Monday 22 April 2013

Novel update April 2013...

I finished the first run through of my novel around this time last year and to my surprise had found the first full write through of the story, all 120,000 words, give or take a couple of less motivated moments, incredibly easy. My test readers liked it and I was hugely satisfied with the story itself. But, and here is the but, in terms of structure, pace and time spent getting to know the characters at the beginning, it was lacking. Even I knew that before I listened to my critics, I just didn’t want to face writing the whole thing again. I was so pleased that in six months I’d written a whole novel, I didn’t want to accept that the creative process of finishing a fantasy novel takes much longer than that in reality.

But face it I did. I’m working on the re-write at the moment, and as much as I love my story, revision is tough. It is satisfying to be shaping my story, tightening my writing and injecting more tension and conflict into the piece, giving my characters more personality and giving my readers (hopefully) more reason to love them in the same way I do. I carry these people around with me everyday, and they feel real to me. I want them to feel real to my readers too. But it is hard going over something that you are so proud of, and butchering it into something better. My usually flawless motivation is being tested at this stage. I don’t think it helped that I used the novel opening as my major MA project, so the association of the piece with university deadlines and stress has been hard to shake off.

But I persist because I love this story and this is something I really want to do. I think I remember spending moments of my childhood visualising myself writing a novel; it is all so long ago and vague in my memory now. I can see myself holed up on an island with only my computer and a beach for company for months at a time. Whether it has always been in me, or whether I discovered it late, I have a burning a desire to write a story that, hopefully, others will love as much as I do. To see my book amongst the shelves of writers I admire would be a true accomplishment, and I can only hope that is the direction I am moving in.

I am nearing the end of part one of the novel re-write at the moment, which has become a much-expanded version of the previous part one. Some new scenes give more heart to the settings and the characters, and the mysteries of my world are becoming much clearer and fuller. This version feels much more complete, much closer a representation to the ‘real’ version I see in my head.

The words are flowing, the patterns are forming, and the Aethera are coming into their own. Book one is truly taking shape.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 13 April 2013

3D Movies…

I rarely go to 3D movies. Call it age or whatever but they just don’t really do it for me. So this week when booking into one of the last local showings of Oz: The Great and Powerful, 3D was the only option. Ok, I thought. Should be great for a film like that. Glasses a gogo and off we went.

First off: the trailers. They did my head in. My conclusion: 3D animation filmed in 3D is way too much! Ok so the extra dimension does make things look more accessible, the cinema somehow becomes a more interactive experience, but the thought of sitting through 90 minutes or more of that is way more than I could cope with.

All those weird semi-transparent elements that appear to drift towards you from the screen are just annoying, and 3D animated characters in all their grotesque detail are just too hideous when they look like they are right in front of you and could reach out and touch you. I dread to think what kind of effect prolonged periods of that would have on the mind.

So onto the actual film itself. I’m putting the rather-weak-in-places story aside and ignoring the fact that a Disney Oz without the ruby slippers (rights to The Wizard of Oz MGM film now owned by Warner Bros.) yet with a giant wizard’s head projected among smoke and fire that funnily enough looks very much like the MGM film (rights now owned by Warner Bros.!) is just wrong. So with those aside and ignoring the fact that a lot of it felt a little lazy and rather too much into sensation rather than delivering a great product, the 3D experience of it did not fare a whole lot better than the trailers.

The trouble is, and I think I’ve managed to pin it to this detail, that while all those semi-transparent things like flecks of fire and flower blossoms are floating around ‘in front’ of the screen, the beautiful animations, costume design, special effects and staging that are happening ‘on’ the screen are not getting the full attention they deserve.

When you’re trying to take in, for example, the scale of the Wicked Witch’s army and the clever detailing on the creatures' faces and wings, it is hard to concentrate on that when every 10 seconds part of the action is staged just to give the opportunity for someone to throw a spear in your direction or flick a branch into your face.

The only way I can see it is that everything in a 3D movie is designed to take your focus off the plot, character interactions and the original magic of the cinema. Why would we ever want to leave those things out of the experience of going to the movies? Why would anyone want to sit through two hours of opaque imagery and unnatural movements resulting in semi-concentration and a rather flaky experience?

I do believe this is one of the ‘new’ technologies (of course 3D film is not a new development but it has come back in a new way over the last few years) that has been taken too far in its application. Back in the red and green glasses days they had it right. 3D was for the sensation – movement, interaction, shock and awe – and not for storytelling.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Macs Through the Decade…

I think it was about a decade ago when I bought my first Mac and changed my loyalties for life. Up to that point now feels like a different lifetime; a lifetime of disappointments, freezing, not responding, egg timers and constant arguments with inanimate objects.

My first Mac, a cute little iBook, opened my eyes to a whole new world of computers that actually did what you wanted them to do without needing to use harsh words, coddling or technical kicks up the arse. And not only that, he did it all in style. Inside and out he was aesthetically pleasing and I haven’t looked back since.

So that was my first home Mac, and rather uninspiringly I named him Mac. He stayed with me until I went to uni and was then traded in for Megamac. Now he was impressive. My first MacBook Pro. Shiny silver, backlit keyboard, 15” screen, dual core and the biggest hard drive I’d ever seen, with the exception of the fully loaded iMacs at uni.

At the same time as Megamac I also acquired an old iBook clamshell as a side project. I never gave that one a name as it was always going to be a Mac that I tinkered about with, upgraded and then sold on. I did that twice with clamshells during my time at uni and sorely regretted selling them both times, even though it was mission accomplished.

Well, Megamac was ‘the one’ during all this, and he did me proud, but when his rapidly aging specifications started to struggle with handling huge graphic files and 3d animations, I upgraded to Mechamac – bigger hard drive, more RAM, wider screen and in every way better than his predecessor. But I was so sad the day I sold Megamac and said my goodbyes.

You see, Macs aren’t just inanimate objects, they are companions – reliable, supportive, talented, individual, and always there for you, just, in a way, like friends.

So Megamac made way for Mechamac and he was put through some really tough times. That dual operating system worked him hard. I still shudder to see Windows running on Macs – there is just something inherently wrong about it. Although, of course, I still didn’t have to look at those dreadful words ‘not responding’ – funny how that never happened when Windows was running on the Mac! Enough said.

Anyway, part way through uni times were changing and I decided to transfer my degree to the University of New South Wales in Sydney and flee the UK. Mechamac was too big and too precious for that adventure, so I switched to Mac number four: Meteormac. He had a smaller screen and a tougher outer casing but was bigger in every other way. That was 2008.

For five years Meteormac has been everywhere with me – beaches, mountains, planes, trains, hotels, hostels, through good times, bad times, more change than I can remember and now, over five years on, somewhat older and a little bruised, bashed and scraped, it is time to put him into graceful retirement. I’m really finding the prospect of selling him hard – it’s hard letting go of someone who has been with you a long time, but when you love someone, sometimes you have to let them go for their own good. And yours.

So now I enter a new decade and a new era with Ultimacia (yes, that is a deliberate misspelling of a Final Fantasy boss there) at my side. She is beautiful, powerful, radiant, and in every way superior to her predecessors, but the important thing to remember is that without them, without the past, I would not have the present.

Yes, this may be a tour of my companions from the last several years, but it is also a reminder that where we have been, what we have done, who we have known, how we’ve felt, and why, has shaped us into who we are today.

It is important not to forget that.

We are the sum of our experiences, and our experiences are the sum of our imagination.

Elloise Hopkins.