Tag Archives: thoughts on storytelling

Thoughts on Akumu Love Panic Ch. 13.4 (and the story in general)

Exported from Twitter by Storify.com:
  1. In the new #AkumuLovePanic update (which is finished at 2k words) we finally learn about Carlin’s past.
  2. The attention Carlin has received in this 2nd story arc doesn’t surprise me so much, as it just leaves me humbled #akumulovepanic
  3. I talk about this later, but what I mean is: Carlin’s backstory dominated this update, and I was embarrassed I hadn’t factored that into my outline. Chapter 13 was supposed to be done in 3-4 updates. Now it’s looking to be done in 4-6!
  4. In the 1st story arc for #AkumuLovePanic the story focused mostly on the plot, so the pacing was quicker. This was good and bad.
  5. Good in that the story was very focused and event-driven. Bad in that characters like Carlin are largely left unexplained. #akumulovepanic
  6. And Carlin was such a bewildering character too! I tried to keep her from getting too frustrating in my first round of edits #akumulovepanic
  1. If you thought Carlin was abrasive and confusing in the first story arc, you should’ve seen the rough drafts. In those, less about her was explained, and her actions really came across as someone who was crazy for the sake of being crazy. It’s maybe for this reason that I arranged for Amaya and Carlin to be stuck together in close quarters for an undetermined amount of time.
  2. But I think in my next edits, I’ll have to tone her down even more. Kiyomi and Usagi hardly get much attention too. #AkumuLovePanic
  1. That’s one of my lasting regrets from the first ALP story arc. While we at least get SOME details about Carlin and Haruko, we get virtually nothing about Kiyomi and Usagi. I’d originally intended for Usagi to be a much more prominent character, by way of her being with Amaya all the time for Equestrian Club. Her presence was supposed to be a gateway for Kiyomi, but the story ended up going a different way, resulting in neither of them having much explained in terms of who they really were or where they came from beyond surface details.
  2. Hindsight is 20/20. I would like the 1st arc to find that good balance for character and plot. #AkumuLovePanic
  3. Honestly, I prefer character-driven stories, and so maybe that’s why I’m enjoying the 2nd arc more. #akumulovepanic
  4. I really think the 2nd arc is much more character-driven. It’s true this may feel uneven or even at the expense of plot, but I feel less anxious about this somehow. Everyone is getting more attention: We finally get to see more of who Haruko is and where she lives, we see more of the awkward relationship between Amaya and her father, just recently we’re starting to get more details about Kento, for the first time we had a glimpse as to what Amaya’s mother is like, and of course we’re getting more about Amaya’s past. The only ones who haven’t been benefiting from this as much are Kiyomi, Usagi, and Oyama. We’re even going to be learning more about Hideaki and his mother Kishi in a few updates.
  5. I know the attention has mostly been on Carlin, and when I edit the story, maybe I’ll find a way to spread that out a bit #akumulovepanic
  6. In the next few updates I was actually hoping to shift some focus onto Kiyomi and Usagi (finally), and of course, Haruko #AkumuLovePanic
  7. Carlin’s attention has mostly been a situational accident (her hiding in Amaya’s room) #akumulovepanic
  8. This is what I mentioned earlier–arranging for Amaya and Carlin to be forced to deal with one another on a more intimate level.  I wanted the readers to understand Carlin, and recognize that Amaya’s view of her was skewed and lacking in information. Amaya isn’t a reliable narrator, and she even acknowledges this fact in-story. However, in order for the story’s perception of Carlin to change, I had to change Amaya’s view of her–thus the extreme situation.
  9. Some of you may have noticed her dialect has “lightened up.” This was purposeful. #AkumuLovePanic
  10. I’m talking about Carlin here.
  11. I was reading some older chapters and decided I HATED how her dialogue read. #AkumuLovePanic
  12. It sounded cartoony to me. Then I remembered some advice a teacher gave me a while ago #akumulovepanic
  13. “When giving a character a dialect, you need only suggest its existence for the reader–” #AkumuLovePanic
  14. “Once a form of speech has been established, the reader will recreate it in their head without need for constant prompting” #AkumuLovePanic
  15. One of the best advice I’ve ever received for my writing. I only wish I’d received it before starting to write ALP!
  16. So I started dialing back the contractions and instead focused on using the occasional slang and cadence of an Irishman #AkumuLovePanic
  17. I think it reads better. But this won’t be put in retroactively for a while now. I have other things that take precedent #AkumuLovePanic
  18. Senior year of college, editing Eikasia’s first market e-book, etc…
  19. Yeaaah…this new update took me by surprise. As I said, Carlin’s back story has humbled me. #AkumuLovePanic
  20. I didn’t realize how much attention it really deserved until I started typing it #AkumuLovePanic
  21. It was a nice reminder to respect my characters’ stories, a courtesy I’m eager to extend to Kiyomi and Usagi now! #akumulovepanic
  22. I realize that not all prominent characters need to have a complicated back story detailed to the reader to feel fully rounded. But like Eikasia, Akumu Love Panic has established a theme that time has a rippling effect, and the acts of yesterday affect the realities of today. In ALP this is especially true for Amaya, who struggles with her past of sexual abuse and the subsequent assault it ended in. It has shaped her greatly, and her past experiences are factored into many of her major decisions. With Carlin and Haruko, it is strongly suggested that their pasts have also greatly influenced who they are today. All that said, I feel it would be unfair to my characters to be blithe about their back story.
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Continuing from my writing inspiration video, I talk about different tools and tactics you can put to use when brainstorming or organizing your story ideas.

