Friday, February 24, 2012

Star Wars - The Phantom Menace: Jar Jar is funny—but the 3D’s not that good.

Now let me just clarify, those are not my words.

Last weekend I took eight nine-year-olds to see Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D. My son picked this activity to celebrate his birthday and all the kids he invited showed up excited to see the movie (OK, just the boys showed—all the girls declined—sorry, Star Wars, apparently young ladies do not dig you.)

Critics and Sci-Fans alike seem to almost universally dislike this film (57% approval rating at—but yet the early matinee was 80% full—and I notice this week “Phantom” is still rated number 6 at the box office—not bad for a movie that first came out 13 years ago.

Although I’ve seen the movie a couple times, it had been several years since my last viewing of “Phantom”—and I was at first excited to hear the Star Wars anthem and see the rolling, yellow lettering explaining what was going on in that galaxy far, far away. But then the first star ship appeared on the screen, rumbling in space like a 1968 Corvette with a blown out muffler. Then a short while later Jar Jar Binks was on the scene, annoying as ever. My enthusiasm soon faded. The movie is over two hours long and I expected the kids to start getting restless a short while in—but that didn’t happen. They were eating it up—I was the one shifting in my seat and looking at my watch.

But, despite plenty of flaws with character and story, George Lucas and his crew got a lot of things right. There are cool aliens and Jedi, and one of the best-choreographed fight scenes ever. There are heroic moments, spot on special effects, loads of artistic backgrounds and details and even moments of humor.

When the movie was over I asked my son and his friends (now all drinking lemonade and eating cupcakes with 2” thick frosting) what they thought of the show. The consensus amongst the 3rd grade crowd was that it was a 9 out of a possible 10. They debated whether the best moment was the pod race or the Darth Maul/Jedi fight. (It turns out my son’s favorite birthday gift was a double-bladed Sith light saber toy, by the way.)

Q: “What did you think of Jar-Jar?”

A: “Pretty funny.”

Q: “The Jedi?”

A; “Pretty cool.”

Q: “How was the 3D?”

A: “Not very good.” (I concur.)

One of the other parents at the party, kind enough to help us chaperone, commented to me after the show, “Some of the writing really isn’t very good, is it?” “No. No it's not.”

But long live Star Wars and the Lucas Empire, if not here but in some galaxy far, far away. If for no one else other than the nine-year-olds (and nine-year-olds at heart) out there who know what it is to be entertained.


Oh—and if you want a good laugh (about all the things wrong with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) please check out this link (thanks, Q!):

The challenge in part 1 of asking people to describe the character traits of Qui-Gon Ginn (the drunk) and Queen Amidala really cracked me up :-)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

On Not Being Able to See the Trees, Let Alone the Forest.

I've been working through a Beta Reader's comments for the last month. And I am stuck.

In the past, I've often put aside readers' comments when they've suggested changes that felt too big. I'd think, "Perhaps what they are suggesting would work, but I'd rather do that sort of major reworking on the suggestion of an editor/agent. I'll get this as good as I can get it within my own vision, send it off, and if an agent is interested but wants a shift in direction, I'll more seriously contemplate major rewriting then." Sometimes I worry I'm just being lazy: "ACK, change too big, take too long, just put that one aside." But being more charitable, I also think I'm following the inner voice of the story when I accept or reject my peers' suggestions.

And why I'm feeling particularly lost at the moment is that my Beta Reader put her finger on that inner voice and pushed until it was screaming at me: "Lisa, there is a major problem here! I've been trying to tell you this, why haven't you been listening? The lovely and very, very smart Sofia agrees! Now will you believe already?" And what Sofia and Inner Voice are suggesting scares me, because I don't yet know how to fix the problem. The story is so written into my cells, that I don't know what it becomes if I completely rewrite the middle section. A crisis of imagination. A serious crisis of imagination.

I haven't found my way through, but I figure the only way to find my way through is by writing. Right now I'm trying a medium fix - keeping the middle section close to what it has been, but trimming it down, mainly by merging and deleting characters. But I keep getting stuck by not knowing if what I'm doing is for the good. And that is a new experience for me. Whenever I've taken on Scribblerati suggestions, I can sense as I'm writing that I'm taking the piece to a new level. It's a tangible feeling of rightness. And I haven't been feeling that over the past month and so I have no idea whether my changes have any value. (Thank the stars and the moon for my writing program, Scrivener, which allows for very easily creating new versions and reverting back to older ones. I keep myself going by telling myself I'm just playing - these changes don't have to be real ones, Lisa, we're just having a bit of fun here and experimenting.)

