Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Raised By Another

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We get our motif of an eye opening to start things off.  This time it belongs to Claire who we have yet to really get much information about besides the fact that she’s Australian and pregnant.


She wakes in the caves and quickly realizes she’s not pregnant anymore, hearing a baby crying in the distance.  Right off the bat we should assume this a dream unless it’s a time jump which would be a first. She heads off into the jungle, sees a light source and walks towards it.  Turns out it’s Locke sitting at a table with some strange paraphernalia including a deck of cards. Claire asks him what’s happening and he tells her it was her responsibility but she gave him away.  He lifts his head and he has different colored eyes: one white and one black, reminding us of the backgammon pieces. She leaves him and goes back into the jungle, following the baby cries, eventually finding a crib.  She searches through the blankets inside until she finds nothing but blood. She’s ripped from the nightmare screaming bloody murder and Charlie is there noticing her palms are bloody.


Flashback:  Claire and her boyfriend, Thomas, are waiting on the results of a pregnancy test.  Once it reveals positive, Claire has doubts that they can raise a baby but Thomas thinks they can.  A friend takes Claire to see a psychic and everything is hunky dory until the psychic ends the session abruptly, giving Claire her money back without explanation.

Jack asks Claire questions about her pregnancy and how she’s feeling, saying everything checks out and she’s probably just stressed.  He finds Kate on the beach and tells her Claire’s baby is coming soon. Charlie expresses concern for Claire and tries to console her eventually expressing wanting to be more than friends.  She rebuffs him and Charlie assures her it’s alright though we all know he wants more.


That night Claire is asleep in the caves again and a hand slaps over her mouth.  She’s screaming like crazy (let me just say that the actress who plays Claire has got a scream that unnerves me like no other; she does not hold back).  Everyone is up of course, consoling her or looking for whoever attacked her but there’s no sign of an assailant. Hurley approaches Jack and makes it clear that they need to figure out who’s who in their group, making a point that they don’t who is at the caves and who is at the beach.  We also learn Hurley’s real name is Hugo, but this doesn’t seem to be a Sawyer situation. Just a nickname.

Jack is not convinced someone attacked Claire, believing that her condition is making her hallucinate.  Charlie is not happy about the diagnosis and is at odds with Jack. Hurley’s collecting names, other personal info, and reasons for traveling to Australia, getting some info from characters like Locke, Boone and Shannon, and Ethan.  He also learns that his job would be easier if he had the flight manifest from Sawyer, which gives us a funny exchange between the two including Sawyer’s less than affectionate nickname for Hurley: Staypuft.


Flashback:  Claire gets an unexpected surprise from Thomas who decides he doesn’t want to be a father now (he’s a real douche) and leaves her.  Claire goes back to the psychic in hopes to learn whether or not Thomas will return to her. The psychic tells her that her child is surrounded by danger according to his previous reading and tells her the child must be raised by her and no other.  Claire tells him she’s putting her baby up for adoption and he urges her not to make that choice. Later in her pregnancy, he calls Claire in the middle of the night the day before she goes to meet the adoption agency and parents. He tells her he has a plan but she still denies him.  At the meeting she’s unable to sign the paperwork due to no pens working (uh, weird). She takes it as a sign not to go through with the adoption and leaves, contacting the psychic again where she’s given the ticket on Oceanic 180 where parents await her arrival in Los Angeles.

Jack wants to give Claire a mild sedative and she realizes he doesn’t believe someone attacked her.  She storms to go to the beach and Charlie follows trying to convince her not to leave the safety and only doctor on the island in light of her late-stage pregnancy.  Claire stops once what looks like contractions start happening. Charlie runs to get Jack and crosses path with Ethan who says he’ll go get Jack. Charlie returns to Claire and once the contractions fade away, she tells him about the psychic and Charlie poignantly points out that maybe the psychic knew about the plane crash, knowing this was the only way Claire could raise her baby (whoa, crazy twist).


Sayid returns to the caves and tells Jack he found the French woman and also that they’re not alone on the island.  Hurley arrives in a panic and reveals that somebody he talked to wasn’t on the manifest. Shift back to Claire and Charlie and we get a creepy staring Ethan finding them without Jack.  Not good.

I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of this episode.  Claire is not a character I ever gravitated towards. The true gold in this episode is the revelation that a potential “Other” has assimilated into the survivors’ group.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Solitary

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Sayid’s left the group due to his guilt for very nearly killing Sawyer by severing an artery in his arm.  Jack saved him but shame plagues Sayid and he’s off on his own now sitting on a beach and looking at the picture of the unnamed woman.  He looks off to his left and notices something sticking up in sand. He investigates and finds a rather large cable that goes out into the ocean (strange…).  He grabs the cable and follows it into the opposite direction: the jungle.


Along the way, he finds a tripwire and steps over it only to spring another trap that grabs his leg and pulls up in the air upside down (I’m not sure what the proper name is for this kind of trap but now I really want to research traps).  He catches a broken branch in his leg and is left to hang there for hours until nightfall. He hears someone approaching in the dark and is cut free only to pass out once he’s on the ground.


Flashback:  We get Sayid in uniform interrogating another man in what we can surmise is the early 90s, due to our knowing he served in the Republican Guard during the Gulf War.  He talks to a superior officer as a woman prisoner is led by guards past them. Sayid meets her eyes and there’s some recognition there. Why? Because she’s the woman in the picture!  We find out her name is Nadia and she and Sayid knew each other when they were children but went on different paths. She’s being accused of a crime and Sayid is tasked to get information that could lead to arrests of her affiliates.  She refuses even though she knows Sayid is going to hurt her.

Plot B is a fun one in this episode.  Jack’s doing his best to keep everyone alive and healthy while stress and other anxieties begin to take their toll on everyone.  Kate blames Jack for Sayid’s leaving so they’re a bit on the outs. Sawyer gives Jack-o a new nickname: Dr Quinn (I laugh every time) and their triangle with Kate continues to build steam.  Hurley takes it upon himself to find some kind of de-stresser. When Locke and a man named, Ethan, return in the night with plane crash findings, Hurley gets excited upon finding something we’re not shown quite yet.


Michael shows Jack a drawing of a water filtration device, which will divert their supply to washing and drinking stations.  We learn Michael was an artist along with being in construction. They both eventually get summoned by Charlie to go and meet Hurley outside of the caves and we learn Hurley found golf clubs and created a two-hole golf course (even we in the audience needed this reprieve from the craziness of the island).  I’ll also point out that Walt feels left out and bored, eventually going off to find Locke who’s practicing his knife throwing skills.

When we get back to Sayid, he’s shackled to a metal bed frame confused and being asked by a woman in the shadows where someone named Alex is in several different languages.  Sayid tries his best to figure out where he is and who has him strapped to the bed. But his inability to provide sufficient answers earns him electric shock treatment. The woman reveals she’s the French woman who made the distress call (yep, she’s alive).  We learn her name is Rousseau and was part of a scientific expedition who’s ship crashed on the island after their instruments stopped working (because of the island?). She and her crew did their best to survive but she claims her fellow scientists, which included her beau, Robert, got sick and were not themselves.


There’s a lot of back and forth discussion between Sayid and Rousseau as they learn about each other, trust being earned when Sayid offers to fix a broken music box of hers.  What I would say is the most intriguing part of the information learned from Rousseau is that there are other people on the island she appropriately calls, “The Others”, who she seems to think Sayid is until she’s convinced otherwise.  Apparently she hasn’t seen these Others but has heard them. When they hear a roar outside her underground shelter, she claims it’s one of the bears. Sayid breaks free from his restraints, grabs supplies, a map of the island, and a rifle but forgets Nadia’s pictures.

Flashback:  Sayid is told to execute Nadia and he plans to release her, not fleeing with her because he knows his family will be killed if he does.  His superior officer shows up and is shot by Sayid. Nadia pleads further for him to run but he shoots himself, staging her escape to protect himself.  She gives him a letter and the picture of her as parting gifts.


Sayid sneaks up on Rousseau and when she raises her rifle at him, he pulls the trigger finding the firing pin has been removed.  Rousseau declines his offer to go back to his group and tells him to watch his people and be wary of them. Sayid asks her who Alex is and we learn it was her child.

The episode ends with Sayid returning to his group and suddenly stops as the wounds of whispers surround him (creepy…).

I always feel like this episode has a fair bit of levity in it with the golf scenes.  Sayid’s moments are important to his character and introducing us to Rousseau while also signaling to possible other people on the island.  We’re still in the “all killer” episodes at this point. So many great moments!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: The Moth

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(Side Note:  I am unable to upload new pictures at the time. Sorry about the delay.)

We get to Charlie’s first centric episode and he’s in a bad way.  We’ve had the luxury of seeing a lot of who Charlie is from the first episode.  He’s a drug addict and been getting his fixes whenever the need strikes.  Locke knows his secret and has stepped up personally to provide a way for Charlie to find help.

Dealing with his withdrawals, we get to see Charlie feeling out of place, wanting to help around the cave but not needed, which he doesn’t appreciate.  Locke tries to help him and in doing so uses Charlie as bait for a boar (very messed up, I might add).  Charlie makes a request for his drugs, revealing Locke’s in possession of the last of Charlie’s stash.  Locke tells Charlie he’s stronger than he thinks and Locke will give him three times to ask for his drugs before finally handing them over.


Plot B of this episode goes back to Sayid’s plan to find the French woman’s distress call source.  He’s somehow manufactured three antennas to triangulate the source.  One problem is he needs a battery to power the transceiver.  Kate knows where to find one and that involves including Sawyer in the mix (always a fun interaction when Sawyer’s involved; pure snarkiness).  Using bottle rockets to provide signals once the antennas are all in position, Sayid, Kate, and Boone put the plan in motion.


Flashback:  Here we get to see Charlie’s progression into “rock stardom”.  He’s on the verge of quitting his band, Driveshaft, due to things getting a little out of hand with the ladies (full salacious conviction offered to a priest) but Charlie’s brother, Liam, has a recording contract in hand and convinces Charlie to keep going with the dream.  Charlie obliges but makes Liam promise that if things get out of hand, they walk away.  What could go wrong?!


Feeling unappreciated, Charlie confronts Jack in a separate cave from the main one where everyone is living and raises his voice a little too loud, causing a cave-in.  Charlie makes it out but Jack is trapped.  A rescue attempt takes place led by Michael who turns out to be experienced in construction.  Feeling responsible, Charlie goes to Locke and asks for his drugs again.  That’s two.  In an attempt to leave Charlie with some wisdom, Locke shows him a cocoon explaining it belongs to a moth.  Locke says he could use his knife to help the moth break free from its cocoon but to do so would make the moth weak and unable to survive (Mr. Locke handing out life lessons!).

Sayid and Kate are out in the jungle, going to their prospective antenna locations and they discuss the plane crash.  Sayid is convinced the crash was not normal saying the plane broke apart in midair and their section of the plane crashed on the island with over forty survivors.  That should not have happened according to him.  Sawyer shows up to tell Kate about Jack but when he’s met with a bristling Kate, he negates to follow through and offers to help them (pretty shady).


Flashback:  Driveshaft is in the thick smoke and sweat of stardom and things have gotten a bit out of hand.  Liam has taken charge of the band and is openly becoming a junkie.  Charlie gets to the end of his rope and tells Liam they are walking away but gets rebuffed by Liam, leaving a distraught Charlie to contemplate what’s happened.  Jump forward to an undisclosed amount of years and Charlie’s in Sydney to track down a clean and sober Liam who has no interest in returning to the band to make a comeback.  He and Charlie have switched roles and Charlie actually blames his brother for his junkie state.


Charlie offers to climb into the cave where Jack is after Michael and the group make a small opening.  Another collapse takes place after Charlie gets through and efforts to free them have to continue.  Jack realizes Charlie’s in withdrawal and offers to help him (if they ever get out), telling Charlie he’s not worthless and an asset to the group.  Charlie notices a moth flying around in the cave and finds another way out.  He and Jack escape the cave surprising everyone and Charlie’s praised for his heroism (hugs all around!)

