#15 Your Write to: JUST DO IT!!!

Putting my own lessons into practice makes me JUST DO IT!!!

 

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Blooper Reels and Humility

woopsI don’t know about you, but I personally love watching blooper reels from TV shows and movies. It’s nice to see the imperfections in performances before the piece gets polished up into consumable perfection. But while it is enjoyable to watch highly skilled and highly paid actors mess up their lines, break character, and fumble over their words, it is often hard to look at our own mistakes with the same amusement.

Why is that? I think I’m starting figure out what it is about blooper reels that make them so appealing, and before I shed my thoughts on that that, allow me to share the process that sparked my revelation.

Today, I am trying to edit my BSBS Review for The Girl on the Train and the whole recording process took about an hour and a half to do last night. This includes me gaining momentum in delivering my point, only to lose steam, delete the recording, and start all over again. The more I record, the more I have to edit, and I often fear that process.

It’s the same almost every time; I feel like I need to get it right the first time or I shouldn’t keep the recording. Then I eventually  tell myself that this is what I have editing software for! To cut through the awkward pauses between my points and compress them together in a deliverable format. Even then, it’s a battle between getting it perfect and getting it done.

When it comes time to editing, that’s where the real fun begins. That’s where I can create the illusion that I am a coherent speaker who can stay on point and deliver my message clearly and concisely–when in reality, everything that happened in between some of the cuts is anything but concise, clear, or coherent.

The more mistakes there are, the more shame I feel about it. I have all these thoughts and opinions about a story locked up in my head, all begging to be expressed or it’s going to bug me for not being able to share it. Having difficulty in conveying my thoughts adds to the pressure of wondering if it’s even worth doing these reviews considering that my videos have had hit or miss engagement in terms of viewership, comments, and likes.

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Did I Really Just Say That?!

After an hour or two of editing the initial recording and cringing at my mistakes, I eventually start laughing at myself for not only the bloopers, but also laughing at how stressed out I get from them. I know it’s horrible, but I often compare my moments of impeded speech to the way that Jimmy Valmer kid from South Park stutters when he speaks. Sometimes to the point of taking a whole minute to say a simple five word sentence. And Jimmy has it worse!

When I’m finally done experiencing all this creative mania, I relax and decide to just get the job done.

It’s not about the viewership, the likes, or even the comments–though of course, these are things I would greatly appreciate. It’s more about me having fun with reading these books and giving myself the treat of watching it all play out on the big screen. Not to mention  the chance to goof off on camera and deliver my thoughts in a place that doesn’t remain stuck in my head are huge pluses.

Sometimes…

  • The first recording gets edited to completion and uploaded anyway. I realize it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.
  • The first recording gets edited to completion, but it still sucks despite my attempts at polishing it up. I see it as a rough draft/rehearsal to show me where I can improve in the re-recording.
  • Right away, I see how horrible it’s going to be. At least I don’t have to fear messing up THAT badly again, and I can jump back into the studio with much more confidence! I know I can do better, so I’ll do better.

Cut! Action! Print!

movie-production-clapper-board_249x201I’ve been doing BSBS Reviews for 9 months now and this is how it’s been for me. Today, I resolve to accept it as all part of the process. As much as I would like to get it all right the first time, it is incredibly rare for me to record a 15 minute video with not much editing required vs the usual 30-60+ messy minute mania.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to deliver my point without any editing and master this lip flapping, tongue slapping, noise making device installed in my face. Until then, I’ll keep practising and polishing up my craft.  I will accept that this may be my process for now or forever.

This is what made me realize why blooper reels are so fun to watch. There’s humility in showcasing some of the mistakes actors have made before post-production. It’s to show that they’re human too and just trying to find their way through the scene.

After all the missed cue lines and involuntary laughter, they eventually get it done. And more importantly, even though there is work to be done, the production can still have fun in the process. It’s nice to hear laughter erupting in the background from the people who are off screen, along with the ones on screen, because that signals to us that it’s okay to make mistakes and try again.

