Bilbo vs Frodo

I have always preferred The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Consequently, I’ve always preferred Bilbo to Frodo, but it is only recently that I’ve been able to figure out why this is so. I was watching the Hobbit on HBO, refreshing my memory in preparation for the next installment coming out soon, and one scene struck me as a pivotal moment for Bilbo. He’s invisible, having just escaped from Gollum and the goblins, and he overhears Thorin saying Biblo has probably deserted them and run back home—that’s why he’s missing. Bilbo could do that. He could leave at that point and go back home. He’s invisible and they would never see him. He knows Thorin has always doubted him. He’s no hero and he’s not a thief. He feels out of place and floundering. The dwarves are so strong and good at what they do and Bilbo feels like all he knows how to do is live a quiet life and tend his garden. But it’s at that point that he choses fully to commit to the quest. When he first decided to join them it was more from a sense of adventure and fun. But this time he truly wants to help them. He takes off the ring and reveals himself. When asked why he hadn’t left he tells Thorin that he’s right. He misses his home. He misses his books and his garden. That’s where he belongs. And that’s why he had to come back. They (the dwarves) don’t have a home. Someone took it from them. But he will help them take it...

Critique Groups

We had our critique meeting last Friday and it was bitter sweet. The sweet was reviewing Lisa’s manuscript which was such a fun read. “Slacker Nanny Falls in Love” is sure to find a home. The voice is pitch perfect. Of course we had a few suggestions—nothing is ever perfect. But I hope my next manuscript gets a similar reaction. I won’t have much rewriting to do if it does. The bitter part of the meeting was saying good-bye to Sean McCollum. The rat is moving to the Virgin Islands. Really, Sean? You have to move to paradise and abandon us right before winter? And while we are happy that he has this opportunity, we’re going to miss him so much. Getting the right mix of people in a critique group is so important. Having a bad member can really upset the balance. My group once seriously discussed disbanding and reforming so that we didn’t have to tell a member that she was toxic and we wanted her to leave. To avoid that that kind of situation, here are some things to consider if you are starting or looking for new members for a critique group: Are you working at your craft? If so, how much have you written? (You need to determine where this person, or the group, are on their writing journey. Are they beginners? Intermediate? Are some published? Is it a mix?) Ideally, you want a  mix. If you are a beginning writer and the group is full of published writers it may not be the right one for you. They may demand more of you...

Missing a Climax

I recently watched a movie about a woman whose estranged husband faked his and their son’s death—lost at sea during a storm. Fourteen years later she sees her husband on a friend’s vacation video with their son, now grown up. He runs a diving charter on a Caribbean island so she flies there to get her son back.  There’s lots of good tension with the possibility of a hurricane hitting the island in a few days, trouble with the law because she doesn’t have a passport and has lied about losing it, and the fact that the husband and son are gone on a charter and may not be back in time before the law finds out she’s lying and/or the storm hits. To make matters worse she finds out that her husband is the most popular guy on the island—very generous with his time and always helping people out. People consider him a saint. Great set-up for the main character. She’s facing all sorts of problems and could even end up in jail. She only has an old photo of her son at age 3 as proof. She burned everything when she thought they had died. The husband comes back and then takes off alone for another island, leaving the son behind. Perfect chance for the mother to bond with the kid. By now the police have found out she lied about the passport. She tells the officer the truth and he forbids her to say anything to the kid while he checks out her story. But instead of checking it out, he calls the husband and leaves...

Villains

I heard an author on TV talking about his book I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined). In the book the author examines the modern interpretation of villainy. One of the discoveries he said he made was that villains know the most and care the least. I thought that sounded like a clever definition until I started thinking about it. I haven’t read his book, I’ve only heard an interview with the author. Given that, I would like to modify his definition. I think villains know the most and care the least about everyone else. Their wants and desires are uppermost, so in effect, they care the most about themselves. What they want supersedes what everyone else wants. Heroes, on the other hand, usually put other people’s needs ahead of their own. They let go of their wants and desires for the better good. They are willing to sacrifice their dream and goal in order to help someone else. So a possible definition for a hero would be someone who, once they know everything, is willing to sacrifice their desires for the good of someone else or for the good of the whole. A simple example would be Lightning McQueen in the animated movie Cars. He sacrificed his desire to be the youngest car to win the Piston Cup in order to help the retiring champ finish the race so he wouldn’t end up forgotten and bitter like Doc...
The Danger of Words

The Danger of Words

I grew up in California. For most of my childhood I went barefoot or wore thongs. Yes, we called them thongs. It wasn’t until I moved to Ohio when I was twelve that I ever heard the term flip flops. And it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that thongs was mis-appropriated by the lingerie companies to mean something entirely different, although there is a vague design similarity between the items. That’s my back story prior to taking a walk today with a guy (for professional reasons, and no, I’m not a streetwalker). Since it was in the 90s I dressed appropriately, including a pair of black thongs. After we walked a ways, I tripped. This is fairly normal behavior for me. I inherited the klutz gene from my dad. I can still remember my mother coming to me panic-stricken telling me to quickly distract my dad as he was in the garage with the hood up on the car. She was afraid he’d jiggle something and break it and she needed the car that afternoon. He was also known to cut himself changing lightbulbs. Nuff said. Back to my walk. Luckily my trip wasn’t of the face-planting variety. It was just a small stumble, but it’s always embarrassing when that happens around a stranger. My mouth took over and here’s what I said: “Those darn thongs. They sometimes make me trip. It’s my dog’s fault. He likes to eat my thongs and by the end of summer I have to buy what’s still available. These are men’s thongs and they are a bit wider which is why...