Civil War 2

I was going to post that this election cycle has been pretty entertaining so far. I mean, Palin endorsing Trump, Glen Beck endorsing Cruz in response, Hillary under a cloud of indictment, Sanders thinking raising taxes by 19 trillion dollars is going to stimulate the economy and create jobs (oh, man. Now that’s funny!). But, the lies being tossed back and forth just makes it another ugly year. Perhaps even uglier than the McCain/Obama or Gore/Bush elections. Changing of the guard elections are the worst.

The nation keeps getting more, not less, divided. In part because so called leaders claim to try to bring people together and they do the opposite. We’re at a sad stage in history where political interests spend millions of dollars on fake AstroTurf campaigns and social networking agitprop and people actually believe the crap that gets put out by the BS political websites, which are aimed at making you mad, if you are dumb enough to buy into it. They want you mad. They want you to think you are smart to believe their lies. That’s the sick part. It’s very easy to double check the claims. But most people are too lazy.

There’s also this thing called confirmation bias. People will agree with something if it sounds like something they already believe, whether it’s true or not. It’s why so many people are full of it.

Add to that all the racial animosity which is ginned up by political groups who think dividing people is the path to getting them to vote for who they want them to. This is especially vile. Listening to the hateful rhetoric on the Oscars has been a good example. People who express an option supporting merit over race get called racists or sell outs. And this is over a stupid award which has always been political and rarely goes to the right person or movie.

It’s all kind of depressing and I don’t see how either of the two likely presidential contenders are going to fix that. They are both divisive in their own way. One wonders how bad it will get before people are actually at each other’s throats.

Snow Dayz

I hate the snow and refuse to live in snow country. Maybe it’s because I lived in warm climates most of my life, but I just don’t enjoy it. My last experience was in 2009 when I got showed in up in Washington. It was only a couple feet of snow but that was bad enough because I lived back off a road and had to get a neighbor to use his mini-plow to clear my drive way. And then driving over icy roads, and worrying about pipes freezing, no thanks!

So you have my sympathy if you are dealing with it right now. I told my nephew, who moved to Minnesota last year, Winter is coming. He now knows what that means for real and not the abstract.

Fortunately, it rarely snows in San Diego. I can even wear a tee-shirt during the daytime. I appreciate the snow in movies and maybe looking out a window inside a warm house, but that’s about it.

The “White Oscars” Meme #WhiteOscars

I’ve always found the Oscars annoying because it’s a dog and pony show. I stopped watching them a few years ago because they aren’t even remotely entertaining anymore. The hosts today are abysmal. I never liked the fake Hollywood glam crap. The red carpet is boring. And all those stars pretending to care about this BS or another. Oh, look how much I CARE!!! I have the same ribbon on that 900 people in this room have!

And they always nominate guilt movies or pretentious ego films. Occasionally someone who deserves it gets an Oscar but so many times lame stuff wins. Look through the Oscar wins and so many great films lost over the decades while forgotten junk was the winner. Hitchcok and Kubrick also never won an Oscar for their work. Two of the greatest and directors in the history of the business.

This White Oscars meme is also bogus because it’s a strong year and there are only so many slots. I’m sorry but Concussion isn’t better than The Short or Spotlight. Will Smith is good but aside from his accent he’s not doing anything new. Beast of Many Nations probably should have been nominated but the Oscars are political and its a Netflix movie. Creed was great but it was basically another Rocky sequel. Hollywood is biased about a lot of things, Not just race. They also hate genres and TV which Netflix is kind of a version of. Spike Lee is the Kanye West of directors always looking for a chance to pimp himself in the media. But his act is not going to win him any Oscars or diversity gold stars. Chiraq blew. Sorry General Lee.

I doubt I will watch it again this year either. The only thing I feel they do half way right anymore is the remembrance segments. Except they often snub some actors in those, which is unforgivable.

So, you could say I am also boycotting the Oscars. Because they’re a snooze.

