Her (2013)

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I’m a bit of a sucker for near-future stories, particularly when they have a technology based focus which is approached as thoughtfully and intimately as Her. In a lot of ways, this could be a romantic ep of Black Mirror (a show that I straight up love). It’s a beautiful story about a lonely man who falls in love with his computer operating system after a bad break up, and man, if it doesn’t just get you where it hurts.

The screenplay is pretty great. I’d been keen to read it since I saw the movie, and it was worth the read. There’s a lot of dialogue – kind of needs to be, given the nature of the film, and it works really well as far as establishing the relationships of the story, not only between Theodore (the man) and Samantha (the OS), but in showing the relationship between  Theodore and his ex, his colleagues, his mother, his friends, his new, potential love. It works really, really well.

You can read Her over at SimplyScripts.

A Guide to Brisbane Writers Festival

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Somehow it’s that time of year again. Brisbane Writers Festival is just about upon us, and it’s boasting a pretty terrific program this year, with some of my favourite writers hanging about to have some pretty interesting conversations. My picks for the festival are just below!

TUESDAY 6 SEPTEMBER
A Night by the Fire. The festival is unofficially launching on the Tuesday night with the remarkable Anita Heiss in this engaging celebration of Indigenous Literacy Day.

THURSDAY 8 SEPTEMBER
Opening Address: connection and belonging with Lionel Shriver is just about exactly what it sounds like. I’ve been a big fan of Shriver’s since We Need to Talk About Kevin, and am super excited for her new book, as well as her presence and conversation at BWF!

FRIDAY 9 SEPTEMBER
Ashcan Comics Exhibition. It’s not exactly a secret that I’m a big fan of comics, and Ashcan is a continuously wonderful showcase of local talent.

A Solid Synopsis. There are always a lot of really solid workshops at BWF and there will generally be something for you, whether you’re just starting out, or exploring character, place or more. I can’t exactly overstate the importance of a good synopsis though in selling your work, so this workshop is really an essential one for anyone wanting to get their manuscripts in the hands of publishers.

BWF at UQ: in conversation with Tom and Meg Keneally. Tom Keneally is probably best known for writing Schindler’s Ark, the novel Schindler’s List is based on, but he’s a remarkable author who’s bibliography extends well beyond that story, and this in-conversation for his new co-authored historical crime series should be great.

Memoir Readings. One of my favourite parts of any festival is getting to hear writers and authors read their work, and, often through that, being exposed to writers I might not have been otherwise. I’ll probably be including all the readings in this post, and sure, you don’t need to go to all of them, but I’ll always recommend going to one if you can!

The Sting with Kate Kyriacou. Another thing that’s not exactly a secret? I’m pretty big into true crime, so getting to see The Courier Mail’s Chief Crime Reporter in conversation will be a fascinating insight into writing true stories about atrocities.

You Know Me Well. David Leviathan! I’m thrilled he’s heading out to BWF this year, and this in conversation will be an awesome spotlight on his latest book. Plus he’s in-convo with Christine Bongers, who’s a straight up delight.

Where the News Stops and the Story Begins has John Birmingham and Lucy Clark talking about the line between reporting and storytelling which is something I am super into, but also should be a really interesting discussion on a topic which is becoming more and more essential.

Ruth Clare’s Enemy looks totally up my alley too as a memoir exploring the generational effects of war, trauma and grief.

BWF First Offenders. More readings! This time with an awesome group of new crime writers, so this one shouldn’t be one to miss across the board.

SATURDAY 10 SEPTEMBER
Creative Writing: professional practice sounds like a terrific workshop for anyone looking at breaking through into creative writing or honing their skills.

Psycho. Three tremendous authors explore fiction’s darkest characters and what keeps people reading them. What’s not to love!

The Island Will Sink with Briohny Doyle is The Lifted Brow‘s first novel, which is pretty damn exciting. What makes it even more exciting is that Doyle has been such a tremendous voice in Australia’s writing scene for years already, and her debut novel sounds awesome. Ah! And I’m chairing this baby too.

Moral Compass has another great topic, exploring the shifting sands of our social morality and the history of what was good and what was bad.

Inheritance has a terrific line up of artists, from Lionel Shriver to Candice Fox talking about the things we inherit from our parents, no matter how much we don’t want to.

BWF’s Great Debate is always a fun and funny night, and this one looks no different. Definitely worth checking out!

SUNDAY 11 SEPTEMBER
Inspire: Death 
is, well, a conversation about death, particularly about the different taboos and rituals that precede and follow it. It’s a conversation I’m pretty interested to hear.

Do You See What I See explores the different representations of people and social groups in the media with a particular focus on cultural, racial and sexual diversity.

