A tale of two movies

Motivated characters make for strong stories. A really good way to see this in action comes from two movies I just watched, Thor and Unstoppable.

Thor had a weak story mainly because the most interesting character was Loki. Loki had an axe to grind, something to prove. He was driven. Thor’s goal was, um, what? He wanted to be king. Instead, he got exiled for being dumb. Then his goal was to get back his hammer and go home. But failing to get his hammer, he goes off to do other things until a killer robot sent by Loki comes after him. Thor wasn’t driving the story, Loki was. Don’t get me started on Natalie Portman’s character. If she wasn’t standing around looking pretty, she was running over Thor in the vehicle she obviously wasn’t capable of driving. She could’ve been a strong character, but when rescuing Thor from Shield is called for, it’s the man in her group that does it, not her.

By contrast, Unstoppable had the main characters actually doing something to drive their own story. Two men are off on a routine day of work when their lives collide with a runaway train. They make conscious choices to sacrifice themselves and go after it. With characters like that, Unstoppable suits its name. The female character we see most of is fighting like crazy from a distance to limit damage and help our heroes stop the train; very active and strong. Every character in the story had a goal they pursued and as a result, the story engine ran to the end.

Having trouble with your story? Look for the goals. What does your character want? Every character in the story should want something and succeed or fail in getting it. It’s summed up in the best story advice I’ve ever come across: “Your protagonist should protag.”

Bananas are dangerous

The sequence of events:

Friday a.m.

Me: What do you want for your snack?

Child: A banana.

Me: *insert banana into backpack*

Friday p.m.

Papers sorted from backpack. Did not search for rogue banana, because why would I?


backpack lurked by door


backpack lurked by door

Monday a.m.

Me: What do you want for your snack?

Child: Cheddar bunnies.

Me: *insert package of Annie’s Cheddar bunnies into backpack*

Monday p.m.

Child: *sob sob* There was a banana at the bottom of my backpack and it mooshed all over everything!

Me:…The banana you asked for? On Friday?

In conclusion: Bananas are dangerous. Or possibly, when your child makes a healthy snack choice, it’s just a way of getting out the house where she can try to score Cheetohs.

5 Tuesday Things

Why yes, another 5 things post. Because yesterday was 17 hours of child care (thank you, growth spurt!) and I’m a zombie.

1. Via Kris Reisz, possibly the coolest hallucination made reality I’ve ever seen or heard of. And now there’s a new destination on my travel wish list.

2. Via PBW, who is your go-to author for soul balm? I am still pondering this. Terry Pratchett, PG Wodehouse, Lois McMaster Bujold, probably. Mostly it just makes me aware that I want to write soul balm, but that’s a tall order.

3. I’m amazed at how many of you think I should be in journalism, and not the tabloid variety, either.

4. I’m still working out my writing schedule. See 17 hours of child care above. There are times when a day isn’t shorter but is less demanding, so I’m trying to figure out the balance.

5. Enjoying this end of summer burst of sunshine and beautiful weather. The winter wet will begin soon enough.

Would I hire me?

There’s this current debacle going on at home involving us and
the hospital
and the
insurance company
. The insurance company, after happily processing all submitted bills related to maternity care, suddenly, when faced with The Whopper (i.e. hospitalization and the actual delivery and birth) said, “hold on, we think this is pre-existing. If it’s pre-existing, we don’t have to pay.” And we looked at the portion they said we’d have to pay and I had to put my head between my knees and breathe into a paper bag. There have been phone calls to the insurance company and to the hospital and conference calls and more breathing into paper bags, and looking at the Unpaid Total and wanting to weep.

And so in despair I flipped open
the local newspaper
to the classifieds and saw, lit with a celestial glow, an ad for…A WRITER. Full time. With benefits. Hello. I’m a writer. Okay, my last journalism experience happened in high school and they probably would want me to report on the Wooden Boat Festival without adding colorful alien invasions or Bigfoot sightings to make things more interesting. But it’s an actual job I’m almost sort of qualified for. With benefits. As long as hard-hitting journalism consisting of “why does the border patrol care about the Port Angeles Farmer’s Market? Obama loves organic vegetables,”doesn’t make the editor weep and say I’m not supposed to be writing opinion pieces. Or fiction.

See, as soon as I thought about it, I thought about how I would actually do this job, and really, I had to ask: would I hire me? Because these are the things I think about the local news: that sea lion on Highway 101, was it drunk at the time it decided to go for a walk and then resist arrest? The salal harvest permit number, was it arrived at after taking environmental impact factors into consideration, and by that I mean, the possibility of loss of habitat for Bigfoot resulting in more Jefferson County Bigfoot sightings?

Honestly, I’m not sure I’d hire me. But I’m really entertaining myself thinking about what I could bring to local journalism.

Back to school, back to the books!

Today was a landmark day; we dropped off two kids for school. This means my days from approximately 8-3 are for working, alongside baby tending. Yay!

So it’s back to the books for me. My to do list triage started yesterday. I had wanted to finish several things before going off to maternity leave but due to complications it didn’t happen. My plan: writing in the mornings and editing/business stuff in the afternoons. I have multiple projects in various stages of completion and now it is time to start completing.