Posts Tagged ‘#writing’

Every writer has likely asked him or herself what they should write about next. Early writers of modern fiction had a much broader realm of uncharted subject matter and unexplored topics. By contrast, it can seem near impossible to think of a story idea that has not been done before at this point in the world’s literary evolution. It is the writer’s responsibility to both themselves and their readers to tell their story in the most entertaining style while staying true to their own writer’s voice. So let us say that a writer has made the conscious decision to create another novel, screenplay, stage play, short story, poem, etc… Where do they start to look for ideas? And perhaps more importantly, to whom do they strive to appeal?

Several tools are available to aspiring writers, musicians, and filmmakers to give them insight as to what subjects are trending or what the most popular internet search terms are. These tools include the wide spanning Google Analytics ( http://www.google.com/analytics/ ) and many blog sites and social media sites also offer a more limited insight into the same trends on their own respective sites. This can be seen in the freshly pressed section of WordPress or the worldwide trend section on Twitter. So should writers feel obligated to appeal to readers by writing a book on “#NOCHILLPHILLIPINES” (whatever that means) or should they be more inclined to indulge their own selfish desires?

Anyone who has had the luxury (or misfortune, depending on the professor) of attending a college level psychology class is likely familiar with Sigmund Freud and his school of thought. Freud theorized that every person was composed of a selfish inner component known as the ‘Id’, a reasonable idea of self known as the ‘ego’, and an ideal sense of self known as the ‘super ego’ that takes societal expectations and things like religion into consideration. The selfishness represented by the Id is a gnawing feeling that many writers have learned to either embrace or to consciously avoid. This constant battle between writing something that is socially relevant and marketable and writing something that they actually want to write can be frustrating for a writer.

In the case of choosing subject matter, an author may want to consider what is popular if they want to sell more copies of their work or be seen as more marketable by the companies to which they pitch to. But one thing that a writer should NEVER do is write something that they are not interested in writing. It troubles me to think of how many would be writers wrote a ‘supernatural romance’ to ride the Twilight coat tails just to try to exploit that segment of the fiction market. Don’t get me wrong here; if they genuinely wanted to write a story in that genre then more power to them. The truth is that the reader will know if the author’s heart was in their work and if it isn’t, the reader will be very reluctant to commit to reading the author’s future work.

With all that being said, I’m off to write my new novel, NOCHILLPHILLIPINES: a Vampire Love Story.

Until next time!

Image result for harvester combine

Like many things in life, the first piece of creative work that a writer produces will always hold a special place in their heart. Sure, there were countless short stories, poems, and ditties that preceded it, but Red Reaper, Burn was my first serious piece of work; I think that it holds up well and may very well be the first spec script that I sell. It was the hardest one for me to pull together and I think that the amount of effort I put into it shines through on every page.

The story originated from a very lucid dream that I had years ago; a seemingly ancient black farmer talking in a sincere and patriarchal tone about “sustaining the farm land that sustains the very life of the family”.  After months of grueling research I had the bones of the story: an epic about generations of an African American farming family that must fulfill a dark and terrible commitment to the farm that they call home. The research took me to subjects that I had little to no familiarity with, these included the world of professional baseball (which I have been disconnected with since my childhood) and the economics of the Tuskegee land grants in Macon County Alabama.

 I thought I would share the logline and the beginning of the summary with you all. I hope that you enjoy, while simultaneously remembering that sometimes the best stories do not come easily and can reveal themselves in the least expected places: a dream, a memory, or a look from a stranger in the grocery store that lasts for just one beat too long.

 

Logline

After suffering a devastating injury, a star athlete returns to his family’s farm only to find terrible memories and ghostly apparitions that suggest that something dark has overtaken the innocent place he remembers from his youth.

Beginning of Summary

Lawrence Prichard is a star baseball player with a beautiful wife and a 12 year old son that is full of potential. Things are going great for the Prichard family and Lawrence is at the top of his game in all aspects of life. That is until a wild throw lands him in the hospital with severe head trauma. Their lives are devastated; Lawrence, normally the rock-solid foundation of the family struggles to regain his composure especially after seeing visions of his father’s gruesome death in the jaws of a harvester combine known as the Red Reaper. Lawrence’s dreams continue, causing him trouble in discerning reality from his nightmarish visions. When his physician refuses to clear him to play baseball, Lawrence decides that he and his family must return to the farm he was raised on to recover from his injury while trying to come to terms with his father’s tragic death.

