October 30, 2008

Creating Unforgettable Characters ***

*** Creating Unforgettable Characters, Linda Seger, 1990

I got 3 Linda Seger books recently and read this one second. Linda has a way of distilling the essense of what you need to focus on. I highly recommend reading her before and while working on a writing project.

October 26, 2008

RIP Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman has died.

I reviewed two of his books recently: The Shape Shifter and Skeleton Man. And others buried in the annual reading lists for 1992, 1993 and 1994.

Check him out. Very recommeded.

October 23, 2008

The Italian Secretary ***

*** The Italian Secretary, Caleb Carr, 2005

Three stars for Holmes buffs, two stars for everyone else. As noted elsewhere, I have a decent collection of extra-canonical Homes stories and I'm always looking to exend it. I noticed this in B&N on the way from the coffee shop to the screenwriting critique group, and grabbed it. Later I realized it was by Caleb Carr of The Alienist.

It's a decent addition to the canon, but there are others I think feel more authentic, such as Meyer or Hardwick or the stories by Doyle's grandson, Adrian Conan Doyle with John Dickson Carr. Hmm, Carr. Wonder if there's a connection. Could be Caleb's father or uncle or something.

While digging around, I also found this website, where a guy has indexed the characters in 298 novels, 896 short stories and 88 kid's stories about Holmes. I guess my collection of 20+ books is meager, after all.

October 14, 2008

The Alienist ***

*** The Alientist, Caleb Carr, 1995

I bought this a long time ago and carted it around in boxes from TX to AZ to CO to HI and back to TX. At 600+ pages, it's kind of daunting to pick up. But then I realized it was the perfect elliptical workout book because it's hardback and so big it will stay open without me having to hold the pages down. However, as I began reading it, I discovered it might not pass The Ellipitcal Test.

The funny thing is that this is exactly the kind of book I have always loved to read, especially on a nice winter night by the fire with and a pipe and brandy at my elbow. Old, dead white guy kind of writing. But while working my guts out on an elliptical trainer, I began to lose patience with the slow pacing and "Tour of 1896 NYC" feel. I wanted something exciting to distract me from my pain, but all the book did was make me want to grab a Guiness, lounge in an armchair, and disappear into the world Carr created.

I powered through the first few score pages and after a few workouts I finally got invested enough to get past that issue. That being acheived, I really enjoyed the story. Exactly the kind of stuff I used to read extensively back 10+ years ago. Highly recommended if you like that kind of stuff, and I do.

October 7, 2008

Advanced Screenwriting ***

*** Advanced Screenwriting: Raising your Script to the Academy Award Level, Dr. Linda Seger, 2003

I've read somewhere around a half-dozen screenwriting books. The best was Seger's Making a Good Script Great. I had the opportunity to attend several of Seger's workshops sessions in April. They were so useful that I decided to get the rest of her books and I finally got around to it.

Much of what is in here is not particularly revolutionary or paradigm shattering, but there are plenty of thought-provoking suggestions that help in getting a fresh perspective on what you're writing. I already have several ideas to experiment with on the next draft of my current project, particularly on identity and movement as theme.

Which is the whole point - fresh ideas, improving the script, honing the craft. A writer is a pilgrim on a journey that has no end, only resting places.