July 18

Let The Right One In Review

It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night….

This is a strange book. I will say that. And I absolutely enjoyed it’s strangeness. However…

The book progresses too slowly for my taste. If the book had a faster pace I would have enjoyed the book significantly more but in this case, I felt every page I read.  And I often found myself having to reread pages, because I didn’t understand what happened, mainly because the slow pace had me reading-but-not-reading the passages at times. This is not to say nothing interesting happens in the book. I imagine this would make a great movie, high-energy, exciting and gory.  This book contains several attacks, murders and mysteries.  However all that “excitement” that “creepiness” was lost under a monotone. That is my main issue with the book.

Lindqvist is very good at allowing readers to get to know almost every character in the book on a deep level. In that way, I see why people call him the Swedish Stephen King, but a lot of that information also slowed the pace down and made the story predictable in many respects. So it’s a toss up on whether that particular presentation is good or not.

The thing I liked most about this book was that it wasn’t afraid to explore sexuality. Their were homosexual, and heterosexual characters in the book. Their is Pedophilia. One of the main characters, I won’t say which, could be identified as non-gendered. I found this exploration interesting, mainly because it is so rarely done.

I won’t be buying a copy of the book myself. But it is an interesting one to study.

July 15

An update on my semester in screenwriting

When I signed up for a semester in screenwriting, I knew I was opening myself to new experiences, new lessons and new writing techniques.  I’d heard of the benefits of at least trying your hand at screenwriting, and this would be my chance at trying it with someone to guide me through my attempt.

I am currently working on packet two. Five are due by the end of the semester and I’ve come to a conclusion: Screenwriting is an experience every writer should try.

The formatting of the story isn’t the only thing different about screenplays.  Screenplays tend to encompass very lean, very fast-paced, very to-the-point scenes. I thought I was doing well in writing those kind of scenes in my novel, but the more I play around with the screenplays the more I question my skills in those areas. Because I keep finding changes I need or should make for the screenplay because it isn’t straight-forward, fast enough, or relevant enough to be in the movie. When I encounter these incidents, I wonder if I should make those changes a part of my novel.  Doing so would tighten my novel. But in some areas I’m not sure if the material I’d lose would be worth the tightening, characterization vs pacing kind of thing. However, I know in other areas tightening the scene would be the better move.

I probably wouldn’t have noticed these options if I weren’t turning it into a screenplay.

With the changes I’m playing around with I’ll lose a lot of words and I imagine I’ll gain ideas as I get further along in the story.  On the flip side of the token, I’m also getting ideas on how to continue the story so that this and the sequel become one work, one book. I’d need the smaller word count to add in the sequel. But since I haven’t really written anything for the sequel yet, I’m not even sure how the sequel will work out yet. But I’m more than willing to find out.

July 12

Perks of Being A Wallflower: A Review

Charlie is a Freshman. 

And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his year yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sidelines forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

I honestly don’t know what it is with this book. I’ve read it once before but it had so little impression on me that I remembered only the vaguest details about it. I get the feeling I’ll experience the same thing this time around once homework is finished on the subject. The book is well-written in a letter/journal format. And I’ve read books that are similar to it but this one…something seems to be missing in it for me, though I couldn’t tell you what.

The Negative
I found aspects of this book unrealistic. Charlie seems way too naive to be a fifteen-year-old, twelve would be more realistic for how he sometimes acts and what he doesn’t know.  For instance, he doesn’t know what the word masturbation is, at fifteen.  I may be willing to believe that he lived in a very protective household and had no siblings, but Charlie’s family life seems, relaxed and he has two older siblings, both of which have had sex.  Charlie even caught his sister in the act at one point in the book. Also, he seems completely shocked when he has a wet dream.

Charlie cries if he’s given an unfriendly look. I know I’m sensitive, but even at fifteen I knew how to hold off tears until I was out of the public eye, swallowing them down until I could cry in privacy.  In the book he cries over everything. And, even if found this a realistic aspect, I found it incredibly annoying. I didn’t find it appealing.

Their are a few other things, but those were the biggest ones.

The Positive
Despite the parts I listed above, I did believe that Charlie was surviving high school. He experiences things that are real teenagers experiment with, from drugs to sex to love. Chbosky doesn’t back away from those actions or the ensuing consequences. One character winds up pregnant and getting an abortion, relationships are broken and mended, though not always. He experiences life.

The journal/letter format presents Charlie with a realistic release on the pressures he endures in his life. I don’t believe this would have worked as well, however if the book weren’t set in the 1990s. Modern technology would have made the story completely different.

