Archive for June, 2013

Okay. If you’ve been blogging for at least a week, I think you know what I mean. Writing relies on people being interested in the characters you create, but blogging relies on people being interested in what you say. So, after an entire year ( I think ) of blogging, you’d think I’d have learned a way to not worry or obsess over Likes. I mean, Likes aren’t that important, right?

That’s kind of true, but I can’t help but wait for someone to Like my posts, sometimes. A single Like makes a huge difference. This isn’t my attempt at telling everyone to Like my posts, but it’s worth writing about the insecurities that I am sure every blogger – at one point – has felt. I’m now going to list all of the things I’ve tried to avoid obsessing over the Like.

So, a friend of mine told me awhile back that the trick is not to care. And you know, I actually like that concept. But, I think caring is what makes me strive to make better posts. I could just write blogposts for myself, but do you really want to read my rants about books and movies I don’t like? You do? Well, I doubt you’d like to read about it every day.

And caring about the posts that I write is what prevents me from posting everything I write that’s less than insightful. I have technically written 100 posts, counting this. But I haven’t published the dozen drafts I have saved because I don’t think they’re good enough. So, not caring about what you do? While it’s a good concept, it’s not really great in execution.

The second thing I tried was just tell my friends to check the post out, and since we normally have the same opinions, they’d normally Like it. However, this isn’t ideal because most of them don’t actually blog. They occasionally post, but they don’t really care for it.

So, I always felt guilty asking them to check out my newest post. I still do that, but I’m much more casual about it, now. I only bring it up if it relates to the conversation. Like, when my friend was having trouble writing. I just told him I wrote a little post about it ages ago, and pass him the link. Then I just give him the shortened version of it.

The third thing you could do is to write depending on what people want to know. This could actually work, but if you always just write about popular culture like Kim Kardashian’s new baby, or Channing Tatum directing Magic Mike 2, I don’t think you’ll have that much fun at all. Unless that is what you actually want to do.

I, personally, like writing about my experiences as a writer, and I occasionally review movies and books. I get an average four Likes on my posts about writing (if it’s a good day), and maybe one to two Likes (at most) on my reviews. This doesn’t mean that people like posts about writing more, and hate reviews. I just think that there are a lot of other more popular reviewers out there, and my reviews are generally about movies that are no longer in theatres. And people have the Nostalgia Critic for stuff like that.

Yet, I just started a new series called Classic Thursdays where I take movies deemed as classics and see if they hold up to my eyes. I write it partially for me, and partially because I just think that blindly liking movies because they’re called classics is rather weird. Also, because I think my generation really should watch some unknown classics more.

The final option is to just quit blogging. No point in fussing over something if only two people pay attention, right?

Well, if everyone listened to that, schools would be in real disrepair. So, I won’t quit blogging because I haven’t earned my popularity, yet, as much as a lot of other, better bloggers. But I will continue to write about my experiences as a writer, and if anyone is interested, they can read it and enjoy reading about my mishaps.

This has been a short post, but I’ve just been thinking about this for a long time, and that’s really all the advice I can offer. It’s not much, but it’s something. Hope you’ve enjoyed the post!

~Jian

Let me explain the new series I just started, Classic Thursdays. I write a review of a classic movie every other week of the month. I review movies given the status of classics by more than a few individuals, and write whether or not I think they deserve their classic status. There will be some spoilers, but I’ll be sure to write a warning before a massive one. So, for the first post in the new series, I decided to take on a relatively new classic called No Country for Old Men.

Roger Ebert

That was taken from the late Roger Ebert’s ten best films of 2007. And if he called it a perfect movie, I think No Country for Old Men counts as a classic in the sense that it received almost universal critical acclaim. In fact, there’s an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to what it all means. There’s also a notable film critic that chose No Country for Old Men as the #1 movie of the decade, and MSN chose it as best film of the decade as well.

So, hopefully, that explains why I’ve chosen it as the first movie for Classic Thursdays. I remember a good friend of mine recommended it to me a year ago, and told me that it was his favorite movie. So, I watched the first eighteen minutes, and wasn’t impressed.

At the time, I really wasn’t in the mood for something so serious, so I decided to watch it another time. Then I watched it maybe a few months ago, and I gained perspective on the movie. It is a good movie, but I don’t consider it a classic. Let me explain.

