September 24, 2009

The Hero's Two Journeys ***

*** The Hero's Two Journeys, Michael Hauge & Christopher Vogler, 2009

Being a big fan of Vogler from reading The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screenwriters last year, and a new fan of Hague after scrapping the 6th draft of Endless Vacation to start over from blank paper based on our conversation on the ride from the airport and taking frantic notes in his excellent seminar the next day, it was a no brainer to get this DVD set. There are two "journey" DVDs, inner and outer, a DVD analyzing the structure of Erin Brockovich, and an audio CD of Writing Screenplays That Sell, all worth the price of admission.

I do think that Vogler's ideas came across better in the book than on the DVD. I haven't read a Hauge book, so I can't say the same there, but his six stage story structure is a must-learn for the sake of encapsulating all the things you've already learned from other sources into a framework that shows how it all fits together.

For aspiring screenwriters, I'd put it at four stars.

September 17, 2009

Story ****

**** Story, Robert McKee, 1996

I've read a lot of books on writing, but this one might be the best I've read. Definitely in the top three. It passed the Elliptical Test with flying colors. I actually looked forward to working out because I knew I would get to read it.

The funny thing is, it's the iconic work for screenwriters to read and I'm just now getting around to it. But the timing is good. I'm between revisions on my latest project, and now I have a lot to think about as I do the next edit.

If you're writing any kind of fiction -- screenplay, novel, short story -- you should read this book immediately. Like right now. Now!

September 14, 2009

Quotes From Stuff I Like - Theroux

Hotel Honolulu, Paul Theroux

This guy is a great writer. You might have seen the Harrison Ford movie made from his book, Mosquito Coast. The movie was good. The book was better.

p. 4. A large square building with porches like pulled-out bureau drawers.

p. 6. “It’s not rocket surgery.”

p. 11. A boss’s comedy is always an employee’s hardship.

p. 25. On the beach everyone is a body.

p. 48. Games are the pastimes of men who cannot bear to be alone, who do not read.

p. 55. Fiction can be an epistle to the living, but more often the things we write, believing they matter, are letters to the dead.

p. 87. Guilt shows clearest on the faces of older people, whose skin is so full of detail.

p. 133. She was in the secrets keeping business, and I was a collector of secrets.

p. 166. She climbed on him and hugged him with all her bones, clinging like a little gecko on a big crumbling tree trunk.

p. 382. You’re a writer. Among other things, that’s a pathological condition.

September 10, 2009

Blinding Light ***

*** Blinding Light, Paul Theroux, 2005

I'm a fan of Theroux, not as fond of his writing as I am of say, Richard Russo, Robertson Davies, or Rick Riordan, but a fan. Theroux is a good writer.

I first encountered his work by watching Mosquito Coast with Harrison Ford. Very depressing movie. Then I read the book. Great writing, not as depressing. Go figure. Several years later I read Hotel Honolulu. (Theroux has a home on the north shore.) It was good. I have some quotes from it coming up soon.

Blinding Light also showcases Theroux's great writing, but with two qualifiers. There were times when the story sang, but other times when I found myself thinking, "Come one, get on with it. You've expounded on this aspect of Steadman's character a dozen times, already." I don't know if my screenplay work has made me less patient, or if the book really did drag in spots. And the blindness theme seemed a bit overdone in spots as well.

The other issue is the sheer quantity of explicit, and I do mean very explicit, sex scenes. They were relevant to the plot, but as I've said before, I'm not into sex as a spectator sport, more of as a participant. I almost downgraded it to two stars because it seemed so excessive. To my tastes.

In short, a well written book with an interesting premise, great characters and a surprising cameo appearance of W. J. B. Clinton as "the president." And, if you like your sex on paper, this is the book for you.

September 7, 2009

Steve Earle

From the Songs you won't hear on the radio files:

Steve Earle is from the nasal-mumblers school of vocalists and the hold-the-phone-damnation-thats-one-helluva-good-song school of songwriting. If you haven't listened to him before, do youself and troll through YouTube and sample some stuff. Here's my favorite.


Here's Emmy Lou and Spyboy with a great cover.

Holy cow, looks like Steve has a Townes tribute album! Time to update my BoxedUp.com wish list.

September 3, 2009

Writing the Modern Mysery **

** Writing the Modern Mystery, Barbara Norville, 1992

Got this on some bargain rack or garage sale and slated it for the upstairs bathroom standby. Diverting, but much has happened in the genre in the almost two decades since it was written.