Monday, October 29, 2012

Review of Sinister

One of the things writers are often encouraged to do is to read other peoples books or go watch movies in the same genre you write in. The idea isn’t always just for inspiration, but also to recharge in a way. Sometimes you get inspiration anyways, and that is always a bonus.
With that in mind, I went to my local movie theater and sat down to watch the movie Sinister.
The good news is that I actually found the experience both useful and enlightening, and it gave me much to think about writing wise. The bad news is that it was mainly due to me sitting there recognizing one thing after another that the movie did wrong, or I would do differently.
Overall, the movie starts out with a solid premise. A crime writer moves into a house where a family was murdered years ago, as added inspiration for writing a book about the event. So far, so good…but almost immediately it falls foul of one of my axioms of good horror movies/writing. That axiom is “Everytime your story depends on your protagonist either acting a jerk or being an idiot in order for the situation to work, you weaken your story.”
And in Sinister’s case the first violation of that rule is the main character keeping it secret from his family that this is the house where the crime he was writing about happened. Yeah, okay. The reason given is his obsession with writing another bestseller since it’s been so long since the last one…but it just never felt convincing. Then, when he finds a mysterious box with a movie projector and films…and they turn out to be films of previous murders…does he turn this new evidence over to the police? Nope. He keeps them to himself for the same reason. Again, even an obsessed man would realize he wouldn’t be able to use it in his book because he would get busted right away. Not our boy. And of course, it’s never really dealt with.
Then, along with these actions which really sort of took me out of the movie, I got treated to a few scenes which have me considering a NEW axiom for supernatural horror movies. That tentative axiom goes “Ghosts and other supernatural manifestations should be witnessed by the audience along with the character.”
There were several scenes where the protagonist walks past a ghost without seeing it, or the audience being treated to an appearance of the ghost without the main characters knowledge. For some reason, the only effect of that to me was this feeling that the audience was being let it on something the character wasn’t aware of and it wasn’t very scary at all.
I kept thinking how they might be trying to imitate a scene like the one in Halloween where Nancy Loomis’s character walks past the French doors and the serial killer is standing in them, then turns around and walks past them again and now he’s gone. If so, then it’s a mistake because the context is different, meaning the scene can’t be that effective with a ghost. With a serial killer, you know he’s still there somewhere and wondering if he’s around every corner the potential victim turns. With a ghost, it just means it’s vanished.
To me, unwitnessed ghosts just don’t work.
Anyways, by now I supposed you can figure out that I’m not recommending this movie. Despite what should have been a good setup for a horror movie, it just wrecked itself in too many ways. It depended too much on the main character acting an idiot even when his kids are having problems, and the excuse for that idiocy just didn’t seem that convincing.
Two thumbs down, on Sinister.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Problem Child

Every author probably has one.

That manuscript that sits unfinished on the shelf. The one that gets pulled down time to time, and grumbles that he needs to finish what he started. The one that goes back up on the shelf as another idea which shows more promise of actually getting finished comes along. The one that soon finds itself labeled as "that project," whose sole purpose now seems to be something to grouse over between other projects.

The "problem child."

In my case, it's a project carrying the placeholder title of "Argiope," and now that I have finished "Dead Stop" it has inevitably returned itself to my attention. And since it is the last of my old projects, I guess it should.

It's the story of a man who recovers from a car accident with  moderately disabling injuries only to discover that his brother and family have disappeared on a family outing. Not long after launching a search with his own funds, his detective suddenly turns up dead and he is nearly killed himself in attack at his own swimming pool. Then things go from deadly to unbelievable when a woman shows up the hospital and shoots her way through an entire squad of police officers in an attempt to kill him. He also learns there are real monsters in the world.

I'm about 85,000 words into this story, but the original ending I had just didn't work and as I realized that the writing ground to a halt. I estimate this to be about a 135,000 word novel, so if I ever finish it would be my largest to date.

So once again, I'm going to try.

Since other writers will be doing Nanowrimo in November, I'll be doing my own version as well. I will dedicate November to the effort of trying to get Argiope closer to completion. No promises. No guarantees  Just the resolution to spend a month trying and seeing how it turns out. The idea is that by the end of the month I'll know I have something I can finish or something that needs to go back on the shelf.

This gives me three days to mentally prepare myself for this. That's actually an important part to writing sometimes. Sometimes it flows from the start...but sometimes it takes a little firm resolve and a vow or two. Or as my friend Lenka puts have to push off from shore.

I'll push off from shore with Argiope on Nov 1. Then I guess we'll see where we land.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Down Time

So after getting Shades out the door in February, and Dead Stop published in September, I had these grandiose plans of getting three novel sized projects finished in 2012. Visions of glorious productivity danced in my head. I was certain that words would continue to fly from my keyboard in a crescendo ending in a third project wrapping up at the end of December.

I don't think it's going to happen.

After a bunch of marketing in September, I found myself sort of just staring at the screen this month. I haven't even totally decided what my next project IS yet. Argiope? A sequel to Dead Stop? Another bunch of short stories? Nothing has really grabbed my muse yet and made her go "THERE! There is what we are going to do!"

So the wheels spin.

But I am at least thinking about it. I just haven't gotten anything yet good yet. I do sort of hold out for good these days.. It works better.

But that's my little update for now.