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Dreams Quantified


So while all of you are wondering where the HELL I am in terms of writing, here I am, fantasizing about someday working for Quantic Dream. I think I may have mentioned how much a fan I am of Heavy Rain, and if I haven’t, then I am now. Heavy Rain was a formative experience for me. It showed me that not only could a game be engaging, like Super Mario World, or have a great sense of story, like The Longest Journey, but it was an epic marriage between the cinematic and video games.

One thing I have learned so far in my Creative Writing course at Full Sail is that video games is like the new frontier for storytelling. Its interactive format creates a new experience where a person is not passively experiencing a media source by themselves, but actively experiencing a form of media with someone else. Think about it. When watching a movie, do you really engage with the person next to you? (apart from when you’re talking through it—which doesn’t really count) So, in effect, I really, really, really want to write for video games…at least for some time in my (hopefully) professional writing career. And if I could choose a developer to work for?

QUANTIC DREAM.

Their newest game, BEYOND: Two Souls, slated for release in 2013, stars Ellen Page. And oh my gosh you guys…every time I watch the trailer (which is fairly often) I cum a little in my pants. I’m beyond excited for its release. That’s really all I had to say in this post…

But I also recognize my absolute lack of updates, so I’m posting a chapter preview for Eikasia. I’m not posting all 735 words I have (big whoop) but hopefully you guys will believe me when I say I’m trying. Work and school has been taking turns kicking my ass.

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Books Books Books (AGAIN)

So after a rousing little read and discussion over at MerylF’s excellent blog, Pressing Stories, I feel more motivated then ever to get my novel series, Eikasia, published.

Yeah, I know. Strange to feel so optimistic when I just missed an update. But y’know what…?

BITE ME!

I have two books all polished and pretty. Just another rub and they are essentially ready for the market I think. I mean…they are already FREE to you guys, but how many of you actually like reading on your computers? Not everyone has a smartphone, and not everyone has a tablet, but plenty of people have e-readers, right? So I want to make things easy on you guys, and this is the best way I know how.

To get myself into the writing spirit, I’ve decided to pick up my reading habit once more. I’m actually already halfway through The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I have too many books I’ve bought sitting on my “to-read” shelf, honestly. But what the heck! I went out and grabbed Carrie Vaughn’s new installment to the Kitty Norville series, Kitty Steals the Show, a paranormal adventure series with plenty of spunk and sexiness and my all time favorite supernatural beasts—WEREWOLVES. Carrie’s one of my all-time favorite authors–not to say there haven’t been a few books from her I didn’t like–but she’s clearly a prolific writer, and has great skill in crafting engaging stories. Plus…she’s a HUGE nerd, like me! Check out her blog here on WordPress, it’s awesome. I also bought Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, which seems like a quick thriller read with nice visual writing. Honestly, what I REALLY could use with right now, is something like Arthur Plotnik’s spicy and inspiring Spunk and Bite, or Christopher Vogler’s “controversial” modern interpretation of Joseph Campbell’s work in The Writer’s Journey. If I had the extra moolah, I might’ve even bought today, The Artist’s Way, which all three of my counselors in my life (yes I have issues) have recommended to me.

