Welcome to the Writer’s Apocalypse

I’ve always found the word “apocalypse” to be fascinating. It can mean a prophetic revelation, but it can also mean a widespread or universal destruction or disaster.

As a Christian and a Horror Writer, both those definitions weigh heavy on the subjects I write as well as the content I include in my works. Some may think that the two terms, “Christian” and “Horror Writer,” mix like oil and water. It all depends on how you write the story.

If you Google the phrase “types of apocalypse” here’s what you’ll find:

  • Alien Invasion
  • Time traveling robot infested future
  • Rise of mutants
  • Cloned dinosaurs
  • Apes conquering the planet
  • Divine Judgment
  • Technology Singularity
  • Humans all turned into batteries

The list comes from this site. The article is titled “Apart from zombies, what other types of apocalypses are there?” Give it a read, it’s rather interesting.

The Writer’s Apocalypse. When I first came up with the name for this website I was taking a college course called W315: Writing for the Web. I had to create a website with a topic of my choosing. At that time I was just an aspiring unpublished writer. The main topic of the site focused on writing and my personal struggle to become a published author. Years later, I am the author of three novels and four short stories.

I am a survivor of the Writer’s Apocalypse.

However, even a survivor can die after the initial apocalyptic event. Look at The Walking Dead. Characters die from a plethora of ways, not just from zombies. In order to prolong that survival, one must sharpen their skills. Hopefully that way I can show others to survive the wasteland that is the Writer’s Apocalypse.

On this site you will find not just my books and origin story. You’ll also find author interviews, book and movie reviews, and my weekly blog Mastering the Craft.

The Social Writer: Blogging Platforms

Continuing with the series The Social Writer, this week I’ll be talking about blogging platforms. Now, last week I discussed why a writer might want to begin his/her own blog. Let’s say you decided to take my advice and start a blog. But then there’s a hitch: you don’t know what blogging platform to host your awesome blog.

Well, have no fear, Mastering the Craft is here!

blogging for writersRecapping from last week, I am still reading Robin Houghton’s book “Blogging for Writers: How Authors and Writers build successful blogs.” It’s published by Writer’s Digest so you know it’s going to be full of stuff that writer’s will want to know. In all seriousness, so far I’ve found it to be full of stuff that I, as a writer, would want to know. If you’d rather go out and buy the book instead of reading this column, I’d fully understand.

So, back to the task at hand. You’ve probably visited or heard of some of the blogging platforms I’ll be discussing shortly. You might be wondering though, what exactly is a blogging platform? Houghton describes them as “the software that powers a blog. You could think of it as the underlying construction, like a house-is it timber-framed or brick-built? Once the house is built, you may not be able to tell. Most blog platforms do pretty much the same job.”

There are so many of these platforms out there and it’d take more effort than I’d like to spend so I’m going to give a summary of three of the more popular ones. Here goes.

WordPress.com. This is the platform my website uses (www.james-master.com) and I find it very comfortable to use, yet also a little challenging. Let’s say it’s for intermediate level internet users. Prices can range from Free to $45 per month. Of course with most things, the more you pay the more perks you have access to. Stages include Free, Blogger ($3/month), Personal ($5/month), Premium ($8/month), Business ($25/month), and eCommerce ($45/month). All of those prices are billed yearly. That’s how they get you. You think, of that’s not a bad price, but then you’re panicking when they want you to pay a crazy amount.

Screenshot (40)

Screenshot of the pricing and what it includes from WordPress.com

 

• Blogger.com. I had no idea that Blogger.com was owned by Google so automatically I was logged into my webpage. “It’s like trading off some control for more convenience,” writes one review site. The site also states that Blogger has very little in terms of content management. While you can buy a custom domain, a blogger on Blogger.com is free and you get essentially unlimited resources to run your blog. I might actually try this one.

Wix.com is the third blogging platform. They have a basic free package like all the others, but then they have their four different levels including Combo ($13/month), Unlimited ($17/month), Pro ($22/month), and VIP ($39/month). The one thing that I like about WordPress.com is that they tell you ahead of time that the price is billed monthly. With Wix.com, they say the price, but only tell you it’s billed yearly later on. For instance, the Pro plan is $22 per month if you pay for one year. If you pay it month-to-month it’s $27 per month. Of course, if you pay for three years it’s only $16/month. So there’s that.

