Writer’s Music: Steve Jablonsky

Trans2FrontFirst of all: yes. Yes, I have seen this movie. Most of it, anyway. (Being a child of the 80s, I HAD to see for myself what they did to a precious bit of my childhood.) Do I recommend it?

Well. Everyone’s got their own cup of tea.

Moving on to what I DO recommend…

I stumbled upon Steve Jablonsky ages ago through the anime film Steamboy. The film itself is a fantastic bit of steampunk story-telling, and Jablonsky’s themes mesmerize throughout. I lost track of him after that, and then in the last few months, got Revenge of the Fallen from the library on a whim.

Totally worth it.

Whatever you think of the characters, plot, earth being demolished every half hour, etc., Jablonsky’s music provides a beautiful nobility in his blend of brass and percussion. The strings add a unique balance–to the heights with violins, to the depths with electric guitar. The action pieces are intense and strong, the times of sacrifice given the right amount of gravitas without turning cheesy. Considering the franchise, I find that EXTREMELY impressive.

Epic struggles deserve an epic score, do they not?

Click here for more on Steve Jablonsky.

Click here for more on TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.

 

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Lessons Learned from Diana Wynne Jones: Hook’em Up.

game1A couple days ago I cracked open The Game and settled in for another great story.

First Line:

When Hayley arrived at the big house in Ireland, bewildered and in disgrace, rain was falling and it was nearly dark.

I paused–not because I was turned off by the story, but I realized just how much Jones packed into the first sentence.

  1. Protagonist introduction
  2. Setting
  3. Protagonist’s state of mind and problem, or semblance of a problem
  4. Time/atmosphere

One line in, and I know there’s a problem for this girl to deal with, and she’s totally out of her element. Who can’t relate to that?

In my first “Lessons Learned from Diana Wynne Jones” post, I covered the opening pages of Howl’s Moving Castle. That, too, packs a lot in a tight space. I started to wonder about the other Jones books I read, and basically piled them up into my arms and started sifting.

Unlike most boys, David dreaded the holidays. –Eight Days of Luke

  1. David’s not like other kids–something sets him apart.
  2. The time: holidays. Normally a more cheery time of year. Therefore…
  3. Why wouldn’t a kid like David be excited about the holidays?

“Charmain must do it,” said Aunt Sempronia.  –House of Many Ways

  1. There’s a not-quite-usual family dynamic involved here if the aunt dictates what the protagonist must do.
  2. Unique names = unique place? Perhaps.
  3. Do what? Got to learn more…

It was years before Christopher told anyone about his dreams. –The Many Lives of Christopher Chant

  1. The protagonist has something unique going on with him–if these were normal dreams, they would not be worth a story.
  2. Christopher does not trust easily, if it took years to open up about something most people seem to experience–who doesn’t dream?

I may as well start with some of our deep secrets because this account will not be easy to understand without them. –Deep Secret

  1. The narrator seems to be our protagonist.
  2. Deep secrets? Sounds, well, secret. Something people like you and me aren’t supposed to know. In-trigue!
  3. Our? So the protagonist isn’t the only with with knowledge about this. We’ve got a secret group out there.
  4. An account= something serious went down.

When I was small, I always thought Stallery Mansion was some kind of fairy-tale castle. –Conrad’s Fate

  1. The narrator seems to be our protagonist.
  2. There’s an established place near the narrator that is not normally approached by kids. Whether it’s intimidating or just well-protected, this place is bigger than life.
  3. Something has changed this protagonist’s mind about that place. What?

The Dog Star stood beneath the Judgment Seats and raged. –Dogsbody

  1. Stars don’t rage, do they? What the hoobajoob is going on?
  2. Whatever it is, it’s not good, if he’s being judged for something.
  3. This Dog Star has a temper. That’s can’t be good for a trial. I bet something’s going to go horribly, horribly wrong…

The note said: SOMEONE IN THIS CLASS IS A WITCH. Witch Week

  1. Class = bunch of kids
  2. A note without a name = someone’s telling secrets…or lies.
  3. If calling someone in the class a witch has to be done anonymously, it makes one wonder just how serious such an accusation is.

We have had Aunt Maria ever since Dad died. –Aunt Maria

  1. Parent death = rough time for the kid(s).
  2. We = the protagonist is not alone.
  3. Had = Hmm. Doesn’t sound like the protagonist wants to have Aunt Maria around. They’re stuck with her. Why? And why is that a bad thing?

