Writing Rewind #6: Chapter 4 Part 1

On our last trip down memory (and cringe-worthy) lane, Heiwa, with some persuasion from the folks in his life, decided to go on the life-changing mission aboard the UNMEI. It took 10,000+ words for him to come to that conclusion. We are literally 30,000+ words into this story and just hit the official start of the main plot. That is 1/3 the length of my first published novel, for reference…

Not much recap to do, so let’s get started!

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

CHAPTER 4 P 1

*pours fifth cup of coffee* Settle in, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Per usual, this selection is bogged down by heaps of detail that are totally unnecessary and which add nothing to the story. So, it’s time to chop it up and glue it back together into something a bit more cohesive!

Here are the proposed changes…

CH 4 P 1 CHANGES

The start of a chapter should not be such a drag. It needs to accomplish the set up in a way that isn’t so slow and wordy. A lot of the detail in this isn’t needed at all; Heiwa’s week leading up to the mission isn’t important to the grand scheme, so that paragraph needs to go, and what is left needs to be reworked.

So, here are the results:

ch4 p 1 fixed

Much shorter, and yet, it conveys the same message. Heiwa is clearly excited about what is to come and we don’t have a useless recap of the non-important events leading up to the day of his departure. Who cares if he had to fix the roof before he leaves? IT DOESN’T F*CKING MATTER!!!!….Ahem. Sorry about that…

Next up, this lovely passage:

CH4 P 2

Ristsuko’s first dialogue segment features the word “good” three times. THREE TIMES. You know what that is? It’s NOT GOOD, that’s what it is!!!! I’m not against using “good” in terms of dialogue, but three times is excessive.

CH 4 P 2 CHANGES

THREE TIMES. THREE. TIMES. I’m sorry, I can’t get over it…

Other than that, it’s the standard fare; needs to be trimmed and rearranged; slimmed and reworked. The dialogue is clunky (THREE TIMES!!!!!) and needs a bit of clarity, so the words will flow better.

CH 4 P 2 FIXED

Ah… the use of “good” is down to an acceptable level, and the dialogue has been re-worked so it sounds more natural. Heiwa’s description is also fixed, so, although it relies on the “looking in the mirror” cliche, it sounds a bit better.

For a bit of a summary of the bits I’ve skipped to get to the next section, Heiwa shares a tearful goodbye with his mother, catches a ride with Kato to the airship base, and is now awaiting orders, though he has yet to see Daisuke…

CH 4 P 3

We get two new major/supporting faces in this chapter; Colonel Kaiser Berkmann and Sergeant Benedikt Kahler. Also, I apparently didn’t know that the “v” in “von Schneider” should not be capitalized. Hindsight is so fun, y’all; especially when a bit of googling could have saved me a lot of time, way back when.

My first scan results in this:

CH 4 P 3 CHANGES.PNG

I genuinely believe that if I eliminate all references to Matthias being “cold” or “frigid” or “austere,” the word count could be under 100,000. Well… that might be a stretch. Let’s say 150,000. That “austere” reference is getting the axe, and fast.

Lots of yellow, here… and it is definitely necessary. This whole portion is tough to slog through and has no sense of flow, plus the character descriptions need to be tweaked. Also, the way General von Schneider speaks must be addressed, because I know that I was aiming for “intimidating” (or “cold,” if you will) but the way he speaks rings hollow in that regard, and doesn’t seem genuine or particularly “official.”

CH 4 P 3 FIXED.PNG

Much better! (There should be an “a” before “chiseled,” though. Just pretend it’s there…I don’t have the document with me to fix it at the moment…)

Exposition is still there, but it’s smoother and less clogged with unnecessary words/sentences, and the character descriptions are trimmed to the basics. The dialogue for General von Schneider has also been fixed, and he sounds a bit more “General-esque.”

Lastly, we move on to one heckuva doozy…

ch 4 p 4

*bangs head on table*

How will we ever fix this…this… MONSTROSITY?!?

After a long perusal, this is what I’ve got:

CH 4 P 4 CHANGES

A few cuts here, and a few cuts there, and we might be able to save this bit! There’s a lot of description here, but sentences can be fused together to create better transitions, and some can be eliminated to make the whole thing move faster and smoother. Also, I believe Sergeant Kahler’s “nonchalance” can be summed up instead of described in multiple different ways.

ch 4 p 4 fixed

That selection is just about halved and nothing of importance was lost, and the awkward descriptions have been fixed. The conversation flows better and isn’t stilted with superfluous fluff. Honestly, it’s amazing how much I am able to cut from this piece with ten years of practice and some schooling under my belt.

