Friday, November 30, 2012

Character types according to Nancy Kress

In Writer’s Digest November/December 2012 there is a quite interesting article about character motivation.

According to Nancy Kress there are four types of characters:

  • Characters who never change.
  • Characters who does not change, but what they want change.
  • Characters who change, but their motivation remains.
  • Characters who change, and their motivation changes.

The first I thought was ridiculous. Of course a character must change. Then I read an example: James Bond. Oh la la. Well, I guess it can work with characters that do not change after all.

Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) is an example of the second type. I’ve never thought about it, but she is very much the same throughout the story.

The last two are of the kind I thought every character in any decent story was, but I must admit I was wrong. When I think about it even more, there are more stories where the character does not change, than those where he or she does. Most stories are not about inner conflicts, but outer.

I’ve written for movies so long that I’ve completely forgotten that there are plenty of more things to tell than just internal growth and insight. I think I’ve stepped onto an interesting path in my life when I started to write other things than movie scripts.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction

Storyteller Elif Shafak from Turkey talks at TED about how stories can break barriers and reach over cultures.

Here is a link to the talk.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: Character Mentor

Since I'm working on a graphic novel I felt it was about time I got myself a good book on how to draw humans in action. "Character Mentor" by Tom Bancroft turned out to be an excellent choice.

Just by browsing through it will give you plenty of useful advices just by looking at the illustrations.

Throughout the book the author points out the importance to use every detail to tell something. To do something about every single thing. The pose, the mouth, the eyes, the neck and even the eyebrows. You don't want your character to be boring and normal, but a character telling us something with its bare image on the page.

Then there is a matter of depth in the image. Here I found a headline about clothes as depth-killers which made me smile, because I have trouble with getting the openings of the sleeves right to fit the directions of the arms. And I just made a leg pointing at the wrong direction.

There is also a chapter about staging the scene, bringing up things like point of view and disposition of a frame.

The illustrations in the book are all the way through very useful and they always tell you something about a new aspect, one that you might not have considered before. The style of them vary some and there is often a good, a bad and a perfect example of something. I love when I get to see what I'm not supposed do, to get a result I'm pleased with; It is very illustrative.

This book is highly recommended.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Animation Monday: Clocktower

This is a happy-sad animation from Once again I take note on how well colors could be used.

Is what she does in the end for her own sake or for the others? Does she really have a choice?

When she leaves the clock stops. Is she then its engine, or is she just a link? Is there a difference?

Here is a link to the short film

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Literature: Project Gutenberg

Once upon a time a book was printed in a limited amount of copies. Those copies was sold and if you hadn't had the opportunity to buy one, you had a hard time to get a chance to read it. Sure, a few always ended up in public libraries, but few of them were blessed to have all books in the world. In the end you could need to face the fact that you would never get the chance to read a particular book.

With Project Gutenberg this may change. Not today or tomorrow, but in the long run. Maybe. At least it is a step in the right direction.

Project Gutenberg offers over 40,000 free ebooks. This is literature where the copyright has expired (within the United States) and therefore are available to scan and publish on the Internet; they are in the public domain.

Here you will find Grimm's fairy tales, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Gulliver's Travels, but also the Swedish Mor i Sutre, the Greek Καλαμιές στον άνεμο and Il pastor fido in lingua napolitana in Napoletano-Calabrese.

When I was a kid I saw a French TV-serie about the gentleman thief Arsène Lupin and I wanted to read the book on which the TV-serie was based on. My grandparents said they had a copy of it somewhere but it never turned up. And I didn't find anything at the library. They are there at Project Gutenberg. And yes, I've read them, now, finally, twenty-five years or so later.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Some thoughts about language

I learned that the word ”very” is a typical worn out word which should – if possible – be replaced by a synonym to enrich the text. This should mean that a text with a lot of “very” indicate an inexperienced writer while a text with words like “tremendously”, “hugely” and “exceedingly” tells me that the writer is on the yellow brick road.

Now, I think “very”, write “very” and then go back and change it into “ever so”, “exceptionally”, “highly”, “notably”, “pure”, “genuine”, “sheer”, “outstandingly”, “prominently”, “remarkably”, “strikingly” or whatever seems fit at the moment.

It feels a bit like body language; if I want to make a confident impression I take a pose indicating this, no matter how nervous I feel inside. Do I become a better writer when I go back and change? Or am I just a mediocre fellow using known tricks to appear as something I am not?

Both yes and no, I would say.

Just as me taking a confident pose making a respectable impression when I’m about to make a speech, it is not a matter who I am and what I feel, but what I produce. It is not me as a person that is judged, but the impression I make. If I listen to an exceptional speaker it is not interesting if he or she spent an hour in the john with bowel problems due to being nervous before entering the stage. Just as much as I don’t need to know how many hours the writer spent on finding the perfect equivalent word for every “very” in the text.

