A Writer Watching – Eternals

Disclaimer: I know that some people really like this movie. In fact, some of my best friends really like this movie.

However . . . a balance must be struck.

Since the beginning of time, I’ve vowed that if there came an MCU film worthy of an absolute tear-down because its writing was a mess, I’d be as merciless to it as I have been to similar DCEU films.

And that time has come.

If you haven’t seen it yet, Eternals is a recent MCU film that does a few genuinely good things . . . and a ton of absolutely awful, nonsense things. It is a vehicle of bad writing to such an extreme that I want to dissect it here so that any young writers who enjoyed it can at least see the writing missteps in it, and thus avoid them in their own work. And so, here we are, with “A Writer Watching – Eternals,” my first “A Writer Watching” since Wonder Woman 1984.

This is going to be a very long post. But before I get started, I want to establish for any newcomers that this is not CinemaSins; the goal here isn’t to point out nonsense non-issues and editing mistakes in this film, but to approach it as a writer and editor. Comments will be more “Here’s why this scene doesn’t make sense,” or, “Here’s why this character’s motivations feel hollow by this act,” and less, “Oh geez—that character was holding a book in his left hand in the last shot but nOw It’S iN hIs RiGhT!” We are strictly here for the writing, and I will do my best to stick to that and not point out, say, weird acting choices (but real talk: I know I’m going to fail with Richard Madden’s Ikaris).

That said, the vibe here is more “a bunch of writers sitting down with a few beers and tearing apart the bad writing of a multi-million-dollar box office bomb” and less “Creative Writing Lab 203.” We’re here to have fun, but you’ll definitely have the most fun with this post if you’ve already seen Eternals and didn’t like it. If you liked it, however, I just ask that you stay open-minded and acknowledge that I’m not here to shit on the characters you love, but rather to vouch for them; I feel like the Eternals deserved a better movie, just as I felt Wonder Woman did in 2020. And, if anything is my mantra in these posts, it can be summed up as that: I am, and always will be, on the side of fictional characters I like, not the Hollywood executives who mangle them for profit.

Oh, and, of course, if you didn’t see Eternals, spoilers. Just everywhere, all over the place.

That said, let’s dive into . . .

A Writer Watching – Eternals

(3:30) – The exposition fight scene on a beach when the Eternals first arrive on Earth. At this specific time code, Ikaris hovers while using his laser eyes to blast a Deviant.

The exact point where I was like, “Ah. He’s evil.”

Because the Superman analogue is always evil.

Brightburn kid, Homelander, Omni-Man. Hell, Superman himself has been evil, in film, twice now. Him turning evil is one of the major inciting incidents in Injustice.

Seriously, just saying, if you want to write a super team story where one of them turns out to be evil, don’t make it the Superman analogue.

(5:31) – Afraid, the inhabitants of Earth run up on the Eternals with spears drawn. Druig uses his powers to make them drop their weapons.

Just wanted to mark this here.

‘Why?’ you ask?

We’ll circle around to it. I promise.

(7:22) – Sersi sees that the knife she just gave to a kid in the previous scene is featured in the promos for an exhibit at the Natural History Museum.

The framing is just strange here. Considering this is a comic book story and we haven’t heard of the Eternals in any MCU film before this, I genuinely thought Sersi stoicly snapping a pic and saying, “Shit!” meant that the dagger being used in an exhibit was a bad thing. Like maybe the Eternals have been hardcore about managing their secret identities (thus why we’ve never heard of them across 20+ films), and we were going to open with them trying to get that knife back.

But no, that “Shit!” was because an alarm popped up on her phone. The alarm flashed by so quickly that I missed it on my first viewing and thought she got a text from a fellow Eternal about the knife.

All of this is to say that man this moment confused the fuck out of me. It didn’t kill my viewing experience, but it is exactly the kind of hiccup I edit for; a simple miscommunication of vague emotion that gave me pause, which I always try to edit out of my own work.

Making emotions clearer here would’ve smoothed this scene right out. If she looked “wistful” or “smug” or anything other than “possibly concerned,” all of this would’ve been as charming as it was meant to be.

I know this is veering toward an acting/directing criticism, but the point I want to make here is: passing character emotions are always super important.

Also, this is 100% what I do with my own manuscripts. I am just this neurotic.

(8:00) – Sersi, arriving late for work, tells a statue of Charles Darwin, “I know I’m late, Charlie.”

I just love this moment and wanted to say something nice. The idea that the Eternals know important historical figures is extremely charming.

Unfortunately, this is the only instance of such a familiarity popping up in the entire movie. From here on out, the Eternals effectively act like normal people. Possibly because it would’ve been very hard / potentially plot-breaking if the Eternals acted like they’d experienced all of human history.

But, I mean . . . isn’t that part of the premise?

And wouldn’t that have been more interesting?