Alright, next time we have the second half of chapter 4! Who will Heiwa’s roommate be onboard the UNMEI? What will their training entail? What is the exact mission that Heiwa is now involved in? What are Majors Tango and Leiter like? Only one of those questions will be answered next time, but the rest will follow eventually! After all, what is a scifi/manga epic without excessive exposition and at least 7 chapters to establish the plot and main cast?

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Worth 1000 Words #9: Snowtober 2011

Some of you, particularly those of you who reside in the northeastern United States, might remember the freak snowstorm of October 2011, which resulted in near state-wide power outages and general icy desolation in some areas.

383486_2063359704083_2085259487_nIt was Halloween weekend. My parents were visiting for a few days, and would be taking my grandmother (with whom I lived for a year and a half during college) back to PA with them for the winter. Saturday, afternoon, my father dropped me off at my second job, and all proceeded as normal… until the first fateful flakes began to fall. Within an hour or so, it was a full-on snow assault. I made it almost all the way through my shift, worriedly peeking out of the windows as white began to conquer the parking lot, until my dad appeared to pick me up and I bolted out the door.

The journey home was probably the most tense, stressful car ride of my life, but thankfully, my father is a skilled driver and we made it safely home. Had I been by myself, I never would have made it; the highway was a wasteland, the snow plummeted in droves, and cars were careening all over the place as folks tried to make it to their destination, dodging downed tree limbs and power lines.

Once back at home, the power had already gone out, so we dined on cold chicken by candlelight, dug out the spare blankets to stave off the bitter cold, lit a fire in the fireplace and played UNO to fight boredom, and mourned as our electronics slowly died. As the snow continued to fall, I fell asleep (beneath several layers) to the ominous snap-and-thud sound of breaking tree branches in the forest behind the house, praying that none would fall on the roof and crush me during the night.

The next day, New England was buried in snow/ice hell. Power was lost in a huge portion of the region (including almost all of Connecticut, if I remember correctly – I lived about ten minutes from the border) and because the weather was so wonky (it was warm right before the storm, then warm again immediately after) there was extensive damage that reached far beyond just NE. After I called out of work for the day, my parents and my grandmother left me to endure Snowtober alone, since I hadn’t heard anything about classes being cancelled for the following day or any time after. TO THIS DAY I STILL CANNOT FATHOM WHY THEY DID NOT IMMEDIATELY CANCEL CLASSES DUE TO THE DEVASTATION but regardless, I sat and waited it out. It was cold, boring, and I had no means of contact with the outside world. I did manage to get my homework done, though; we were covering Emerson and Thoreau in my American Literature class, and, in a true display of irony, our assignment was to read “Nature.” I didn’t laugh, nor did I develop a deep appreciation for transcendentalism as I paged through my literature textbook by candlelight, munching on a stale bagel.

I am proud of my alma mater, but I was NOT pleased to be going to class the following morning when over half of campus still had no power, despite the fact that the snow had already nearly melted. I am grateful, however, that the Writing Center where I worked still had power… I was able to charge all of my electronics in preparation for the long, dark night ahead. While I was there, doing homework and getting warm, the school released a statement announcing that classes were cancelled for the rest of the week, and students were advised to return home if possible.

This was AFTER they had us go to Monday classes, mind you; so classes were cancelled until the following Monday. I only went to one class on Monday, too, since night classes were cancelled and one of my professors wasn’t able to make it to campus regardless. It was very difficult to tamp the lid down on my rage, since I’d missed a free ride home with my parents the day before, and I couldn’t go for the less-expensive Amtrak option due to the massive power outage. Luckily, my dad loaned me money for a last minute plane ticket (which is quite a price-gouge for a day-before splurge) so I wouldn’t need to drive 6 hours solo through two snowpocalypse-plagued states in order to make my way home.