We just have to keep working at it until we get it right. If we care enough about what we want to create in our lives, we push through all the difficulty and learn from our mistakes. After all, every expert out there was once an awkward novice. No one is born skilled. Talented maybe, but I agree with Will Smith when he says talents are useless until you practise to turn them into skills.

The final product may be close to perfect, but the process doesn’t have to be. Creation is usually a messy experience, but that’s where the fun is at!

The Four Pillars of Fiction Part 2: Characters

Your story’s objective is only as powerful as the characters that convey it.

Each member of the cast must represent opposing sides of the main argument, thus providing several different angles to perceive your story’s philosophy.

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I’ve already written a couple of other posts about characters, both of which you can check out here for more:

Crafting a Character Series

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

–but for today, let’s focus on why characters  should be as extensively explored as I have in previous posts.

Me, Myself, and Who Am I?

Fundamentally, every story’s main character is on a quest to achieve self-knowledge. This goes for both putty characters and pebble characters. Think of throwing a pebble at a wall, the physical structure of the pebble remains the same, whereas throwing a blob of putty will cause it to reform.

That’s what characters experience; being thrown against a wall, so to speak, and they either change or don’t change throughout the course of your story. Either way, their purpose remains the same; to argue for one or several sides of the objective.

I know that there’s a plethora of stories where morality is ambiguous (and that they’re usually much more interesting), but for the sake of simplicity, let’s take the basic concept of Good vs Evil to illustrate how characters argue for each side. And by argue, that could mean verbal or physical combat, or in just the way that they conduct themselves.

Generic Good Guy is a law abiding citizen, doing some good for his friends, family, and community. Everything he does in the story is for the benefit of others or for himself without hurting anybody except possibly…

The Typical Bad Guy whose sole purpose is to watch the world burn. He causes destruction everywhere he goes, expressing his preference to be evil and not care about hurting others because it’s what he intends anyway. Generic Good Guy may hurt other people unintentionally, but he usually owns up to it, while Typical Bad Guy has no remorse for the pain he causes.

In this basic story dynamic of Good vs Evil, the argument is (usually) that good triumphs over evil, all the time.

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Who Would You Be Without Adversity?

To convey this, Typical Bad Guy will have to test Generic Good Guy on the grounds of his ethics, philosophy, strength, and integrity by throwing obstacles in his way. Perhaps Generic Good Guy’s objective is to a safe and adjusted life, but TBG is getting in the way of that by hurting GGG’s social circle and disrupting his day to day life.

It is through adversity where Generic Good Guy will discover or grow into a force for good. If he’s a putty character, maybe he’s a weak underdog type who has to train in order to defeat the almight Typical Bad Guy. Or perhaps he’s a pebble character that has strength and prowess, but hasn’t had the chance to exercise any of it because he hasn’t been challenged yet.

In either case, the end result is the same. The character has developed some level of self-knowledge by fighting for what he believed in, whether he won or lost against his opposition. He now knows what strength he’s capable of, or made himself capable of it through hard work and determination.

Pouring Some Sugar in Generic Brand Oatmeal

Now, that was a very very basic example I had to keep simple in order to elaborate on a more complex concept. Stories these days have many more layers in their examination of the objective, and even more layers in their characterization.

Ultimately, characters are meant to represent several sides of an objective, and they do that by trying to express their personal preferences, only to have them attacked or dismissed by the other characters.

The key ingredient to conveying Objective is having characters disagree with each other and fight over who gets to assert their preference, or if any common ground can be met between them in less black and white type of stories.It is through disagreements between characters that we are given the opportunity to passively experience different sides of an argument–and decide for ourselves which characters we agree with, if any at all.

Stay tuned for The Four Pillars of Fiction Part 3: Setting…

The Four Pillars of Fiction Part 1: PLOT

You may be familiar with this basic outline of what a plot graph looks like, and it is nice for writing a basic outline for a story.