When Jocelyn Brandon died–at a great old age, as magicians tend to do–he left his house and his field-of-care to his grandson, Andrew Brandon Hope. –Enchanted Glass

  1. Magic is clearly involved.
  2. Family ties matter. And Andrew must be a special bit of family; a magician’s not going to leave his field-of-care to just any ol’ grandchild.
  3. Field-of-care = Something magic-related, I’ll wager. That means the grandson must have some skill, too.

That should be enough for now.

I admit, it was difficult NOT to share more than the first line, since some of the second sentences added loads more. Still, these first lines of various lengths and styles all give a great sense of the story’s voice in just, oh, a dozen words or thereabouts. A writer who can do that again, and again, and again, and never give the reader a sense of déjà vu is most certainly a read or two.

Or thirty.

You get my meaning.

Click here for more on Diana Wynne Jones.

Click here for more on THE GAME.

Step Out for Dawn

Waking up before sunrise has its uses.

For one thing, the house is quiet. When one is the mother of small children, silence is one of the greatest luxuries EVER. I can read, or write, or just, you know, stare out the window and see this:

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I wanted to catch more, but my sons woke early. Dammit.

Last night Bo begrudgingly agreed to wake up in time to handle the kids so I could go out and photograph the sunrise elsewhere. Out of town, among the fields, with a rustic barn, or maybe a bird. It sounded like the perfect piece of my life to share here–the glory of morning as it unfolds, the last minutes of silence in the world. (That, and I’m experiencing bad writer’s block on a nonfic piece, but anyway.)

So I go out. And find–

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–power lines. Curses!

The parks I hoped to utilize were closed off due to snow. I drove out of town, into town and out again, losing pre-dawn light as I tried to find one blessed stretch without those accursed power lines.

Found it.

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(Sort of.)

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Fine. I had to accept the power lines. But what about clouds? The sunrise earlier this week unleashed such incredible colors on the sky. The previous day was all cloud cover. Where the hell’s my painted sky?

Honestly? I chewed God out a bit.

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Yet I stayed. The trees, I think–they stood as living shadows against the light as it slowly seeped into my space.

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No clouds to reflect colors, but the colors came, nonetheless.

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I went back to my car to warm my fingers, and nearly missed it:

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It occurred to me as I stood, watched, pressed buttons: I had never watched a sunrise before.

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Color filled the expanse above my head and under my feet.

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But then, the trees looked like trees again. Cars found my patch of countryside and wouldn’t leave it alone. The world insisted I had to press on, return to reality and all its obligations.

Blondie needed a ride to school, anyway.

 

Writer’s Music: David Arnold

markmurphyI admit, there’s a bit of danger using a franchise’s music. One can’t hear John Williams’ theme for Superman and NOT think of Superman, for instance. One can’t hear the James Bond theme and NOT think of gun barrels, bikinis, and baccarat. Also, car chases, volcano lairs, world domination, death rays, etc.

Yet here I am, sharing some James Bond chase music.

If you grew up on James Bond, as husband Bo and I have, then perhaps you too lament the absence of the James Bond theme in the Daniel Craig films. This isn’t to say David Arnold is a lousy composer–nooooo. No no. The man’s music for BBC’s Sherlock helped propel that series into the cosmos, and his skill with a fantasy epic couldn’t be clearer with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Arnold has, without a doubt, made a mark on the music of the Bond universe.

Take “Time to Get Out,” which comes from the opening minutes of Quantum of Solace, the first of twenty-some Bond films to pick up immediately where its preceding film (in this case, Casino Royale) left off: Bond capturing a bad guy. Quantum opens with Bond trying to escape other baddies with his capture in tow. Commence chase!

Yes, car chases are typical of the Bond films. No, you don’t have to have a car chase to utilize this music for your own story. All stories must have action of some sort, however, and for many genres, this action can be found in pursuit. Granted, this music is not for the low-key, suspenseful hunt; the brass and percussion demand a public, in-your-face rundown through the streets. The rhythms build, and build, and build until the final half minute, where the hunt ends in the protagonist’s favor. One knows because Arnold adds just a dash of Bond in the end. I doubt your characters would mind such a connection in their victory over the enemy. Mine sure don’t.