You know what would be even better though? I’ve been wanting to get the ball rolling on my writing projects for YEARS now. I’ve tried “networking” only to fall flat on my face, and now I only use social media in a sort of utilitarian fashion. I want to change that. That’s part of the reason I started seriously blogging again. But there’s more to just me being self-involved in my own little corner of the internet. I have to branch out.

So I’ve added to my long wish list, Kristen Lamb’s, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. Honestly? I try to avoid books that tell me “how” to write. I like to get books that give me inspiration and marketing tactics. This is one of them, and it comes highly recommended. I don’t know how many of you reading this are into writing, but if you are, I say give this book a shot with me. We’ll compare notes. :)

Kristen Lamb has her own blog here on WordPress.com, and you can read it here. She had a great post recently on protagonists as antagonists by proxy, using Darren Aronofsky’s The Black Swan as an example.

I might try my hand at a bit of writing tonight. Bedtime is midnight, as I have work tomorrow morning till the afternoon. Luckily, I have 3 days off after that! Yessssss…

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THIS IS NOT AN EXIT – American Psycho Further Explored

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“We really don’t care to know if you’re afraid of Virginia Woolf. Stay home and freak out. Buy a Chainsaw.”

So in my recent trip through dark cinema, I once again touched on American Psycho, and for some morbid reason felt the need to fight through the novel the film was based on. While it is as mind-numbingly shallow and violent as I remember, I managed to (sort of) read the whole thing this time. I read much of the beginning, then about 50-60 pages in, started skipping forward through scenes I perceived as boring. I didn’t just skip forward for Bateman’s depraved acts against humanity, but some of the black humor tucked away in all the banality of yuppie culture. Like when he tries to speak “ebonics” to two black men, when he writes a racist haiku, when Luis Carruthers confesses his love to Patrick, when Patrick breaks up with Evelyn, when Bateman and Price try to get high off of Sweet n’ Low, the sudden and outrageous admissions that Bateman makes on a regular basis (but whom no one hears or takes seriously), his awkward meeting with Tom Cruise…and lots of other little moments. Not really laugh-out-loud funny, most of this stuff, but still amusing in its own, dry, sardonic, dark way.

I remember trying to read the novel way back when, and at the time, I just couldn’t because I found it morally reprehensible. Well after watching something like A Serbian Film (dear god, avoid that movie at all costs) the scenes were a lot more bearable. I even noted a satirical outrageousness along the lines of Takeshi Miike’s Ichi the Killer where the violence is so over the top as to seem cartoonish. Not to say that any of the rape, torture, or murder scenes made me laugh, but they did paint an interesting picture of a man who can be understood to be a giant black hole. Perhaps my desensitization also allowed me to see the eerie parallels between Bateman’s detached description of his home stereo system, and the violent ways in which he kills his victims. The detached tone helped, I think, in stomaching the otherwise graphic details described in the book.

The only character in the entire book that Bateman seems unable to kill is Jean, his secretary. When I watched the film with my friends back in high school, the theory was made that Bateman spared her because he needed her to keep his illusory life going. At the time I quietly felt that there was more to it than that, and after reading the book, my feelings were reinforced. Why DID Bateman spare Jean, even in his hallucinations? Because Jean was the only person in his life who genuinely cared for him, but more important than that, she was OUTSIDE of the shallow yuppie lifestyle that Bateman was entrenched in, and hated so much. On page 266, Bateman envisions him and Jean running around Central Park on a cool spring afternoon, laughing and holding hands. They buy balloons and let them go, perhaps a symbol for Bateman’s possible salvation (though we know he doesn’t really find this). When Jean is first introduced, Bateman narrates that she will be someone he “will probably end up married to someday”. In the section marked “The End of the 1980s” (pgs 371-380) Bateman has brunch with Jean. In the conversation that follows, Jean confesses her love to Patrick, and Bateman asks her if she owns a briefcase or a roladex. (in his mind, he’s comparing her to Evelyn) Jean replies that she does not own a briefcase, but she does own a roladex. Suspciously, he asks if it is designer. She replies that it isn’t. He feels relieved at this news.

