Another 100W Sprint Entry: Jennifer

Welp, turns out I’m still in the running in that fun little flash-fiction contest I told you about last week. For the second round, we got the following prompt, “The water barely rippled as she entered…” Once again, I couldn’t resist whipping something up. I called it “Jennifer”. What do you think?

The water barely rippled as she entered. Jennifer stood in a cold, dank sewer hole, facing a pitch-black tunnel. Somewhere in that tunnel, there was a drug dealer she’d been asked to bust.

The light from the opened manhole shone on her scarred cheek. Her brown hair was thin and short after years of crime-fighting. She wondered sometimes if anybody thought she was pretty. As always, she laughed, and whipped out her pistol and flashlight.

“There’s more to beauty than a smooth face, you silly!” she said to herself, wading into the darkness. “And there’s more to life than beauty.”

Voting starts this Saturday. Check out the other entries right here.

Monday Meditations: Faust’s Darkness

Christopher Marlowe wrote a terrifying tale of a scholar who sold his soul to the devil. There’s a piece of classical music which goes pretty well with it. What do you think?

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Adagio in G Minor” composed by Tomaso Albinoni

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“My heart’s so harden’d, I cannot repent:
Scarce can I name salvation, faith, or heaven,
But fearful echoes thunder in mine ears,
“Faustus, thou art damn’d!” then swords, and knives,
Poison, guns, halters, and envenom’d steel
Are laid before me to despatch myself;
And long ere this I should have slain myself,
Had not sweet pleasure conquer’d deep despair.
Have not I made blind Homer sing to me
Of Alexander’s love and Oenon’s death?
And hath not he, that built the walls of Thebes
With ravishing sound of his melodious harp,
Made music with my Mephistophilis?
Why should I die, then, or basely despair?
I am resolv’d; Faustus shall ne’er repent.”

Christopher Marlowe

Notes Of A Storyteller: My Unexpected Detour Into Handwriting

Last week my laptop stopped charging. No matter how many times I jammed the power cord into it, the machine refused to acknowledge any connection to the power outlet below the table. Rage began to build. I was trying to write the latest chapter in The Stand (Part Two of The Kingdom Trilogy). Already that day I had met some frustrations; this was the last straw. Quietly and unexpectedly, an idea came to me.

“I say!” I thought. “Why not grab a notebook and handwrite this chapter?”

Why not, indeed? Dozens of classics were written this way before the typewriter. Shakespeare his plays and sonnets longhand. Unless I am mistaken, Dante made it through the whole Divine Comedy with a standard medieval quill pen. Monks in monasteries used pens and pigments to produce prettier books than several modern tomes I have opened. Even after the typewriter, handwriting has stuck around. Truman Capote told The Paris Review that he wrote whole drafts of stories with a pencil, and then revised them in pencil. Vladimir Nabokov even wrote on index cards!

So when I fetched a couple of notebooks out of my room, and made my way to the nearest table, I felt that I was in good company. Three hours later, I decided that I liked it. In fact, I didn’t use my laptop much over the weekend. I have two chapters with pens and pencils so far, and I started a third yesterday. Could this be an addiction?

Time will tell, but there’s one big thing I like about it so far. It reduces distraction. Do you have any idea how many things I can be doing on my laptop other than writing? With a few mouse clicks, I could be chatting on Facebook with my college friends, scrolling through Philosoraptor memes, or watching live videos of House of Heroes concerts on YouTube. Knowing that while I am trying to write literature is not a good thing.

Handwriting eliminated that mental vacuum. I can’t log on to Tumblr with a piece of paper. It’s just me, my thoughts, and my will to bring them into reality. That simplicity is refreshing.

It showed in my writing, too. This morning I transcribed one of the chapters I wrote longhand. As always, I could see things I wanted to fix, but there was a lot that I liked. There was a new spark in the prose that I hadn’t seen in the last few chapters I had typed on my laptop.

For now, I am deeply satisfied with writing longhand. I wonder if I should keep this up for the rest of my novel. I might even experiment with college papers this fall. You should give it a try, if you haven’t already!