I guess not necessarily with the latter. If you wanted to write a fun, easy, comic book adventure, maybe being hyper-faithful to the framing of 7000 year old protagonists wouldn’t be best.

But I can’t help thinking there’s room here for an extremely interesting story that was just left on the table.

(10:38) – Sprite makes herself look like a woman to flirt with a guy at a bar. The dude catches onto her illusion when he tries to touch her hand and his hand falls through it. Sprite tells him, “You’ve had too much to drink,” before walking ten feet away and dropping her illusion.

And all of this just feels super ham-fisted. Not much to note here, but I have to point out that there was a much subtler way to write this moment. As is, there’s no way the guy she’s talking to wouldn’t be asking her if she was a superhero immediately, shouting to the bar that, “This girl has powers!” or possibly just following her to try to get with the hot woman with superpowers. Or literally just seeing her from ten feet away as she transforms.

But no, Sprite proceeds to just walk into that hall and drop the illusion with no consequence, and it all feels a little too convenient.

If I was writing it, maybe they’re laughing together when we cut to them. The guy asks if she wants to dance and Sprite smiles wistfully. “Yes,” she says, but then looks at the other people dancing, close, hand-in-hand. The guy reaches for her hand, but Sprite, having thousands of years of experience, pulls it away quickly. “Just give me a sec,” she says. “I’ll be right back.” And then, uncomfortably, “Don’t you go anywhere!” She gets up, hurries through the bar to a back door that her illusory hand phases through, her real hand grabbing the handle and pushing it back so Sprite, sans-glamour, can hurry out into the alley and slump against a wall with a frustrated sigh.

(12:00) – Sersi and her boyfriend, Dane, talk in a stairwell about moving in together. Dane asks her if she’s a wizard because when they eat out together and a waiter ignores them, their “water always turns to coffee.”

Dane is not that stupid.

No one is that stupid.

Again, extremely ham-fisted.

This is followed by Dane saying he knows Sersi broke up with her ex a century ago and that he could fly–because Sprite told him. And just . . . I mean, coupled with the last scene, how haven’t the Eternals outed themselves by now? Seriously, if they’re this flippant with their secret identities, they should’ve been public knowledge for hundreds of years—at least.

(13:20) Fresh out of the bar, the crew run into a Deviant. After Sersi uses her powers to trap it in the ground, they take off running only for Dane to shout, “I thought you killed them all!” to Sprite. She answers, “You believed me!?” and Dane answers, “I do now!”

Just a genuinely strange, unnecessary delivery of exposition.

I am all for more active exposition dumps, but this was just a strange batch of hoops to jump through. Protags are running from threat, but also protag C not only regularly experiences water turning into coffee around his girlfriend and was told she broke up with her ex one hundred years ago, but was also literally told that ex eradicated a race of killer aliens ages ago and . . . he still didn’t believe it, even though he lives in a world that got invaded by Chitauri, Dark Elves, and had half the population of the universe snapped away—and then snapped back.

It just feels like a lot to take in. A) We’re running from a Deviant, which are back? B) Dane is one of the dumbest characters of all time? C) Sprite fucking told a human the entire history of the Eternals?? D) Their secret identities are still intact somehow???

Not to mention that promotional material stressed that Kit Harington was playing Black Knight, so I was watching this saddled with the knowledge that, “Okay, Dane isn’t actually a hero yet . . . or he is and he’s just pretending?”

And holy shit, I’m ranting, so TL;DR: that exchange was a bit much. And it was clumsy.

And unnecessary because, after this fight, we get the sa-a-a-a-ame exposition anyway.

(13:51) – Dane prepares to jump over a small railing so he can climb up a wall after Sersi and Sprite, but at the last second, the music cuts and he says, “No. Stairs,” like he isn’t Kit Harington, who’s already in great shape.

Just primo MCU cringe. Seriously, we’ve far surpassed the point where these moments are funny. The “triumphant music building up just to drop at the last second for a subversive joke” is no longer subversive; it’s just a tired trope and no one should ever do it.

(17:02) – After the fight, Sersi tells Dane about the Eternals. And . . .

Sersi: “We came here 7000 years ago . . . to protect humans from the Deviants. We thought we killed them all five centuries ago, but now they’re back.”

*a moment later*

Dane: “If the Deviants were eradicated a long time ago, why are you still here?”

Sersi: “We’ve been waiting to be told we could go home.”

Me: “Wait—hold on. Dane, she just fucking said they didn’t eradicate them all. You just saw one 2 minutes ago. Clearly they weren’t eradicated. Why did you even ask ‘If the Deviants were eradicated…?’ when they clearly weren’t!?”

Still Me: “And you, Sersi, you also just saw a Deviant! Why didn’t you say, ‘We were sent here to protect humans from the Deviants. We thought we killed them all five centuries ago, but clearly we were wrong. Must be why we were never called back home’?”