Driving home from campus that night (after the Writing Center closed) was a total nightmare, since power was still out and none of the traffic lights were operational. It was like driving through the zombie apocalypse sans zombies – though I was pleasantly surprised to see that my across-the-street neighbors, who were lovely people, had left some chopped wood for my fireplace on the front stoop. Things were looking up… until the next morning, I awoke to the shrill, shrieking tones of my burglar alarm blaring throughout the house. There were no intruders, I think it had something to do with the power outage. The alarm company also wouldn’t shut it off, because the house and account are not in my name, so I had to leap through several hoops to get them to have mercy on me (and my neighbors).

Less than five hours later, I’d been ferried to the airport by my godmother, and was nestled safely at home in PA with functional power. While at home, I did manage to snag 36 extra hours of work and by Thursday, I heard that power had been restored to my area of New England – which meant there had been 5 straight days of no power. I returned home on Sunday evening and life resumed as normal, as all traces of the Snowpocalypse began to fade away, and autumn picked up once more. It’s difficult to imagine how much difficulty and suffering a one-night snowfall can bring, but I hope to never experience another storm of the same magnitude ever again.

Writing Rewind #5: Wings of Fate Chapter 3

When we last left off on Writing Rewind, Heiwa met a new friend named Daisuke and attended a “mysterious meeting,” which announced a year-long mission on an airship under the command of the cold, icy, frigid, glacial General Matthias von Schneider. However, Heiwa doesn’t believe he can go because of his obligations to his mother and grandmother, even though he technically shouldn’t have the ability to refuse because it should have been an order, not an optional offer. Will Daisuke be able to convince Heiwa that going on this mission is his destiny?

To set the scene for chapter 3, Daisuke and Heiwa have arrived at a fast-food establishment called Burger Village (my creativity at its peak) where Daisuke and Kato (their cab driver, who comes along for some reason) are going to attempt to convince Heiwa that he must not pass up this chance of a lifetime…

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

ch3first

I’m all for similies and metaphors, but sometimes they should just… not. They can be a bane instead of a boon, if you know what I mean. And in my early years as a writer, I over-relied on them to the extreme. You should see my old fanfiction, it’s even worse than this!

My first scan yields this:

ch3firstchanges

Oh, look – familiar issues are cropping up again! Superfluous dialogue, awkward phrasing, needless detail… which means it’s time to fetch the trimmer! And there’s some tweaking to do, as well, to help eradicate the choppiness.

ch3firstfixed

The end result is a bit clearer, not so clunky, and doesn’t feature quite as many similies.

Next up…

ch3second

Good LORD, Heiwa could have probably said all of his opening dialogue bit in like… two sentences. That is over-explaining to the maximum, and it must be destroyed!!!!

My first round produces…

ch3secondchanges

It’s rare, but there are a couple of additions to be made (gasp!), along with the usual rephrasing and cutting. Also, I wish I could eliminate every single time Daisuke says “Dude,” because that was a definite mistake. I still might – it’s up in the air, at this point.

ch3second fixed

And there we have it; Heiwa’s blathering is sliced down to a far more manageable 3 sentences, and the awkward sentences have been reworked to improve clarity. A couple of sentences/snippets have also been swapped around, which I think flows better.

Next up, we have…

ch3third

For the life of me, I cannot fathom why everyone in this story is astonished that Heiwa would get to go on an actual airship during this (absurdly implausible) mission. He’s a member of the military branch that deals DIRECTLY WITH AIRSHIPS. It shouldn’t be such an uncommon thing, but apparently, this made sense to 15 year old me. So that needs to be phased out, obviously…

Other than that, it’s the same old, same old…

ch3thirdchanges.PNG

That first sentence is complete cringe. There are many ways to convey surprise, and in this sentence, Ritsuko is displaying two, and “stunned disbelief” is somewhat oxymoronic. And I’m just plain moronic.

Other than that, this selection is a bit tame, actually! A few redundant thoughts to hack off, and a bit of tweaking, then we have…

ch3thirdfixed.PNG

Ritsuko is showing her surprise in only one way, as opposed to two. Some dialogue was rearranged, and other sentences were removed, and we still have a functional passage that isn’t completely awful!

For the penultimate selection, we’ve got…

ch3fourth.PNG

Whoooooo boy. This passage can only be described as DRAMATIC AND OVERLY-DRAMATIC. I mean, Heiwa is obviously conflicted about the decision he has to make, but damn… it should not take this many conversations and repetition and blabbing on, and on, AND ON, to come to a conclusion.