Screenshot (41)

Pricing and what it includes from Wix.com

 

Here’s what you need to think about when making the choice of where your blog is going to call home: Do you like the look and feel of the blogging platform sites? Do you have the budget for the higher tiers? What are the goals for your blog when thinking about the future?

The last piece of advice I can give you is this: search for other blogs that use the platform you’re thinking about. Do your research. Read some reviews about it. And always remember that you can start on the free option and then upgrade to a higher tier later on.

If you use a blogging platform, let me know in the comments which one and if you like it or if you are looking for a different one. If so, which one?

Advertisements

The Social Writer: The Art of the Blog

It takes amazing willpower to enter Barnes & Nobles without walking out a book. Apparently, I have absolutely no willpower because I left with three books. One of them was a book titled “Blogging for Writers: How Authors and Writers Build Successful Blogs” written by Robin Houghton.

blogging for writersIn my experience, as an author, social media has its advantages and disadvantages. On the negative side, I waste a lot of time endlessly scrolling through Facebook and Twitter when I should be writing. However, in this technological age it’s imperative that authors risk the temptation. Not only can social media introduce you to other writers, but you can use it to introduce yourself and your books to literally millions of people. This week’s Mastering the Craft will discuss what is a blog and other topics.

Houghton starts things off by explaining that a blog “is simply a particular type of website, for the main part consisting of posts (articles) usually date-stamped, and organized in reverse chronology so that the visitor always sees the most recent post first.”

My website is exactly that. If you head over to https://james-master.com/category/mastering-the-craft/ you’ll find all of my Mastering the Craft columns in reverse chronological order. My first bit of advice is this: if you’re going to write a blog, write about something that interests you. On my website you’ll find articles about my writing journey, but you’ll also find some sample fiction as well as a section that compares movies against the films they were adapted from.  Your readers can tell if your interested in the subject. At least, if you’re a decent writer.

There are three attributes all blogs should contain: frequency, brevity, and personality. In my experience, frequency is the easiest of the three but it’s also the easiest to fail at. I know how that sounds, but it’s true. If your blog doesn’t have fresh content for your readers, they won’t come back to it. Imagine if your local newspaper quit publishing on their normal schedule. You’d quit buying and reading it right? Same goes with blogs. It’s all about schedule. Set a reminder on your phone to site down and write a post. Heck, write five of them on your day off and schedule them to post automatically for the future. Once you get into that rhythm, it’s all downhill from there.

Brevity is the one I struggle at the most. When writing short stories, I often exceed or come very close to the maximum word limit because there’s just so much to tell. You wouldn’t really think it, but crafting a good micro-fiction, a short story consisting of under 1,000 words, is pure artwork. I struggle with writing one of these columns in under 1,000 words. You guys don’t know it, but I delete so many puns and pop culture references because I try to keep these around 900 words. You have to convey your point and its arguments in a concise and interesting manner yet not write a novel. It’s tough.
Personality is somewhat difficult to convey through your writing. Developing your blogging persona is important. Houghton writes:

“Perhaps the idea of sharing anything to do with your personal life makes you feel uncomfortable. That’s fine, but decide where you personally draw the line. It’s different for everyone. If blogging their daily life and work routine, some bloggers are happy to mention their family members by name, but won’t post photos of them. Others have no problems with that, but don’t use real names.”

When I write Mastering the Craft, I take a conversational approach as if I’m sitting down with you at a café drinking coffee. Which I am mostly, drinking coffee that is. I don’t share names of my friends or relatives though, opting to use pronouns instead. Sure, you could be a creeper and search for the names of my sisters or my ex-wife, maybe even comb through my Facebook friends list. It’s easy to do.

Another aspect of personality is: how transparent will you be? Mastering the Craft often blends my writing life with my… well, my real life. If you read one of my columns, you’ll find that, more often than not, that there’s a deeper meaning. Sure, they’re all about writing but they’re also so much more.  Houghton writes that “not everyone wants to lay themselves bare by mentioning rejections, spats, loss of motivation, or other negative aspects of their writing life. Others revel in it and find visitor numbers and comments increase when their blog posts are at their most raw and honest.” It’s really about your comfort level.

