Thursday, September 27, 2007

Let’s talk more TV

The new shows:

Thanks to the wonders of PVR’s, I’ve managed to watch Chuck, Reaper and the Bionic Woman so far this week. Still haven’t gotten to Life, which is waiting for me.

I have not a huge amount of spare time, and I have to fit anything new into an already packed schedule. Some shows that are on my must see list.
Friday Night Lights, Heroes, Dexter and The Office and I’m really debating on House. My love for Hugh Laurie is enduring, but unless they take the show somewhere new, I might be out.

Chuck and Reaper are similar in tone, nerdy cute guy in incredible situation, chuckles and thrills ensue. But they both do this well. They’re likeable if not really memorable, although both have their high points.
Chuck has Adam Baldwin(Firefly) and The Reaper has the devil and various demons.

I’m strangely meh on both, I think it’s because they haven’t posed enough questions. The setup is all there, but there aren’t enough mysteries presented. I feel like I know how each show is going to go.
They should take lessons from Heroes on how to pose questions that will keep a viewer hooked. I love how Heroes answers one question and then throws two more out.

Bionic woman.. eesh.. what a mess. It was like they shot a four hour show, picked scenes at random and threw it together. The dialogue was laughable, and some of the acting was borderline awful.
Except one of the main guys from Battlestar is involved, as is Katee Sackhoff, (who was the best thing about the first episode) and they just brought in one of the producers from Friday Night Lights.
Can the show be saved? Some optimist in me hopes so. Plus it performed pretty well in the ratings..
Not quite the juggernaut that Dancing with the stars is, but that’s a whole nother blog..

I didn’t watch Journeyman, although I love Kevin McKidd from Rome. Not sure about the other new shows..

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New School Year! (And by school, I mean TV)

I'm trying not to reflect too heavily on the sad realization that the new TV season is the most exciting thing going on in my life right now. Oh, I started writing a new book, too.

But back to the exciting stuff -- fall TV. Sure I have my summer reality TV favs that I indulge in like comfort food, sprinkled with some high quality cable dramas for flavour. But generally summer is a pretty bleak time for TV. Not that there's anything wrong with that; summer's for outdoor things.

But I do get embarrassingly and inappropriately excited when the new fall shows premiere and the new seasons for old shows start. Actually, I want to amend that statement. Really, my anxious anticipation is almost exclusively reserved for the new seasons of my old favs. I'm basically too lazy to try new shows when they start. The networks are so freakin' fickle that I don't see the point of making any kind of commitment or forming an attachment to a show, just to have it yanked off the schedule. Similarly, if a show becomes a hit, the networks generally repeat the first few episodes during one of their ever predictable breaks in the new programming.

So, what I'm looking forward to: Old shows...

Heros for sure. I finally saw the entire first season on DVD. This is one I didn't discover until it became a hit and never did see the first 7 or 8 episodes. I watched the entire thing over the past couple of weeks and noticed a lot of things I'd missed the first time around -- connections and details and emotional impacts I'd missed, since I hadn't seen it from the start. The premiere episode didn't disappoint. It answered a few of the cliffhanger questions (but not all) and asked a whole bunch of new ones. Looking forward to this show.

Prison Break. I am still a total sucker for this show, but if they don't get out of that Panamanian prison soon, they're likely losing me as a viewer.

Lost. Enough said.

The Office. Enough said.

Battlestar Galactica. But I still haven't seen season 3 and need to rent that first.

Dexter for sure. Can't wait until that starts again. This weekend!!!!

Friday Night Lights. I've only watched the first 4 or so episodes of last season but hoped to get caught up before the new season starts. I finally cried uncle and conceded that I should always trust Molly's judgement where TV goes, as I have found myself hooked on the quiet but compelling character driven drama of this show. Definitely my style of TV drama, in spite of the fact that the entire setting and centre of all the drama is based in a culture totally alien and bizarre and warped in my opinion. (Making celebrities out of young boys like that has so many things wrong with it in my mind I don't even want to get started. I've probably already offended all my small town American friends. Sorry.) But the show itself highlights the negative side of this kind of idolization of kids too young to know what to do with it. Never have I been more sure that Canadian Universities are right to prohibit sports scholarships then when watching this show. The lure of those scholarships and professional careers after college, puts pressure on these high school kids for all the wrong reasons. Surely there are better ways to get deserving kids who can't afford it into universities. (Sorry, getting off the digression soap box now.)

