watching, reading, and writing stories

Writing Tip: Have a Confidant

Girls, Whispering, Best Friends, Young, Teen, Secret

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As I’ve continued to write, I’ve found how helpful it can be to have someone I can talk to about what I’m writing. It may just be my personality, but I’ve found that getting another person’s opinion on what I’m writing is very helpful and often times is the spark I need to get excited about writing again. I think that’s why writer circles and workshops exist. Using other’s feedback and questions helps the writing process go much faster, and also makes it more fun.

Not only do I have someone I can talk out my ideas to, but I am also the confidant for another friend who is writing. So if you’re interested in writing I would suggest finding someone who you can talk to about your ideas. It really helps to hear from someone else if what you’re planning makes sense and is interesting, or is boring and full of discrepancies. Because ultimately, you want your writing to be something that someone else will want to read, and if it’s only interesting to you, that purpose will not be achieved.

Here’s a few things I tell my confidant:

-I explain a portion of the plot and ask if it sounds interesting.

-I give a few possible scenarios and ask which one is the best.

-I let her read what I’ve written and see if there are any flaws or plot holes I missed.

-I share my inspirations and ask if they would work with what I’ve already written.

-I ask if what I’m planning for a character to do aligns with their personality.


Here’s a few ways I’ve helped another writer:

-I listen to story ideas, and make suggestions for what a character could do or say in a specific situation.

-I help come up with names for characters or places.

-I’ve read through books or short stories and corrected misspellings and grammar issues.


Here are a few things to keep in mind when picking your confidant:

-Make sure the person is someone you trust

-Make sure the person is honest and won’t just tell you want you want to hear

-Make sure the person is easily available (not someone you never see and rarely talk to)

-Make sure the person wants to and enjoys giving feedback (not everyone wants to be a sounding board)


Good Luck with your writing!

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Big Hero 6 and the Importance of Relationships

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I really really really wanted to see this movie and I got to go see it this past weekend. I usually love the animated Disney movies and this one was no exception. It had great characters, a well developed plot line, jokes and touching moments. Everything you would want in a good Disney movie. If you want to stop reading here and just go see it, that’s fine. Maybe you can read the rest once you’ve seen it, if you don’t want any spoilers.

But now on to my thoughts about some of the deeper messages in this film. One thing that stood out to me was the importance of friendships. It can be easy, especially in America to take the individualist approach and say I can handle it on my own, I don’t need help. The protagonist of the movie, Hiro, felt this way. But as the plot progresses, we see the importance of strong relationships. Not only are friends and family important in working through life’s difficulties, like grief, but they also help us stay on track and keep us from making mistakes that we’ll regret later.

In the plot of the movie, I really liked how close Hiro comes to playing a villain role, I think it shows that every person is capable of being a hero or a villain. Indeed Hiro and and the villain share similar goals; taking revenge on the person who was responsible for the death of someone they loved. But because Hiro has friends to tell him what’s right, even if he doesn’t want to hear it, he eventually becomes aware that revenge will not heal his hurt and he must let that desire go. He even tries to help the villain in this story see what he learned and stop the destruction, but it is too late for the villain and he continues down the path he has chosen.

These lessons of friendship and the ability in each person to be a hero or villain remind me of truth in my own life. As a Christian I know that I am a sinner, and that I am capable of horrible things and am no better than any other person, even a murderer. Just like Hiro, I have the capability of being a villain. But because Jesus has saved me, I can choose to follow Him, to do what is right and good, and be heroic. But I cannot do it alone, I need Jesus’s help and the help of a church family. It makes me sad to think that a lot of Christians think they can watch a sermon online or listen to some worship music and that’s all they need, when it really isn’t. Just like Hiro needed his brother, Baymax, and his friends from school to keep pointing him back to what was true and right, I need people in the church to remind me to follow Christ, to not give up, and encourage me when I’ve had a bad day.

So, that’s what stood out to me from this movie. I hope you’ll go see it, if you haven’t yet. I’d like to see it again, that’s for sure.

I’ll end with a preview.

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The Nut Job

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So I got on Netflix today and found that The Nut Job was available to download. When I saw commercials for this movie I thought it looked like a generic kids movie, and one on the lower end of the spectrum. So I never went to see it in theaters and didn’t have much interest. However, when I saw it on Netflix, I thought eh whatever, might as well watch it.