The Fire In David: My 100W Sprint Contest Entry

Usually I don’t do contests that I find online, but this one was so quick and fun that I couldn’t resist. J.C. Martin, novelist and blogger, established a contest to write a story based on a prompt in just a 100 words. It’s like the 100-yard dash, except the only muscles that get taxed are my brain and my fingers.

The prompt was “Smoke from the flames curled and twisted in the breeze…” For those of you word-counters, the title and the prompt don’t count as part of my 100 words, according to contest rules.

Without further ado, here’s what I came up with. It’s called “The Fire In David”, if you want to give such a short piece a title.

“Smoke from the flames curled and twisted in the breeze. They made David’s eyes sting. Benjamin Cross’ house lay before him: a ruin of burning rubble. David’s ears still stung from the screams.

David wept. He hadn’t meant it to end like this. All he had wanted was revenge for what Benjamin had done to his sister. David had trusted in the fire of rage, and it had consumed him.

The fire left him two choices. He could flee into the mountains, douse his rage in the snow, and begin a new life. Or he could wait for the police, let his rage devour him, and fight to the death.”

Check out the contest details and vote on your favorite entries here. Voting starts August 4th, 2012.

Monday Meditations: Intimations of Immortality and Mahler

It’s been a while since we’ve heard some classical music on this blog. Come to think of it, it’s been a while since we’ve had some poetry on this blog. We shall have to remedy that.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Adagietto from Symphony No. 5” by Gustav Mahler

Oh, yes, it’s been too long since I’ve listening to something like this. The mood matches the poem below very well.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

The earth, and every common sight

To me did seem

Apparelled in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.

It is not now as it hath been of yore;–

Turn wheresoe’er I may,

By night or day,

The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

 

The rainbow comes and goes,

And lovely is the rose;

The moon doth with delight

Look round her when the heavens are bare;

Waters on a starry night

Are beautiful and fair;

The sunshine is a glorious birth;

But yet I know, where’er I go,

That there hath past away a glory from the earth.”

William Wordsworth, from “Intimations of Immortality”

Notes Of A Storyteller: How I Would Have Re-Told “The Dark Knight Rises” (Part 2)

For those of you who haven’t seen Part 1, I’m listing all of the things I would do differently if I had been given creative control over The Dark Knight Rises. This list is fairly long, so I only got halfway through. Here’s the second half of my suggestions, picking up at the midpoint of the film.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

“This is simply outrageous. Is he seriously going to continue this farce?”
“Yeah, I think he is, Alfred. Should we try to stop him?”
“No, Master Wayne. Let’s watch him dig himself into a hole.”

1. I would change Bane’s ultimate motivation. He doesn’t want to blow up the city; he truly wants to subvert the powerful and corrupt and replace them with the people. He joined the League of Shadows long ago, but was kicked out because he disagreed with their aim. Bane wants to rule, not to destroy.

2. I would scrap the whole business of one ordinary citizen having the detonator with the bomb. I never understood how that worked with the rest of the film.

3. I would have John Blake enthusiastic about the new regime. He is so disillusioned when he learns the truth about Harvey Dent that he becomes a servant of Bane. When Bane gives him the opportunity to walk into a prison and shoot the Joker (off-screen), Blake readily complies. That plotline of the Joker needed to be resolved. Blake’s father could have been a cop killed during the events of The Dark Knight. This makes Blake’s character more interesting.

4. I would spend more time with Bane’s regime. We saw a montage of mansions being despoiled, a scene with a fat cat getting judged, and Anne quietly murmuring, “This was someone’s home”, but it all happened too quickly. In order to show how dark the times are, we need a few more scenes with Selina and Blake witnessing injustice. Perhaps some former criminals hurt some good people who were rich, displaying how easily the new system is corrupted by the same old forces of evil. We need to see all parts of Gotham’s society breaking down. Riots. Debris in the street. Ransacked churches. Even Dr. Crane moonlighting as Scarecrow, taking advantage of his position of power to once again terrorize people- almost a perverse Batman.

