Category Archives: TV/Movies

The Shatner Comma

As anyone who’s ever read my writing pre-revision (or even after 3-4 passes of my own) can attest: I have a serious problem with Shatner Commas.

Let me explain first what a Shatner Comma is, and second, why I have such a problem with them.

Shatner Comma (n): Improperly placed commas that serve no grammatical purpose and thwart the rules of proper punctuation. They instruct the reader to take unnatural and illogical pauses, much in the way William Shatner so famously delivered his lines in Star Trek (TOS).

Why do I have such a problem with them? Because I was instructed (as were most people) to put commas where I would naturally pause in speech. That’s right, I pause frequently and illogically in my regular everyday speech.  In my case it isn’t something I do to create a sense of drama. As best I can tell the problem traces back to my childhood stutter.

To be clear, my stutter wasn’t as horrible as in The King’s Speech, and I wasn’t endlessly teased for it (though I was dreadfully self-conscious about it).

I reminisced about it recently with my grandmother and she recalled that even at the age of 7 I worked endlessly to eliminate it. I’d sit playing on her living room floor reciting and repeating any sentence or word that I’d stuttered on until I had it silky smooth, at least so far as the stutters were concerned.

In their place came the pauses. To give my brain time to work around the hitch I think I subconsciously inserted a pause. That pause lingers to this day.

I spent many a Saturday morning on that same floor at my grandmother’s watching re-runs of Star Trek:TOS, so maybe a bit of Shatner’s delayed speech and odd timing crept in as well. We’ll never know.

With the help of my Critique Partners and a LOT of hard work I’m edging towards eliminating reducing the Shatner Comma from my writing, but I can make no guarantees. As for the pause in my speech? It lingers to this day though I’m working to lessen it now that I’m fully aware of it. And it wasn’t a cure-all for my stutter, which can still be found in diminished capacity any time I get overly excited about something.

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Filed under Grammar/Spelling, Learning, Real Life™, Revision, TV/Movies

The Movie List (Updated)

I keep a movie list on the site, ranking theatrically released movies I’ve seen through a calendar year. 2013 is now locked in (and there are still 2013 movies I’d like to see) and 2014’s list has begun.

Have a quick peek and let me know if I missed any major movies coming out in 2014 (that you think would fit my tastes based on the lists that are there).

A quick note on my number 1 movie of 2013: Pacific Rim
It wasn’t the most plausible story. Giant physics defying robots fighting giant physics defying monsters. It required a good deal of suspension of disbelief, which is something I’m quite adept at (thank you Star Wars and Star Trek). There were plot holes (though not any showstoppers). There was some scenery chewing (looking at you Idris Elba and Max Martini) but it was AWESOME scenery chewing.

But here’s the point: I had a BLAST watching it (IMAX 3D helped I’m sure). It was quite simply the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in theatres in a LONG time (and I see a LOT of movies in theatres that are good fun). I got invested in the characters and their struggles. That’s what it takes to make #1.

Happy New Year, let’s make 2014 fun.

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Like a Madman!

Work has been driving me barmy lately. Between the nightmare of dealing with Windows platforms integrating with Linux NFS WatchFolders and other platforms integrating with those Windows platforms I could just about lose my mind.

I spend at a minimum 6 of my 8 hour workday up to my eyeballs in configurations, log files, xml traces, and metadata, then I spend at least 3 hours a day commuting to and from my job. It’s a wonder I have any time to write at all.

The key is, I make time. In the evening, after my kids are in bed, and my wife is gently tucked into her Pandaren in World of Warcraft, or Facebook, or Pinterest, I shut down my browser, put on my headphones and write.

I started behind the 8-ball on NaNoWriMo but I’m slowly and steadily catching up. I even took a night off for Skyfall (go see it) and I’m still gaining ground.

Tonight I hit ~70K words on my draft. I started November at 50,000 words even on the draft. I went so far as to change a few wordings here and there to make it even out so I could do NaNo and keep on track with minimal math. I’m supposed to be at 73,333, putting me 3,333 behind, which is far better than the ~7K hole I’ve been climbing out of.

So anyone out there who’s having trouble catching up on their NaNo. Sit your butt in the chair and shut down your browser. Disconnect your internet (turn off wi-fi or unplug it) if you must. If I can do it with only 2 hours a day, then you should be able to.

– Grimm

P.S. Natalie Bahm and her agent Sara Megibow are running a promotional contest on her book The Secret Underground with all the profits going to help a sick baby boy named Jayden. The contest is simple, comment on the contest blog post for a chance to win a 50 page critique by Sara Megibow (agent extraordinaire) on a finished or unfinished manuscript (yours or your friend’s).

