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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Greetings, Bearers!

So I and the family are back from vacation, a good week spent in San Diego.  While I’m bummed that the opportunity to write did not present itself in the way I had hoped (that’s the irony of vacations for a writer: free time that prevents one from writing-at least in my case), it was a good, refreshing time for me. And… I have to admit, I can see why so many people are in love with California regarding its weather.  Believe me, I wouldn’t mind going back down there!  You California inhabitants living by Coronado beach have it made!

But, upon coming back and getting back into the swing of writing again, I couldn’t help but start off this blog post by commenting on the passing of James Gandolfini.  The man was a good actor, and (based upon the accounts I’ve heard) a remarkable man to know.  It’s a sad thing when anybody passes on, but it’s especially sad to see somebody pass on when they have made such a connection with the wider public in a way that Gandolfini did with the role of Tony Soprano.  He took the role David Chase scripted and turned it into a masterpiece.  Although Gandolfini did other roles of note (in particular I recall his role in the movie 8mm with Nicholas Cage), the mob boss of Jersey will always be looked upon as his crowning achievement.  His presence on the silver screen and television will be sorely missed.

This also dovetails with what I’d like to write about in this week’s post concerning writing, and that’s the writing found in the television show The Sopranos.  I’d like to take a little time and discuss that with you, particularly if you yourself are a writer (although non-writers will find this interesting as well, I trust).

One of the things you’ll notice about writing for movies or television is that it carries an extra facet of delivery not found in novel or story writing, and that’s the delivery presented through the visual medium of the actors as guided by the director.  This can serve as a blessing or curse depending on the handling of the second part.  For example, weak writing can sometimes be masked by strong performances or, in some cases, a barrage of visual effects, thus making the end package more presentable to the audience (and in my personal opinion delivering “chocolate covered garbage” as a final product).  On the other hand, strong writing can be hampered by a director who does not understand the source material (or worse yet, who insists on doing it his/her way against the wishes of the writer) or by subpar acting, thus causing the audience to miss out on what could have been a very good presentation had the proper elements been put into place.  In this sense, I really don’t envy screenwriters too much, as leaving one’s scripts to the mercy of Hollywood doesn’t always bring about the best results (If you want a more obscure but no less relevant example of this, go read Peter Benchley’s book Beast, which was superb, and then go watch the hideous  made-for-TV movie that followed it several years later.  You’ll see what I mean…).

With The Sopranos, however, David Chase delivered the best of both worlds, and did so with a standard and presentation that has influenced much of American television.  He pulled off the perfect mix, and it shows.  The actors through their characters bring his work to life, taking good stories and making them great onscreen presentations.  This show is an example of everything going right with regard to the creativity process, and should be a lesson for any aspiring producers and directors regarding the treatment and delivery of scripts.

But setting aside the acting performances for a moment, I want you to think about a few key things with me from a writing perspective, things that we should at the very least file in our memory cards and consider for our own craft.

First, listen to the conversations on The Sopranos.  The verbal interactions sound like… well, everyday verbal interactions (minus the excessive f-bombs and other at times overdone profanity that I’m not fond of, along with the nudity/sex, but that’s beside the point, and also the reason I use the fast forward button 😀 ).  The characters talk like real people talk, and avoid the formulaic (and often predictable) manner in which lines are constructed and delivered in most other movies and television.  Conversations get off topic. People get cut off in the middle of speaking.. sometimes rudely.  Reactions to accusations carry plausible responses.  You can watch the dialogue given and say “Hey, that sounds like family dinner at my house!” (minus the occasional reference to dead bodies, of course 😀 ).

Second, the plot did not have a predictable, linear approach at times.  What I mean by this is that Chase often reworked the elements of foreshadowing and predictability that much of Hollywood becomes so reliant upon.  A character, for example, might make a remark about needing to do something in a way that gave the impression to the viewer that (s)he was planning on following through on it.  But then it never happened; it ended up being talk that never materialized into action… again, just like real life.  Chase gave the viewer no security on the direction the Soprano family and their associates were heading.  There was no guarantee that “everything would work out in the end” or that the conflict would be resolved in sixty minutes (if ever).  Nothing was guaranteed, nothing was safe.

And that leads to the third and most exciting part of the show: Nobody was guaranteed to live through the episode.  Like Martin’s Game of Thrones series (which shares many elements of its writing with The Sopranos), the characters in Chase’s world weren’t promised a happy ending to their episodes, and if you’ve seen the show, you know what I’m talking about, when people you thought were “safe” ended up six feet under, many times in a manner unexpected, and leaving us to pick our jaws up off the floor and wonder how on earth we didn’t see it coming.  And let me as a writer tell you non-writers something: putting all of your characters on the potential chopping block isn’t an easy thing to do.  Readers and viewers usually want safe characters.  We want to believe that certain people will make it through (or not make it through at times) the story.  You’ve probably caught yourself doing this at times, watching a show or reading a book and hoping that a particular character stays alive because you either empathize or have taken a personal liking to him or her.  Your heartstrings get attached, whether or not you meant to allow it to happen, and then you’re invested in the hero (or even the villain, as in the case of Tony Soprano), hoping that the ending turns out the way you’re begging for it to turn out.