Basic Plot

However, this is just a skeleton and we should add some layers to give it some flesh and bone.

What Plot Stands For:

People
Location
Objective
Tenacity

Just like The Four Pillars of Fiction, these are The Four Pillars of Plot that uphold the structure. You need people in a location with an objective to tell a story, along with some tenacity to make that story worth telling.

Fundamentally, you need characters to exist in a physical space in which to act out their drama, and drama only unfolds because these characters have conflicting goals and motivations that prevent each other from getting what they want.

Objective

They may either deliberately want to prevent each other from achieving their goals–as is the case with the simple black and white, good guy vs bad guy stories–or they may even be of the same alliance with differing opinions and preferences that get in the way of them finding unity.

When it comes to your plot’s objective, what kind of message do you want to convey about the world? Is there an aspect of reality you want to capture and illustrate? Is there an ideal version of the world and human behaviour you want to propose? What is it that you want to say about our state as a species?

That is your Objective.

Creators of art, whether they’re conscious of it or not, will always end up injecting their personal philosophy into their work and use it as a tool to convey the different angles in which they perceive people and the world at lage.

There’s no way around it, characters will always have an objective, whether miniscule or grand, they want to accomplish something. Even a story about a guy who just lies around his apartment all day has the objective of…wanting to do nothing and there are some deep rooted reasons beyond “because he just wants to.”

Maybe he’s depressed and doesn’t want to go out, or he’s been out too much and he needs time to himself? Objective in stories are inescapable.

So to add that layer to our basic plot graph skeleton, it should look like this:

Plot With Objective

Tenacity

But that’s still not enough. A story needs Tenacity. Some high (or sometimes low) stakes to keep you at the edge of your seat, biting your nails, waiting to see what happens next.

The rule in life applies to fiction as well: no risk, no reward. The characters need to be at risk of losing something or we won’t be interested in them striving for anything. Surely, there are stories that are risk and conflict free, but with risk comes curiousity. Without risk and conflict, there really is nothing to be gained from it.

We want to be wondering how characters will survive dire situations because we consume fiction to not only root for these portrayals of the human ideal, but also to live vicariously through them. It’s through stories where we can safely experience what it’s like for someone to commit to their Objective and have the Tenacity to achieve it.

Compare these two stories:

“I went to work, did my job because I wanted to make money, and then I came home.”

vs. “I went to work hungover, it was very busy, I could have called in sick, but I need to make rent so I can lie around my apartment all day.”

What’s the fundamental difference between these stories? They both have goals and motivations, but the second one has conflict that requires some overcoming. That’s what we relate to when we experience stories.

This is what a true plot graph would look like with my full PLOT system in place:Plot With Tenacity

I’ll let the graph speak for itself, for there’s much much more to cover in the next three entries.

Let me know if you would like for me to elaborate on any of the additions made in this chart, and I’ll gladly save the exploration of them in a future post.

Stay tuned for The Four Pillars of Fiction Part 2: Characters…

 

My Double Life as a B/Vlogger

Greetings, fellow WordPressers, I have a confession to make. I’ve been living a double life and having done so, I have done you and myself a giant disservice. While I do value the work I do on here in terms of presenting to you inspiration for writing tips and self-knowledge, I have another passion you might not be aware of; and that’s dissecting film and literature to their philosophical core.

Coming to you from YouTube Land is Book Shelf to Big Screen Reviews! Where I review novels that get adapted for film in order to get a sense for what’s hot in our current market and seeking to understand what all these stories have to say about our current state as a species and society.

Being an aspiring author, I have the goal to educate through entertainment, injecting my stories with philosophy and universal themes such as love, kinship, personal actualization, adversity and triumph, and much much more–hopefully one day getting my novels massive appeal through film adaptations that can and will capture, if not improve on the source material.

