Friday, October 27, 2006

NaNoWriMo Take 3

Next week kicks off NaNoWriMo. I'm sure if you are reading this you already know that because everyone who even remotely writes is talking about it. I'm nothing if not unoriginal.

This will be my third NaNoWriMo attempt. Yes, I'm going to give it a shot. And I'm firmly refusing to dwell on past failures. This is the year I succeed. Hang on while I have a Stuart Smalley moment...Okay, I'm back.

My problem isn't so much that I can't manage to write 50,000 words in a thirty-day period. I can do that, no problem, especially given that the whole point of NaNoWriMo is quantity over quality. The objective is to crank out the volume, put any old junk on paper as long as you get it done, the idea being that you can go back after it's all over and rewrite and revise and edit your little heart out at your leisure.

Nope, quantity isn't an issue with me. Both the past two years I'd cranked out a good 20,000 plus words before the end of the first week. I'm wordy. When you remove quality from the equation, I'm downright prolific.

My problem right now is deciding which of my half a dozen ideas I should use. I hate to waste a good idea, one that requires twice the word count goal of NaNo to come close to finishing. Sure, I could double my daily output goal and shoot for 100,000 words in a month instead of 50,000. But I'd really like to finish this time, and I'm thinking I can do this if I hold myself back.

I do have an idea or two that could be told in 50k words. Ideas that aren't epical or full of a cast of thousands looking to be part of a series. Ideas that don't require tons of world building and subsequent world explaining.

Problem with those ideas is that I haven't done much in the background department. My characters are kind of loose, not really pinned down as far as backstory. I love to know my characters, and at this point I have names but not a whole lot more. Maybe a handful of basic character traits and an idea of who loves who...

Too, my plot ideas are really more like generic situations I'd like to explore. The kind of "what if..." questions that most writers find popping up all over the place. I don't have any outlines. I only have a handful of scene ideas. Truly, this baby could potentially wander all over the planet, aimless and out of control.

Maybe this is the best way to start. Kind of cold, without the pressure of having to stick to a specific plan, worrying about quality even though you aren't supposed to. If I know up front that my characters are mysteries and my plot isn't set in stone, theoretically there should be no staring at a blank screen, wondering how to translate the images in my head to words on a page.

And I do have four days to do a bit of planning.

I'm getting excited. What a great feeling!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Motherhood Trumps Love

I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before – here or elsewhere – that I’m not a huge fan of romance stories that feature kids. At least not very young kids. I can buy into the divorced/widowed hero/heroine with older children, ones who are pretty much self-sufficient. But any romance that involves offspring who don’t carry a valid driver’s license are instant no-goes for me.

Because in my experience, motherhood always trumps love.

I watched a movie the other night – Beyond Borders, if you must know, and this post contains MAJOR SPOILERS – and as much as I really wanted the heroine (Angelina Jolie) to find happiness with her star crossed soul mate (Clive Owen, who, BTW, Oh. My. God!), I couldn’t let myself enjoy the story.

Because Angie baby had kids. She’d gotten married before she met Clive and she and her husband had a son. Later, after finally consummating her relationship with Clive, she has a daughter who we all can figure out is probably Clive’s child. Two kids. Neither one older than ten or eleven.

So when Angie learns that Clive has gone missing while do-gooding in Chechnya and determines to find him, I’m cringing. Because I know what might happen. And I know she knows what might happen but, blinded by love, is selfishly ignoring.

I’m cringing when she kisses her sleeping kiddies on the cheek and leaves them a “I’ll be home very soon” letter.

And I’m cringing when she’s getting shot at by Chechnyan guerillas.

And I’m nearly screaming in disgust when she steps on a landmine. I had predicted what could happen, and it did. She deluded herself into thinking it wouldn’t happen, but it did. Not to her. To her kids.

Because she has now left two small children without a mother. Half-orphans. And in my book, there’s no greater crime than abandoning kids that way. To intentionally put yourself in harm’s way, exposing yourself to possible death and knowing that you’d leave behind kids who still need you, is unforgivable. It’s selfishness, pure and simple.