Never the less I would feel like a better writer if I in my mind used a proper colorful synonym for “very”, writing it so in the first place.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Frans Lanting: The story of life in photographs

Nature photographer Frans Lanting talks at TED about his project to photograph the story of life. He has formed a slideshow to illustrate the history of Earth with his photographs.

I personally think it is a little weakness that he feels the need to talk to his slideshow.

Here is a link to the talk.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: Exploring Visual Storytelling

This book by Brian Arnold and Brendan Eddy is a beginner's guide to making an animation.

Unfortunately when I found it it was tagged as a screenwriting book. With that name I thought it would be about the visual aspects in your writing. It is not.

I had to reread it with the knowledge that it was an animation book to get some form of valid view of it.

The book starts at the very basics and takes you through how to plan and organize your project, create characters, conflicts and plots; all with the visual aspects in mind. It has plenty of images with two simple characters which follow us throughout the book.

It also works with camera techniques and how to compose an image, how to do transitions from one scene to another and how to show things like time.

The DVD was indeed valuable. There was an animation for each chapter, explaining the book's content with voice and visually. Though the animation was simple it was not a work of haste to be able to include a DVD with he book. Here you see what is explained in the text taken into action. Considering it is a book about visual storytelling this is a tremendously nice touch, and also making the point.

What this book does not include is how you technically do your animation. There is nothing about suitable tools for this. It is all about what we see in the image, not how you make what we see.

If you want to work with animation, or are a beginner, you will find your new best friend in Exploring Visual Storytelling. If you have been doing animation for a while and feel that your work doesn't lift off the ground, I think you'll find a vast interest in this book as well.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Animation Monday: Lavatory - Lovestory

This short film was oscar-nominated for best animated short film 2009. I really like the simplicity of the animation style.

What do you say about the colors? Do they come in a particular order?

Here is a link to the short film.

It may be unrealistic with a female attendant in a male lavatory, but it is important for the story that she is surrounded by males all day long and I can't think of a better place for this story to take place.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Graphic Novel: Burn Notice

A third online graphic novel I've found which I found inspiring for my own project is Burn Notice.

It's interface is like any comic book printed on paper. It was annoying to not get to the next chapter right away, but I actually had to click a few times to get there. But I liked the art even if it was more of a traditional style and appearance; or maybe that is why I liked it.

The other two grahic novels reviewed are found here and here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Béatrice Coron: Stories cut from paper

Artist Béatrice Coron talks at TED about her way to cut paper into stories. Or as she describes it - remove that of the paper that does not belong to that story.

Here is a link to the talk.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: The Art and Science of Digital Compositing

If you really want to learn the craft, this is an outstanding book. If you want to learn some quick wins, pick another book.

Unfortunately I have not read the second edition of this book which was released 2008. But since it is the same writer and basically the same book, just updated, I think what I'm going to write here is still valid.

Ron Brinkmann, the author, has selected an interesting cover for the book, because it is an early example of compositing, long before computers. With someone looking like Virgin Mary as the center image of the cover it I was sort of repelled before I knew what kind of image it was.

Wikipedia says that compositing is the combining of visual elements from separate sources into single images; this often to create the illusion that all elements are parts of the same scene.

The moment you use a green-screen when you film, you will use compositing to get it all together.

In my graphic novel project I use it all the time, since I paint the background and all the characters on different pages and merge them all together in the computer.

The Art and Science of Digital Compositing is not what I usually label as a "typical-American-five-steps-to-do-something" book. This has a more boring and stiff appearance. The contents is however far from dull. The writer explains very carefully and in a way easy to understand how compositing works. It starts with the basics with the idea that you have never done this before and continues on.

It starts out with still photos. This is about the first half of the book. In the second half what was taught in the first half is applied to moving images.

You'll quickly understand that there are no fast tricks to do this, just patience and skill.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Animation Monday: Invention of Love

This short film uses half-transparent silhouettes like delicate paper-cuts to tell the story. It also has a very nice use of symbols and colors.

Here is a link to it.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Graphic Novels: The Prisoner

In my search for other online graphic novel projects I found The Prisoner.

It is a rather strange but interesting mix of comic book and movie. The images contain what a frame in comic book usually does, but there are parts that move. The result is fairly impressive, but a little overworked in my opinion. At some point it becomes too many static objects moving no matter need or not. It is nice to see the fan rotate and the glass pieces fly, but the effects are all over the place. I think it could have been used with more care.

The style is rather dark with a lot of ink, but it serves the purpose of the story so the fashion of the art I think is completely right.

Though the movie-like appearance I found the frames jumpy. I had a hard time to get what was going on. I know I'm not in favor of reading much when it comes to comics; I want the images to speak for themselves. Though I don't deliberately skip texts, I know I easily let the eyes wander to the next frame instead of stop and read. So this might be what happened here. Or it was simply not my type of story.

