THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR AND HOW TO WRITE WELL

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A couple weekends ago, I finished watching Daredevil on Netflix. This was before a second season was announced, so I am trying to keep the majority of my thoughts about the series and my overall impressions limited to pre-second season announcement.

Daredevil in terms of tone, source material and execution is perhaps one of the truest to form adaptations I have seen of a comic book property, and also one of the best that has emerged from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A street-level vigilante, Daredevil as a character and as a series struck a particularly dark, grimy and bloody tone. Charlie Cox was one of the key highlights of casting from the series, and his portrayal of an antagonist straddling the lines of the law had the right balance of delusional, righteous, and almost humbling. Our hero takes a beating (several in fact), and while he toes the line throughout the series, seems to always just come short of crossing it, his religious and legal convictions holding him back.

Daredevil is a show that gave a little something to everyone. For non-fans, it gave a gritty crime drama. For fans, it gave them a new, fresh take on the Daredevil mythos, and for Marvel Studios, it gave them an opportunity to reinvent the character after their abysmal attempt to bring the Man Without Fear to the silver screen under Ben Affleck.

The writers on the series took their time giving us the origin story of Daredevil. Instead of rushing through a five minute montage, the writersgave us the backstory over the course of the 13-episode series. Largely adapting the Frank Miller origin tale Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, the show adds a few nuances, takes a few liberties, and pays if off rather well. For fans unaware of the character, or with limited exposure, they got a solid story that gets them into Hell’s Kitchen and into the heads of our protagonist and antagonist. For fans of the character, they get a rather faithful retelling of a well-loved storyline. For the mega fans, there’s easter eggs galore, such as when Nobu the head of the Japenese mob goes after Daredevil. Dressed in red ninja robes, the average person would see him as a ninja. For longtime fans, it’s a nod and a wink to The Hand, a notorious sect of ninjas that have plagued Daredevil over the years.

…Or even the use of Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime. He is offhandedly referred to as “The King” in the series, but his somewhat hokier comic book moniker of the Kingpin is not referenced, instead the writers playing with the gag that Fisk’s name should never be uttered (a double-entente, referring to his moniker not being used, and also Fisk’s desire to remain a secret).

So where am I going with all of this? Simply said, that in a world where we have an over-saturation of comic book properties become movies and television shows, one or two truly rise above all the others, and it comes down to writing. Get a good story, give something to a broad range of viewers, gather strong actors, and the finished product will speak for itself.

A FIRST FOR 2015 (BUT NOT QUITE)

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For the first time in 2015, I started putting words down in a word processor over the weekend. And then quickly scrapped them. The core idea will remain, but the opening approach just did not seem to work for me.

For the first time since high school I am writing something formal in first person narrative. This particular piece, what I think will be a short story that will help me figure out characters for National Novel Writing Month later this year, feels like it should be written in first person narration. It feels that way, because if I continue with these characters in November, the novel idea is something that I would really like to do in first person.

I used to think that first person narration was the easiest, and that writing third person would be the more difficult. In fact, Closer was originally first person narration through Jonothon’s eyes, but somewhere in the middle of the first draft I switched it to third person. I can not remember why I did it, it has been years since that change occurred, but I seem to think now it was probably because first person ended up being a lot more than I thought.

Some things apparently do not change for writers.

Will the short story be first person? Yes. I just need to figure it out just a little more before I go ahead with a new opening.

The important thing is that I started writing. It may have only been a few paragraphs that were subsequently trashed, but it was a starting point. This year has been a stressful one so far, and writing has just gone the wayside turing this time period. This weekend marked dipping my toes in. I am hoping the next attempt is at least a foot. Or maybe I will get it up to knees and start wading in once again.

LOOKING… FOR REALNESS IN WRITING

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Watching the season finale of Looking last night hit a little too close to home. I have been in the situation that Patrick found himself with Kevin before. And I reacted for better or for worse, the same way that Patrick did. It was quite honestly uncomfortable watching some of those scenes last night; a mix of what it must be like to watch your parents fight, and a stark reminder of my own personal history.

As much as I rail against the show at times to friends, this is perhaps one of the best, most nuanced depiction of gay men, and gay relationships I have seen on television. It is not all about sex and partying and all the other tropes that Queer as Folk trotted out nearly two decades ago. Instead we are given a group of gay men who love, live, laugh, struggle and persevere through life. There is something truly special about that show. As much as Patrick frustrates me in naivety, I have come to realize that there is a lot of him in me. And perhaps that is the sign of exceptional writing, when you find yourself strangely relating to a character on multiple levels, a character that irritates you.

Now I am a bit jealous, because the characters on Looking, especially Patrick and Kevin, are ones that I strive to create and to write about whenever I try my hand at a new novel or story. I realize that in terms of craft I am not quite hitting the same strides, but this does provide me with a certain benchmark of what I would like to achieve in my writing.

If you are not watching Looking, you should. It is smartly written, with three dimensional characters that shine. It may just find itself creeping into my list of favourite television series one day soon.

