Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

This post contains spoilers from the episode of The Walking Dead which aired November 13, 2016. If you haven’t seen the episode, you have been warned.

Today I want to talk about creating and holding tension in storytelling. It is both a difficult and necessary part of telling a good story, specifically in the horror and thriller genres, both of which The Walking Dead fit into. Creating and holding tension is something that this show struggles with. Either they do an amazing job or they do a horrible job. That’s because tension itself must either be amazing or horrible. There is no “middle ground” for tension, kind of like being pregnant. You either are pregnant or you’re not. Something is either intense or it isn’t.

Tension requires the perfect combination of acting, writing, and directing when it comes to television or movies. In writing, it falls fully on the writer. This episode was a television version of exposition. Exposition has its place, but a full ninety minutes of it is a bad thing. Once again the story was told in a weird order instead of linearly. Linear can be a good thing, and at this point of The Walking Dead, it could help to build tension.

You’re Early

Let’s start with the biggest problem first. We don’t get to see Rick and Company return to Alexandria. We don’t know how many days have passed. Michonne sneaks out to do some target practice so that she can become a sniper. Rosita and Spencer are headed out to scavenge. Eugene is “building them a radio,” although I bet his bullet building skills would be worth more to them if they knew.

Negan shows up right at the top of the show. They were supposed to have a week but now the Saviors are early, with Daryl in tow as a visual reminder of what is at stake.

This would all be great, except for one problem: The population of Alexandria seems totally clueless.

“Who is this guy? Why is Rick freaking out?”

Did Rick really not tell anyone anything? Is he trying to pull an Ezekiel, because that’s not going to work. Negan considered our crew of survivors as a threat, which is why he’s put on such a big display.

Remember – we don’t know how much time has passed. It’s been enough time that Daryl looks the same as he did at the end of last week’s episode, beaten up and broken down. That alone makes it feel like more than one night has passed.

Another reason it feels like he must have told someone is Father Gabriel. The idea of telling Negan that Maggie died, and her grave, means some planning has occurred.

By the time Rick gathers everyone together at the church, it feels like a reminder, not an explanation. The whole thing is convoluted and confusing.

What would have worked better is if the episode starts with us seeing Rick tell the Alexandrians about Negan, to see their grief or shock over what happened to Glenn and Abraham, to see Rick still raw. They then begin gathering supplies – setting aside half their food, lamenting that there isn’t enough and what are they going to do? Then, as we feel the dire reality that Alexandria doesn’t have much to offer by way of food and Rosita and Spencer are heading out to scavenge; knock knock, Negan is early!

 

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“When I say knock knock, you say who’s there.”

 

Why would this work better? Because it would give the people of Alexandria a chance to show us their emotional response in a more realistic manner; even if they think Rick is crazy and don’t think it’s that bad. Even if they want to fight back or are confused when Negan shows up and starts taking chairs and mattresses instead of food.

Sniper!

I had a lot of hope for Michonne. Smuggling the rifle out in the morning for target practice was a good idea, but ultimately, her story this episode was pointless. If she has left the rifle out in the wilderness it would have been a great opportunity. If Rick hadn’t seen her taking the rifle it would have been even better. Why? Michone the Sniper would be a fantastic secret to have not only from Negan, but also from Rick. Giving characters secrets only makes them stronger, it builds possibility right into the story.

Another problem with Michonne’s story is Negan’s reaction to her return. He just had Alexandria turned upside down to find two guns, then Michonne walks in with an undocumented gun and he gives Rick a verbal warning. This is completely out of character and also stupid. Even if there aren’t any more guns out there, the bold faced lie that Rick told him should have resulted in something terrible. Instead, he shows leniency.

As he said to Olivia, guns are life and death. Not flipping his lid over one undocumented gun makes no sense.

You Ain’t My Daddy!

Carl’s attack on Negan and his men was one of the worst scenes in the whole episode. I didn’t believe a minute of it. Sorry, Carl, but the tough guy attitude fell short.

It was also pointless.

As pointed out by Rosita, it was already pretty clear they were going to take the guns. Why else did Dwight take her gun, other than being a jerk? Guns were on the menu. Hilltop doesn’t have guns. The Kingdom has guns, but Ezekiel is better at diplomacy than Hilltop’s leader, as we saw last season. We didn’t need Carl to throw his teenage angst on the fire for Negan to take the guns away.

Uncomfortable

The most important part of the episode is understanding what Negan took away from Alexandria. He left their food out of “kindness,” but he took away their safety and comfort. Alexandria has been very comfortable for a long time. Even with the threats of last season, they still had fancy houses to live in and could pretend that everything was semi-normal. The addition of discomfort is a blow to their moral and is very manipulative.

Taking the guns leaves Alexandria is helpless, not only from Negan but from other threats, and he wants them to be helpless. He wants them to need his protection. He left their food because although they are upset about losing their mattresses, it could have been worse. He wants him to be grateful to him when he’s merciful; so that they constantly teeter between fear and relief.

This builds a strange type of loyalty, something similar to what you would see in an abusive relationship. Without the guns, Alexandria is helpless. Negan will protect them. Negan can also destroy them. Play by the rules and everything will be fine. Break the rules and someone gets hurt.

Other Thoughts

I really hope Rosita is finally going to get a storyline. She’s been a background character for a long time now and I would really like to see her develop. Of course, it’s also likely she’s just going to get killed.

I miss Carol, the Angel of Death. I’m starting to feel like her mental breakdown was a contrivance because this version of Carol didn’t exist in the comics and they had to eliminate her to make the Negan plot work. There are other ways Ezekiel and the Kingdom could have been introduced to the story.

I really hope Daryl is going to earn respect from some of the Saviors because I think one of the best ways to take Negan down is from the inside. Dwight may or may not be helpful in this, considering he’s on a power trip.