I’m not a big fan of martyrs. And my heart just breaks when a mother has to choose between the well-being of her children and her own personal happiness (see Cast Away for the perfect example in Helen Hunt’s character). I find nothing more tragic than when a woman meets the man of her dreams after she’s already committed herself to a family. It’s so completely unfair that she would have to give up romantic fulfillment in order to take care of the kids she probably loves above anything else in the world. What an impossible choice. I felt for poor Anna Karenina. Until she threw herself under that train.

Too many kids don’t have loving mothers. I personally cannot imagine what my own growing up would have been like without my mother. In fact, at nearly middle-aged, I still think I’m too young to live without my mommy. The idea of my own kids growing up without me makes me kind of nauseous. Not that my husband isn’t fully qualified to raise kids on his own. I just hate the idea of my children having to cope with growing up without my love and support. Life is hard enough.

So I would never put myself in danger unless I felt it absolutely necessary to save their very lives or the life of another person. I certainly would never risk my life for my own happiness at the risk of their happiness.

As much as Angie loved Clive – and she did love him, deeply, passionately, completely – her running off and getting herself killed left me not with the feeling of how tragic her story was, but feeling horribly sorry for the son and daughter who now have no mother. Their pain even overshadowed the pain I felt for Clive, who watched the woman he loved die right in front of him. He’d made choices that put him in danger. Those kids were victims of their mother’s choices.

Yes, if she wouldn’t have gone to Chechnya, Clive would have died. And I would have cried for her loss. Instead I just feel resentment toward her on behalf of her kids.

Having kids means making sacrifices. Sometimes it’s tragic and sometimes it just sucks, but, hey, that’s the way it goes. Characters who ignore such a fact for selfish reasons - no matter how romantic or desperate - are unsympathetic to me. I simply cannot root for them to win, no matter how badly I wish they could make it all work.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bullet Update

Jack's bullet - remember that? Turns out he was shot by his father.

Who was attempting to save him from a grisly bear attack.

And was mauled by this bear during the attack and died as a result.

Leaving Jack with a bullet too close to his heart to remove, mourning the father who died trying to save him.

Have I mentioned how much I love this guy?

And it's not even the bullet that cinches it for me. It's the fact that Jack beat up his brother when his brother called Marin a "hot piece of ass".


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The De-Evolution of Wesley

Recall that I admitted that during my hiatus, I discovered Angel?

(BTW, to hold myself to my own vow, I'm admitting here that I've determined once I've seen all episodes one time, I'll stop TiVoing it every day. I'm half-way through Season 3, so only two and half seasons to go. I'm thinking of maybe Charmed as my next paranormal habit...)

Anyway, yeah, I got hooked on Angel because I've pretty much memorized all of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes but still thirsted for something - anything - taking place in the Buffyverse. I was hoping Angel would feed the need, which it has. But I've gotten something so completely better than more of sexy, brooding Angel.

I've discovered Wesley Wyndham-Pryce.

What an amazing character. From his first appearance in Season 3 Buffy, the man goes from bumbling, naive comic-relief cum accidental antagonist to one of the most tortured dark heroes I've ever seen portrayed on television. By the fifth season series finale of Angel, Wesley is almost, if not more, tortured than Angel himself, the vampire who spent a hundred and fifty years killing, raping and torturing humans only to be cursed with a soul and an eternity in which to feel the guilt. To become darker than Angel is a real accomplishment.

Not that Wesley didn't have reasons for all of his brooding angst. Let's see, he was rebuffed by the woman he loved when she began a romance with a work colleague, but not until after he'd tried to kill said lady-love when he was infected by a misogynistic rage demon. Then the poor bloke went on to kidnap Angel's son because he believed he was saving the tiny infant from being murdered by Angel himself. Unfortunately, the information he'd been fed leading him to believe the baby was in danger proved false, and none of his so called friends allowed him a chance to explain what he'd planned or how he'd been double crossed, instead choosing to villify him and send him into a spiraling depression, suffering from an almost debilitating guilt. He eventually climbed out of the dog house, earned the affection of his true love, only to suffer her death before the two of them could spend any time together. She died in his arms, terrified and in great pain, something I imagine to be beyond horrifying.

The man is cursed.