Seriously, this conversation just feels like a quick edit of a draft someone was not willing to let go. Possibly excised from a draft that didn’t have the last scene with the Deviant.

It’s the kind of dialogue you come back to on a later draft and drop a hard “Enter” on . . . Yeah, “Hard Enter” sounds weird, so what I’m saying is, you create a new line before this convo and just rewrite it from scratch. Because editing it is just asking for a loophole like this to stick around.

(20:40) – The first of many flashbacks to the Eternals’ past. Here, we see them fighting a bunch of Deviants in Babylon. And in this moment, we get a cool shot of Makkari knocking down a Deviant and then proceeding to punch it, like, 30 times.

Not jabs either—we’re talkin’, in the span of 2 seconds, she runs away, runs back, and punches this Deviant a ton of times.

Which is to say the speedster problem is really bad in this movie.

I love Makkari—she’s my favorite by far—but that might be why I noticed how bizarre it is that she’s just not ending this and every other fight immediately.

She’s usually shown saving people, which is fine, but because she’s also shown doing legitimately wild shit—like charging and punching one opponent 30 times in 2 seconds—it makes it extremely hard to not think, “Why doesn’t she just go pulp all the other Deviants’ brains in, like, 3 seconds?”

We will come back to this, but for now, if anyone doesn’t know, speedsters are easily the most powerful superheroes in any universe, and using them in one of your stories requires some adequate suspension of disbelief or strong internal story logic to explain why they can’t just end your story immediately.

For a great example of the speedster problem at work, watch the first season of the CW’s The Flash. In it, you’ll find that the Flash has the bizarre habits of stopping to talk to the episode’s big bad and/or fighting them at normal speed instead of running in and punching them before they even know he’s there. Particularly enraging because he has no problem knocking out petty thugs at the speed of sound during an episode’s exposition. But, oh man, the moment that big bad shows up, he just kinda forgets how so the rest of the episode can happen.

And once you see it, you can never unsee it.

(28:30) As part of a montage of Sersi and Ikaris “dating,” we get a shot of Ikaris awkwardly standing and watching as Sersi gets her hair done by a village girl and . . .

. . . I mean, it’s just so awkward.

You can feel someone struggling to come up with another shot for the montage, and ultimately, they just decided on this because the shot looked very pretty.

But man, part of your fucking date was having Ikaris stand over you, mannequin-silent, while a little human does your hair? Fuck’s sake, I’m single right now, and if my dream girl was like, “I will glandly stand here and watch while you get your hair braided,” I’d be fucking hyperventilating in 3 seconds. Like, “omfg she’s a lizard person abortabortabortabortabortabortabort.” My skin seriously crawls just imagining the silence.

Anything else would’ve been better. This only makes Sersi and Ikaris’ lack of chemistry painfully obvious.

Which is to say . . . man it’s easy to write characters into a relationship with no chemistry. Like, frighteningly easy. And I have no tips for it either! I guess if you have to write a date scene where one of your characters stoically watches the other get her hair did, shit ain’t workin’.

(28:47) During their date, Sersi gives Ikaris a stone that she makes jet black and tells him, “It matches your eyes.”

And holy shit, I would gather all the Infinity Stones myself if I could snap in the line, “Because it looks cold and dead and reminds me of the empty void of space, just like your eyes.”

(30:10) Just an actual sex scene. Like a full-on, they-went-for-it sex scene between Sersi and Ikaris.

I know this has nothing to do with writing, but man it’s just so painfully awkward. Now I have to die knowing that Ikaris is really bad at sex? Come on, man.

Also, Sersi says, “I love you, Ikaris,” to him, and, as if he’s powered by A. I. Dungeon, Ikaris takes a moment before parroting it back at her, “I love you, Sersi,” in the exact same format.

Like, could he not say, “I’ve always loved you”? Something remotely different so he sounds like a real person?

(32:34) Back in modern day, Sersi, Sprite, and Ikaris find Ajak’s body. And Ikaris goes, “It was a Deviant.”

And maybe it’s because I was raised by manipulators, but holy shit was that an obvious attempt to control the narrative.

No lie, if I was there, I would not have turned around because my eyes would’ve gone deadpan. I would’ve thought, This motherfucker killed her. And then I’d put on the right face, get up and say something innocuous before leading Sprite away to tell her the first chance I got.

Like, seriously, at the beginning, when I thought he was evil, it was just my now-ingrained reflex to think that any hovering man with laser eyes is evil. But this line made me actually go, “Oh shit. He really is the bad guy.”

Framing this in writing terms, man that one line is basically a spoiler. Richard Madden even delivers it like he’s in the middle of trying to defend himself. I guess that’s a nice touch on the performance?