Essay on King Lear

Posted: May 17, 2013 in NEW
Tags: , ,

Hey everyone,

Sorry for the long time between posts, I have been pretty swamped with a few things. I noticed that I have gotten a lot of views on my post about Shakespeare’s use of catharsis. I have decided to post an essay I wrote a while back on King Lear…

For those of you that follow my blog for the horror content, I apologize, but if you give it a look you may be surprised! I mean they rip a guys eyeballs out while he’s still alive! And people thought Saw and Hostile were original….meeeh

–JIm

The Ties that Bind and the Ones that Cause Pain:

King Lear by William Shakespeare is a tragic tale of betrayal, regret, and personal torment. The title character of the play is an aged king who gives away his kingdom and power to his two disloyal daughters, Goneril and Regan, who deceive Lear with fallacious statements of love and devotion.  Cordelia would not participate in this masquerade of false homages and in his rage King Lear banishes the only daughter who truly cares for him. In a series of complex plays for power, family betrayals, and human cruelty Lear must fight to keep his own sanity while everything he has ever known is taken away from him. In the tragic tale of King Lear Shakespeare tries to demonstrate that the people that one cherishes can cause them the most pain and that all the power in the world cannot save them from the grip of human cruelty.

Lear is portrayed as a strong and callous ruler in the opening scene of the play. The King seems to be uncompromising and when he talks people seem to listen. The gathering that Lear calls for his daughters and their suitors is a blatant competition. Lear, who seems to love all three of his daughters has a special place in his heart for Cordelia, the youngest and fairest. At this meeting Lear declares that they all proclaim their love for him, “which of you shall say we say doth love us most?” (Act I, Scene 1, 53). Goneril and Regan both claim that their love for him is vast and Lear gladly accepts their favors and grants them each a third of his kingdom. When it comes time for Cordelia to answer she replies, “unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love your majesty according to my bond; no more nor less” (Scene I, Act 2, 94-96). Outraged he banishes her and she leaves with the King of France, who she has been promised to.  Upon Cordelia’s banishment the remaining two sisters begin to connive and plot against their father, they think his age is causing him to deteriorate and that, “they must do something, and i’ the heat,” (Act I, Scene 1, 312) to ensure that his failing judgment will not affect them, directly.

The major subplot in King Lear also pertains to the love and the potential of betrayal that family has on an individual. The Earl of Gloucester is similarly deceived by his bastard son, Edmund. Edmund cleverly stashes a letter in his pocket upon the entrance of his father knowing that his father would demand to see it. The letter has been fabricated to appear as if it came from Edgar, Gloucester’s legitimate son. The letter’s content is of scandal and betrayal against him, “O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter! Abhorred villain!” (Act I, Scene 2, 79-80). Edmund then guilefully plays the other side of the conflict to Edgar, “Brother, I advise you to the best; go armed. I am no honest man if there be any good meaning towards you. I have told you what I have seen and heard; but faintly, nothing like the image and horror of it. Pray you, away,” (Act I, Scene 2, 188-192). The ball is in motion, Edmund’s play for power is pitting his father, the Earl of Gloucester against Edgar, his legitimate heir.

As the story unfolds in both the main plot line and the biggest subplot the idea of betrayal and the exploitation of family trust is truly taken to the next level. Lear, now retired from his kingly duties takes his entourage of one hundred men and his beloved fool to stay in the homestead of Goneril and her husband, the Duke of Albany. Goneril turns on him quickly and demands that he and his men leave, “you strike my people, and your disorder’d rabble make servants of their betters,” (Act I, Scene 3, 276-277). Lear is devastated that his own flesh and blood would turn on him so easily, “I am ashamed that thou hast power to shake my manhood thus; that these hot tears which break from me perforce, should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee,” (Act 1, Scene 4, 316-322). Lear flees to Regan’s home in the castle of the Duke of Cornwall, after telling Regan of her sister’s terrible treatment of him she replies, “I pray you, father, being weak, seem so. If till the expiration of your month, you will return and sojourn with my sister, dismissing half your train, come then to me,” (Act II, Scene 3, 204-207). Lear cannot believe his ears, both of his remaining daughters have turned against him and seek to shame him and strip away what little power he has left. It is at this point that King Lear begins his terrible descent into madness and takes to a life of vagrancy that is at least free from the hatred of his heathen daughters. Seeking shelter from a terrible storm, a storm that in many ways mimics the turmoil in his own head, Lear and his party stumble across Edgar in the guise of a beggar named Poor Tom.