But he's absolutely fascinating! Never have I been told a story where the hero goes from good and decent and normal downward into darkness and dispair in such a way. Usually, when we meet a tormented hero, he's already dark and tortured. Something in his past - some events that occured off-screen - has already damaged him to such a degree that the story becomes about redemption. Can the heroine (or love, as the more generic case) bring this poor soul out of the darkness and into the light of a happily ever after?

In Wesley's case, we get the reverse. Losing both the love of the woman he wants and the love of his friends sends him falling into a despair from which he never fully recovers. Instead of love healing all, we witness the power of a lack of love to destroy all.

And a big round of applause to Alexis Denisof, the actor who did such an amazing job of taking Wesley from physical prat falls to get the laugh to sobbing as he watches the woman he loves suffer a horrible death, leaving us to wonder if suicide isn't far behind. He went from being nails-on-a-chalkboard annoying to a character I couldn't take my eyes off.

I'll admit I have the canny ability to justify pretty much anything, but I'll say I truly believe I've learned something by my little Angel addiction. I witnessed a character study unlike anything I've ever found.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Blue Hawaii

My current work-in-progress is set in Hawaii.

I've never been to Hawaii.

I've gone to the library and checked out a dozen books on Hawaii. I've wasted spent numerous hours minutes on the internet procrastinating researching different aspects about Hawaii, from how long it takes to fly there to the best surfing beaches on Maui and night clubs in Honolulu. I think I might even have mastered the way to pronounce words made out of 19 vowels and only 3 consonants.

I'm a firm believer that writers can write about places they've never actually visited. How else could you account for the gazillions of historical fiction stories out there? I'm fairly certain that no one has ever actually been to 12th century Scotland or Regency London. So a good imagination can certainly overcome limited travel experience.

Thing is, the devil is in the details. I could spend the next six months researching Hawaii, but there are tiny things I need to know that I will never find out without seeing the places with my own two eyes. I want my hero to enter a well-known museum, and I need to know where the ticket counter is, or if there even is a ticket counter, and what would he be able to see from the lobby or if there even is a lobby. Stuff like this.

And these details aren't just color. There's the stuff you need to know to place your story in reality and make the reader feel like she's actually where the hero and heroine are. Then there are details that are intrinsic to the story or plot itself.

If my hero is a cop and he sees a dead body tucked behind a small wall while he's still standing in the lobby of a well-known museum, I'd better be darned sure there is a lobby in said museum, much less know if any other part of the museum can be seen when standing in it, right?

Too, there is something about seeing things with your own two eyes. Flowery descriptives in books and even photographs can kind of give you an idea of what things look like, but until you've gotten the 3-D, smell the air, hear the waves on the surf experience, a Hawaiian beach could look just the same as a Virgin Island beach or a Riveria beach or a Florida beach.

So, I'm looking to go to Hawaii. I figure if I call it research and one day actually sell the story I'm working on, I could write the whole thing off as a business trip, right? Problem is, I can't go to Hawaii any time in the next...oh, say...ten months or more. Not to mention talking the hubby into the idea that Hawaii would be the perfect place to vacation (he's so not a beach bum type of vacationer) and coming up with the funds and what to do with the kids. Details.

Honestly, I'd love to go alone. Because when I'm in book researching mode, I become...well, let's just call it a little antisocial. I'm walking around lost in my own head. I want the freedom to explore some inane detail or non-touristed off-the-beaten-track place. If I want to spend three hours walking up and down the streets of Honolulu, taking pictures and notes of businesses and other everyday minutae, I certainly don't need a hubby and two kids wondering when we're going to go back to the beach.

But a trip to Hawaii - by myself - is not even close to a possibility any time in the forseeable future. Nor is a trip to the Middle East, the other location where some of my stories are set. That particular situation has a whole set of issues that are so far beyond my ability to solve, I'd be better off setting a story on the moon.

I'm going to have to find a way to make do, short of setting all my stories in Chicago or some place within a 50 mile radius. Any ideas?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

All Is Lost Without Hope

I'm a fan of Lost, from the beginning, but I'm going to admit that the writers are just about to lose me as a viewer.

It's not for the reason I think most Lost viewers might give up the ghost. Those of you who watch the show understand how infuriatingly frustrating the whole situation is. For every single answer we get from any given episode, ten more puzzles are introduced. Progress isn't made in leaps and bounds, or even baby steps, but more like millimeters.