Ugly Betty. Another one I didn't start watching until the last season was almost over, but City TV here in Toronto repeated every episode over the summer so I'm all caught up. What fabulously fun characters, writing and acting on this show. I particularly love Mark and Amanda. I'm so impressed with how deliciously evil yet sympathetic these characters are. Not to mention hilarious. Both actors are so well cast it's crazy.

House... I think I'm over this show. Actually, the premiere episode is playing as I type this and I'm bored (hence my blogging.) I agree with Cuddy. He needs his team back. Who cares if his patient is dying. The audience is dying of boredom! Is the old cast really gone? I know they all quit but I assumed they'd include some plot contrivance to get them all back. Anyone know? Haven't been paying attention. Perhaps all the interesting storylines for those 3 characters had already been played out...

Grey's Anatomy. I'm still a sucker for these characters and the great writing on this show... But I am a bit over the Derek and Meredith soap opera. Time to bust those two up for good--or take the in an unexpected direction. And I'm worried this who will go down hill if Shandra puts all her efforts into the new show... (And as I said above, I refuse to get attached to it until it's proved to have legs. I watched the first season of Grey's Anatomy on DVD, too.)

On the reality TV front....

I'm starting to get over my serious love for the ANTM. Don't know if I'll be willing to give up the 40 or so minutes a week this fall to watch this season. I probably won't be able to resist the Survivor, though, in spite of my insistence every year since this show started that I won't watch it. Somehow, I always get hooked. Reality TV is the devil.

What's everyone else looking forward to?

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Writer Editor Relationship and BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

It's been such a crazy week - my son decided to not nap for about three days which sent me over the edge and kept me away from the computer for three days. We're back on track and I'm making up for it with what may be my shortest post ever but these two things are so great.

The first is a clip - with one take on the editor/author relationship (actually it's more like drunk writer talk. Maureen comes to us and says I want to write a really delicate story about a mother and a daughter and Sinead and I say "YOU NEED SHARK SEX!")

The second clip is for Sinead - who at last DWT - confessed a new love for Bruce Springsteen. I am stupid for the man. And this is a clip I think she will LOVE LOVE LOVE (it will appeal to her norweigan heritage). Amazing song -

Friday, September 21, 2007

Writers need to be selfish

Phew, it’s been a crazy day so the blog is late. But the subject matter is timely.

I’m a mom of two kids under two, so time, any time, to shower, dress, eat, is hard to come by. Finding writing time requires strategy, perserverance and occasionally outright bitchiness.

And I have to admit, with laundry piling in the corner, a bathroom that might soon be condemned, and toys scattered everywhere I sometimes have to shut my eyes as I fumble my way to the computer for what some days is no more than half an hour.

This blog isn’t a poor me, blog, promise, but I decided shortly after my first child came into the world that writing was necessary for my sanity and I would do whatever necessary to ensure I had the time.

So my husband does the cooking, our garden is a wasteland of brown grass and bare patches, and my house is a disaster and I’m okay with all of it.

Too often I speak with women(mothers are the worst for this) who give up all their free time, all of it. I know women who write in the wee hours of the morning, because that’s the only time they can find. They’re busy taking care of children, husbands, their parents.

I have a friend who does all the cooking and cleaning and childrearing because her husband gets grumpy when he has to help out. Needless to say, she has zero energy to write in the evenings.

Screw that! It’s time to be selfish. It doesn’t mean ignore your kids, but perhaps the laundry. It may mean hubby has to watch his favourite TV show by himself, or the kids have to do their own homework.

Start with carving out an hour a day. Protect it with the ferocity of a lioness guarding her cubs. That hour might extend into two, it may not, but at least we’ll have an hour.

Forget the 24 hour sacrifice for our families crap. Make it 23 hours, or less, if possible.