Bit of a backtrack because these plot threads are woven together from time to time and don’t make for an easy recap but Boone ran off to help with the cave-in and left Shannon in charge of his antenna.  Sayid left Kate and Sawyer with theirs as he climbed to higher ground to set up his antenna.  While they wait for Sayid, Kate and Sawyer are bantering, obviously at odds, and Sawyer lets slip about Jack’s situation.  Kate leaves him to help free Jack and we’re left to wonder if Sawyer will follow through with the plan.  Sayid launches his bottle rocket and we see Shannon and Sawyer launch theirs.  Sayid turns the transceiver on but before he can get a clear signal, he gets hit in the head from behind by an unknown person.  Not good.


The episode ends with Charlie going to Locke and asking for his drugs for the third and final time.  Locke is apprehensive but follows through.  Charlie throws the last of his stash in the fire and I don’t know about you but it’s an awesome moment that hits all the right beats for this character who continues to grow on me.

Again, another strong episode.  Charlie is one of those complex characters in the show that I don’t think got enough recognition at times.  His journey so far is so great to watch.  Locke continues to be an even stronger force on the show (probably why actor, Terry O’Quinn, won an Emmy for this role).

Next we get Sawyer’s first centric episode.  If memory serves right, it’s equally strong and might be one of my early favorites.  Just a reminder that this will be posted on October 3rd.  The last post of this month will be the new Shoals to the Hallowed flash fiction story.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch : House of the Rising Sun

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We get our first Sun-centric episode and we know it’s Sun-centric because the episode opens with her eye opening and as we know, this is Lost’s signature motif in these first season episodes.  We don’t know much about Sun and Jin, getting very little of their relationship except that Jin seems to be a very controlling husband.

Flashback:  The flashbacks consist of Sun and Jin’s relationship starting with their early days before marriage where we learn Sun comes from a wealthy family and Jin does not.  We see them together at a party but in different roles.  Sun is attending and Jin is serving as a waiter, revealing himself to be kind and loving, giving her a flower, which will come into play later.

Plot B of the episode focuses on the survivors collecting water from the cave Jack found.  We get a whole lot of Jack and Kate flirting and Jack’s wanting to bring the survivors to the cave and water instead of making water hauling trips multiple times a day.  Kate and Sayid are not that interested for fear of missing a chance to signal a rescue from the beach.

Things get crazy when out of nowhere Jin attacks Michael and beats the crap out of him.  The language barrier proves to be just that as no one can get answers from either Jin or Sun for the cause of Jin’s sudden violence.  This all makes sense though as we see more flashbacks.

Flashback:  Not knowing the time jumps of each flashback (there are several and woven throughout the episode) when they occur, Jin talks to Sun’s father offscreen and tells her that he has earned the right to propose to her but he has to devote a year to working for her father.  She’s not happy about that but Jin is adamant that it’s the right way to do things.  Months later, Sun gets home and finds she has a present from Jin—a dog!  Months later again, the dog is much bigger now, Jin shows up to their home with blood all over his hands.  Sun confronts him and he says he does what her father asks of him (sounds like Sun has a “Father of the Year” nominee as well).  Obviously, Jin is not the same man he was when we first saw them together and he’s become someone Sun doesn’t know anymore.

In what I’ll call Plot B-a, while the water group of Jack, Kate, Locke, and Charlie get to the cave, Charlie decides it’s a great time to take a hit of his drugs but is caught by Locke who warns him not to move when Charlie somehow didn’t realize he was standing on a beehive (yes, a beehive on the ground).  Charlie moves, breaks the hive, and the group has to get away from the flurry of bees.  Jack and Kate end up finding two bodies—a man and woman—in the cave.  Jack claims they’ve been dead for 40-50 years and finds two stones (one black and one white—that’s familiar now isn’t it to Locke’s backgammon pieces).

Jack and Kate take the water back to the beach and Locke stays to help Charlie look through wreckage.  Locke recognizes Charlie from Driveshaft and asks about Charlie’s guitar, which he checked on the plane.  Obviously missing it, Locke asks Charlie if he wants his guitar more than his drug telling him he will see his guitar again because the island gives people their heart’s desire.  But, they have to be willing to give something in return (apparently, Mr. Locke has become the all-knowing Oz of the island).  Charlie hands over his drugs and Locke tells him to look up.  Low and behold, his guitar is caught in some vines above them.  Charlie’s reaction is priceless.  Such a great moment!

Flashback:  Sun meets with an interior designer but it turns out the woman is actually behind a plan so Sun can escape Jin and her old life.  Looks like she wants to runaway and disappear in Sydney, faking a kidnapping, and eventually her death.  Things with Jin have gotten bad.

A small moment between Walt and Michael reveal Walt’s mother never talked about Michael.  They start to banter and start asking each other questions to see if they know each other, which they don’t besides some very basic info.  Michael heads off into the jungle to cut some firewood and Sun follows him and boom!  She speaks English.  What?!  Who saw that coming?  She says Jin attacked him because Michael is wearing a watch he found in the wreckage that belonged to her father.  Also, Jin doesn’t know Sun speaks English making things more complicated.  Michael cuts Jin free from being handcuffed to the piece of plane debris now understanding why Jin attacked him but he’s not ready to make amends with Jin.

The survivors are divided (locationally) as Jack takes those interested in staying in the cave while Sayid, Kate, Sawyer, and others stay on the beach hoping to signal a rescue.

Flashback:  In the Sydney airport, Sun gets ready to disappear from Jin, obviously conflicted about the decision.  She’s about to leave when she makes eye contact with Jin and he shows her a flower which is what he first gave her before they were engaged.  She sees the man she fell in love with, past the hard exterior made from working for her father.  She joins him and stays with him.

Definitely a good episode as we get more information on characters.  I’ll be honest, my favorite part of this episode is Locke and Charlie’s interaction.  There’s something about it that hits me in the feels every time.  I do like the complexity of Jin and Sun’s relationship and look forward to how that shapes up in the coming episodes.

Next is Charlie’s first centric episode!  It’s a good one!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch : White Rabbit

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We get another “eye-opening” opening (there’s our official motif for this show) of a young Jack being told to stay down on the ground while some older bullies beat up on another kid.  Young Jack-o doesn’t listen and gets popped in the face before older Jack’s name is being called out while staring out into nothing on the beach.

Jack realizes someone is calling out for help in the water and he dives into action (pun uh-thank you).  Once he gets out deeper, he goes under water and comes up with Boone.  Starting to swim back, Boone says he was trying to save her and Jack sees a woman further out calling for help.  Alas, Jack gets back to shore with Boone and goes back out to save the woman.

Turns out a woman named Joanna went out for a swim and couldn’t stay above water pulled out by a riptide.  Jack tells Kate he didn’t try hard enough to save Joanna and while he’s talking to her he sees the man in the suit standing out in the water, waist deep.  Kate can’t see the man though.  So creepy.

Our Plot B storyline focuses on the dwindling water supply and the group’s need to find drinkable water.  We get some minor moments worth calling out:  Sun and Jin continue to be on the outs due to the language barrier; Claire and Kate gab a bit (I hope that’s not insensitive to say; I’ll use it for all genders just in case); Shannon tries to bargain with Sawyer for insect repellant (side note:  Sawyer’s reading Watership Down; books are a big part of the show and appear from time to time with the plot of the book having some kind of influence on the show).

Jack is inundated with people looking to him for leadership and he’s struggling to embrace that role.  Hurley and Charlie get the ball rolling by asking about the water supply.  Add in a brooding Boone telling Jack he could have swam back on his own and Jack should’ve gone after Joanna and Jack’s close to the edge.  The man in the suit appears again and Jack runs into the jungle to confront the creepy apparition.

Flashback:  We’re with young Jack again and he talks to his dad, Christian, who is a surgeon (a son following in his father’s footsteps) and tells Jack he doesn’t have the stuff to be a hero after Jack tells him what happened with the fight at school.  Dad of the Year award nominee right here.  Shift to adult Jack who is told his father’s gone by his mother and is asked to locate his father’s whereabouts.  They haven’t talked for two months due to a falling out, which Jack is alluded to being responsible for.  Where is his dad?  Australia.  Aha!  Jack gets to his dad’s hotel room in Sydney and finds out he hasn’t been there for three days.  There’s plenty of medication bottles and liquor bottles in the room along with his wallet.

Jack reaches the man in the suit who turns around, falls onto the ground, and says, “Dad?”  Uh wut?  How is that happening?  A very creepy-staring Christian says nothing turns around and walks deeper in the jungle and Jack gives chase.

Claire collapses and while Charlie runs to get water, he realizes the stash has been stolen.  After Kate and Sayid take over leadership duties, determined to find the stolen water, Locke offers to go find Jack saying he knows where to look. Sawyer becomes the prime suspect because he’s determined to be the most-hated person in the group.  Kate follows him to where he has his stash of looted goods hidden but discovers he wasn’t behind the water pinch.

Jack’s running like a crazy man in search of his ghost-like dad until he slips and nearly falls to his death off a cliff, grabbing a tree vine for dear life.  Lucky Locke shows up to save him just in time.  We get a great exchange between Locke and Jack here which I’ll try to recap though it’s better on screen.  Jack doesn’t want to be the leader, saying he doesn’t have the stuff to succeed.  Locke asks why Jack’s out in the jungle and finds out Jack is chasing after something to which Locke mentions the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (our second literary reference!).   Locke says the island is special and different and they all feel it but won’t talk about it.  He says he’s looked into the eye of the island (whatever that means) and he saw something beautiful.

Left to contemplate his predicament, Jack hears the sound of ice clinking in a glass, runs in the direction of the sound, and comes upon a cave where there’s running water and what appears to be items from the plane crash.  Surprising enough, there’s a coffin which happens to be belonging to his father, which he identified in Sydney.  Jack opens it and finds it empty which only extends the mystery of his seeing his father in the jungle.  We  know the island healed Locke’s spinal injury but did the island bring Christian back from the dead?  Difficult to say at this point.

The episode closes out with Claire getting water from Boone of all people and he’s caught by Charlie.  The group starts to turn on Boone, realizing he stole the water but not to be a jerk, instead seeing it as an opportunity to take charge seeing as how it was left out in the open.  Jack shows up before the mob can string up the noose (not really of course) to tell everyone Boone risked his life for Joanna that morning and now they’re ready to crucify him.  He tells them he found water and shelter.  He delivers his famous, “If we can’t live together, we’re gonna die alone,” speech and assumes his role as leader, somehow coming to the conclusion that he does have the stuff to lead.

A very solid episode and one I really like.  The mystery of the island expands and we get more character beats that help define who these people are.  The Jack and Locke interaction alone make the episode strong.

Next we look at Sun’s first centric episodes.  I originally thought I would cover two episodes in each of the following posts until we got to the end of the re-watch.  This isn’t likely to happen unless I want to extend my capacity and write three thousand word posts.  So, I’ve decided to do one episode a post until the end.  That means I’ll be writing about Lost until the end of November.  Hope you’re in it till the end with me!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Walkabout

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Things start with another eye opening (one more time of this and we got ourselves a motif!).  This time it belongs to our backgammon-loving bald man, John Locke.  We’re back on the beach with him during the first minutes of the crash on the island.  Locke seems perplexed by the situation and pays special attention to his foot for some reason.  We’re pulled back into the present at night with some kind of ruckus taking place in the camp.  Turns out the island has a boar problem and now the survivors have to deal with it.

After four days of no sign of rescue, Jack leads the discussion of burning the fuselage along with the bodies of the dead inside.  He gets some push back from Sayid who believes it would be disrespectful to the dead to treat their remains in this way but Jack is not swayed knowing the boars will continue to be a problem along with the bodies getting nice and rotten inside.  Burning them and the fuselage seems to be wise both for health reasons and doing so at night makes for a very large fire that could be seen from the ocean.

Things are getting bad in the group as the food supply has run low save for peanuts which Hurley and Sawyer are arguing over.  We get a fun exchange and while Sawyer takes a seat in some plane seats, a rather large knife flies into the seat next to him.