Honestly, sometimes I truly believe if it weren't for Sawyer and Sayid (who, btw, hit a new level of hotness last night), I'd have been long gone.

But last night the story took a direction that has pushed things to a new plateau of frustration for me. They've entered into caged dog territory. Because from what we've been shown, there is pretty much no way the good guys (Kate, Jack, Sawyer, Sayid, etc.) can outwit and ultimately defeat the bad guys (the Others).

Now, I appreciate an underdog story as well as the next person. In fact, I really like underdog stories. But I have to have hope. I have to know in my heart of heart that no matter how dark things might get, ultimately the good guy at least has a chance to win. I'm not saying that he has to live HEA, get the girl, become rich and beautiful and tra la la through the daisy fields. Heck, the good guy might get killed in the end. And I'm actually okay with that.

If he's fought the good fight and had a fair enough chance to win.

But when the hero (or in this case, heroes) face obstacles at every turn, and there is no way for him, her or them to overcome their problems, I get frustrated. I feel helpless because I see these people as helpless. Nothing they can do will make a bit of difference, so why should I bother watching?

In the case of Lost, Kate, Sawyer and Jack are being held prisoner. They are in cages or enclosures that are unbreak-out-able. Cameras pick up their every move and spoken word. They are outnumbered by a substantial amount. They have no weapons, whereas their captors are armed to the teeth. And it seems that the Others are highly skilled in the games of mental torture. We have no idea what they want with our heroes, why they've captured them or what might happen to change things in any way, shape or form.

As it stands right now, it looks like Kate, Sawyer and Jack are pretty much goners.

I think this proves how critical hope is in a story. Even when the underdog is the most hopeless of creatures, I need to believe that there is a sliver of a chance that he can prevail. Heck, even Frodo had Sam.

The writers at Lost better keep feeding me Kate and Sawyer hits because I'm getting pretty frustrated, and right now they are the only thing to keep me coming back. Sure, I'm just dying to have answers to the 5,348 questions this stupid show has created. But I have no desire to watch my favorite characters bang their heads against a brick wall.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What Is It About a Bullet?

At the end of last week's episode of Men In Trees, they showed some highlights from this week's coming episode, as these shows usually do. In the preview, one of the characters - okay, my new boyfriend, Jack - has what seems to be an asthma attack and ends up in the hospital. While there, the doctor points to a small, solid object that shows up in the X-ray they've taken of Jack's lungs. Jack's friend-but-not-girlfriend Marin asks the concerned doctor what the object is.

Turns out, it's a bullet.

Now, I don't need any more reasons to find the character of Jack appealing. First of all, he's played by the incredibly sexy and gorgeous James Tupper. I could simply watch this guy mowing the lawn and be happy forever.

But it's not just James's hotness that I find appealing. The character of Jack is one of those monosyllabic woodsman types. He grunts more than he speaks and probably feels more comfortable in a room full of grisly bears than a room full of people. When he wants to avoid an uncomfortable situation, he disappears to go fly-fishing. He's a man's man, a stereotypical uncommunicative male who offers an almost insurmountable challenge in finding a way to open this guy up. What's not to love about that?

On his arm is a tattoo - LYNN it says - and even if my own name didn't happen to be Lynn, I'd still have to swoon. Because you just know this isn't the kind of guy to commit to a tattoo unless his feelings for this Lynn person ran incredibly deep. Which, we find out as the show progresses, they did, and you can see that he still stings from the damage Lynn inflicted when she left the picture. I just want to pull him close and offer tons of comfort. Jack is the kind of guy who doesn't fall in love easily, but when he does, you get the idea that he falls hard and forever.

Did I mention that he's great with animals? And wears these fabulous thick sweaters, and probably smells like wood smoke and other yummy things.

And now, there is a bullet.

I have no idea whatsoever what happened to him to put that bullet in his lung that way. I suppose I'll find out this Friday night, when I see the full episode. It could be something really stupid, but I'm hoping not. I only know that this bullet adds an edge to Jack. He's so quiet, you can't help but think he hides all kinds of secrets. And I personally find dangerous secrets to be my favorite kind.