Edgar has taken such a clever disguise that his own father, the Earl of Gloucester does not recognize him as he says, “our flesh and blood has grown vile, my lord, that it doth hate what gets it,” (Act III, Scene 4, 149-151).When Gloucester comes to rescue Lear from the cold he shows his true loyalty, “Though their injunction be to bar my doors, and let this tyrannous night take hold upon you, yet I have ventured to seek you out, and bring you where both fire and food is ready,” (Act III, Scene 4, 154-159). The saying that no good deed goes unpunished certainly holds true for the ill-fated Gloucester, The Earl of Cornwall, under the guidance of Regan and Goneril brutally rips the eyes from Gloucester’s head. Edgar acts as a contrast to the two villainous sisters and his nobility mirrors that of Cordelia who despite her father’s cruel words never stopped loving him. When Edgar sees his blinded father being led through the street by an old man, he insists that he be his new guide. This show of love and support to Gloucester, who had wrongfully shunned him is something that really reveals his noble character while at the same time making Edmund appear to be viler in comparison.

Edgar is not the only cast out child to make amends with their father, Cordelia arrives in England to stop what her sisters are doing. After finding Lear in bad shape upon her arrival Cordelia pleads, “O my dear father! Restoration hang thy medicine on my lips and let this kiss repair those violent harms that my two sisters have in thy reference made!” (Act IV, Scene 7, 24-27).  Lear knows that he has wronged her and tries to make amends with, “You must bear with me. Pray you now, forget and forgive. I am old and foolish,” (Act IV, Scene 7, 84-86). In the play’s final scenes Goneril and Regan bicker about who Edmund, Gloucester’s illegitimate son really is in love with as he has been forming a relationship with both women in his play for power. Goneril poisons Regan and then takes her own life, yet another example of close loved ones having the ability to connive and harm with reckless abandon. Edmund orders Cordelia to a quick execution and Lear, now completely mad with sorrow dies next to her lifeless body. The deposed king dies broken hearted at the feet of the men that stand to inherit England and lead it into a new generation.

The resolution and intertwining of both story arcs provides huge implications on the root of family loyalties, personal honor, and the fate of the entire country of England. In the plays original Quarto version it had an additional scene that made the character of the Duke of Albany more of a major character, in the Folio version more emphasis is placed on Edgar and the young generation of leadership that he represents (Carson).  The very portrayal of the madness of King Lear is an interesting and profound achievement for Shakespeare according to Mike Ellison in his article, Literary Analysis Comes to Lear. Ellison states that, “having got more and more deeply into Shakespeare, it is becoming clear that he had a lot of knowledge of what goes on in human nature and how to use that knowledge therapeutically”. The madness of Lear could have been said to be the cause of his daughter’s betraying him, and the need for parental love could be said to have brought Cordelia back to rescue her father.

In conclusion William Shakespeare’s King Lear is a tragic tale of one man’s battle with betrayal and his own sanity. A recurring and powerful theme of the story is that anyone is capable of cruelty and when the cruelty comes from the hands of a loved one it is all the more painful. King Lear’s daughters were so hungry for power that they would strip the old king of what little he had left and Edmund was so jealous and callous that he would start the chain of events that would find his father blinded and dishonored. Shakespeare successfully demonstrates that the people that Lear cherished the most caused him the most pain and that all the power that he had possessed could not save him from the betrayal and wickedness of his own flesh and blood.

Works Cited

Carson, Christie. “The Quarto of King Lear.” Expert Views on the Quarto of King Lear. British                                                                            Library, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2013. <http://www.bl.uk/treasures/shakespeare/lear.html&gt;.

Ellison, Mike. “Literary Analysis Comes to Lear.” The Guardian (pre-1997 Fulltext): Jun 18   1994. ProQuest. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. EPub.

Shakespeare, WIlliam. “King Lear.” Great Books of the Western World Vol. 27. Ed. William G.         Clark and William A. Wright. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952. 244-283. Print.

As I was re-writing one of my earlier screenplays this last week I came to a point that I wanted my main protagonist to have wicked inner tension. The type of internal conflict that a person can only have if they are making a decision that can completely change or in some cases even end their life. I thought to myself, “how can I get the maximum effect while still maintaining the absolute present tense in my script and keeping the whole thing fast paced and linear?”