Like I mentioned above, brevity is the thing I’m worst at and now I’m looking at the word count exceeding 800 words. Alas, my dear readers, it’s time we part for another week. I’ve only just purchased this book but if you’re interested in getting into blogging, it’s definitely worth it.

Writing is not Life

Writing is not life

 

Around this time of year, I always contemplate about the past. For good reason too. Ten years ago, my wife and I were married. Four years ago, I graduated college. Three years ago, after a quick downward spiral my wife went to live in another state. One year ago, our divorce was finalized. All these things happened around June or July.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives of your life. When I look back throughout the length of my 33 years, I tend to remember the negatives more than I do the positives. However, today I’d like to talk about one of the positives of my life. My ability to write.

My earliest memory of creatively writing is in the fifth or sixth grade. My parents were in the process of their divorce and my family was fractured. Jeff, my best friend to this very day, and I spent just about every recess on the playground with our notebooks and our pencils. We wrote about dinosaurs mainly because of our fascination with the film Jurassic Park (1993). I wish I’d kept those notebooks. Not to publish of course, because they’d be atrocious. Just for the memories.

My next memory of writing comes during seventh grade. It was a Creative Writing class, my first intramural elective. I wrote a short story called “High School Horror.” The plot centered on a serial killer inside a school killing all the bullies with a well sharpened pencil. If I had to psychoanalyze myself, I’d have to say that I wrote this as an emotional response to my first few grades of being bullied. In the summer between sixth and seventh grade I had started gaining weight and kids can be cruel. This was before all the gun violence in schools. If it’d been after, my teacher wouldn’t have commended my attention to detail. She’d be alerting me to the principal and I probably would’ve been kicked out. Zero tolerance and all.

I didn’t really write anything in high school until my senior year. However, during that last semester of school I started writing a fantasy that, to this day, has never been finished. Maybe I wrote it in order to come to terms with having to face the real world. I’d come back to it throughout the next few years because my reality was pretty terrible.

The first year my wife and I spent together, we rented a house on Ewing Street in South Bend. It was a two bedroom with a partially completed basement. The plan was to have that second room as part office and part craft room. However, as things go, life doesn’t go according to plan. My in-laws came to stay with us. So now we had four adults, one teenager, three dogs, and a cat living in that tiny, tiny home. My in-laws didn’t work for a living and spent all day at the house. I completed my first book, now published, because I spent my time at home stuck in the isolation of that intended office (now turned into a bedroom) writing.

When my divorce was finalized, I wrote a manuscript. I poured into it all of the pain, suffering, and every depressed-filled moment I went through during the two years of separation. The entire story was written in under two months on a spiral legal pad with a fountain pen. The main character was me, but without my faith in God. And it ended with the main character’s suicide.

The years of 2017 and 2018 were the lowest point in my 33 years of life. At least so far, but I pray I never go through that misery again. As I look back on these low points in my life, two things are crystal clear to me. The first is that the ability to write is my coping mechanism. I’ve found that I write best when I’m an emotional wreck.

Before I wrote this column, I was looking through Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and in it I read this:

“There have been times when for me the act of writing has been a little act of faith, a spit in the eye of despair. The second half of this book was written in that spirit. I gutted it out, as we used to say when we were kids. Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life. That was something I found out in the summer of 1999, when a man driving a blue van almost killed me.”

When I read that paragraph, I knew what my column would be about. Writing isn’t life, but it’s a way back to it.

The second thing is that even when life is bad, God is good. It’s difficult to comprehend the idea of a loving God allowing bad things to happen to those that believe. I’m not a theologian, but I think about it this way: when crafting a sword, you have to heat the metal and hammer it into the desired shape. After a series of hammering, reheating, and more hammering you have your desired weapon. If it’s strong enough and doesn’t break, it’s something that you can take into battle. (That’s a very rough explanation of sword making and doesn’t go into every facet but work with me here.)