It's odd. Trying to trust the Inner Voice, and feeling at the very same time that I've completely lost my ability to self-evaluate my writing.

Perhaps it's time to follow in Shawn's footsteps and start from scratch...Oof.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why blog?

Sometimes I wonder about the point of blogging. If you look out over the seething, screaming mass of humanity that makes up this filthy pit we call the Internet, the personal blog is Legion. We’re just one voice crushed in the cacophonous din, an e-needle in the LAMP package stack.

So, why bother? What’s the point? Why do I blog? Why do we, the Scribblerati, blog? Who’s it for? Who are we talking to? Why do we do this thing we do? A valid question, right? I mean, we’re not a writing resource, per se. We’re not a news source, not really. We’re not strictly a pop culture blog, nor are we really an art project. We’re kind of self-promotey, I guess, but that’s not really our aim, either. So why blog?

I know for me, myself, I like to have things. I’m a collector that can’t be bothered to collect any one thing specifically and the things on the Internet I like are things you can’t really put on a shelf, they’re internety things: Videos, pictures, what have you. Also, I’m drawn to lists. It’s all very OCD of me. I just like to have them. Other folks treat their blogs like a diary of sorts, sometimes posting when drunk, or angry, or perhaps without foresight—which usually ends up being a bit unfortunate—but hey, if being embarrassingly honest (or dishonest) with potentially the entire planet is your thing, well… good for you. Also, there’s the fact that they say that, should you ever become an author in these modern times, then you will need a central place, somewhere your devoted multitudes can gather, a place to bask in your musky essence and glean the few little driblets of information that you, their anointed one, has deigned to scatter down into their midst. And that’s great. Thumbs up. All of that is great, more or less, perfectly valid reasons to blog, but is that why we do it here?

Writing is insular, as most of you no doubt know. Most writers write alone, even in the middle of a crowd (That is so deep…) and more so, most writers stick to a certain type of writing, something they do, day in and day out. And as such, they can burn out, get stuck in a rut, or just generally get too lost within the worlds they’re creating to even realize that they’re ignoring craft and quality and narrative or whatever…


Or, to lunge away from a suddenly very Star Wars heavy post, when you work out the same muscles the same way each and every day, you can end up defeating your original purpose. You can take something that started out as good and you can end up twisting it into something…

…fucking gross.

Sorry about that.

I can’t speak for the whole of the Scribblerati, but the way I look at it, blogging is a writing exercise. It’s a random bump in the writing road, it’s a little something different, an excuse to stretch your legs. Sometimes that’s what you need. Things aren’t flowing? Can’t get that one scene right? Are you staring at that blank page, all knotted up with indecision and failure inside? You got a case of the mental Carpal Tunnels going on?

Well, quit your whining and work on something else for a bit. Blog. You see, the good thing about blogging is that it won’t accidentally erupt into a brand new project that will end up eventually sucking you away from your current work either. That age old rule “Write Everyday”, the one that presses down on your shoulders, making you feel guilty and terrible and talentless?


Forget it.

You can’t take that shit literally, it’s impossible. Leave that shit behind. It’s the core truth that matters: You want to write, you keep at it, you take it seriously, and you do it often, but most importantly, try to change it up every once in awhile to keep it interesting, because Carpal Tunnel Syndrome sucks… I assume.

I mean, look at that poor lady. Such pain and yet, she’s still there at her station, working, refusing to quit. Look at her. Such nobility.

Keepin’ it fresh,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I've Gone Solo!

I've gone solo and I created my own blog! (

I'm still a full member of the Scribblerati and I'll still be blogging here from time to time but I'll be blogging a LOT more often at my WordPress site. My goal is to post daily, so expect a lot of shorter posts about everything from my daily progress, to my thoughts on the industry, to what I read, and what music I listen to while writing.

So come on over, take a look around, and leave a comment or two.

I can't wait to see you there!