Question of the Day

What defines a battle scene as “epic”?

We sometimes see the warning on movies “Epic Battle Sequences” – so, what does that mean?

  •         If there are 5 battles in the movie, are they all epic or are only certain ones? 
  •         Is it sometimes just part of the battle (“a sequence”) while the rest of battle is just a battle? 
  •         What determines that it is epic – number of people fighting (say, at least 1,000)?  Number of people killed or wounded?  The methods they use for fighting? 
  •         Does a modern battle scene not count as epic unless it has a tank or a fighter/bomber airplane?  Is a medieval battle scene not epic unless it has has lots of arrows?

A Google search tells you of numerous battle sequences deemed “epic” by someone, but they are all over the map as to what is included in those scenes, so how is “epic” decided?

There, now if you’re stuck in a waiting room somewhere, I’ve given you something to ponder to pass the time!  You’re welcome!

Caricatures

[I wrote this a while ago, but am just now posting it.  More recently I’ve been putting in long, stressful hours at work – and then was sick – so I wasn’t accomplishing much of anything at home.]

Have been watching old DVDs, deciding which ones I want to keep and which to give away.  I hadn’t watched the three Crocodile Dundee movies in quite some time, so they were on the list.  These movies are enjoyable fluff, at least in my opinion, but I was reminded of their biggest problem – they have more caricatures than characters in them.

The parts that focus on Australia and the people there are pretty good, but once they head off to New York or Los Angeles, they don’t seem to know how to write the other characters.  All the “players” are stereotypical:  black guys, hookers, gang members, petty criminals, gays, etc.  None of them have any depth and despite different clothes and hair, they are all interchangeable with one another.  Everyone is extremely clean and their toughness is revealed mainly through crude language.  The scary thugs/gang members aren’t particularly scary, the hookers are just sweet girls who are nice as can be, and all the blacks talk in jive speech patterns.

Yes, if you ignore all that, you can enjoy the movies and just go with the silliness of it all.  But my point is, how much better would they have been if the characters were real?  If we believed they were what the credits or other characters said they were?

Similarly, do the stories we write suffer in that way?  Not all young black men are basketball-playing, uneducated, gangbangers.  Some black boys grow up to be Neil DeGrasse Tyson or Denzel Washington.  Most gangbangers aren’t cool, pleasant, clean people that you’d love to hang out with.  Etc., etc., etc.

Too often we see, and then follow the example, of stereotyping people – whether by race, religion, political party, occupation or even gender.  But if you look around at the world, things don’t line up.  Little girls might prefer playing with trucks rather than dolls.  Boys might rather practice the piano and write poetry than take up a sport.  Not all Chinese or Japanese children are scientific or musical prodigies.  You can probably think of a lot more examples.  When you write, you don’t have to do what is expected just because the world of literature/art/movies/tv have said it’s expected.  If your character doesn’t fit the mold, guess what?  They don’t have to!  And your story will be the stronger for it.  Don’t push to make it happen, but why can’t the person in the wheelchair be good at sports?  Why can’t the Muslim and the Jew be best friends?  Does the girl have to always be smarter than the boys?  Do all the boys have to be insensitive to others?  Why can’t there be a ‘cat guy’, with 15 cats?

You probably fit into numerous “categories” yourself, but are you identical to all the other people who fit into any or all of those categories?  Probably not.  So don’t fall into the trap of letting it happen to your characters.

Our ‘B’ Side, Baby!

Unless you’re ‘older’, or really into retro music formats, you may not recognize the term ‘B Side’.  The old 45 rpm single records had two sides to them.  The A Side was the primary song expected to be the money-maker.  The B Side was more ‘filler’ – a song of lower quality, less interest, experimental or whatever.  For the most part, the B Side was rarely listened to and most people couldn’t tell you what was on the B Side of their favorite records.  A notable exception to this was the Beatles, who often had hit songs on both sides.

Back in the 1970s, a group called Three Dog Night, for whatever reason (out of ideas, no songs written, or just being creative), actually released a song on the B side called “Our ‘B’ Side”.  Yes, it was a humorous take on the second side song practice, but it was a fun song nevertheless.  If you are interested in hearing it, check out this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0lMo3nm3JM

Enjoy!

Question of the Day

I keep seeing this and every time I wonder.  Why, on books, do they put a book title followed by “a novel”?  Are they afraid we’ll think it’s a comic book?  There might be some rare, specific instances when that would need to be clarified, but it seems like the bulk of the books out there any more feel they must make that absolutely, unequivocally known.  Does anyone know why?

I Swear, Swearing is Out of Hand

The past few years, I’ve noticed what, to me, is a disturbing trend, particularly in the workplace.  Words that would never have been used in polite company now drip off the tongues of anyone and everyone, even in a professional environment.  Maybe people think they are no longer ‘swear’ words, but ‘just words’.  That isn’t true.  The nature of the word didn’t change simply because it became allowable to use them more frequently and publicly.  Somewhere along the line someone ‘uncensored’ them and the hordes have taken full advantage of that – men and women alike.  But why?

It is as if they think swearing in some way validates them as a person, in their career or whatever.  In truth, all it really does is offend many people around them, who are either too hampered by their own politeness to mention it, figure their comments would fall on deaf or hostile ears, or fear the many ‘laws’ that now protect people in being as offensive as they like.

Even aside from the offensiveness, I must say that it gives me a very poor opinion of those people overall.  That they would willfully be crude in front of others without regard to their feelings is a strike against them.  But even on a more basic level, it makes me question their intelligence and knowledge.  When I hear a co-worker using the F word literally almost every other word in a sentence, I have to think, “Do you not know any other words with which to express yourself?  Is your vocabulary truly that limited?”  If you don’t speak any better than that in public, then I must assume that you can’t.  Dressing up in business attire won’t disguise what comes out of your mouth.

Some would say (even yell) ‘Freedom of Speech’!  Yes, you have the right to say what you want as I am doing here, but the sign of a mature individual is one who can control their behavior, including speech.  They can determine that a professional workplace or a public place with strangers is not the place for such language that others might find offensive.  If they and all their friends want to hold inane, uneducated conversations like that in private then more power to them.  But a mature person would not think it appropriate to inflict that on anyone and everyone around them without regard for the other person.  To do so is offensive and disrespectful.

Don’t we have enough disrespect and offensiveness in the world already without that?  Perhaps now is the time to sweeten our language and thus hope to sweeten our world a little.  And, as a saying goes, ‘Blessed are those who choose their words wisely, for tomorrow they may have to eat them.’