I believe that God wants us to be the best forms of ourselves. Just like a character in a story, in order to become better we have to overcome overwhelming obstacles.

“Protect me, God, because I trust in you. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord. Every good thing I have comes from you,’” says Psalm 16:1-2.

Yes, God allowed these things to happen, but He gave me the ability to write. Without that ability, things would’ve been different.

Happily ever after…

Guilty pleasures. We all have them, even if we don’t want to admit it. I mean, that’s sort of the point of guilty pleasures. One of mine is watching movies with really sad endings. Like, if you don’t tear up during the film then don’t bother making me watch it. Then, as part of the guilty pleasure, I make other people watch them with me. Spoiler warning for some films I discuss today. Here are a few of my “go-to” guilty pleasure films:

  1. Me Before You (2016)
  2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  3. A Quiet Place (2018)
  4. Road to Perdition (2002)
  5. Avengers Infinity War (2018)

I know, I’m sadistic.

Before writing this, I started thinking about why I take pleasure in this odd activity. One reason is that I have no soul and can’t gauge emotions, so I want to watch other people when they’re sad in order to copy their emotions. Another reason I came up with is that I’m so depressed that I like to watch fictional characters in pain, this way I take solace that my life isn’t as messed up as theirs.

Maybe I just like realistic storytelling in my films and novels.

That’s right. Sometimes we don’t all live happily ever after. Sometimes the guy doesn’t get the girl in the end. Maybe the father dies at the end in order to save his boy’s eternal soul. Maybe everybody dies at the end of a zombie movie. Maybe the coach mercy kills the paralyzed athlete. Maybe, the bad guy wins and destroys 50 percent of all life in the universe.

Did I just spoil a bunch of films for you? Well too bad! Sometimes we have movie endings spoiled for us. Maybe you should have gone and watched them. Maybe… just maybe… we overuse the word “maybe.”

Now, know what you’re all saying. “But Jimmy, why would I want to go to the theater and watch a film with a sad ending?”

I completely understand. Look at the current “Infinity Saga” that Marvel just pumped out. Starting with Iron Man (2008) until Avengers: Endgame (2019), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has produced 22 films. How many of those ended with a happy ending? Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

Again, I know what you’re saying. “But Jimmy, in Avengers: Infinity War half of all life was dusted. How is that a happy ending?” To answer that, I’d argue that Thanos the Mad Titan was the protagonist and the Avengers were the “bad guys” of the film. With Thanos completing his task, he achieved his happy ending.

Every MCU film is predictable. You know going into the film that the hero will win, the bad guys will lose, and that everything will be alright. It’s boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of those films, but that’s why I have my guilty pleasures. For once, I’d like to see a hero fail at the end of an origin film. That would give the hero an excellent redemption arc in the second and third film. Why don’t they do it? Two words: Box Office. If the film doesn’t do well, then there might not be a second film. You have to perform well in the first film. Meaning a happy ending where the hero wins the day.
You know, the more I think about it, the first film is like a presidential term. If the first one doesn’t do well, there won’t be a second one.

Films that end happily are also a lie. Do you want to know the biggest lie in cinema? Here it is: “And they all lived happily ever after.” It trains children, and depressed adult male writers, that if they try hard and do all they can to overcome their obstacles then they’ll triumph in the end and live “happily ever after.”

Horror movies aren’t even exempt. In the film Dawn of the Dead (1978), the main characters are evacuating from the mall as it’s being overran by zombies. Two of the characters die and turn into the undead while the very pregnant woman gets into a helicopter. Because in the 70’s aircraft births were the thing. The last guy was locked in his room with a gun to his head. He was waiting until the zombies burst in before killing himself, because that makes a difference. At this point, I’m waiting for the film to end darkly. Then, for some reason, the guy has a change of heart. A song that’s reminiscent of the theme to The A-Team plays and the guy fights his way through the horde of the undead to board the helicopter. Together, they take off riding into the sunlight. Happily Ever After.

Again, I know what you’re going to say: “But Jimmy, these are fictional scenarios that’ll never happen. And you’re saying they need to be realistic?”

