Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hang on while I go brandish my sword

I am fabulous at keeping all the threads of my life going smoothly at all times.


Over the past few weeks, I've been getting ready to compete at a huge Tae Kwon Do tournament. For a number of reasons, I am much more nervous about this one than any other, one of which is that I will be doing a form I choreograph myself. What was I thinking?!!!

So the preparation has been occupying my time and mind, leaving not much space for blog-writing. I did however, continue to work on my Work In Progress. I wanted to touch base with folks who check in periodically, to let you know what's going on.

Step-spin-hook-kick, here I come. No, maybe I should tweak the moves at the end of the sword form. No, maybe I should...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Michelle Yeoh with a beard? Sure, why not?

Kung Fu Panda II rocks.

I was thoroughly impressed with the art (don't miss the closing credits
,) the humor, the kung fu moves (the peacock has some of the coolest ones; wish I had fan-like tail feathers,) the characters, the way 3D is used, the orchestration of the film score (yes, noble french horn sections and exciting timpani parts!) the theme, the excellence, the heart.

[Warning: minor s
poiler alert]

I enjoyed all of these so much that it was very easy to overlook the flaws. For example, Po's kung fu prowess seems inconsistent. He vacillates between the overweight panda who doesn't even have the stamina to climb stairs and the mighty Dragon Warrior impervious to any kung fu or weapons. I had to rely primarily on musical cues to know when Po would win and when he would bumble. It would have been better if his degree of mastery is more integral to the story. If I am to believe he can single-handedly, even within the context of a suspended belief system, rescue his heavily bound and guarded fellow warriors, I don[t think I can accept he is so easily defeated by Tigress.

But even typing
this makes me feel petty. The movie is so well-made, so entertaining (I laughed out loud several times and found myself grinning often,) and the experience so wholly engaging that these things really didn't matter.

So how can I make my stories so engaging my readers will overlook the flaws? Of course it doesn't mean that I am not going to do everything I can to make sure there are no avoidable flaws. But when is a reader so bought into the story that s/he is willing to follow?

What's your take? Well-developed characters? Technical excellence? Memorable setting?

[In case you're w
ondering about the title of this post: Michelle Yeoh voices the character of the soothsayer, who is a female ram. With a beard. Yeah.]

Friday, June 10, 2011

Does choreographing a sword form count?

The Rejectionist has invited her readers to participate in her 30 Days of Creativity adventure. Drawing, hanging curtains, organizing cabinets: anything that takes creativity and makes the doer happy. Some of my things include keeping peace between my children and teaching them to knit.

This is Week 2 and I am bringing in another part of my life, as a martial art practitioner, a part if my life that I allude to every now and then, to my writing sphere.

I am choreographing a broad sword form. It's set to the opening of Jupiter, from The Planes by
Gustav Holst. I am not ready yet to post a video of it, or maybe I'm really kinda embarrassed, but I hope I'll be brave enough to do that when it's polished.

What creative thing are you doing that is making you happy?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Do characters have to be relatable*?

Seems like an unnecessary and controversial question: of course we have to relate to our characters. Otherwise, why would we want to follow their journeys, understand their decisions, or rejoice/mourn with them?

This is certainly true in my own life; books and movies that I like and remember long a
fter are those with characters I can relate to. I latch onto a character--usually the protagonist, and occasionally a secondary one, such as Gogol's' mother in The Namesake--and view the story through their lenses.

I saw a movie recently that challenged this belief.

The movie is Buddha Mountain. Made in China, this is a indie-type film that shows three twenty-something slackers who rent a room from a retired Beijing opera star, who is mourning that death of her son. I can't relate to any of the characters but I found it engaging.

Characters such as those three often turn me off. Their spend their days engaged in irresponsible and inconsiderate behavior. Despite being a more sympathetic character,the landlady wasn't all that relatable either.

This may seem to indicate that I relate only to people who do the "right"--kind, thoughtful, self-sacrificial--things. It's not true. I identify with many flawed characters.

So what is

My conclusion is that I don't always have to relate so much as to understand the characters. Relating means I can imagine myself doing some of the same things or thinking the same way as a character. I can insert myself in their shoes and experience the stories just the way they do.

In the movie, the characters steal their landlady's banged-up car for a drive to the mountains, they climb atop a freight train to nowhere, they steal money and replace it with fake bills. I can't relate. I can't imagine doing those things while feeling the way they do: nonchalant, undisturbed. Maybe if they had stolen the car to rescue a wayward younger sister or they climb onto the freight train because they are escaping from some bad guys, I would relate. But they do these things...just because. And I don't get it.

Yet, I watched without any of the annoyance that tend to appear when I find self-centered, indulgent people doing inconsiderate things. Somehow, in this movie, I didn't need to relate. All I needed was to understand. Not so much the reason they chose to travel aimlessly or why they don't feel any remorse, but that they feel untethered, uncertain, and hopeless. I am not sure how any of these actions can soothe or help them deal, but apparently I don't need to.

Or maybe I'm just splitting hairs. What do you think?

*[In case you are wondering if "relatable" is a word, here is an article you may find interesting.]

Saturday, June 4, 2011

But he sounds like a girl

I have been thinking of publicly declaring that half of the world's population isn't my equal but VS Naipaul beat me to it.


So then I thought I would challenge him to his claim to supremacy in this quiz devised by The Guardian.

dly for me, I only got 70 % correct. (The most interesting result of this? I thought his excerpt was written by a woman.)