Turns out, our good friend, Locke, has checked a case of more large knives and managed to recover them from the crash (that’s lucky and convenient!).  Locke reveals he’s got quite the bevy of knowledge about boars and how to hunt them which leads us to believe he’s quite the hunter/adventurer.

In what I’ll call “Plot B” of the episode, Sayid has a plan to set up antennas to triangulate the source of the French woman’s distress signal.  He believes there must be a significant power source in order for the signal to be playing for 16 years.  Kate agrees and wants to help him so she offers to go with Locke on the boar hunt.  Jack makes an observation that Kate doesn’t appear to like to stay in one place too long which makes sense from what we know of her life before the island.

Michael joins the hunt in order to get to know Locke better since Walt has taken to calling Locke his friend.  Michael asks Sun to watch Walt in a pretty comedic way of using hand gestures and talking slowly hoping she’ll understand.  The rest of the survivors are collecting what they can of the wreck in preparation to burn the fuselage.

Flashback:  Locke answers a phone and talks with another person as if they are involved in some kind of military operation.  He is interrupted by what appears to be a supervisor and we see Locke is actually sitting in an office cubicle that appears very common.  Locke and a co-worker are playing a Risk-like game during their lunch break and the supervisor from earlier, whose name is Randy, shows up and mocks Locke, asking what a “walkabout” is after taking a brochure from his desk.  We learn that Locke has scheduled to go on a walkabout in Australia and Randy questions his ability to do so.  Locke tells Randy, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” which will become a motto for him in episodes to come.

Locke talks to a woman named Helen on the phone and he invites her to go with him to Australia but we learn quickly that Helen is part of some kind of call service and Locke pays $89.95 an hour (yeesh, that’s costly) to talk to her which apparently he’s been doing for several months.  She refuses his invitation and we’re left with a bereft Locke and a man who seems to have very unhealthy relationships (as far as we can tell).

Some very minor threads are taking place on the beach in which Claire asks Jack to speak some words while they burn the fuselage but he refuses, Sayid gets a letter and pictures of a woman he thought were lost in the crash, Shannon tries to prove she can fend for herself and manipulates Charlie to catch her a fish (we also get a great comedic scene of him recruiting Hurley to help him), and Boone asks Jack to go speak to Rose, the woman he saved on the beach, as she sits off in the distance staring out into the ocean.

Locke gives Kate and Michael a lesson in boar hunting.  We learn Michael wasn’t a part of Walt’s life until two weeks prior when his mother passed away (this explains the lack of relationship between the two).  They are surprised and attacked by a boar.  Michael gets wounded while Locke is on his back in shock before he looks at his foot again (okay…why?).  Kate tells Locke they need to stop and get Michael back to the camp but Locke continues, giving us his favorite line, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.”

Kate and Michael stop so she can put the antenna up in a tree but drops it when the monster roars and notices the trees moving in the direction of Locke (I swear this thing is a dinosaur).  Just as Locke comes across the boars, the monster arrives and while we don’t see it (sneaky sneaky show.  Not cool), we do see Locke’s bewildered reaction to it (such a tease).

Obviously wanting to stay away from the fuselage and people’s requests, Jack spends time with Rose and while he thinks she can honor her husband who was on the flight but in the tail section that broke off midair, Rose denies her husband being dead.  Jack struggles with this but they agree to head back to the others as the sun sets.  In the distance, Jack sees a man in a suit off in the distance watching him.  Freaky…

Kate gets back with Michael but believes the monster got Locke.  The antenna is broken and Sayid is frustrated but willing to try again.  While talking to Kate, Jack sees the man in the suit again and runs into the jungle but he finds a blood-covered Locke instead who has bagged himself a hefty-sized boar (bacon in the morning!).

The fuselage is burning and the group honors the dead the best way they can (mostly saying names and sharing whatever info could be found in their luggage).  Michael asks Locke if he saw the monster and Locke says he saw nothing (such a liar!).

Flashback:  Locke is in Australia and being told he cannot take part in the walkabout.  He argues and is told he neglected to speak of his condition and cannot take part in the experience.  As the bus leaves, Locke turns around in a wheelchair.  WHAT?!  He screams about destiny and “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”  Shift back to the plane crash on the beach and Locke is somehow healed of whatever injury confined him to a wheelchair.  Amazing!!!

Okay, I love this episode.  Please watch it if you haven’t.  My recap and review don’t do it justice.  We get a great introduction to an amazing character who has an interesting backstory and while his previous life has some questions that need answering, we also learn that the island has somehow healed Locke.

Next episode focuses on Jack and we get some info on the man in the suit.  Feel free to watch ahead and remember to leave comments about your favorite moments in the episode!  Thanks!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Tabula Rasa

posted in: Film/TV, Lost, Review | 0

Before I get started with the episode breakdown, I wanted to point something out.  This show has a lot of characters and a lot of plot lines.  Throw in the Flashback scenes which come and go, interwoven throughout the episode, and there are a lot of things to cover and call out.  I am going to play with how I format each episode depending on the focus character, which in this episode is Kate, and the other sub-storylines.  I want to avoid a play-by-play format (I know I did this for the pilot episodes but that was intentional to introduce characters) and make the post an easy read.  Onto the episode!

As I said, this episode is Kate-centric.  We know she’s a criminal of sorts being handcuffed on the plane and being escorted by a U.S. Marshall.  We get some answers but are left in the shadows a bit as well.  Jack is told she’s dangerous by the marshall who is in a bad way due to his injuries.  Told to go through the marshall’s pockets, Jack finds a mugshot print out and Jack’s got some obvious conflicting feelings towards Kate.  Hurley finds the mugshot because Jack is the worst hider ever and warns Hurley that it’s none of their business and not to be worried (oh those feelings are gonna bite you, Jack-o).

Kate’s still with the hiking party and as darkness falls, they decide to set up camp.  These scenes were good for character dynamics as we see Sayid try to make sense of where their island might be in the world.  He’s a smart guy and also knows that if they share what they discovered, they could erase the hope of the survivors which could be detrimental in the long run.  Sawyer on the other hand is more concerned with what the French woman’s distress transmission means.  He also aptly gives Kate a new nickname: Freckles (we’ll see that Sawyer has an affinity for nicknames and some are not so nice).

In the middle of the night while everyone’s asleep, Boone decides he’s going to take watch but makes a mistake by taking the gun off Sawyer and the bullets off Sayid.  Bad blood brews and Shannon suggests Kate should be the one to hold both gun and ammo (remember, none of them know what we know about her being a criminal).  Quick note:  We also learned Oceanic flight 815 was bound for Los Angeles, which isn’t that important but good to know.

Flashback:  This episode’s flashback reveals Kate was nowhere near Sydney (where flight 815 took off from) and sleeping in a sheep pen.  The farmer, Ray, gives her a job and a room to help him work the farm, which she does for an undisclosed amount of time.  Kate isn’t the type to stay in the same place for too long and tries to leave in the middle of the night before Farmer Ray offers to drive her to the nearest train station.  It’s a ruse though as our good friend the U.S. Marshall shows up during the drive.  Turns out Farmer Ray couldn’t pass up a $23,000 reward for turning Kate in.  Kate grabs the wheel of Farmer Ray’s truck and they wreck.  She could have got away from the scene but Kate saves Ray, gets caught, and we’re left wondering how bad she could be for doing such a selfless act.

When the hikers arrive at the beach, Sayid tells everyone they need electrical equipment to boost the signal of the transceiver.  He takes charge and begins to organize groups to collect water and ration food.  Kate feels the need to tell Jack the truth about the French woman’s transmission and he gives her a chance to come clean about her outlaw life but she doesn’t give in.

Still focused on saving the marshall, Jack goes into the fuselage to search for stronger antibiotics.  While in there, we get our first one on one interaction between him and Sawyer who was looting for what he thought valuable: cigarettes, alcohol, and other accouterments.  This exchange is valuable because we see something between both men and Kate.  There’s a dynamic there that offers up a noteworthy love triangle in the making.

Some of the minor threads of the episode focus on our other survivors.  Claire and Charlie seem to be forming a bond.  Jin shows affection towards Sun, which is surprising given his previous moments with her.  Michael and Walt continue to have their issues which Walt attributes to Michael’s inability to find his dog, Vincent.  Probably the most interesting thread though is Locke’s carving a whistle (that’s some ingenuity right there), calling Vincent to him, and then letting Michael get the credit for reuniting a dog and his boy.

The end of the episode intensifies as Kate confronts the marshall, he wakes up, and tries to strangle her.  Jack arrives just in time to stop the struggle and tells Kate he saw the mugshot.  Kate presses Jack asking him to put the marshall out of his misery but Jack refuses saying he is not a murderer and off-handedly insinuates to Kate that she is (a curious implication since he doesn’t know for sure what her crimes were).

Hurley warns Jack he saw Kate strapped with a gun and Jack rushes to the tent but finds Kate walking away.  However, a gunshot rings through the night, which is followed by Sawyer leaving the tent, making it clear he did what Jack wouldn’t.  Then come the sounds of the marshall coughing inside.  Sawyer failed Anatomy 101 because while aiming for the marshall’s heart, he missed and the poor man is suffering worse than before.  Jack, thankfully, ends the marshall’s suffering and man was that heavy drama.

The episode closes out with Jack telling Kate that their old lives don’t matter.  They all have a clean slate (tabula rasa) so to speak.  That’s a curious statement because if a rescue comes, you can be sure she wouldn’t be suddenly forgiven of her crimes.

All in all, I liked the episode.  We get some answers about Kate and we see relationships building.  No real mysteries were raised or solved.  A solid episode nonetheless.

Next time we get our first Locke episode “Walkabout” and it’s by far one of my favorite episodes of Lost all time.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Pilot Part 1 and 2

posted in: Film/TV, Lost, Review | 2

Eye opening!  We see a man in a suit waking up in a jungle, surprised by a labrador (golden retriever?) who eventually runs off.  Obviously confused and likely injured, the man in the suit moves his way out of the surrounding jungle—the camera stays ominously on a single shoe hanging in a tree.  Creepy.

Once out of the jungle, the man in the suit finds himself near a beach.  Screams and the sound of an engine draw him to a scene of chaos where part of the fuselage of a plane has crashed on the beach.  Our unnamed hero goes into action helping those he can including a pregnant woman and another woman who’s not breathing.  After quite a bit of action and an explosion we learn the man in the suit’s name is Jack.  (Side note: while we learn the names of characters throughout the episode, I’ll be naming them as we get to their scenes and interactions.)

Jack searches for needle and thread and heads off away from the other survivors as things calm down a bit.  Pulling a little bottle of alcohol from his jacket, we see Jack’s got himself a nasty cut along his ribs.  A woman—Kate—stumbles out of the jungle and he asks her for help.  They banter a bit and she helps sew Jack up.  Dare I say a romance could eventually bud between the pair?  We also learn Jack’s a doctor but this seems obvious after he talked to the pregnant lady and saved the woman not breathing.

Kate mentions to Jack that he doesn’t seem afraid and Jack tells her about how he messed up a spinal surgery during his residency and fear crashed into him as he realized his mistake but he decided in that moment to give fear only a few moments before counting to five and fixing the surgery mistake.  How can you not like Jack after this?!  We got ourselves a natural leader.

We are introduced to more characters next as Sayid is building a signal fire and asks Charlie for help.  Charlie writes F-A-T-E on pieces of tape around each of his fingers and Sayid mentions a rescue should have come by then as night falls.  We are also introduced to Boone and Shannon where the former thinks they could be on the island for a while and the latter mentions the plane having a black box and a rescue will arrive at any moment.  Next comes the lovable Hurley who gives food to Claire, who is the pregnant woman.  Finally, we meet Michael and his son Walt, followed by Korean husband and wife, Jin and Sun, with Jin instructing Sun not to interact with the other survivors.

Jack is examining a wounded man whose unconscious and has a gnarly piece of shrapnel in his gut.  Kate mentions that he was sitting next to her in the plane.  Jack talks about the turbulence and blacking out before waking up in the jungle but Kate describes how the plane broke apart in midair.  Jack tells Kate that he’s thinking about going to find the cockpit to find a transceiver.  Kate says she saw smoke deeper into the jungle and a mission is afoot!