Do You Like this Feature on my Blog?

Thank you for reading. This may be the last episode that I’m able to address on a Monday. Watching the episodes live isn’t easy for me, and it may be that I will have to start watching them after they air. If you find this feature to my blog interesting, helpful, or otherwise enjoyable, please let me know in the comments.  I will move it to Tuesday if I’m unable to watch on Sunday. Otherwise, this may be the last time I share my two cents on the subject.

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Many writers are very organized people, and they are called plottersfractal-1681742_960_720, making their outlines and using bullet points before really setting down to write.

Other writers use their intuition to guide them. They are called pantsers because they “fly by the seat of the pants.”

Then there are those of us who do a little of both, one way or another.

The funny thing about my NaNoWriMo project is I have the whole thing planned out in as close to an outline as I can get, but I’m not able to tell the story.

Why?

For me, outlines are very bad.

I didn’t intend to “plan” the story. I wrote down my idea  so that I wouldn’t forget while I was working on Book Two of my trilogy. This has tricked my brain into thinking that I’ve already written this story and now I’m struggling to actually write the story.

Instead, as I try to push through and find the words, I end up researching. I’ve spent hours
reading up on Mesopotamian history and culture, and I’ve learned some amazing things. My story doesn’t take place in Mesopotamia, but a place inspired by it. All of this research is great, but it’s putting a damper on my actual writing time. I already don’t have much time to write to begin with considering I work 40 hours a week, have a family, write a blog, and of course get caught up in the random distractions we all have.

Another reason I think I’m struggling is because I’m trying not to edit. That’s a “writer rule,” and one that I don’t follow at all. I edit while I write. By the time my first draft is done, every chapter has been edited for content at least once. NaNo rules say “No Editing!” but that’s like telling me “No breathing!” My mind is gasping for air as I try to create the new without fixing the old.

The point of NaNo is to build a writing community and to teach young (or new) writers how to be disciplined and finish something. I’ve never participated before. I have finished things I’ve started – stories, articles, and novels, – doing things my way.

While I struggle with my NaNoWriMo project, my chaotic mind still needs to write something. I’ve been working on part eight of The Hunted. I also started a short story for a contest, because of course I did. The project I thought I would be working on is simmering quietly, taking shape, but also fighting me. With my chaotic mind, I could suddenly find the right thought and it will send me flying through the narrative.

At least you can all expect another episode of The Hunted next week.

Thank you for reading. If you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

 

 

This post will contain spoilers for The Walking Dead which aired November 6th, 2016. If you haven’t seen the episode, turn back now!

Last night The Walking Dead took us along for the ride with Daryl and his adventures with Negan. These adventures include being locked in a dark closet and tortured with super happy music all day. Sometimes Dwight, (also known as Burned Face Guy,) would take Daryl for a stroll in the yard, which consists of a big cage full of zombies and prisoners. The Savior’s main compound is big and prison-like, but if Daryl is a good boy and decides to join Negan, he’ll get a studio apartment including a bed, chair, kitchen, and even a TV so that he can watch himself on The Walking Dead. (I know they probably have a DVD player or something, but it was funny to see the TV in that room.)

We did get to learn a little bit more about Negan. He’s just as crazy as he first appeared, a real tyrant ruling over his army of loyal ants. How loyal are those ants, exactly? We also learned what happened with Dwight and his wife Sherri after her sister Tina died in the woods and they betrayed Daryl. This came via tell instead of show, where the villain gets to share a customary evil bad-guy speech.

Tina was supposed to be Negan’s fiancé, but she didn’t want to marry him. He was just being a nice guy allowing her to marry him so that she wouldn’t have to work so hard for her insulin anymore. Of course, Tina didn’t like that idea and the three of them ran off. Tina was eaten by zombies; Dwight and Sherri stole Daryl’s crossbow and motorcycle and returned to Negan. In order to save her husband, Sherri married Negan and Dwight worked himself up to being a big dog in the Savior’s army. Of course, he still had to have his face ironed. That’s unfortunate.

If we base the timeline of The Walking Dead on the age of Judith, who is still a baby under a year old, all of this has happened in the span of maybe one or two months. Negan is way more forgiving than expected! It’s fine that they didn’t spend a whole episode hanging with Sherri and Dwight, because last season had a lot of other important things going on. This type of storytelling is lesser than if we’d seen it happen, do we really care about Dwight and Sherri when they are torturing Daryl, who we all know and care about already? I’m guessing we’ll get to spend more time with Sherri and Dwight before it’s all done, but at this point, it’s their fault for returning to Negan instead of going with Daryl to Alexandria.

Also, I’m not the only one thinking “There is only one Negan vs. many unhappy people.” No matter how many people claim to be Negan, there is only one. As the escaped guy told Dwight, if there was an uprising he would be screwed. Too bad Dwight doesn’t seem to be the leader they need, not yet, anyway.

The leader they do need is Daryl.

Last night’s episode was another great look at the characterization from a fan favorite. Daryl is a prime example of how strong characterization can not only shape a story, but uphold it through dark times.We watch him take his torture silently, with that same stoicism we’ve all come to know. Even in the midst of fear, he still takes the opportunity to try to escape, reminding us of his resilience and confidence in his skills. Sherri begs him to go back, but he won’t, because he believes he can get away. After being recaptured, and forced to listen to Elvis crooning about loss, he finally lets it all out. I think, however; that just helped him grow stronger. Sometimes you just need a good cry.

We watch him take his torture silently, with that same stoicism we’ve all come to know. Even in the midst of fear, he still takes the opportunity to try to escape, reminding us of his resilience and confidence in his skills. Sherri begs him to go back, but he won’t, because he believes he can get away. After being recaptured, and forced to listen to Elvis crooning about loss, he finally lets it all out. I think, however; that just helped him grow stronger. Sometimes you just need a good cry.

