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No READING post tonight!

2 Jan

Sadface. Normally, I would take today to talk about something I’ve read and how it shaped my writing, but I moved into the dorms at a new college today, so I am just plum tuckered out. But you should watch the Winter Premier of Pretty Little Liars, which airs tonight in less than FIFTEEN minutes!

WATCHING: Suburgatory

15 Dec

Watching: Suburgatory
Why you should be watching: Culture, Comedy, Genre-Blending

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I promised myself I was going to do this week’s watching post about a movie, but I couldn’t resist. I’ve become so addicted to Suburgatory. Created Emily Kapnek, ABC’s fledgling sitcom has me cracking up. Every week. I thought it would be funny based on the trailer, but it surpassed my expectations.

The show chronicles the adventures of Tessa (Jane Levy) a fifteen-year-old high schooler who is uprooted from Manhattan, and moved to the fictional affluent suburb, by her father, George, played by Jeremy Sisto (who you may remember as Elton from Clueless!!). After finding a box of condoms in Tessa’s room, single dad George decided its time for a change.

Neither one of them knew exactly what they were getting into.


Culture

Everyone and everything is Chatswin is expected to fall into one mold, so much so that it’s almost like the town and everyone in it is one giant organism. Everyone drives the same kind of car, wears the same kinds of clothes, and has similar homes. Parents are obsessed with staying young and hot, and depending on who they are, they want to either be the cool parents, or the best, or some fusion of both.

The point is, once the writer’s immerse you in the Red Bull-swilling, perfect-lawn-having, country-club -going culture of Chatswin, you are there. Sure, the writers play on stereotypes and draw on other works (The Stepford Wives, Mean Girls) but even when you know what kind of people to expect in Chatswin, you never know what’s going to happen, especially as square-peg Tessa struggles to forge a life for herself in this round-hole world.

Comedy

There are lots of different types of comedy, and different types work for different people. For example, I really love the quick-paced, super-witty comedic style of Gilmore Girls, but sometimes I enjoy the darker, bleaker kind of comedy like you might find in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And Suburgatory doesn’t exactly fit into either of those. Suburgatory relies on timing, great one-liners and and the wonderful thing that is that feeling you get when you’re like: “Did she really just say that?”

The entire cast is brilliant, whether they get to crack the jokes, or play the straight man. Cheryl Hines plays the sweet, if silly Dallas, mother to high school queen bee Dahlia. And she is seriously wonderful. Then there’s crazy-stupid Dahlia (Carly Chaikin, of The Last Song) herself. Check out these two in the clips below.

Genre-Blending

Lastly, Suburgatory does what any great show/movie/book does. The writers do a really great job of blending genres. Just as you’re cracking up, the show slides right into a sweet moment. It’s emotional without being schmaltzy, and funny without being over the top. It’s clear that George and Tessa love one another, though they may struggle with forging along without Tessa’s rarely-mentioned mother.

In the first episode, Dallas takes Tessa shopping so that she can better assimilate to life in Chatswin. She walks on her in the changing room to see Tessa in this God-awful very functional sports bra. At the end of the episode, she brings her a lacy pink bra, simply because she knows Tessa doesn’t have anyone else in her life to do it for her. That Dallas can go from saying things like “Oh, I don’t eat in public,” to bringing Tessa’s favorite band to her sixteenth birthday party, really highlights that the show and its writers are paying attention to life, not just genre.

BONUS: If you haven’t been watching, you’ll love Tessa. She’s feisty, funny and bold!

So what do you think? Do you watch Suburgatory? Do you crack up every week? Plan on waching it now? Let me know!

Pretty Little Liars: We Find Out Who “A” Is!

14 Dec

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I’ve talked about my love for Pretty Little Liars in the past, and my fervor hasn’t fizzled out. In fact, the fire has just been flamed! Earlier today, in an article from Entertainment Weekly (and in many tweets from cast and crew of PLL, in particular, I. Marlene King, @imarleneking, executive producer) it was revealed that at the end of season two, we will get to see who “A” is! If you’re like me, you’re wondering how can this be! You may also have spent half and hour theorizing with your mom or best friend or anyone who would listen. Check out the original article for details!

Need someone to chat with about the upcoming mystery? Can’t wait for Season Two, part two? Drop a comment or shoot me an email, I want to know your best bet for “A.”

WATCHING: The Secret Circle

1 Dec

Watching: The Secret Circle

Why you should be watching: Clichés

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This freshman drama from The CW network based on the book series by L.J. Smith (of Vampire Diaries fame) is already kind of addicting. I’m super-excited for the return of the show in early January. It’s an interesting blend of teen drama and the supernatural. I’m no newbie to either genre. I count The O.C and the early years of One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl among my favorites in the former category, and Charmed and True Blood in the latter.And these in addition to the probably hundreds of books I’ve read in either category, and usually with plenty of overlap, like the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, or the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz.