But again, ham-fisted. If I could’ve, I would’ve suggested he give commands, telling Sersi and Sprite to keep an eye out while he checked the body to confirm it was a Deviant. Or he would’ve asked them, “Was it a Deviant?” so they could confirm it themselves.

(38:30) A flashback where, after Thena attacked everyone, the rest of the Eternals talk about how she’s suffering from “mahd wy’ry,” a condition that afflicts Eternals, by which their memories overload their minds.

First, it’s obligatory. I have to talk about how stupid of a name “mahd wy’ry” is. It’s the result of the really bad Silver Age tendency to give something a name made up of normal words intentionally misspelled so they seem otherworldly. The original Captain Marvel’s name being “Mar-Vell” is a great example of this.

Of course, there’s no way to future-proof something like “mahd wy’ry”—the person who invented the term couldn’t predict that ‘mad’ would become slang for ‘very,’ and that eventually “mahd wy’ry” would sound like a hipster saying they’re tired, but here we are.

Regardless, I think we can definitely say the ‘misspelled normal words as alien names’ convention is terrible. It’s just always a contrivance, and whenever it can be done, I think it’s always best to cook up a replacement name.

(38:30) – Continued

It was also at this point when I started feeling really fatigued.

I’m a Fantasy writer, so I wasn’t thrown by a made up condition with a weird name.

But this is . . . the fourth time jump? The third flashback? And, look, it’s not like I was having a hard time keeping track.

But I really thought Thena turning on the other Eternals was the beginning of the intrigue. I thought that now, having seen Ajak dead, we were going to build up a strong case that Thena was her killer, possibly having escaped after being afflicted with mahd wy’ry.

But no. Gilgamesh agrees to watch her and the conversation turns from her to Ajak’s leadership pretty quickly. Ajak then tells everyone they can go their own ways, which seems like the exact opposite thing this group would do if Thena’s mahd wy’ryness was actually a concern and . . .

. . . I mean, it just sucked all the energy out of me. It made it feel like this story was 70% lore flashbacks and 30% characters talking about those lore flashbacks.

If I’m being generous, I liked the idea of a member of the team suffering from / ultimately learning to live with a disorder.

But considering the way this movie handles it, ‘mahd wy’ry’ should’ve been removed, or something else should’ve been done with it. Because what mad wy’ry ultimately provides the plot is not worth the time spent to set it up.

(41:20) Still in a flashback, Druig challenges Ajak’s leadership and ultimately decides to mind-control everyone fighting outside of their temple. He then just . . . walks away with them.

Just mentioning this for later. At this point, 1521 AD, Druig walks away from the other Eternals with a bunch of soldiers he’s puppeteering.

(44:33) Back in present day, the teams just seemingly kind of teleports to Kingo, who’s shooting a Bollywood film.

And holy shit, on this second viewing, I again have to ask myself, “Why couldn’t this movie just be about Kingo?” Why did they use Kumail Nanjiani so little when he brings so much personality and energy to the screen?

Sorry. Not a writing comment, but it’s just frustrating how charming he is when he gets screen time but it took 40 minutes to get him that screen time.

(46:39) On Kingo’s private jet he . . . has his valet Karun follow him around with a camera to shoot a documentary.

And here’s the point where I was like, “ . . . Okay, but not like this.”

Kingo is great. Next to Makkari, he’s my favorite.

But this scene where he’s shooting a documentary feels too much like ‘Marvel’s signature thing they do to make a character fun after Homecoming.’

Writing-wise, this whole scene feels like a might-delete-later. And no, I’m not trying to sound like a Zoomer—there’s no better thing to call it; it’s the kind of joke or funny scene that you write knowing it might be too cringe, and you’ll only be able to tell when you come back to it in edits. I seriously just edited one such joke three days ago.

I wish this scene had been edited the same way.

How? Definitely lose the camera. Seriously, Marvel, please quit it with the ‘fun video recording’ thing. It was absolutely painful in the one episode of What If…?

But to be more construction, off the top of my head, maybe Kingo sits down with a notepad and says he’s decided to write a movie script about this adventure. Maybe he literally starts writing what people are saying, telling them to slow down so he can get everything, and then pointedly not writing whenever someone says something boring. Maybe Ikaris keeps saying impressively boring shit so Kingo riffs on him for it. Maybe Kingo openly changes dialogue to make it more charming. I dunno.

What I do know though . . . is irony: I wrote a quick replacement scene for this moment while drafting this post, but when I came back to it . . . I deleted it! Because it was cringe! Ha ha! Being able to edit yourself is fucking great!

(47:59) Ikaris tells Sersi that Sprite said she’s addicted to her phone. Sersi replies by showing him himself, aged up on FaceApp or something.

When your characters have such little chemistry that you have to fill the silence between them with an app, something is seriously wrong.

(48:21) Kingo explains how he’s created a film dynasty for himself by pretending to be the youngest in a lineage of actors–something he’s done for generations.