RIP Glenn Frey

My favorite Eagle died today. He was 67. I freely admit I am a Eagles fan. I know some people hate them but they were my favorite band in High School and I still love their music. My favorite Frey song wasn’t an Eagles tune. It was this little crime drama ditty he did for Miami Vice. It’s not just a great jam, it tells a story and is a really strong statement on the war on drugs.

Glenn Frey – Smuggler`s Blues Video (1985)

The Power of the People

This cartoon says it all. This year we choose our next president. Many of these politicians are frauds or ignoramuses. Unfortunately, the country is as divided as it hasn’t been since the 1960s and we could be on the brink of a global war or economic collapse. So, this is not the time to blindly follow leaders. This is the time to ask real questions and do your homework. Don’t just go along with what he media says. Who we pick in November could be more serious than any choice you ever made.

people

The Quantum Terror Update

As you may know I am helping to produce a small independent horror film called The Quantum Terror, directed by Christopher Moonlight in Austin, Texas. A lot has been accomplished so far. Many scenes have been shot, but we can still use your help in finishing it. We’ve made the film with very little money, but there is still more to do. Here’s a video by Christopher explaining the latest status. You can contribute to the project on our Indygogo page.

I’ll Be At Comic Fest in February

I’ll be at the San Diego Comics Fest next month, February 12-15 as a guest. I’ll be on several panels including my Secrets of Writing workshop and a music-comics panel hosted by local artist Jay Allen Sanford. This will be my third Comic Fest show. It’s a wonderful throwback con that tries to create the informal feel of the early comic cons, and was created by one of the founders of that show. It’s held every year in Mission Valley at the Town and Country Convention center.

If you’re in San Diego next month, come by and say hi. I’ll be there all weekend.

The Trigger Event

Excerpted from The Secrets of Writing

This is one of the most critical things a story needs. It’s an event that sets the story in motion. Until this event happens, your characters are just muddling through life as they normally do. The Trigger Event kicks the plot into first gear. Now you’re moving in a direction.

Think of a story as a section of your character’s life, which has been edited down to the most interesting parts. We live from day to day, trying to achieve certain objectives. Things happen to us that sometimes changes our plans. And sometimes these events set us on a different path than the one we were on.

That’s what the trigger does. It sets your character on a path with destiny. The destiny you’ve chosen for him at the end of the story. Until the trigger he was headed in the “normal” direction his life was taking, whatever that may be. He had a goal in sight or he was doing a daily routine and everything was hunky dory. More or less.

But then the trigger event came along and totally screwed up everything. It has radically upset the life of the hero whether he realizes it or not. The trigger can either have a positive or negative effect on the hero’s life at first, but it must be dynamic. It must radically alter the status quo in a way that will take a lot of doing to change.

A story needs to have movement. It needs to propel the Audience forward at a pace where they won’t be distracted or have their mind wander. A story also needs direction, and the trigger gives the story the initial direction it needs.

In a story you have two opposing forces, the Hero and the Villain. Both will be at odds over some issue central to the story. That issue will usually be the Grail. The trigger event signals when these two forces first begin to be in opposition to each other. It may not be apparent immediately to some of the characters that this is happening, but the trigger serves as the catalyst to make the story come about.

Let’s look at a few famous movies to see some examples of a trigger event.

E.T.: The UFO that brought E.T. to earth has left without him. He’s stranded on an alien world. The UFO was seen by some government men, including a man with keys on his belt (the story’s Villain). The man with the keys senses E.T.’s presence and gives chase. E.T. runs until he reaches the safety of the garden shed where he’ll eventually meet Henry, the central Hero of the story.

STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE: A spaceship carrying Princess Leia and her two droids is captured by the Empire. Darth Vader, the main Villain, shows up to oversee the operation. The two droids escape to the planet below, where they inevitably meet Luke Skywalker, the main Hero. Luke’s Aunt and Uncle is killed when he tries to return the droids. That sets him on the path of the jedi.

SPECTRE: James Bond (the main Hero) is assigned to kill a terrorist in Mexico City. He finds a ring on the body and discovers it has traces of DNA from previous criminals he’s killed. This leads him to Mr. White, a former person of interest to tells him of this criminal organization and its mysterious leader. Bond’s pursuit of this organization takes him to the author of all his pain.