Chase doesn’t give us that luxury.  He gambled with his characters, and there was no safe bet for any of us to place.

So if you’re a writer and you haven’t done so, I want you to check out The Sopranos.  Do it from a writer’s perspective.  Pay attention to the construction of the story, the lines spoken by characters, the set up of situations, and the character developments.  You’ll find yourself coming away with a library of influences for your own writing like I have, influences that break formulas that screenwriters have relied upon and push for fresh, new exploration of writing that is bold and refreshing.

Okay, back to writing for me as well.  And if you like what I’ve put, drop me a line with your thoughts.  If not, well…. “Fugghedaboutit!” 😉

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean

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Greetings, Bearers!

Saw After Earth tonight.  Great movie.  Go see it and ignore anything negative you’ve ever heard about it.

Trust me.

😀

J. Dean

Greetings, Bearers!

Yet another entry from the Vein compendium featuring another of the creatures found within the Meridian.  Enjoy!

J. Dean

Airweaver-Perhaps the most beautiful and simultaneously the most dangerous creature found in the Meridian, the airweaver is an unusual sight to behold. 

The airweaver possesses the overall appearance of a jellyfish, composed of two primary components: a large body measuring anywhere from one to three paces (three to nine feet) wide, and a thick curtain of dangling tentacles as thin and fine as hair measuring anywhere from four to seven paces (twelve to twenty-one feet) long, although unverified reports have claimed to see airweavers with tentacles estimated to be ten paces (thirty feet) long or even longer.  Adorning the creature’s body is a set of protrusions that have been given various descriptions, such as “resembling a flower petal” and “wavy, beautiful rings akin to the celestial equatorial rings which encircle planetary bodies in the heavens.”  The variety of these protrusions suggests diversity within the species; however, regardless of the specific physical shape, these protrusions seem to have the same function, as they “weave” in and out of each other, shifting colors as they move.  Such behavior, therefore, renders it impossible to designate airweavers by particular color, as the creatures seem to prefer no particular primary color.   The protrusions also have the effect of hiding the creature’s center, making it impossible to distinguish any other features about the creature.

Airweavers are generally found near rivers, lakes,  and other large bodies of water, particularly at the bottoms of canyons, where they are often seen trolling for food, although they have been spotted in other locations such as caves and forests on occasion.  Their ability to float through the air allows for them to hover over waters while luring fish and other aquatic creatures toward the tip of their tentacles.  They attract their prey through the use of their bodies, as the rippling motion of their “petals” produces a hypnotic effect, drawing any fish that look upon the swirling, colorful ambience toward them.  Once within reach, the airweavers then snag the fish via its tentacles, which then secrete an enzyme that functions as an acidic adhesive, which has the effect of “gluing” the victim to the tentacles while dissolving flesh and transporting the liquefied nourishment upward and into the main body.  This enzyme immediately bonds to other tentacles upon contact, which means that the more a victim struggles, the more entangled it becomes in the tentacles, and the more quickly the airweavers will consume their prey.

The behavior of an airweaver during its capture and ingestion of prey is largely dependent upon the size of the victim.  Whenever possible, an airweaver will pull its victim up and into the air by inflating its air bladder to maximum expansion, thus hindering the victim in its escape.  If a “snagged” creature is too large for an airweaver to hoist, it will behave in the opposite manner and “sit” upon the victim in an attempt to smother the victim with more tentacles and enzyme, thus speeding up the digestion process.  Although the first course of action is the favored course for airweavers, they have no trouble with resorting to the second, thus giving testament to the patience of these hovering hunters.

An airweaver is generally considered to be a relatively slow creature.  Its movement through the air is likened to the lazy drift of a cloud, and even though they can and do move against air currents (though how this is accomplished is unknown), they retain a slow and measured speed in their general demeanor.  However, if an airweaver feels threatened or is attacked, it can react with unnatural and unexpected speed.  An airweaver can dodge in a manner similar to the duck and bob of a boxer’s head, carrying its body away from any incoming attack in a sudden, reflexive evasion.  Again, the exact manner by which it can perform such an acrobatic aerial move is unknown. 

This previous trait combined with the ability to hypnotize makes airweavers a formidable predator to deal with upon confrontation.  The mesmerizing flow of color in the airweaver body affects not only aquatic life but many forms of land-based life as well, including Beings (although ha-bears are a notable exception to this).  Some survivors of airweaver attacks have reported looking upon the creatures and falling into (as one survivor put it) “a calm, tranquil numbness from which I did not want to emerge.”   Others have reported falling into visions consisting of pleasant memories from moments in their past. Victims of the hypnosis seem to be paralyzed, or even so seduced that they walk forward and into the tentacles with outstretched arms, ignorant of what is happening to them until it is too late.  In addition to this, the reflexive evasion of the airweaver combined with its altitude make it extremely difficult for a Sect member to take out the airborne creature with a scythe surge, and often the only hope is to take the creature out through a surge sent via wall in a narrow passage which would prevent the airweaver from successfully dodging the attack.  Surges which contact  tentacles bring about a nasty shock to the airweavers but do not incapacitate them; only a surge able to connect with the creature’s body will render it unconscious.