If you haven’t been reading my blog, here’s a tidbit, I love kids movies. For some reason it’s the genre I like the most. So, here I am watching this movie, expecting some silly storyline and undefined characters and a lot of cheap jokes. But as I kept watching, I was pleasantly surprised.

I actually enjoyed the storyline. The movie seemed to be based in the not too distant past, when bank robbers pulled big heists. The plot weaves around two separate heists, one a group of animals is trying to pull off, in order to survive winter, and the other, a group of thugs who are robbing a bank. There’s some interesting correlations between the two groups, so the audience can see their similarities but also their differences. And there’s enough twists and turns in the storyline to make it interesting.

The characters are fairly well developed as well, especially our hero who goes from a selfish independent scrounger, to a reluctant hero. And the villain is also well hidden so that their real motives are a surprise to the audience.

Even the humor was okay, it’s not a roll on the floor laughing kind of movie, but the jokes aren’t too dumb.

So if you enjoy a good family/kids movie like me, check out The Nut Job on Netflix.

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What makes a good story?

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Man of Steel Horizontal Billboard Image

Alright, I’ve seen two movies recently and they got me thinking about storyline and what makes a good story. I bet you can guess which two movies I just saw, but can you guess which one I liked and which one I loved?

I’ll tell you at the end of my post, but you might be able to figure it out for yourself before then. Now before I start, I want to make sure everyone knows that I don’t want to bash either film. I did enjoy both of these movies and I think they’re both worth seeing in theaters.

Now on to what makes a good… or let’s say great story.

First of all, and this is in no particular order, you need good characters. Now I don’t mean good in the sense of some heroic protagonist, there have been good movies based around the perspective of the villain too. No what I mean is developed characters, characters we understand and connect with and care about. And this isn’t just the main character, a good story has several background characters that also have depth. So basically for a good story, we need characters that aren’t “flat.”

On to number two; a good story needs some unexpected twists. It needs to be unique. A story that follows the same old plot line of a typical “romance” or “underdog story” or “hero” or whatever, is boring. A good story has something new and original and hopefully surprises the audience with something unexpected. (It’s hard for me to enjoy an ending that I saw coming).

Number three; a good story needs to connect with the audience. If I don’t care about what happens to the characters, that’s a pretty bad sign. A good story draws you in, because you identify with the storyline. Maybe it’s about a kid that gets picked on or left out and you went through that. Or maybe it’s about someone in love with a person they can never have, and you’ve felt the agony of loving someone from a distance. It doesn’t really matter what the connection is, but there needs to be one, or else the audience won’t care, no matter how many cool effects or explosions there are. And what makes a great movie is if it can connect with a wide audience, not just a specific group.

And number four, at least for me, is comedy. I know not every movie is a comedy, but is seems like there are usually a few jokes in every film, just to lighten the mood. However, it seems like most jokes rely on simple potty humor or are at least crude in nature. I really enjoy jokes that can make everyone laugh and that are funny without having to be crude.

So, can you guess which movie I liked better? (drum roll…) It’s Monster’s University!

So I don’t want to say I didn’t like Man of Steel, but compared to Monster’s University, it was kind of a let down. Maybe my expectations were too high for the red-caped hero but I found myself not connecting very well with the character. Perhaps that’s because Clark Kent was always on the run, not connecting with the people in his own storyline. But I also felt like the background characters in the movie were flat. I didn’t know anyone’s name from the newspaper that Lois Lane worked for, but her co-workers kept showing up in the storyline. I also felt like the plot was somewhat predictable and the little jokes that were thrown in didn’t really make me laugh. It had a fairly good story line, but I didn’t really connect with the characters enough, so I didn’t care that the world was ending.

In Monster’s University however, I connected with the characters right away. It’s hard not to connect with the little kid who is always left out and told “no you can’t.” I feel like everyone has been that person at one time or another. We all want things to change and can easily cheer for someone who is trying to succeed despite the opposition. And I feel like kid’s movies in general appeal to a wider audience because the film is intended for children as well as parents to enjoy. I also was surprised by the storyline. I didn’t expect that Mike and Randall would be roommates and that Sully and Mike would be so aggressively competitive. I also was surprised that the ending was so realistic. They actually got kicked out of school for their escapades and had to work their way into a “scaring position” at Monsters Inc. Also, throughout the movie I was laughing hysterically, especially at the “mom” character. Plus they were good clean jokes. And I didn’t think the background characters were flat, I actually saw them develop and change too. All in all it was a very enjoyable movie that I could say “Yes I liked it” before the credits had even finished rolling, and that I wouldn’t hesitate to see again.

