watching, reading, and writing stories


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Recently I’ve been watching a TV show on Netflix called Limitless. It’s based off the movie of the same name that came out several years ago. It’s been really good so far, so I thought I’d do a blog about it.

If you like crime solving shows doused with a bunch of humor, this is a great show. It reminds me a lot of Psych but with a bit more maturity. Sean Spencer can be a bit egotistical and childish. He is funny to watch, but sometimes his antics can get a bit old. Also some of the Psych episodes become predictable. There were several episodes I can recall where they thought they knew who had ‘done it’ halfway through the show and then they discover that that character is dead too, so it couldn’t have been them. It’s still a great show, but I’m enjoying Limitless even more.

Limitless centers around Brian Finch, who is an average guy that most of us can relate to in some way. He has his odd quirks and in some ways he can be childish and amusing. But unlike Sean Spencer, he has a deep love for his family and much of the plot involves his desire to protect his family. I think this makes Brian easier to relate to and in turn helps me enjoy the story better. However, Brian still has jokes and quirks that remind me of Sean Spencer. For example, he really wants a “Headquarters” at the FBI and when he finally gets an office deemed HQ, he fills it with pinball machines and margarita makers and anything he can find that is fun.

The show’s plot revolves around the drug called NZT which originally came up in the movie. Brian Finch is allowed to take the drug in order to assist the FBI in cases and is secretly given an injection to prevent the drug’s side affects. So, for half of the time he is our normal, average, lovable Brian and for the other half he is super smart and able to solve cases and problems easily. It is very entertaining to watch and sparks the desire to be able to cope with life’s problems with a similar antidote.

Even though NZT doesn’t exist, I’ve found myself wondering what it would be like if it did. It sure would be nice in some situations. And, as a Christian, I’m actually hopeful that one day I will get to experience something similar to it. Jesus promised that those who follow Him will live with Him forever and that He will give them a new body. All of the brokenness, disease and shortcomings brought on by sin will be gone and I have a feeling what we’ll be able to do in our new bodies will be amazing. So anyway, if you’re looking for a new show to check out, I highly suggest Limitless. And if not, just know that any kind of superhuman ability can point us back to the hope we have in Christ of a better future and a new life that will be better than anything we can imagine.

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Sorry I haven’t been posting recently. It’s been a busy week at my home with large remodeling projects and a crazy work schedule. However, over the weekend, I had some downtime to relax and decided to try out a new TV show that started this fall.

It’s called Forever and follows the adventures of a Dr. Henry Morgan who has the strange condition of not staying dead. he has lived for at least 200 years and every time he dies, he finds himself alive again somewhere in water. The show follows a Sherlock Holmes style crime solving plot line, with the doctor’s having a long history that provides a vast knowledge that few can match, and an eye for catching details. It reminds me of Elementary, another of my favorite shows which will be returning again this fall.

But the one thing I really like about this new show is it’s take on life, and the meaning it has. Since the doctor keeps on living, certain things that are normal for the rest of us, have worn off on him. He needs to be reminded of beauty, the importance of relationships, even if they do end, and that things can change and history doesn’t necessarily have to repeat itself. In any case, I’ve found the show to be quite entertaining and I’m interested to see how the season progresses.

Here’s a link to a preview of the show if you’re interested: 

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The Christian’s Line for Entertainment

I had a long conversation the other day about where to draw the line when it comes to participating in entertainment. As a Christian, I care about what I put into my mind and what I let my eyes see. But I also want to be able to connect with the people around me, and sometimes that means watching a movie together, or discussing a TV program.

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As I thought about it, I developed the idea of a line, with the middle being where you would ideally stay. At one extreme of the the line there’s some pretty obvious things that a Christian should not be looking at, like sex, porn, black magic, sorcery, that kind of stuff. My standard for what I allow myself to watch in this area rests on how it makes me feel. If the scenes, (whether it involves magic, sex, or bad language) is making me feel uncomfortable, or if I feel guilty after watching it, I try to avoid seeing them. I think what you allow yourself to watch can vary from person to person, but no one should do what they “feel” is wrong. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

In the middle of our line we have a basic enjoyment of some kind of entertainment, with no feelings of guilt or obsession.

But if you keep going towards the other end of the line, you can start to idolize the entertainment that you’re enjoying. In the past I thought of “fangirls” as simply being people who enjoy a certain actor or show or whatever and I didn’t see anything wrong with it. But as I thought about it more, “fangirling” can easily become idol worship where the thing that is so exciting has become what your life is all about.

I think this side of the extremes goes more easily unnoticed to Christians. We immediately notice if a show or book has “sex scenes” in it, or bad language. But do we also notice if our enjoyment of some kind of entertainment has gotten out of hand? I’ve definitely been caught in this, making my whole day revolve around the show that comes on at 7, or the movie that’s finally coming out.

It’s a good idea to remind ourselves not to slip in either direction and to keep a balanced life, with our focus strictly on the Lord.