As the survivors wait in the dark, a loud, alarming sound comes from within the jungle and yeah, it’s a freaky sound.  Trees are moving and automatically it’s hard not to think of the T-Rex from Jurassic Park.  What’s stranger about the growls though is that it sounds mechanical at times.  (Side note:  There were commercials for the show seeing as it ran on ABC so it definitely takes advantage of stops and starts.)

We get our first flashback (coming out of the commercial break) and it takes place on the plane before the turbulence hits.  Remember, flashbacks are a big part of this show.  Jack is interacting with a flight attendant getting his buzz on with those little bottles of alcohol (he got an extra one from the flight attendant which might have saved his life as he put that one in his jacket pocket and later used it to clean his rib wound).  He gets up from his seat and Charlie moves past him rather quickly while being pursued by the flight attendants.  Jack talks to the woman, Rose, he saved who wasn’t breathing.  Next, the plane goes all shaky shaky.  People fly out of their seats and this flight is going down.

Back on the island the next morning, the survivors are discussing the scary jungle sounds and whatever the “monster” is that was making them.  Jack and Kate are getting ready to leave to find the cockpit but first Kate has to collect shoes from the dead.  She gets a very creepy smile from another survivor who smiles with an orange peel in his mouth (more on him later).

Michael is sitting around with his son Walt joined by Charlie, Shannon, Boone, and Hurley.  The group is talking about random things before Hurley brings up doing something about the bodies of the dead which he hilariously misspells to save young Walt from the horror of the dead.  Jack and Kate show up and mention their mission and ask the others to keep an eye on the wounded while he’s gone.  Charlie mentions his going with Jack and Kate, not wanting to sit about all day (what else is there to do on a beach waiting for rescue?).

Our three heroes head off and Kate recognizes Charlie from somewhere where he reveals his being in a band called Driveshaft, which has a well-known hit.  Jack’s less impressed (he doesn’t strike me as the rock music listening type).

Back on the beach with the others, a downpour occurs and the trees start moving again, announcing the monster is back.

Jack, Kate, and Charlie find the cockpit propped up against the trees during the downpour.  They investigate and find the pilot alive who tells them they were off course and any rescue attempt is looking in the wrong place.  The pilot tries the transceiver but it doesn’t work.  We also learn there were 48 survivors and they’ve been on the island for 16 hours.  Just to call out a point of interest, numbers are a big deal in this show.  They show up often and act as references and connections, which we’ll see more of as we get deeper into the show.  I’ll do my best to call these out when they happen.

The monster arrives, making its strange sounds and in a very gruesome way, the pilot is killed, ripped from the broken windshield as he (stupidly) climbs out to see what the monster is.  Jack, Kate, and Charlie make a run for it (Jack wisely grabs the transceiver) and get separated (a recipe for certain death in any horror movie).  Kate hides in a tree and counts to five before trying to find Jack and Charlie.  She finds Charlie and they see something in a reflection of a puddle after the rains stops.  Jack arrives and says its the pilot and they see the pilot’s bloody body has been left up high in the trees (not Predator style but pretty close).  Gross.  But at least they have a transceiver!

Except it doesn’t work…

End of Part 1.  Onto Part 2!

Jack, Kate, and Charlie are returning to survivor beach, seeming to be in no real rush which is odd considering what they just encountered with the monster killing the pilot.  To each their own, I suppose.  Kate asks what Charlie was doing in the bathroom (I failed to mention this happening previously) while they were in the cockpit and he says he got sick and was a bit of a coward.

Flashback:  In the plane before the crash, Charlie is acting very antsy and not looking all that great, sweating and fidgeting.  He sets off some alarms in the flight attendants and he proceeds to the bathroom where he moves past Jack (remember when we saw that last episode?) and crawls over Shannon and Boone in their seats as well.  Once in the bathroom, Charlie removes his shoe and grabs a baggy of something.  Drugs (good job TSA!).  He gets his fix just as the turbulence strikes.

To the present, Shannon is sunbathing (because why not) and her and Boone argue about helping around the “camp”.  Claire is there and we find out Boone is Shannon’s brother.  Claire mentions she hasn’t felt the baby move since the day before (bummer…).

Jin is fishing for sea urchin (is it still considered fishing if he’s just collecting them from shallow pools?) while Sun watches.  Michael shows up asking if they’ve seen Walt.  Sun speaks in Korean and Jin says something to her and she buttons up the top button of her shirt.  This marriage dynamic is raising a few flags.  Walt is out looking for his dog, Vincent, and finds handcuffs (uh oh! that’s not good!).  Michael finds Walt soon after and we get a good look at their relationship and there’s some contention there between them (the show does a good job of introducing these character relations and providing answers slowly rather than all at once).

Sayid and another survivor—Sawyer—are fighting (fisticuffs in action).  Bad blood  between them is due to Sayid  being blamed for the plane crash by Sawyer because he is of Middle Eastern descent (reminder, the show started shortly after 9/11).  Jack and Kate get in the mix and Michael tells them about the handcuffs and Sawyer accusing Sayid of being the one handcuffed. Jack and Kate tell everyone they found the cockpit and the transceiver omitting the part about the pilot being alive and then killed by the monster.  They ask if anyone can fix the transceiver.  Sayid says he can and Sawyer is quick to question trusting him.  Hurley talks to Sayid away from the group and we learn Sayid was a communications officer with the Iraqi Republican Guard during the Gulf War.

Kate and Sayid talk next and he shares that the transceiver needs to be used on higher ground.  Queue the adventure music as they look to the mountains of the island, knowing a hike is in order.

Kate checks with Jack about the man with shrapnel.  Jack knows time is running out for the man if they don’t get rescued.  She tells Jack that a hiking expedition is going to take place and Jack tells her to run if she hears or sees anything (probably referencing the monster).

We get a brief moment between Jin and Sun and see Jin’s quite the jerk to her.  There’s still a sense of mystery involving them, which we will get answers to soon.  Jin takes prepared sea urchin to Hurley as food.  Hurley refuses leaving us with a comedic moment (Hurley provides a great deal of comedic moments in this show).

Walt is looking through a comic book (looks like a Justice League comic with a polar bear in it) but can’t read it because it’s written in Spanish.  Michael approaches and tries to have a conversation and tells Walt that they can get another dog when they get home and Walt takes off (it’s sore subject).  Jack is searching through some baggage and asks Michael about Walt and we find out that Michael isn’t so sure of Walt’s age at first (interesting…).  Michael mentions the dog and Jack says he saw it in the jungle.

Shannon and Boone get into a fight and Shannon decides she’s going to go on the hike with Sayid and Kate to prove she’s not worthless to the group.  Boone tags along and so do Charlie and Sawyer who we see is reading what looks like a letter of some sorts before joining (more on that later).  Cue the adventure music!

Walt comes across the survivor who smiled at Kate with the orange peal in his mouth (remember him) playing backgammon (somehow that survived the crash).  The man’s name is John Locke and they have a conversation where we learn Walt’s mom died (we also learn that the plane was traveling from Sydney, Australia).  Locke tells Walt about backgammon and how it’s the oldest game in the world.  Locke explains that there are two players and two sides—one light and the dark.  Finally, Locke asks Walt if he wants to know a secret.  This exchange comes off creepy at first but trust me there are no ill intentions here.

In a small moment, Jin continues his offer of urchin to the other survivors and Claire agrees to eat some.  This causes the baby to kick!  Yay!  Jin has a priceless reaction too.

Jack asks Hurley to help him find antibiotics and also lends Jack his help with the man with shrapnel.  We get some more comedic moments with Hurley when Jack pulls the shrapnel out and Hurley passes out.

Back with the hikers, an argument ensues in the jungle and the group is interrupted by a very loud growl.  Is it the monster?  Doesn’t sound the same but something is coming closer to them and at a fast speed.  Everyone runs except Sawyer.  Gunshots sound off and everyone discovers that Sawyer killed a polar bear.  Yep, a polar bear in the jungle.  The shock of the dead bear wears off as Kate asks Sawyer where he got a gun.  Sawyer reveals he took it off a U.S. Marshall.

Sayid thinks Sawyer is the prisoner on the plane and while he’s distracted, Kate takes the gun.  She asks how to unload it and Sayid instructs her.  Kate gives the gun back to Sawyer and he grabs her saying he knows her type—girls just like her.

Flashback:  Kate and the passenger—shrapnel man—sitting next to her are talking but not as friends or even acquaintances (she made it sound like they were strangers to Jack).  Big reveal!  We learn that Kate was handcuffed and shrapnel man is the U.S. Marshall.  Turbulence starts and we see the plane break apart in midair.

The marshall comes to while Jack is working on him, grabs Jack by the collar, and asks “Where is she?”

The hikers finally turn on the transceiver and get a transmission that blocks them from sending anything out.  It’s a recorded message with a strange robotic voice saying “iteration” and then a number followed by a French woman speaking.  Shannon knows some French and translates the message as a distress call saying everyone’s dead, something killed them, and the French woman needs help.  Sayid does the math and estimates the recorded message has been on a loop for 16 years.

Charlie aptly asks, “Guys, where are we?”

End of episode!

Okay, so if you watched the episodes or are familiar with them, there are very memorable moments, which I try to call out in the pics I use.  I’ll be doing this quite a bit because these are also things that become symbols and/or motifs in the show.  Very important as we explore the mysteries of the island.

The mysteries are big.  What’s the monster on the island?  What happened to the French woman?  How has her message been playing for sixteen years?  Then we have the mysteries with the characters.  What’s Kate’s story?  What’s the story behind the contentious relationships between Michael and Walt and Jin and Sun?  Mysteries are important to the show’s appeal and the characters themselves.

Let me know your thoughts and please remember to keep these posts SPOILER FREE.  I’ll remove your post quickly if you let anything slip.  Focus your comments on the episode itself.

When a Fantasy Writer Plays Dungeons and Dragons for the First Time

posted in: Fantasy, World Building | 1

I mentioned my not being allowed to play the table-top role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, back in my Harry Potter post.  Well, what I have not shared is that I recently agreed to play a campaign with some friends mostly because I just wanted to hang out with them (and partly because I wanted to try it out).  Let me just say it’s been interesting…

First, I don’t think DnD is at all what I was told it was back in the early 90s.  Honestly, I love me some Final Fantasy (video game series for those not familiar) and I don’t see the difference.  Same role-playing principle is involved.  DnD is more social than Final Fantasy.  I didn’t have any friends who played DnD when I was younger, so I don’t think it needed to be hammered into me so hard that it was the devil (I just think of Adam Sandler’s “Waterboy” whenever something is said to be the “devil” nowadays and now so will you!).

I like the whole create your character aspect and going on a quest or campaign.  That’s fun.  The creativity involved in the game is fun and I think a great outlet to work as a group and explore whatever world the Dungeon Master (that’s the person in charge of the campaign) has come up with.  Good times.  Throw in laughter and drinks and it’s just another game night.

Here’s where I struggle with DnD and I blame it solely on my being a writer: it’s a bit limiting and constraining.  For example, say during the campaign an opportunity comes where you’ve got quite a few enemies you need to get rid of.  Well, what if I come up with a plan to “remove” said enemies but my plan requires something of an explosive nature.  Can I just go and buy some materials?  Nope.  Not a chance.  Apparently, I have to roll a certain number-sided dice (don’t get me started on the dice) just to see if I have the ability to be comprehensive about said explosives.  Huh?  This is where I struggle with the game.  Why can’t I just have that knowledge in the first place?

The idea that my character is limited in knowledge of something bugs me.  Now I admit, I can see why this is because the game is all about stats and building up your characters but come on.  It’s not enough for me to never play again.  The more times I played, though, I did find myself more entertained with the campaign itself.

All in all, I understand the draw to DnD.  Getting together with friends to play a long-form game that involves rolling dice to determine actions and progress can be quite fun.  I think best of all is the social aspect of the game.  If there’s one thing I will gladly partake and promote, it’s community.

