Special Edition: The “Lucky Seven Challenge”

For your weekend reading pleasure, I’m doing something that I don’t usually do. This is a meme in which I was tagged by fellow-author and blogger Michelle Davidson Argyle. The deal with this is that she tagged several writers to do the following: select page 7, line 7 from your current work-in-progress, and then post the next 7 lines of dialogue.

You’d think that would be fun and easy, but I pulled up my manuscript on the iPad that evening and found the selected passage, and it would have been…well, awkward. So I re-visited it this morning, only to find that the canonical soft-copy on the desktop version of Pages calculates page numbers differently than the iPad version of Pages. This time it would be…well, not awkward, but…

In any case, I’m bending the rules a bit, but here’s something from page 7 of the work-in-progress:

“I was going to give the lady’s purse back. That was my whole point. But it scared the hell out of me that I did that. So I just ran. Left him screaming in the alley.” 

“I think anyone would have done the same thing.” 

“Yeah, well…I haven’t done any super-heroing since.” 

Excerpt Copyright © 2012 by David Brown, all rights reserved. 

Interested? I hope so! I’m still 100 + pages away from finishing the project, so I should get back to work on that. Happy Saturday, and thanks, Michelle, for tagging me in this!

What Doesn’t Fit?

Disclaimer: I’m not a scientist.

I do, however, watch, read, and write science fiction with a good deal of passion, and so I try my best to understand science. This usually isn’t a problem because I grasp theories and concepts pretty quickly, I just sometimes need them explained to me in more simplistic terms than the jargon of their discipline.

Here’s the thing with science-fiction, and I think that I can say this with some reliability as a source since I’ve been immersed in the genre from a young age: nothing kills the validity of the book/film/episode like an inaccuracy in the premise. Science-fiction is built on concepts of things that are somewhat scientifically plausible, and asks “what if?” they became a reality. In space opera science fiction, this can be worked around a bit by positing a world in which enormous scientific advancements in humanity have made what were once outlandish theories into everyday life. Hard science fiction is more immersed in the data of scientific hypotheses…and, I confess, often over my head in most realms. I can be conversant in some things however, and sometimes things are used incorrectly in a way that anyone could guess with only a little thought.

This popped up in an episode of the Alphas that I watched over the weekend, in which an inaccurate application of sonar was used as a critical plot point. What was really curious about this mistake is not that the ability of the character in question was implausible from a scientific point of view, but rather that it likely would not be called sonar. The wording in the script created the issue.

Any scientists that may be reading, watch the episode (season 1, episode 9) and correct me if I’m wrong.

When I’ve directed plays, one of the most common problems I’ve worked with in new actors is consistency in characterization. There’s a moment of synergy that happens when an actor finds the character so fully that the character is on stage instead of the actor. I used to call it the “spark” when I watched a play…the moment when you find yourself believing that you are watching the character instead of an actor. There can be a moment of lapsed concentration, though, a split second in which the actor does something as they would do it instead of the way the character would do it. Sitting and crossing your legs, for example, when the character wouldn’t cross their legs or sit that way. When these split-second lapses happen, it breaks the illusion of the play. The audience will almost always notice, even if they can’t pinpoint why the scene suddenly feels wrong.

Presenting scientific inaccuracies in science fiction has a similar way of breaking the illusion. Even when dealing with the completely speculative theories of fringe science, the premise has to be explained in a manner that makes it somewhat plausible to the audience or reader. I suppose it bothers some of us more than others, but I think anyone watching or reading science fiction would find themselves aware of something wrong in the scene without necessarily immediately being able to identify what that something is.

Inaccuracies in acting can spoil a scene on the stage, and inaccuracies in writing or directing can spoil a scene on the page or screen. Research and editing fixes these inaccuracies easily enough, though. Perhaps it’s an issue of not rushing a finished product in order to ensure enough time for this research and editing? That would mean a world without deadlines.

I could certainly live with that.

Photo Attribution: INTVGene  under Creative Commons


Karen is a fan of Harry Potter. She’s read the novels, and seen the movies. I have nothing against Harry Potter, and I understand that its extremely well-written…its just not really my thing. However, as we haven’t really had a date night together since our daughter joined us nearly seven weeks ago, I took Karen, very belatedly, to see the final Harry Potter movie. For me, it was entertaining, but I didn’t have enough backstory to really put the pieces together. She was impressed, and discussed with me after the movie how the film had differed from the novels in various ways. Her final conclusion, though, was that the adaptation had worked well.

A few years ago, I rushed to the film adaptation of Phantom of the Opera, as the show has been my favorite musical for years (the Broadway production remains one of the most amazing pieces of theatre I’ve seen). There were differences in the film, very notable differences and additions. I accepted them, however, because Webber had co-written the screenplay, and my thought was that, if the adaptation comes from the author, then the purity is maintained despite any differences. Now, I suppose that particular comparison might break down eventually, as Webber himself adapted Leroux’s novel from the early 1900’s. My point, though, is that I would have considered myself a purist where the storyline of Phantom is concerned. At the time, I accepted the changes readily because I felt that they had still come from Webber’s vision. Had another writer dominated the screenplay, I doubt I would have been as receptive.

A conversation with a family member over the weekend revolved around our inability to accept historical inaccuracies in film. I have the same problem with film adaptations of literature: liberties taken with the story drive me to distraction, because I’m very passionate about staying true the original work. All too often, stories are completely altered away from the author’s vision in order to make a “good film” (from Hollywood’s standards, at least, which are typically poor at best). This is particularly problematic when working with literature of historical importance, and occurs far too frequently in far too many spheres. Apparently, there were some significant differences between the latest Harry Potter film and the novel (fans can feel free to comment here), but Karen was okay with it because, in her perspective, it was a re-telling more so than a reinterpretation of the story.

As recording our stories in written form is a relatively new phenomenon in mankind’s history, perhaps our tendency toward literalness is also very recent. I say that because when stories were told in oral traditions, there were naturally some variations. This occurred not so much out of error, I think, but because storytellers, like historians, have a proverbial axe to grind; that is, a different part of the story to emphasize. That doesn’t mean that they’re telling the story incorrectly, but rather taking care to point out different things. We see this continue in our political realm today, and I would say that this would even account for some of what Biblical historians discuss as a set of perceived discrepancies among the Synoptic Gospels.

With this view in mind, I’m hard pressed to remain as much a purist in my favorite stories as I was previously. Of course, there is still a difference between a re-telling of a story, and a complete re-interpretation of a story. I’m still very selective in my tolerance of the second, but I think I am becoming more tolerant of the first.

This is sort of like seeing the same event from different perspectives, or vantage points. When we share those differing perspectives with others, we all come out better for it. Our stories deserve that same treatment, I think. A lack of literalness just might be a good thing.

Photo Attribution: Rosenfeld Media