In the first thirty minutes, you’d think that the main character is Llewelyn Moss (portrayed by Josh Brolin). But, the real main character is Anton Chigurh (portrayed by Javier Bardem). He is also the antagonist. Josh Brolin plays a hunter that stumbles upon the aftermath of a bloody shootout between two different drug cartels, and finds a suitcase of money. He takes it and hides it at his home. It isn’t long, of course, before the cartel finds out that it was him who took the money because he visits the scene of the crime again just as they arrive.

It’s at this point that you realize that his character isn’t very bright. I mean. Let’s face it. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. But, he does know how to fight back and run. I can give him that. Eventually, the drug cartel sends Anton Chigurh (don’t worry if you can’t pronounce his name. No one else in the movie can, either) and a game of cat and mouse ensues.

I’m reminded of an exchange between two characters on the sitcom, That 70’s Show.

Michael Kelso: “Let the game of cat and mouse begin!” 

Fez: “What happens to the cat if the mouse is retarded?”

And at times, you can get frustrated with Josh Brolin’s character. I discovered a good way to stop being frustrated with him, though. I came to terms with the fact that Javier Bardem’s character is the main character. So, I simply started rooting for Anton Chigurh. I know, horrible of me. But, I enjoyed the movie immensely once I started to think of Anton as the protagonist.

Warning. There will be spoilers from this point on. Look away now.

Looked away? All right. Now I’m going to do my best to “analyze” this movie. Though I’m horrible at proper analysis..

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A lot of people have complained about the last thirty minutes of this movie. Why? Well, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) gets killed by the OTHER cartel offscreen. Yup. Anton Chigurh kills Llewelyn’s wife, and lives to kill another day. It ends with Tommy Lee Jones’ delivering a staggeringly awesome performance as he tells his wife about his dream. Now, in an attempt to give you a fresh analysis, I didn’t read the entire Wikipedia page on it. I’m going to give you my take on it, and if it lines up with the take of all the other people.. well, good for me. If not, well, good for them, I guess?

Anyways. Llewelyn Moss reminds me a lot of sheep. And I’m reminded of the idea that humans are really smarter sheep. I think the reason why a lot of people have complained about Josh Brolin’s character is because it feels so familiar. He’s a normal guy, right? And it makes people wonder how they would act if they were in his situation.

And what truly makes people dislike his character is simply because there is a chance that they would panic just like him. Anton Chigurh, in that sense, is more like a wolf. This feels really cliche, I know, but this is what I felt when I watched this movie. Anton Chigurh is an unstoppable force, and everyone knows it. Josh Brolin, however, is not the immovable object.

I think the Old Men are the immovable object. (Going off the wayside a bit there, Jian.)

Well, I was thinking about the paradox about the unstoppable force and immovable object, right. And while I’m not the best informed on this theory (hardly), I do think that the character of Anton Chigurh fits as the unstoppable force. And I think that the pedestal that the Old Men (basically, our ancestors) reflects a lot of what people think nowadays. They will always look back to the past, and romanticize it. For the majority, it’s part of our nature. Every generation thinks that the world is going to end with them.

Anton Chigurh’s job is to mock them for hero worshipping the past so much. Don’t get me wrong. I sometimes look to the past, and think, “Well, everything was good back then. No psychos like we have today.”

And I’d be completely wrong! One of todays biggest misconceptions among the populous is that crime has gone up. In reality, crime has gone down by 25% since the 1950’s. Crimes went largely unreported back then because we didn’t have the technology to really do anything about a lot of crime.

Now, if someone sneezes and wipes the snot on a handbag at a store, the police know about it. The media, in part, helps feed this idea. The media wasn’t as well-informed in the 1950’s, and crime reporters didn’t hear that much about crime. (In fact, L.A. Confidential represents the end of the era where the police didn’t tell the media about practically every crime.)

I’m part of a good generation. Sure, we have our own little problems (don’t get me started about our celebrities), but it’s not as bad as the Middle Ages, is it?

BELL
Okay. Two of ’em. Both had my father. It’s peculiar. I’m older now’n he ever was by twenty years. So in a sense he’s the younger man.