So, I'm chalking myself into the freakishly weird category, since I find a guy with a bullet wound all the more appealing. In real life, I'd be horrified if someone I loved had even gotten shot at much less actually hit. In real life, there is nothing sexy at all about bullets or guns, for that matter. I'm firmly anti-gun. Heck, I don't even believe hunting is okay, despite the fact that it thins herds that would starve if left to fend for themselves in their ever-shrinking natural environment and I know a quick death by rifle is preferable to a slow starvation.

Much to ponder, this latest layer. Can't wait until Friday, though.

Jack has a bullet!

Monday, October 09, 2006


You know those montages they use in the movies? Snatches of scenes and moments, usually played against some mood or time-setting music that show anything from the boxer training his way back to heavy-weight champion-fighting capacity to the young couple just fallen in love as they ride horses along the beach and have pillow fights and gaze lovingly into each other's eyes over candlelight. Montages are a staple shortcut, letting viewers believe that a good amount of time has passed full of all sorts of activity without having to actually spend the money or manpower showing all of this activity. The poor man's way to show not tell.

The other morning I was lying in bed thinking about my current story when an honest to goodness montage flashed through my brain. I had images of my hero and heroine falling in love, set to music with glimpses of them engaged in various activities. I imagined that if my story were a movie, this montage would happen right after my couple had spent their first romantic night together, and I confess it contained a whole lot of cliche falling in love scenes.

And I had to stop and laugh because I realized that what I was thinking about was indeed a movie montage. Nothing more than a shortcut to get my hero and heroine from Point A to Point B without having to write a whole bunch of "showing" scenes. None of the things I was picturing held enough substance to create a real scene with conflict and/or character development, nor would it move the story forward in any real sense. The only purpose for such a montage was to indulge my desire to watch my hero and heroine being together and being in love.

I tried to reach into the montage to grab out some key elements, something that was unique to this couple or especially intriguing or funny or poignant. I don't have a problem writing a scene that is more character/relationship development than true plot movement. But nothing I'd imagined qualified.

Besides, even if I hadn't realized what I was creating in my brain was pure fluff, I would have no possible idea in the world how to turn something that 100% visual into the written word. No dialogue. Snatches of tiny scenes lasting only a few seconds. Heck, I'd need to find a way to have the music playing in the background while the reader read it if I had any hope of capturing the mood I wanted to evoke.

I've never had one of those montage moments before. Usually I come up with bits of a scene, or a line of dialogue, or a general feeling I want to capture at a particular moment. Often nothing fully formed, but never something so blatantly empty. I don't know if this means that I'm regressing or if I'm growing because I was able to see it for what it was. Or wasn't, as the case is.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Dipping Just a Toe

Part of my unintended hiatus from blogging included a break from blog reading. At first it started off as simply me just being away from my computer for a time as I was working on home improvement projects.

But as the time away stretched, I became overwhelmed with the amount of backlog I had created for myself. I have about two dozen or so blogs I visit regularly, and with each day that slipped by, I imagined I had two dozen entries more I hadn't read. The task of catching up became overwhelming, so I kept staying away. See the cycle that's looming?

Thing is, I sit down at my laptop with every intention to write. First, however, I need to check e-mails (naturally). Then it's a quick stop over at Television Without Pity to see if recaps of my favorite TV shows have gone live or if anyone has anything inciteful to say. Then I begin the round of blogs. I keep searching for more things to read. More things to keep me away from writing.

Next thing I know, my time is up and I need to go do some real-life task or another. I've wasted my precious free time with not much to show for it.

By not blogging I was also not blog-hopping. I'd like to say this freed up a bunch of time for writing, but it didn't. I've kept myself busy with other things.

Now, however, I'm back on the wagon so to speak. I've committed myself to blogging every week day to warm up my writing muscles. And I've begun to dip my toe back into the blogosphere. I've determined that I'm not going to read backlogs, however. I'll read as many entries as appear on a blog's first page, but I'm not scrolling back into the archives.

And I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't visit every single blog every single day. I have about five or so must-visits, but I refuse to feel bad if the others I hit every other or third day. I've broken the habit of that particular time-suck and I need to be strong against its allure.

Do you think it's human nature to lean towards addictive behaviour, or is it just something that's in me? Good thing I never really enjoyed the taste of alcohol or ever started smoking. I'd have been doomed.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

No Mistakes, No Story

Here's my set up.

