2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 50,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 19 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy New Year!

This blog has undergone a bit of a sea change during 2015. I’ve been writing more and more about movies and less and less about writing. I’ve been considering making this totally a movie blog, but part of the problem with having the moon in Gemini is you can never make up your mind! 🙂 We’ll see how things continue evolve as the new year progresses.

Thanks to everyone who has visited this blog. I appreciate each and every one of you! Here’s to a great 2016!


The Difference Between Hero And Protagonist

I’m moving this week so don’t have time to write a fresh blog post. I’ve reached into the archives and pulled out this oldie but goodie. See you next week with a new post–assuming I can get everything up and running in time!



The terms “hero” and “protagonist” have become nearly interchangeable. Writers and readers will nearly always refer to major characters in a story as the hero or the heroine.

While every lead character who is a hero or heroine is a protagonist, not every protagonist is a hero or heroine.

I think the events of the past week illustrated the difference in a startling way. When the bombs went off at the finish line at the Boston Marathon, almost the first thing people noticed when the footage ran on TV and the internet was how first responders and a few other individuals immediately ran TOWARDS the site of the explosions.

Almost everyone else—who was still mobile—ran away or walked around in a daze.

If anything makes someone a hero, it’s running towards the danger rather than away from it.


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6 Things You Need To Know About Story Concept

Having a busy weekend, so thought I would reblog this old post. Enjoy!


1. It matters. It’s the key to selling your story to other people. It’s one of the first things, along with genre and word count, that you’re going to put in a query. It’s the reason why someone is going to buy your book after they pick it up off the shelf or read the blurb online. It’s why blurbs exist–to convey the story’s concept.

2. It has to convey to people what is both unique AND familiar about your story. Humans are funny animals. We like things that are familiar, but have contempt for things that are TOO familiar. We like something unique, but if it’s too weird, we’re often repelled by it. When creating a concept, you need that balance. Sneer all you want at E.L. James’ 50 Shades Of Grey, but if nothing else, it’s a conceptual triumph.

3. Immediately cast out any snobbery you may have…

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Thoughts on Mythic Structure: The Ordeal

This is Part 7 of my series on the hero’s journey, or monomyth.

1. The ordeal is the first major confrontation with the main forces of antagonism.

After undergoing many tests, forming alliances, figuring out enmities, gaining some respect in the extraordinary world of the adventure, it is time for the hero to experience her first major battle against the antagonist(s).

2. This generally occurs at the mid-point of the story.

The ordeal is not interchangeable with the climax of a story. This is the major crisis, not the end of the journey. It doesn’t have to be at the mid-point. It’s fine if the ordeal occurs later, but it’s important to remember this is not where the story ends and that it’s not necessarily the last confrontation with the forces of antagonism. Continue reading “Thoughts on Mythic Structure: The Ordeal”

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 42,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 16 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

This was an exciting year for me, blog-wise! I was Freshly Pressed for the first time with my post Zimbio Quizzes are Ruining My Life. Then later in the year I was Freshly Pressed again, with the post The Strong Female Character: I Do Not Think That Means What Some People Think It Means. So thrilled by the overwhelmingly positive responses to these posts.

Wishing each and every one of you a happy and healthy new year!


The Strong Female Character: I Do Not Think That Means What Some People Think It Means


I recently started watching the new TV series Outlander, based on the popular books by Diana Gabaldon. I have never read the books. The series sounded like something I might enjoy, about a woman who time-travels to 18th Century Scotland.

After watching two episodes, I’m already done with it.

I see people raving about the show on Twitter and other social media. Like Charlie Brown, I don’t know how to argue with success. Something is resonating with many viewers, and I don’t mind that they are enjoying it.

But to me it’s a major disappointment. It made me think of how the term “strong female character” is so often misconstrued. Continue reading “The Strong Female Character: I Do Not Think That Means What Some People Think It Means”

7 Tips For Creating Memorable Characters

Had a mishap in the kitchen this weekend and am nursing a mild burn, so I didn’t get around to writing a blog post. I’m reblogging this oldie. Hope you enjoy!