I think it was that particular line which gave away the fact that this was a satire of modern culture. Or, at least, that’s how I view it.

Now, I could be wrong and I could be misinterpreting the movie. But that’s the point, I think, of this movie. To make up your own opinions on it. I remember a scene from Life of Pi where Pi’s father tells him that animals have no souls. What you see in their eyes is your own thoughts and emotions reflected back at you.

I think that’s what movies are, really. And this is what was reflected back at me when I watched it.

So, is this a classic? I don’t think it’s earned that, yet. Is this a great movie? It is. I enjoyed this movie immensely, and I like the fact that I had to think about a lot of its themes. I hope you’ve enjoyed the first post of my new series. Comment if you have any thoughts to add, or if you completely disagree with me on every level. I would love to hear what you guys think.

~Jian

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I recently started reading Under the Dome, and I’m maybe four hundred pages into it. Out of all the Stephen King books I’ve read, Under the Dome has to be the best so far. It is grand in scale, and I love the characters. So, the moment I found out there was a Tv show, I was giddy with excitement.

I’m going to spend the rest of this review telling you all whether or not it lives up to Under the Dome, or if it’s a good show in general. Like I said before, I have not finished the book. I’m still in the process of reading it, but I just really wanted to review this Tv show. So, please excuse me if I don’t know all the characters, or I can’t tell you all the differences. I’m not a very attentive reader, so there’s your warning.

I will mention this right now. This isn’t an ultra-faithful adaptation of Under the Dome. This is obvious within the first six minutes. (I took notes while watching it.) But you can skip the next nine paragraphs if you don’t want to hear about the comparisons I made with the book and the show. Afterwards, all I’ll discuss is whether or not the show is good. So, feel free to skip to 10 paragraphs from now.

They changed the characters a lot, and I think that they took an interesting change with the characters. For one, Dale Barbara’s/Barbie’s character (portrayed by Mike Vogel) is rather different from the book. In fact, most of the characters are different from the book. Rusty Everett, the physician and husband of one of Chester’s Mill deputies, is a fireman in here. And Chief Duke Perkins actually called him a meathead.

Considering the fact that he was my second favorite character in the book – next to Barbie – I was really surprised by this choice. But knowing Brian K. Vaughan (who’s written for Lost, one of my favorite shows, and also wrote a TON of amazing comic books that I love) was handling this, I had faith it was for a good reason.

I think the changes they’ve done with the antagonists, however, was really for the best. Okay, we all know Big Jim and Junior Rennie were the bad guys. So, I’m not spoiling anything. But, in the book, practically everyone knew they were the antagonists. And they were made out to be amazing fakers and that’s what made them dangerous. I didn’t get the impression of that in the book. Maybe this is because I got to see what they were actually thinking, but this wasn’t aided by the fact that 90% of all of the characters saw Big Jim and Junior for what they were.

In the Tv series, on the other hand, I was very impressed with the way they’ve handled their characters. I could see why people thought they weren’t a threat, and why Big Jim would be a successful car dealer. Big Jim is portrayed by the talented Dean Morris, and I think they casted him perfectly. Dean Morris ( from Breaking Bad ) is one of those actors that can be charming and deadly all at once. I think he should get a lot more lead roles, since he’s one of the few actors I think can hold his own next to Bryan Cranston. (Which is saying something.)

Perhaps the two biggest changes in character, though, is the change in Barbie’s and Angie’s character. Let me explain. Barbie, in the book, is a drifter who became a short order cook at a local diner in Chester’s Mill. He’s former military, highly trained, but when the girlfriend of one of the town’s infamous jerks tries to make a move on him… things start to go by the wayside of things. The friends of said jerk (including Junior Rennie) ambush Barbie as he’s closing the diner, and he manages to kick their ass despite the unfair advantage.

Junior cries to his Dad about it, and his Dad makes life miserable for Barbie. So, the book starts with Dale about to leave Chester’s Mill. His plan goes awry when the Dome drops into place, and a plane crashes into it. And he was so close to leaving the miserable town!

In the Tv series, Dale is… well, he’s not so innocent. The Pilot episode begins with Dale burying a dead body, and we see him yelling into a phone, worried about Chief Perkins catching him. That’s as different as it could possibly be, if you ask me.