Miss Kick-Ass Heroine is doing her job when she bumps into Mr. Exceptionally Competent Hero. Their jobs are similar although their goals happen to be at cross purposes. Great conflict just waiting to be exploited. Things looking good.

Except, both Kick-Ass and Exceptionally Competent need to change a bit in order to arrive at their HEA. Both need to gain some insight into how the other character has a point and that even though they've each been successful so far, sometimes it's necessary to try things a different way. In order to move these two kids in that direction, both characters need to make mistakes and learn from them.

Except, Kick-Ass and Exceptionally Competent don't make mistakes. They are achievers in their chosen fields, reknowned for their ability to get the job done. They are stubborn (yes, to a fault) but dang good at what they do.

If Kick-Ass makes a mistake, she topples into TSTL terrritory. This is unacceptable because she's made it this far because she's the complete opposite of TSTL.

If Exceptionally Competent makes a mistake, he comes across looking foolish. How has he become so well-known for his special skills and abilities if he makes such mistakes?

If either character falls down on the job, one has to wonder how he/she ever got this particular job in the first place.

So, what to do.

I'm not talking about characters here who have no flaws. On an emotional and personal level, Kick-Ass and Exceptionally Competent are fall down messes, a direct result of the fact that they've spent so much time becoming stellar at their jobs they've completely neglected the rest of their lives. The story explores how each character brings out those flaws in the other, and how recognizing those flaws makes them vulnerable and able to fall in love with each other.

But professionally, I'm still stuck.

My only hope is that I can somehow use the attraction Kick-Ass and Exceptionally Competent feel for each other as some kind of befuddling mechanism. Their normally cool professional responses get all mucked up because they've somehow let their personal selves come to the front.

This might work.

Blogging solves all sorts of tight jams, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pilot Pimping

A quick endorsement: If you are at all inclined to watch television, I highly - HIGHLY - recommend the new TV series Friday Night Lights. I watched the pilot this afternoon (TiVoed from last night, but the pilot is re-airing tonight) and was left pretty much speechless. Really. It's that good. Critics agree, so it's not just me.

The premise is kind of off-putting for a big-city non-jock like me. Adapted from the fictional movie which was an adaptation of a non-fictional book, FNL centers around a west Texas small-town high school football team. I'm so strongly against the glorification of youth sports that a show like this was predestined to turn me off. I watched it expecting it to be some kind of Dawson's Creek on astro-turf and thus I'd be able to cross it off as a possible Good Show for Procrastination Purposes. How totally wrong I was. Not a drop of over-wrought teenage angst in sight. Too, I can honestly tell you that even if you don't know how many points a touchdown is worth, you will still like show because the characters are what really makes it amazing.

I won't go into detail about why I loved this show. I'll just let it speak for itself.

Check it out. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sink or Swim

While I was gone, I got myself a teeny tiny part-time job. I'm talking teeny; six hours a week, two mornings. Small money, smaller stress. I'm hoping it helps me get myself into a steady weekly routine. But it does mean that my blogging might not happen until evening instead of mornings as I'd prefer. Already I've blown that whole routine objective.

So, last night I gave up all semblance of good sense and ventured out in a killer storm to see a movie. Me and the two other ladies in the theatre endured a one-minute power outage that happened about 20 minutes into the film, which earned us the reward of a free refund pass even though the inconvenience was pretty much zero. Sometimes, I guess, stupidity pays off.

And what, pray tell, would incite me to drive through pounding rain and risk lightning strikes? Kevin Costner, of course. And Ashton Kutcher. Maybe in reverse order, I haven't quite decided. I'm such a sucker for coming of age/mentor-mentee/training for the military flicks that I couldn't pass up The Guardian. Rain, schmain.

The movie was good. I'd even venture great, but I know I don't have a leg to stand on that claim. It's nothing that will haunt you by any means, but it certainly kept me entertained for two hours, as well as gave me a huge, healthy respect for the men and women who work as rescue swimmers for the U.S. Coast Guard. I took a scuba diving class in college, and many of the underwater training scenes brought back some pretty uncomfortable memories.