Needless to say, I’ve encountered just about every cliché in the genre, and The Secret Circle hits just about every single one of them. However (huge however), this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The show revolves around newly orphaned Cassie Blake, who moves back to her mother’s hometown to live with her maternal grandmother. While in town, Cassie is approached by various members of a group of five teenagers. The thing is, each of them is one part of a circle of witches, that there families have been involved in going back for generations. They need Cassie to complete the circle of six, and must convince her of her powers. All while keeping their powers secret from the rest of the town—including their parents! Along the way, The Secret Circle taps about every cliché you could expect to see, but in a totally awesome way. There’s a reason clichés exist, right?

WARNING: spoilers ahead! If you haven’t seen all the episodes of The Secret Circle but plan on it, stop reading! If it doesn’t matter, or you’re all caught up, read on!

The Love Triangle

The love triangle has been done to death. And its pretty much been a requirement since Twilight (though writers were doing it before and more deftly, just saying). But there’s a reason it works.

Early on, we encounter long time GF and BF (and members of the circle) Diana Meade and Adam Conant. Cassie and Adam are attracted to each other pretty much from the moment Cassie moves to Chance Harbor. He’s the first person she works magic with, and consequently, he splits her world wide open. And then there’s Diana.Arguably Cassie’s best friend in town, Diana is super-sweet and nice to Cassie even though she doesn’t know her. And then there’s Adam’s father, Ethan, an alcoholic who owns a local restaurant/bar who tells Adam that his and Cassie’s relationship is written in the stars (like, his should have been with Cassie’s mom, but that didn’t happen). Though Cassie and Adam never really act on their burgeoning feelings for each other, they have enough chemistry and show it often enough that Diana actually breaks up with Adam!

(Adam and Cassie, makin’ magic. Photo Credit.)

Whew! Now, here’s why The Secret Circle is awesome: in an emotion and unexpected twist, after the break up, it’s Diana who goes running right to Cassie, because she dosen’t think that anyone else could understand it better. As of the mid-season finale, though there were some obvious tensions, Cassie and Adam still hadn’t hooked up and Cassie and Diana were still friends. (Though, if you’re like me, you’re probably waiting for the Cassie-Adam moment. I mean, they’re written in the stars, right?)

The Bad Boy/Girl

Faye Chamberlain is Chance Harbor’s resident bad girl. She looks and acts like she could have walked out of The Craft. All she seems to care about is her own powers—period, and anything that gets in the way of that has got to go. She’s rude, a little crude, and gorgeous, natch.

But of course, Faye is also loyal to her best friend, Melissa, and to her family, and she can really be called on when the going gets tough. Because of these, Faye is easy to like, but I’m waiting on her to subvert her cliché a little—either go really, bad, or do something really good.

Onto the bad boy—Nick. We get Nick Armstrong (who is the only member of the coven to have lost both of his parents other than Cassie, beeteedubs) who’s good-looking, brooding and sleeping with Melissa. He’s mean to her, and generally is only interested in her when she’s in his bed. Then, when Melissa insists she needs more, he actually manages to step up to the plate—just in time to be semi-accidentally murdered by Charles Meade (yes, MEADE, as in Diana’s dad, but more on that in a moment.) There is momentary panic—poor Melissa, what about the circle, etc, etc.

Enter Jake, Nick’s older, badder brother. This guy is so bad, he’s straight up traitorous. Even though he completes the circle, he’s angry because magic took his parents, so he became a witch-hunter. Though it appears he might be happier having a circle, and making eyes at Cassie, for now, no one knows how bad this bad guys is, or if he’ll drag Cassie to the dark side with him.

The Villains

The more the show goes on, the more baddies make themselves known. The group knows about the witch-hunters, who were more aggressive, but Dawn Chamberlain, Faye’s mother, and Charles Meade have a plan in action to get their powers back. Because of some accident years before, they, along with the rest of their circle, had their powers stripped.

Dawn and Charles have an elaborate plan that involves the kids, but that mystery is still unfolding. But still. We’re used to villains, especially villains who pretend they aren’t. But parents? Who love you, but murder your friends? Creepy.

In short, it’s become my goal as a writer, to stop avoiding the cliché. There’s a reason they work, because they’re these basic situations that are morally, ethically, emotionally enthralling. However, I think it’s important to understand that clichés only work when characters and situations are complex. Other than that, you’re just writing about a pretty chick who can’t get a date, but who suddenly is caught between a gorgeous bad boy and the golden boy. Blech.