1. Don’t become over-dependent on character charts. I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan of character charts. I don’t think a lot of the information on them is necessary for creating (or for a writer “getting a grip” on) characters. No one cares how many freckles or moles your character has, or what the character’s favorite flavor of ice cream is, or that the dog they had when they were growing up was a poodle named Muffy, or what job they had when they were 17, unless a detail like that is critical to the story.

The worst thing about character charts is some people fill them out and think they’re done creating their characters.

If you feel that character charts are helpful, by all means, use them. Just realize when you finish one that you’re not done, you’ve only just begun.

2. That said, details are important.  Without…

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Great Villain Blogathon Reminder!

I will be participating in The Great Villain Blogathon next week! My subject is Waldo Lydecker from the classic film noir Laura. Please take a moment to check out this AMAZING line-up of bad guys and gals!

2014 Starts on a Writing High Note: I’m a Project REUTSway Winner x 2 (and a half)!


As mentioned in a previous post, I participated in Project REUTSway, a short story contest held by REUTS Publications. I found out a month ago that I was one of the finalists. Today the winners were announced and TWO out of my three stories were chosen for the anthology! My third story is a runner-up, which means it will be posted on their blog at some point in the coming year!


Continue reading “2014 Starts on a Writing High Note: I’m a Project REUTSway Winner x 2 (and a half)!”

8 Reasons Why Hollywood Should Have Shelved The Lone Ranger Movie

lonerangertonto(SIDENOTE: This week is my one-year Blogversary! WordPress informed me on July 1 that I have had this blog for one year, but that was the day I signed up for a blog. My first blog post appeared on July 8, 2012. Thanks to all who have stopped by over the past year!)

What does it mean to “shelve” a movie? That’s Hollywood-speak for a project that’s put aside, usually for good, at some point in the development stage. The Lone Ranger, which opened this week, was almost shelved because of its projected $250 million budget. The studio was convinced to keep it in development, with a much, much, much (cough!) tinier budget of $225 million. The movie is now tanking, in fact, it is being steamrollered by the animated flick Despicable Me 2.

The sad part of this? There were SO many indications that this was a mega-flop waiting to happen. For instance:

1. Westerns do not do well outside of the U.S. I love Westerns, but the hard, cold fact is they are currently only somewhat popular here in the U.S. and not at all popular outside the U.S. International box office is the bread and butter of expensive blockbuster movies. Even movies that flop in the U.S., like last year’s John Carter, can manage to make money overseas. A recent Western that did excellent business in the U.S., 2010’s True Grit, only made about 30% of its money overseas. Non-Western domestic flops like Battleship and John Carter made around 75 – 80% of their money overseas.

2. So in order to make a profitable Western, the budget has to fit the potential audience. True Grit only cost $38 million to make. Of course, you have to add on marketing costs. The general rule of thumb is a movie costs twice its production budget. So True Grit theoretically cost $76 million to produce and market. It made around $250 million world-wide—excellent profitability. But in the case of The Lone Ranger, it would have to gross $450 million world-wide. Even if it pulls in a Battleship/John Carter-type $200-240 million overseas gross, it will probably still end up in the red.

3. On what planet is it a good idea to cast your STAR as the supporting character? I’ll get to the inappropriate whitewashing of the character of Tonto in a minute, but I, and about a bazillion other movie fans, were completely stunned by the news that Johnny Depp—one of the most reliable box-office draws in the world right now—was going to play the sidekick. Unless Robert Downey, Jr. is playing the Lone Ranger, this makes absolutely no sense. (Of course, then the movie would have cost $275 million to make, so it still doesn’t really make sense.)

4. About that whitewashing thing. Yes, I know—he’s an actor playing a role. Yes, he claims he has Cherokee or Creek blood or some such thing. Whatever. The truth is, there are several Native American actors (hello, Adam Beach?) who could have played Tonto in support of an actor with proven box-office draw as the Lone Ranger. THAT would have made sense.