Daryl knows what is at stake, but he won’t give up, and this is something we’ve seen from him since the first season. He could have turned against the group after Meryl was lost, but he stuck by them and continued to survive. When Negan asks him “Who are you?” he answers “I’m Daryl,” because he knows who he is at the core; he doesn’t need a false identity to know what he’s capable of.

Daryl is a true survivor, which probably isn’t true for a lot of Negan’s followers.

 

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“Jokes on you, shit sandwich was always my favorite.”

 

Negan lets him live. Why? Negan is building his character for us as well. Yes, he’s a crazy man with a baseball bat, but he’s also smart. He was smart enough to see the weaknesses in people and build the Saviors around fear. He also knows that there is only one Negan, which is why he’s trained his soldiers to say “I’m Negan.” By giving them a new and shared identity, he’s making them feel part of something bigger, pushing back against possible rebellion.

Those who do not wish to live under the tyranny of the Saviors need someone like Daryl, but Negan also needs Daryl. Killing him would be easy, but breaking him would prove a point to those witnessing the process.

If Negan’s soldiers can see a man like Daryl break down and change, then any misgivings they have about Negan will be quelled. It’s a dangerous game, and one I don’t think Negan will win, at least not in the way he wants. Daryl is walking a very fine line. Either he needs to start gaining support from Dwight and Sherri and others, or he’s probably going to die. A crazy man only has so much patience.

At the very end, Daryl makes his first move with Dwight. He understands. Dwight had to think about someone else, so he gave up. Daryl says that’s why he can’t, and at first it may seem like he’s saying “I don’t have anyone else to think of,” but I actually think this means the opposite. He has a lot of people to think about, everyone at Alexandria, and he can’t become a Savior because he can’t turn on them, even if it costs him his life. Again, this is the same characterization we’ve seen from Daryl before. He had an opportunity before to join a villainous group, but he can’t and he won’t.

Other thoughts:

Poor zombie nerd guy might have been a good ally if he knew about Daryl.

Sherri is in a prime position to do bad things to Negan, like poison or a knife to the throat if she has the guts and opportunity. Andrea never did with the Governor, but we don’t know Sherry very well.

Speaking of Sherri, I bet she’s going to be one of the first to rebel and possibly die.

Thanks for reading! If you have anything to add, please leave a comment.

Spoiler Alert: If you have not seen The Walking Dead season 7 episode 2 on October 30th, turn back now! This is your only warning.

This isn’t a review, but more of a look at the successes and failures of storytelling through mass media. I think last night’s episode was a clear success based solely on the characterization, but the storytelling was well done, too.

Although last week’s episode was the big reveal, this episode was even more revealing. Morgan and Carol are back, rescued by people from The Kingdom.

Now, I love the renaissance festival, but at first glance, The Kingdom isn’t such a place. Until you meet King Ezekiel and Shiva.

 

thewalkingdead_s07e02_ezekiel_still

“Hast thou come to feast upon pomegranates?”

 

It’s a great form of characterization for this show. We’ve seen a deceptive character before in the Governor, and his attempt to make Woodberry seem like Main Street, but his deception was for a sinister purpose. Carol can also be deceptive, hiding her true  nature to give her the upper hand. Ezekiel is something new. He’s a character playing a character, not for deception but to keep his people’s minds at ease.

At first, it’s easy to think that maybe he’s unstable and perhaps has a mental illness. After the fall of civilization, a person with delusions of grandeur could be given the opportunity to live out their own reality. Carol is barely able to contain herself when she meets him, and I think her face said what those of us who haven’t read that far in the comics were all thinking.

looney

As we learn, however; Ezekiel has not fallen off his rocker. He knows he’s not the king. Showing up with a tiger made him legendary, and he just went along with it, using his time in Community Theater as a jumping off point. The people like having a king and painting his quotes all over the town in scrolling font. (Do they have a stencil or did a calligrapher survive?)

Okay, so maybe it still is a little nutty, but at least they aren’t carving up people and roasting them on an open fire. When you really think about it, running around in armor with swords, spears, cleavers, and bows and arrows really isn’t that much different than what our own group of survivors has been up to. Daryl with his crossbow, Michonne with her samurai sword, and even Rick with his axe are merely missing the fake accent and regal titles. Plus, most of the people in the kingdom are dressed as modern day people and they even have guns on hand for emergencies. It’s an interesting mix.

They’re also under contract with Negan’s army. One of the things I enjoyed most about last night’s episode was the subtle rebellion. Ezekiel doesn’t want to risk the lives of his people, but he also knows the Saviors are bad. So, they feed the pigs walkers. This is an interesting concept and brings up some questions.

First, do the pigs turn from eating the contaminated meat? We don’t know and they are soon butchered off camera1. Secondly, the fact that pigs are fine eating a still squirming walker is kind of terrifying. I know pigs can chew through bone, and eat rotten food, but this is a whole other level. Last, if you eat meat from an animal that has eaten a walker, can you be turned? This last question is interesting because it’s kind of like marinating the pig from the inside. Corn fed cows taste different than grass fed cows. Does bacon from a walker fed pig have a strange taste?

If it is the making the Saviors sick, they haven’t noticed it yet.

Also, Ezekiel hasn’t told his people about the Saviors. He’s done this on purpose to prevent them from wanting to fight. The situation wears heavily on those who know, as is evidenced by the knight who gets into a scuffle with a Savior. It’s clear that Ezekiel understands the danger where others do not, and makes me wonder what he’s seen or been through with Negan. Then again, he was a zookeeper tending to tigers, which gives him insight into dealing with unpredictable wild animals.