Avengers: Infinity War (Part I) Review w/ SPOILERS

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Writing | 1

This is your first and only warning that the following post contains SPOILERS for the latest MCU film, “Avengers: Infinity War (Part I)”.  If you haven’t seen it yet, run away!  Actually, go and see it and return.  That’s it.  Now let’s continue.I feel the need to point this out from the start because I’ve heard too many people make a minor complaint after seeing the movie.  This is part one of two.  Of course it ended the way it did!  There’s more coming next May.  Rest assured, you didn’t just watch half of your favorite heroes “mist” away forever (hint: just check Marvel’s film forecast for the next couple of years).

Rather than writing a long-winded re-cap and critique of the film, I want to focus on what made this film of great magnitude work in a somewhat up and down film franchise.  Not all MCU entries have been pristine (let’s be honest with ourselves).  For every “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2016) or “Black Panther” (2018), there is a “Thor: Dark World” (2013) or “Iron Man 2” (2010).  Some are very good and some seem to have missed the mark wide left.  Many times (in my opinion; that’s all it is) the downfall or lacking element of these weaker films is the villain.  Go back to my post last year about antagonists to see what I look for in a believable and compelling villain:  http://adamhenderson.net/2017/02/08/vilest-villainy-vowed-to-venture/

“Avengers: Infinty War” is about Thanos.  Plain and simple.  It’s not about our huge lineup of heroes.  They are secondary.  What “A:IW” did and quite well was establish a villain we first got wind of in the post credit scene of the first “Avengers” (2012) film.  That means we’ve had six years of anticipation and minor mentions in the films leading up to the big showdown.

Who is Thanos?  We need to know this in order to feel the full weight of the character.  What drives this galactic entity to attack Earth?  Well we don’t really know until we step into this film, which starts with Thanos and his Black Order after they’ve attacked and killed half the people on Thor’s ship after the events of “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017).  We learn that Thanos has a tragic past, seeing over population destroy his home world of Titan.  From that, he has sought to bring balance to the universe by going from planet to planet, wiping out half of populations to establish peace.  This is his goal and if that was all it was, then I would say we are dealing with another one dimensional villain bent on destruction.

Nay nay!

Thankfully, this is not all there is to him.  In order to accomplish his goals of ushering in the same balance and peace to Earth, Thanos has to fight Earth’s mightiest warriors.  Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and so many of the heroes we’ve been introduced to and following since the first “Iron Man” (2008) film band together and take on Thanos, his Black Order, and lesser minions.  Thanos has faced defeat already and he knows he needs more to combat Earth’s heroes.  Enter the ultimate McGuffins of the MCU: the infinity stones.

To wield all the stones (space, time, reality, mind, soul, and power) and become truly invincible, he needs something to contain and harness each power.  That containment cannot be accomplished unless it be forged from a dying star, much like Thor’s hammer.  Hence, the Infinity Gauntlet was made and Thanos is able to place each collected stone in the gauntlet.  The film follows his collecting said stones and every time he manages to add one to the gauntlet, we feel the impending doom, hoping he fails.

Alas, he does not fail.  Thanos collects every stone but there is a cost and this is where the film convinced me and made me proud as a storyteller.  While most of the stones seem to be “easy” for him to gain, one in particular is not.  The soul stone has been elusive and hidden from everyone (even from us in the audience because there have been no clues as to its whereabouts).  One person does know however of its location and that would be Thanos’ adopted daughter, Gamora, who we were introduced to in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014).  Sent on a mission by Thanos to locate it, Gamora knows where it is and is forcibly persuaded to tell him the location.

Once there, Thanos learns he must trade a soul for a soul.  In the most poignant, humanizing scene I could have hoped for, Thanos tragically sacrifices the life of Gamora for the soul stone.  My heart twisted as I watched the pain and tears in Thanos as he did so.  There it is.  There is the moment I didn’t even know I wanted.  Give me an antagonist I can sympathize with and you’ve given me a character with depth.  Thanos pays the ultimate price and even confesses at the film’s ending that in order to accomplish his goal, it cost him everything, revealing that his love for Gamora was real.

So, yes.  Our heroes not only failed (another important part of this story because we need to see heroes fail in order to be reminded that they are not invincible) but they are greatly weakened and diminished as we see Thanos destroy half of the universe’s population with a snap (literally).  Remember, this is part one.  Part two should bring everything back around and I think I can most assuredly postulate that we will see the atrocity of Thanos’ actions against the universe be righted or at least partially restored.

In conclusion, “Avengers: Infinity War (Part I)” is about Thanos and his main conflict.  His rise and fall moves the story forward and we are treated to a villain I actually found myself liking as much as I liked the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”.  For different reasons, of course, but it’s all the same.  Give me an antagonist who is more than a surface-level psycho and I will be engrossed in the complexity of their conflict and goal.

Call to Action:  Seriously, I shouldn’t have to say go see it but if you did and didn’t notice this aspect of Thanos, I encourage you to go see it again.  Do not think of it as a movie about our heroes but about the tragic character that is bent on bringing balance to the universe, unaware that to do so will cost him everything.

The Last Jedi: Quick Thoughts (No Spoilers)

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 2

After avoiding any potential spoilers for The Last Jedi, I was able to watch it at the end of last weekend.  There will be no spoilers here but I will make references to key plot details in a vague manner (no exact details).

Overall Plot Direction.  TLJ definitely surpassed my expectations when it came to the plot and moving things forward in this Skywalker Saga.  I had read and heard some popular theories about what could happen in the new chapter and while there were hints of these theories coming true, the story went in various directions that were both surprising and refreshing.  There were key moments that I thought to myself, “Yes!  That’s great writing!” and then there were things I had to process after watching and say, “Okay, I like that and I’m curious to see where it goes from there.”  Now, there are also elements that did not work, leaving questions and making many people (I’m sure you’ve seen the bad reviews from people you know) unhappy with the direction of the plot.

Star Wars Spectacle.  Star Wars as a property is synonymous with Jedi, Sith, The Force, etc.  It’s very much a fantasy set in space (something I’m sure that has been covered, debated, and discussed in the past by many a fanboys).  There are aspects to the Force in the film that enrich an enhance what the Force is and how it can be used as a power/weapon.  It’s very much a magic system that doesn’t always have defined lines or rules but that is why the balance between the light and dark side are so important as thematic elements.  How far can one go to either side before being able to come back?  I am excited to see more with the characters who can use the Force.  There should be some fun to be had with our Force users.

Characters.  Character motivations can make or break a story.  Too often, it feels as if a character’s choice is only meant to push the story forward.  Where TLJ works for me is the characters make choices throughout the film where their motivations are clear (after some extra thought and contemplation, there are some instances where this is not true but I’m focusing on the majority).  There is desperation and a time limit in play.  This makes the characters act and do so sometimes recklessly.  However, it felt right and there were consequences to those choices.  My writer brain was once again saying, “Yes, that worked”.

I get some of the points of dislike and contention.  There are viable gripes to some of the plot points that may not land for some.  However, it’s not enough for me to give this film a bad review.  It’s not a perfect film but it’s better than most.  Where The Force Awakens came up short, I feel like The Last Jedi exceeded my expectations.  I felt the weight of the conflict and did not mind the smaller sillier moments (Porg nation is real).

Overall, I put TLJ in my top five Star Wars films (1. The Empire Strikes Back, 2. Rogue One, 3. Return of the Jedi, 4. The Last Jedi, 5. A New Hope).

Call to Action: I’m curious to see what others think of The Last Jedi and how it stacks up against the other films in the series.  Please DO NOT post spoilers in the comments.

Writing Likable Characters

posted in: Fantasy, Storytelling, Writing | 2
As I’ve stated many times, characters drive a story.  How well the characters are written can bring life to the world and the narrative.  Elements like setting, themes, plot twists, magic systems (for fantasy), etc. are all great but cannot effectively drive a story.  Readers become attached to the characters in the world in which they’re reading but if the reader struggles to care about the characters, it has to be asked if they even care what happens by the end (assuming they even reach the end)?

I’m going to take two examples of two “main” characters and delve into their likeability.  For me as a reader, I’m immediately judging whether or not I care about the character whose journey I am following.  Their personality is being revealed to me slowly, peeling away until I see the inner workings.  What are their motivations, passions, desires, fears, weaknesses, shortcomings, etc.  If I can relate in anyway, then I am definitely hooked early on.  If not, then I am reading in search of qualities I can gravitate towards and maybe empathize with.  If the character has obvious faults (selfish, conceited, proud), then I am reading in hopes that they find redemption and become a changed person whom I’m happy to see the maturation and growth of.

I’ll start with Quentin Coldwater of Lev Grossman’s book, “The Magicians”.  Quentin is a young man, looking to graduate high school and make the next step in his educational career.  He discovers that he has been selected to take a test that would–if passed–enroll him into a secret school for young magicians to learn magic and excel in the “arts”.  It’s not a unique story in itself and Quentin is somewhat the typical main protagonist.  There’s just one problem…he’s a bit of a jerk.

Now, he has not come from a loving family; his parents are often out of the country and having no real relationship with him and that seems to be the cause for much of his attitude towards others and the struggle he has to form relationships.  In this, Quentin makes friends but he really does struggle to have healthy relationships.  Most of this is the basis for his selfishness and insecurities.  Where he does excel as a character is his believability.  I know people like him.  I’ve seen them over the years and treat others as he does, followed by having to face the consequences of his choices and more often his mistakes.

I personally struggled to like Quentin throughout the first book and series (though I did finish it and even now cannot remember if his final moments mattered to me).  He has some redeeming qualities over the course of his story but his angst and “woe is me” attitude (all brought on himself by the way) drove me crazy at times.  So often I just wanted to speak to him and tell him he’s acting like a petulant child and needs to be better at life and treat others with respect and value.  (Of course, I could not do this and therefore read on, shaking my head in continual annoyance.)

Next, let’s take Tyrion Lannister of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin or “Game of Thrones” for TV watchers.  To put it simply, he is quite the character.  There is depth to him that is revealed in such a way that you’re continually finding yourself liking him more and more despite some of his less than admirable qualities.  He’s a lecher and drunk but loyal to his friends and family despite the latter continually regarding him (sometimes quite openly) as being only of value because he bears the family name.  You sympathize with him because you recognize his ability to possess passion for others who have endured horrible hardships.  He abhors cruelty and is not prone to hurting others (cough, cough), often believing he can use his status, knowledge, and wisdom to get the upper hand.

Tyrion goes on a whirlwind of a journey that sees him rise and fall but always remaining who he is.  Specifics would lend way to spoilers so I’ll stray from those but as a storyteller and fan of a good story, Tyrion is one of the best out there in my opinion.

The more I read, the more I recognize these characters like Tyrion who I find enjoyable and surprising despite what I might personally regard as vices in their lives.  Do the virtues outweigh those vices?  In Tyrion, I actually do think this.  He has a propensity for getting out of difficult and sometimes life-threatening situations without comprising his established character.  His sometimes heartless reactions to situations make sense and not out of left field for someone of his capability.

As a writer, I am continually thinking about my characters more than the grand plot.  Do I want to make them likeable?  Yes, but I also want them to feel real to the reader.  They cannot be perfect in every way otherwise where’s the risk and danger?  Even if the reader has a sense that some character(s) won’t die, there still needs to be this burden of wonder that something bad or even horrible can happen to them either by way of outside forces or as a result of their choice whether that choice was honorable or not.

One thing I like to ask beta readers is whether or not the characters were complex, relatable, etc. or the opposite.  Getting that feedback helps me as a writer.  As I revise, I take the time to examine every thought, word, and action of the characters to make sure they are not simply doing something for the sake of the plot.  Rather, everything they do should be based on their reaction and/or response to what is happening around them.  Writing likable characters is forever an exploration and process of becoming a better writer.

Call to Action: Are there any examples of unlikable characters you’ve read?  Or maybe ones you did like in the beginning of a book and then did not by the end?

