#Writing Update

Sherlock WritingWhat a difference a week makes it seems.

Word count: 3,874 words.

That means I was only 150 words or so off my 5k target yesterday and I hit that today. Currently have 316 words so far. I had done a lot more but lost it all because I am still learning how to use the On The Go feature on the WAY site. It is a nifty little thing that would be handy for write in’s providing you have an internet connection.

Moving on, the main reason for me getting so much written is because I just let my FMC talk about her own childhood and my MMC’s. It isn’t necessarily helpful to the story but it is helpful for me. It gave me a chance to actually figure out what the main story is about anyway (which will get written eventually) but also made me realise that a lot of the ideas I already had about the characters backstories were, well, wrong. These are characters that have been developing and evolving for some years. Naturally things will change but I realised this past week that I allowed myself to go down completely the wrong track so lose my way a little with the characters. Things are still liable to change but their stories now fit so much better and I am learning a lot about the characters themselves. That can only be good in my mind.

I suppose this story is sort of turning into character sketches and it now probably won’t be the Valentines Day story I was thinking last week but I am still happy with the writing and to be writing!

How’s your writing going? Have you got a target for this month or specific deadline? Are you just writing to have fun or get back into the habit? Let’s face it, December is not the easiest month for most people to be writing. Hope your having fun and keeping warm. (It’s so cold!)

Three rules for naming your fantasy world

Writers of fantasy, particularly high fantasy, should definitely have a read of this.

Matthew Wright

In my mis-spent early twenties, a friend and I created a fantasy world map for our RPG sessions.

I had to share this pic, taken by She Who Must Be Obeyed. We end up in some interesting places, sometimes. Just in case anybody googles "Stockton Mine". To build a world, start by wearing a hard hat (like mine).

Yes, I played Dungeons and Dragons – and later a game we invented ourselves to get around the sillier D&D ideas. The world was designed around what we might call the ‘rule of funny’, with place names made up mostly of bad puns and motorcycle parts manufacturers. This meant we had waters such as the Greg Lake, next door to rolling hills such as the Sinfields. And there was the Hergest Ridge – though we didn’t have the Old Fields. We also riffed on Tolkien’s unfortunate habit of ending place names with ‘-dor’. You know… Backdor. Frontdor. Dianador. Groan.

That does raise a point for those of us engaged in (more serious) fantasy world-building. Place names gotta be credible. Tolkien, inevitably, set…

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Film Review: The Hobbit 2, The Desolation of Smaug

Let me state now, I have NOT read the book. It is on my Kindle, ready to be read. Also, I will try to make this review with as few, if any, spoilers as possible.

Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), his company of 12 dwarves and 1 hobbit continue their journey through Thranduil’s (Lee Pace) kingdom of Mirkwood, where they encounter more than just Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), Laketown and up the Lonely Mountain. There, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) encounters Smaug the Dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch) in his search for the Arkenstone. Meanwhile, Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) leaves the company again to investigate strange rumours with Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) and find himself in more trouble than anticipated.

This film is a wonderful sequel to the previous film, furthering the story at good pace and expanding the world of Middle Earth. This film starts creating the groundwork and links to the Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) films and features either the same or similar themes that are present in LOTR and featured in the first Hobbit film too.

Greed and obsession are shown through Bilbo succumbing to the power of the ring and through Thorin’s determination to get the Arkenstone at any cost. This is a brilliant parallel between the stories as well as linking the Hobbit films to the original LOTR stories.

Tolkein’s languages are utilised well in this adaptation to give different areas of Middle Earth a specific feel and defines each race in the world. They are also used in such a way that they don’t alienate audiences who have not read any of his work. The writing of this film has the right measures of laughs and shocks and keeps children and adults alike entertained all the way through. The cliffhanger ending is well executed and leaves audiences wanting more.

Weta Digital and Weta Workshop has done a fantastic job again, especially with Smaug the Dragon. He is animated in such detail that combined with the script, audiences would believe that he is real!

The music yet again is a triumph for Howard Shore. Again, the music is easily recognisable as a part of the landscape of Middle Earth but also distinct to the Hobbit (soon-to-be) Trilogy. There are snippets of music from the original LOTR, such as Concerning Hobbits.  Ed Sheeran’s song at the end, I See Fire, fits the film perfectly and is very addictive listening. I keep listening to that song and have done so since I found the song a few weeks ago.