Here’s my conclusion (tip to all essay writers: never write that as your last paragraph. It’s tacky). Every story needs to have some realism to it. I’m not saying that every ending to every story has to be sad, depressing, or soul crushing. It’s my belief that even in defeat, lessons can be learned. Movies should have more endings where the hero ultimately loses but learns something valuable from the defeat.

Now, as to my mental health, I’m sure you’re all concerned. Because, if I’m being honest with you last week’s rant and this one was depressing. Don’t worry about me.

I’m sure I’ll live happily ever after.

Game of Thrones Season 1 Episode 1

For my first Book vs Film, I wanted to write something epic. Really kick off my entry into this series with something big and bold. With this in mind, I was sorting through my book collection and my eyes settled on George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones.” At first, I thought it was too big, too epic. The books aren’t even finished despite the television show having just ended. How could I compare the books to the television show? Do I go through season by season? Since the source material runs out around the fifth season, BvF: GoT would only have about five parts to it.

That’s not epic at all. If I compare each individual episode to the books, now that’s something epic.

Plus, it’s something that will definitely kill time until the last two books are released (knock on wood). Now, for your enjoyment, I present to you BvF: GoT: Season 1, Episode 1.

By the way, if you’ve never read the books or watched the show: Spoiler Warning! Plus, why are you reading this if you have an interest in reading or watching it?

Initial Scene

The first difference I’ve noticed happens less than five minutes into the episode. The three men of the Night’s Watch are sent to track the wildlings. In the book, Will is sent to scout ahead for the wildling camp. He finds the camp and all the wildlings are dead. He reports this back to the leader, a highborn guy by the name of Royce. Royce asks for proof or a reason why they’re dead to which Will couldn’t really give so they decide to go investigate. In the show, Will finds them all brutally massacred and positioned in some macabre design.

Screenshot (15)

White Walkers attempt at art reminds me of kids pasting macaroni noodles on paper.

Another small detail, in the book only Will and Royce went to the wildling camp. In the episode all three went. Just a small change, nothing to blow your skirt up about.

Another detail that I’m sure the show cut for time limits. In the book, Royce defends Will and tries to attack the White Walkers. Will climbs a tree and Gared’s fate is unknown. In the show, we see no fight with the walkers and we see Gared get beheaded. RIP Gared.

If I had to say which I’d prefer, so far, I’d say I liked the show. The initial scene is short, to the point, and sets up the obvious threat that will loom over the rest of the show. With the brutal nature of the bodies and the beheading, it shows two things:

          The White Walkers don’t mess around when killing humans.

          The White Walkers are warrior artists. They kill and then decorate the battlefield. When they don’t enlist dead people, they use them as artwork.

Theme Song

I will never skip past this beautiful credit scene simply because of the GoT theme song. Sorry book lovers, point goes to the show for this one!

Stark Intro and Execution Scenes

Another big difference from the books. In the books, each chapter follows a different character. In the show, it blends together a lot of those storylines to conserve time. In this scene we are introduced to the entire family of the Starks in just one minute and twenty seconds of screen time. In that time we are told:

          Robb is the older and more serious brother from his stance.

          Jon is a more nurturing and teaching brother, giving Bran some archery tips. We also know he’s a bastard when he says “so’s your mother” indicating that Catelyn Stark is not his mother.

          Sansa is the more beautiful sister that’s better at needlework.

          Arya is the exact opposite of Sansa and is better at puncturing men with arrows than puncturing needles into fabric.

          We see Catelyn and Eddard (Ned) Stark watching over the boys as they train. This indicates that they are interested and involved in their children.

          Rickon. Almost forgot about that brat. Well, everyone else did so I won’t say more to that.

In the book we don’t see any of this yet. We go to the execution of the deserter. In the books it’s Gared. In the show, it’s Will. Both talk about White Walkers and everyone believes he’s looney.

The major difference is the way Ned Stark is portrayed. In the show, you first see Ned as a family man. You see him giving Bran encouragement and nurturing alongside his wife. In the book, he’s first shown as the Lord of Winterfell having to do his duty and execute the deserter. As Martin writes in the books, “He had taken off Father’s face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell.”

Screenshot (16)

The show has these lovely scenes. “Nice day for a beheading,” said Ned (just joking).