Recommended: The Last of Us

I’m not the biggest gamer nor would I consider myself well-informed on the great selection of games out there nowadays.  That’s not to say I haven’t wasted many a days staring at a screen and directing an avatar through a dangerous, violent adventure pursuing the ultimate goal or an achievement/trophy.  I won’t be going into a lot of detail about my experience with video games today but I do want to shine some light on a particular game that has impacted me the most in my 20+ years of playing video games across many consoles.

The Last of Us is in my opinion the best narrative of a story in video game form (based on what I’ve experienced; there could be others).  I won’t be getting into gameplay or mechanics of the game itself because I know some readers will not be familiar with that aspect (so let’s keep it general).  However, I think everyone can admire and stand with me when it comes to enjoying a well-told story.  The Last of Us does this.

The game follows Joel–one of our main protagonists–in a future that is decimated by a disease that affects people’s brains and bodies, leading to eventual violent tendencies.  He’s a survivor, suffering demons from the first days of the outbreak.  This leads to his eventual goal for the game.  His task is to escort a young girl, Ellie, to a location across the country where she can be safe from would-be antagonists who seek to do her harm.

Without going into spoilers (just in case any readers have yet to play the game and are planning to), it’s not the most embracing of relationships as Joel is worn down by the world and carries the pain of losing his own daughter years prior.  Ellie is a girl who was born into a broken world and her wonder about the world lost leads her to ask Joel lots of questions and be what a teenager might be in those circumstances: curious.

From setting to setting, the game pits Joel and Ellie against enemies in various forms and they have to do whatever they can to survive and find safety.  Woven throughout this drama and the intense gameplay, you as the player are privileged to be part of the relationship that grows between them.  Joel is a father without a daughter and Ellie quickly becomes the potential surrogate despite his wanting to be done with the mission at hand, struggling to bond with what he thinks might be stolen away from him yet again.

My love for this game comes from the dynamic between the two characters.  I have a soft spot when it comes to stories that involve a parental figure and a child who rely on each other and come out changed for the better in the end (see my review of Logan).  By the end, both Joel and Ellie are different, experiences real growth.  I can admit, but there’s a point in the game that is so emotional that I definitely teared up a little.

A minor narrative detail throughout the game is when the game slows down and Joel and Ellie are going from one place to another (or from conflict to conflict).  Here is where the casual conversations take place.  Ellie will see something or you can direct Joel to look at something in the environment and Ellie will react, asking questions that explore her thoughts, Joel’s thoughts, and end with the two talking as if the world has not gone toes up.  It’s a small detail strung throughout the game but adds a layer no other game has taken advantage of to my knowledge before it.  It’s a genius character element!

Yes, The Last of Us is a video game and while a great many lack in great storytelling, this one sets the standard.  It was funny, I found out a friend of mine recently started the game and I told him I would come and watch him play to witness his experience with the game.  It’s something I cannot go through for the first time again but I love that others can.  Even if they do not feel the same way as I do about it, to me it’s worth experiencing just as much as I think some films or TV shows should be experienced.  It’s storytelling done right and I will always be drawn to those examples.

Call to Action: It’s not a simple, “Oh you should go out, buy a Playstation and the game, and play!”  No, that’s not feasible.  Instead, I’ve attached a non-spoiler review video for your viewing pleasure.  There’s some in-game language and violence in the video so you’ve been warned.

The Benefits of Writing Flash Fiction

My experiment of writing flash fiction since January has been one of invaluable joy.  While it started out as a way to flex the writing muscles and provide additional/different content through the blog, it has turned into something that I believe will thrust me into a sea of possibilities in the future.

I hope you all have enjoyed the flash fiction posts at the end of each month.  The next is fast approaching and I truly enjoy writing these little glimpses into the Shoals to the Hallowed world.  (Side note: My goal is to provide several viewpoints–a new one each month–and then continue on in those viewpoints by next year.  So that means you’ll have twelve distinct viewpoints introduced this year and next year, I’ll be continuing from those twelve.)

My never delving into flash fiction was a result of not really having a platform to explore and release those kinds of stories.  The blog opened the way for me and I’m glad I took those steps.  The benefits have helped me in many regards but I want to focus on one single benefit for this blog post.

Flash fiction forces the writer to value each and every word, choosing only the ones that matter most for the current story told.  What I mean by this is, I try not to exceed 550 words in a flash fiction story.  Some that I have written over the last few months have been too long and I had to whittle those down.  Parameters aren’t always a bad thing when telling a story.

This practice forced me to pick and choose, editing finely, so that the story could be told in full without what I like to call “fluff”.  This makes the story in its glimpse form edged and to the point.  Too often when writing in larger word counts, the propensity for fluff leaks through.  I chalk this up to the desire to add detail in a first draft more for the sake of the writer, setting reminders for themselves, more so than for the readers to need at that time.

As you can probably imagine, I notice the fluff as I go through the revision process with the longer works like book 1 of the Ravanguard series.  Both good and difficult at times, I definitely struggle with knowing what is sometimes fluff and what is important to the details of the narrative (that’s the continued process of becoming a better writer).

The flash fiction stories serve multiple purposes for myself as I continue to write and gain experience.  You all are involved in the experimental process I’ve set in front of me.  I know there are other lessons I’ve learned but being able to take notice of detail in word count forces my hands (ha!) to be patient and considerate whereas in past cases I’ve acted very loose in how I frame the narrative and each scene within.

Call to Action: It may be years down the road, but I do plan on compiling all the flash fiction stories for the Shoals to the Hallowed.  I’ve even started planning and thinking about the bigger picture for the series though it may be many many years down the road.  I’m curious to know what people think so far.  Let me know because I’m interested in getting feedback.  Thanks!

Recommended: Breaking Bad

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Writing | 4

Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad” is by far one of my favorite television shows ever.  But not for the reasons people might think.  So, let’s jump into it.  I should note that this is not an effort to convince people to watch the show.  It is wonderfully written, acted, and produced in so many ways but it also deals with some very difficult subject matter.  I’m simply explaining why I enjoy such show.

For those who are unfamiliar or only slightly so with the show, I will try to provide a basic rundown.  It follows the transformation of chemistry high school teacher Walter White to the notorious meth cook, Heisenberg, who is diagnosed with lung cancer and sees the end of the tunnel, which would leave his pregnant wife, unborn daughter, and teenage son without much once he’s gone.  Working a car wash job in addition to his teaching gig, Walter is put up against a horrible situation and is desperate to not only pay for treatment but leave his family with more than debt and hospital bills.

By chance, his brother-in-law, a DEA agent, shows a video at Walt’s birthday party where the DEA has busted a meth lab where the evidence gathered reveals a stash of cash to which Walt instantly wonders about.  It’s this event that eventually leads to Walt’s being on a ride along with his brother-in-law to bust another meth lab where he sees one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman, avoiding arrest.  Yada yada, Walt and Jesse join together to go into business and embark on a whirlwind of danger that affects them all in sorts of ways that have them constantly making choices that would keep them safe and out of jail.  Unfortunately, they do not come out unscathed all the time and suffer both physically and relationally throughout.  Whether its the DEA or rival drug lords, Walt and Jesse have to trust each other and their wits to keep ahead of the danger.

Suffice it to say, this show is never dull (even the bottle episodes are great).  It explores characters and the transformation of said characters in ways most shows avoid or don’t know how to execute.  Obviously, no spoilers here but you will often be conflicted, not knowing who to cheer for from season to season.

The reason I love this show and recommend it purely from a storytelling aspect is that Vince Gilligan and his writing team are famous for stating that they purposely wrote Walt and Jesse into corners just so they (the writers) could find a way out for the pair.  Storytelling is the best part of the series while the characters are a close second.  (Aaron Paul’s performance as Jesse is amazing.  He is my favorite character throughout the show.)

Again, this is not an easy show to watch.  It deals with very real subject matter from family drama to the high cost of drug usage.  I do not take these things lightly and never want to insinuate that.  I have spoken with friends who have actually dealt with others in this regard and it’s sobering to hear the stories.  I am not disillusioned by this to say the least.

In my mind, compelling stories are best when they deal with true and difficult aspects of life.  Sure, a lot of the scenarios of “Breaking Bad” are embellished for the small screen to be dramatic and hold our viewership but in reality, life is not easy and we face difficult decisions every day.  I pray it not so for everyone but things happen and livelihoods are put to the test.  Walter White’s livelihood and that of his family are tested so much so that you truly wonder if his choices were worth it in the end.  He makes his choices in order to see his family taken care after he is diagnosed with cancer.  However, his dive into the criminal underbelly costs him a great deal and affects his personality in ways that make you wonder about his overall psyche.

There’s a quality of storytelling here that provokes me as a writer to not just be the gardener but push more towards being the architect when planning and writing my books.  Honestly, I’m drawn to great writing and it’s hard for me to stay away or ignore it when it’s in the form of a show like “Breaking Bad”.

Call to Action: If you’re willing, check out the pilot episode of the show.  If you get through it and are kind of interested to see where it will go, I’d recommend trying another episode and so on.

Developing Characters

Short of being able to properly and coherently write sentences, characters are by-far the most important aspects of your story.  I’ve wrote on this to some length over the last few months and wanted to get into some specifics.  This will be a post about developing characters and I’m going to do it in a way that I hope makes things fun for you the reader.  How?  Well, as I write, I’m going to develop a brand new character for you!  (This character will be in a future short story–maybe in the next newsletter!)

Have at it!

Alright, there are “aspects” I want to consider first and you’ll just have to roll with me as I do this.  I want to create a character who is distinct.  What does that look like?  Well, I need to decide a few things that will be both somewhat general and differential when it comes to others.  (Just as a heads-up, all of these characteristics we’ll be developing are subject to change but I am going to try to keep everything the same so that when you come across the character in the short story, you will feel like you know them!)

Back to the distinctity (yeah, I know, not a word but it is fun to write and say!).

Let’s say the character’s name is Avroes Toal.  That’s a random name if ever I came up with one but let’s roll with it as we move on.  What will make him distinct.  Let’s say he is younger but has early signs of graying hair, making him self-conscious with the ladies.  One lovely lady in particular (this is a bit of a plot element so we’ll leave that alone for now).  Who is this man named, Avroes?  If he’s self-conscious about his hair, how else would that affect his personality?  I imagine him as being a bit of an over-compensator.  He looks for opportunities to prove he’s not older than he is and therefore has adopted more childish or immature ways.  This also affects his relationships both personally and professionally.

How are we doing?  Are you staying with me?  Good!  Onwards!

So, Avroes Toal is a young man (mid-twenties) who has prematurely graying hair and over-compensates this by acting out in ways to prove he is young and not old.  We’ll stray away from specifics because we don’t want to get too close to plot points.  Let’s also throw in some other details to round him out.  He likes the outdoors and would prefer pursuing a profession that allows him to see the world (cliché a bit, I know), but let’s say he wants this because his father and grandfather were both men perfectly fine with living their lives as scholars, devoted to studying and page-turning.  This is not Avroes the Gray (poor guy has a nickname he hates too!)

He’s a man looking forward and beyond the confines of a study or library, wanting nothing more than to see the world and prove he is not like his father and grandfather who have paved the way for him to have a good-paying occupation that will allow him to marry, have children and carry on the Toal legacy of ink stains and paper cuts.

Also, he hates heights and the library he would have to spend all of his days in is at the highest story of a building with many stairs and no banisters.  He seizes up anytime he actually has to approach a tall staircase, afraid his footing will give way and he’ll stumble to his death.  In fact, let’s say his grandfather fell and died and his father fell and lived but became crippled by the horrible circumstance (a little too tear-jerking for you? Misery is drama, ha!) and Avroes has to take care of his father.  Even better dramatic tension!  It’s so sweet, it drips.

There are many more (is that correct grammar?) things we can do to round out who Avroes Toal is and maybe that can be explored in the short story (guaranteed it will) but this is just to show my process for creating a character somewhat on the fly.  Who are they, what do they do/want/hate/love/etc.?