The other change is the fact that Angie McAlister is not killed in the first few minutes. In the book, Angie’s killed by Junior Rennie pretty quickly. It appears like she’ll be a main character here, and I thought it was an interesting change. It’s not a bad one, but at the same time, I’m wondering if this is the show’s way of showing the viewers from the get go that it’s definitely not the same as the book.

And I think it’s a good way of doing that. Her character certainly seems more interesting than in the book, and I guess now people have an attractive young woman to look forward to seeing.

Okay. Now I’ll write about the actual show. I’ll try to keep the comparisons to the book out, but no promises. I like it when people adapt books into movies or Tv shows. I know they fail often, but the thing is, they make it a lot faster paced.

And Under the Dome is no exception. Within the first eight minutes, the Dome drops, and most of the main cast knows about it by the twenty-four minute mark. I thought this was a smart decision, and the tension feels truly real here. Since this isn’t an ultra-faithful adaption, I had no idea what could happen.

Another nice touch made by the show is making everyone completely silent from the other side of the Dome. I thought this really ramped up tension, and made everything feel surreal. I mean, you can see people on the other side mouthing words, but you don’t actually hear it. It’s a very creepy feeling, and it only enhances the claustrophobic feeling of being a bug in a jar. (Which is essentially what they are.)

The characterization in this show is honestly quite something. In the first episode, I know these characters. I’ve read the first 400 pages of the book, but you should believe me when I say that most of these characters have been put through the ringer and changed almost completely. And I think they improved some of them. I especially liked the fact that they combined the role of First Selectman Andy Sanders and Chief Duke Perkins. Only readers of the book will understand this. But, it feels a lot more… tight?

I think the director of the first episode, Niels Arden Oplev, knows what he is doing. Everything is perfectly timed, and everything is clear. Precise. And unlike a lot of the modern directors, he doesn’t rely on expository dialogue too much. Tv shows and movies are a visual medium, and it honestly makes me cringe when the director and writers feel that they need to dumb it down for the audience.

I thought that this is a fine example of that, and it was definitely something to smile about. The final ten minutes, to be exact, was absolutely perfect. You’ll see if you watch it. I loved the ending.

Let me talk about the acting now. The two standout actors has to be Dean Morris, Jeff Fahey, and Alexander Koch. I already talked a little bit about Dean Morris, so let me talk about the other two. You may recognize Jeff Fahey as Frank Lapidus from Lost. I have to say, his portrayal of Duke Perkins is pitch perfect. Duke Perkins in the book was very interesting, but there’s subtlety and layers to Jeff Fahey’s acting that I thought was really great. Alexander Koch plays Junior Rennie, one of the two aforementioned antagonists from the book. (Mind you, Brian K. Vaughan could still throw us a curveball and make one of the teenagers the villain. He could pull it off, too.)

I think that Alexander Koch’s portrayal of Junior Rennie is awesome. As with the character of Big Jim, I think they changed his character for the better here. He’s a really bad guy. Disgusting, even. However, the thing that makes most people disgusting… is the fact that they could put on a facade and fool you. It’s what makes serial killers terrifying. They could be the guy/gal organizing the charity, he could be the guy/gal that serves you your food. You just never know.

And that’s what I like about this character now. I hated this character in the book. Absolutely hated him. But here.. Well, I still don’t like him. But the fact that it made me think twice is really something. The episode starts out with him confessing his life to a girl he’s held a torch for since he was in the 3rd Grade. And he’s dismissed immediately.

I’m not condoning his violent nature or anything like that. But I thought that this made his character a little more… realistic. I don’t think people are inherently evil. I just believe that there are “triggers” for every person, and for certain people, that trigger can be exactly the same as Junior Rennie’s trigger. And let me tell you. It gets pulled all right.

So, I think that portraying this character would be difficult for pretty much any character, and Alexander Koch pulls it off swimmingly. It’s fantastic to watch, and I look forward to future episodes to see how he takes the role to the next level.

So, let’s see the list.

1. Story: Interesting.

2. Characterization: Intriguing.

3. Acting: Top notch.

That’s the main check list I use when I watch anything. There are a few laughs in here, but I’m going to flat out tell you right now that this isn’t a comedy. Maybe a very dark, DARK comedy. But it’s important to know that this is a straight up drama. I came in expecting a drama, and that’s exactly what I got back.