So the proposed changes include…

ch3fourthchanges.PNG

That red-highlighted sentence is flat-out ridiculous. I am now a firm believer that “orbs” should never be used to describe eyes, EVER. Or certain parts of female anatomy, but that’s just my opinion. Also, I thought garnet was green when I wrote this. It is not green. So… yeah. That’s gonna pop up a lot in the future, too.

Also, WAY, WAY TOO MUCH dialogue for Izumi. The heartfelt words kind of lose their impact when it’s stated repeatedly in various ways and in a massive chunk of as opposed to compacted into a concise version. THAT MUST CHANGE, STAT!

So basically, we need to chop, chop, chop, and polish, polish, polish!

ch3fourthfixed

Ahhh, look how slim and trim the fixed version is compared to the original! It’s so svelte.

So, their interaction is cut dramatically, but doesn’t really lose any meaning. Heiwa and his mom can profess their thoughts to one another and enforce their bond without PRATTLING ON FOREVER.

And last, but certainly not least, there’s this gem…

ch3fifth.PNG

Ohhhhhh my. This is just… no. No, no, no. I wish I could deny that I ever wrote this, but alas, it has my old trademarks all over it!

ch3fifthchanges.PNG

The axe is going to have a lot to do in this one, because the sappy, melodramatic blabbering has GOT to go. It doesn’t need to be reworked, or preserved. It needs to be terminated.

So, with that as the strategy, our final version is…

ch3fifthfixed.PNG

The same ideas have been expressed in two sentences instead of 10+. It’s so simple. Even though there are a lot of words that CAN be said, and a lot of emotional gravitas to be conveyed, they don’t always need to BE said or included. Simple is good.

And there we have it! Chapter 3 is also completed in one fell swoop! If it isn’t obvious, Heiwa has decided to go on the mission after being persuaded by his mother, grandmother, new friend, and a random cab driver. Next time, the mission is underway and we might meet a couple of new characters! That might be chapter 5, though. I can’t remember; I’ve blocked it out of my memory…

Next time, Chapter 4: The Point of no Return … a chapter likely named after the Phantom of the Opera song of the same name. I went through a musical phase in high school, so… yeah…

 

Writing Techniques: Place Names

My strategy for place names is similar to my strategy for character names, which I previously discussed in a blog post here.

By similar, I mean it is almost exactly the same, but there are some nuances worth discussing.

I know a lot of folks trend more toward the “don’t sweat it” when it comes to names for characters or places, but I fall more into the opinion that names are important for characters and for places. I think a good name is indicative of the place/character it is bestowed upon, and thus should be selected with care. But if you’re poring over name websites or google translate for 100000 hours trying to whittle a list down to the “perfect” name, it might be time to relax a bit.

For places, my strategy is a bit simpler than it is for names, but the technique is generally the same. There are 2 websites I rely on to help me concoct place names, and they are:

Google Translate (lots of options and more in-depth)
Indifferentlanguages.com (Presents choices in list-form, which is a bit easier to read/use)

Essentially, I analyze the place I am trying to name and pick out certain characteristics – like, is it rural/urban, are there mountains, is it defined by a certain landmark, what sort of people live there, etc. – and then look up related words in Google Translate or on the other site. Sometimes I have to go to other sites to translate character-based languages, but these two are the sites I utilize most frequently. For example, if the place is a snowy, northern city with a small population, I’ll see what “cold,” or “ice” or “desolate” mean in various languages, and try to align my choices so that the name sounds indicative of the place, if that makes sense. Often, I’ll combine two or more words – like, “ice town” could be Ledoras, a combination of related Serbian and Romanian words. Sounds like a plausible name for a city or a town; or a Middle-Earth elf.

Lastly,  I google the end result just to make sure I’m not accidentally swearing or using a questionable term. And wherever possible, I like to throw in an umlaut or an accent mark. I love a good umlaut.

I also think it’s a better idea to select/create names that are going to be at least somewhat easy to pronounce. But that’s a personal preference.

For I’m With You, the names of the Empiryan cities were mostly rooted in Latin with a couple of exceptions, like Kelvar, which I made up so long ago I genuinely couldn’t tell you where it came from (though, in retrospect, it is very similar to “kevlar” but I stand by it) and Terra Speranza, which is a combination of Latin and Italian, loosely meaning “Land of Hope.” For example, Fortisan is derived from the Latin term for “strong.” Postremo means “lastly,” or “and finally,” since it’s their first stop after a long train journey. Mount Gelu means “ice,” Silex means “flint,” Econtra is derived from “conversely” or “opposite” Fomeus means “smoke-filled,” and Organum has a dual-meaning, as in “organ” (instrument) and “organ” (part of the body) because the town itself is vital to certain characters. That’s the gist of it, anyway.

