Archive for November, 2013

For the second time, I went to see Gabriel Iglesias perform in my hometown. And once again I was blown away by not only his comedy, but by his generosity.

The first show had me in tears from laughing so hard. This show didn’t, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. And it certainly doesn’t mean I won’t go see him again.

The great thing about Fluffy is that he’s genuine — more so than a lot of other comedians, I think. Everyone goes for the punch line, but Gabe goes for the story. If it happens to be funny along the way (and let’s face it, it’s always funny along the way), then great. That’s a success.

He doesn’t need to resort to the dirty jokes. He doesn’t have to yell to be funny. He doesn’t have to swear up a storm. Does it happen sometimes? Yeah, of course. But that’s not what his act is centered around, and it makes him a refreshing comedian to go see.

At this show, Gabriel talked a lot about his family — particularly his father and his son. Was it funny? No, not really. It was actually a really sad story, and sometimes it felt like he was being a motivational speaker instead of a stand up comedian. Not that I cared. I was there for him; the jokes were just a bonus.

But above and beyond that, it was what he did more than what he said. When he came out on stage, someone yelled that they wanted to have his babies (yes, they were allowed to drink there — sigh). He immediately responded to it. It wasn’t mean or disrespectful, but he took charge of the situation. Something similar happened with someone else who was being indifferent to his performance, and he made sure that they didn’t control the show. But he always did it in a way that made us laugh, and not in a way that crushed the mood of the room.

But the best part of the night was when he performed 45 minutes longer than he was meant to. He said he’d keep going as long as we kept laughing, and we held him to that. He performed all his new material, and then started doing his classic jokes. He got a kick out of it when we started saying the punch lines with him, and you could tell that the whole room was excited just to have him there. And he was just as excited as we were.

Gabriel Iglesias is an outstanding performer. Better yet, he’s an outstanding person. And that’s why I’ll always go see him live whenever I can.

If you’re unfamiliar with Gabriel’s comedy, I want to applaud you for making it this far. But I also want you to check out this joke, which is my all-time favorite:

This won’t come as a surprise for most of you, but there are people out there who actually look down on those who are smarter than them. It’s a sad fact of life that other human beings think negatively about a quality such as this that, frankly, should be celebrated.

But the truth is that a lot of people are intimidated by intelligence. They’re intimidated by people that are smarter than them, and the only way they can bring those people down to their level is by shaming them. They bully and mistreat those people until they believe that their intelligence is a curse rather than a gift.

This is why so many “nerds” end up on the bottom of the social ladder in high school. It’s definitely one of the reasons why I was.

But I refuse to be ashamed by my intelligence. I may not be a genius, but I’ve always been above average. I’m the lucky benefactor of good genes, excellent parents, and an inexplicable determination to do my best. Not to mention that I’ve just always liked learning.

It amazes me that there are still people out there — people that I know (and some that I’m related to) — who think of this as a bad thing. Of course, they’ve brainwashed themselves. It’s not a bad thing, no matter how you spin it (okay, I guess it’s a bad thing if you use your intelligence for evil and try to take over the world or something, but you know what I mean). But because these people don’t have what we have, they feel as if they need to make fun of us for it.

Nerd culture is growing in strength every single day, and I think more and more people are realizing that intelligence shouldn’t be covered up, and it isn’t something that you should be intimidated by. There are a lot of problems in this world, and although the shaming of intelligent people might not rank as high as others, it’s something that should be pointed out and corrected.

It’s unfortunate that bullying, even indirect, passive-aggressive bullying, never goes away, even when you get out of high school. But hopefully those who are on the receiving end of that gesture know to ignore it. Because intelligence is never something to be ashamed of.

Have you ever had to deal with this phenomenon? What did you do?

noun \ˈfən\

: someone or something that is amusing or enjoyable : an enjoyable experience or person

: an enjoyable or amusing time

: the feeling of being amused or entertained

I should preface this blog post by saying two of the other girls and I had a fantastic discussion on Book Hype yesterday about the merit of Young Adult fiction. The episode won’t be out until tomorrow, but be sure to check my Facebook page or the Book Hype Twitter for the link when it goes live.

