The Side of Relative Right…

warped-movie-villainsWhat makes a good antagonist?  Whether portrayed in text, stage, or film, good ones always seem to have something in common.  It’s what I like to call “the conviction of rightness”.  I’ll admit it, not very catchy.  Everyone in the audience might know or feel that the actions of a villain are wrong or immoral, but you can’t dismiss motivations.  You might have heard that before from actors when they dramatically exclaim to the old time movie director, “What’s my character’s motivation!?!?”

As silly as this might sound, there is truth in the cliche.  We all have motivations for doing things.  These motivations are driven by a variety of factors like emotion, personal experience, prejudices, etc…  Toss in some tragically fatal flaws and deficiencies like being a psychopath, and you have the recipe for a great antagonist.  When Batman was struggling to understand his villainous counterpart (the Joker), Alfred the butler pointed out that, “some men just want to watch the world burn…”  This is a perfectly crafted phrase which explains the mystery of the “bad guy”.

As simple as all of that might seem, for the writer it doesn’t stop there.  Writing for a bad guy only starts with understanding that he/she views his/her side of things as right.  As a writer, it is always best to research and observe.  In an effort to better understand the antagonist, read up on villains of fiction and non-fiction.  In the aftermath of a tragedy caused by someone, we ask the inevitable question of “why?”, but we rarely get to the root of the answer.  Watch any documentary on Hitler or Jim Jones and you will see a careful analysis of what we believe to be “why” they did what they did or what be believe motivated them.  Digging deep into these things helps build the character and understanding of the antagonist.  You may never actually explain the backstory details, but I assure you that having this predefined knowledge will subliminally surface when your are writing scenes and dialog.

The scariest antagonists are deep characters who are driven by dark influences which make them feel justified in their actions.  They intimidate us when we don’t fully understand them, yet we believe they are capable of anything when carrying out their goals.

Synopsis and Lessons Learned…

STC

I’ve been working on a young adult fiction novel.  I can tell you that I’ve learned an extremely valuable lesson as a writer.  One simple word; outlines.  It’s so simple, yet so powerful.  Not just any outline, but one inspired by a book called “Save the Cat” by the late Blake Snyder.  One of my best friends who is in the film industry turned me on to the book because he thought it might help with my screenplay writing.  I discovered that not only did it help with my script story development, but my novel writing.  The book breaks down the story process by what is called “beats”.  It is essentially a formulated outline to help you build the framework of your story structure before you actually start writing.  It has removed the crippling confusion of “what’s next” when I’m writing a story.  I can now focus on the actual writing process!  Go figure.  I’m the closest I have ever been to actually having a completed manuscript and it has done wonders for my confidence as a writer.  I can’t recommend you trying this process and experiment with it on your own.

Here’s the story synopsis:

Tiger Larson is a lonely latch key kid living in London with his divorced father. His already solitary life becomes even more isolated when his dad takes a new job traveling the world. He is forced to live with his only known relative, Uncle Ernie, who lives in a large old house nestled in the countryside of Edinburgh Scotland. Upon moving in, Tiger quickly discovers his uncle Ernie is not only a recluse, but crazy. Rule one of Uncle Ernie’s house, stay out of the east wing of the mansion. Late evening boredom leads Tiger to secretly explore the old estate he now lives in. Tiger finds a peculiar library which draws him deep inside a mystical world which he must keep hidden from uncle Ernie and prevent the potential destruction of two worlds.

Getting Off the Social Grid…

Demotivational-Facebook-addiction

It’s been incredibly too long since I last posted.  Life has been in a “high tide” as of late.

I recently made the decision to pull the plug on Facebook after much consideration.  Once I came to the conclusion to do this, in today’s world it is considered “abnormal” to not be actively on the Book of Faces.  I’ve challenged myself with this new change despite the potential for being a “social networking outcast”.  While I will miss knowing what friends had for dinner, declarations of how amazing their love is, and even the occasion cat meme; the results should be interesting.

Now to the grand question of why?  I realize that not everyone falls into these categories, but in my research the holistic conclusion is that the vast majority do.

Addiction: It’s only been a short while from deactivating my Facebook account and I have instinctively opened the FB application on my phone and tablet more times than I can count.  I’m like Pavlov’s dog!  It’s absolutely ridiculous how ingrained checking Facebook has become for me.  Being a slave to something without even realizing it made me feel like a mindless zombie or sheep.

Time: Looking back, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve opened up Facebook and thought, “I’ll just browse for a few minutes”.  Over an hour later I would raise my strained neck from the glow of my iPad and realize the time.  It sucks you in the with the sweet siren’s song of curiosity about other people’s lives, political rants, funny videos, and in some cases way too much personal information.

Value: I had to ask myself, “for all of the time I have invested into Facebook, what have I received in return?” The best answer I could come up with was “information about others”.  Yet, is it quality information? At times, yes, but that is only about 15% of the time, which is a horrible return on vestment.  Sure, I might discover the latest news about a movie I am anticipating, but to get to that I had to weigh through how many posts about things I didn’t care about? Tons of crap.

Privacy: Sharing aspects of our lives is not a bad thing.  It has been nice to be able to watch my friend’s children grow despite them living thousands of miles away.  This is something to be celebrated and appreciated in the realm of social media.  Yet, it has manifested into a whole different monster.  There is a tendency to share every inane detail, like what we ate for dinner.  We forget what we share is a part of our digital footprint and the minute we click post, it no longer fully belongs to us.  I don’t think we understand the long term implications of this as we permanently record all of the seasons of our lives.  I am personally glad there wasn’t a Facebook network when I was a teen.  There are many things best to be revisited verbally among friends, but should not be floating around public domain.  Some mistakes you can’t escape.