Overall
This book is in no way meant for me and I’m glad I haven’t purchased the book.  Aren’t libraries great? However, I can see how other people may enjoy this book.  My advice, get the book only if you’re interested in realistic fiction, with a slight psychological bent.  That part probably needed enhanced more for my enjoyment.  The theme to the book is discovering yourself, and surviving. No specific plot. More of a year-in-the-life of a teenager.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

 

July 10

Princess Bride Critical Review

Whose Who In The Princess Bride

For most people the terms main character, protagonist and hero are interchangeable and belong to the same character.  However there are intricacies to the terms that do cause them to be different.  In fact, in The Princess Bride, a story about Westley fighting to be with his true love Buttercup, the terms belong to different characters.

The term ‘Main Character’ usually refers to who the story is mainly about. By this definition it is possible to have over thirty main characters in a story. In this case, however, the true main character would be Westley.

Westley is who drives home the plot, the character who the story circles around.  He gives Princess Buttercup hope and a reason to stand up for herself.  He gives Prince Humperdinck someone to fear and ruins his plans. Westley is the reason Inigo Montoya gets revenge on Count Rugen for his father.  Without Westley, we would have a different story.  However, if you removed a different character, the story would change but multiple plot lines would remain the same.  Although Westley is the spider that weaves the story together, he is not the hero.

According to John August, the hero “is the character who you hope to see ‘win.’” As noble as Westley’s goal is—fighting for true love—audience members already know that Buttercup loves Westley, so half his battle is already won.  All he needs is to defeat the bad guy and with the level of skill he demonstrates throughout the movie, we know it’ll be inevitable that he will.  This leaves Inigo to fill the role of hero.

Early on, Inigo reveals he studied sword fighting until he believed himself skilled enough to defeat the six-fingered man that killed his father.  In the book, Inigo comes to believe that he obtains the skill level of wizard, which is the level above a master swordsman. After acquiring that level of skill and believing himself the only living wizard in existence, he searched for his Father’s , murderer.  Eventually he works for Vizzini ‘to pay the bills.’  It’s while working for Vizzini that he meets the ‘man in black,’ later to be revealed as Westley.

Westley beats Inigo in a sword fight which makes the audience wonder if Inigo truly has the skill to defeat the six-fingered man, especially since Westley has had significantly less time to study fencing than Inigo. This question is juxtaposed with another when Inigo finally learns that the six-fingered man is Count Rugen: How would he be able to get close enough to his father’s killer?

The uncertainty raised in the audiences minds make the audience more invested in Inigo’s goals than in the certainty that Westley will succeed.

Despite the importance of their roles in the story, neither Inigo nor Westley can technically be called a protagonist.  According to John August the protagonist is “The character who changes over the course of the story.”

There really is no such character in the book The Princess Bride. None of the characters really change or learn anything new. However, a protagonist can be found in the movie/screenplay.  The protagonist is never named, but in the screenplay he’s identified as The Kid.

Although the kid has very little screen time, his presence is felt throughout the movie.  The story, Princess Bride, is interrupted by the grandfather telling the story or the boy himself.Sections of the story are skipped at the boys insistence. The grandfather also narrates part of the story, reminding the audience that the story is being told to the boy. The boys persistent presence and the fact he is the reason the story is being told, makes him a lead character.

The boy also changes. At the beginning of the movie he dreads his grandfather’s arrival.  He asks his mother: “Mom, can’t you tell him that I’m sick? (p.1).” And he’s not too interested in the book his grandfather gives him as a get well gift.  However he grows more interested in the book as his grandfather reads it. By the end of the movie, however, he appreciates the book and asks his grandfather, “Maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow (p. 124).” As such, he fits the protagonist role best.

In The Princess Bride, Westley is the main character, Inigo is the hero, and the kid is the protagonist.  Not one character in the book or movie fits the definition of all three terms. But the terminology that one may use doesn’t affect the quality of the story.  It simply brings better understanding to the characters roles.

Works Cited
August, John. “Johnaugust.com.” Johnaugustcom RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2013.
Goldman, William. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure. Orlando: Harcourt, 2007. 37-358. Print.
Goldman, William. “Princess Bride, The (1987) Movie Script.” – Screenplays for You. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2013.
The Princess Bride. Dir. Rob Reiner. ACT III Communications, 25 September 1987. DVD

July 8

Stardust Critical Review

In-depth or Faster-Pace in Stardust 

Stardust is a coming-of-age tale about Tristran Thorne, who to prove his love to a girl by crossing into a new world and bring back a shooting star.  During the course of the plot, he finds his true love, his self-confidence, and where he belongs. Neil Gaiman’s book has been adapted into a screenplay by writers Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn. As many know, there will be differences between the book and the movie, when Goldman and Vaughn adapted Stardust to film; they sacrificed some of the clarity the book provided for scenes with higher tension. 