There was also great characterization this week for Morgan and Carol. They have both been shaken to the core. Morgan is hiding it a little better, trying to resolve who he was with what he became and what he needs to be. He’s a man in a crisis of faith. Carol, however; is on the opposite end. She’s seen her confidence in what she became crumble and hated what she saw: an angel of death. They are the same but different, and somehow they both need to find the middle.

I’m curious to see what Carol learns from her solitude, and what her actual plan turns out to be. With the Saviors running around it’s hard to believe she’ll be left alone living right off of the road in her little house.

Also, how will they respond when they find out what happened with Rick and Company?

Next week it looks like we’re going to meet up with Daryl and what tortures are in store. Will Burned Face Guy switch sides? Is the teaser trailer only teasing? Maybe we’ll find out, or we won’t.

Other thoughts:

Shiva eats as much as ten people. What are they feeding her? Walkers? She seems happy.

Carol moved into such a cute little house with its own gothic cemetery. There has to be a story there.

Could Ezekiel be the key to healing both Carol and Morgan… and maybe even Rick?

The Kingdom is a nice little town, too bad all I could think was “this place is going up in flames.”

Thank you for reading and if you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

This post will contain spoilers of not only the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead, but also the season six finale. If you haven’t watched these episodes, you’ve been warned.

First off, this isn’t a review. I like to analyze mass media as a means to understand the successes and failures of storytelling. What follows is my intellectual opinion.

Way back in April I discussed why the season six finale of The Walking Dead was such a disappointment. I had a lot to say at the time. Six months later, I do not feel any differently.

I’m going to come right out of the gate and say that the season seven premiere should have been the season six finale. It holds all of the key elements of storytelling that were missing and still ends with a cliffhanger, although a slightly different type. Instead of “The Lady or the Tiger” ending we are left more with “What are we going to do now? Everything is in ruins.”

I have nothing against cliffhangers. I actually use them in my own writing, but they need to be finely crafted and utilized correctly. There are three reasons to end a story on a cliffhanger.

1)      To compel the audience to return to a story after an unspecified break in the narrative.

2)      To open a dialogue about the story, either internally or with other audience members, that further drives emotional investment in the story.

3)      To assure the audience that there will be a continuation even when the current story has come to a close.

It can be argued that the season six finale accomplished these things, and it did. People were compelled to return to see who would take a bat to the head. There was a very vocal, and often angry, dialogue happening in the audience. There would definitely be more story, because how could it end like that without a resolution? (Although in the world of television there is no real guarantee that the show will return, although we all safely knew this one would.)

So what’s the problem?

The problem comes down to the underlying storytelling, which had been shaky for the duration of the season. The audience was annoyed already about the “close calls” that Glenn endured. Add to that the finale dragging out in a log repetitive sequence of events, and then coming to a close mid-action. If they had moved the story down the line to where the premiere ended, with a fitting sendoff for two major characters, and tie the season up in an emotional package brimming with questions about the future.

Consider the premiere of season six. It begins with a strange flashback episode. Everyone in Alexandria is working together to build a zombie funnel to lead the walkers in the quarry away from the town. We learn this in a patchwork of pieces.

Now consider the premiere of season seven. It utilizes a very similar device to drag out the truth of who took the bat, and had it been the finale, it would have been a balance to the premiere. Instead, it’s just a “filler” tactic, and that whole story with Negan and the axe could have been told after the death instead of before.

Rick’s character arc is another package that could have utilized in the finale. All season he was riding high on his ego, believing that he and his crew were the biggest of the bad and nothing could tear them down. To watch him break beneath Negan’s smiling face was incredibly important to the story, a piece of the puzzle that could have simmered in our minds for six months. Negan is a special kind of monster, and to have had a proper introduction last season would have given us time to build him up even bigger while we waited.

Next, we have Glenn’s “fake deaths” throughout season six, teasing the truth. Had the season seven opener been the finale, it would have tied those strings together. Of course, it’s emotional. Glenn is a beloved major character with a pregnant wife. No matter when he died it would have been a blow to the audience. However, from a storytelling point of view, it could have been handled better.

We also have the story arc with Abraham, Sasha, and Rosita in a very awkward love triangle. Abraham is more of a comic relief type character, and by putting six months between any emotional attachments the audience may have had about their situation, which makes it far less powerful than if it had happened when it was fresh.This is especially true because his relationship with Rosita was never really a focus of the show until that point. It also makes his relationship with Sasha feel contrived. What was the point of it? So that Sasha could lose another person she cared about?

This is especially true because his relationship with Rosita was never really a focus of the show until that point. It also makes his relationship with Sasha feel contrived. What was the point of it? So that Sasha could lose another person she cared about? It was merely added to give some sort of emotional attachment to Abraham. More development between him and Eugene would have served this purpose in a more organic way.

Lastly, we have the scene of the whole cast at the table enjoying a meal, with Glenn and Abraham at the head. A beautiful world destroyed by one crazy man with a bat. Having that as the last image of season six would have left the community in a much darker, much more immersive sendoff for the two major characters.

 

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“Hey, man, nice axe.”

 

Now that we’ve looked at why this should have been the finale, let’s look at the foreshadowing that was given to us multiple times to make sure we didn’t miss it.

“This is my axe.”

Rick may be broken now, but he is still the protagonist; the anti-hero. Negan is the antagonist. That means that the conflict will continue until it is resolved. Will we lose more of our favorite characters along the way? There’s a high probability that we will. However; I have a feeling we already know how Negan is going to die.

Rick has used the axe for a long time now. It has been nothing more than a prop, more noticeable than a kitchen knife but not as iconic as Michonne’s sword or Daryl’s crossbow. It’s not overly flashy or recognizable, just an axe that could be sold at your local hardware store.

