The Lonely Stormtrooper

Looking after a friend’s children recently I took along my Lego Stormtrooper knowing he had plenty of City Lego set up. So, my Lego Stormtrooper went visiting. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to have some fun and tell a story in the process.

The Lonely Stormtrooper #1 Taking a well earned holiday, TLS took a mystery flight to see if he could relax.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #2 At first he felt lost, just one of the crowd, but at least he had individuality here.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #3 He thought a boat trip may help him relax but he got seasick before they left the dock.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #4 Taking a wander around the port helped get rid of his seasickness but not his stress.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #5 Everything was so busy, frantic, always on the go. Just like work.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #6 Lunch for one had its advantages, sitting in the corner booth. At least the tea was good.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #7 An afternoon constitutional was in order. He liked the order of the trees. Felt like home.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #8 A stable was a welcome distraction. Everyone loves to pat equine. He missed his dewback.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #9 But one should never pass up the opportunity to spin the decks. Bringing the noise!

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #10 And there was even time for a photoshoot as a momento of his day. Black is so slimming.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #11 Then it was time to go home. Still lonely but having had a good day nonetheless. The End

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Photo A Day In January – Part 2

Here is the second collection of images from the Photo A Day in January challenge.

A reminder of what this looks like:

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Day 11 – Outdoors

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Day 12 – Something I Wore

I wore these for a friend's wedding almost 20 years ago. They have held up really well. Still wear them from time to time.

I wore these for a friend’s wedding almost 20 years ago. They have held up really well. Still wear them from time to time.

Day 13 – Three of a Kind

Tiny beanbag chickens

Tiny beanbag chickens

Day 14 – Close-Up

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Day 15 – Mail

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Day 16 – Chair

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Day 17  – Faceless

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Day 18 – White

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Day 19 – In the Hand

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Day 20 – Patterns

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Book Versus Movie

I’ve seen this image floating around the interwebz lately and initially agreed with it. 

Book Versus Movie Iceberg

The obvious suggestion is that a book offers the reader more complexity and depth than a movie; that a movie is a passive activity without detailed narrative, skipping over the juiciest and meatiest parts of a novel.

However, the more I saw it popping up in my social media feeds the more I questioned it.

The image implies a superiority of the printed word over the celluloid film, that a novel trumps film for storytelling and attention to detail. It’s a simplistic interpretation; it’s elitist and fails to embrace the complexity of film as art.

I, for one, have been disappointed in book-to-film adaptations (The Hobbit) yet also greatly impressed by book-to-film adaptations (The Lord of the Rings). I read intently the hue and cry from LOTR fans who bemoaned the excising of large swathes of narrative e.g. Tom Bombadil for the movie adaptation. Peter Jackson’s reasoning was simple: does this section move Frodo closer to Mount Doom or take him away from it?

I tell my students that film narrative is different to book narrative; each has their own language and vocabulary required to tell the story. Great film making is an art requiring a control of language more than simply words: framing, movement, lighting, sound, music, symbolism, colour, allusions, editing. 

We learn to read the shorthand of film to understand the emotional depth conveyed (dialogue, camera angles, music, sound etc) whereas in the novel we rely on the author’s words to bring us into the interior world of the character or situation.

Auteurs are adept at constructing a narrative for the audience that doesn’t rely on words alone, building their narrative through their medium. This does not make it inferior to a novel. Nor is a novel superior to a film because it requires only the imagination to create a world for the reader.

There are great novels and great films. There are rubbish novels and rubbish films. There are flaws and weaknesses in each when it comes to the power of the narrative arc but we must learn to read them differently, with a different eye and ear, with a different vocabulary and language. We must be conversant with both.

We cannot be snobbish and declare, “The book was better” if we are not conversant with the language of the other medium. True communication comes through understanding and appreciation.

Photo A Day In January

I came across a Photo A Day challenge. Better still, it gave each day a focus.

It is something different for this writer to attempt, another creative task to help get the mind thinking.

Let it be well and truly known that I am not a photographer; I am only using the camera on my phone. If the image is edited it is for black and white or cropping, with minimal colour correction/enhancement. No other filters were used.