So what do you think? Are you into The Secret Circle? Do you agree, or did I get it all wrong? Let me know: drop a comment!

Sookie Stackhouse Novels: Deadlocked

12 Nov

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I’m going to share: I’m a HUGE True Blood fanatic. I can, and have, talked about this show for hours. I can watch marathons, and never get bored. I love everything about it. I own all three seasons on DVD and regularly watch the season four episodes on HBO Go. With that having been said, I’m equally devoted to the books. (For those of you who are also into the True Blood/ Southern Vampire Mysteries world, don’t ask if I’m more into the show, or if I’m a “bookie.” I honestly love both and see them as two separate entities.)

So naturally, I lost my freaking mind when I saw the book cover and read the UNOFFICIAL synopsis for the upcoming 12th book in the series, Deadlocked in this post from Sookieverseblog.com. Without going into too much detail about this for people who don’t read the books/haven’t read them yet, I’ll just say that the cover art, which I hadn’t seen until today is offering up some pretty good teases.

Do you watch True Blood? Is the wait for the new season or the new book just killing you? Do you need someone to talk  to about it? Drop me a comment or drop me an email! Let’s chat!

P.S. NaNoWriMo has been sucking up all my time like…a vampire. I’m for sure satisfied with that comparison. Sorry! The blog will get back to normal soon, fret not!

WATCHING: American Horror Story

3 Nov

Watching: American Horror Story
Why you should be watching: ????

 

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From Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the minds behind Nip/Tuck and Glee, the FX show American Horror Story is honestly one hot clustermess. However, that’s not to say its not a good clustermess. I first decided to tune into the show when I heard about the cast. Dylan McDermott has proven himself to be extremely attractive a fantastic actor on many occasions, and Connie Britton (who was TOTALLY stiffed at the 2011 Emmy Awards, but I’ll try not to be too mad about it. But seriously. A couple of years as The Good Wife trumps five amazing seasons as Tami Taylor? Okay, sure. Rant over.) can do no wrong in my eyes. And you guys already know how I feel about super-awesome Denis O’Hare and, of course, Jessica Lange. So I thought I’d give it a try.

The show is off the rails, to be honest. Billed as a “psychosexual thriller” and a horror, both by name and content, it seems a little impossible. If you ask me, the beauty of the horror movie is that there are two hours or so to build fear and suspense and at some point—it has to give. The point is that it must end. How do you keep an audience strung along and scared week after week after week?

To be honest, I don’t know that American Horror Story is keeping me scared, but it is keeping me interested. I’ll try not to be too spoilerish for people who haven’t seen the first few episodes and might want to tune in. The show opens with two boys in the 1970s who venture into an abandoned house in an Los Angeles neighborhood, despite the warning of a little girl with Down’s Syndrome who insists they’re going to “die in there.” They do, massacred by something in the basement of the house. Cut to present-day Boston where Connie Britton’s Vivian Harmon is being examined by a doctor, post-miscarriage. She heads home after the appointment to find her husband, Ben, played by Dylan McDermott, in bed with another woman. Then, there’s a very creepy title sequence showing images of fetuses in jars and creepy pictures of babies.

The four members of the Harmon family (Ben, Vivian, their teenaged daughter Violet, and dog Halleigh) uproot and move cross-country to, of course, the very same house those boys were killed in, and almost immediately the strangeness of the house begins to act on the family.

In almost all of the episodes so far, we’ve been shown some weird glimpse into the house’s past which includes all the murder, mayhem and bad energy one might expect of a house in a horror show (it still sounds weird.) Add to that people who appear to shift ages, who are definitely dead and the freakshow bizarre-o-land thing down in the basement, and I’m not entirely sure what the heck is going on here, as far as horror stories go. However, they do have a ton of material to work with, I’ll give them that.

Otherwise, the show is basically about the struggle of two people trying to keep their family together, and where people with ulterior motives invade someone’s life in any regular drama, ghosts (or something) do the same on American Horror Story.

As for why writers should be watching American Horror Story, I honestly can’t point to any specifics. But I will say this: the show is super-compelling. Besides the interesting familial drama, the mystery of the house and the buzz around the show (can a horror television show be done?) all make it good viewing. I’m waiting to see whether or not the show’s strange and crazy pieces can be pieced together in a decent pay-off with the fans before I decided what to take away from it. But, I just plain enjoy it, and they’ve got me tuning in!