This season the axe has taken  a prominent place in the story and becoming a focal point for the conflict. If Negan doesn’t meet his end by the axe being driven into his cocky smirk and I’m totally wrong here, it will be a missed opportunity. What a perfect way to tie up the story arc in a neat little package. Of course, we already know The Walking Dead doesn’t like neat packages, even the kind that strengthens their storytelling.

Other Thoughts

  • Are Negan’s people truly loyal or do they function solely on fear? Fear is a great manipulator but there are more minions than there are Negans, the right leader merely needs to appear to start the rebellion.
  • Negan took Daryl instead of killing him, and although having a hostage is a great ploy, it would have been stronger to take Carl or Michonne. There is likely more to Negan’s reasoning in taking him than he let on.
  • Will Maggie lose the baby? Perhaps she will lose her mind? Or maybe she will be the next angel of death seeking revenge in a world that is far too cruel.
  • Will Carol and Morgan find the reinforcements that are desperately needed in the fight against the Saviors? Or were those weird guys last season more bad guys?

Hopefully, we have answers to these questions throughout the season.

July 25th is the one year anniversary of my blog.

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I remember the very first day. I tried to find a theme that would fit the idea that Darkness Falling is a dystopian novel. I wasn’t sure what to call it, so I just called it Weekly Writing News and Updates. I figured that I could at least write one blog a week. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself.

It all began by writing my posts each week into the endless void of the internet. I was talking but was anyone listening? There are many voices and singaling yourself out among them is not an easy task. Despite knowing that I was talking to myself, I continued to write my posts and link them to Twitter and Facebook.

The journey of writing is often a solitary one. This is something I know very well, and I do well in solitude. The point of writing, however; is to reach others. Little by little, I started to take note of readers coming back. Posts were being liked. Comments were being left. Those are small things, but they are powerful. All writers and artists understand the positive effect of a little feedback and how motivating it can be.

This year was not only monumental for my little blog. When this all began, having a book published was only a dream. The excitement of eBooks and being an indie author was new to me and I was unsure of what to expect.

Over the course of twelve months I have published two books. The story is one that I’ve been telling to myself for almost twenty years. To finally have those words available, read, and responded to by readers is a dream come true.

I’ve written short stories and excerpts. I’m making plans for more projects, new words to share with the world. Book Three of my trilogy is in the first stages of rewriting. Friends are being made in a writing community I never knew existed. I’m discovering wonderful books by writers just like me, all of them dreaming to have their words read.

In the year to come I hope to finish book three, continue my blog, and begin new projects. This first year has been better than I imagined and I hope to continue to have the opportunity to share my stories, tips, and crazy ranting about storytelling in popular media.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me on this journey. Whether through a simple comment or hitting the like button, or to purchasing and reading Darkness Falling, and to leave feedback, all of it has been important to my publishing journey.  It’s an honor to have you read my words and be part of your busy schedules.

 

This post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead which aired May 22, 2016. If you have not seen the episode come back later.

What in the hell did we just watch?

Seriously, this episode was a nightmare. It wasn’t the type of nightmare that forces you to stay awake because there may be a zombie in the closet. Oh no. This was the type of nightmare which ends with you staring in utter confusion as the preview for Preacher starts to play.

To top things off, the episode was moving at a frantic pace in order to cram all of the ill conceived plot devices in before the hour ended. The storytelling was disjointed and chaotic. Perhaps that was on purpose to showcase the chaos happening on the vineyard. All it did was serve to show just how little plot and character development was being used.

Fear the Walking Dead needs to change the title to Missed Opportunities. The list of weird, pointless decisions in the storytelling continues to grow. It’s too bad because for a couple of episodes it was starting to get better.

I want to discuss insanity. Mental illness is a real issue with real problems and real stigmas in the real world. Using mental illness as a turning point for a character can be catastrophic, and that’s the feeling I get from this episode. It was already bad enough last week when Chris started to fall off the deep end. Nick has always had issues because we know he was a drug addict, but his sudden flip to siding with Cecilia made very little sense. To top it all off, Salazar falls into religious delusions and hallucinations about his wife. That’s three characters making huge changes in two episodes. Is there something in the water? Maybe the land is cursed.

Let’s break down the demise of three lines of character development:

Chris

We discussed last week that he could be suffering trauma. Sure. This week he goes full tilt crazy by fleeing into the night. Not only that, but he ends up holding a stranger’s child hostage. Really? He becomes the pirate he killed. Did he also eat Reed’s heart and cut down one last immortal before the final battle? From being a scared kid to terrifying a kid, this leap is too far and too fast.

Travis, my least favorite character, was actually one of the better characters of the episode. Staying with Chris until he is well is what Travis would do, and that’s the best we can expect from the episode.

Nick

Okay, so Nick has always been a special character because he has issues that are unique to every other character. Being a drug addict comes with a set of problems. Nick’s drying out ended quickly. From being half dead at the quarantine to totally cleared up the very next day on the Abigail.

His discovery of the blood making him invisible was good. He never tells anyone else and they obviously just think he’s crazy already. Why is Nick covering himself in blood all the time? Even after he tells Madison outright that he’s invisible, she doesn’t put it together. It’s fine, she tends to be slow on the uptake, but still frustrating.

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“For the last time, it’s not a vampire phase.”

I do believe he thinks he’s invincible. That’s not far fetched at all. What I don’t believe is that he teams up with Cecilia instantly. Sure, she might persuade him over time, but within a 24 hours a stretch. I get that he wants to stay safe, and even thought maybe he was just playing along. Nope. The end of the episode proves otherwise. It doesn’t make sense. He abandons his family for people he just met? I don’t buy that, not after begging to let them stay.