CONSUMING BUT NOT PRODUCING

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It has been a bit too long since I last wrote here. As always it seems, real life takes over, and I find myself with very little time or motivation to write. I have been consuming a lot of pop culture lately though, and it has started to inspire me quite a lot.

Over the course of January and February I read The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal, one of the first mainstream homosexual novels to come out after the Second World War, and City of Night by John Rechy, controversial for the fact that it was semi-autobiographical about Rechy’s experiences as a male hustler. The City and the Pillar was an excellent read, while City of Night fell flat for me.

I have been having mixed reactions to television as well. I finally signed up for Netflix, and have been spending far too much time watching stuff on that (but then again, who can claim that they do not?). I watched a documentary on transgender porn star Buck Angel, called Mr. Angel, which I thought was exceptional. Last weekend I watched Getting Go, the Go Doc Project which is a fictional gay love story told in documentary style, which I thought was exceptional. Then there was German gay film, Free Fall. It was awful. I will leave my opinion as that.

I have also been watching HBO’s Looking religiously. The main character Patrick still really gets on my nerves, but I have been finding the second season fairly strong, with some great character work, including a fantastic Doris-centric story last weekend. My issues with the protaganist, I think it has done one of the most balanced, nuanced portrayal of gay men in a long time (though it could serve to step up its game and introduce a lesbian & a transgender person).

So inspired, I hope to finally return to the keyboard tomorrow. Someone please hold me to this?

SO IT’S BEEN A WHILE…

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I had not planned on taking such a long hiatus from this blog. In fact, I had not planned on taking a hiatus at all! I completed National Novel Writing Month at the end of the November, making me a eight time winner, and then promptly got really busy between my two jobs, and then sick, and then even busier with one job. Before I knew it, it was Chrismukkah, and I have not had the time to write.



That changes though, with the new year, and with a new set of challenges. Every year I do something called my “Accomplishments List”. It is not a resolutions list (people constantly fail at resolutions), instead it is a list of things that I wish to accomplish. It is a mix of fitness stuff, travel, personal stuff and of course writing. The writing stuff is the most applicable to this blog, so let’s talk about that.



I will write a novel (big surprise), but it will be my last year of competiting in National Novel Writing Month. Writing a novel in a month is a crazy idea to begin with, but I simply do not have the time anymore. I have a full time career as a government drone, a part-time gig as a Personal Trainer, and a passion to sleep more than two hours a night. So why am I not just saying screw it to National Novel Writing Month now? Glory. My previous “winning” streak stood at four novels before I failed in 2010. I tied that record last year. If I comp(l)ete this year, it will be my tenth time, my possible ninth win, and a five time winner in a row. That is a pretty damn good high to end on.



I am also going to write six short stories this year, posting each as I complete them. They will be rough, they will be first drafts, but they will be something available to consume.

FOREWORD, ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND DEDICATION



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I’m done with National Novel Writing Month. I crossed the 50,000 word mark early this week, and have taken a break from writing. I will go back to finish the story in a few weeks, but for now, I am enjoying not staring at my computer screen all day long. The last two weeks of the contest were difficult for me, but I managed to persevere despite it all. I will post one last excerpt tomorrow, but for now I thought I would share the foreword, acknowledgements and dedication for this project.



Foreword


Certain T began with an idea and an image, and initially the two were completely unrelated from each other. The idea, or rather ideas, were to cover topics such as “the next steps” in a relationship and surrogacy of children. I was not sure how it was going to pan out initially. I was in a relationship when the planning for this novel had begun last spring, but by the time fall came around and it was time to seriously commit to the ideas and characters, and then write it, I was single. The “next step” in this case for me, was choosing to take the single path once again. I wrestled with how I would portray the next steps on the page. I wanted to do it in a way that was realistic, but not in a way that would be too close to home for me, or too embittered. I think I did okay in balancing all of that.



The image though, the image was something I had decided on very early on. I had this image in my head of a bearded man who was over six feet tall, probably about two hundred and fifty pounds, and dressed up as a woman. Was not a drag queen, but rather a crossdresser. In the female identity, her name would be Pearl O’Wysdom, and she would provide life advice, or serve the tea (truth) to those who were willing to pay for that advice. Not as a life coach in the traditional sense. No, she would be serving up sass and straight-up life advice in a bar, on gay night. Pearl was born, and from there, a way for me to start connecting the dots on the characters and their stories.



I returned to characters I had previously written back in 2011 for National Novel Writing Month. They still had some story left in them, and in the case of Cooper, has sort of unofficially become the representation of who I am in my thirties. Cooper is more sure of himself than the last time I wrote about him, but that does not mean he is completely put together. He has his flaws, and he is still learning, just as I am still learning.



A brand new character stood out as one of my favorites. Bradley has got a great internal struggle that he is trying find a suitable outlet for in the pages of the novel. He is perhaps the character that goes through the most, and when I had originally developed him for this novel, it was with the idea that he would just be a bit part that served another story. Lo and behold, I start writing him, really enjoy writing him and his part begins to expand from there.


Certain T in the end, was a novel I largely pulled together from seemingly disparate parts adn put together into a whole. It is not quite a mish-mash, but the sums of the parts somehow miraculously made a whole.