That simple sentence does what most of the show does. It shows that Bran’s father isn’t always the stern, duty bound Lord Stark of Winterfell. He’s also a loving father.

Another minor difference is that Theon Greyjoy laughs at the most morbid things in the book. During the execution scene, Theon laughs at the decapitated head and “put his boot on the head, and kicked it away.” In the show, he did none of those things.

Direwolf Pup Scene

Very little is different. Bits of dialogue are changed and a few characters less in the show, but other than that much hasn’t been altered. In the show, Jon Snow doesn’t claim his direwolf for his own, however. That honor rests on Theon calling it “the runt of the litter.”

Great Hall Feast

The book portrayed the feast in the great hall of Winterfell following Jon and his quest to find the bottom of an ale mug. This is where the show’s narrative style is more advantageous. Game of Thrones shines when it comes to character interaction and the show has more characters interacting with each other than the book in this particular scene. Point goes to the show.

Different approaches to the narrative

The first big branch from the book comes 18 minutes into the episode. After the direwolfs are adopted by the Starks, it cuts away to a beautiful scene of King’s Landing. In the books, we don’t travel to King’s Landing that quickly. First there’s an interaction with Cat and Ned in Winterfell’s godswood. The chapter follows Cat as her character is fleshed out a bit more. We’re told that she is a Tully from Riverrun and that they don’t worship the old gods like the Starks still do. This sets up the lore. It also sets up the lore behind Brandon the Builder, the First Men, and the woods having faces carved into them. Cat and Ned share some dialogue about the children and their newly adopted pets. They also talk about the growing number of deserters. Cat delivers the news about Jon Arryn dying and that the King and his entourage are traveling for Winterfell. This scene is shown in the show only after the King’s Landing scene.

Screenshot (17)

Another great CGI location.

In the show, Ned and Cat don’t share that much dialogue. They don’t discuss the children. Cat skips right to showing Ned the message they’d received from the King.

The book takes an interesting turn. It changes narrative and goes to Daenerys (Dany) and her story. Dany and her brother Viserys are exiled Targaryens. Their family used to rule the Seven Kingdoms and all that jazz. Viserys wants to retake the Iron Throne and is going to wed off his sister in order to acquire an army of Dothraki in order to do it.

Going back to the show, this scene in King’s Landing is not shown in the book. It starts with the bells of the Sept ringing and the funeral of Jon Arryn, Hand of the King taking place. This is also the first time you see the Iron Throne. This is also the first time we’re introduced to twins Jaime and Cersei. Soon enough, we find out through dialogue that Arryn knew something about Jaime and Cersei.

Screenshot (18)

When you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die. RIP Jon Arryn.

Sexual Content

So, before I say anything else, I know that the show is made by HBO. I also know that sex and violence sell. But, there’s a scene with Theon, Jon, and Robb and their all shirtless. Theon and Robb talk about getting shaved for the queen. They also talk about the prince, as said by Theon, getting to “stab” southern girls with his “royal prick.” That’s the whole point of the scene. Point to the book for not including this because it adds absolutely nothing to the plot.

Screenshot (14)

This is how I feel when I’m watching some of these sex scenes.

The first time we see Tyrion, Jaime and Cersei’s brother, in the show is when he’s with a prostitute. Such a great character and the first we see is him drinking and receiving a sexual act. In the book, we see Tyrion entering the Winterfell great hall and we’re given a description. The first actual interaction with Tyrion is with Jon Snow. Tyrion gives Jon some good advice. In the books, he’s not the whoring, drunk that the television show portrays him as. It’s truly a shame, but like I said, it’s HBO. Now, in all fairness to the show this portrayal sets Tyrion on a moral low note in order to build him up in later episodes. But still, I don’t like the show’s version.

There is a lot of nudity in this episode. Ninety percent of it is not needed, but there is one scene that warrants it. That scene is with Dany and Viserys. He’s inspecting her body and you see her breasts. In the book we see Viserys and his cruel nature as he twists one of his sister’s nipples. We don’t see that in the show.