I like this moment a lot and wish that the other Eternals had more interesting ways of ingraining themselves in human society.

But also, looking at these older pictures of Kingo made me realize . . . he and all of the other Eternals have had the same hair for 7000 years?

But . . . in the posters Kingo shows off, he has different hairdos. And, look, I know this is a super small thing, but man it really would’ve sold the timeline of these heroes if any of them had different hairstyles at any point. Like, I know Sersi gets her hair done by the human girl in the one horrifying date scene, but I feel like that just serves my point; even if these space robots wouldn’t think to change their own hair, humans would’ve thought of it for them. Probably at many different points. And if they had to live through certain time periods, they probably would’ve had to change their hair to fit in, right? Like, there’s no way a human in the 1970’s wouldn’t have suggested Sersi get a bob or something.

Again, small, but I’ve always been an advocate for characters getting evolving, changing looks as their timelines progress. And in this story, that approach would’ve done wonders.

(53:16) After the crew finds Gilgamesh, they sit down to a hearty dinner. And at this timestamp, Karun—Kingo’s Valet—looks up and notices Thena staring at him.

And I know that this is probably supposed to be her staring at the one human in the group, but if you are not aware, a bleach blonde, plastic-surgeried white woman staring at a brown man while menacingly eating . . . will send a very different message to some minorities.

I know the Eternals are a diverse group, but even on this second viewing, I’m like, “Ah. So Thena is racist. Got it.” This moment seriously just screams, “My first dinner with my white girlfriend’s family on Long Island.”

(54:03) Dinner conversation turns to the Avengers. Kingo says Thor used to follow him around when he was a kid but now won’t return his calls.

What an absolutely bizarre self-own.

I understand that the vibe here was supposed to be, “This guy is older than Thor! Whoa!” but it feels like, “Thor used to idolize me but then he grew up and learned better.” Just, I dunno . . . Make sure your characters aren’t accidentally owning themselves?

(54:09) Still at dinner, Sprite asks who’s going to replace “Captain Rogers” and Iron man.

And I will never be able to unsee that Sprite actually said “Now that Captain America and Iron Man are both gone…,” but they ADR’d it to be “Captain Rogers.” We’re not talking writing stuff here, but this ADR is super fascinating to me. Was it to appeal to overseas markets? Is it because, by this point, with Phase Four projects shuffled around, Sam Wilson became Captain America before Eternals was released and they had to account for it?

(55:29) Alone with Gilgamesh, Sersi explains that she was chosen to lead but can’t “even figure out to talk to Arishem,” their space boss.

And sound the fuckin alarms, because we’ve got ourselves a trope, baby! Not just a hero being uncertain about how to use their powers, but another character basically saying, “Maybe you’re doing . Have you tried doing the opposite of that ?” which immediately solves the problem.

It’s just a tired trope kept alive by comic book movies and TV shows. Never do it—let it die.

(57:20) Sersi gets in touch with Arishem, and he explains the film’s first plot twist in a totes frickin’ sweet 4D Experience. At this time code, he says that in order for the Celestial inside of Earth to grow, it needs “vast amounts of energy from sentient life.”

And it’s not explained a-a-a-a-any further.

What is this energy? Are we talking literal, like electricity? Does he just need a bunch of power plants on the surface to draw from? Or are we talking “life energy,” but exclusively from sentient life forms? Brain power then?

The point I’m getting at here is that this is just a contrivance that helps the plot make sense. But when you set a contrivance like this in the foundation of your story, it sits there—at the foundation of your story.

(59:07) During the 4D Experience, Arishem explains the twist that Olympia—the home planet of the Eternals—never existed. All of them are just mass produced space robots sent out to claim planets and then die.

First, the twist that Olympia never existed would’ve hit way harder if we’d actually seen the Eternals on Olympia at any point. As it is, it just didn’t land. When this movie tells me that an imaginary place I’ve never seen was never real, I just kinda shrug like, “And?”

Second, and super depressing for me . . . this is basically just the dynamic between the Silver Surfer and Galactus. Galactus sends the Surfer to prepare a planet to be devoured/destroyed, and the Surfer turns on him to save the Earth.

So I guess we’re never going to get a Silver Surfer movie in the MCU?

Cool. Thanks, Eternals.

(1:05:10) After learning about their true purpose on Earth, the Eternals go to the Amazon to find Druig. While walking into is village, Karun says, “It’s very nice here, sir,” to which Kingo says, “Don’t be fooled. Ignorance is bliss.”

#1 – I just hate the way the Eternals are seemingly teleported from location to location. This isn’t even the first time it’s happened; I mentioned it earlier when Sersi, Sprite, and Ikaris just kinga showed up on the set of Kingo’s film.

It’s very strange; they just kinda get shifted from scene to scene like action figures, killing all sense of motion and creating a fictional world that feels extremely fake.