I think this verse sums it up well; “Everything is permissible for me”-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me” – but I will not be mastered by anything. -1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV

Whatever I allow myself to watch, I want it to be beneficial, and something that won’t start to control me.

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How to write in a fastpaced world

I’ve noticed recently that storytelling has changed in recent years. I supposed it’s always changing, but it’s so gradual that we don’t notice it. However, if you ever go back to something written or filmed years ago, the change is very apparent. I was watching Knight Rider, a TV show from the 80s on Netflix the other day and I realized how slow the plot seemed to move along. There were several scenes of the characters just walking or looking at each other without dialogue. It seemed awkward, and a little boring. At some points I just had to laugh, because the acting seemed so fake. Granted, this was the first season, so I’m sure some things improved once the show got rolling. But there was still a major difference between that show, and any other 1 hour TV show that is airing now.

I was talking with some fellow writers about the changing culture and the impact social media has had on how we write stories. We’re so used to instant messaging, instant access, something always grabbing our attention, that a slowly built story is very hard to get through. It’s ‘boring’ unless we take the time to invest in it and get caught into the story. This kind of ties in to one of my earlier posts about giving myself time to read a book and actually get sucked in to the plot. I’m so used to my time being torn between little responses to texts and messages that it can be hard to just sit and focus on one thing for an extended period of time. Even now as I’m writing this blog, I’m messaging with a friend on Facebook.

So with all these little distractions and instant entertainment, I believe the way to write a story has shifted. As I’m working on my own novel, I find myself trying to throw in action and suspense at every turn so my readers will stay interested. Instead of a long history to set up the story, I jump right into the suspense. Otherwise my readers will get bored and stop reading. I’m also trying to give less descriptions, or complicated images and instead rely heavily on action and dialogue.

The ladies I was talking to suggested that because we can see so many things with TV, internet, and movies, we don’t need to be told what something looks like. Earlier writers had to describe things that their readers may never have seen before, but if we really want to know what something looks like, we could Google an image.

Of course, my opinion isn’t the only one that matters. Feel free to give me your opinion on the current culture’s influence on writing. I’d love to hear it.


Books, movies, and tv

Have you ever read an awesome book and wished there was another? How about seen a good movie and hoped for a sequel? Sometimes our dreams come true, but oftentimes authors, or movie producers leave us hanging. Have you ever wondered why that is?

I think is has something to do with the reasons we engage with a story, whether it’s from a book, movie or even TV show. There are a few different ways to attract an audience and surprisingly, they all work rather well.

The first way to attract an audience is find something that works, and then repeat it. I know as I was growing up, I always loved series books: Boxcar Children, Hardy Boys, etc. Even though the stories were generally the same, I kept reading them. And this happens in TV shows too; every episode or book is set up in a similar way, some are better written than others, but odds are if you like one, you’ll like the next one too. There are plenty of successful sitcoms, like the Office, or shows that don’t have an overarching drama but still suck the audience in, like Elementary. Just like all the Hardy Boys books and Goosebumps stories we will continue to be read and enjoy them. Once a show, or book series has an audience, it can continue.

But then there are the stories that keep you on the edge of your seat. I read the Hunger Games not too long ago, and even though I think my favorite book was the first one, I had to keep reading all three books so I could find out how the story ended. These type of stories always leave an audience wanting more. TV shows like Once Upon A Time and 24 use the same idea, where you have to tune in next week to find out what happens.  I recently watched Kyle XY on Netflix and I was so drawn in to the back story and drama that I found myself watching 3 or 4 episodes in a row. These drama-based TV shows are similar to book series like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, or Percy Jackson. Not only is each episode, or book engaging and thrilling, but the story is continuous and always ends leaving you wanting more. Authors or writers in this category use the appeal of a continuing story to keep an audience interested.

And this is where our desire for more comes in. Because we are used to some stories continuing and engaging us time and again, we sometimes expect movies to do the same thing. Unfortunately movie sequels tend to leave us disappointed. It’s not very often that a movie sequel is considered to be even on the same playing field as it’s predecessor.

The reason, I think, that most movie sequels fail is because movies are made using the last category of audience engagement; basically giving the audience a compelling story. Movies stand alone, they aren’t made to have sequels or an ending suspense. They draw you into a story and leave you satisfied. Now I’m not saying this is always the case, but in general movies follow this mold. It doesn’t require repeating a generalized story, or leaving an audience longing for more, it simply tells an engaging story. I would say most movies, are similar to a novel. It has no connection to anything beyond itself. If you like it, you like it. And if you hate it, you hate it. There’s not suspense at the end, encouraging you to buy the next book, or watch the next episode. It’s just a story, but hopefully a compelling one. Yet this is where the Classics reside, those beautiful stories that engage us to the core. Movies like The Notebook, Rudy, Lincoln, or Les Miserables. Books like Pride and Prejudice, Treasure Island, and To Kill A Mockingbird. You can’t make a sequel to them, but you don’t need to, they are complete all on their own.

In the end, we all enjoy a good story, perhaps that’s because each of us is living our own story and hope that it is exciting and other people will want to hear about it too.

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