Ego & Insecurity: Social networking as a whole is a very powerful tool which can connect people in easy ways.  Like most tools, it can be utilized in other aspects which are not so great.  In my analysis I came to realize that the lack of value I was getting was in direct correlation to the masks we wear.  I’m just as guilty as the next person for drinking the Kool-Aid on this one.  Facebook is over saturated with countless posts of overcompensation and self inflation.  This is all substantiated with rants about superior religious/anti-religious views, political commentators, out cry about reality TV star statements, or even the embellished declarations of love and amazement of one’s marriage. I fear social networking is contributing to the development of a society which over indulges in the importance of self promotion.  We have a tendency to define ourselves through digital misrepresentations.  I don’t feel good about my involvement in that for myself.  Yes, I sound like the old man in his bath robe yelling at the kids to get off his lawn.

There over arching hope with this change is to earn back wasted time and redirect it into something productive like my writing.

Please excuse me while I go shop for a cabin in the woods to rise up my militia of trained ninja rabbits who will carry out my justice against ramped stupidity in the world.

Married to the Mob…

An Offer I Could Not Refuse…

I’ve mentioned on the Writer Purge my genre kicks I get into.  The zombie/postapocalyptic phase has been fading but was relatively long-standing.  It was quickly replaced with a mafia infused interest.  I blame the National Geographic Channel’s new “Inside the American Mob” series.  It has snagged me!  I’m fascinated by the organizational structure and politics between the ruling families.  Part of the draw is the non-fictional element.  I’ve been pouring through (thanks to books, my DVR and AMC’s Mob Week) classics like Scarface, Godfather, Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed, etc…  They are fictional works, but the documentaries and research on the mob lend them credibility.

I find that my interest in these two drastically different genres (postapocalyptic vs. mob) have commonality.  The attraction is based on sociology.  In truth, that’s where the story lives and dies.  It’s all wrapped up in the way people structure themselves in groups and then interact with each other.

My personal goal is to take the general appeal to social structures in these stories and embed them in my personal works.  That, and to eat more pasta.

The Urge…

The Writer’s Crossroad

Life has a tendency to sweep you up in a fury of change, dilemma and growth.  Sometimes the only way to survive and grow from it is to shed all unessential’s and focus on the tasks at hand. That as been my mode of operation for the last six months roughly (note the last post was in April!).  The good news is that I am out of the woods so to speak.  That is until work rears it’s ugly head once more and demands my full attention.  Having a full time career and pursing writing as a vacation can be troublesome.

One thing that never stops for the writer is the urge to write.  It’s always there nagging at you throughout every minute of the day.  Character ideas, dialog, story concepts, scenes, etc… All of it compares to tides of the ocean which constantly thrashes the shore’s edge.  To pacify this soul nagging urgency, I make a point to write something each day.  Journals are great for busy times in your life, plus it helps purge and clear your thoughts.

So now I find myself at a cross roads of what project to start.  I’ve been so deliberate about working on one writing project at time.  This is great from the standpoint of making progress but I’ve found it easy to burn out on a story quickly.  I’m thinking of switching it up and working on multiple projects at once.  My hope with this experimentation is that the diversity of the works will lend progress to one another.  It’s time to open my mind up to the idea that I don’t have to be writing on one thing at a time.  A linear mentality can’t be good for the creative process.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Are Heroes Born or Made?

2824589-13260-gamesrocks-supermanI’d like to start off by saying happy birthday to the Man of Steel who is 75 today.  The first comic released 75 years ago today sold (at the time) for 10 cents and is currently estimated at over 2 million if in mint condition.  A lot of people don’t get Superman.  They pass the character off as an over inflated boy scout/God-like character who has no real depth.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Don’t get me wrong, as a writer I think it would be tough to try and tackle such a strong character because of all of the attempts that have been made towards reinvention.  There is a fundamental battle inside of Superman that is not emphasized near often enough and that is one of free will.  I like to think that while he might make it look easy doing the right thing, deep down inside he has to push himself to do it.  It’s not easy doing the right thing, especially when you have so much power.  Always putting others before yourself is unfortunately counter-cultural and he is misunderstood for it.

boston-carlos_2537656bWhile I was thinking about this, it led to me think of the real heroes of the Boston Marathon bombing.  There have been so many wonderful accounts of people who put others in front of themselves.  A college student who had just ran 20 miles took his shirt off to make a tourniquet for another injured man’s leg.  A firefighter on vacation carrying an injured child away from the masses to keep him safe.  A teenage girl on her knees talking to an elderly woman in an effort to keep her calm because she was bleeding profusely.

As I took the time to view pictures from that day, I could not help but begin to look past the ugliness of the act.  Instead, I started to only see a beautiful side of humanity that unfortunately only surfaces in rare times.  I believe it’s one of the key traits that has allowed us to survive this long as a species, which is the ability to choose to care for one another.  To run towards the face of danger and risk our own well being for the sake of another is not an easy thing to do.  Despite the horrific scenes that played out this week, because of this beautifully muted trait of free will, I was able to see a multitude of capes and ‘S’s on the chest of so many people.  After all, as Superman would tell you, “It’s not an ‘S’. It’s a symbol from his home that means hope.”