It’s also extremely convenient; seriously, they get picked up from Gilgamesh’s home and immediately dropped in the exact town where Druig lives. I’m not saying I want to watch them trek across the Amazon trying to find Druig, but it’s strange and confusing when Sprite walks up to a random person and is just like, “Yo. Is Druig here?” and the guy’s like, “Yep.” Like, wait—what??? How did they know Druig lived in this exact town? Why is this so impossibly convenient?

#2 – “Ignorance is bliss” . . .  What the fuck does that mean in this situation exactly? That Karun is naïve for thinking that these people living in the Amazon are nice? That these people living in the Amazon are stupid?

No, seriously, what the fuck is that supposed to mean?

I seriously hate this movie.

(1:06:17) And here we have it. The last entry in this first part of “A Writer Watching – Eternals.” After Druig puppeteers a man so he can say hello to Sprite, he comes out, greets them, and then we cut to after he’s heard the plot twist. Druig, when asked if he’ll help them stop the Emergence, tells the others that he’s been “protecting these people for 20 generations.”

And by “protecting these people,” he abso-fucking-lutely means “mind-controlling them.” Because that’s the only power he has.

And he’s been doing that . . .

. . . for 500 years.

500 years.

Druig has been living in the Amazon, casually mind-controlling people without their knowledge or consent.

For 500. Fucking. Years.

How the fuck am I supposed to like these characters?

Seriously, we’ve already seen him puppeteer someone so he could fucking say “Hello.” In a few minutes, Druig mind-controls these people to make them fight a Deviant while he watches. And when he’s rightfully told to stop by Sersi, the people he controlled seem confused.

How in the world am I ever supposed to get behind the Eternals after they perpetrated this shit or just allowed it to happen for 500 fucking years? Like, if Druig used someone to say hi, what other inane shit does he make them do for him every day?

And how the fuck did this even make it into Eternals after WandaVision? That show clearly conveyed that controlling people without their consent is fucking awful—so bad that Wanda was logically portrayed as a villain for the majority of the show. So bad that after all of the blaring hero trumpets and laser battles of the definitely-not-great finale, it was still made clear that the people of Westview did not forgive her—that they feared her and will probably always fear all superheroes.

It’s just such tone deaf hero worship. It would be like if DC made a new Superman movie and had him tear ass through Metropolis, killing thousands of people again after Batman V Superman.

Okay. Okay. I’m breathing, breathing.

I like that these characters are complicated. I like that the people who made this film tried to skirt the line between good and bad with Druig.

But they completely failed and made a fucking monster. And it worries me that they didn’t have the tact to punish this character for doing something horrible.