Vigil with Angela Slatter. I had the pleasure of going to the launch of this novel last month, and it’s a tremendous read by a tremendous author, and I can’t really recommend this discussion of it highly enough.

Everything I Know, I Learned from Television. Television is such a huge part of our lives now – shaping popular culture and having an enormous effect on our personalities, our morality and our understanding of the world around us. This panel explores just that, and shouldn’t be one to miss.

And there we have it! Those are my picks for this year’s BWF, but there is a lot more on offer. Check out the program here, and let me know in the comments if you think there’s anything big that I’ve missed!

Sunday Cirle: what I’m working on this week

For background on the Sunday Circle, see this post.

What am I working on this week
I’m having a lot of fun revisiting my sci-fi screenplay. It’s been a project I’ve been working on for about a year and a half and has gone through a few different iterations, so I’m enjoying having another look at it and fitting the story out how I feel it might actually stick. We’ll see!

What’s inspiring me this week?
I’ve been catching up on the most recent season of Nashville which is, look, not the best show, but man, I love it and all it’s soapy glory. The show has such a compulsive feel to it that I’m still trying to really identify. Even at it’s most ridiculous, it pulls you in and keeps you. It’s pretty great.

What part of my project an I avoiding?
Time has proven to be of the essence over the last few weeks. I’ve been doing a couple of short-contract writing gigs which have been great, but also chewing through a bit of my writing time, I’m hoping that with those more or less done, I can really re-devote myself without, ya know, falling in a heap.

Anyway, what are you working on? Leave your answers in the comments below or link me to your blog!

Friday Finds

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For years, the indiscretions of powerful men, especially when it comes to the exploitation of women’s bodies, have been facilitated by the silence and spin of those who work beside and below them. Whether implicitly endorsed, tactfully ignored, or otherwise blunted by members of the press hungry for access, their power has gone largely unchecked. There is no accounting for the tens of thousands of women who have been shamed, forgotten, elided, or left behind; until the ’90s, there wasn’t even language to describe unwanted but nonviolent sex.

Anne Helen Petersen’s article on Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, the rape allegations against him and Hollywood’s history of covering up heinous acts is heartbreaking and so, so necessary. You can read it here.

This article on the perilous lure of the underground railroad is fascinating / as is this article on female friendship in literature / the bodily terror of women’s gymnasticsZoom looks totally insane and pretty damn awesome / this video on awkward violence in Shane Black movies is pretty interesting / and finally, the rise (and fall) of Hollywood.

We Already Love You: what you can learn about story from Steven Universe

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It’s almost impossible for me to talk about Steven Universe without gushing. The show is, to put it as simply as I can, one of the best things I’ve watched in  years, if not ever. Creator, Rebecca Sugar, has built such a compelling, layered program with dense, lyrical worldbuilding and characters you love to death, even when they fuck up.

If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s about three aliens called the Crystal Gems, a trio of old, tired revolutionaries who are raising their leader’s son, Steven, after she fell in love with a human, Greg, and gave up her physical form to give  her and Greg a son (a clear metaphor for dying in childbirth). And so Steven lives in an old, alien temple with his three surrogate mothers and tries  to master the powers his mother left with him.

It’s the best, and hey! You know what that means! Here are a few things you can learn about story from Steven Universe.

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Your story world is your story.
A lot of the best worldbuilders are often great storytellers, but that doesn’t necessarily always translate to the writing itself. I’m particularly thinking of writers like George Lucas and George R.R. Martin who write stories I love, but who’s stories can get murky or even outright bad when it comes to characterisation, dialogue or plot progression. This is really, really not a problem Steven Universe has.

The writers on this show understand that a story is, more than anything, a gift, and every layer you unwrap reveals something pretty damn magic. The story world of Steven Universe is integral to the way this plot progresses, to who the characters are, to the conflict of the narrative, to the way these characters exist together. The story world of Steven Universe informs the story at every turn.

 

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The way your world is revealed should be organic.
And that story world unfolds organically always. The first few episodes of Steven Universe are fun, loud things with awesome visual design but a really young story. There’s almost no exposition at all, and, instead, you learn about the world of Beach City and the Crystal Gems entirely organically – through offhand remarks, through songs, through things that go bump in the night. It makes for a thrilling and compelling story experience that you’re engaged with at every turn too.

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There’s no such thing as a good war, kiddo.
The world of Steven Universe may take place thousands of years after an intergalactic war, but the repercussions of that war are still felt through our central cast of characters. The effect of that is both heartbreaking and joyous. Our guys won, after all, but that win came at a cost. There are so few of them left, and many of the good guys still did terrible things to secure that win. This show is constantly toeing the line of good and evil, light and shade, and no character in it is infinitely good, just like no character is infinitely evil.