DIE HARD: John McClane, a New York Cop (the main Hero) shows up at his wife’s office party and goes into her office to make a phone call. Shortly thereafter, a band of criminals (lead by the Villain) show up and take people hostage at the party.

ALIEN: The spaceship Nostromo gets orders to land on an alien planet, where the crew (the Heroes) will come into contact with an alien species (the Villain) which will try to kill them all.

Did you notice something about all these trigger events? Either the Villain, the Hero, or both were introduced in them. This is important, because every story will be about these two forces coming into opposition. You want to make it clear who these characters are and what place do they take in the scheme of things.

So the Trigger Event not only starts the ball rolling in a certain direction, but it serves to give the audience a sense of who’s who and what’s about to go down.

In the case of E.T., we know right away that the alien is in trouble and that he’s hunted. That his only hope is to be taken in by someone who will protect him. This is a great trigger incident because it immediately gives you a clear sense of where the story is going and raises a strong question.

Star Wars: A New Hope also does a good job of establishing the nature of the Villain and his relationship to the Heroes of the story, even though we don’t see Luke Skywalker till a little while later.

In Spectre, James Bond’s discovery of a ring is a crucial lead that opens the door to solving a host of mysteries that have been plaguing him.

Placement of the Trigger Event

The Trigger Event should be placed close to the beginning of the story. You might even want to make it the first scene. The only real reason to hold off using it right away is when you need to set up some backstory so that everything makes sense. For example, in The Godfather, the trigger doesn’t happen until after the large wedding sequence. In fact, it doesn’t happen until after the infamous horse head scene. The wedding scene establishes all the main characters of the story and sets up a backstory, showing the Godfather’s relationship with his community, his power over others, and the nature of what he is. The wedding sequence also establishes his son, Michael, who is the Hero of the story. We even wait until after the Hollywood sequence before we get to the Trigger. The Hollywood sequence demonstrates Godfather Vito Corleone’s influence and power via the infamous “horse head” scene. Before then, we only heard second hand stories about the Godfather’s power. Now we’ve seen it in action. We see the fear he creates in others. We are led to believe that someone would have to be crazy to ever think of messing with this dude. This is all a set up for the Turning Point of the first act.

The Trigger Event is the scene where Vito rejects Virgil Pollazo’s offer to join him in the drug trade. By refusing Pollazo, the Godfather has created a powerful enemy who will attempt to have him assassinated at the Turning Point of the first act. Since Michael is the hero of the movie, the attempted murder of his father sets him on the path to become the new Godfather.

So, sometimes it’s necessary to wait before you use the trigger. Sometimes you need to get to know the victims first. But in any event, it must be somewhere in the first quarter of your story.
The Trigger Event can sometimes be in the backstory, rather than a scene in the first act. In Watchmen it was in the murder of the Comedian, which we only see the aftermath of in the beginning. This is because Watchmen is a mystery and it would give away the story’s big twist if we knew who killed the Comedian. This technique of placing the Trigger in the backstory is common in the mystery and crime genres. The hero of the story is arguably Rorschach who is the person who tries to solve the mystery of who killed the Comedian to the end.

REMEMBER: The trigger event gets your story rolling by providing motivation for your hero.

My Next Novel

Back in 2014 I had planned to come out with my next novel, Diogenes, which is the first part of a Superhero series of books. Then life happened and I lost my foot and then my leg in 2015. I really want in a writing mood though I did get some work done. So now I am back working on it and I hope to finish it in April for this year. I still have a long way to go but it’s coming along. I intend to release a preview of it for free on this site to people who subscribe to my news letter. So if you haven’t done so, please sign up over on the right.

Diogenes is the story of a man who finds a new lease on life when he’s killed. The experience leaves him with the power to reveal the truth about people and that makes him the most dangerous person alive.

It’s the first in a series of books I want to do to explore superheroes in a way I have not seen done before. More on that later. This was the cover I had planned but it’s subject to change.

diogenes