I can’t control what anyone writes and I never would. But I will say that if you want a prime example of how to fail at making a character morally ambiguous, this is it.

~~~

And with that said, I just have to stop.

My doc for the draft of this post just hit 12 pages, one of my wrists is busted, and I hate this movie so I’m calling it here.

If you enjoyed this post, this is just the first part of a possible trilogy? We’re seriously only an hour deep and have an hour and a half to go. Whatever, the point is: to be continued.

If you want to be here when that sequel comes out, you can give me a Follow via the button on the left-hand side bar (on PC) or the top-right hamburger menu (on mobile). I appreciate it because I am still trying to build a platform while working on my own writing projects.

Until next time, stay safe, stay hydrated, and just rewatch WandaVision. It wasn’t the best show ever made, but man was it brazenly experimental for a superhero show . . . Until the end, anyway. I think I might start a rewatch tonight now that I’m in recovery mode.

Anyway, bye!

A January Break – It’s Cold and I’m Tired from Editing

Today, I finally implemented a few tiny changes I wanted to make in the early chapters of Memory. The kind that you know you want to make before you know what they are–if that makes sense. The result of a gut feeling that something’s off, lingering so hard it becomes some cousin of Writer’s Block (Editor’s Block?).

But whatever; I made the changes this morning, which is great. They became a shining part of the 2.0 package, making the story a stronger read.

But after implementing them (around 8am), I did another pass on the most recent chapter I was up to, almost started editing the next chapter—which thankfully has obvious flaws right out the gate—but only got a few paragraphs in before I realized . . . I’m tired.

And cold. It was seriously 20 degrees in my apartment all day, so all activities that didn’t involve lying under a quilt were canceled.

Including working on a crazy detailed post. There was a shining moment where I was going to tough it out to write about one of two topics, but both of those topics evolved into bigger beasts (including the first “A Writer Watching” in a long while, which I’m probably posting next week).

I would have posted a Read / Watch / Play, but this time around, I haven’t read anything I want to recommend (I’ve been extremely lax with my TBR pile all year).

So, for those reasons, I kicked back today. I do intend to spend the rest of the night working on that “A Writer Watching,” so I will have that ready for next Sunday.

But until then, I hope all of you enjoy the rest of your weekend, whether long or normal-type.

Take care, stay hydrated, and don’t let anyone treat you like shit. It’s always worth remembering that if you have friends who routinely make you feel terrible, then even if it doesn’t seem like it, those friends are not friends. And you should stop giving them your time because there are people out there who won’t treat you like shit. It’s true every time.

Anyway, have a great night, everyone!

Process in Progress #6 – I’ve Become a Criticism Vampire

Last night, I asked a friend if he hated my novel.

To set this up, it was the one friend who isn’t in my writing group. I sent my MS to him weeks ago and he avoided talking about it.

To me, that meant I was getting Ghost Read (my term for that phenomenon when someone agrees to read your work and then pretends they never received it, avoiding mention of it as if Thanos snapped it away and Doctor Strange made everyone forget you ever sent it).

But in the end, I thought, “This is stupid. I’m too old for this and too comfortable with criticism to let this happen,” so I asked that friend, point-blank, what they didn’t like about the draft.

They answered that they liked it but that they were just busy.

By which I was immediately disappointed. Not because they were busy—that was, I stressed to this friend, totally fine.

No, I was disappointed because I wanted to hear that Memory was terrible.

I wanted critique that I could turn into useful changes for the MS.

It’s a weird spot to be in after 30+ years of having a 0 in Accepting Critique. Back in the day, I’d just talk over someone giving me criticism, explaining why x element was y way.

Now, my Accepting Critique score is so far through the roof that I constantly feel like I need criticism. It’s almost like a hunger that strikes me, usually at night . . . although that’s just because my sleep schedule is still fucked and I’m always up at night.

Whatever. The point is: I’m a goddamn Criticism Vampire.

I regularly make myself coffee—the drink of writers—take a single sip, curse, and hurl it at the wall in disgust. And then I hiss, “I hungerrrr,” and text a friend like, “Dude, that one fight scene in chapter 6 sucks, amirite?”

. . . Okay, some of that was made up, but what I’m getting at here is that I really like criticism now. And yes, it is in part due to that all-too-familiar Impostor Syndrome creeping in, convincing me that Memory is actually terrible.

But what I should point out here is that none of this—the constant want of criticism, the dramatic hurling of coffee at walls while snarling like a gremlin—means that I’m going to stop working on Memory; I am past the era of my career where I drop a story halfway through and pick up a new one. If anything, all of this means I’m going to keep editing Memory until I feel it’s as strong as I can get it by February.

But I did want to share that the hunger is upon me. That I’ve come full circle from ‘being obnoxious about criticism’ to ‘being obnoxious about criticism in a bold, new way,’ and to me, that’s progress.

Also, fair warning: if you live in New York and hear a crash at 3am followed by an abomination screech, it’s cool—that’s just the hunger taking hold of me.

~~~

Thanks for reading this: what is one of my weirder posts.

My name’s Louis Santiago, and if you enjoyed, I post once a week, on either Sunday or Monday, usually focusing on my weird insights about my writing process and career. I cannot promise you I’ll talk about recent trends, but I can guarantee that whatever I post will be 100% me. If you’re on board for that, you can give me a follow via the button on the left side-bar (on PC) and the top-right hamburger menu  (on mobile). As I am slowly building my super tiny platform, I really appreciate any Likes and Follows; they keep me going more than I can say in the apocalyptic nightmare that continues to be the 20’s.

Anyway, with that said, take care, stay hydrated, and see Spider-Man: No Way Home. From a dude who was absolutely sure that movie would suck, it is so good. Trust me.

Have a good week!

Welcome to 2022, The Year of Endings

That title . . . makes it sounds so ominous.

Let me clarify; what I don’t mean is that this is the year where Omicron merges with GPT-3 and the not-at-all-evil-sounding “xenobots” to become a Thanos-level super villain. All of those things are real, even the xenobots (ho ho, scientists say they learned to self-replicate all on their own! Aren’t the end-times a hoot?), but as imminent as it is that Omicron will gain sentience, a physical body, and all of the Infinity Stones by late August, I meant for that title to be totally positive.

Basically, for me, the Year of Endings means the year . . . where shit is finally going to get done. But “The Year of Shit Getting Done” didn’t have a ring to it.

On a casual level, this is the year where I stop stopping myself from doing a bunch of things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I don’t know if anyone else does this, but I have a really bad habit of “saving” things for “appropriate” times (for example, not watching Studio Ghibli films because they didn’t coincide with what I was writing at the time, or I just didn’t feel like the stars aligned to put me in the perfect mood for anime wonder and magic). That just needs to stop, and in the case of Miyazaki films, it already has (Nausicaä was beautiful, btw).

But, more importantly than that, this is the year where I am going to finish editing a book that I swear is good enough to send out. It’s the year where the “working on it” era of my writing career ends and I transition into the “writing it” phase. It’s the year where I put together a submission packet and start collecting rejections! Again!