Hopefully it’ll be habit forming and if we’re really lucky, someone else will clean the bathroom.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Building to a climax

Get your mind out of the gutter. This is not a post about sex scenes!

It's about another kind of climax. We all know most successful commercial fiction builds to an exciting climax that keeps readers turning the pages more and more quickly. We writers do things like shortening the length of the chapters, scenes and even sentences later in the book to give the reader the illusion they're reading quickly and/or to help make sure they do.

One of the films I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival this year did an amazing job of this. And in a non-conventional way. (Readers of this blog know I'm a big fan on non-linear storytelling structures.)

Anyway... The film was Rendition, starring Reese Witherspoon, Peter Sarsgaard, Jake Gyllenhaal, with smaller parts played by Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin and others.

I recommend this film. I saw it early in the festival but it's one that resonated with me. It's about the policy of "extraordinary rendition" that's been used by the US and other countries since 9/11 to send terror suspects to countries where they can be held (and tortured) in secrecy and without right to counsel or without even being charged of a crime.

The film examines both sides of the policy as well as the efficacy of torture for gaining intelligence, and I thought it did a good job of both. (Or maybe just because I agreed with the conclusions I think the filmmaker reached.)

But the movie's content and message aside, as a writer, I was impressed by a little trick the writer played on the audience. And I don't want to post a big spoiler, but there are three main stories being played out throughout the movie and the climaxes of all three stories happen simultaneously with quick cuts between the action in each... The clever little trick (maybe McKee would call it a mind fuck?) was that the three stories weren't actually happening at the same time and the emotional impact, in my opinion, was increased when we as an audience realize this. Certainly the overall climax of the film was more exciting in that all 3 stories hit this point at once. If the writer/filmmaker had decided to tell this story in an entirely chronological manner, it wouldn't have been nearly so compelling.

On the other hand, I just finished reading a book (not going to tell you what it is, but it was a literary novel) that was told in letters. Actually, it was told almost wholly in a single letter that quoted other letters and conversations that had occurred years earlier. So, sometimes you're reading dialog originally quoted in a letter now being quoted within another letter. Confused? Well, I was at times. And I felt very detached from the characters and their stories.

So, the connection, if there is one, is that if you're not going to use a traditional linear storytelling structure, there'd better be a very good reason why it would work better in the more complicated way... IMHO it worked in Rendition.
I think it also worked in Sidney Lumet's new movie, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, (starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke), but it didn't work in that novel for me. The new Lumet movie was really good, too... Another one dealing with the slippery moral slope that one can descend once one takes the first step.
BTW. If you're interested in films... I've been blogging about the 40 films I saw at the TIFF at

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The difference between run of the mill and success.

Went to a great TRW workshop recently, about empowering character’s emotions by Margie Lawson. Really great, would definitely recommend her workshops to anyone out there.

One of the things that really struck me was her rule about clichés. Basically, don’t go there and if you must even approach one, turn it on its head.

Cliches are just lazy writing. This hit me like a ton of bricks(ha ha!) when Margie brought it up. She talked about clichés in the context of the actual writing, the words on the page.

But then it got me thinking about the clichés that exist in the subgenre of romance.
The Duke of Slut in the regency romance, and the bluestocking heroine. These are clichés, because they’ve been produced so often.
Same with the evil villain in romantic suspense. You know, the villain pov where he stalks a victim, and we as the reader get to see everything but his identity and perhaps real insight into his reasons why.
In paranormal Vampires are headed in the direction of clichéd.
And in chick lit, it’s the ditzy but sweet heroine who’s obsessed with shoes and shopping.

I see a cliché like the above and I’ll usually put the book down right away. But turn one of those clichés on their head, and I’ll sing the books praises.

Not to repeat, but JR Ward with her unique take on vampires and amazing world building, took her vampires way beyond cliché.

There’s a lot of speculation out there on what it takes to sell as a new author. The market is tight, lots of competition for fewer spots, but I think most editors would love to see a fresh take on an old cliché.

It’s not too big a risk for an editor, but still compelling to read, it feels fresh, but they know how to market the book.

Sounds easy. Sure, if you can come up with one. Me, I’m still trying..

