Ever since I’ve shifted my focus to writing novels in the last couple of years, I’ve found that my life’s gotten less complicated. No more fussing with troublesome high-tech gear, technical glitches, constant updating of software, learning new production techniques, trying out new plugins, following all the latest industry news, and so on.
Now, I just write. My concern is just the stories I’m trying to tell, and the words in which I tell them with. The tools in which I write with are much simpler than the tools I use for creating music or visual art, but the writing itself is actually much harder than composing music, drawing, painting, design, or working on any production of video game or film. Why? Because the story is the heart and soul of everything. Without a good story to tell, we wouldn’t have much to express in our movies, TV shows, video games, or songs.
While everyone who is fluent in a language can write, and everyone who has a half-formed idea can tell a story, it’s actually extremely hard to write a book that achieves these three goals:
-Tell a compelling story that has profound intellectual and emotional resonance, while still very entertaining.
-Have a masterful command of the language that strikes the perfect balance between being functional and having literary merit.
-Despite all the stories that has already been told in books, movies, TV shows, comic books, and video games, your story somehow still matters.
Writing novels is the hardest of all my creative passions, and it’s also the one that I can do on my own, without needing extra funding or relying on a team for manpower, and it’s also the most straightforward—just write and tell the story. No need to boot up Photoshop or Maya, dial in the perfect guitar tone, set up the microphone, wrestle with the DAW, or fuss with lighting equipment.
I finished reading Assassin’s Apprentice (by Robin Hobb) recently. It’s a low-key fantasy that focuses more on the emotional and psychological state of the protagonist, instead of the plot-driven narrative that is more common in genre fiction.
I thought the premise of a prince’s bastard son trained as a royal assassin was interesting, and the prose was enjoyable, but in terms of storytelling and pacing, it was slow-paced and unsatisfying in the conflicts and resolutions. I’m not one of those people who needs to have big epic battles and constant melodrama in a fantasy book in order to be entertained, but I do want some kind of satisfaction—be it the emotional journey of the character, the dramatic progression, or the fulfillment of a theme.
At the end of the book, I didn’t feel any satisfaction, and I can’t say I really cared for the protagonist—someone who I thought was a real drag and whose head I didn’t enjoy being in. If I had to describe the entire book with one word, it would probably be “drab.” The protagonist had no sense of humor whatsoever and was just a miserable and depressing person. As a personal preference, I much rather be around people with a sense of humor, no matter how bleak their lives seem. If a person doesn’t have a sense of humor, he should at least be interesting. Unfortunatly, Fitz, the first-person point-of-view character, just wasn’t interesting as a person, while everyone else around him had more distinct personalities.
I recognize that this is often one of the problems of reading a series—that often you don’t get a satisfying sense of closure because the first book is just setting the stage for what’s to come in the sequels. I don’t think it’s necessarily an inherent characteristic of a series though, because I have read first books of series that I really enjoyed, and today’s exciting television shows prove that every season’s finale can be very satisfying, and don’t have to feel like the writers are withholding the good bits for later seasons.
I read the synopses of the later books, and they seem more interesting than the first book, but right now, I’m more eager to read other books that’s on my must-read list.
I really wanted to love Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but after a few hours, I was bored out of my mind. The stealth aspect of the gameplay was boring, and the action aspect wasn’t all that exciting either. To date, I have never finished any of the Deus Ex games, because at some point, they all became too boring and I just couldn’t be bothered to continue. The sad thing is, this franchise has one of the most interesting premises in video games, yet no developer has nailed the execution. If they could just hand this game over to a developer who really kicks ass at addictive gameplay and immersive storytelling (say, Valve or Bioware), then maybe there will be a Deus Ex game I could actually enjoy.
I gave Gears of War 3 a try for a few hours, and I just didn’t feel like there was a point to finishing it, because it was the same damn thing like the previous two games, and the testosterone-drenched dialogues just became too cheesy for me to stomach, especially after having to endure it in the previous two games already. It’s like watching a bunch of cartoon gorilla’s making noises at each other, and I felt like my own IQ was diminishing by the minute as I played the game. I kind of want to finish it just because I’ve finished the previous two and they were fairly enjoyable (despite all the ridiculous macho posturing), but with so many other games fighting for my attention, it’s hard to justify spending more time on a game that didn’t have anything compelling to offer.
On a whim, I gave Shadows of the Damned a try, and it was mildly interesting as a horror game with juvenile, grindhouse humor. But beyond the circus freak show, I didn’t feel compelled to continue after a couple of hours.
After feeling unsatisfied with the above three mentioned games, I decided to go for something that I knew would be amazing. I had watched a friend’s video playthrough of Dead Space 2 a while ago (when I was stuck somewhere without my gaming rig for a couple of weeks, and it looked like a lot of fun. I loved the first game (one of my all-time favorite games of all time), so now that the memory of his playthrough has faded a bit, I’ve decided to go for it.
And yes, Dead Space 2 it’s a far better game than those previously mentioned ones. I’m about three hours in, and I’m kind of dreading it ending, because then I would have to go through more mediocre games until I come across another engrossing game like Dead Space 2.
Quickie TV/Movie reviews:
Homeland (season one) – Excellent drama/thriller. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole season. Claire Danes has improved a lot as an actress since I last saw her in a movie. I really wanted the bomb to go off in the finale, but looks like the writers are setting it up for deeper government infiltration.
Downton Abbey (seasons one and two) – I really loved most of season one, but towards the end of the season, I started to notice the cracks in the writing. In season two, the cracks got bigger and bigger, and eventually veered into daytime soap territory in some plotlines. That one scene with Matthew sitting by Lavinia bed–Dan Stevens’s acting was so bad in that scene that I had to wonder if they did so many takes and still couldn’t nail it, and the director just said, “Fuck it,” and used the take that sucked the least.
American Horror Story (pilot) I was disappointed by the pilot. It was too gimmicky and disjointed, and had no suspense building in the pacing at all. I won’t be watching any more of it.
Polar Bears: Spy On the Ice – I Can never get enough of these nature shows/documentaries. The scene where the female polar bear was getting all sexed up for the male had me in stitches. I had no idea polar bears could do centerfold poses like that.
The Sacrifice (Offret) – I looked forward to watching this, since I really loved Solaris, but this final movie by Tarkovsky was a slow, plodding, and a pretentious mess. I couldn’t wait for it to end.
Cowboys and Aliens – Disposable popcorn entertainment. Good fun, but nothing worth recommending to others.
The Square – A slow-burn thriller that gets keeps on escalating until the dramatic conclusion. I would have preferred a more optimistic ending, but I understand why it had to end the way it did. Claire van der Boom is such a cutie, with those soft, doe-like eyes. I actually sought out this movie because I was quite taken with her when I saw her in the new Hawaii Five-O TV series.
Fright Night Superior to the original in every way. I usually don’t care for Colin Farrell because he’s always playing the protagonist while exuding this douchbag aura. As a villain though, he’s great. He should just play villains from now on.
Little Man Tate – Interesting take on the subject of precocious children. It drives home the point that precocious children and child prodigies are still just kids, and sometimes the best thing for them is to allow them to remain children.