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A Review of Hereafter, from a Writer’s Perspective.

Wow.  It’s been a long time since I started a movie, and my husband and I mutually agreed not to finish it.

“Hereafter” had everything.  It should have been a great movie.  It started off okay.  Was it poor direction?  Poor presentation?  Poor story?  Driving in to work today, I tried to figure it out, to make sure I don’ make the same mistakes in my writing.

“Hereafter” starts with a negative.  Subtitles.  I was okay with it, though.  After a while, however, it got to be too much.  At one point about half way through, my husband started to forward the parts with the subtitles.  Funny thing is, we didn’t miss anything… and I think that’s part of the problem.

Pacing, and false-action beginning.

When I first started writing, I read a blog, and I wish I could remember her name, but she said something that has stuck with me.  “The first chapter is a promise to your reader.”  She went on to say that your first chapter should exemplify what your reader can expect from the rest of it.

“Hereafter” starts with a couple on vacation (speaking French, with subtitles)  They have a beachfront hotel room, and a tsunami hits.  Great heart-pumping beginning. After that, the movie just dies.  Boom.  Dead.  Bury me, please.

We are catapulted away from that scene to Matt Damon’s character, who is a psychic who has stopped using his powers because he wants a normal life.  Okay, that part was fine.

Catapult #2:  We are then slammed to England, where two twin boys are struggling with their mother’s opium dependence.  Huh?  At first we thought it was the same woman from the opening scene, but no… totally different person.

Boomerang:  Now we are in France with the person dealing with the aftermath of surviving a tsunami

Slap:  Back to the USA with Matt Damon, who is getting cooking lessons.  Huh?

***Get on with it!***

After an hour of this, I rolled over, hugged my pillow, and said “wake me up if anything happens”

Now, obviously, I hope, all these people would come together to make a point out of this movie.   However, at that point, I was totally bored out of my mind.

I liked the Matt Damon parts.  They at least had a spark of an interesting plot.  The rest of it seemed like low-budget foreign films (no music in this move at all either, which is really weird.)

Well, I fell asleep.  This morning my husband said, “Do you mind if we just return this and get another movie?”

Normally, I would want to see what happened.  I honestly didn’t care one bit.  “Yeah, send it back.”

***So, What went wrong?***

So what went wrong?  The characters may have been important to the end of the story (I suppose, I didn’t get that far)  But if their stories are boring, do we need to know about them in such detail?

If they all come together, it could have been taken care of better in flashback or dialog right before they all meet.  Tsunami survivor can remember the horrible ordeal, and the person next to them can say “Wow, you sure had a hard time adjusting, didn’t you.”  The kids and their Mom could have been summed up similarly in dialog.

GET ON WITH IT

The point is… GET ON WITH IT.  The story teller lost me.  Completely.  So much so that I didn’t finish.

Look at your novels carefully and decide, honestly, if there is a place where someone might think “Get on with it.”

And watch those false-action beginnings.  I was all ready for a great action flick here.  What I got was a boring melodrama.

Mommy to the Rescue AKA “Please Don’t Eat my Frog!” (A True Story)

Yes, this is a true story.

So, we are hanging out by the pool, and my son says, “Mom, there is a snake in the pond.”

“Yeah, okay, are you coming swimming?”

“Yeah, but there’s a snake in the pond.”  He stays near the pond looking down.  “Hey Mom.  The snake’s playing with Lucky.” (Luck is a frog)  There is a short pause, before my son starts screaming.  “Mom!  Mom!  The snake is eating Lucky!”

I run to the pond to see nothing.

“Mom!  I swear!  He grabbed Lucky and dragged him under!”

I waited, and yes, in another minute the snake came up for air, Lucky firmly in his jaws.  Now, all three of my kids are leaning over the pond.  And who needs to figure it out?  MOMMY.

Under Lucky goes again.  “Go get Daddy,”  I say, hoping they’ll all go running.  Only lost one of them, though.  I climb over the fence, and wait.  Splish, the snake come up for air, and “Mommy The Great” swoops down and grabs this sucker by the back of the neck.

I stand up, and pull about four feet of snake out of the water, with the frog firmly locked in its jaws.  Now what the heck do I do?

I shook the snake a little, figuring it would be more afraid of me than hungry for our little frog.  No dice.  It gripped down further, cutting into poor Lucky’s skin.  I watched with horror as the snake arched, and more of Lucky disappeared inside.

My husband arrives and makes a sound akin to a gerbil screaming.  “What do you want me to do?” he asks.

Well, I knew he wasn’t about to take the snake from my hand, and all of my kids are looking at me, while I’m holding this four-foot snake in the process of ingesting a favorite pet.

“Get a knife, and a bag,” I said.

My husband made a face, and left.  I didn’t tell him I was going to hold the snake, and he was going to kill it.  He might have run for the hills.

So, I’m standing there, holding this dern snake, thinking:  It’s not really his fault.  This is just nature, really.  Lucky was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My youngest son is sobbing.

So … I did what any other good nature-loving mother would do.  I took a deep breath, and

I pried the stinking snake’s jaws open.

(Do you have any idea how long the fangs of a four-foot snake are?)

Lucky fell four feet to the decking with a splat of blood.  Great.  I just almost got bitten, and the frog is already dead.

My husband comes out with a giant Ziploc and a butcher’s knife.  Relief crossed his face when he saw what I’d done.  We slipped the “not too happy” snake in the bag, zipped it up leaving a little air hole, and the boys and daddy drove him a mile or two away to a bigger pond and let him go.

Like I said… It’s not the snake’s fault.  He was just hungry.  But I’d just rather he not eat one of my pets right in front of my kids, thank you.

I go back to the pond to pick up and bury Lucky, and he’s gone.  There’s a trail of blood leading to the pond.

The next day, I went out and saw a little frog on a lily pad, with two HUGE scars on his back.  I walked out slowly, and opened the fence.  By now, all the other frogs have jumped and swam away.  Not Lucky.

I crouched down, and put out my hand.

Do you know… that little frog swam right into it?

I picked him up, and bought him up to my face and he looked at me.  Didn’t jump, didn’t scurry, he just looked into my eyes.

My kids all came running out.  They wanted to hold him, too… but I said no.  Let’s leave him be.  He’s still hurt.

Frogs come and go when you have a pond.  Lucky stayed all season.  Every few days I would walk out, and put my hand in the water, and up he would swim, and I would hold him for a while.

You’re welcome, Lucky.  We love you too.

By Request — Lay versus Lie – Take Two & National Macaroni Day!

It’s National Macaroni Day!

Yay!  I finally have a reason to use my Macaroni font!  Oh, Macaroni, how do I love thee… Let me count the ways… Okay, I will not soliloquize about pasta, but it’s tempting.

Today we are going to bring back a topic near and dear to everyone’s hearts…  The dreaded Lay vs Lie conundrum.

I ran into a lay verses lie problem in my Writing to a Deadline Novelette “Last Winter Red”

I went back and checked my notes to make sure I got it right.  This was a tough one.  I followed the rules, and used the one that fit, even though it sounded wrong.

Everyone said it was wrong!

One person said, “I know you used the right version, but this sounds bad.  I’d use the wrong one.”

Agreeing with her, I changed it.  Then went for another round of betas, and had to change it again!

I am so confused at this point, that I actually considered re-writing the scene so that little girl is not laying in that stinking bed.  Ugh!

I finally landed on one that no one complained about, but I still don’t think it’s grammatically correct.

Oh, well.

If the publisher mentions it, I’ll let you know.

Happy