Acknowledgements



As always, there is always a number of people to acknowledge throughout National Novel Writing Month. Nine years later, it astounds me the number of people who encourage, influence and just generally keep me going through this contest. Everyone has had a significant contribution, even if I did the bulk of the work, so to speak, in the past month.



To my clients, thank you eternally for your patience, your support, and your cheerleading this past month. I know I have been a bit distracted, but your sessions gave me a much needed forced break from writing, and it always seemed to be at times when I really needed a break. Special mention to those clients who asked how I was doing, not just writing, but as a writer who was juggling a day-time career, a part-time career and writing a novel in a month (what was I actually thinking this year?). Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.



Thank you to Ali. As a first time National Novel Writing Month participant, I had the opportunity to truly mentor a growing writer, and that in turn helped reignite my passion for writing. I hope this is just the first of many competition years for you.



Thank you to Mandi, another incredibly talented writer who I thoroughly love talking about writing to. Your insights are worth their weight in gold, but more importantly your support and passion for the art of writing is something I have never personally known in another person before.



Thank you to Alex for providing some key critiques as I wrote. I may not have implemented everything you said while I was writing, but rest assured I make notes of what you say for further reference, and I will be coming back to it for the revision process.



To my parents and my brother, Andrew, who still think I’m batshit crazy nine years later for doing a contest like this, but especially for coming back to it every year, but thank you especially for not harping at me if I did not return phonecalls or text messages right away.



Thank you to everyone who influenced a character, a plot, or even just a snippet of dialogue. You do not know who you are, and that is intention (I wish not to be sued in some cases), but know that contributions of all kinds and sizes is what helps me the most when it comes time to approach the keyboard.


Dedication



To Mandi. The universe works in mysterious ways. It is not always fair, just, or even kind, but your passion for writing is only exceeded by your passion for life.


THE SECOND WEEK, PEARL AND BRADLEY



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The second week of the contest has been really rough for me. I was hoping to be closer to 40,000 words, but the reality is, I will not even make 35,000 at this rate. The inspiration and the motivation just are not there at the moment. However, I half expected that to happen, and I am willing to ride it out until the upswing hits.



Meanwhile, I have been thinking about a couple of characters a lot this week. Pearl, as a main character has had to remain an enigma. This is on purpose, because I do not plan on revealing her story until the final scenes of the novel. I am hoping that it has a big pay-off, but I have not quite figured out at what point that is going to happen. I have dropped hints and clues a few times throughout the piece so far, but I feel like at some point, and some point soon, I will have to address her story.



As for Bradley, he surprises me. He is a lot of fun to write, but I am starting to notice that a lot of his scenes seem repetitive. In the editing stage I imagine a few of his scenes will get cut out entirely, but for the time being his character has actually been more fun to write than I had originally thought.



All the other characters are around, I am writing them, and they really are not standing out or causing me troubles, so I suppose they have been serving their purpose.







Bradley went out that night. He had an itch that needed to be scratched, and it could no longer be ignored. He went to a bar first, and was not able to pick up, so moved onto a another bar, by the time he struck out on the third bar, he was becoming not only restless, but a little desperate as well.



 He did not want to end up here, but he honestly had no other choice. He had heard about this place from a conversation between two gay guys in a bar several months ago. It was where you could go for anonymous sex. Go in, get what you need, get off and then get out. The location and the actual idea did not really appeal to Bradley but he desperately needed to get off, and there were no other outlets around him presenting themselves.



 Bradley stepped through the non-descript door. He was not even sure from outside the building if he was at the right place or not, but upon entering knew he was at his destination. There was a front desk area, that looked more like a coat check alcove. There was someone standing behind the counter and Bradley approached cautiously. The guy behind the counter, not much older than Bradley himself looked up from the magazine he was casually flipping through.



 “First time here?” The guy asked, as he absent mindedly flipped another page. “Rules are up there,” he said pointing to a list or rules and regulations. “It’s twenty dollars, and you can stay as long as you want. Hot tub is broken though, so you might as well skip that. If you want to smoke, we’d prefer you use the outdoor balcony on the second floor instead of traipsing in and out of the main door.”



 Bradley nodded quietly as he reached into his wallet and pulled out a twenty dollar bill.



 “If you need condoms are packets of lubricant, you can find them throughout the building. Lockers are down the hall and to the right. They are a quarter each. Any questions?”



 “Is it busy?”



 The guy behind the counter raised an eyebrow. “You missed the happy hour orgy, if that’s what you’re wondering,” he replied sarcastically. Bradley frowned in annoyance, and the guy noticed. “Thursdays aren’t typically our busiest night,” he explained. “There are a few guys… I noticed that there was a circle jerk going on a little while ago in the dry sauna. Might want to check that out.”



 “Thanks,” Bradley mumbled and he made his way down the hall. He stored his valubles in the locker and took the key out of the lock. He saw a small sign tha indicated keys for private rooms, and he grabbed one, while searching the doors around him for numbers. Finding the corresponding room, Bradley slipped inside.