After this conversation, nothing further seems to develop of their relationship, as Bateman slips further into his insanity. I found a very interesting write-up online by Chris Schaffer that explored Bateman’s possibly mental problems. Among those discussed were: Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depersonalization Disorder, and Comorbid Idealization. It goes on to state that Bateman has a weak super-ego and a strong Id, which leads to little restraint when it comes to his violent acts of depravity.

It really explains a lot about his character, and it draws interesting parallels between his psychosis and his career. As one involved in mergers and acquisitions in the 80s, Bateman was in a hyper-masculine world where companies were “violently” taken over, or dominated, and cannibalized. Along with his need to feel powerful and manly, Bateman fears anything that threatens his capabilities and hates everything that is the antithesis of his weak super-ego. When this happens, the metaphorically violent nature of his work becomes manifested literally through his Id, which moves to protect his fragile image. Chris Schaffer goes on to state that everything Bateman states comes from some external source–be that periodicals, television, film, or music. Nothing he says is original, thus resulting in his almost pathetic, cartoonish caricature of a rich yuppie.

Reading the Patrick Bateman wikipedia page, I was surprised to find that there was a series of fake emails collected into what is known as American Psycho 2000, which was meant to be an advertisement campaign for the movie. None of the emails were written by the books author, Ellis, but he approved each of them before their release, so they can be understood as canon. In these emails, it is revealed that Bateman DOES in fact marry Jean, but one child and twelve years later, he is seeking a divorce. He goes through counseling, less for the desire to become “well” and more for the desire to appear well, so that he can gain full custody of his 8-year-old son, Patrick Bateman Jr., often referred to as P.B.. He idolizes his son, believing him to be a beautiful, brilliant child with his father’s sense for high quality. The entire email series is transcribed here.

**For some reason, the site asks for a password. Just click cancel several times, and the popup will go away, allowing you to read. I think the reason it asks for a password is because the images displayed on the site are from a password protected directory of the site-owners. Not entering a password does not bar one from reading the email transcripts, you just won’t be able to see the images in some of them.

The emails are amusing (and is the source of the above quote), and they show an older Patrick who has fallen “out of love” with Jean (if one could say he was ever in love with her). The emails state that Jean, over the years, had changed, essentially becoming one of the shallow, materialistic women that Patrick despised (almost like Evelyn). As stated, Jean cannot get by a month without one hundred and eighty nine thousand dollars a month in alimony. Thus why he wishes for a divorce.

After reading the books and these outside materials, it made me want to watch the movie again. While I think my second attempt at reading Bret Easton Ellis’s novel brought me closer to his message against the materialism, narcissism, the self-destructive behaviors of the upper class, and the deteriorating effects our consumerist society has on humanity, I still prefer the movie over the book.

Please share your thoughts!

“Hey, I’m a child of divorce, gimme a break!”
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Donnie Darko and the Four Basic Functions of Myth

I wrote this for my Historical Archetypes and Mythology class at Full Sail Online. I recently watched Donnie Darko, so when the instructor asked us to find modern examples of Joseph Campbell’s four functions of myth, I went overboard. By the by, have you guys seen the Donnie Darko website? It’s so fucking cool! It gives extra material beyond the movie too, naturally. It makes me really want to get the Director’s Cut DVD. Anyways, before I post my little “analysis”, here’s Campbell’s four functions for those of you who don’t know it:

  • First is the metaphysical function. Myth awakens and supports a sense of awe before the mystery of being. It reconciles consciousness to the preconditions of its own existence. Myth induces a realization that behind the surface phenomenology of the world, there is a transcendent mystery source. Through this vitalizing mystical function, the universe becomes a holy picture.
  • The second is a cosmological dimension deals with the image of the world that is the focus of science. This function shows the shape of the universe, but in such a way that the mystery still comes through. The cosmology should correspond to the actual experience, knowledge, and mentality of the culture. This interpretive function changes radically over time. It presents a map or picture of the order of the cosmos and our relationship to it.
  • Third is the sociological function. Myth supports and validates the specific moral order of the society out of which it arose. Particular life-customs of this social dimension, such as ethical laws and social roles, evolve dramatically. This function, and the rites by which it is rendered, establishes in members of the group concerned a system of sentiments that can be depended upon to link that person spontaneously to its ends.
  • The fourth function of myth is psychological. The myths show how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances. It is this pedagogical function of mythology that carries the individual through the various stages and crises of life, from childhood dependency, to the responsibilities of maturity, to the reflection of old age, and finally, to death. It helps people grasp the unfolding of life with integrity. It initiates individuals into the order of realities in their own psyches, guiding them toward enrichment and realization.