For the nation of Selva (which means “wood”), I mainly used Italian, even though Selva is an amalgamation of various places/cultures and not profoundly influenced solely by Italy. I also used a certain theme when it comes to the city/town names… Pero means “pear.” Fragola means “strawberry.” Mela means “apple.” That should make the theme clear. I couldn’t tell you why I named the cities and towns of Selva after the contents of a fruit bowl, but I’m fond of it.

It’s easy to get stuck on the details of writing, like names – or get so preoccupied with character names and personalities that the development of the setting/place names get tossed onto the back burner. It doesn’t have to be a hassle or an inconvenience to choose names for particular sites or settings in a story; it can even be a lot of fun, paring down options and trying out different word combinations, figuring out what to call the places that have already taken shape in your mind. Naming, though it’s not as major as actual plot development, helps to give the place/setting life – and outside resources certainly help to make the process easier.

Writing Rewind #4: Wings of Fate Chapter 2

Last time on Writing Rewind we got a kickstart into this bloated disaster of a story as our hero, Heiwa, received a letter imploring him to attend a mysterious meeting. Is he finally about to embark on the adventure he’s always dreamed of and achieve the chance of a lifetime? Probably. I mean, there’s still 200,000+ words to go, so something obviously happens.

To set the scene, since I skipped over some exposition to get to the first selection for this chapter, Heiwa is at the airship base with his new friend, Daisuke, whom he met on the way. Along with several other members of the military who received the same strange letter, they are now waiting for the mysterious meeting to begin…

Without further ado, here we go!

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

ch2first

….Lord, I need a drink. We’re getting into character descriptions. This is going to get messy. I wonder how many “tall and muscular” male characters I’ve got in this; I’m sure it’s several.

So, here are my initial scans…

ch2firstchanges

It’s hack n’ slash time!!!

Per usual, all of this can be condensed a considerable amount – there are ideas expressed in 2 to 3 sentences that could have been accomplished in 1. Also, there is a lot that needs to be rephrased for clarity and to fix some clunkiness.

And here is the fixed version:

ch2firstfixed.PNG

The three paragraphs have been shaved down to two, and the descriptions – of both the setting and our new character, Kaminari – are much more concise. Not every detail spelled out, but just enough to (hopefully) paint some sort of a picture.

Further along, we have this gem:

ch2second

I think it is quite obvious that I did not know what I wanted the airship to look like, so I threw some random features into the description and hoped that was enough. Also, “unmei” means “fate” or “destiny” in Japanese… see what I did there? It’s like when they say the title of a movie in the movie!… I’ll see myself out.

So, here are my pinpointed corrections…

ch2secondchanges.PNG

Literally cannot believe I used the word “radical” in this context. Daisuke’s dialogue is going to generate a lot more cringe as we go along, because if I remember correctly, he has a “surfer dude” style of speech that comes across as completely terrible.

Also, there’s a lot of trimming to be done here, some punctuation tweaks with the last bit of dialogue, and a few sentence removals to eliminate unnecessary or redundant ideas.

So here’s the fixed version:

ch2secondfixed

A bit clearer; less bogged down. I slimmed down the description of the airship because it does get explained (in painstaking detail) later on, and I’ve chopped out some needless words and sentences, because this entire segment is dragged out wayyyyyy too long. I think this version is still relatively coherent, despite the changes.

Moving on bring us to…

ch2third

We meet the general again; the fellow from the prologue! It’s all falling into place now! I think he’s a cold, intimidating guy, but not sure what would have given that impression…

ch2thirdchanges.PNG

We’re getting into the nitty-gritty of the mission (with is super improbable, but whatever) now, but the major issue in this selection is obviously the character description of the general, Matthias – who is a main character, if my deliberate pandering failed to make that clear. He was my favorite character at the time that I wrote this, and that should be obvious by the amount of superfluous detail I provided on his appearance, and my constant mentioning of his “cold” personality and features. There are some other issues to address, like the typical wordiness to eliminate and sentences to rephrase, but the character description is the glaring one.