Now, it looks like it’s only going to be a miniseries. After seeing this, I was kinda disappointed. It’s difficult to pack a thousand page novel into thirteen episodes, after all, and I’m afraid it might end up being rushed. There’s fast paced and there’s tripping over yourself and falling down the stairs. I really hope this show doesn’t trip over their shoelaces on this one.

So. This is definitely a show worth watching. It’s important that you know it’s rather different from the book, but really. It’s still quite good. That’s the point. Considering the show selection for summer ( I.E. Keeping Up with the Kardashians ), this is the Holy Grail of television shows right now. (Mostly because I’m not up to date with Mad Men. Catching up, though!)

I’m giving this show an 8.5/10. It’s a spectacular show. Not without its flaws, and I was really annoyed at certain changes from the book, but it is still worth watching. It was easy to forget about the annoyances and just enjoy the show. And that’s what shows are for, aren’t they?

So, if you have some spare time, Under the Dome could be the new show to watch during your summer vacation.

~Jian

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I remember watching Monsters Inc. when I was maybe five years old, and loving it. Over a decade later, I still remember most of the movie. So, when I heard that they were making a prequel movie… I was ridiculously happy.

So, let’s get to it. I’m going to start with a short summary, in case you’ve yet to hear about it. Monsters University is a prequel to the critically acclaimed, Monsters Inc., and it is the story of how the two main characters survived college to be who they are in the first movie. Mike Wazowski is voiced by Billy Crystal (as in the first movie), and for most of the movie, he’s the “main” character. At a school field trip to Monsters Incorporated, he’s saddened when no one chooses him as a buddy and he’s stuck with his teacher again.

Upon entering the facility, they get to see the Scare Floor. I spent a lot of time looking at each and every character to see if I recognized them from the original movie. (I recognized maybe seven characters from the original movie.) Mike sneaks off from his group and enters a child’s room, unbeknownst to the scarer he’s trailing.

And as he’s being scolded afterwards, the scarer takes note of the fact that he didn’t even notice Mike’s presence and gives him his Monsters University hat. Fast forward to when Mike is accepted to Monsters University.

I’ll take a break here to mention the high quality of Pixar’s animation for Monsters University. I can see why it took five years to make this movie. The attention to detail is enormous, and if you watched Monsters Inc. only recently, you’ll see how sophisticated the art has grown since then. (Mind you, the animation in Monsters Inc. is still top notch. The animation in Monsters University is just that good.)

There is a scene near the end of the movie where we can see every strand of grass, and they look real. I’ll be really mad if Monsters University doesn’t get an oscar for the animation. Let’s get back to the story. Each and every character feels fully realized. Mike wants to be a scarer more than anyone else, despite the fact that he is not at all scary. He is a scaring genius in the sense that he can recite all the textbooks, and he knows how to scare. James P. Sullivan a.k.a. Sully (voiced by John Goodman) comes from a long line of scarers. He’s a natural at scaring, so much so that he didn’t even come to the first day of college with a pencil. In reality, Sully is simply so afraid to fail that he doesn’t want to seem like he’s even trying. It’s better to fail when it appears like you don’t care, than to fail when it looks like you’ve worked your hardest. That’s the way I perceive his character.

A particularly funny scene is when Sully and Mike enter a fraternity called Oozma Kappa. (AKA O.K. ) One of the members, Don,  is older than most of the teachers, and he’s a former salesman. His specialty is being able to stick unto things. I can’t help but think that this is a nod to the fact that the worst salesmen are sometimes called leeches.

Their fraternity is so uncool that they weren’t even given a proper fraternity house. They’re just living in the house of one of its members and his mother. The whole movie is fast paced, hilarious, and if you were a fan of the first one, you’ll love this one. It was fun to notice all the winks toward the original movie.

Unto the things I didn’t like. The main thing I didn’t like – which wasn’t really the movie’s fault – was the 3D. I’m very nearsighted, so I normally have to wear my glasses whenever I watch a movie. So, I had to awkwardly put the 3D glasses over my normal glasses, and it was a real hassle keeping them in place the entire time.

