Tag: Jedi

Star Wars and My Birthday

A long time ago in this galaxy, Star Wars A New Hope found its way into movie theaters. Lines circled the block in Longview, WA, where I lived with my mother and sister at the time.

I didn’t see it. When its sequel released a few years later, I didn’t watch that either. Yes, I loved Star Trek, but the movie theater wasn’t a place I frequented (cash flow problems).

Enter teenage years and the idea of going on dates. Where does every date want to take you? To the movies. What hormone-riddled teenage boy doesn’t want to corner a girl in a dark place?

It wasn’t like that when I went on a date to Return of the Jedi. He wasn’t that kind of guy.

And I fell in love. With Han Solo and R2D2 and Chewbacca and those cute, cuddly ewoks. So I rented the other movies and watched them. Yes, even whiny Luke Skywalker dazzled me.

My fantasies of moving to Narnia embraced The Force with  all its mysticism. Why not include a few light sabers with my talking horses? Who would ever think up that sort of pairing?

My Parenting

As every good parent does, I indoctrinated my children to love the movies I loved. Sadly, love for the original Star Trek movies never manifested in them.

Star Wars? Oh my, yes. Their adoration reached new heights. To the point that we bought Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, Star Wars Life and the boxed set of episodes one through six.

And many conversations have been held since we learned there would be a new Star Wars movie. The Force Awakens into lively discussions around the Hughson table.

When the release date was announced, we blocked out the date. It would be all about our family renewing our love affair with Han Solo and the wookie. Oh, and those new people, whoever they were.

My Birthday

The filmmakers investigated to discover the day of my birth *snorts* and graciously offered to release the new blockbuster the day before.

However, getting my four adult children together at the same time proved too much for even The Force to accomplish. My oldest had tickets to a premiere through his job. His wife had to work.

My youngest and his fiance were involved in a stage drama with showings that weekend. My husband was offered premiere tickets from two different vendors through his employer.

Our compromise: a 10:30 am viewing on Friday the 18th with my youngest and his girl. This would free them up in plenty of time for their evening commitment.

Was the Force Awakened?

First off, going to the movies before lunch is disorienting. I always come out of a theater expecting the black of night. Going to P.F. Chang’s for lunch on the back side of a film viewing?

Talk about the Twilight Zone.

But going to an event planned by a sales representative guarantees you won’t leave empty-handed. After the movie, they distributed the gift. In this case: a light saber.

If you don’t want to know anything about Episode VII, you should scroll to the bottom now. Go ahead. Leave me a scathing commentary about how wrong it is to hand out spoilers and ruin the movie for everyone.

If you’d rather read a more positive reflection on the movie, one that doesn’t contain story spoilers, visit my friend Jenny’s blog.

Consider yourself warned.

My Personal Reaction

On Facebook, I read a comment about the story reminding them of Episode IV. I agree. It was a remix of that theme within the original trope. With new characters thrown in the mix.

You have the orphan on a desert planet. She salvages parts off of wrecked ships and somehow has become an incredible mechanic and pilot. You won’t find out too much about Rey. Except that “the Force is strong with her.” And she doesn’t know it. Until she does. (Sounding familiar yet?)

There’s a droid hiding plans the bad guys want. The Empire is gone, but from its dregs comes the First Order. Lead by some alien who communicates with his minions via holographic message. There’s a masked Sith and a uniformed General with an epic weapon of planet-eliminating power (major echoing should be happening for you by now.)

Somehow, a Storm Trooper decides the whole idea of genocide doesn’t sit well with his life-long programming. So he’s the one who helps the rebel captive (chimes of deja vu should be gonging) of the dark forces escape the clutches of Kylo Ren.

A smuggler we know and love plays a central role in the plot. A certain princess is a general in the rebellion these days. Somehow, the Millenium Falcon can still out-maneuver tie fighters and avoid blaster cannon fire.

It’s all very familiar.

There is a father-son issue. Someone dies. In fact, there’s blood on the screen in this film, something unheard of in the original two trilogies.

I was entertained. I cried too much. I laughed. I missed C3PO’s ridiculous puns.

It wasn’t a loss. I don’t regret spending four hours inside a theater on a winter’s day.

I liked the new characters. They had spunk and skills and obvious issues driving them forward.

But too many essentials remain unexplained. And if the parentage of our not-a-Jedi who holds the Skywalker light saber in her hand turns out to be as we suspect, I’ll have a hard time buying into it.

It gets one thumb up and a hand wiggle from me. Which doesn’t mean I hated it. I just didn’t LOVE it. Although it was much more Star Wars-esque than anything I’ve seen in three decades. And PLEASE remember. I came late to this party. The first Star Wars movie I saw was Return of the Jedi (which is still my all-time favorite).

Of course, as a Star Wars aficionado, I will add The Force Awakens to my Blu-Ray collection. It will be watched and re-watched. Even the much-maligned Episodes I – III have been viewed multiple times in my household (although rarely from start to finish by me – especially Episode I).

Part of the problem with this film lies with the months of media hype. As a result, my personal expectations ramped to skyrocketing levels. Could any movie really rise that high?

Probably not.

Have you seen it? What is your reaction?

Story Engineering

At the behest of my Jedi Master, Kristen Lamb, I’ve begun dog-earring a copy of Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. It’s a masterful guide for creating a strong, complex story.

