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Monday, August 6, 2007

Crits & Movie Reviews

I am off today, taking care of fix-it chores I can't put off any more. We spent the weekend slumming though, watching lots of movies and taking a little time off to work on ToF.

My critique partners always amaze me. Not only do they catch things I miss, but their perspectives are wildly different. It gives me an insight into different ways of thinking, different attitudes, different backgrounds.

Establishing solid critique relationships is the best thing I've ever done for my writing career. I made it a point to look for people who were honest, thorough and logical. No one comes in with pom poms and I appreciate that.

Don't get me wrong. We all want to hear that we're the next Clancy, Rowling or Nora Roberts, but I think it's fair to say they all started the way we did, one step at a time.

I have a very specific audience in mind and I do not try to make my books everyone's cup of tea. I write what I like to read---usually something fast, something with a lot of plot twists and hopefully something heroic. I don't think I can write a story that is long and winding. It's not my style, and not what I read.

Ironically, my critique partners aren't necessarily my core audience, and because they're not, they are able to give me a perspective that a reviewer for that subgenre might miss.

I mentioned a particular scene to my husband to get his feedback. (He's always good for man-on-the-street reactions.) For some reason this scene really raised some eyebrows from all three of the reviewers who read this book. The action my mc took was rather extreme. Having put myself in her boots, it seemed the most logical course of action, even though it came out brutal. Should I have set that behavior up more? Hmm…my gut feeling said no. I think if you telegraph people's intentions too much you destroy the element of surprise.

It's something I learned when I studied tae kwon do. The sensei warned me about telegraphing my moves. My body would move in anticipation of the attack I was going to make. And of course, a good sparring partner would realize this immediately and react accordingly. Because of this experience, I don't telegraph my characters' actions so much. I prefer to let it stun the audience.

I also saw this in action in the movies I watched this weekend. We saw The Simpsons, The Bourne Ultimatum and 300 (Again!). The best parts of each of these movies (even The Simpsons) was when the characters did something out of character and unexpected. All of a sudden they became more interesting, and I sat up higher in my chair, waiting to see what they'd do next.

So how did the movies rate this weekend? The Simpsons was better than I expected, but I would've been happy to wait for this on DVD. The Bourne Ultimatum was good but not as good as the first movie (in my opinion). There's been an awful lot of hand clapping for this movie, but I thought certain scenes went on too long. The plot remained the same, Bourne looking for his identity. The pay-off was not as surprising as I anticipated. It more or less reflected the common liberal view on what they think the government is doing. Ho-hum. Already heard this one before. I wanted to see something original, something as fresh as the first movie's plot devices.

300, even though it was a repeat for me, was still the best movie of the three. We are still watching the "making of" portion. It's the kind of movie I would watch again and again. It's got history, action, and exquisite settings.