5. I would have Fox and Gordon executed. I would have Fox give a speech denouncing Bane, calling him a fool for using violence. I want to hear him talk about good people like himself who were trying their best to change things, even if slowly and imperfectly. I want to see Fox convince Gordon, who is despairing, to hold his head high and die with pride. I want to see their deaths leave a mark on Blake and Selina, who both witness the execution.

6. If the execution is that “death by exile” thing on the ice, it needs to be booby-trapped. I think it is entirely possible that a frozen river can be traversed

7. When Bruce escapes the pit, he comes up with the idea to do it without ropes by himself; the old prisoners don’t tell him. When he gets to Gotham, he comes back as Batman. The war against Bane’s regime is slow, but steady. Batman chalk symbols start appearing everywhere. Selina reluctantly helps foment the rebellion, instead of getting out like she wanted.

8. Alfred sneaks into Gotham when Batman contacts him. Alfred used to be a mercenary himself (remember the Burma story from TDK?), so he puts his old skills to work helping the citizens/cops raid Bane’s mercenaries and slowly establish strongholds. Batman stays back in the shadows, partially because he is still sorely wounded from his last fight with Bane, and partially because he understands that the citizens must take their city back.

9. I would change the final battle scene; instead of that huge, unrealistic brawl, have the citizens and the cops fire and advance, just like a modern military platoon would do. Imagine the tension of the men advancing, block by block, silent in the shadows and the snow. Also, the final battle is occasioned by Blake finally joining Batman’s side and showing them a secret way into City Hall to take out Bane.

10. I would have Alfred take this secret way. He means to plead forgiveness from the villain. It turns out that in Alfred’s career as a mercenary, he was in the service of the warlord who ordered Ra’s al Ghul into the pit. When Ra’s lover replaced him, Alfred knew and he did nothing. Alfred devoted his life to serving the Wayne family out of remorse. He returned to protect Bruce and to convince Bane to step down; he didn’t realize immediately who Bane was, so his talk early in the film about rumors of where Bane comes from wouldn’t appear in my version. When Bane learns the truth, he breaks Alfred’s back, refusing his offer of peace and reconciliation. He announces that if Batman doesn’t come out and fight him, he’s going to kill Alfred… and then blow up the city.

11. I would have Batman come out and fight Bane, despite his wounds, and this time break Bane’s mask. I would have Selina save his life from Talia, who charges Batman while Bane convulses with pain. Selina tries offering her mercy, embracing Batman’s code, but Talia refuses, keeps fighting, and accidentally falls to her death. Selina finally admits that she loves Bruce/Batman.

12. In that moment, I would have everyone discover that Bane has pushed the trigger to the bomb. Batman takes the bomb to the sea, and then comes back and hands himself over to the power of the police. A proper court judges Bruce for his vigilantism. This is crucial, because it confirms that Bruce is handing over his power to the people, who he didn’t trust in Batman Begins (“People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy”) and who he deceived in The Dark Knight. He spends a few years in jail, and then marries Selina and runs an orphanage with her for the rest of his life.

13. I would have John Blake discover the Batcave, and find a letter from Bruce saying that if the time comes again, one can use the suit and technology therein to become the next Batman- but only if he/she understands the consequences.

“There! That wasn’t so bad, was it? Don’t be spiteful in the comments! If you do, I wonder what will break first- your spirit, or your body…”

I might change my mind in the next few days, but I will let this post stand, so you can ponder the points. If you had had creative control over The Dark Knight Rises, what would you have done with it?

Notes Of A Storyteller: How I Would Have Re-Told “The Dark Knight Rises” (Part 1)

Welcome to Part One of the big double-header for Notes Of A Storyteller.

I know you’re probably sick and tired of listening to people talk about The Dark Knight Rises. However, I came up with an angle on it that I haven’t seen anyone else use when writing about this movie.

If you’re looking for commentary on Aurora, by the way, I’m not going to write it. There are people better qualified than I am to write about that. All I’m going to write about is the movie.

When I walked out the midnight premiere for TDKR, I had a big grin on my face. It was breathtaking and uplifting. However, I sensed that I would have told the story in a different way. There were certain things that didn’t satisfy me. After writing stories myself, I couldn’t resist dreaming of tinkering with the plot. After a week of discussing the film with the friends, I decided more clearly what I would have changed.