Although I would like to hear what you have to say about the topic, that’s not what I’m writing about today. I wanted to mention Book Hype because we often have great discussions about a variety of topics that don’t have easy solutions. Talking about matters complexly is something that I love to do, and it’s something that I devote a lot of time doing on behalf of Hypable.

But what about having fun? Have we forgotten about that? If so, I suggest you reread the definition again.

Like I said, I have no problem with really digging in deep when it comes to having an intellectual conversation. That’s something that I think needs to be done. But what about just enjoying a story for the sake of it being a good story?

This has really been brought to my attention lately with the recent 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who, along with conversations taking place about Catching Fire and Teen Wolf, among many, many other things. Fans of these stories seem to be getting more and more critical. They’re forgetting that the main focus of the story is to entertain. Where has the fun gone?

I’m not saying that all stories are meant to be fun. Many of the themes in the Hungers Games trilogy certainly aren’t. But what happened to soaking in the words of a good book or TV show or movie? Why do we have to cut down the authors and writers and directors for some of the smallest details?

Even when those details aren’t so small, why do we have to overthink their meaning and make judgments on those people as human beings? Is that fair? I don’t think it is.

A lot of it harkens back to the fact that we as a species just love to complain. We’re never satisfied. We always want more. That’s great to an extent, but why should there be so much hatred toward your favorite stories? If you spend more time complaining about them than enjoying them, I think you’re doing it wrong.

While I think everything should have an underlying meaning that can spark conversation and action, I also think we can’t forget about how fun a good book or a good television show or a good movie can be.

What do you think?

catching fire posterBottom Line:

Rent it, buy it, or don’t bother? — Buy it.


[No spoilers.]

Did anyone expect Catching Fire not to be amazing? Because it was. But it also left me a little overwhelmed. I loved the movie, I truly did, but part of me is still looking for something. Something more? Maybe. Something else? Possibly.

I don’t know what it is, and I can’t explain it. I’m not disappointed, not in the slightest. But I’m hoping to see it again soon. I think that will help me get my thoughts in order.

But no one has time for that now! You guys want to know how the movie was, and I’m here to tell you that it was spectacular.

Cinematically, the movie was beautiful. District 12 was drab and full of sorrow, the Capitol was lively and full of color, the arena was sprawling and dangerous, and the CGI was impeccable. There really are no complaints here.

The acting was, of course, spot on. We have to talk about Jennifer Lawrence’s performance because it stole the show every single time. She’s so great at moving between the truly emotional scenes, whether she’s scared or upset, and the hilarious scenes, of which there are plenty. Her interactions with the other tributes, particularly Johanna and Finnick, are laugh out loud funny. She makes the best faces.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta really stepped it up in this movie. He’s exactly the Peeta I pictured from the book, and the more I see him, the more I’m convinced Suzanne Collins actually based the character off of the actor. Liam Hemsworth was great as Gale, even considering his limited screen time. Haymitch and Cinna continue to be some of my favorites, and I really thought Effie’s emotional scenes were particularly touching.

The Victory Tour was poignant, and the Games were frightening. I often found myself tensed up in my seat even though I knew exactly what was going to happen. That’s the mark of a great movie.

And speaking of being a great movie, this truly was a fantastic adaptation. I haven’t read the book in a while, but a lot of little details that stuck out in my mind were in the film. There was one particular scene that was missing, but in the end I actually think it may have been an asset for viewers who hadn’t read the books.

The highlights for me were just the beauty and scope of the movie and Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. That ending shot right before the credits roll… Wow. You can see every thought and every emotion on her face, and it sent chills down my spine.

Let me know what you thought about Catching Fire in the comments. Remember that while this review was spoiler-free, the comments won’t be. I look forward to discussing the movie with you guys!

We’re inundated with advertisements every single day. Between television, the internet, and billboards, on average I’d say most of us see hundreds of different ads daily.

Or do we?

I don’t know about you, but I tend to block out most advertisements. I don’t see them on the computer anymore, unless they pop up and take over my screen. (I hate when they do that!) I walk away from the television during commercial breaks, and billboards along the road become background noise.