I’m all for character descriptions in stories, whether they be gradual or spelled out at the start, but I definitely now lean more to the side that they should be as brief as possible if it’s all going to be dumped in one place. Outfits do not needs to be described down to every last button or thread, and hairstyles do not need to be detailed down to every last hair. Simple is best, for most cases.

Here is the fixed version:

ch2thirdfixed

I probably could have shaved the character details down even more, but it’s definitely less wordy than the previous version. I’ve described Matthias without going too overboard. I also cut down on some of Dr. Black’s (the mastermind of the mission) speech about the mission. Exposition is still important, but the more to-the-point it is, the better, and it was getting a bit rambly.

Speaking of rambly… there is one more paragraph of description for Matthias…

ch2fourth

Wow. That is bad. That is a paragraph straight out of the “what not to do” manual of writing character descriptions; literally an entire paragraph about how cold his eyes are, which was already stated IN HIS PREVIOUS APPEARANCE. Good lord, based on this description his eyes could join the Justice League! This illustrates the very definition of ad nauseam.

So, these are my proposed changes:

ch2fourthchanges

It is all cringe-worthy and it all NEEDS TO DIE.

So, there is no fixed version to post, because it was razed entirely. It is gone FOREVER, sliced from existence, and I hope it burns.

Lastly, we have this segment:

ch2fifth

Same old, same old – wordy and awkward. Nothing too terribly major, but improvements can definitely be made. It’s time to bring out the axe and the red pen…

ch5fifthchanges

“Brown eyes twinkling in the winter sun” probably should have earned a red highlight, but I think the previous selection was enough cringe for today.

Also, a “confidential meeting” of this nature probably shouldn’t have been held outside during the day, where outsiders could possibly hear. Security is tight and the base is well away from the city itself, so it could be plausible, but if I were doing a complete rewrite, I could probably have held the meeting inside the hangar as opposed to the outside.

ch2fifthfixed

The edited version is a bit simpler, but still gets the point across. So far, this series has definitely been an exploration in being succinct – or significantly less verbose.

And there we have it; chapter 2 was finished all in one post, though I assure you, there were many more opportunities. Now we know that the mysterious mission is a year-long adventure on an amazing airship, though details are still sparse! Next time, we venture onto chapter 3, where Daisuke attempts to convince Heiwa to go along on the mission, despite his obligations at home. Will he succeed?!? Spoiler alert; he does. Wouldn’t be much of a story is Heiwa stayed home, would it?

Stay tuned for Chapter 3: The Hardest Decision. I have my trusty axe ready to chop, and I’m sure I’ll need it a lot.

 

Film Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

Dir: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis
Runtime: 2hr 21min
Spoiler Level: Light, discussion of any spoilers will take place under a “Continue Reading” tag and will be preceded by a bolded warning.

Though reactions to 2016’s Batman V Superman were polarizing at best, Gal Gadot’s debut as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman garnered a significant amount of praise. Her role in the film also served as the beloved character’s first (and long overdue) silver screen appearance, and set the stage for her very own film – arguably the first major superhero movie to focus on a female character, if you ignore Elektra and Catwoman, as I do. And may I just say… IT’S ABOUT TIME.

images.jpgPersonally, I’m not a lifelong Wonder Woman fan, so my first real introduction to her (outside of Cartoon Network’s old Justice League show) was Batman V Superman, and though her screen time was limited, her impact was huge and she was one of the major highlights of the film – and it piqued my interest for her solo outing. Her initial appearance created some buzz, but also raised some questions… the main one being, can a superhero film centered on a female hero succeed in a male-dominated genre?

At last, we have an answer: and Wonder Woman totally delivers. Not only can it stand against some of the more “landmark” superhero films, it qualifies as one of the better ones – and Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince / Wonder Woman carries the film with just as much (if not more) strength as her fellow DC counterparts and even the Marvel tentpoles, like Captain America and Iron Man.

Wonder Woman follows the titular hero from her idyllic childhood on the mythical island of Themyscira to her eventual involvement in the War to End All Wars. As she strives to defeat the cause of hatred in the hearts of mankind, Diana discovers that the world outside her isolated island home is not the place she thought it was and she struggles to determine what her role should be – or if she belongs in the world of men at all.