Call to Action:  Anything we can add?  Seriously, throw out a detail!  It doesn’t have to be too precise and can be a bit vague.  What’s his favorite color, food, idiosyncratic ticks, bad habits, etc.?  I’ll be able to add that into the short story and you’ll be able to say you had a part in it!

Women and Their Value in Fantasy Literature

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 2

Today I’m exploring a topic that I’m continually conscious of in my writing and the writing of others in fiction.  How are the role(s) of women in the story, society and culture in which they live portrayed?  I’d also like to stress the value of women and whether or not they are used (I say that word lightly) in a cliché way or not.

Some background first.  I started reading more in high school and the book that hooked me (as I’ve stated in previous posts) was Robert Jordan’s “The Eye of the World” where women play a prominent role in those areas I stated.  What always intrigued me is how Jordan (being a man) was able to write such strong female characters who were all very different and distinct from one another.  As a high school freshman, this was new for me as were most aspects of storytelling.  Years down the road, I’ve come across many bad examples and good examples of women in fantasy.  Jordan did what I consider a very good job of depicting women whereas (I definitely have another well-known fantasy example that I could insert but…screw it) in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series women are often treated horribly and victims of despicable men.

(Side note: I only read the first book all the way through and part of the second but couldn’t finish the series.  If you’re a fan and you disagree, that’s fine but I’ll continue to stay away from that series.)

For myself, though, I never wanted to write women in a way that was cliché or in a way that would depict them as a means to the end for the masculine hero.  I never wanted to pack any of my characters into a box or tower so to speak to be rescued by a man.  We all know the story cliché (prominently featured in fairy tales) where a princess is the prize for the hero.  I have made it a goal of mine to avoid this at all costs and have changed plot arcs if it looked like this was to be approached.  Now, this doesn’t mean my female characters are never aided or helped by men.  They are but I make sure that is not the sole goal of the men and often have my women characters show they are just as capable of being heroes.

I planned on this post over a month ago but wanted to take a new approach.  I asked a few women close to me in life (all of whom I respect and value a great deal) what they want to see and read in fiction when it comes to women characters whether they’re protagonists, antagonists or supporting characters.  The following responses are great and will serve as references to me as I continue to write.

“Strong female character in fiction: I’d like to see a woman who is realistic. She is strong but insecure.  She is smart and loves learning and acquiring new knowledge and skills.  She is funny but an introvert who only opens up to a select few.  She has a good heart and great intentions, but can be flaky and selfish sometimes.”

“Historically, women who are strong are seen as arrogant, aggressive, or evil.  This is in both pop culture and literature (for example, Cersei in Game of Thrones).  The other end of the spectrum usually involves a very insecure woman who has been oppressed and almost ‘accidentally’ is thrust into a role where they save the world (for example, Vin in Mistborn series or Lirael in Garth Nix’s books).  For me, a strong female character that goes beyond these clichés would be a woman who has faced oppression (lets face it, it has happened and still happens) but instead of becoming self-deprecating, goes on a journey to discover that she isn’t what others have made her believe she is.  A truly strong woman has had doubts and trials, of course, but instead of constantly believing she isn’t worth it or disbelieving that she is the ‘chosen one,’ she recognizes the strength she has and continues to build on her strengths.  She becomes the wise woman who speaks up when needed and is respected as a wise woman.  She has her own hang-ups, for sure, but they aren’t that she is ‘too much,’ aggressive, insecure, or power-hungry.  Her hang-ups are that which we all suffer, to stay strong in the face of temptation, to connect with those we love on an authentic level, and to stand up for what is right in spite of opposition.”

“I want to see more female characters that aren’t the cliche trope of ‘needing’ men to help them. I want to see women that know their strengths and can be self-reliant but are also not afraid to lean on the strengths of the people around them. They are so self confident and secure in themselves that they are able to see the value in others. I’m tired of reading insecure women who feel like they have to hide their weakness and  prove themselves to the world. I want to read about women that let their biggest weakness become their greatest asset.”

I love these!  I’m gonna be honest with all of you.  I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman.  I know!  Shocking.  However, I have no delusional miscues that women are essential to the progress and benefit of society.  To limit or cast them in any role that would be lesser than would be to grant us all a great disservice.

It’s coming but I’m going to dote on my wife a little here.  I have often said that in marriage, every day is about learning for me.  I am constantly aware of who she is and the way she views the world, which is very different from me in many respects.  Her interests and passions travel along lines that I don’t always follow or have a grasp of but I make it a goal to show interest because its what she loves to spend her time doing and learning about.  I’m not always good at this and I often have to process things before I’m able to share in her enthusiasm (thankfully, she forgives me for this delay in response) but my desire is to know her better.  This is the same for the women in my stories.  I want to know them better so that their story is one worth telling.

My wife asked me on one occasion if I based any female characters on her.  I had to chuckle because there’s an adage in writing that says to never base a character on any people you know in real life.  It just doesn’t turn out well.  What I told her is I base all my female characters on women in my life whom I admire.  Their qualities can be found in each of the characters you will read about in my books.  Even the so-called “villains” and that’s not a slight.  Far from it because I don’t write antagonists from a stand point of being solely evil.  The best villains are those that are complete, having desires, fears, experiences, etc. separate from any other character.  Their motivations are based on these factors (see my prior blog post on writing believable villains).

I’ve had several beta readers who are women and I’ve gained a great deal of feedback from them about my women characters that has been beyond beneficial.  I loved being able to read their comments, converse when I had questions and taking their suggestions to heart.  Plus, I learned a butt-load of things about women I did not know and I’m all about learning when it comes to people and what makes them who they are.  Understanding the value in someone breaks away any misgivings or misconceptions and as I do that in real life, I can do it even better in fiction.

Call to Action: This one’s for the guys.  Whether it’s a friend, sister, mother, girlfriend or wife, I recommend talking to them.  Ask them questions.  Don’t be inconsiderate or selfish and seriously talk to them about what they think of things in our society.  Take it from me, you’ll learn something and that’s never bad.

On This Day – The Name of the Wind Published

posted in: Fantasy, On This Day | 0

This month’s OTD post will focus on a work of fantasy that really enraptured me as a reader.  I had heard of Patrick Rothfuss’s book, “The Name of the Wind” for a while but I was reading other books from my stack of “to reads” (you know that pile of fresh hard/paperbacks without the spine crease and that pleasing aroma of untouched paper).  It was a book I knew very little about but saw it recommended a lot of places.  I want to say I finally got around to reading it in 2011 during a six-month period where I was unemployed (I read a lot of books during this time).

I love to read.  Honestly, if you’re a writer but you struggle to read or find time to read, drop some time-wasters and make this a priority.  Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have time to write.”  This just harkens (such a great word) back to my previous post about time management.  Priorities are key in our lives.  Reading should be up there near the top if you’re a writer.  If you’re not a writer, then reading should still be something you do because studies have shown, you are smarter by doing so.  A post of quotes coming at you.  Mark Twain said , “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

There are few books I’ve come across that kept me fully engrossed in the pages.  I love my sleep but every once in a while, I come across a book where I’d happily forego sleep to keep reading.  “The Name of the Wind” was such a book.

I’d love to give an in depth review of the book as a whole but I never want these blog posts to become long-winded and full of smoke.  And just like my first OTD post about Robert Jordan’s “The Eye of the World”, I want to focus on one aspect of the book and share how that has impacted me as a writer.  Here we go! (Dang…the “Raising Hope” theme song is stuck in my head.)

Language.  Yes, language is what still lingers with me whenever I think about “TNotW”.  Rothfuss has a great story about the years he spent crafting this book that would introduce him not only to the fantasy genre but literary world as well.  There is what I can only describe as a lyrical flow to his writing that makes the book easy to start and urges persistence to finish.  Music is a theme throughout the book and every bit a part of the main character, Kvothe, as his wild red hair and quick wit.

How has this affected me as a writer?  Well, I think the obvious answer would be, I learn from what I admire.  I don’t write like Rothfuss but I appreciate his ability with words, which lends itself to my own writing.  Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time with what I wrote years ago.  Doing so has been an “experience” to say the least.  I can easily take those old words and rewrite/massage and find a better flow because I’ve been far enough removed that I can recognize stale sentence structure better than before.  It’s not Rothfuss’ writing alone that has helped me grow but also time and maturing as a storyteller.

Clunky writing is distracting.  Anytime you’re reading and just get stuck on a certain sentence because you can’t understand what’s being said is usually because the words chosen don’t work or fit.  Rough and early drafts often have these problems.  The best thing to do is consider revising.  Obviously, those sentences have to be flagged or called out.  Beta readers are the best option but you have to find one who pays attention to detail and doesn’t gloss over these alarming sentences.

Writers depend on words.  We take what’s available and construct them in such a way that the reader comprehends and envisions the characters, world and conflict with ease.  That should be our main goal.  You can have a great idea, character, magic system, etc. but if you fail to construct a coherent framework of sentences, paragraphs and/or dialogue you will not attract readers.

Rothfuss is an avid learner and student who spent a great deal of time at university, tutoring and teaching.  This translates to his writing because he actually treats his readers like students.  He wants to teach you about the characters and world they inhabit.  All of which are fleshed out very well.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a vast world introduced and mythos that serves as the main mystery and conflict that drives Kvothe in search of knowledge.  It helps that Kvothe spends a great deal of time at a university himself and takes classes from the very best of teachers.  Flow of phrase within the prose and dialogue come through in all of this in a way that you’ll be surprised when you read twenty to thirty pages without noticing.

I highly recommend this book to everyone.  Even if you’re not fond of fantasy.  You’ll enjoy the flow of the story and Rothfuss’s ability to pull you into the current.  I wish I wrote more like him to be honest.  I feel that my writing can get clunky at times and therefore requires me to spend extra time revising, but I’m satisfied with my style as I’ve matured and polished my voice, hoping I can solidify myself as a respected author.

Call to Action: Come on.  You know what I’m going to say here.  Read “The Name of the Wind”.  You won’t be dissatisfied.

Recommended: Lost

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Writing | 2

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42

Never trust the numbers, ha!

From time to time, I’d like to go back and give you all some of my recommendations when it comes to movies and TV shows.  You’ll definitely be getting book recommendations but because I’m a bit of a film nerd and a lover of great storytelling, I want to share my thoughts on my favorites of the screen.

This is all subjective, of course, and I don’t expect everyone to agree.  That’s totally fine.  You have the right to my opinion.  I would even say these are not for everyone.  Some are a bit on the edgy/grim side when it comes to content.  To each their own.  Everyone has their limits and preferences and I respect those of you who would rather not invest their time in something they choose to abstain from.  Good?  Great!

Onto the show!  Lost.  Such a divisive show now that we’re years removed from its run.  From 2004 to 2010, this show was number one.  For those not initiated, it involved a mixture (a potpourri if you will) of plane crash survivors who ended up on an island in the South Pacific.  The first season focused a great deal on these survivors doing all that they could to survive and hope for rescue.  If you read that and you’d never heard of the show before, I’m sure you’re saying, “Oh, so it’s Gilligan’s Island but with drama”.

Not so.

Throw in the wrinkles of strange things happening on the island and the fact that each episode focuses on one of the survivors and presents flashbacks to the days before the crash and you’ve got compelling stories about individuals and their interactions when faced with a horrible dilemma like being stranded on a mysterious island with a bunch of strangers, not knowing how quite to adjust.

So here’s the thing…  I watched the pilot episodes (it was a two-parter if memory serves right) of Lost back in 2004 when it first aired.  I remember thinking it was interesting and a fun new show.  Then, I didn’t watch it again.  It’s been over a decade since then so I can’t say for sure why I stopped.  Jump a year into the future (so 2005, not 2018) and I was working at Hollywood Video (ah, remember the home rental experience?  That sweet sweet memory) and I had free rentals as an employee perk.  The first season was out on DVD (Blu-ray was not there yet) and the second season was either going to start soon or had already started.  Well, I was always looking for something to watch and I came across the first season while putting recently returned rentals back in their proper places.  I thought sure why not see what happened.

And that’s how I became a “Lostie” which is the dumbest name for fans of the show but what can you do.  I missed the day where we all voted on that one.

