Movie Trailers

I hate it when movie trailers give away the entire plot. How’s that supposed to make me want to see the movie? There are no surprises left. If I know the story why pay $10 to see it? Then there are the times you see a movie you were looking forward to and realize afterwards that the only good parts were in the trailer. That feels like a ripoff. In those cases I think they are trying to make some money on the movie before the word gets out it’s crap. I recently saw a movie trailer for Paranoia. It sounds like a cross between Wall Street and Duplicity with a strong cast. I put it on my list to see. Then I went to the movies on Friday to see Wolverine (great movie, BTW) and saw another trailer for Paranoia. This time it included a big plot twist. At first I thought, Oh, cool. But then about a second later I thought, Wait a minute. That just gave the whole movie away. It really turned me off. It’s taken all the surprise out of the story for me. Curiously, my friend, Hilari, said it made her more inclined to see the movie. Before, she wasn’t that interested as she didn’t feel the characters had much to recommend them—remember this is about big business, corporate secrets, and greed. I like dark characters so that didn’t affect my interest in seeing the movie. Plus it has a strong cast and I trust certain actors not to sign on for a flop (yes, I know everyone has them in their past...

Getting Ideas

Earlier this year I was struggling to think of a new novel idea. I had been focusing on apps for the past year and a half and I felt it was time to get back into novel writing. But having been working in a different field for so long, I found it very difficult to change gears. I couldn’t think of an idea. I didn’t panic right away. Usually I get ideas from things I see—newspaper articles, news on the TV, a story I don’t like and how I would change it, etc. Generally it’s a buffet of ideas and I pick which one seems the tastiest to work on. Only this time the cupboard was bare. I figured I just needed to open myself up to ideas. I hadn’t had my mind working in that way for too long. I was busy with freelance work so I wasn’t too concerned, but then I realized several months had gone by and I still didn’t have an idea. Now I was starting to get worried. What if I never thought of another good novel idea? Okay, I realize that’s ridiculous, but there is still that little worm of doubt working away at my self-confidence. I decided to change tactics. Instead of waiting to be inspired by an idea, I would simply think of one. I went back to my old idea file to see if anything looked promising. Unfortunately, I had used most of the ideas that were worth developing and my older idea file seemed to have vanished. I think it’s on one of my old external harddrive backups...

Director’s Commentaries

Whenever I get a DVD and I like the movie, I check out the bonus features to see if there’s a director’s commentary. I always find it interesting to listen to the director’s thoughts as he/she takes you through the movie. You learn about the choices they made concerning the story, why they shot the scene the way they did, the ideas they discarded, what came from the script and what came from the actors. I learn a lot listening to how other creative minds approach their work. I recently listened to Joss Whedon’s commentary for the Avengers. He wrote and directed the movie. (Let me just say up front that Joss Whedon is god when it comes to story and dialogue.) He said that Marvel had told him up front they wanted Ironman and Thor to conflict. Whedon said his job wasn’t to create the fight (the storyboards guys did that) but to justify it. There were a lot of suggestions about having one of them under a misapprehension or a spell, but he discarded those. He said those kind of reasons were deadly. If you have guys pounding on each other over a misunderstanding then you are just waiting for them to start talking to one another. “You’re just checking a box. Ironman fights Thor. Done. And you don’t want that.” What you want are two guys with conflicting agendas. What he came up with is something that’s done in a lot of cop movies—you can’t bust the bad guy becomes he’s part of a bigger operation. That gives you an excuse to set them against one another....

Blog Topics

I recently read a book by one of my favorite authors, John Scalzi, called “Your Hate Mail Will be Graded.” The book contains a decade of blogs (1998-2008) from Scalzi’s Whatever site. Scalzi writes about whatever is on his mind and he doesn’t care about other people’s opinions. The blog is all about what he thinks and it can be funny, poignant, scary, or angry according to the topic. If you have very strong opinions about things and are easily offended then don’t read it. He pushed my buttons a couple of times but even on those topics he made me think. I always gravitate toward humor because I enjoy laughing. However, an author who can make me laugh and think deeply is one I will read over and over and over. Scalzi doesn’t arrange his blogs in numerical order. The years are mixed up. You can read a blog from 2004 and it may be followed by one from 1998. What surprised me so much was being reminded of what was happening in the country during those years. It wasn’t that long ago but it’s amazing what I had forgotten about current events back then. It was also fun to see what he speculated the outcome would be about events when I knew what the outcome actually was. There were some blogs on writing, but not that many. The ones he had were excellent, especially the one on advice to young writers.  But for the most part, the topics covered a wide range. It made me wonder if I had the nerve to open my blog up to...

Sending Queries

My agent retired at the end of the year so I’m sending out queries again trying to find a new one. I had to give myself a pep talk in order to start a new round of querying. I know I’m in store for a lot of rejection. If I added up the number of agents I’ve queried since I started writing (35 years ago) I’d be in triple digits, easily. I really hate having to start this all over again. Hence, the pep talk. “If you want other people to enjoy your writing, Anna-Maria, you need to show it to them.” Why can’t agents and editors find me while I’m holed up in my writing cave? Shouldn’t my brilliance attract them, like magnets to iron ore? I’ve got three novels I’m querying on so I had to write three query letters. One is bad enough, but three? Ugh. Synopses and queries are my least favorite thing to write. Needed another pep talk. “Once you get these done, Anna-Maria, you can use them over and over… and over (thinking of all the rejections headed my way) with just minor tweaks to personalize the query letter.” Just grin and bear it and get it done. So I did. (Actually, they came together fairly smoothly. I stressed about nothing. Or else I’m finally getting better at writing these things. I’ve had a lot of practice, after all.) Next, I put together a list of agents. I had done some research on agents about a month ago, so I dug that out. Then I added some agents who had given me some...