I wouldn’t have minded if the 3D was as heavily used as movies like Avatar or Life of Pi, but the 3D here was barely noticeable. It was only noticeable whenever a flying monster was in front of the camera because its wings would come out of the screen.

The problem with 3D is that it darkens the screen considerably, and it made certain scenes look drab when they really were fine. (I checked by taking off my 3D glasses for a moment.)

All in all, there weren’t any obvious problems with the movie. A more eagle-eyed viewer could probably list them off, but I wager that if one were to mention them, they’d all be minor and hardly affect the grand scheme of things.

This is the animated movie to watch this year, and after looking at the trailers for most of the movies coming out for 2013, it is most likely going to be in the top 10 of best movies of 2013. It’s not a flawless film, but its pros are good enough that it’d make you forget about any of the cons.

I’m giving this an 8.7/10. I cannot say that this movie is better than the first one, because it’s you that should do the deciding. I personally think they compliment each other greatly, and they could be combined into a very long movie. Go watch this movie. It is awesome.

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~Jian

I don’t mean going without sleep for 72 hours straight. (Yeah, you only have to go without sleep for 48 hours anyways.)

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However, I want to talk about exercising your creative muscles. I really don’t exercise my physical muscles as much as I should, but people forget that while writing isn’t really physically demanding, you do need to do a lot of work in it, as well.

So, what do I mean by pushing yourself to the limit? A few examples of how I pushed myself in the past will be in order. The first time was when I was still writing the Line of Corruption. This was maybe late 2011, or early 2012. I was writing a massive battle, and it was honestly the first time I’d written something like it. I’d written huge battles before, but it was the first time where the impact of the results affected the main characters so strongly.

In order to keep up the pace and momentum, I wrote it like a reader would read it. Nonstop. I wrote eight thousand words in one sitting. The next day I wrote four thousand words, and on Saturday, I wrote another four thousand words. That was how I ended Part I of Line of Corruption.

I was creatively drained afterwards. Didn’t write a word for maybe a week. But I was done with Part I. It clocked in at around 53k words. Writing eight thousand words is not as difficult as I assumed before I wrote it. It’s really a question of whether or not you want to persevere. See, the reason why we normally don’t write ten thousand words in one sitting is because you will probably hit a creative wall. And there are two things you can do.

1. Call it a day, and see if you can scale the wall tomorrow with the proper equipment.

2. Channel Jackie Chan, and try to jump over the wall and hope for the best.

That’s how I always saw it. And at times, I really wished I took a few karate lessons. Since the grammar mistakes were ridiculously bad, and I immediately removed those mistakes the next day, but the point is that it is possible if you are willing to throw caution to the wind. That’s how I like to write. Make it risky. I like to think it worked, because the fight scenes had an urgency to them. (Because dinner was in thirty minutes, and I had to wrap it up before then.)

So, there’s your first example of when I pushed myself. Second example is when I wrote Radio Silence. I was preparing for NaNoWriMo, and I had a cool idea for a horror story. So, I just wrote the first four thousand words in one sitting. It’s not as impressive, I guess, as the part with Line of Corruption. But I did push myself because I had no idea what I was going to do with the story.

So, what the next hundred words was going to entail was a mystery to me until I was literally a dozen words away from writing it. That’s how I did it. And it worked out. Then, around January, I pushed myself again with an Urban Fantasy story. I wrote five thousand words in one hour. I was chatting with my friend at the time, and every time I wrote a thousand words, I’d send him a message challenging him to beat it.

I liked the story a lot, but I made a lot of mistakes. Mostly with verb tenses. I’d written it in first person perspective, and I hadn’t written anything like that before. I think I may have deleted it, but I may have it on a forum I made with some of my writer friends where we can post our writings and critique each other’s work even when we’re not online on Skype.