Salazar

This is a tricky one. Could the boy at the church have triggered massive PTSD? Sure. Out of all the issues happening, this breakdown is the most plausible. It would have been nice to have had hints of this throughout the season, especially knowing he is leaving Ofelia behind with people he doesn’t trust. I think this could have been powerful, but it wasn’t, merely because it happened in such a chaotic episode. We also lose one of the best characters in the series.

On top of that, we now have yet another antagonist and conflict resolved within a couple of episodes. The pirates were built up and then easily dispatched. Alex from flight 462 and the pregnant pirate are left behind with no resolution. (Will they come back despite hundreds of miles and needing “payment” to cross the boarder? Probably, because that’s predictable.) Getting into Baja after so many arguments was boring. Cecilia was introduced with such fervor from the church scene last week, and now she’s gone. This place we worked all season to reach is burning to the ground.

Our cast is now cut into the three groups. Travis with Chris, Madison and friends, and Nick with the fanatics. Where are we going from here? Who knows. When we get there it will only last one episode.

I believe the show is trying very hard to differentiate itself from The Walking Dead. Crazy people is not really that different. Rick has been slowly descending into madness ever since the Prison. The little girl who believed the dead were her friends is another example of insanity the show recycles.

Fear the Walking Dead had an amazing opportunity to be different, and they bypassed that in season one. Instead we get halfhearted attempts to build tension for characters we do not yet care about.

Do we want to get the characters on the water? Great. There could have been a far more organic solution to that than Strand meeting Nick in the quarantine and seeing potential. Do we want to deal with pirates? Okay, let’s actually deal with pirates. Do we want to go to Baja? Fine, but let’s go there for a reason that will keep us there, not because of a mystery that turns out to be pointless.

Give the characters plausible motivation to drive the story other than contrite plot devices. That is the lesson of Fear the Walking Dead.

This is the mid-season finale. That means the rest of the story begins August 21. Will I be interested in watching the rest? Maybe or maybe not. Now that we are at the end, however; I want to change up the blog.

Starting next Monday I’ll be writing up character analysis from different popular shows, movies, and even some books (or characters that exist in multiple media.) I want to dig up the clockwork and show how a well built character functions (or how a poorly built character comes apart at the seams.) I’ll continue to use spoiler alerts at the top of those posts. I hope you join me!

Thank you for reading! If you have anything to add please feel free to post in the comments.

 

This post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead on May 15, 2016. If you have not seen the episode, come back later.

The key to good storytelling is consistency.

It’s similar to a muffin. In every little bite you expect there to be a little bit of soft bread, and a little bit of blueberries, chocolate chips, or whatever. You don’t suddenly expect there to be a pebble or a puff of flower. Last night’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead was a pebble.

I have a lot of issues with the episode and they all are rooted in the inaction of season one. It’s easy to forget that the survivors in Fear the Walking Dead were sheltered for a good portion of time at the start of the zombie apocalypse. How long they were under the protection of the National Guard wasn’t really clear. We were thrown forward in time from the first night of chaos to an unspecified date. If we calculate time based on the facts that we know, it was long enough for the army to cut down several hundred thousand zombies (LA is huge, and the streets were empty once they took Travis out on patrol.) They also set up a highly functional medical quarantine where the very important “we’re all infected” fact was learned.

The first time Travis was taken out of the quarantine, he didn’t understand what really happened out in the world. There was a scene where the soldiers attempted to get him to shoot a zombie waitress from long range, and Travis is confused by the ordeal. The first real encounter with the dead is when Salazar released them from the stadium during the rescue of Nick. From there they ran straight to Strand’s house, were forced to say goodbye to Chris’ mom, and boarded the Abigail. The end of season one and the start of season two happen on the same day.

This is important because we have been with our survivors every step of the way from that point. The number of times they have encountered zombies has been limited. 1) The island with the crazy family. 2) The beach with the wreck of Flight 462. 3) Some random floaters. 4) Nick’s walk to Luis’ house. 5) Zombie pirate. You can list them on one hand!

Yet last night the survivors get into a scuffle with the zombie church goers from the top of the show. The scene adds to the confusion with these free range zombies hanging out where they died.. We all know how easily walkers get distracted. Maybe the poisoning had just happened. It’s hard to say because of the order in which the episode was run. Church. Avoiding the border patrol. Then back to the church. Sure, I guess it could have happened shortly before they arrived.

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“The power of Christ compels you!”

That’s another thing; the border patrol. We’ve been building up all season to get past them for what? This plot point which has been a driving point for much of the season was completely useless. We didn’t even see the exchange (or lack thereof) go down. The only thing we got out of it was getting rid of another throw away character that never needed to exist in the first place due to his not adding very much to the plot at all. He was a “saving grace” to get our cast out of a corner with the pirates, that was all. Adios, Luis, we hardly knew you.

At the church, our highly sheltered survivors battle the fresh zombies, easily stabbing them in the head with relative ease. They’re acting like pros when they are not. Their intimidation level is way too low for the lack of time spent in danger. To go along with this, when Nick is talking to Cecelia about how he’s “so tired of the killing” it’s a head scratching moment. Sure, we’ve seen some death, and yes, I can see people being scared and not wanting more people to die, that’s not the issue. It’s traumatizing, and I don’t doubt he wants to be safe. The real issue was the way in which he delivered the line. He said it like Rick, or Maggie, or Michonne. It doesn’t add up.

I admit that writing a series is hard. It’s easier for The Walking Dead because they already have strong source material. Fear the Walking Dead is having a case of the prequel blues. It’s based on the fuzzy, mysterious world building that birthed The Walking Dead, but it’s missing the point of being a prequel. It went from prequel to “we’re just going to see what’s happening in another part of the world.” That’s fine, of course, but it still takes place in the past. The characters need to be learning what we already know, and there is a fine line to walk between moving too slowly for the audience, and moving too fast for the characters. Right now this show is struggling with the latter.