If I had written the screenplay and directed The Dark Knight Rises, this is what I would have done with the Nolan brothers’ story. Part One is today. Part Two releases tomorrow.

(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)

“If you make immature comments about this blogger’s post, it will be extremely painful… for you.”

1. I would have spent more time with Bruce Wayne sulking in his mansion. Our hero has been changed dramatically since we left him fleeing the police in The Dark Knight. To drive that change home, we need to spend more time with Bruce’s new persona.

2. I also would have spent more time in the beginning with Commissioner Gordon. His family has left him, and he is soon to be cast aside by the mayor. The former must be crushing him; he must have some clue of the latter. I would want a closer look at his anguish. Perhaps we see him re-reading a letter from his wife, or flashbacking to when she left (then she could say some things that haunt Gordon because they bring him back to the night of Dent’s death).

3. I would have shown more explicitly the impact of the Dent Act. I want to see some people hauled off to jail, or some people in the streets complaining about it. Maybe have Blake interrogating one of the old mob bosses, trying to find more criminals, only to have them accusing them of tyranny.

4. I would have added a coalition of citizens growing fed up with the Dent Act, and beginning to ask questions about the authorities that brought it into existence. I would have Dr. Crane emerge from the chaos, claiming to be sane, and leading this coalition hunting for answers. There should be an argument between him and Gordon, who most certainly does not trust him.

5. Bane would not have appeared in Gotham until later in the film. A character like him needs some build-up. I would keep the air raid at the beginning, because it sets the mood, and it is a chilling introduction to Bane- and it’s freaking awesome. After that I wouldn’t show him for a while. I would scrap the whole part where Gordon enters the sewers and discovers Bane’s army. Let Gordon begin to pick up the rumors of work in the sewers. Let him begin to hear whispers of a man who fears nothing, a man who even the most hardened criminals don’t dare mess with. Bane himself doesn’t appear until his attack in the stock exchange.

6. You’re probably wondering at this point about Selina Kyle. After we spend some time with apathetic Bruce, and some tense conversations with him and Alfred, then she shows up. Her theft of Bruce’s pearls has more impact when we have spent time with Bruce and realize what he is being shaken out of.

7. I would devote a whole scene to see Bruce shave off his beard. That’s such an important character transition. When he first arrives at the charity ball, he needs to be bewildered. He hasn’t been smothered by cameras for a while.

8. When Bruce loses his fortune, let him spend some more time with Selina. If they’re going to have a relationship, they need to some bonding now. I would have them both hunt for Bane. Instead of Selina fearing Bane, maybe she doesn’t entirely understand who she’s dealing with, and thinks she can double-cross him like she means to double-cross Bruce.

9. As Selina “helps” Bruce/Batman find Bane, she gets the opportunity to show Bruce the poor side of Gotham he’s been ignoring for the last 8 years. This would also give another chance to emphasize the impact of the Dent Act and the poverty problems Batman was never able to solve.

10. I would eliminate the romance with Miranda. I would keep her as Talia, who has infiltrated Wayne Enterprises as a business executive, but I would not have her born in the prison, and I would not have any bond between her and Bane. For Bane’s character to work, he has to be aloof. He has to be heartless. He is the one who is “born in the dark”, who is stronger and more cunning than any other man or woman. Talia is Ra’s adopted child, and a surviving member of the League of Shadows, who is working with Bane. She doesn’t try to kill him because she doesn’t dare.

11. When Selina double-crosses Batman, Bane doesn’t send him to the prison immediately. First, he takes over Gotham. Then he hauls Batman, Gordon and Fox into the middle of the town and exposes the big lie about Dent, and takes off Batman’s mask. The poor people and the prisoners are enraged when they learn about the deception, and they proceed to make Gotham their own. Of course, Dr. Crane leads the charge.

Click here for Part 2. What do you think so far? Is there anything I need to explain more? Is there something you want to argue with me about? I love arguing about movies. Hit me!