I feel like I’m becoming blind to advertising unless the ad is about something I’m already interested in, or it’s so over the top I can’t help but notice it. (And that’s a completely different discussion. Ads these days are cray-zay.)

It got me thinking about advertising in general. How much do companies spend on ads and how much do they actually profit from them? Advertising is one of those things that’s sort of built into the game. Companies are expected to advertise and we expect to be advertised to. Nobody questions that, and nobody seems to question the process, either.

It seems woefully inefficient to me. Maybe someone should question the process because it seems as if something gets lost in the middle. I don’t know about you, but I oftentimes remember commercials for their ridiculousness, but I can’t for the life of me recall what the product actually was. Or even if I do, just because the ad was funny or eye-catching doesn’t mean that I’m going to go out and buy that product.

I realize that advertising is about spreading the name of a certain brand or a certain product. Maybe the commercial or billboard won’t make you race to the nearest Wal-Mart to pick up that item, but if the name is in your head, then more than likely you’ll pick up that particular one when you find yourself in the market for that product.

And, yeah, I guess that works. But I still feel like something is missing. I’d sooner take the word of a friend than the word of a really well done commercial.

Naturally, this makes me think about writers and trying to spread the word about our books. Word of mouth is an excellent way to do just that, but it’s a slower process than paying for Facebook or Google to do your marketing for you. But does that mean it’s a less productive way of advertising?

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. In the end, I think advertising helps to generate the word-of-mouth phenomenon. It gets the ball rolling, and that’s usually what we need as writers. But what about big companies? Why does Coca-Cola still advertise as heavily as they do? Everyone knows who Coca-Cola is (yes, I’m generalizing, and yes, I’m coming at this as an American), so why do they need to have Super Bowl advertisements that cost millions of dollars?

The system seems archaic to me, and I’d love to know what you think and if you have any solutions. This feels like a topic that needs to be discussed, not just for the bigger companies, but for us as writers as well.

A lot of writers talk about the importance of taking a break once in a while. As a collective group, we tend to overwork ourselves. Writers have a lot of irons in the fire between blogging, writing, editing, families, and other hobbies. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

So taking a break is important. And I’ve been doing that these past few weekends. It’s been glorious just hanging out with friends, watching movies and reminiscing about our childhood together. (Because apparently I’m at that point in time when this is now a thing. When did that happen?)

But as most people know, coming back from taking a break is hard. What do you mean I can’t just sit around and watch Netflix all day? I have to put on real pants? Wait, where did the weekend go?

Bouncing back from some much-needed R&R can be even harder than putting down your pen or laptop and taking that initial step to start relaxing in the first place.

So here’s my question to you — what do you do? Once you’ve decided that you’re properly rested (or at least as rested as you’re ever going to be in this day and age), how do you get back into the swing of things? I find myself wanting to gravitate toward the couch and just watch Fringe for ten hours straight. But something tells me that’s not going to pay the bills. Bummer.

I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year because I just don’t have enough time to dedicate to it, but I did promise myself that I was going to write more this month than I have in the last previous months.

So far, that’s not going too well.

A few weeks ago, I had a complete story pop into my head — from start to finish. I knew the characters, their motivations, their secrets, and their journeys as people. I even had whole scenes floating in my head with the dialogue and everything. That’s never happened to me before, and I was quite excited to get it all down on paper.

The only problem was that the story sounded so much better in my head. Once I started writing it, the voice fell flat, the characters became unlikeable, and the story started going in a direction that I didn’t really like once I really tried to hammer out the details.

So I put it on pause. Meanwhile, a new character jumped up fully formed in my head. It was a completely new story, but since the other one didn’t really work out, I thought I could begin this one. Maybe my writing muscles just needed a little exercising and then I’d be able to get back into the swing of things. Once that happened, I was hoping to go back to the first story.

Only, it didn’t. The same thing happened: I wrote what was in my mind, and nothing really worked. Suddenly the story began morphing on its own, and it was a far cry from the original idea. The problem was that I couldn’t get back to that original idea. It was gone, and I don’t think I’ll be able to find it again.