If you’re thinking, “I’ve got story structure down,” I thought similarly after highlighting James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure into rainbow-like proportions. Brooks subtitled his book “Mastering the 6 core competencies of successful writing.” Structure is only one of the six.

Two hours on the phone with Kristen reiterated for me the fact that I’m still a noob in the writing arena. Sure, I’ve been writing stories since I was nine. Does that mean they were well-written stories?

My first attempt at young adult fantasy flopped because I didn’t understand my antagonist’s motivation before I started writing. In the past, I had an idea and I sat down and wrote it. That might work for a short story, but all it provides in the novel-writing world is 60,000 words of warming up to the real story.

Trust me. I was halfway through the revision process when Master Lamb tapped the major plot points with her force push. The resulting pile of rubble buried my heart. A novel shouldn’t be a wobbly house of cards. It needs to have bones of steel beneath its thin skin (or maybe it’s the writer who has thin skin?).

Most of us right-brained artistic types see the word “engineering” and lose our appetite. Isn’t engineering all about calculus and equations with 18 variables and figuring out how to use all the buttons on a $200 calculator? So not interested.

The point behind Brooks’ use of “engineering” in his title is that writing a great story doesn’t just happen. We all know that only a fool would run out to build a tower without having blueprints and expertise. Brooks presents a logical (yes, very left-brained) argument for planning the major plot points and character arc before you attempt to build your novel.

The six core competencies of writing according to Brooks are:

  • Concept
  • Character
  • Theme
  • Story Structure
  • Scene Execution
  • Writing Voice

I was directed to this stellar directory for story-planning for the lesson in story structure. I started with Part Five of the book so I could take my medicine and “do” rather than “try” to plan a successful novel.

In reading the entire book, I see that Brooks marries character arc to story structure in a way that simplifies the planning process. He offers sage advice for weaving theme between these major elements, as well, and erases the gray area between concept and theme.

In short, this book should be required reading for newbie writers. Using a conversational tone, Brooks invites the panster to do a little planning and gives the outlining mavens a blueprint to follow. He never talks above our heads or down his nose and he uses examples from fiction and film to illustrate every point.

Is your work in progress a mess of Bondo? I highly recommend Brooks’ book. It works better than an air sander at smoothing out the rough spots.

Words of Power

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” – Proverbs 18:21

Langston Hughes spoke to me in his poem “A Dream Deferred.”  Many other words, written and spoken, altered my chosen path on the highway of life.

A similar conversation happened on the phone recently. I took a class from WANA International, which I recommend to those looking for inexpensive ways to learn more about the craft of writing. Part of the price was a one-to-one telephone conversation with Kristen Lamb, founder of WANA and instructor for the class I took.

Anticipation of the call is a mild understatement. “MY WRITING JEDI MASTER IS GOING TO TALK TO ME ON THE PHONE AND WAVE HER LIGHT SABER OVER MY MANUSCRIPT AND IT WILL BE PERFECT.”

Have I mentioned what happens when we have high expectations? If so, it bears repeating. High expectations can only be dashed while low expectations might be met or exceeded.

Boy, that Kristen has a powerful light saber. She filled my ears with wonderful advice and my head with plausible options for the fantasy world I had created. My idea was good and the theme (once we found it) will be a powerful one.

Bottom line: scrap that manuscript.

Okay, there goes the months of writing and the weeks of revising. I knew there were problems. I begged her to reconsider and give me ways to fix my hours of blood, sweat and fears (not a typo).

The woman is a rock. “You don’t want Bond-o holding it all together,” not exactly Yoda-speak, but true nonetheless. The infrastructure was shaky and too many patch jobs were needed. In the end, it still might not be something that an agent would buy.

I pulled out Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and skipped the first 50 pages. Actually, I skipped directly to the plotting portion. I promise to go back on read about character and theme. After all, according to Brooks, there are six elements in successful fiction and I want to master them all.

At this point, my job at the school district is looking better and better. Oh, right. I quit and they’ve hired my replacement.

Fine. All those emails I get from Career Builder and indeed.com will lead me to a new job. Instead of writing, I’ll fill out some online applications and send out my resume.

Writing is the dream. I’ve deferred it for too many years to list here and maintain the façade surrounding my true age.

I knew it would be work. The learning curve is steep. I thought college coursework was difficult? Ha! This is Mt. Everest to that Bunker Hill.

Kristen believes I have the foundation and that I’ll do the work. To encourage me, she offered to give me some names of people who could read and blurb my book ONCE IT’S READY TO PUBLISH.

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Master Yoda and Master Lamb, I bow to your knowledge of The Force. Time to get back to work writing.

A Jedi has Self-Discipline

From the Yoda of my writing life (Kristen Lamb), this little Obi Wan reads many fine blog posts.

Yesterday, I was inspired to share her post with those of you who read my blog. Why? It was motivational. It was wise.

If you lack self-discipline, you are not alone. Kristen talks about how to buy some on eBay. Uh, no, that doesn’t sound right.

She quoted Robert Greene as saying “our society’s almost developed a general disdain for plain and simple hard work.” Amen, sister! If you spent even one hour at the middle school (where I no longer work), it would be plain to you that young people have adopted this disdain with fervency they show for little else in life (except maybe texting).

I hope you enjoy Kristen’s blog post. Check out her book We Are Not Alone, as well as the writer’s social network she designed, WANA Tribe.

I love Kristen. As soon as I learn as much about The Force (writing) as she can teach me, I’m going to be able to wield a light saber with the best of them.