Here is the list:

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And here is the first third. There is still time to join in.

Day 1 Black and White

My girls, aged 8 and 10.

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Day 2 What I Did Today

Celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday (that’s him in the middle, me on the left and my best mate on the right).

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Day 3 Water

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Day 4 Circle

Taking an obscure idea for this one.

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Day 5 Leaves

I’m a writer so the first thing I think of when it comes to leaves is the pages of a book.

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Day 6 Something Blue

Rediscovering my Lego collection.

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Day 7 Reading

Many years of Modern Drummer magazine (not seen is all my Phantom comics)

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Day 8 Landscape

The backyard is a landscape.

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Day 9 Shoes

I love my Converse.

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Day 10 – Lucky

Another tangential idea for this one. Three symbols I wear around my neck: the Trinity (my faith), drumsticks (my passion – other than writing), butterfly (my daughters).

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A New Year’s Writing and Reading Reflection

I had a little twitter brain explosion one afternoon when I was thinking about the editing I was planning for later that evening on a short piece of flash fiction. Think of this as a series of brain farts, a Macbeth if you will, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (one of my favourite lines from Shakespeare).

Why do I love to write? Because I love to read. The interplay of language to describe, emote, challenge, question, intrigue & entertain.

As readers we have favourite sentences or passages that capture the essence of our emotive response, better than our own words.

Passages w/ rhythm, illogical allusions that resonate, visceral gut punch, emotional core of who we are erupts as a volcano

These are the sentences we use as mantra, prayer, statement of intent, flirtation with a lover, standard of character.

E.g. ‘To be or not to be’ or ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ almost cliche yet strike at our heart’s vortex & echo with symbolism. 

This is why I read and write, and why I believe reading is so important, so necessary, so vital to our humanity.

The Year That Was; The Year That Will Be

The end of a calendar year often marks a moment of reflection, contemplation and wondering why the toilet paper runs out at the most inopportune time.

And so it is with me. 

Side note: I know someone who uses the Chinese New Year as their starting point for a creative year. I’m seriously considering using the New Financial Year (June 30/July 1) as  my starting point. That way, if I stuff up the first half of the year I can reboot in the second half. Win.

In terms of reflection here’s the tl;dr version – I achieved nothing of substance and note. No progress on synopsis, novella, verse novel, short stories. Many half started efforts, scribbled poems, half-baked ideas. Nothing finished.

I could list a rather long inventory of excuses, reasons, happenstance or circumstance for it all.

Four Takeaways from This Year

  1. It’s virtually impossible to rebuild when you’re burnt out. Even doing small, seemingly achievable pieces can be a chore and have no significance.  
  2. Indecision and lack of focus are detrimental to making progress
  3. Without setting realistic goals and targets you will get nowhere.
  4. I didn’t read enough.

Four Steps to Making Progress Next Year

  1. Read more frequently – feed the soul and fill the well. This includes more drumming practice (too often neglected as a way of refilling the well).
  2. Set realistic goals and targets. I received a Pilot Press diary this year to keep track of my goals and targets. I have already set up my goals for January.
  3. Take care of my mental health to avoid burn out. Learn when to say “No,” when to say “Yes,” and work out what is important. Prioritise.
  4. Get Stuff Done. This is my mantra for 2016. 

May your 2016 be a productive year. 

The Power of Story

We all remember stories that have an impact on our lives; the books we read or the movies we saw from our childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

We internalise the characters, their dialogue, idiosyncrasies, their hopes and dreams as if they were ours.

But beyond the story is the bigger ideas, the bigger questions nestled within the text, wrapped up in the books on the character’s shelf or in the pockets of their favourite jacket. We take them, often unconsciously, and slip them between the pages of our notebooks or hide them under our pillows.

The power of the story lies within the big ideas or questions revealed in the narrative. These big ideas and questions find their expression and meaning in the actions and emotions of individual characters going about their day to day business.

The reader understands the narrative as a microscopic view of a telescopic realm. The narrative is a parable of meaning expressed in the actions of fictional characters we believe to be real because we understand their lives as if they were ours.

This is the power of story.