The Muse

So, about a year ago my muse and I had a falling out.  Harsh words were spoken, bags were hurriedly packed and then poof, she* was gone.  Oh, I figured she would return just as quick, ready to pick right back up.  I was, however, completely and utterly wrong.  The longer we were apart, the less frequently I thought of her, until, eventually I began to doubt that she had existed at all.  Discouraged, I cast the remnants that she had left behind into a drawer, ostensibly to never see the light of day again.

So, it was with some amazement that forces perhaps both natural and un-natural worked in harmony to align the planets and grant me another chance.  Out of the blue, I get a text from her, says she’s been bored without a writer to kick around.  That may sound inauspicious to you, but to me it sounded like just what I needed to hear.  So, while the separation was a bit abrupt, the return will be handled with more care.  Unpack one bag, see how it goes.

*in the classical sense, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne – I’m not trying to be sexist here

Zombies: a series – Countdown

In 2 months, 4 days and 12 hours, the dead will walk… onto your TV screen!

Premiering on Halloween night, AMC TV’s presentation of “The Walking Dead“, which long-time readers may remember is my favorite zombie book, has all of the makings of becoming my favorite visual zombie experience as well.  Veteran (and venerable) screenwriter and director Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) is at the helm and the writer for the graphic novels, Robert Kirkman, is heavily involved.

A trailer was premiered last month that the San Diego Comic-Con and the official AMC website has some other great behind the scenes video clips, including a time-lapse of a three and a half hour makeup and prosthetic appliance session shown at sixty times normal speed.  Darabont is well-known for his attention to detail, so I have no doubt that he has gathered a crack team of special effects wizards to bring this story of the limits of human survival to life.

I look forward to re-reading the books, while I wait for this highly anticipated event and I hope the kids that come to the door looking for treats on Halloween night appreciate my homage.

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Zombies: a series – Zombie Humor

No, this post isn’t about shuffling dead taking center stage at the local pub’s open mic night.  Rather, if you like your zombies mixed with a little bit (or a lot) of humor, then the recent  Zombieland and the venerable Shaun of the Dead have to be on the ticket (or at least in your Netflix queue).

Released in 2004, Shaun of the Dead follows a group of regular folks that find themselves in the early stages of a zombie uprising in London.  The horror and gore aspects of the film are downplayed and the humor is heightened by way of its subtlety.  The story builds consistently to its climax, deftly resolving into a humorous postscript.

Released in 2009, Zombieland is a big budget film that follows several loners as they come together during the advanced stages of a worldwide zombie apocalypse.  The horror and gore aspects of the film are over the top and the humor is often times a bit heavy handed.  The story builds chaotically at times and, as is often the case with today’s big budget films, paves the way for a sequel.

For Shaun of the Dead, the zombies are wielded as both metaphor and antagonist, with parallels drawn between the main characters’ lives and the devolving scene around them.

For Zombieland, the zombies are front and centerpiece to the action with great special effects and lots of splatter.
As two sides of the zombie humor coin, both films ably walk the line between horror and comedy.  While I certainly prefer the style of Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland is entertaining as well.

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On The Subject Of: Crafting a good opening

As part of our ongoing thematic initiative, for the next two weeks the blog posts will discuss the topic of “crafting a good opening”.  After that we want to pull in another one-word exercise set, so we need some more word ideas from you, our fearless readers.  Post your word suggestions as comments on any of the blog entries this week or next and we’ll choose one of them upon which to spin.

Now, on to the meat of the matter!

By opening, we are not just talking about an opening line, but rather the initial elements that the writer puts forth to draw the reader in (or viewer as is the case with screenplays).  By all accounts, for a full length screenplay, the writer has just 10 pages (which equates to approximately 10 minutes of screen time) to hook the reader and be deemed worthy of further consideration.  Fail that first test and the screenplay hits the rubbish bin.  By necessity, the shorter the piece, the shorter amount of time the writer has to make their mark.

We also chose the word “crafting” deliberately.  For this writer, engaging openings do not fall out of my brain fully formed and ready to take on all challengers.  For short stories and the like, I definitely spend a majority of my rework time in the first two paragraphs, tweaking, poking, prodding, kneading the words into something onto which I hope the reader will grab.

One of my favorite openings is from one of my favorite movies of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Within a few minutes we are introduced to the main character in his preferred element and given insight into many of the qualities that will serve him well in the story to come: resourcefulness, self-reliance, multi-discipline expertise, quick thinking and, oh yeah, a fear of snakes.  Given that Raiders was a modern take on the action serials of a generation before, it’s no surprise that thrills are abundant immediately, but that we also get a healthy dose of character exposition at the same time shows the craftsman at work.

creative writing exercise – gasket

A 1973 photograph of the Sun from Skylab, show...

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We sat in rapt attention as the lead scientist continued his demonstration.

“At just two millimeters in thickness, the Burgenstar gasket represents the current state of the art in the prevention of dispersed-by-air particles from being transferred across a barrier in either direction.  In short, we can’t smell them, which has a positive effect on our quality of life, and they can’t smell us, which has an extremely positive effect on life itself.”

A slender hand shot up from someone seated a few rows ahead of me and to the left, amidst the group from the New Era Examiner, my news agency’s primary rival.  After being acknowledged, the hand’s owner stood to ask her question.

“Some have argued that the specimens should just be exterminated or at the very least be placed under more secure conditions.  How would you respond to that, sir?”

Certainly one of the questions that was on everyone’s mind so it was no surprise that it was going to be asked by someone here today.  I was just glad that I didn’t have to burn my one chance with that one, given that my agency, the Changing Times was typically known for much less mainstream statements.

“Well, we of the scientific community feel that extermination is out of the question, since there is still much that can be learned by examination of the specimens.  As for moving them to a more secure facility, that is more in the realm of politicians and, of course, the commerce sector which has built up around the display of the specimens to the curious public.”

No news there, these guys were rolling out the accepted answers.

Over the next half hour we engaged in round after round of dodge and weave as questions were met with the expected, status quo answers.  I had been able to work in a question about the little known effects of solar flares which formed the basis for my current assignment.  The lead scientist took extra time in answering me, latching on to the fact that it apparently didn’t have anything to do with the specimens at all and was therefore a welcome diversion.

Hah, I guess he didn’t realize that I worked for the Changing Times.  I’m sure he cringed and took some heat when my headline ran the next day: “Increase in Burgenstar Failures – Solar Flares May Be to Blame”.  I’m sure he would have rather I stuck to questions about the Earth specimens instead.

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