Emotional Investment

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Do you like sequels? Do you like reading/watching something that is formulaic or predictable?

It’s okay, we all do. I’m of the opinion that it’s a form of intellectual snobbery to insist that people must only consume stories that challenge them emotionally. Just because something is hard to read or makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s good or good for you. (It also doesn’t mean it’s bad.)

The reason we love things like sequels and series is the emotional investment. That the energy (mental or emotional) that it takes for someone to read or watch something. It’s the reason that some of us find it easier to watch 6 episodes of a TV show than 1 new movie.

When starting something new as a reader or watcher, you need to invest energy into the characters, understanding how they interact, figuring out the setting, understanding the plot, and trying to figure out how it all goes together.

With a sequel or formula, you already know the characters and the setting which frees you to relax and enjoy the other aspects.

As a writer, you need to think about the amount of energy people will be willing to spend. Having lots of characters and complex settings mean more energy for a reader to get into the book. If the characters die a lot, especially POV, or the complex setting keeps shifting then readers might feel their energy was wasted and not want to continue.

The same goes with playing around with tropes and genres. You have to set up how your book and setting are different early enough that people won’t feel cheated.

Of course everyone’s Emotional Investment quotas are different, as is their cost. Some people are energized by multiple characters where half die in the second book. Some people don’t invest that much in characters while others don’t care about setting. Everyone’s different.

It’s important to keep it in mind but it’s impossible to tailor to everyone. (Just like everything in writing.)

So next time you find yourself exhausted and wanting to re-read a book or just watch a random episode of a police procedural, remind yourself that it’s okay.

What books do you find draining but worth it? Mine are The Malazan series by Stephen Erikson. They are so much work, but a lot of fun. I usually have give myself a big pep talk before starting.

Latter Days,

Éric

Spies in Disguise – WMR

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2019 movie Spies in Disguise.

Story

The movie starts as a standard spy thriller reminiscent of older James Bond. It even has a Bond-style intro sequence. There’s a car chase, stakeout, and they add a great twist by inserting an awkward and slightly out there scientist and gadget maker.

The movie exploits the tropes of Spy Thrillers, Accidental Spy, and buddy comedy in a way that could have easily been cringe worthy but wasn’t.

The themes of the movie seem to be a combination of violence begets violence and to challenge tradition. Which is pretty subtle and backed up with some spectacular action sequences.

That being said, it was a little predictable.

Score: .5

Characters

The tough guy scared by loss who’s a super spy is a tired cliché and is used to make you dislike the character to start with and redeem him in the long run. Will Smith does a great job with a character that could have been less likeable than Daniel Craig’s Bond. Unfortunately the character spends far too much of the movie on bravado and complaining. It gets annoying.

The geeky scientist who is driven by a sad backstory is normally the villain. He has every earmark of turning bad, but the writers never even let you think it a possibility. He’s a stalwart believer in a non-fatal form of justice. (Spider-Man, is that you?)

The secondary characters are entertaining but the villain is utterly forgettable.

Score: .5

Dialogue

Quipy, intelligent, and delightful. The movie shines in it’s dialogue and visuals.

A nice bonus for both an animated movie and a spy story was that the techno-babble was coherent and based in real science.

Score: 1

Visuals

It was a beautiful movie. Using visuals to move the story forward and add humour. It’s a beautiful movie that would be hilarious even without sound.

Score: 1

Fun

Other than a few times I wanted to slap the Spy character or the spy agency people, I really enjoyed this movie. There’s action, adventure, humour, and a feeling that everything will work out.

Score: 1

Conclusion

This is one of the better spy spoofs that I’ve seen. It avoids a lot of the pratfalls of awkwardness and really delivers some clever laughs. Dragon laughed a lot and sat the entire time.

Final Score: 4 Stars

Point Zero – Chapter 1


Prologue | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 1: Changes, Walking, and Helicopters of Death.

Other than the searing pain and the green fire, the thing that is most etched into my memory is the smell of burnt hair. While my hair had been getting shaggy, for me, it had been completely burned away. That stench still makes me wretch any time I smell it.

The five of us were alone on a plane of emerald glass and four of us were moaning in pain. All of us had burn marks on parts of our bodies, but they looked months old. 

“Frank… Oh shit Frank’s not breathing.” James bent over Frank’s now scarred face and tried to do mouth to mouth and chest compressions. We all reached for our phones to discover there was nothing there. After what felt like much too long, he stopped. 