I sat back in my chair for a moment and contemplated picking up one of the Walking Dead trade paper backs that I have been meaning to read, but I knew that was just the ever present and incredibly evil goblin of an entity that we writers have come to know as distraction. I decided to go get a drink of water instead and as I passed my movie collection my eyes were drawn to the cult classic (and one of my personal favorites), Fight Club.  I know how Tyler Durden creates tension in films; he splices single frames of pornography in them! With the thought of single frame usage my mind was immediately transported to the DVD release of the 1973 horror masterpiece, The Exorcist. The single frame inserts (in hindsight they may have been 2 or 3 frames) of Captain Howdy’s face against a black backdrop were pretty damn scary, mostly because they broke up the linear aspect of the story for an instant and gave our sub-conscious’ something to chew on for the whole rest of the movie! I remember thinking of that creepy bastards face more than the reverse crab walking Regan after I left the theater.

This technique has been employed in several other films with great success and can also help show the thoughts and inner workings of characters, which is normally taboo in the concise format of the traditional screenplay. The way I chose to employ these QUICK FLASHES in my script were slightly reminiscent of Arnold’s ride with Simon, the used car sales men in True Lies. As Simon talks about how hot Arnold’s wife is (and how dickless he is) the writer uses classic physical indications to show Arnold’s growing rage, such as the narrowing eyes, tensing of the muscles, and the white knuckled grip on the steering wheel.  None of these physical actions could portray his anger as well as the three second clip of Arnold killing the man in one punch, causing his bloody head to dangle lifelessly in the back corner of the convertible… Classic.

Consider the myriad of ancient tales where archetypal heroes slay dragons and the princess’ meet their own personal Prince Charming. Many classic stories seem to have consistent themes of overcoming adversity, alleviating tension, and decreasing conflict. The end? Well, riding off into the sunset of course, good guy gets the girl, bad guys are defeated, happily ever after. I know there are notable exceptions in classic literature such as the tragic heroes of Euripides and Shakespeare, or even the doomed protagonists in works by Victor Hugo. I believe most people want to be involved in a story that takes them through the highs and lows of a character’s plight and is neatly resolved with a happy ending that ties up all of the sub-plots and leaves no loose ends. As some of you may be thinking this is not the case in many of the most popular T.V. shows, works of literature, and modern films.

I don’t necessarily think that people have grown tired of the classic “good guys win” story line, but I do think that they have come to expect it. Doesn’t it add more tension to the viewing/reading experience if we don’t know what terrible fate may be in store for our hero? I would say yes, and isn’t creating tension what story telling is all about? Again yes! Long story short, it is tension that keeps viewers/readers coming back for more. Soap Operas utilize this, which is why everyone sleeps with everyone else, men fight, women connive, and of course the frequent and unfortunate cases of complete amnesia.

TENSION. TENSION. TENSION.

A new trend in modern story telling has been breaking all of the classic rules. No one is safe anymore. Kill a main character? You bet. What better way to add tension than to make people question everything. Some of the hottest shows on T.V. are banking on this week after week! The Walking Dead for one has shown that they are not afraid of killing main characters, so much so that every week viewers are crossing their fingers in hopes that their favorite character will not be devoured by zombies or shot by some rival group of survivors. Every time a character is faced with any form of danger it could be the end of them. This is true for the cast as well from what I hear, all of them are terrified of getting the “you’re gonna’ die this week” phone call. George R.R. Martin is doing the same thing in his bestselling fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which in turn translates to the Game of Thrones HBO series. Having a seemingly revolving cast can be seen as detrimental to the opportunity for in depth character development, but when executed properly it can also work to humanize and quickly develop the surviving characters.


This video is of an interview with fantasy writer, Neil Gaiman. Neil looks at some of the tough questions that beginning writers often find themselves asking. How does one become a writer? According to Neil, they must simply write! Getting words on the page is the absolute most important aspect of writing, someone could have the best outline ever or have an award winning story jotted on note cards and scattered around the office. Words on the page is king! Mr. Gaiman also recommends reading outside of your genre and keeping your eyes open to inspiration in all forms.
The quote that summarizes the interview in my opinion is paramount to creation:
“if you only write when you are inspired you may become a great poet, but you will never write a novel.”
–Neil Gaiman

Enjoy everyone,
Jim