DC has burned us before (I mean, I didn’t bother with Suicide Squad but I got the gist)  but where previous installments fell into horrendous spirals of “too much” and “not enough” in various categories, often coming across as more convoluted than captivating, Wonder Woman is a solid superhero outing with an excellent cast, superb music, jaw-dropping action, and an engaging story that is a thrill from start to finish.

As far as casting goes, DC has done pretty well so far, and Wonder Woman is no exception. Gal Gadot is equal parts charming and intense – she pulls off the ultimate badassery of the titular character as she campaigns against evil, while also channeling the earnest naivete and curiosity of Diana as she strives to navigate the intricacies of the world of men. Chris Pine is affable, yet serious as Steve Trevor, an army captain who introduces Diana to the world outside of Themyscira and supports her in her mission against Ares, offering his guidance and witty remarks. Their chemistry is electric, and their interactions are both a source of humor and heart throughout the film. The supporting cast is full of great performances – with Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta, Robin Wright as Antiope, David Thewlis as Patrick Morgan, Danny Huston as Ludendorff, Elena Anaya as Doctor Poison, Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, Saïd Taghmaoui as Sameer, Ewen Bremner as Charlie, and Eugene Brave Rock as Chief – but really, it’s Gadot and Pine who steal the show with their emotionally-charged, dynamic partnership. I legit cared about both of them; they created reasons to be invested in their individual arcs, their relationship, and the overall plot.

Where most DC films thus far have fallen short on the “humor” track, Wonder Woman’s got humor and charisma without completely losing the darker, gritty tone of its predecessors. Parts of the film do feel hopeless; the saccharine “everything will be okay” sheen perpetuated by comic book films is peeled away to reveal real, raw darkness – some of which cannot be defeated entirely. The action is mostly superb, the pacing is decent, and the scenery is gorgeous; it’s one of the most visually-engrossing films I’ve seen this year, as it successfully portrays the bleakness of war-torn Europe, utopian beauty of Themyscira, and the grey gloom of early 20th century London. The music, composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, builds on the previously-introduced Wonder Woman theme from BvS (which is SO FREAKING GOOD) and generates new pulse-pounding accompaniment to Diana’s battles and the landscape of WWI. All in all, this film does a great job of maintaining balance – where previous films have either been “too much” or “not enough” or some catastrophic fusion of the two, Wonder Woman stays on course and the end result is a film that essentially fires on all cylinders, despite a couple of stumbles.

For a movie that is starring a woman and is helmed by a woman, the “feminist theme” of the narrative is not overt or over the top. It’s woven naturally into the dialogue and through the actions of the characters, but there’s no harping; no soapbox preaching. Basically, Diana doesn’t talk about kicking ass – she just does it, and in spectacular fashion, too. The film also carries a powerful message about the nature of man, and delivers it exceptionally well. It’s a theme that many superhero films have heralded in the past, but this film manages to do so in a way that feels fresh and new, not just a regurgitation of the same old stereotypical tropes.

Of course, as with all good movies, there are some negatives. Parts of the dialogue in the third act toe the line of heavy-handed on the corn front, but there’s always a sprinkle of cheese or two in a film adapted from comic books, so it’s not exceptionally bothersome. The action is a bit hard to follow at times, with the frequent slo-mo and CGI and pacing switches, but I’ve come to expect that as par for the course when it comes to DC films. Though the action gets a bit distracting at a few points, the fight sequences are absolutely beautiful 95% of the time. The “No Man’s Land” bit in particular is, to put it bluntly, f*cking BRILLIANT.

Say what you want about Zack Snyder, but it’s pretty obvious that he cares 1000% about the properties he/DC is adapting to the big screen. He didn’t direct this one (I love him, but that’s probably a good thing), and yet, his influence is definitely felt in some areas (the slo-mo, the fight scenes, his typical trademarks, the story) and if we hadn’t gotten a glimpse of Diana in BvS first, the buzz surrounding this film might not have reached such a high mark on the hype-o-meter. He’s made some missteps, and DC/Warner Bros have definitely mishandled things in the universe thus far, but if this film is any indication, the daughter of Zeus may have steered this franchise back on course.