And now my analysis–feel free to contest it or ask questions! If you haven’t seen the movie yet–please do. It’s really good.

Joseph Campbell’s extensive research into world myths led him to write a great deal of theories and observations, all substantiated by his findings. His findings showed that though each culture independently developed their own myths, each followed a similar pattern of initiatory adventures. He further explained that all myths have four basic functions. These were: cosmological, metaphysical, sociological, and psychological.

In modern culture, it can be easy to assume that today’s stories, in whatever form or media they come in, do not follow these patterns or exhibit these functions. But this is not true. George Lucas’s Star Wars is probably the most famous example of a modern day initiatory adventure as defined by Joseph Campbell. Lucas even cited Campbell as being an inspiration and mentor, but far more recent than Star Wars, is the film Donnie Darko.

The psychological function is perhaps easiest to determine in the film,but each of the other three functions can be found as well. The story follows a troubled young teen who begins having visions of a twisted looking rabbit named Frank, who (functioning both as the Herald and the Mentor) warns of impending doom. A plane turbine crashes through the roof of his house, destroying his room while Donnie is out sleepwalking. It is later revealed that the turbine came from a tangent universe, pulled through a time portal by Donnie’s telekinetic power (facts only revealed in the Director’s Cut DVD commentary). The Donnie Darko website goes on to reveal that the turbine is the only thing to survive from the tangent universe. The same plane in the new universe actually remains intact and lands safely. Richard Kelly (the film’s writer), in his DVD commentary, doesn’t outright say whether or not the tangent universe is “real” (as if God were showing Donnie his path and why he had to be killed by the turbine) or if it was a vision.

Donnie also begins seeing the very elements of time and space (fulfilling the cosmological function) and struggles to uncover its secrets before disaster strikes as Frank had warned. This search leads him to not only wrestle with the scientific functions of his world, but with the concepts of free will and the role of God and the mystical nature of the universe (fulfilling the metaphysical function). As a very lonely individual, he clearly struggles with connecting with others and following the conventions of society. But as the story progresses, he succeeds in forming a relationship with the new girl at school, Gretchen, outing Jim Cunningham as a pedophile, following his mother’s wishes to take his medication (after a fight between them makes him feel guilty), working in harmony with his sister to throw a party at their house, reaching out to Grandma Death (the woman who wrote the book that filled his understanding of tangent universes and time and space), and standing up to the school bullies (though all of this inevitably leads to tragedy.) This all fulfills the sociological function. Donnie’s relationships with his family, his girlfriend, his school, and with society at large, are finally reconciled when he realizes that in sacrificing himself, he is actually creating life, thus overcoming his fear of dying alone and achieving his destiny. Collapsing the tangent universe, Donnie goes back in time to when the turbine crashes through the roof, laughing in (what seems hysterical) joy, just before he is killed. This fulfills the psychological function.

Donnie Darko is a very dark and mind-bending story, and even its genre and target audience seems slippery and broad. But through simple analysis, one understands how this tale of death, time travel, and coming-of-age follows Campbell’s initiatory adventure, and satisfies the four functions of myth he outlines. While some may disagree with Campbell’s emphasis on the psychological versus the sociological, and even his somewhat formulaic detailing of an adventure, one cannot deny that his research holds some truth, even in modern day stories.

Sources:

Donnie Darko Analysis: http://www.math.nyu.edu/~neylon/movies/donniedarko3.html

Everything You Were Afraid to Ask About “Donnie Darko”: http://www.salon.com/2004/07/23/darko/

The Donnie Darko official website: http://www.donniedarkofilm.com/

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