For those not in the know, the story revolves around gruff Ben Randall (Costner), a well-seasoned Coast Guard rescue swimmer who, after losing his entire crew in a horrible rescue-gone-wrong, is sent to train new recruits at the killer USCG "A School", where rescue swimmer wannabees earn their fins. As you would expect, he bumps heads with cocky super-star athlete swimmer Jake Fischer (Kutcher) who hides a past trauma that hits closer to home than Ben ever could have guessed. Your normal training montages and cliches follow, along with some pretty spectacular rescue scenes. Nothing you couldn't predict, but well done all the same.

Which is where I am today, sitting here with a big smile on my face. Because although most of the critics have panned The Guardian for being unoriginal at best and downright paint-by-numbers at worst, I liked it. Because it was done well.

For so long I've felt paralyzed by the idea that nothing - not a single one of my ideas - was truly original. That at every turn, I was bumping into something - plot, theme, character, concept - that I'd believed I'd come up with all on my own, that was something uniquely original to me yet clearly was not. At all. Mine alone, that is. And since everyone out there keeps holding aloft the High Concept novel as the end all be all way to get yourself published, I've felt more than a little dispair upon learning that, frankly, there actually is nothing new under the sun. I've believed I'm so totally screwed.

But watching The Guardian made me see something. Just because something isn't new doesn't mean it isn't worthy. Yes, many aspects of this movie were culled out of the greats like An Officer and a Gentleman and Top Gun. Heck, one doesn't even have to go back a full year to find a fairly similiar flick in Annapolis. (A little aside here to say that I found The Guardian far superior to Annapolis, so if you hated the latter, don't let it keep you from seeing the former. The similarities are thin.)

But I liked The Guardian. I didn't mind the cliches because they were done well. I liked the characters. I liked the plot. I thought the acting was good, the special effects outstanding, the accuracy sold well enough that I, as an ignorant civilian, bought what I was told. I was entertained.

And in the end, isn't this what counts? If a writer can take an old idea and present it well, give it good service and entertain those who look to be entertained, isn't that the ultimate goal?

I enjoy watching those coming of age/mentor-mentee/military training movies for a reason. I expect to see certain cliches, otherwise they don't qualify as coming of age/mentor-mentee/military training movies. When I see a movie trailer for the newest version of the old story, I get excited about it. Can't wait until it comes to the theatre (see the above about how I'll even risk killer storms if I'm highly motivated). I don't care if it's a story that's been done before. And before. And before that.

It's like ordering the same flavor of ice cream because it's your favorite. I love mint chocolate chip ice cream. If an ice cream store has it, that's what I'll choose. Now, some places do it better than others. Ben and Jerry's puts out my favorite - Mint Chocolate Chunk - and I really like Baskin Robbin's version. The local mom and pop ice cream shop in my town offers only a mediocre mint chocolate chip, so when I go there I tend to choose something else. It's always refreshing to go for the mocha almond fudge.

But in the end, I always return to mint chocolate chip. I don't mind that it's not high concept. As long as it's done well, I'm satisfied.

That's my new goal. I'm going to strop trying to be the most original person out there and focus on doing what I like very well.

I'm going to be the best mint chocolate chip ice cream cone in the world!

Yeah, over-enthused a bit much.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Back On the Blog

Haitus over.

Come to find out, blogging is kind of like some reverse addiction recovery program. Instead of pride when I say it's been nearly two months since I've last blogged, I'm ashamed to admit I've gone so long without a fix. Not to mention that I've messed up my perfect a-post-in-every-month archive over on the side.

Let's see, what have I accomplished in the last fifty-some-odd days?

Read a few good books. Tune in at some point and I'll give you my opinions on J.R. Ward's third installment of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Lover Awakened (awesome!!) and Suzanne Brockman's controversial (sort of) Into the Storm (close to awesome).

Became hooked on Angel. Just what I really didn't need, a show already in syndication that I could conceivably watch every day until the end of time.

Have discovered a handful of new TV shows that seem promising. Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip and Men In Trees are my new must-sees.

James Tupper is my current newest crush and forever boyfriend. Hands off.

I re-decorated two kids' bedrooms, complete with fancy painting schemes.

Got said kids back to school.

Over-committed myself as a volunteer at same school.

Have vowed to learn how to say "no".

And most importantly, I've learned that re-starting a good habit is as hard as giving up a bad one.

Hiatus over.