The only concern I have is with the River Barrels scene. There are certain shots that seem very at odds with the rest of the film and do seem to have been put in more for it being viewed in 3D. Whilst it might make sense to have those shots in for 3D, it does jerk the audience out of the film, breaking the suspension of disbelief which is a real shame as the film overall is very well done, from the script, the performances from the actors, the work of Weta and the music.

This is a personal thing but I went into watching the film expecting to be thinking “that’s not Smaug and Bilbo talking together! That’s Sherlock and John!” Instead I found myself thinking, “why is the Seventh Doctor with Gandalf?!”

The film overall is excellent and avoids the second film slump. It is pleasing to fans old and new and is a triumph of film making. Peter Jackson and everyone involved in the film have done excellent and will allow audiences to leave satisfied and looking forward to the next film when it comes out. I highly recommend going to see this film.

Guess which real-world place is most like Mordor…

I have always admired how much work Tolkein put into Middle Earth. I think I have read somewhere that, when he died, he still hadn’t finished working on the world. In my opinion, that makes it even more amazing.


Matthew Wright

Last week a British meteorologist at the University of Bristol published a weather analysis of Middle Earth. Tres cool.

Here’s a link to the paper: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2013/10013-english.pdf

According to the report, the weather in The Shire was much the same as that of Lincolnshire – which is pretty much what Tolkien was envisaging. It’s also like Belarus, but that may be coincidence. The place in New Zealand where the weather is closest to The Shire is north of Dunedin. Curiously – though the report didn’t mention it – there’s an area there called Middlemarch, which sounds suitably Tolkienish.

When it comes to Mordor, the real-world place I immediately think of is the open cast coal mine on the Stockton Plateau, which I visited earlier this year. Tolkien’s explicit imagery was First World War trenches and Birmingham factories. But that isn’t where the British meteorologist found Mordor weather. Oh no. turns out the…

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Film Review: Iron Man 3 (2013)

So on top of finishing Ranger’s Apprentice 11, I saw Iron Man 3 today, starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Kingsley.

Following the events of New York and Avenger’s Assemble (2012), Tony Stark is struggling with what happened, especially having faced dying and leaving girlfriend, Pepper Potts, behind. His anxiety and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) has badly affected his behaviour, making it hard for him to sleep and experiencing nightmares, placing Pepper in trouble. His problems are compounded when his world is ripped apart by a terrorist called the Mandarin, who has been targeting the US with a new drug called Extremis (which has unfortunately side effects for it’s users) and it leads to him going on a journey of self-discovery as he tries to figure out if the man makes the suit or the suit makes the man?

This film is good fun and has everything you would expect from a Marvel Iron Man movie: Tony Stark being, well, Tony Stark, brilliantly choreographed  fight scenes (especially the one at the end with all the Iron Man suits and the Iron Patriot suit), explosions, the US military and government in disarray whilst trying to use the technology behind the suits to protect the US, a major plot twist in regards to the Mandarin (I shall say no more!), the almost slapstick comedy and the USA‘s War on Terror. I also liked the fact that it explored (to a limited degree) mental health issues and their effects of the people (friends, family, partners) around the person, as well as on the person. Here in the UK at least, we struggle with the idea of talking about mental health so maybe the movie will help start that dialogue. The film also explored the use of drugs in army veterans (again very limited and I will grant this is in regards to a fictional drug). The fact that a film has explored some of the moral issues that face both the USA and the UK (and no doubt many other countries around the world) is commendable and I hope it leads to discussion of these issues.

There are though one or two things I would pick at with this film.

The first I would say is the timing with which it has been released. The events in the film take place coming up to Christmas and yet Marvel decided to release it earlier in the Summer Blockbuster season. Maybe it would have been more advisable to release it at Christmas to fight it out with Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit but at the same time, I can see why they did it since we are meant to  have Thor 2 coming out later this year so maybe it was released now to get the Marvel vibe going for their fans.

The second (and I don’t know if this is because I need to re-watch it maybe) is the length due to the script seeming to be a little higgledy piggledy so having Tony going this way and that, turning into a bit of a arrogant twit (in my opinion) and then the end seeming to end up being both wide open for a sequel and yet the whole story of Iron Man and Tony Stark being all wrapped up.

I did enjoy this film and would re-watch it (I think I need to anyway to understand it better) and would recommend it to Marvel fans and non-Marvel fans alike. It’s got the usual comedy, the great fight scenes and the characters being, well, themselves!