Your war might not be quite as literal as the one in Steven Universe, but your conflict needs to be complicated and it needs to have depth that both hooks the reader and has a pay off that satisfies, even if it’s in an unhappy way.

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There’s more to relationships than romance.
It’s almost impossible to sum up the relationships between the character’s of Steven Universe in a small way. The thing is, they’re long and complicated things, even the ones that seem generous and gentle, or new. All of them are typically informed by the long history of the Gem World and the intricate relationships of others.

Take Pearl and Greg for instance, who’s relationship is essential as they take on the roles of parenting Steven – Greg as Steven’s actual father, and Pearl as the most nurturing and obsessive member of the gems, as Steven’s surrogate mother. There’s a tension between them that exists from the start, and as the story progresses you find out that Pearl was a servant gem, who was rescued by Steven’s mother, Rose, and given purpose. She fought alongside Rose in the gem war and fell in love with her, and when Greg came around and Rose fell for him, Pearl felt like she was losing in a lot of ways, and then, when Rose died to create Steven, she lost all over again. That tension goes beyond a cliche romance, and feeds the narrative in a compulsively compelling  way that enriches every scene they’re in.

I’ve read a lot of stories recently which tend to either focus solely on romance, or by cutting out relationships all together, when relationships between characters can be so, so interesting and utilised in ways that go beyond the typical.

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In an era of antiheroes, a true hero can still feel original.
So many stories these days in books, TV and film love a hero who embodies most of the characteristics of a villain. What’s been refreshing about Steven Universe is that the show wears it’s colours proudly. Steven is good. Sure, he messes up sometimes, but his intentions are always good, and his kindness is never mocked or never even really taken advantage of. It’s his kindness that fuels the narrative, it’s what saves the day, it’s what makes the Gems, despite they’re own occasional ruthlessness, good too.

Point is, don’t feel like you need to write an antihero to be interesting. Your hero needs to be flawed, of course they need to be flawed, because they need to be rich and compelling to hold attention, but that doesn’t mean you need to dirty them up. Their flaws can come from places of youth or of hot-headedness or even out of an unwillingness to see things for what they are, but if the character of your story is a hero, let them be.

 

Sunday Circle: what I’m working on this week

For background on the Sunday Circle, see this post.

What am I working on this week
I’m taking a bit of a break from the BDLN at the moment to revisit my sci-fi screenplay. I’ve had a bit of success, and a bit more interest in it again, plus I managed to work through a plot issue I’d been having in it during my prime story-thinking time AKA when I’m showering. All in all, it’s making me pretty excited to be sitting down with it again and getting back into the characters and world of it all.

What’s inspiring me this week?
I’ve been watching a ton of 1940s noir of late for The Oscars Project, and have watched a few I’ve particularly loved – Double Indemnity, Ride the Pink Horse and Kiss of Death. It really makes me want to sit down and start writing some sultry, noirish detective stories.

What part of my project an I avoiding?
Man, all that transitional stuff is where I’m really dragging my feet. The problem with the screenplay at the moment is that I still have parts which are this scene + this scene + ??? = the last act. I’ve been avoiding the ??? bit for too long and need to work it out.

Anyway, what are you working on? Leave your answers in the comments below or link me to your blog!

Friday Finds

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Kim called 911. The police couldn’t enter the house without a warrant, but didn’t stop David from climbing through a window. Inside, he saw nothing amiss. All the lights had been turned off, and the air-conditioning was on high. There were no signs of a robbery, or any struggle. All of Gypsy’s wheelchairs were still in the house. It was frightening to think about how helpless she might be without them.

The police began taking statements while they waited for a search warrant. Kim relayed information back to Facebook. Yes, they’d been to the house; yes, the police had been called. Dee Dee’s online friends and acquaintances began bombarding Kim with questions. She answered as best she could, but the status was beginning to get shared around Missouri. “Here’s the thing guys…I know everyone is very concerned,” Kim wrote on Facebook. “We need to realize that whoever posted this can read all of this.”

It’s not exactly a secret that I love a bit of true crime, and this story about a girl who murders her mother is fascinating and horrifying or, as my housemate put it when she linked it to me, a wild ride from start to finish.

This article on the history of women in the Olympics is fascinating / these vintage photos of ladies loving ladies are a beautiful time capsule / also beautiful are these photos from the Laika exhibit currently on in Los Angeles / ten books that all writers should read / this piece on the monstrous of childbirth is interesting, heartbreaking and important / the horror of female adolescence in literature / And lastly this week, a little more true crime for you – I really, really want to see The Case of JonBenet Ramsay.