A Native American actor could have also told them the whole dead bird on the head/constantly wearing war paint makeup thing has nothing to do with any of the many Native American cultures of this continent. Or any of the cultures of any continent.

5. Hollywood has just turned Armie Hammer into this year’s Taylor Kitsch. You bastards. I like Armie. He has a lot of potential and could be nursed into a big star with the right roles. He was one of the top choices of Hunger Games fans to play Finnick in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. He was interested in the role, in fact, his wife even encouraged him to consider it.

The reason he couldn’t do it? HE WAS MAKING THE LONE RANGER. I’m certain Sam Claflin, who was ultimately cast as Finnick, will do a stellar job. But there will always be an element of “what might have been” because Armie was making an almost guaranteed flop instead of an almost guaranteed blockbuster hit.

Good going, guys.

6. It’s not like a Lone Ranger project ever flopped before. Oh, wait a minute—yes it has. The 1981 version, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, was such a notorious flop the actor cast as the Lone Ranger sank into total obscurity about five minutes after the movie debuted. Klinton Spilsbury—remember that name? Yeah, nobody else does, either.

Hey, Hollywood—I have a sure-fire success for you! Make a Flash Gordon movie! Like the incredibly unsuccessful one you made back in the 1980s!

Not a good idea, you say?

That’s my point.

(Silly me–while I was adding the above link to the 1980 Flash Gordon movie, I discovered on the IMDB that there is a Flash Gordon movie currently in development. Oh, Hollywood, you slay me!)

7. Apparently, it’s not just on concept and casting that the movie stumbled. I haven’t seen the movie, but Charlie Jane Anders at i09 did a great take-down of the movie’s mishandling of the Lone Ranger’s origin story. I also want to give Charlie Jane a lot of credit for NOT blaming the failure of the movie solely on the fact that it’s a Western. (I took exception to an article she wrote a while back about the supposed death of the genre.)

8. Demographics were always against this movie. The Holy Grail of summer blockbusters is what is known as the “four quadrant” movie. This means that it attracts people from all four demographic quadrants: young, old, male and female. Predictably, The Lone Ranger attracted mostly older males. Parents were probably repelled because of warnings by critics about the violence, so they didn’t take their older kids, in spite of the PG-13 rating. Without kids, young adult males (who are often repeat viewers) and females (who are needed to put blockbusters in the mega-successful range) the movie had little chance of recouping its budget.

Is it possible to make a successful blockbuster Western? Maybe. The same team who worked on The Lone Ranger (director Gore Verbinski, writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio) made the mega-successful Pirates of the Caribbean movies. So with that behind-the-scene talent and the star of those movies, Johnny Depp, there was probably a belief that lightning would strike again, and a not-very-popular genre would again turn into box office gold. But they’re not an infallible group, and there were so many glaring missteps it’s hard to see how this could have succeeded.

Many (myself included) want to see Hollywood take more risks, but the next time there are so many neon signs flashing “FLOP FLOP FLOP” maybe they should pay attention. They could have made a really good—and profitable—Western with a fraction of that money, and still had plenty left over for a good summer blockbuster.

Kind of busy this week, so I thought I’d repost an old column. Hope you enjoy!


After a lot of frustration trying to find good titles for my projects, I started thinking about titles of successful books and movies.  I realized they usually fall into categories.  Knowing these categories help me create a strategy for finding the perfect title.

1. Main Character – this is the obvious place to start.  I’m not a fan of using the name of the main character as the title of a book.  Sure, there are instances where that worked out fine (Forrest Gump, Dexter) and others where that helped create a disaster (the movie John Carter).  Notice the ones that do work are often unusual names.  So if your character’s name is Ponconby Fassmesser, you might be O.K. using that as your title.

A better strategy would be to zero in on something interesting or unusual about your character.  It should be descriptive and usually should be short.  It could…

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