Click here for more on QUANTUM OF SOLACE.

Lessons Learned from Diana Wynne Jones: Unlearn to Learn

51mQLRMiC8L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Writers observe, absorb. We connect with our characters and worlds because if we can’t, the reader certainly won’t.

All that observing and absorbing is usually good for the writer. Build up understanding. Learn how human nature works. Our minds are always a work in progress, like a historical building being refurbished. It’s been around a while, taken a few dents in a recent storm, but with time and patience, it will be a thing of beauty, grander than ever.

Until, you know, you have to deconstruct it.

I feel like that’s what would need to happen to write Dogsbody as Jones did. Here she takes this effulgent, a being of stars, or a star-being (even Neil Gaiman doesn’t know for sure), and sends him to earth as punishment for a crime he didn’t commit. Only he’s no longer a being of hands, feet, wings—he’s born a puppy.

And nearly dies in the first ten minutes of life:

…he seized the other puppies one by one and tossed them into dusty, chaffy darkness. They tumbled in anyhow, cheeping and feebly struggling. Sirius was carried, one of this writhing, squeaking bundle, pressed and clawed by his fellows, jolted by the movement of the sack, until he was nearly frantic. Then a new smell broke through the dust. Even in this distress it interested him. But, the next moment, their bundle swung horribly and dropped, more horribly still, into cold, cold, cold. To his terror, there was nothing to breathe but the cold stuff, and it choked him. (9)

In the previous post I shared the problem of what happens when writers write without caring to consider the true perspective of the characters and setting. Notice Jones didn’t even use the term “water,” even though you the reader knew right away that’s what she was talking about after the bundle dropped. The only reason she used the term “sack” was because Sirius heard one of the humans around him say it. THAT, I find, is an important point: characters learn just as we do. Let’em learn.

Or don’t.

Sometimes the perfect touch is to share a speculative truth about how something—or someone—works. When Sirius remembers who he really is, and that a powerful star-tool called a Zoi is on earth and must be found to clear his name, he escapes his yard to find it. Being a dog, he of course tries to get help from other dogs:

Farther up the street, there were two more cream and red dogs, Rover and Redears, and they, too, were uncannily like Sirius. Sirius was bewildered. No other dogs he had met looked like this. “Why do you look like me?” he asked Redears.

“Oh hallo, hallo, hallo!” Redears answered. “Beacuase we’re both dogs, I suppose. Hallo.”

“Don’t any of you ever say anything but Hallo?” Sirius asked, quite exasperated.

“Of course not. That’s what dogs say,” said Redears. “Hallo.”

Sirius…said good-by politely and went on. Now I know what Basil means when he calls people morons, he thought. What idiots! (83)

He also, well, had to take a break, because, ahem…

The queer strong feeling was driving him nearly frantic. It was so different from everything he had known before that he did not know how to cope with it. He knew he should be looking for the Zoi, but he could not leave Patchie’s gate. At length, he asked the other patiently waiting dogs what was the matter with them all. Most of them had no idea. They only knew they would sit there night and day if they could, until Patchie came out to them. And she never did. But one hideous old mixture of a dog, with a head like a grizzly bear’s, explained gruffly:

“She’s in heat. She could have pups. That’s why we’re here.”

“Is that it?” Patche said brightly from beyond the gate. “I couldn’t think why I’d got so many friends all of a sudden. Hallo, Hallo. I love you all!” She was in a very cheerful and flirtatious mood. “Why don’t some of you come in?”

None of the dogs could jump the high wire fence. They all sighed deeply. It made not a bit of difference to them, Sirius included, to know why they were waiting. They were too taken up with the feeling coming from Patchie even to quarrel over her. They just sat in a group on the pavement, each one of them panting with excitement, so that from a short distance the whole group seemed to vibrate like the engine of an old car. (116-7)

I had never touched Dogsbody before, and now I can see why Gaiman considers this one of her best. Not only does it smack of science fiction, it also has the out-of-human experience in a very human setting. More importantly, it is a story of the unconditional love between a child and her dog, a bond many of us know from our childhoods. Dogsbody should be read for many reasons: for the friendship and love, for the mystery, for the humor. A marvel in craft and character.

Click here for more on DOGSBODY.

Click here for more on Diana Wynne Jones.