Interesting thing to note when it comes to nudity. In the book, Cat and Ned are naked when Maester Luwin comes with news from Cat’s sister. Ned dons a robe, but Cat doesn’t mind that she is naked in the Maester’s presence stating “Maester Luwin has delivered all my children” and “this is no time for false modesty.” I find it funny that the show will show young women naked, but not an older lady when the book allows it.

One last bit about the sexual content in this episode. It deals with the difference in the consummation of Dany and Drogo’s marriage. In the book, it appears to be consensual. Dany objects, but then consents after a bit of foreplay. In the show though, it’s anything but consensual. In the book, it’s written romantically, and you can tell that it’s the start of an honest romance. In the show, Drogo is forcing himself on a crying Dany.

Narrative Style

As far as narrative, much has stayed the same. Plot points in both book and show are still there. However, the television show takes a more linear style. Instead of bouncing around to different characters in different parts of the world like the book, the show sticks with locations more than people. The exclusions to this are when Robert mentions in the crypts that there are still Targaryens left in the world. The narrative then shifts over to Pentos with Dany and Viserys as detailed above.

Final Verdict

Unfortunately, this is Book vs Film. There has to be a winner. The show and book are parallel in almost every way. The book has an advantage because there is more lore and detail in every section that the show cannot possibly portray. The show also has too much sexual content that detracts from the overall story and plot. The thing that sticks out over the book are the character interactions. Jaime and Ned talking to each other during the feast. King Robert berating Queen Cersei when they first arrive in Winterfell. Many others that I don’t have time to detail. The actors do an impeccable job which makes the decision clear. The narrative style is also easier to digest in the show than it is in the book simply because it’s linear opposed to moving from character to character in different locations.

That being said, Episode One is better than the book.

Am I right? Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments below. Make sure to follow my website to find out what I thought about the other episodes!

Story and Plot, part two

In last week’s MtC (that’s the working abbreviation for Mastering the Craft, just trying it out), I talked about the interwoven relationship between story and plot and how you can’t have one without the other. Sorta like that theme song to Married with Children. It isn’t absolutely required that you read last week’s MtC, but if you wanted to boost my self-esteem then go right ahead. Don’t worry I’ll wait for everyone to catch up… you good? Great, onto part two.

So now that you know that story is everything the reader needs to know and the plot is the portion of the story that the writer presents to the reader, let’s talk about what exactly goes into the two narrative elements.

Let’s say I get arrested by the police. Let’s say it was for attempted murder. And, just for the sake of fun, let’s call the victim Mr. Language. His first name’s English. They put me in the interrogation room and a detective says, “tell me where you were on the night of the murder of English Language.”

The initial response would be to tell the detectives everything I’d done that day from beginning to end. That would be my story of what happened. Which is exactly what “story” is, it’s what happens from beginning to end.

Janet Burroway, in her book Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft, states that “a story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order.” It makes sense, right? In the case of the story I told the detective, I stated the events from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, beginning to end.

Any fiction movie, television show, book has a story. Remember from last week that Burroway defined story as “everything the reader needs to know to make coherent sense of the plot.” Note the phrase “coherent sense.” What exactly does that mean? In the case of my story to the detective, they wouldn’t want to know that I brushed my teeth with a baking soda toothpaste or that I ordered my pizza without onions because I hated the texture of the vegetables. Those are details that the detectives don’t need to know in order to make “coherent sense” of my story. The same goes when you’re writing a book.

“Random incidents neither move nor illuminate; we want to know why one thing leads to another and to feel the inevitability of cause and effect,” states Burroway.

How does that affect the plot then, you may ask? That’s right! I have another quote from Burroway (this is starting to sound like a thesis paper) that states “a plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.” Have you ever wondered why a chapter ends with a cliffhanger? What about when Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father, but then nothing is resolved until the next movie? Those are examples of the writers arranging things to deliver a more emotional and dramatic impact on their audience.