To talk about the show in any kind of great detail would be to give away a lot of the greatest parts of the show so I won’t be doing that.  What I will do is tell you why this is and remains one of my top three favorite shows ever.  If you’ve been reading my blog since I started, you’ll probably be able to guess or at least not be surprised by why I love this show and barely care that the entirety of its run divides a lot of fans.  I love this show because of the exploration of people.

Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Locke, Charlie, etc.  These are the people that were introduced in 2004 and whose lives were so well written in six seasons that I still go back and watch this show from time to time.  Most are tragic characters who lack any kind or semblance of happy upbringings, yet they grow throughout their time on the island and become favorites who grow, mature, love, win and so much more.

I could take any one of the characters listed above and go into a long dissection of the character beats they go through both on the island and in their flashbacks.  Without them, the show would have fizzled out really fast.  Yeah, I know all about the problems with the show and some of the writing when it came to the plot.  I don’t disagree.  I hate some of those directions and choices just as much as the detractors.  I get it but there is absolute satisfaction in watching these characters find redemption and closure at multiple points throughout the series.  This is what makes the show better than the problems.

Call to Action: It would be easy to encourage you to watch the series but its quite the endeavor nowadays.  We’re talking hours upon hours.  I guess I would encourage you to try out a little at a time.  So, instead, tell me who your favorite character is.  NO SPOILERS!  I’ll delete your comment (I’m making my serious face) if you do.

Best Supporting Role

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 0

For me, rich stories involve a great deal of detail, forethought and most of all believable supporting characters.  Focusing on the latter today, I’m always thinking about the characters I consider to be placed in the “support” role.  Some are bras and some are jock straps (I’ll give you a second to consider that and all the nuances entailed, lol).

Sometimes, these characters can be glossed over, especially if they serve more as place holders than actual aids to the main protagonist(s) of the story.  There are clichés (plucky sidekick or daft henchman) and we can often locate those with ease.  The best, however, are those that actually play such a role that if removed, the story arc would suffer!

Where would Frodo be without Sam?  What about Harry if any of the many supports he had were gone (not counting Hermione or Ron because frankly, they’re more quasi-protagonists than supporting)?  There are countless other examples of this that I could go into but I think you get what I’m throwing at you.

The absolute best advice I’ve come across when it comes to writing and including supporting characters is that in those characters’ minds, they are not secondary. In other words, they have their own history, experiences, virtues and vices that make up their persona.  All of these should be included and evident during their scene(s).  Obviously, you will have stories where there are nameless, stand-ins who serve a broader role, especially if they make up the collective of a population, mob or army but those that actually speak and lend action to the story must be more.

Whenever writing these supporting characters, I always envision them having qualities both in physicality and personality that are unique to them.  For example, I recently started the fourth novella of the Ravanguard series.  The main protagonist is a woman who hires the service of a somewhat ruffian type who swears, loves to gamble, but hates to drink and has an extra pinky on his left hand, which has earned him the nickname of Two-Pink Simm.  That’s the most basic description I can give (you won’t be seeing him in readable form for a few years.  Sorry.  I’m working on it) but it gives you a lot of information.  The question automatically is: Why doesn’t he drink?  What’s the story behind that?  That’s a good question to ask and one that lends depth to him that may or may not be explored.  It’s a wrinkle of character that in my mind needs to be there.

Supporting characters should also be voices of dissent, challenging the main protagonist from time to time when there’s other options not yet explored.  No “yes men”!  What’s their personal agenda?  This is something that should be at the back of our minds when reading and coming across a portion of story where the supporting character says or does something that seems a method of contention.  This doesn’t mean they are a rival/antagonist but an opposing voice.

Let’s consider our own lives.  Do you have a friend (supporting characters are often friends, maybe an acquaintance) that you love and trust but they challenge your words or actions from time to time?  If yes, then keep that person in your life!  If you have one that is the opposite (remember what I said about the jock strap type), then don’t get too attached.  I have a few friends who I know I can be honest with about all kinds of things and know that if they disagree or have another way of approaching a situation, it’s not because they want me to fail.  They want me to succeed but not be hasty or irrational.

True support lends itself in beneficial ways that does not necessarily mean they benefit from the outcome.  I hope this all comes through the way I intend.  Stories are far more envisioned when the people whose point of views we, the readers, are denied but are ones we would love to peer into the minds of!  (This is actually something I struggle with because I would love to write from the POV of some of my supporting characters from time to time.)

Call to Action: Find those supporters in your life and thank them!  Go one step further and buy them a Starbucks gift card (I fully expect a full slew to be sent to me, ha!) and let them know you appreciate them.

Identity: Theme Explored

Write what you know.  That’s what they tell you (I don’t know who they are…still looking to be honest).  For whatever the reason, I’ve struggled to really explain to people what my books are about.  Seriously.  If you asked me in person to tell you what the first Ravanguard book is about, I would struggle to do so without going into vast details in order to make sure you are tracking with me in what I consider a complex tapestry of interwoven major and minor story lines.  In short, I’ve had to narrow it down.  The book is about identity.

I’ve done this recently on a few accounts and simply saying identity helps me focus the vision.  The story follows the viewpoints of the three main characters and their struggle through identity.  All of these are explored through different methods.  One has their identity stripped away and must establish a new one, the second strives to make a name for herself in a predominantly male order, and the third (the youngest) has little knowledge of his family and their history, only to be introduced to secrets that make him realize who he is.

I like to think that you could take any of these three quick descriptions I’ve provided and apply them to a number of stories in all kinds of genres.  That’s the beauty of the theme of identity.  It is not restrictive or limited.

This is all very organic in my writing process.  I did not write these out and go from there.  No, I started with the character and their conflict and the theme of identity grew.  Imagine the smallest of frames–better yet, a bare Christmas tree.  I set it up and throughout the process of writing, editing, re-writing and editing some more, I’ve placed the ornaments, ribbon, tinsel (not just for decoration), etc. in their proper places to give the tree–or characters–identity.  Muscle and skin added to the skeleton once again.

Write what you know.  Well, much of my main point of view characters in everything I write has one underlying theme of identity.  My writing focuses on this because I truly believe individual identity is the key to success.  A character’s journey to discover/re-discover their identity and purpose in life is the quintessential most important conflict in literature (at least I think so).

So, I relate personally because I spent many years unsure of who I was, what my purpose was, etc.  Same old story…  It took time, patience and putting myself around people who saw the gold in me.  This righted much of the upside down thinking I struggled with as a young man.  Once I found what I was looking for, though, I settled within myself to be okay.  Were there things that could still use work?  Of course!

The theme of identity will likely be what I write about the rest of my life.  My hope is that this will transcend the pages and help people.  Obviously, I cannot tell every reader who they are but hopefully, through my characters, readers will find tools that make sense to them and lead them to discover what’s most important.

Call to Action: If you are struggling with identity in any capacity, I would encourage you to not lose sight or hope.  Don’t merely look for others to tell you who you are.  Do not seek acceptance or relationships because someone else thinks you should be this or that.  Ask questions.  Pursue the truth of your convictions.  These will better guide you in the long run.

“Logan” Reaction

posted in: Review, Writing | 2

As I’m writing this, I have not seen the movie yet but I wanted to sort of provide this “before and after” approach.  Just as a heads-up, this is and will be a bit of a nerd post.  If you’re not familiar or care about the Marvel Comics character, Wolverine aka Logan, then I understand if you sort of gloss over it.  But, if you have time and want to just get my take on something relevant and entertainment related, keep reading!  Maybe I’ll peak your interest enough in the character that you’ll go see the movie.Some history first.

I’ve been a fan of the X-Men franchise/world ever since I can remember.  I grew up watching the early 90s cartoon that was on Fox.  This led to an interest in comics, video games and even collecting trading cards if I could find them.  Wolverine was always one of my favorites.  When you’re a kid, as I was, he’s a favorite because he’s cool.  Plain and simple.  He’s a brash brute with claws that pop out from between his knuckles and has a super healing power that means he can take a punch, kick, shot, stab, flying truck (whatever the bad guys want to try).  How can you not like that?!

It’s not until I got older that I understand the complexity of the character.  Without going into a long otherwise highlight reel of his history in the comics (I’ll point you to Wikipedia’s page for the long read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolverine_(character) ), I’ll simply say he’s a tragic character who is a lone, tortured soul amidst the din of a chaotic world.  He’s faced hardship after hardship and continually battled his inner demons.  Never wanting to be the hero but led by a code that drove him to battle injustice.

Now, I’ve followed the films since 2000’s “X-Men” directed by Bryan Singer.  Back then, it was amazing to see this character in real life, portrayed by Hugh Jackman who I had never heard of but embodied the character of Logan perfectly (it never bothered me that we didn’t get to see him in his iconic yellow and blue costume).  Think about this.  He started in 2000 and we’re into 2017 now and Jackman has played the character in nine films (some only as a cameo).  That’s crazy to think about!

“Logan” is supposed to be Jackman’s last go of the character (that could always change so we’ll have to wait and see) and is supposed to be loosely based on the “Old Man Logan” graphic novel, which is not for kids (be advised).  There will be deep deviations from the graphic novel for various reasons but the film based on the trailers will be self-contained and a tribute to the character in all his glory.  Speaking of trailers, whether you’ve seen the film or not yet.  I admit, there was some man tears produced at the visuals accompanied by Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” originally by Nine Inch Nails in the first trailer.  Haunting yet enrapturing.

This is the end of my pre-viewing of the film.  The following paragraphs are my initial thoughts:

They went full berserker!  Saw the movie yesterday and let it process overnight before I wrote up my thoughts.  I’ll preface this by saying this is more a reaction than review.  Reviews tend to be stuffy and sometimes technical whereas I want to give my impressions on the characters, themes, etc.

There will be no spoilers!

“Logan” was by far the most human X-Men/Wolverine movie yet and I hope it’s an upward trend.  For the first time, this felt like a real world where mutants actually lived in.  The past films have had this sort of “comic” motif (duh… but you know what I mean).  End of the world/big baddie bent on destruction sort of thing.

This film aimed for the heart and person of an aging, wounded Logan who was still led by his code, though he’s constantly fought it from film to film.  The relationships here are the prize.

It reminded me a great deal of the relationship explored in the Playstation 3 game, “The Last of Us,” where an older man is tasked to escort a young girl to a safe haven in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a virus that turns the infected into zombie-like creatures.  She’s immune and while he struggles to believe something greater could come of the journey, he eventually finds her to be hope for the future and a reason worth living.

We kind of get the same thing in “Logan” but like I said, this is about exploring relationships.  From Logan to Professor X to Logan and the young girl, Laura, we see the importance of family.

Now, this film is not for the squeamish.  It’s very violent unlike other X-Men/Wolverine films, which have more of the “comic” action.  I would not say that I am desensitized to violence, blood and gore.  I grew up during the days of violent video games being the trend (Mortal Kombat!!!!) and have seen my fair share of the ridiculous in films.  Still, there are some things I don’t particularly care to see when it comes to violence.

Logan’s healing ability makes him a prime candidate to have crazy violence committed against him to show the audience he can withstand whatever weapon may come against him.  I say all this because the violence in the film was crazy brutal but it felt warranted and necessary.  Throw the eleven-year old, Laura, into the whirlwind and you just feel your adrenaline rising.  Both my wife and I had to take a relaxing break afterwards because the intensity just rose and rose to the nth degree until the very end.

My overall impression and reaction to “Logan” was a metaphorical hard clap (never clap in the theater after a movie…seriously, we’re better than that).  X-Men: Days of Future Past has been my leading favorite X-Men movie but “Logan” jumps to number one.  This was everything I’ve wanted in a superhero movie.  Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” showed what a realistic, human superhero can be and few have tried to follow that model.  It took a few years but “Logan” did it, staying true to the character of Wolverine.  Highly recommended even if you’re not familiar or fan of the character.

Call to Action:  See the movie and share your thoughts in a comment.  The whole X-Men timeline confusion might leave you asking some questions but that is minimal at most.  This was a fantastic film and I truly hope we see more in the near future of this caliber.