Monday, September 10, 2007


Our critique group met last night and I thought it was a better than usual night mostly because something that has been floating around in my head was totally confirmed - for me and actually I think for Sinead.

Every book needs a sense of impending doom. It's not only the WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT question that keeps pages turning. The WHEN IS THIS ALL GOING TO FALL APART question that also works.

It is of course hingent on that thin thin line of dramatic irony. For this question to work the reader has to know or suspect something that the character doesn't....wait a second, that's not even true - that book that Maureen and Sinead love - Something Blue - that hinges TOTALLY on when is the shit going to hit the fan regarding this woman's affair with her best friend's fiancee? The main character knows the poop and fan are going to meet - she just keeps at it anyway -- But THAT creates a seriously thin line between I'm totally invested in this character's delimma and this character is a total idiot. I leaned toward the idiot - Sinead and Maureen went the other way. I totally digress - Maureen is at the film festival (feel free to curse her - Sinead and I are) so I am taking on her tangents.


I think most books benefit from a little of the when is this all going to fall apart dramatic tension. It's why romantic suspense writers use the villian POV, and it's working really well in that subgenre. But last night - my scenes were all working - lots conflict and tension but as Sinead pointed out - no doom. It's about getting the two questions working together - the what and when. As for Sinead I think I gave her bad critique months ago and said something along the lines of "if the reader already suspects - why drag it out?" Stupid me. Dragging it out for dramatic irony is the point.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

World Building – part deaux

Molly, speed reader that she is, already blogged about one of the best elements of the JR Ward book. Ward sets a tone, and keeps is really consistent throughout the entire book. It her world, and at no point does JR Ward deviate from it. It’s really effective and great to read. She doesn’t wimp out on her heroes. The book starts dark, violent and fast paced and ends that way.

World building is something every writer has to do. Ok, that’s a duh statement. But for a long time, I thought it was something only fantasy and paranormal writers had to do. Come up with new worlds, or new concepts, and while those writers have to explain their worlds more, every writer out there has to create their world.

We do it through tone, the details in how the characters see their surroundings, but also how they think of the people and things around them.
One of the movies that does this really well is the Departed. I know it’s set in Boston, and the city is well represented. The world in this movie is the two separate existences of the police, and the mob. The world the two main characters live in is tense, completely on the edge, where one bad lie could have really serious consequences. Everyone immersed in these worlds seem to exist on the edge, with hair trigger tempers and one foot in the grave.

Joss Whedon is someone who world builds brilliantly. Check out Serenity to fully understand how he can create a world that is completely unique, through dialogue, a ship that’s almost a character in its own right and again, tone.

Really great world building will pull me into a story, and keep me there long after the plot’s fallen to pieces and the characters have become cardboard. But usually the great world builders don’t fall prey to these problems.

Monday, September 03, 2007

World Building

I just finished the first JR Ward book and my husband and I rented Black Snake Moan (the movie with Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci set in the south - it was sort of mismanaged by marketing folk because it became known as the nympho chained to the radiator movie when it's really really so so so much more than that.) But the book and the movie built worlds so seamless and compelling that they became practically the main characters of the stories.

The movie worked mostly because the dialogue was unbelievably true - amazingly true and it only fueled my jealous rage over southern writers who are tapped into something I just can't even pretend to replicate. And Samuel L. Jackson while not my favorite actor delivered this performance like he was born in it. But the other reason it worked and it's the same reason the Ward books work so well - there's no telling. It's just questions. The writers barely stopped to explain anything - granted Ward cheated brilliantly with her glossary of terms. She didn't have to stop and figure out a moment where one character tells another character what the reader needs to know - she did it at the beginning. And frankly, considering the plot of that first book she could have done it - but the fact that she didn't makes me like those books even more. But in Black Snake Moan it really felt like the writer was saying - if you can't figure this out - don't watch the movie. Not that there was that much to figure out but still - it just flowed - everything happened in real time. So the world never broke.

The Ward series is amazing. She's got a knack for the small moments that show and don't tell. I thought she went a little overboard with her guy talk - but that's just me - and frankly it's her world. She gets to do whatever she wants with it.
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