I started this journey two years ago and shelved it for a while, but now I am back and determined to bring philosophy to the masses through my dissection of film and literature. Most reviewers will talk about how amazing plotlines and action sequences are, and I will do the same, but also so much more in addition to that. I want my reviews to uncover the veil and rip away the surface of these stories in order for others to see that there is so much more going on in stories than mere entertainment.

There is education to be found amidst all the cliffhangers that keep you at the edge of your seat and turning the page. So without further adieu here is the intro to my channel as well as the first episode ever I did a couple years back near the highest end of Twilight’s fandom–a novel that swept the world in more camps beyond Edward vs Jacob, but also good literature vs trash.

If you enjoy my content, I would appreciate if we could open a discussion on the deeper aspects of all these stories that are making it big in the mainstream and seek to understand with me why they are creating such massive appeal in the first place. On top of that, I would also appreciate if you could share these videos with the people you love and cherish who love and cherish film and literature as much, if not more, than I do.

Sure I’ll make the crass joke here and there, and maybe even praise the surface aesthetics of certain stories, but at the end of the day BSBS Reviews isn’t just about me goofing off and geeking out about what I’ve read and watch (and on occassion ranting about the ones I’ve disliked). It’s about giving film and literature their deserved attention in terms of what they all have to say about us as viewers and consumers of these stories, and driving the market toward better content.

In the upcoming days I will be starting from square one sharing my videos from the beginning up to the most recent ones, and eventually as I create more videos, share those as well here. Let’s connect. Follow me on WordPress and subscribe to my YouTube channel if you feel as I do in recognizing that there are more to stories than mere entertainment.

Gamer, Know Thy Self: Part 3

maxresdefaultGamer rage is such a common phenomenon that there’s a YouTube character dedicated to everyone who has lost their shit at a video game. The Angry Video Game Nerd (one of my influences for BSBS Reviews) embodies the vile, cathartic, and sometimes embarrassing expression of our inner most rage. His portrayal of an adult man playing the games of his childhood and getting angry at them has resonated with many gamers of today because they can relate to the frustration of losing control over something that was meant to be fun.

Whether playing alone or with others, playing games of your youth or current generation games, it can be debilitating to feel unskilled and helpless as you see your virtual avatar get pounded by the difficulty of the computer or human opponent. While not every expression of frustration with games is not as extreme as defecating on a game cartridge (or disc since who puts games on cartridges anymore?), cursing at your screen, or even cursing at someone over Xboxlive, PSN, or TeamSpeak–you do not have to let your emotions get the best of you, thus preventing you from enjoying what you’re supposed to find enjoyment in.

Respecting Emotions

mentorIn addition to gauging your opponent’s skill level, I think it’s important to gauge their emotional reaction to your superior skills, if you have much more familiarity and skill in a game. Some people prefer that you go hard at them so they are forced to pick up the game faster, while others prefer that you take it easy on them so that they have room to try out different moves and strategies.

I think gaming can have a huge effect on your capacity for empathy when you are significantly more skilled than someone else. If someone is playfully cursing your skill and laughing at their own losses, then you know that they are okay with losing, whereas if they are cursing your skill and getting angry at their losses, you can provide the option for you to ease up whether implicitly or explicitly. You can just as easily ease up a bit and play less aggressively, or just talk to them about what they would prefer–and of course, ask if they want any feedback on how to improve.

Recently, a friend of mine has noticed me playing Brawlhalla on Steam every time we were both online and took an interest in playing it as well. It was quite a different experience to be direct about what he would prefer, and since this approach to gaming with someone less experienced with me is new, I am constantly surprised by what people prefer. In either case, it is a pleasure to have the offering of feedback accepted because another value I found out of gaming is getting to mentor someone who is willing to learn.