Gasping for air, James asked, “Why is it so hard to breathe?” He reached up to his neck and felt under the corners of his hoodie. It had two otters on it and said, Otterly Adorable; Mel had given it to him. He said a few curse words before adding, “I have gills. How did I get gills?”

“Where are we?” Jane asked, either oblivious to James’s panic or ignoring it. 

I felt the green glass we stood on and looked around. It stretched for almost as far as the eye could see. Far at a distance I saw trees. “I think I see forest over that way.”

“I have webs between my fingers!” James started to hyperventilate. Mel grabbed his hand and tried to calm him by helping him breathe. It wasn’t working. “I couldn’t save him… He’s already cold…” James was gasping for air and crying at the same time.

“It’s not your fault James. Don’t feel Gill-ty,” Mel punned, but had the good taste to cringe. Everyone stopped what they were doing and we just stared at her. She sheepishly said, “Sorry.” We all burst into manic laughter.

When we were done, James was softly sobbing. Mel and I picked up Frank’s body and we started walking towards the trees. 

After the burning feeling, the cold was almost a relief until it became too much. My head was the first part to get cold and I looked at my friends, “Why am I the only one who doesn’t have hair?”

“Hey, at least you don’t have gills. Wait, maybe I’ll actually be able to breathe underwater.” James started to sound excited instead of upset.

We were all dressed for September in Northern Ontario, but the weather was closer to winter now and our long sleeves and hoodies weren’t cutting it. We were all shivering and the sun was hiding from us behind clouds.

“Man, I wish the sun would could out of those clouds. I could at least pretend to be warm,” I said. Trying to be funny was Mel’s thing, but I need to talk.

The others stopped and looked at me funny, Jane tilted her head and said, “It’s the middle of the night? We can barely see each other. The only reason we’re going this way is ‘cause you said you saw trees.” The rest of them nodded in agreement and I looked up. The bright spot behind the clouds wasn’t the sun but the moon.

“I can see clearly all the way past the glass. What the hell happened to us?”

We moved slowly towards the forest and just as we were giving up hope of ever feeling warm again, we were blinded by a bright light and the loud noises of helicopters. Someone over a loud speaker yelled, “This is the RCMP please lay down flat on the floor and don’t make any sudden moves.” We all swore, some of us in surprise and others in fear. Mel’s dad was native and both of them had been harassed by the cops more then they should. RCMP were always called in during a protest to protect land or anything else to do with the local Reserves. We had all been arrested for loitering in a provincial park once while camping; that wasn’t fun.

We started to move but I guess we hadn’t moved fast enough, ’cause I heard gunfire. I was looking at Jane and she turned bright white before completely disappearing. I threw up my arms and bright green lightning formed a dome around us that the bullets just bounced off of.

“How are you doing that?” asked James who was starting to hyperventilate again. “We have to get out of here.”

Whatever I was doing to create the protective dome felt like running at top speed. I tried to breathe like they’d taught us in gym class, not that I paid much attention, but I tried. Unfortunately, the effort was too much and I fell down gasping. “Sorry.”

“We’re not dead, you did great.” Mel put her hand on my shoulder. She was looking fuzzy like a chalk drawing. I assumed I was about to pass out.

“Lay down on the ground and no one gets hurt,” the loudspeakers shouted at us.

A small flash of light appeared beside us and Jane grabbed our hands. “This is going to hurt. Sorry.”

Bright white light and searing pain blocked everything out for me. When it was over I felt like every nerve had been poked with a very sharp stick.

I looked around at the dusty old furniture and asked, “Where are we?” 

Read Next Chapter (February 2020)


While you wait for the next chapter, check out previous serial stories:

2019 Book Rankings

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

This year I read 21 books, one of which was mine.

If you like Fantasy and Adventure, try Everdome By Éric Desmarais

5 Stars

  1. That Ain’t Witchcraft (InCryptid, #8) By McGuire, Seanan
  2. Star-Crossed By Dee, Barbara
  3. Skylark By Carrière, S.M.
  4. The Measure of a Monster By McGuire, Seanan
  5. Justice Calling (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, #1) By Bellet, Annie
  6. My Teacher Glows in the Dark (My Teacher Is an Alien, #3) By Coville, Bruce
  7. My Teacher Fried My Brains (My Teacher Is an Alien, #2) By Coville, Bruce