Under the stellar direction of Patty Jenkins (I am soooooo looking forward to seeing more from her), for the first time, a DC film actually comes across more of a sleek, polished machine with heart rather than a muddled mess that tries too hard, with a clear and coherent story, some of the best action scenes to come out of a superhero film in recent memory, and a cast of charming, compelling characters that it is easy and exciting to root for. Jenkins succeeds in portraying the softer side of Diana coupled with her incredible strength in a superhero origin tale that is engaging from the sands of Themyscira to a snowy war-torn village. The DCEU has been off to a stumbling start, but hopefully the bombastic Wonder Woman will help garner some momentum that will carry into November’s upcoming Justice League and beyond.

Overall rating: 9/10

WARNING: SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT. DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED.

Continue reading

Writing Rewind #3: Wings of Fate Chapter 1 Part 2

I can feel a headache brewing already… which means it’s time for part 3!

Last time, we met our beloved hero, Heiwa, who lives in the countryside with his grouchy grandmother and his terminally-ill mother. Now, we get the first taste of the plot, as Heiwa receives a mysterious (and likely poorly written) letter…

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

HERE WE GO! To set the scene, Heiwa just got some mail…

ch1p2first

I mean… I invented a new branch of the military for this story, and that probably was… erroneous. Definitely would have applied a different tactic if I were writing this for the first time today, but I’m not going to delve too deeply into it, because it would require a massive overhaul. Regardless, on a superficial level, I could definitely improve the way my fictional military branch presents itself. That letter is just a big ol’ ball of NOPE.

Here are the changes I pinpointed…

ch1p2firstchanges

Ahhhhhh, so much to cut out, so little time! Well, actually, I do have time; that’s why I’m doing this. Anyway… like so many parts before this, it suffers from “Too Much Detail” syndrome, and the only cure is extensive slashing. The letter is way too verbose, and there’s also some phrasing to rework, but nothing that major (for once).

Here’s the fixed version:

ch1p2firstfixed

Short, sweet (I guess), and to the point. Well… the point was for the letter to be vague, but intriguing. And the shorter it is, the better, so not to over-emphasize.

Later, Heiwa is watching television with his mother… in WAY TOO MUCH DETAIL. But we do learn a bit about Heiwa’s deceased cliche – I mean, father.

ch1p2second

In ninth grade, I obviously did not know the difference between “interlude” and “prelude.” So, that’s great. Also, I think Izumi has “smiled weakly” three times in this chapter alone, and TWICE in this segment. Good grief.

My initial scan yields this:

ch1p2secondchanges

Again with the emerald orbs!!!!! GAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Anyway, per usual, there’s a lot to rework to fix some awkward phrasing and general issues, and a couple of cringe-worthy and superfluous sentences to axe.

Here is the fixed version:ch1p2secondfixed

Much more concise, and nothing was lost. It’s easy to get caught up in the mentality of trying to ensure the reader knows EXACTLY what you are trying to day, but really, I think it’s more about providing the framework, and allowing them to build their own mental picture around it. You don’t need to provide them with a fully-furnished house and try to convey each little feature in painstaking detail. There’s a balance to be had; a balance that eluded me way back when…

Lastly, to bring chapter one to a close, we have our hero reflecting on his day…

ch1p2third

WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK, PAST ALLIE?!?!! I reread this and whispered “oh my god” under my breath about sixteen times. I cringed myself into the next plane of existence. This is utterly AGONIZING, from “jade colored eyes” to “please, star” and everything else. I mean, the concept itself is totally cringe-inducing, but I definitely can make it less so without cutting the whole thing out… though I really, really want to. Sadly, (SPOILER ALERT) the “wishing star” theme returns later… much later, though. So I have time to recover from this.

So, obviously, I was able to concoct some changes…

ch1p2thirdchanges

There’s some of the typical wording fixes to make, but it’s going to be quite a hefty order to make this less cringe-y. Time to grab my trusty scissors (also known as ctrl + x) and get to work!

ch1p2thirdfixed.PNG

Ahhhhhh. So much shorter. So much less… painful to read.

I was a real sentimental fiend back in the day, so there will be more instances of this type of (cliche-riddled, hopelessly optimistic, saccharine) writing as we proceed… I can hardly wait to share it with you. The good thing is, it’s definitely making for a cautionary tale, and even though I can’t actually steer my past self away from this writing, it’s already been a helpful experience to be able to recognize my errors and fix them now, so many years after the fact.

Next time, we learn about the “mission”… sort of. Secrets will remain, but we also get to meet some other members of our main cast! And a certain icy general might make another appearance, so stay tuned for Chapter 2: The Mission. Until next time!