killing the previous king.  He grows tired of the lifestyle that comes with his new station which also comes with assassins constantly trying to take him out.  He decides it is time to go home, and leave the Necromongers to themselves.  Vaako is the only one that knows where Riddick's home planet is.  Vaako double crosses him, and leaves Riddick to die on a barren wasteland of a planet.

You will like it if...

You liked Pitch Black.  This is almost exactly what Pitch Black would have been if it had a bigger budget.  For those of you who didn't see Pitch Black, it's a survival story.  The characters are plopped in the middle of a situation where vicious alien animals are swarming all around them.  The only escape is to get off the planet.  At every turn they try their best to make Riddick look like a badass.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it is cheesy, but most of all it's entertaining.