While you’re at it, buy the book, the cause is most definitely worth it and from what I gather it’s a damned good book (I haven’t received my copy yet).

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Filed under BookB, Contest, NaNoFiMo, NaNoWriMo, Real Life™, TV/Movies, Word Count

Skyfall (and some writing)

I’ve been looking forward to Skyfall for over a year now. Pretty much as soon as I heard that Daniel Craig was in for Bond 23 I was all over it, watching for any tidbits of news. When Miramax ran into financial trouble I was seriously worried about whether or not it would even get made.

I’ve been a fan of the Bond films since my first encounter with 007 as a child at my grandparents. Sean Connery in Thunderball was on late night TV and I opted to watch that instead of getting a good night’s sleep like I was supposed to. I had no idea that it was a “Bond” movie, or even what that was, or that there were so many more to see. Needless to say I loved it, and over the years I’ve seen every Bond film ever made, even the unofficial ones as bad as they are.

My favourite Bond for the majority of my life was Connery, whether it was because he was the first I’d seen (despite there being 4 bonds before I was born!) or because he was simply the best I couldn’t say (though I’m going to go with the latter, even if his last 2 movies as Bond are some of my least favourite).

Brosnan was good fun, and I enjoyed Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies immensely. I enjoyed watching Denise Richards in The World Is Not Enough, even if her acting was flat. I had a huge crush on her at the time. Die Another Day, however, almost made me quit the franchise. It was just too… goofy I guess.

When Daniel Craig stepped into the role for Casino Royale I had just finished devouring all of Fleming’s books, and pulpy as they were, I was hoping for a Bond that could reach their potential. A cold-hearted, yet human 007. Craig delivered.

He was hard, yet not impervious, he was funny, without losing his edge, he was a lady killer, without looking like a pretty-boy. This was my Bond.

Quantum of Solace, yeah, I actually really liked it. So sue me! When you take into account that the whole thing was nearly improv because of the writer’s strike, they actually managed to fit a lot of neat call-outs in there.

Skyfall (I know, I’m long winded, bear with me) is the penultimate Bond movie in my books. It’s got everything a great movie needs. Action, Suspense, one HELL of a story, and my favourite Bond in his best performance.

I don’t want to ruin anything, but some of the stuff that gets pulled out in this movie to tie it in with the past, add in Dame Judi Dench as M and the powerful relationship she’s cultivated with Craig’s Bond over the previous movies and this one, and it’s all so far beyond amazing that I have every desire to rush back to the theatre, hand them my money and watch it again and again.

The pacing is perfect, the twists are just the right amount of “I saw that coming” and “OMG I never saw that coming” and Javier Bardem as the villain Silva is bloody awesome!

The chemistry between Silva and Bond and M on screen is simply electric. It blew me away.

So, as you can imagine, it’s made #1 on The List, just edging out The Avengers. With only The Hobbit or Django Unchained left having the potential to unseat it this year. I don’t know that that’s going to happen.

Oh right, writing, about that. I busted out a nice run on words today (~2,600), after slumping the past few days between clipping the puppy’s nails too close and having a veritable fount of blood in my kitchen (no really, who needs corn syrup and red food colouring for a horror movie? Just cut one of my puppy’s toenails too close!) and a nice head cold (still have it, yay!).

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Secondary vs Tertiary Characters and the Princess Bride

I spent what time I had for writing this evening getting out half a scene with a secondary character.  This character will only show up twice in the entire book, but I think she’s going to be pretty memorable, and I really like how she’s turning out.

That’s the thing with secondary characters, they can’t be a cardboard cut-outs or props. To me that’s a Tertiary character, the type that doesn’t have anything to say, or any motivations beyond ,”Hot dogs, get your red-hots.” as far as the plot is concerned. There’s certainly a place for that sort of character, the stand-in.

But in my not nearly as humble as it should be opinion, secondary characters should be fully realized and if not necessarily memorable, at the very least believable.

Think Miracle Max in The Princess Bride (we’ll go with the movie). William Goldman could have easily written a throw away scene of someone performing CPR on Westley after the Pit of Despair, or Billy Crystal could technically have phoned that character in and gotten away with it. It would have made for a much less memorable part in a much less memorable film (or book if you want to discuss the book).

Instead, Goldman opted for a truly memorable secondary character, and not just with Miracle Max, but every secondary character, from the torturer, to the old King are all wonderfully realized (with a good bit of camp, but it fit the story perfectly).