4 Stars

  1. The Unkindest Tide (October Daye, #13) By McGuire, Seanan
  2. The Red Trailer Mystery (Trixie Belden, #2) By Campbell, Julie
  3. The Secret of the Mansion By Campbell, Julie
  4. Midnight at Madame Leota’s (Tales from the Haunted Mansion #2) By Arcane, Amicus
  5. Voltron: Legendary Defender #3 (of 5) By Hedrick, Tim
  6. Hope is Swift By McGuire, Seanan
  7. An Adventurer’s Guide to Eberron By Bonner, Logan
  8. The Gatehouse Mystery (Trixie Belden #3) By Campbell, Julie
  9. Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider, Vol. 1: Spider-Geddon By McGuire, Seanan

3 Stars

  1. Pack of Lies (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #3) By Bellet, Annie
  2. Murder of Crows (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, #2) By Bellet, Annie

2 Stars

  1. Disney After Dark By Pearson, Ridley
  2. Strawberry Cream Cupcake & Murder (Dana Sweet #1) By Marie, Ann S.

What was your favourite book?

Éric

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – WMR

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2019 film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Warning Spoilers!

Story

This is marked as the end of the Skywalker Saga (AKA numbered Star Wars movies) and was meant to tie up the loose ends and stories of the old, new, and middle characters in the series.

Although the story was pretty coherent, it was meandering and often got marred down by awkward nostalgia. Treating things like the fallen death star or Luke’s old X-wing as near magical artifacts of nostalgia.

As much as this felt like a love letter to the old Star Wars, it also felt like a massive set up for the future of that universe. Introducing so many new elements into the last movie that some from previous movies faded into the background. (Poor Rose.)

Overall, it was hopeful, anyone can be redeemed, the force is with us, you aren’t your parents, etc etc. (What’s with American entertainment and the obsession with hereditary power and competence.)

It was fun, but overly self-indulgent in it’s own mythos. Also “Wonder-Force-Twins” ex-machina.

Score: 0.5

Characters

I’ll have to watch the whole trilogy again but I felt that the characters changed a lot between movies. Poe’s character seemed to have the least consistency between movies, but even Rey felt different.

The only completely consistent character was Kylo.

It was nice to see the old crew, but overall it was frustrating to see the inconsistencies.

I did love Leia though.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

The dialogue was exactly what you’d expect from a post-Lucas Star Wars. Hammy but not to the point of cringe. Lots of throwbacks and the actors genuinely delivered emotion.

Nothing stood out as infinitely quotable and a lot of it was whiny.

Score: 0

Visuals and Music

This was Star Wars. Visuals and Music are essential the best parts. When the Star Wars theme starts playing during the opening exposition crawl, I get shivers.

This is genuinely beautiful. From lightsaber fights on a storm-wracked wreck, to jungle planets, and the Sith homeworld. It was wonderful to watch.

Score: 1

Fun

There was a part of the movie near the end where Rey has gone off on her own and the others are feeling helpless that I just got bored. From that part onward, it felt like the ending was both rushed story-wise and slow pacing-wise.

Score: 0.5

Conclusion

This was a Star Wars movie. It had all the Star Wars stuff, both good and bad. I can see why some people loved it. I can also see where some people hated it.

Final Score: 2.5 Stars

2019 Movie Rankings

Hello Cinephiles,

This year was a pretty good year for movies. Some fantastic action offerings and absolutely amazing animated films.

I saw 22 movies and for the first time in a long time I didn’t see anything that I hated.

This is the fifth year that an animated film is my highest ranked and the second that it’s not a Disney movie.

This is the ranking of movies I saw in theatres (or rented) that were released in 2019. This doesn’t include Netflix originals, made for TV Movies, or straight to DVD releases.

These are ranked by how much I enjoyed them and not their quality as “Films”.

Absolutely Loved

  1. Abominable
  2. Frozen II
  3. Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
  4. Captain Marvel
  5. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  6. Spies in Disguise
  7. Shazam!
  8. Men In Black: International
  9. Pokemon Detective Pikachu
  10. Happy Death Day 2U

It was good

  1. The Kid Who Would Be King
  2. Hobbs & Shaw
  3. Jumanji: The Next Level
  4. Charlie’s Angels
  5. Knives Out
  6. Aladdin (Live Action)

Meh

  1. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
  2. How To Train Your Dragon: Hidden World
  3. Dora and the Lost City of Gold
  4. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  5. Avengers: Endgame
  6. Toy Story 4

Looks like 2020 will be eclectic and interesting.

What was your favourite movie this year?

Éric