Like me befriending people online who are galaxies better than me at the game, my friend was open to learning the nuances and techniques that can help him gain a better understanding at what the successful players know how to pull off in order to increase not only their skill level, but also the level of fun they experience. I don’t know about you, but personally for me, I feel a sense of badassery when I can execute complex and technical abilities in the good ol’ vidya.

Whenever you feel frustrated, I would suggest taking a moment to become fully aware of how you feel and what you’re thinking of at the moment. Was there something you can do better or is someone playing too aggressively? While not every superior player will be as friendly as me or the other guy I mentioned as to lend a helping hand for you to improve, I think it’s important to gauge right away what kind of player they are.

You do this by asking for feedback, and if they give it, AWESOME, but if they don’t, and instead add insult to injury FUCK ‘EM! Move on, do not engage in a troll war because getting into a heated exchange with another player is a giant waste of time. That time could be used for playing another match, getting advice, reading or watching strategy guides. These are much better alternatives to letting your blood boil and burn you up inside.

Video-Games-are-Good-for-you-e1426083812512Always respect your feelings when gaming and know that you need to stop, take a break, and do something else whenever you feel overwhelmed by any crushing losses you experience. Check in with yourself and see if your frustration has anything to do with something else in your day, harsh words from other players, or if you’re just really not in the mood. Ponder on your motives for playing because if you’re playing to win and expect nothing else, it can obviously be aggravating.

Another thing that helped me undo the personalizing of my losses was remembering a time in my childhood where my cousin destroyed me in Mortal Kombat 3 to the point where I couldn’t even do a single move. I was so excited to rent and play this game for the weekend and he just totally rekt me then when straight to dinner with my brother and the rest of the family.

Me? I stayed in my room, played two player alone, using the character he picked as a training dummy to just beat on. I was really upset back then and I recalled this memory somewhere deep in my psyche when I had a serious fit losing at Soul Calibur IV. Knowing that this instance may have been what created a trigger in me in an early age has made me more self aware about how I react to gaming.

While I can’t say I’m fully chill about getting rekt in a game, I have much better anger management having realized that a lot of my anger had to do with that childhood memory–and of course adapting the new approach of requesting feedback on improvement.

So if you’re no longer having fun and just mashing buttons away, expecting your blind rage to get you a win, and then of course end up getting destroyed even more, remember that you don’t have to keep playing if you don’t want to. Who says you have to? Put the controller down, take a break, relax, and maybe even journal about what’s going on for you.

Yeah it sounds weird at first, but I think gamer rage is so common that it’s time people address how destructive it is for your health and enjoyment of a game (or lack thereof). If more gamers, if not everyone of them, can start developing self-knowledge through video games and respecting the gaming tenants I’ve covered in this blog series, there could be less gamer rage and much more fun as video games were intended for.

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Short Film on Child Abuse: ReMoved

Before we continue with our regular progamming here at Your Write to Live, I wanted to share with you a short film on child abuse called ReMoved. It’s about a young girl named Zoey who is put through various foster homes, and her struggle to find solidarity in her life and self worth despite of the abusive parents she comes across.

Still continuing in the spirit of the Crafting a Character Series, I thought this would be a good video to share because it accurately depicts the thought process a child’s mind goes through when growing up in a hostile environment. And depending on what neurolinguistic reasoning a person’s inner dialogue is dominated by, that will greatly affect how they turn out in the future.

Although at times, the narration seems too poetic and adult for a child to be speaking through, the sentiment is all the same: alienation, humiliation, and neglect can take its toll on a child.

The self attack and the self erasure children are too often taught to internalize is one of the main contributing factors to the world’s problems. People who weren’t raised to value themselves and never try to learn self efficacy in their adult life, in spite of their trauma, are usually the ones who create conflict and fail to take responsibility fortheir lives. Most especially when they do not pursue self-knowledge.

It’s because of this injustice that I am passionate about writing my current novel in progress It Starts at Home, so that, just like this short film, the message gets out: children are a minority that we need to develop the utmost empathy and respect for.