That’s how I want my secondary characters to be (albeit with less light-heartedness in this particular book). I want them to be memorable and true to the story, and I really didn’t feel that was 100% necessary until I was working on this one.  Of course that means I’ll have to pick up some slack on the next pass and figure out exactly which characters fit secondary vs tertiary, but that’s what revisions are for.

What are your thoughts on secondary characters? Do you like to flesh out as many as you can or do you leave them as stand-ins/tertiary characters unless they’re truly needed?

– Grimm

P.S. Surpassed my #NaNoWriMo/#NaNoFiMo word quote for the second night running. Shouldn’t have too much trouble catching up to where I’m supposed to be.

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A nice day for writing.

Ah, I got to sleep in today, which was nice.

We dropped the kids off at my in-laws last night and went to see Seven Psychopaths. It was a fantastic movie and made #2 on my Movie List for the year.  If you saw and liked In Bruges (and you really really should), then you’ll love Seven Psychopaths.  Conversely, if you’ve seen Seven Psychopaths and liked it, check out In Bruges.  Colin Ferrel plays a screenwriter suffering from writers block, and the character is written and acted superbly.

After the kids got home we went to hockey practice, where I backed my car into someone’s van and left a note.  They seemed reasonably pleasant when they called me, hopefully it doesn’t cost a small fortune to repaint a bumper.  Still, there was no screaming or swearing on the phone.

I spent my first hour of writing time helping my oldest daughter with homework (computer problems were slowing her down), then sent her off to bed.

Needless to say, when I sat down to write with my cup of tea it was nice and relaxing and exactly what I needed.  I’ve written just over 3000 words in 2 hours.

Tonight I pushed this draft into the Third Act, crossing that barrier in the space of roughly a chapter and a half where my protagonist goes from constantly reacting to the world around him to being proactive.  It’ll need some cleaning for sure, but I think I’ve pulled it off convincingly where character motivation is concerned.

Hook Line and Sinker enters into its Third Round tomorrow morning, I can’t wait to see how the YA section goes.  I’ve been following it closely and it’s getting down to the most thrilling part (for me anyway).  I hope to see some fantastic “I found an Agent through #HLandS” stories in the coming weeks.  I always love to read those.  It gives me hope.

Well, it’s past midnight here, and I have to commute to work in the morning, so I should trundle off to bed. Yes, I trundle when I’m tired.

– Grimm

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Filed under Agent, BookB, Contest, family, Learning, Real Life™, Story Elements, TV/Movies, Word Count

Lessons worth learning, and Looper.

There’s a blog post on another blog that I’ve started to follow recently, and it says some things I’ve taken to heart on this revision perfectly.  I won’t repeat them fully here, just go read them there.

Hook Line and Sinker is kicking off, and it looks like a fantastic opportunity for some new writers.  I’m not eligible currently because I don’t have a complete manuscript, but I applaud the efforts of Kat Ellis and Dee to get new writers and agents looking for writers pointed squarely at each other in such an entertaining manner.  I intend to follow the full proceedings.

My work on BookB is coming along quite well, put a full chapter to bed tonight, despite a later start (of course, that means I’ve got a late finish too).  This blog post isn’t putting me to bed any earlier either, and it’s my morning to get up and make breakfast on this fine long weekend.  Besides, I think my wife is catching this nasty sinus cold that’s just starting to go away on me, and since I gave it to her, I might let her sleep in tomorrow.

One thing that keeps nagging at me is that I don’t know if my chapters are standard chapter length, if such a thing exists, or a little on the short side.  Granted, Douglas Adams had a single sentence chapter in HHGTTG, but the man was a genius and could get away with damned near anything by making you laugh about it.  Never having taken any actual writing courses or spoken with an editor on the subject, I don’t know what the unspoken “chapter length” rules are.  I guess I’ll look into it.

Looper.

So after a misfire in trying to see it last week, we got out to see it last night.  I enjoyed it a great deal in the theatre, I’m a fan of Rian Johnson’s other movie Brick, and though I’ve yet to see The Brothers Bloom it is on my “must watch” list.

I came out of it with some confusing issues with some of its use of time travel (spoiler it’s a time travel movie…).  I think it stands as a testament to the movie, its cast, cinematography, and overall plot that my brain simply won’t let go of those issues and keeps trying to argue and find solutions for them.  I’ve almost convinced myself that all of the “issues” I had with the time travel, were in fact not issues at all and perhaps I was just too thick to catch onto the “why” of things at the time. Perhaps I have only begun to work it all out in hindsight.

Yeah, that must be it.

Regardless, critics are raving about it, my friends are raving about it, I’m raving about it and I’m arguing with my wife and myself about it.  Go see it, it’s a fantastic movie!

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