This is why spending time in the early days of the apocalypse would have been better. We moved these characters from “early days” into “a lot of bad has already happened.” It feels as if the show is trying to recreate the confusion Rick felt after waking up in the hospital. I’m going to tell you now that it can’t be done, especially for long-time fans. It can’t be done for the new fans at this point, either, because of the inaction of season one. It would have been more interesting to watch them deal with things before anyone knew anything. (And I’m not talking about the confused mush that we were given.)

Another big issue with last night’s episode is with Chris. He’s gone from timid kid feeling guilty about letting pirates onto the boat to a psychopath wanting to murder his step-family.

What?

Yes, Chris is suffering trauma, but this is an unexpected turn, and not in the mind blowing “oh my god, why didn’t I see it coming?” type of way. What was his motivation for this twist? Madison not believing that Pirate Reed was about to turn, and that’s why he shot him. Okay, so she doesn’t believe him one time and now the best answer is murder?

Is there a possibility that Chris could make a turn toward this type of behavior? Sure. Does it make sense that it happens right now? Nope. The primary reason it doesn’t is because only two episodes ago he was hesitating to kill possibly innocent strangers. Suddenly turning on one of the few people with whom he has an attachment in the entire world doesn’t fit his character at this point. It could eventually. But right now is too soon.

Chris’ character arc is now suffering from what I consider “Anakin Syndrome.” That’s basically when you want to showcase how a character turns to the Dark Side but have completely goofed up in their development. They are too caring, just, friendly, or innocent in their behaviors when suddenly, out of the blue, they massacre a village full of Sand People.

Using the “annoyed with authority” trope is exactly what happened to Anakin (and a big reason why the Star Wars prequels are terrible.) It seems to be what’s happening to Chris. Madison’s concern of Chris’ behavior is plausible, and the fact that she overreacts to everything is annoying, sure. At the same time, Chris killing Pirate Reed could be a tiny first step in the direction of antagonist, rather than the flying leap he is making.

My last thoughts are on Cecelia. I want to call her Evil Hershel. The Abigail compound in Baja is reminiscent of the Greene Farm; picturesque, self-sufficient, and housing zombies. The big difference here is that Cecelia doesn’t think there could be a cure. She’s fully accepted that the zombies are dead. They’re just, you know, like any other ancestor spirit except we can see them.

I’ll admit I don’t know much about the beliefs of the dead in Mexico much farther than the celebration of the Day of the Dead. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the beliefs include the idea that our ancestors are just beyond our field of vision trying to rip our guts out for a snack. The fact that she’s totally okay with her dead family becoming flesh eating monsters is disturbing, even more than Hershel hoping for a cure. At least they keep them locked up, I guess. The real creepy, possible psychopathic killer in the episode (other than Cecelia, obviously,) is the little boy who feeds the zombies a live puppy and doesn’t blink an eye. Our survivors need to keep an eye on that guy.

Next week is the mid-season finale. What consequences will our survivors be able to bring the show back level before the break? Maybe we’ll find out next week but with this show, who knows!

 

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I published Book One of Darkness Falling six months ago. It was an exciting time. After 19 years of on again, off again writing and editing I was finally able to put some shine on my story and send it out into the world. As I hit the publish button in the middle of the night, only my husband stood beside me, hugging me at that moment I had dreamed of since I was thirteen years old.

There were no fireworks, torrents of confetti, or bottles of champagne. I didn’t make the circuit of talk shows. Conan and Ellen weren’t calling for exclusive interviews. It was just another book set adrift in a sea of obscurity.

That magical moment was anticlimactic at best. Despite that, within a few hours I had my first sale. There was a rush of joy at the idea that someone out in the world was able to read my words, but that sale was one of only a few in the following days. Announcements on Twitter did nothing. My inability to pay for marketing, or even to fully understand how it worked, was evident.

In the first month of my first book launch, November 2015, I sold five books. Two people borrowed my book and read it through to the end, which I know thanks to the page counter on the Kindle Direct Publishing report. I didn’t receive my first review until December 26th, almost two months after the release date on October 31.

By the end of 2015 8 eBooks were sold, 3 paperbacks, and 30 eBooks were given away for free. Adding in the two borrowed books, that was 48 books.

Expectations vs. Reality

Before publishing, I read  many blogs by successful self-published writers. It gave me a spark of hope that perhaps there was some money to be made. Let’s be honest, all writers would love to live off of their words. During that first month after publication I kept thinking to myself “What did I do wrong? Those other writers made it sound so easy.” Over time I tried some things in the hopes of boosting sales. I lowered the price of my book, I had some free days, and I tried posting little ads on Twitter.

At first I was disheartened. I knew what was wrong, advertising. I knew there wasn’t much I could do about it, and slowly stopped hurrying to check my KDP report each day, knowing what I would find.

Each month I keep a spreadsheet of all my sales. I’ve always had a thing for spreadsheets and data despite being horrible at math. It’s one of my quirky organized disorginizational things. Near the beginning of March I realized that I had sold or given away 98 books.

Does that make me an Amazon Best Selling Author? No! Not even close. It does mean that 98 people in the world have my book.

That’s 98 people who never would have had my book if I never tried. Maybe they’re reading the book. Maybe they’re waiting until they run out of magazines to look at while they wait for the dentist. Maybe, just maybe, some of them are quietly out there waiting for Book Two.

New Perspective

As of right now, 102 books are out in the world. I get a couple of sales a few times per month. I’ve made peace with that, and continue to look into options for marketing. I have 3 reviews, and all three are positive in their own way. I know of two people who are wondering when Book Two will be ready. That’s amazing! It’s something I didn’t have before, and I’m grateful for it every day.