But I want to know, as writers, what is your opinion on the show? Are you taking anything from it? Do you think its getting press for its strangeness, or because it is actually good? (or because it’s from the Glee guys?) As viewers, are they keeping your attention? Are they scaring you? Watch the show and get in on the talk about it on Twitter with the hashtag #ahsfx. Drop a comment and let me know!

WATCHING: Pretty Little Liars

20 Oct

Watching: Pretty Little Liars

Why you should watch it: (there’s a million reasons, but lets go with) Suspense

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Okay, let’s just talk about Pretty Little Liars for a minute. If you don’t watch the show, you might be thinking “Wait, isn’t that just another teen drama about some rich girls with problems?” And you’d be sort of right. However, it is so much more than that. And these writers know something about stringing a viewer along and really amping up the suspense, keeping the viewers tuned into ABC Family week after week after week. The show has got all kinds of people with all sorts of interests talking. For a really interesting take, check out CollegeFashion.net‘s take on the fashion of the Pretty Little Liars crew. That enough should get you interested, but if not:

First off, the show is based off a series of books by Sara Shepard and the lovely people at Alloy Entertainment (you guys can call me with your job offer anytime. Seriously.) It follows the escapades of four girls named Hanna, Spencer, Emily and Aria. They were part of a pretty mean clique of girls spearheaded by the meanest of all, Alison.

A year prior to the start of the show, Alison went missing. It gets better. Before Alison went missing, the girls accidentally blinded another girl in the incident referred to as “The Jenna Thing.” In the series premiere, the girls receive text messages and emails from a mysterious person simply named “A,” leading them to believe that Alison is still alive, because “A” knows things about them that only Alison would know.

Then, Alison’s remains are found, and yet the messages from “A” keep coming. Things only get more crazy and awesome from there. “A” forces the girls to do things they wouldn’t typically do, and in order to protect themselves, the girls struggle to find out who both Alison’s killer and “A” are, and if they’re the same person.

Most importantly, as a writer, what I take away from PL2 (oh yes, I just went there) is how to truly craft suspense. In the past, I’ve never been much for suspense, and some great writers are able to draw you into a story based on other things instead of that feeling of needing to know what happens next. But if you follow any particularly suspenseful television show, or series of books, doesn’t drive you crazy when you realize its 9:58 or you’re on page 345 of 346?

On Pretty Little Liars, they use several tried and true methods to build the suspense:

THE MISUNDERSTANDING

A cornerstone of Shakespearean work (Romeo and Juliet anyone?), the misunderstanding leads the characters and the audience into believing that someone or something is not as it seems. In Pretty Little Liars, one character might over hear another saying something that incriminates them, or at least makes them look guilty. Though the misunderstanding has been done so much (every romantic comedy since…ever), it seems lazy, when done well it can be such a satisfying twist. There is a reason it has been used so often—because it can be such a great way to make the audience motivated to find out what happens next.

DRAMATIC IRONY

On Pretty Little Liars, the audience gets to see conversations between characters that the main characters aren’t privy to. By clueing the audience in, the suspense is ramped up—and fast. We know when the main character so shouldn’t get in the car with someone else, or who they shouldn’t be telling a certain piece of information. As a viewer, it drives me crazy! As a writer, I take notes.

THE CLIFFHANGER

I’ll be brief. But THIS WORKS. This may be more done to death than the misunderstanding. However, some shows take the cliffhanger to a new level. The Sopranos is famous for ending their episodes mid-sentence. On True Blood, the character is often seen reacting, but no reveal as to what’s causing the reaction. On Pretty Little Liars, the cliffhanger often works in conjunction with both dramatic irony and the misunderstanding. MADDENING.

All of the devices, have been used and used and used again. All because they actually do work. My piece of advice is not treating the audience like fools. When done poorly, its as if the writer expects me to believe that a character is dead from falling off their porch onto a trampoline, or something equally ridiculous. In the future, I’ll be trying to remember how I feel as a member of the audience when trying to build suspense. I know how long I can be strung along before it begins to feel silly and impossible. And I also know what drives me absolutely batty!

As far as Pretty Little Liars goes, the devices and so many more are employed so well, its certainly worth tuning in just to see what is going on. Its not my fault that you’ll get hooked along the way! The second half of Season Two doesn’t air until January 2012, which gives you plenty of time to catch up! The Halloween special aired last night, was a beautiful tease, and has driven me into an even bigger Pretty Little Liars frenzy! I know I’m not the only one, so if you need someone else to theorize with, drop me a comment below, or send me an email. I’m not even kidding.

So what do you think? Do you watch PLL? If not, do you want to now? Did you watch the Halloween special? Are you dying with…suspense? Let me know!