Look at the film Reservoir Dogs (1992), written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. If you’ve never seen it, the story is about a group of thieves that attempt a jewelry store heist but things go really wrong due to an undercover cop in their midst. The “story” starts with the undercover cop learning to become a thief in order to infiltrate the group, interacting with the group before the heist, the heist going poorly, the escape, the regrouping of the thieves, then the end. The “plot” is totally different. Tarantino starts the film with the regrouping scene after everything goes wrong. Flashbacks are used intermittently to show the audience more information about who could possibly be the undercover cop. You don’t know into much later in the film. It is clever and if you’ve never seen it before it’s a watch if you’re looking to properly utilize how to create an emotional and dramatic buildup.

It looks like it’s my time to leave you all for another week. Next week, I’ll be discussing more elements within “Story and Plot” so be prepared for more Burroway quotes and maybe I’ll let you know whether or not I was officially charged with the murder of English Language. See? I’m using plot to create a cliffhanger.

Spoiler: English Language deserved it. He allowed the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey books to exist. Someone had to act.

Story and Plot, part one

If I had to define my writing style, I’d have to say that I’m a “pantser.” If you’ve never heard that term before, it means to write by the seat of your pants. If you’re still confused, it means to typically write without having things planned out. A “plotter” is someone that typically writes only after fully plotting the story out. While there’s nothing wrong with either types of writing style, I have to wonder about the significance of story and plot when considering the “pantser” and “plotter” writing styles. If a “pantser” writes by the seat of his/her pants, then where does the plot factor in? Is there even a plot?
Well, duh, plot still exists within your work regardless if you detail every little thing. While moving around some things in my office, I came upon some of my old college text books. When I was in college, I would sell back the books that weren’t in my major and would keep all the text books that were associated with English and writing. One book in particular, “Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft” written by Janet Burroway, had me opening it to this definition:

“Humphry House, in his commentaries on Aristotle, defines story as everything the reader needs to know to make coherent sense of the plot, and plot as the particular portion of the story the author chooses to present – the “present tense” of the narrative.”

Look, I know what you’re thinking. Who is Humphry House? Believe me, I was wondering that myself. After searching the reputable site Wikipedia for a while, I found absolutely nothing. How disappointing. After googling the name, I found that he was a “pioneer of modern literary-historical scholarship of Dickens, a popular teacher at both Oxford and Cambridge, and frequent presenter of talks on the BBC.” He sounds like a cool dude. But what does Burroway and House mean?
Simply put, the plot is absolutely everything you wish to present in your book. Your main character might be left handed (shout out to those that are) or maybe has a restriction to only one cup of coffee a day. However, it’s your decision as the author whether to allow the reader to see those details.
I know that’s hard to understand. Frankly, I think it’s sort of weird too. I mean… how do you just have one cup of coffee a day? There are people out there that do… you know who you are.
So what is the use of story if we know plot is what is presented to the reader? Going back to House and Burroway, we know that story is everything the reader needs to understand the plot. If your main character’s coffee restriction doesn’t play into the events of your book, is that detail something that should be presented to the reader? Maybe yes, maybe not. The detail could be served to create more character depth. Quirky behaviors and other details like coffee restrictions serve to create a fleshed-out character. People that have similar coffee restrictions might feel connected to the character. However, if you do write in that quirky detail, then make sure to either have it connected into the story or not play into it too much.
Now that I’ve explained just a tiny bit about what House and Burroway say about story and plot, how does that effect the writing styles of “pantsing” and “plotting?” Obviously, if you’re one that plots every little detail in your work then it doesn’t really affect you. If you’re like me and don’t do a lot of planning, does it really effect you?
I’ve always looked to Stephen King when I needed author advise. I mean, not personally because he doesn’t know we’re really good friends. We are though, he just won’t acknowledge it in public. Or in all my emails to him. King says “come to a book as you would come to an unexplored land. Come without a map. Explore it, and draw your own map… a book is like a pump. It gives nothing unless first you give to it.”
When I first began to write, I would interpret this as King being a pantser with no plot. Having matured as an author, I’ve come to realize that the unexplored land is the entire world inside of the book. The parts of the land that are explored is the plot, the parts that are presented to the reader. The story would be the tools that are used to explore that land.
I used to abhor plotting my work and relished in the fact that I plotted nothing. Now I understand that plot and story go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. Next week I plan to continue the idea of how story and plot are woven together to form a cohesive story.
At least, that’s what I’m plotting.