Sometimes I watch films over my husband’s shoulder. The other night Bryon was watching The Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven, a 2014 film starring Donnie Yen as the Monkey King. It looked pretty good, so yesterday I watched it with no shoulders in the way. For those of you who don’t know the story of the monkey king, this primer will get you up to speed. The Journey to the West sequence most folklorists are familiar with begins in The Monkey King 2, and there are plans for The Monkey King 3 to be released soon.
A critical overview of The Monkey King‘s reception in the United States points to what seems to me to be a lack of understanding about Chinese culture and cinema. Mind, I am certainly no expert, but I find the complaints of the movie lacking substance or the main character Sun Wukong of being annoying to be irritatingly groundless. In China it is the top grossing film of all time, and it is likely to be, as the story is as ingrained in the Chinese cultural conscious as Superman is in our own. Except, imagine if Superman had been around for some 500 years or so. Anyway, I think U.S. critics (and many viewers, if the Netflix ratings are to be believed) have no idea what to do with it.
From my perspective, it is a touching story. Cast aside all the special effects, and what you have is a story about an outsider trying to find his way in a world that is hostile to him, losing his love, and being used by people who do not have his interests at heart. Small wonder the Monkey King goes rogue at the end of the story, and that Sun WuKong can get his morality under control at all is some kind of miracle. It is a story of growth, redemption, and repentance. I dare you not to be touched when Sun WuKong tries to resurrect his dead friends, his enormous guilt for leaving them to try to gain acceptance in heaven weighing heavily upon his anguished shoulders. The story edits the original to make the Monkey King more sympathetic to good effect.
The special effects enhance the film. If you are not a fan of special effects like those found in The Sorcerer and the White Snake, that’s probably a good enough reason to not watch The Monkey King. Also, the film is in Chinese, and you are going to read subtitles, which is a turn off for many people. Personally, I am a snobby foreign film viewer, so this is only a plus for me. I don’t do English dubs. I didn’t do The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo U.S. style either.
So, this viewer is looking forward to The Monkey King 3, as well as completing my viewing of The Monkey King 2, which I’m about half way through. Check it out for yourself. Don’t let the reviewers fool you. This could well be one of my favorite films. EVER.
We’ve been jawing so much recently about the state of the comics industry–why not get an informed opinion from the trenches? Heather Harris McFarlane is a writer and editor as well as the owner of Seattle-area Magic Mirror Comics. She joins us to discuss the intricacies of comic retail, her shop’s gofundme campaign, honing her Jedi skills with the Saber Guild, and what it’s like to be “a girl in a comics shop.” No, 2017, she’s no unicorn.
Fellow Unreliable Chia and I were talking about writing. I have finished the third draft of The Pawn of Isis, and my very kind first readers have been steadily getting feedback back to me, so I’m getting ready to revise. I have a couple of ways I revise. I have been using some of the methodology from Blueprint Your Best Seller by Stuart Horowitz. I really like the way that book makes you really look at scenes and evaluate them, center on a theme, and reorder and rewrite. It’s a lot of work, but (re)writing is a lot of work, so there you go.
Then Chia asked me if I’d heard of Story Genius by Lisa Cron. No, I had not, I said. Chia said she was going to read it, but she had to take it back to the library. I said I’d look into it.
Already, based on some feedback, I have decided that the book may need another POV, due to some of the important stuff happening off stage. So I rolled up my sleeves and decided to add some new scenes. I realized I was just adding scenes, and not necessarily solving problems. That’s when I wandered into Barnes and Noble, went to the writing section, and picked up Story Genius. I devoured the book over the next two days.
All writer advice works for different writers. I saw some less than favorable reviews on Goodreads, but I, on the other hand, liked it so well that I feel a bit like a zealot. Bear with me. This could help revitalize writing and revising for you, and might help you spend less time drafting. At least I hope so. Sometimes it takes me as many as 7-12 drafts to get a book right. I’m no Patrick Rothfuss, and I don’t want to turn out a book a week, but I think it’s got to go a bit faster if I want to publish regularly. I have hopes this might help me do this.
It’s all about character desire and misbelief, and connecting the external plot struggles with the internal emotional struggles of your character. There’s lots of good inventing advice, determining when to start the book, advice about writing the ending, working on scenes, so much good stuff.
I would advise you to go check it out yourselves. I find I like flipping back and forth as I use it, so you might want a paper copy. But if you are the kind of writer who really feels motivated by the emotional arc of story, and you want to reconnect with the fun of writing, this might be a good book for you. I can tell you I am now hungry to revise, and regret those days when I simply can’t fit writing in. It’s pretty heady to climb into the heads of your characters and their emotions. I had been getting bogged down in the wheres and why for of plot, and this is generating the plot according to emotions.
I can’t say enough good things about this book, and I think I might owe Chia a drink or a fruit basket or something.
What do worldbuilding and guilty pleasures have in common? Not a damned thing other than our desire to discuss both this week. We begin with reactions to recent anti-worldbuilding press and how it may or may not affect your fiction. Then we regale each other with tales of TV shows too guilty to enjoy responsibly: Riverdale, Once Upon a Time, Under the Dome, Black Sails, Ripper Street and Bastard!!, to name a few.
Bonus episode! Chris and George weigh in on the recent controversy surrounding the comments made by a Marvel exec about the Great Comics Slump of 2016. Did diversity kill the comic book star? Everyone in comics seems to have opinions about the statement as well as all of the industry’s recent woes. As lifelong comics fans, we are no different.