I’m sure this has happened countless times to all of you guys at one point or another, but I’d like to know what you do whenever you have trouble getting the right words out on paper. Do you stop writing for a while, and take a break? Do you push through it? Do you work on something else? Do you edit another project instead? I’d love any input! I really want to be writing on a more regular basis, but lately it’s becoming difficult to get what’s in my head out through my fingertips.

thor the dark world posterBottom Line:

Rent it, buy it, or don’t bother? — Buy it.


[No spoilers!]

Thor: The Dark World is the second movie based around Thor, and in a lot of ways it’s a sequel to The Avengers, much like Iron Man 3. As far as sequels go, it was a great followup. As far as movies go, I loved it, though it did leave me wanting more…and not necessarily in a good way.

The Dark World was full of action right from the beginning, and it follows Thor around as he helps to clean up after Loki’s mess that he created in the first Thor and in The Avengers. Thor is much the same person he was at the end of the first movie, and I love this new humble version of him that still knows he’s pretty badass.

There was, surprisingly, also a lot of humor in this movie, including some truly laugh-out-loud moments. I especially loved the banter between Thor and Loki, and I wish these two had an easy-going relationship so they could just play off of each other at every turn. The real star, however, was Erik Selvig, who is still trying to cope with what happened in New York.

All I’m going to say is that Stellan Skarsgård has surprisingly great legs.

I know a lot of people don’t particularly like Jane, and I know many of those same people don’t think she has any chemistry with Thor, but I really do like them together. It doesn’t having the same sort of genuine feeling that Tony Stark and Pepper Potts have, but their relationship is weird and quirky and full of some really interesting moments. While I wish their love story could have been built up a bit better, it is what it is, and I’m okay with that.

My favorite part of this movie is actually also my least favorite part, if you can wrap your head around that. Loki is an interesting and complex character, and Tom Hiddleston is just a fantastic actor. I loved everything about him in this movie, except for the end. Without ruining it for anyone who hasn’t seen this film yet, suffice it to say that I’m not sure what Loki’s motivations were, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I feel like the unanswered questions should have been answered, and I hope that happens sooner rather than later.

This movie was filled with some great moments, but I think it could have been a bit more cohesive. The ending could have been wrapped up better, without having to spell everything out for us. But the after credits scene was great and really got me pumped for where they’re going next. This has a potential to be quite a huge undertaking for the Marvel universe, and that is definitely saying something considering what we already know about the scope of these films. It’s all very exciting!

I’d be interested in talking to anyone about the movie in the comments, which — as always — are not spoiler-free. Let me know what you thought of the movie, and which Marvel movie you’re excited for next. I’m looking forward to Captain America: The Winter Soldier quite a bit. The previews look great!

The art of the anti-hero

Posted: November 8, 2013 in Writing
Tags: , , ,


The anti-hero can be an extremely difficult character to create, but when it’s done right, they’re often more compelling than your traditional hero. But what exactly is an anti-hero?

An anti-hero is a character that lacks the traditional qualities of a hero. That means he or she may not be courageous or moral or willing to sacrifice themselves for others. In some cases, the anti-hero can actually have a villainous nature, but due to circumstances outside of their control, they act the part of the hero.

If an anti-hero is part villain, then why would we be at all interested in them as our main character? Anti-heroes are more flawed than traditional heroes and in many cases that makes them feel more human. Their mistakes and the subsequent consequences are bigger. There’s no easy road for an anti-hero, and these qualities can make them feel more relateable.

There are hundreds of examples of an anti-hero. Off of the top of my head, I can think of Sherlock (from the BBC show), Severus Snape, and Dexter. Each of these characters has varying degrees of the anti-hero “gene,” and we like them for different reasons. Some of them also work better than others.

Sherlock is my favorite. He’s a sociopath. He’s crass and has a serious superiority complex, no matter how deserved it may be. He’s assumptive and doesn’t do well with people. And yet we love him. Why? John Watson is a big reason for that, as we tend to see Sherlock through his eyes, but there’s something more. It’s because Sherlock is so horrible that, when he breaks down and we see actual love and compassion, it makes it all worth it. There’s nothing better than when a character whose heart is encased in stone gets the chance to show everyone what he’s really like underneath his unfriendly exterior.