The New York Times doesn’t know I exist and maybe they never will. At the end of the day, that’s not the point. I’m doing what I always dreamed, and publishing Book One was not the end of the story. It was just another step in my life’s work; to be an author creating worlds and giving people the opportunity to experience new adventures with my characters.

Thank you to all of my readers! I appreciate you.

 

This post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead on May 1, 2016. You’ve been warned.

This is not a recap of the episode, but a discussion of the successes and failures in storytelling from popular media. Hopefully we can all learn and grow together as writers.

Fear the Walking Dead has steadily been turning itself around, or so it seems, replacing inaction with action. Once again, last night’s episode upped the game by putting the cast in motion rather than forcing them to stand still. Again, we are faced with the best episode of the series so far. I hope to say this every week for the next three weeks.

Today I want to focus on some of the character arcs and how the choices characters make can drive a plot. Last night’s episode was very good mostly because characters behaved as their previous characterization dictates. That’s a key element in believable storytelling. This episode had some great moments which could be character altering for several survivors. Last week Chris faced a similar experience with the man begging to be killed on the plane. This week we bring danger and trauma to everyone on board the Abigail.

We finally learn about Strand, who truly is a shady guy and always has been. I’m happy to say Strand’s past was revealed in flashbacks and not just him telling the story. (Show not tell!) We learn he used to buy junk debts, he’s a con artist, and a thief. We also see him get caught up with the true owner of the Abigail, named Thomas Abigail, and they fall in love. It’s the classic tale of wealthy man meets shady guy in a bar and makes him his henchman. Strand is racing to Mexico not only for a safety, but to be with his man, who also is in charge. That information puts a lot into perspective.

Of course, Strand is all about “survival of the me” when it comes right down to it. Jumping ship when the pirates show up was fitting, proving his bark is worse than his bite. He’s a rogue, not a fighter. The real reason the rest of our survivors are alive is because Strand really isn’t a killer, he’s a henchman; a scout.

Madison makes a big character move when she attacks one of the pirates. I’m still unsure that she has what it takes to survive long-term, but that moment is a big turning point. I only think she will survive because I believe the point of Fear the Walking Dead is to have a woman as the focal character where The Walking Dead has Rick.

Madison, however; isn’t a leader. Travis isn’t a leader, either. They’re “parents.” They try to parent the cast the way they parent their kids.I would like to see Madison make more changes in the direction of being a good leader. She certainly doesn’t add up to Michonne, Carol, Maggie, or Sasha at this point – all of which could be leaders. Carol made big changes. Can Madison do the same?

This episode again showed why the teens drive the story. Alicia’s error with speaking to the pirates finally comes into play. Yes, it was a stupid mistake but now we have true conflict.  Alicia continues to make her mistakes, trusting the younger pirate, and even giving him a hug. Come on, Alisha, your boyfriend may be dead but don’t’ go jumping at the first pretty face you see. Actually, do jump because otherwise there won’t be a story.

Their conversation is important. A new name is thrown into the game; Conner. From the young pirate (I think he is Jack?) we learn that Conner is in charge, but he listens to Jack’s council. Everyone is waiting for Conner to decide what happens, and maybe Alisha and her family will be allowed to join Conner’s group. Why does this seem familiar? Oh, right, it sounds a lot like Negan and his Saviors. This group feels like a mirror of that group, only younger and in their raw beginnings.

Unlike Negan, we get to meet Conner this episode.

In order to play the hero, Travis reveals his skills as a mechanic, which he hopes will save his family. Good ol’ Travis, finally doing something stupid to help the story along. In the end, Conner takes Alisha and Travis hostage. Excellent. Now we have a rescue missions to either solidify them as a team or tear them apart.

Lastly, I want to talk about Nick on his secret mission to the shore. First off, how much time does he spend in his room that no one noticed he was missing? Were they all just pretending they didn’t know where he was? I couldn’t tell. Also, where is this non-firebombed town? Perhaps we should be scrounging for supplies?

BloodShirt

“If this is what napalm does, we should have stayed on land.”

Despite these questions, last week I said that Nick is becoming my favorite character, and that continues as he progresses from drugged out teen to zombie apocalypse survivor. Maybe it’s because of his past that he isn’t as afraid of the walkers as everyone else. Having survived the withdrawal of his addiction might put things in a different perspective. Plus, he is still an addict, just because he’s not currently using doesn’t mean he’s magically cured. The drive of teenage immortality and whatever drove him to drugs in the first place could be in play.

Nick isn’t Carol or Daryl at this point, but I would say he has a lot of characteristics similar to Glenn. He’s more reckless than Glenn, but he has the same confidence to be able to go into an infested area. He’s also smart like Glenn in being observant to zombie behavior. Glenn was able to rescue Rick in the beginning not because he wasn’t afraid, but because he has observed the walkers and understands how they respond to the world. Nick is quickly gaining this same type of information.

Nick also has the same attitude toward the walkers in this early stage that we often see in the current cast of The Walking Dead. He has the nonchalance to their presence in the world., accepting when they appear without being terrified. There will be walkers and we can get past them. He is still learning but I would like to continue to see him grow in this direction.

Nick picks up Thomas Abigail’s henchman Luis, and they save the day, as much as it can be saved. The real question is if Luis is truly a savior or if he will only bring more conflict in the days to come.

Other Questions

Will Strand finally decide the other survivors are worth saving, now that they’ve saved him?

Will Alicia continue to follow her teenage hormones and get everyone into more trouble?

Will a zombie baby chew it’s way out of the pirate mom’s tummy?

Hopefully we find out with only three episodes remaining of the season!