So, that’s what I think a story needs to be great. I’m sure there are lots of other things a great story needs that I didn’t mention, but this is just a blog not a book, so we’ll stick with those four things: developed characters, unique story, connection with the audience, and clean humor.

So what did you think of the movies? Or what’s something you feel a great story needs? Leave a comment if you want, they’re always welcome.

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What’s in a name?

So I know I’ve been a little distracted lately and I haven’t gotten to post in awhile. I’m sorry about that. I know I could make all sorts of excuses, but that won’t change anything, so on to the blogging part.

Names. I’ve been thinking about names off and on for the past few weeks and ever since Alicia wrote her first post about coming up with good names for characters, I’ve been wanting to add my own opinion to the subject. Names are very important, not just in books or movies, but in everyday life. Our names almost define us. We become so connected with a name that eventually to think of the name is to think of the person connected with it automatically.

I remember one time some of my friends were trying to think of a baby name and found it really difficult. They were both teachers and between the two of them, it seemed like every name in the book was already connected to a student that they had taught. It took quite awhile, but they finally found a name that stuck and didn’t remind them of some previous relationship.

Names also change, or can change. I know several people that have started going by a nick name or their middle name instead of their first name. In new situations or around different kinds of people we sometimes adjust who we are, including our name. Sometimes I wonder how people can change their name. Like, I understand that you can legally change it, or ask people to start calling you something else, but it sounds so hard. How do you teach your brain to start reacting to a new name the way you’ve always reacted to your old one. I’ve heard that if you hear your name whispered even if it’s hardly noticeable, your brain will notice. I remember seeing this one commercial for a fire alarm that calls a child’s name instead of just beeping because even though a person might sleep through loud noises, when your brain hears your name, it responds. I think that’s so cool. And makes me more amazed that people can change their names and somehow connect with their new name, even more so than with their old one. It’s like you can literally become a new person.

But in some sense we don’t have control over our name, or at least not completely. Our parents choose a name for us in the first place. And even if we legally change it, that doesn’t mean people will call us what we want to be called. The bully calling a kid “Four Eyes” has “named”  or “labeled” that kid without the kid’s permission. And even when it’s not intended for sport or mockery, other people can still decide to call us what they want. For example, just recently one of my friends said I’m going to call you “Lyds” instead of “Lydia.” But I think this works well, at least in some cases. I think when we hear what others call us, we can get a better sense of who we are. I remember when I was growing up, that my younger brother had several nicknames, he was “JD” or “Jonny 5” or “Jonny Boy” or just plain “Jonny” but we rarely called him by his real name: Jonathan. It just didn’t seem to fit his personality. Jonathan was too formal and long, and my brother was so fun-loving and energetic that a shorter name just seemed to fit. Now that he’s older, he tells people to call him “Jonny.” It’s just who he is.

And characters, just like people have a personality that connects with a certain name. When I’m writing, I often start with a generic name and have to change it later, after I’ve explored the character more deeply. There was one time I thought long and hard about a good name for a character, but I hadn’t thought of the character’s personality. I started using the name “Calvin” for about 3 paragraphs and then by accident started writing “Caleb” instead. I didn’t even notice. I used this name till the end of the book and even started a sequel with the same name. When I finally went back to edit, I found the first few intro paragraphs about this character and realized his name had changed. Part of me wondered if I should go back and change all the places where I had called him “Caleb” and return it to the original “Calvin.” After all, I had intended for his name to be “Calvin.” But almost instantly I thought “No! This character is Caleb! I can’t separate the name from the person, it’s who he is, there’s no going back.”

So, in conclusion, names are part of us. We may not think about it that much, but they are important. They help tell us who we are and they stick with us, even if we don’t want them to.

Well that’s my thoughts on names, it might be a little scatterbrained but I’ll blame that on not blogging for two weeks.

Let me know what you think about names.