Severus Snape is the midway point between Sherlock and Dexter. On the one hand, he’s a pretty horrible person. He’s spent years and years picking on a boy simply because he hated that boy’s father. Prior to that, he was a Death Eater. And just because he decided to switch sides, it didn’t mean that his prejudices disappeared. Snape could often be juvenile and manipulative, but he had one single saving factor: love. Everything Snape did for Dumbledore was in the name of his love for Lily. And while it’s hard to truly care about someone who did the things Snape did, it’s also difficult to hate someone for loving a human being as much as he loved Harry’s mother.

DEXTER (Season 2)

Dexter is a difficult case in terms of an anti-hero. He’s a serial killer who kills murderers. Do you see the conundrum? On the one hand, he’s a murderer himself. He’s a psychopath. He is sick and twisted and not nearly the person he appears to be on the surface. And yet, what he does in his spare time is kind of heroic. He solves the crimes and dispenses of criminals in ways the police force can’t. What he does is by no means legal, but is it actually wrong? That’s a hard question to answer, and not one I’m prepared to address. This is partly because Dexter often crosses that line from anti-hero to villain. I’ve only seen one season, so I’m sure he grows and changes, but his lack of empathy and lust for blood often sends shivers down my spine.

There are several types of anti-heroes and several levels at which they can be found, but overall, anti-heroes can be an interesting sub-category in which to file away your main character. Their flaws are their greatest assets, and everyone loves to see a bad guy turn into a good guy. (Why do you think Despicable Me is so popular?)

Who’s your favorite anti-hero? Are there any anti-heroes you just don’t like? Have you ever tried to write one? If so, was it easier or harder to write than a traditional hero?

I certainly hope so.

You’ve heard me talk about Teen Wolf time and time again, but I hope you don’t mind me bringing it up once more. (Okay, it won’t just be once more. But in my defense, it’s a pretty big part of my life, and I usually don’t stop thinking about it for more than a couple of hours at a time.)

Teen Wolf is not Glee.

And by that I mean Glee is a show about problems. They take a problem — alcoholism, homophobia, bullying, etc. — and turn it into a PSA. It’s an episode meant to highlight the realism of the show in order to portray the real world to the audience.

I’m not a Glee fan anymore, but this approach is fine. That’s what the show is designed to do and there are obviously enough people who enjoy and care about the way the show is written.

Teen Wolf is the opposite of that. Teen Wolf presents an idealistic world. There are still “problems,” but they don’t highlight them in order to make a statement about them. The one major plus to Teen Wolf is that this is a world without homophobia.

How amazing is that?

Teen Wolf Danny Smile

One of the most popular characters on the show is Danny. Danny is gay, but he’s so much more than that. He’s a lacrosse player, he’s a hacker, he’s super smart, and pretty popular. Everyone likes Danny. Everyone. There’s no bullying here.

I’m not here to say which approach is better, though it’s pretty obvious which version I prefer. I am, however, here to ask a question: Can this idealism, as seen on TV, influence the real world?

As I said above, I hope so.

Presenting an ideal world like this has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it isn’t very realistic. Saying there isn’t homophobia in the world would be a grossly ignorant statement. On the other hand, a show like Teen Wolf portrays a world in which it’s okay to be gay and shows how it really has no effect on the story. It isn’t a Big Deal for Danny like it’s been a Big Deal for Kurt.

I don’t know if a show like Teen Wolf will ever have an effect on our world. It isn’t going to change the course of the human race overnight, but I hope it has effected someone, somewhere. If this issue — and other hot-button issues, for that matter — are presented positively in the media more often, I can only hope they’ll begin to change minds.

Sometimes you need a show like Glee, but sometimes you need a show like Teen Wolf. It’s just too bad that there’s more of the former than the latter.

What do you think? Does a television show or movie or book have the ability to present a world in which we want to live and have that presentation effect the world in which we DO live? Are there any examples where this may have happened over the course of several years or decades? I’m honestly curious!