The sacrifice can be seen immediately.  Seconds within the movie, the voice over narrator mentions a boy sending a letter to ask a question. 

Our story really begins here, 150 years ago at the Royal Academy of Science in London, England, where a letter arrived, containing a very strange inquiry. It had come from a country boy and the scientist who read it thought it might be a practical joke of some kind. But he duly wrote a reply politely explaining that the query was nonsense. And posted it to the boy who lived in a village called Wall, so named, the boy had said, for the wall that ran alongside it–a wall that, according to local folklore, hid an extraordinary secret. 

However, seemingly unsatisfied with the answer he receives, the boy, Dunstan, decides to investigate and cross the wall that borders his town. Here the book and movie converge, because Dunstan meets a girl later identified as Una, and nine months later Tristran, the hero, is born and left in Dunstan’s care. Although viewers are okay with the vague explanation as to how and why they met, better clarity is found in the book. 

In the novel, there is a sort of festival on both sides of the wall that occurs every nine years.  During this festival, Dustan crosses over the wall, doing so is forbidden any other time. While checking out the various stalls, looking for a gift for his soon-to-be fiancée, he meets Una.  Instead of revealing this, which would have required a decent amount of set-up time, Goodman and Vaughn use a single vague explanation to get the story started quicker. 

In the book, Tristran encounters, Charmed, a hairy but extremely fast creature in the woods after managing to get over the wall.  They become traveling companions for a while, looking out for each other and sharing what they have.  At one point, Tristran saves both their lives by instinctively knowing where a trail is.  This instinct is brought up in conversation: 

“Where’s the village of Wall?” he asked.  Tristran pointed.  “Where are the Debatable Hills?” Tristran pointed once more without hesitation.  “Where’s the Catavarian Isles? Tristran pointed to the southwest. He had not known there were Debatable Hills, or Catalvarian Isles until the little man had mentioned them, but he was as certain in himself of their location as he was of the whereabouts of his own left foot or the nose on his face.”  114-15 

Readers infer from the conversation that Tristran can instinctively tell where he’s going so long as he’s in the land of fairy thanks to his mother. Nothing like this happens in the movie. In the movie, Tristran lights a Babylon candle—a gift from his mother—in his father’s attic. He’s engulfed by light and lands on the star he seeks. The movie completely bypasses Charmed and Tristran’s interactions.  However, the story moves on quicker for it.  The only hint we get that Tristran is truly directionally challenged is a scene where Yvainequestions Tristran on how he knows they’re heading the right way. 

Yvaine. Oh, right. So let me get this straight. You think you know we’re going the right way because… And I quote, “I just do.”
Tristran. I do, though. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my love for Victoria guiding me home.

 

The lines can easily be interpreted as part of the “Men insist they know where they’re going even when completely lost” trope.  As both Yvaine and Tristran are foreigners, neither are able to have the in-depth conversation that Tristran and Charmed had.
In the movie, a unicorn appears after Tristran leaves Yvaine chained to a tree in the forest.  It uses its horn to break the chain and carries Yvaine away.  Audiences don’t question it because the scene takes place in a mystical forest and animals do not, traditionally, need a clear-cut motivation. The scene is short, simple and moves the plot along quickly. 

However in the book, the unicorn is fighting a lion when Tristran and Yvaine first meet it.  Tristran stops the fight, thereby saving the unicorn’s life, by presenting the lion with its crown.  The unicorn than becomes Tristran’s and Yvaine’s traveling companion for a while.  The scene gives the unicorn a motivation for helping Tristan and Yvaine that the movie lacks, outside the one Yvaine reveals.  Unicorns are the Moon’s creatures, and, in the book, Yvaine is the moon’s daughter.  The moon asked the unicorn to help Yvaine.  As the movie demonstrates, the information isn’t necessary but the knowledge deepens the characters and the audiences understanding of the world. 

Movie audiences demand a faster-paced movie, especially when they’re watching fantasy. Readers are more willing to enjoy a slower-paced story, so long as it holds attention. So it is understandable why Goodman and Vaughn would not keep exactly to the book when they adapted STARDUST into a screenplay. And, although Goodman and Vaughn removed details that would bring more insight and deepen the characters, they did not remove anything that devastated the plot. In fact, Vaughn and Goodman probably stayed closer to the actual storyline than Gaiman did.  Seeing the differences between the book and the movie, in this case, is a great way to see how what you put in or take out of a story can affect how it reads.  Whether one reads Gaiman’s more detailed story or one watches the fast-paced movie, either variation of the story is entertaining. 

Works Cited 

Gaiman, Neil. Stardust. New York: HarperCollins, 1999. Print. 

Stardust. Dir. Matthew Vaughn. Paramount Pictures, 10 August 2007. DVD.