So, tomorrow, I’m going to push myself again with Radio Silence. My goal is to get to Chapter 8 by midnight. I’ve got two big fights planned between Gordon and a prisoner, and it’s going to be a lot of fun writing them. I at least need to finish writing Chapter Six because I held off on posting Chapter Five last friday so I can post two chapters next Friday. (No worries – it’ll still be suspenseful. You’re welcome. -dodges a burning trashcan- )

The point is, pushing yourself as a writer is never really a bad thing. Sure, you make a lot of mistakes along the way, and I certainly wrote some pretty incomprehensible things while I was pushing myself, but it’s at times like that when you can test your determination. You get to see just how stubborn you are. I’ll most likely set out an hour tomorrow so I can write Chapter 6 and 7, and as a bonus, I’ll make a video of myself writing it. A few months ago, I learned how to record my computer screen by using this program, Screenflow.

So, prepare yourself for a video after I post Chapter Five and Six. You’ll see a lot of deleting, terrible punctuation errors, and massive factual errors. I know, sounds like a lot of fun.

It’s really a video for the people that are most interested in how I write things (yes, all ten views will be myself re-watching it to see all my mistakes), and I’ll most likely speed up the video on Final Cut Pro X so it isn’t so dreadfully long. Hope you’re looking forward to it.

When have you pushed yourself as a writer? I’d love to hear your stories down in the comments, and I bet they’re a lot less mistake-filled as mine. Have a cool day.

I finally succeeded in brainwashing my good friend Caleb into interviewing me, and now you can read about my weird thought process. Remember to give Caleb a Follow if you do like the interview. I think the questions he asked were quite cool, and it was incredibly fun to answer these questions. Enjoy!

Acerbic Writing

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my writing buds and all around amazing crazy friend, the newly published J.A. Romano. The cool thing? He’s younger than I am. And published by JukePop Serials, an online website that has some great serialized pieces of prose floating around for all you speculative fiction readers and writers.

1. Let’s begin. For all the unassuming people out there, I have to ask; who is J.A. Romano?

I’m 14, still in school, and other than becoming a writer, I plan on pursuing dual degrees in Psychology and Film Studies. I’ve been home schooled for around six years now because I lived in Bosnia, and my parents found the international home schooling program more academically challenging than the ones offered there. My hobbies vary from changing the subtitles of foreign movies to just hanging out with family and friends and of course, reading.

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Today, I have the pleasure of bringing you a guest post written by one of my beta readers, T. Trian, part of the writing duo of T.K. Trian. I tried writing a similar post ages ago, but after reading this, it’s kind of embarrassing how little I understood about talent and skill. I’m going to stop myself from rambling, since I really think you should read this right now. I’ll have more to say at the end of the post. 

Love/Hate

Most people can write yet few people are fiction authors. Why is that? Simple: because writing is a skill, just like any other. It’s a craft. Like playing the guitar, making exquisite carpentry, or drawing. Crafts require constant honing or the skill starts to rust. That’s the reason why most people aren’t musicians, painters, or fiction authors. Those who try to make do with only casual practice just won’t make the cut. Some rare, truly talented individuals could, in the days of yore when the Earth was green and dinosaurs ruled, but those days are long gone. Now if you want to ”make it,” even the most talented people have to put in countless, regular hours of practice to get even close to the level nowadays required of professionals.

            What is talent? It’s a word thrown around a lot, especially with compliments. Most people who meddle with the arts, be they talented or not, will hear ”oh, you’re so talented” at one point in their life or another. Usually though, the person making the compliment is mistaking skill for talent.

What is skill, then? It’s the result of hard work that spans a longer period of time. Talent is a person’s natural capacity to learn the basics of some function a tad easier than others. A rhythmically talented person can pick up the basics of drumming easier than one of us normal folks, but that’s it; talent only takes you so far and if talent is all you rely on, pretty soon you’ll see all the humble non-talents flying by, their skills far surpassing that of yours. Should’ve practiced those rudiments with the same diligence you play World of Warcraft or whatever is the new ”it” thing on the net (yeah, I don’t really play video/computer games; I prefer to do stuff like punching and kicking people [in the ring] or shooting for real, it’s a quirk).

            I’ve never been talented at anything. Well, the only real talent I admit is a vivid imagination, but that’s it; I’m not a talented writer, guitarist, songwriter, drummer, or athlete. All that I’ve achieved in those particular areas are due to skills developed through hard work. Blood, sweat, and tears, literally. Not to sound egoistic, but people have called me talented many times in many things. They have all been wrong. And they haven’t been particularly good at the thing they were complimenting on because otherwise they would have just told me to practice more instead of offering their misguided (albeit well-meaning) praises.