The previous graphic novel reviewed is found here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Just a happy thought of the day


The myth about primary colors

How many times have I not sat at an art class with only access to the primary colors, being told that you could mix any color with them? The green never became green and the black always turned into brown. But with some kind of magic that obviously never reached me, I was supposed to mix a good green with yellow and blue. Everybody knows you get green when blue and yellow meet, yet I never succeeded in practice to get the grass any greener than military-olive.

If you struggle with the same issue I can tell you: it is a myth. It is nothing magical with yellow, cyan and magenta. You can’t mix them into every color there is.

It is three colors that can be blend into almost any color. But the truth is that you can buy any tube of paint you feel you need with conscience; you are not wasting your money.

It's thanks to Isaac Newton and his experiments with prisms that we got this long lived dogma about yellow, blue and red. At his time it was also believed you could create gold. There was also a constant search for some form of divine influence in the world, like things should be in groups of three or four (as two opposing pairs).

It is interesting that many today still take this myth for truth when guys like Rembrandt and Arcimboldo probably could have told you differently.

Thank you Legatus Mensae for the inspiration

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Beeban Kidron: The shared wonder of film

British film director Beeban Kidron talks at TED about the power to tell a story as a movie. And the use of sharing the experience.

Here is a link to the talk.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Review: Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery

Burne Hogarth - the author of the book - very accurately points out that even though most art classes concerning the human body are about the nude body, most drawings we will ever do of people will be humans with their clothes on; yet there are few classes and books about how to draw a dressed human.

This book covers a neglected area and it covers it rather well. The book is full of examples of how and where the wrinkles appear and you are beyond the creases by the armpits of the shirt before you even opened the book.

One thing that I found tremendously annoying throughout the whole book was all the masculine men and all the fragile women. The examples with the men and women were extremely stereotype. The few nude men appearing, as examples of movements, are robbed of their genitals; quite ridiculous when it is so obvious that those packs of muscles are men.

I would have liked to see some more variation of the examples; preferably some less busty, elflike women and some less he-man looking men; maybe some old characters as well.

I also think there should have been more on different materials. You learn pretty fast how to wrinkle the shirt, and the next natural step is to draw the material of it as well – it comes with the wrinkles. Yet it’s just briefly covered in the last chapter.

Though I really think this book is useful, I found it a rather boastful exposure of the artists own skills. If you can see beyond this – and the sexist stereotypes – I think you will find this a nice addition to your library of drawing books.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Animation Monday: Oracle

I liked the use of symbols in this movie. It actually took me a moment to realize that the simulation wasn't the actual life, but rather what happened on a mental level. Nicely done.

Then there is also this question if the future is set or not; if there is a fate and if you can avoid it.

Unfortunatly the uploader of this film has disabled the embedded options. This is a link to the film.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Graphic Novels: The Wormworld Saga

When I started to do my own graphic novel I began to search for what others had done. I was familiar with Maus since before, but little else. Graphic novels has yet to reach the majority of Swedes.

Since my graphic novel is to be published online I searched for what I could found in this media. What had others done on the Internet?

This first thing I stumbled upon was The Wormworld Saga.

Here is the format of a computer screen used in a very interesting and efficient way. Each chapter is like one long image. It was love at first sight.

Not only did I like the format I'm also a fan of that type of art. I'm not much for manga-style. I prefer the fine-art approach, like this one.

Personally I would have preferred to not have the "voice-over". It takes some of the tense out of the images. I want to see for myself, not be told what I see.

There are four chapters to read out there, waiting for you. I hope they won't be the last.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Just a happy thought of the day

Be aware of what you tell

In the online magazine Film Matters issue of January 2010 there a very interesting article about colonist thinking in movies. It is specifically about Australia and the situation with Aboriginal people in movies. It points out how often orphaned aboriginal children are taken care of by white, colonist women with some form of natural and unquestioned right; how often movies are made from the “civilized” society’s point of view.

We as storytellers should be very aware that everything we tell - in one form or another – mirrors ourselves. What point of view do you have? What things do you take for granted in a way that you don’t even reflect on the situation? That is worth a thought I think.

Is a storyteller’s job to tell others about their own view of things and their hopes about how the world should be? Or is it as storyteller’s job to learn from those who’s point of view you don’t possess? Is a storyteller only an entertainer, or is there a deeper responsibility?

I like to believe that there is more to storytelling than deliver gladiators to a show. Humans have always told stories and they are proven to have a supporting, healing and/or therapeutic effect on the listeners.
Does this mean responsibility? Yes.
Does it mean you can’t say what you like? No. I think you are entitled to tell any story you want.

But you should be aware of what you tell.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Isabel Allende: Tales of passion

Author and activist Isabel Allende holds an inspiring and very funny talk at TED about the passion of stories and women's rights in the World.

Here is a link to the talk.