            In a way, calling someone talented can even be seen as a kind of an insult stemming from ignorance: it undermines all the hard work the person has put in their craft, whatever it may be. It implies they aren’t where they are because of hard work, but simply because they were born with the skill. I’ve never met anyone who was born a pianist or a boxer. Every single one of the good ones has been skilled, however, dedicated to their craft, their art.

They have often made great sacrifices to become as good as they are, usually at the expense of things dear to them, things like friends, other hobbies, fun nights out with sexy people, even family. I’ve heard of couples breaking up because one of them didn’t abandon their frequently touring band or sports team that took them to competitions all over the world. And then some derp walks up to them and goes ”oh, you’re so talented!” Yeah, thanks.

            But what does this mean when we look at the big picture? I’ll tell you in a moment. First, I just want to take a moment to giggle at every single Great Artist out there who think they’re sooo fucking talented, sooo fucking special, just like their mommy and daddy told them. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re not special.

Here’s the thing, the secret they try so hard to forget: anybody can be an artist. Abso-fucking-lutely anybody. Well, anybody with the capacity of normal bodily functions and the will to pour in countless hours of usually boring, frustrating, and aggravating practice. Anybody willing to sacrifice much of the fun they would otherwise have (like spending hours watching TV or puking their guts out in a ditch, i.e. fun).

            You, me, her, everybody and his dog could be a fiction author, but few people are willing to clock enough practice time. I mean, why would they since it’s so fucking hard, annoying, and frustrating? Simple: if you have a dream, you simply can’t live without working your ass off to reach it. If you want to be the world’s fastest swimmer, imagine how many hours you need to spend in the pool or at the gym? Or, by God, stretching *puke*.

It’s the same with fiction writing: you can’t just sit down on your lardy ass, barf out 60k words, and be the next J. K. Rowling. Sorry, dreamer, these days it no longer works like that. Not sure if it ever did, because I’m sure if you asked Mrs. Rowling, she’d probably tell you she worked her ass off to get to where she is now. Just like anybody who’s truly great at what they do. Go back in time and ask J. R. R. Tolkien if he just farted out LOTR or if he dedicated years of hard work and research to create the quintessential gem of fantasy literature.

            I seem to hate the word ”talent,” but perhaps, in the name of semantics, I could at least admit that the drive that makes you want go through hell to become great could be called talent. For instance, some could argue that I don’t have talent for becoming a pianist simply because I have absolutely zero interest in playing that particular instrument. They also could argue that I have talent for writing, playing the guitar, shooting, swimming, and martial arts, because those I do need to practice as often as I humanely can or else I’ll just become anxious, twitchy, annoyed, simply no fun to be around.

It’s almost like a compulsion, and while I don’t admit to being a masochist per se, I have to say that on some level I enjoy even those practice sessions that I hate. A paradox? Not really: I hate the grueling hours I have to practice scales with the guitar to develop my speed and dexterity, but I enjoy knowing that all that annoying stuff will eventually make me a better player. Hell, it even helps me as a songwriter when I can write stuff I otherwise couldn’t because I would’ve been unable to play it. The same goes for every other craft I love. Hate. It’s a love/hate-thing, I guess.

Bottomline: anybody can be an artist, an athlete, the next Donald Trump. All you need is love for something, the passion that fuels the drive to put in insane amounts of hard work until you achieve that dream.

 

Aren’t you glad I told you to read it? Personally, I don’t think I’m a very talented writer. The reason why I can write as well as I can now (that isn’t to say that I’m a particularly good writer) is because of lots of practice, and a few tips by much more experienced writers that decided to throw me a bone. The saying, “Practice makes perfect,” has become cliche, but the only way you can get better is through practice. Unless, of course, you’re the next Mozart. However, if you’re a regular Joe like me, you need all the practice you can get. And if you can spend hours doing the same thing over and over again (definition of insanity), and still love what you’re doing… I consider you talented. 

You can check out T. Trian’s blog at this link, where they’ve written a lot of interesting things. You can also check out their Twitter account at this link. I hope you’ve enjoyed this guest post as much as I have, and if you did, leave a Like and a comment and remember to check out Toni Trian’s blog. 

~Jian