And it’s also the year where I start looking ahead. There are so many projects that I want to work on. And, as I’m sure a lot of writers have experienced, so many of those ideas are throwing themselves at me. I’m talking new characters, scenes, exchanges, social habits. And an entirely new project that I’m ridiculously excited for (the megapremise I mentioned in my one post about Loki); and I just wish I could gush about it and detail everything I have on that story so far, but I can’t.

On top of that though, I’ve figured out emotional through lines for multiple older projects that I couldn’t wrap my head around. To the extent that I’m no longer sure what I want to work on directly after Memory. I cycle between Aixa, Hand & The Tempest, and the new megapremise constantly.

But as if that isn’t enough, I also randomly had a breakthrough on the fundamentals of my board game. Seriously, a project that I’ve left sitting on the backburner for literal years is finally back and I feel like I can work on it again without just spinning tires.

It’s all just . . . very exciting is all.

So, with that said, thank you for joining me on this second day of 2022. I don’t know when things are going to start rolling here—I can’t give you specific dates about anything except for late August for Omicron’s snap (he is inevitable)—but I can say that I’ve never been more excited to take the next step in my career and I’m grateful for all of you who are here with me.

~~~

Thank you for reading. If you want to join me on what’s going to be the best year on this site, you can give me a Follow via the button on the left-hand sidebar (on PC) or the top right hamburger menu (on mobile). I am currently, as always, a Z-tier writer, so I absolutely appreciate Follows because it helps build my platform.

Until next time, stay safe, stay hydrated, and, hey . . . why not try that new thing you’ve been meaning to try? Yes, that one! That’s what I meant! Unless you said, “Murder??” Don’t be weird; I meant, like, making resin jewelry.

Anyway, have a good week!

Games for Writers – Hades Just Became the First Video Game to Win a Hugo Award—And Yes, It Absolutely Deserves It

I wasn’t going to write about Hades this week.

My post is late because, though I was planning on cleaning up one of the reserve posts I’d written a week ago, the news dropped yesterday that Hades won a Hugo Award for Literature. If that doesn’t sound impressive enough, Hades is the first game to ever win a Hugo. If that still doesn’t sound impressive enough, according to Eurogamer, the category of “Best Game” is a one-off. Which means they might never give a Hugo to another video game.

Which means they might have added the category this year just to give the award to Hades.

And, if you ask me, never has an award been more justified.

Because, as I’ve tried to explain to many writer friends, the awesome gameplay is not the most amazing part of Hades.

It’s the writing.

To put this into context, I am extremely hard to impress when it comes to writing in video games. I don’t want to get into a rant here, so suffice it to say that I just don’t grade on a curve. I am totally capable of saying, “That game has fun dialogue,” “That game had a surprising twist,” or, most commonly, “That game had an intense plot.” But I have almost never said, “That game is really well written,” because to me that implies that it has a complete, cohesive, engaging, active storyline. With legitimately great writing and charming characters who aren’t cliché. Essentially, the entire package that I’d expect from a film, TV show, or novel with great writing.

But Hades is that entire package.

If you haven’t played it, Hades is a rogue-like, which means it’s a game where you play as a character doing “runs” of an adventure with randomly-generated maps and assortments of enemies.

In this particular adventure, you play as Zagreus, the son of Hades, who’s trying to escape his father’s realm—the underworld. Not the most unique premise, sure, but hang with me here, because that’s the same thing I thought.

Until I started my first run and Zagreus started talking. I don’t mean that he was soliloquizing—there was no cutscene where he painstakingly detailed his reasons for wanting to escape.

I mean that when the game started, after Zagreus delivered two extremely brief lines about his escape (while I was controlling him), I ran up to a pillar and tried attacking it with my sword. And when it broke, Zagreus said a sarcastic, “Oops.”

And I blinked. “Oh . . . He’s . . . still talking. Alright.”

And then I went into the next room and Zagreus commented on the enemies that spawned there.

And then I found a golden vase, and when I broke it and gold coins spilled out, Zagreus said a devious, “I’m sure father won’t miss these,” at which point I chuckled like, “Wow. How much VO did they record? Does this dude just talk the entire time?”

Yes.

Yes, he does.

Also, a lot. They recorded a lot of VO.

In a world where the standard is to record a handful of grunts and shouts for your protagonist, only having them talk in cutscenes or when a game designer thinks you forgot an objective, Zagreus just . . . talks.

Like he’s just . . . a character?

An extremely charming character who I thought I was going to hate, but who I liked . . . immediately?

The thing is, then I got to the first boss, and I didn’t realize it was happening at the time because I was already too into it, but Zagreus spoke to that boss—a quick exchange of a few lines to show that they know each other—and that was the moment where I first experienced why Hades deserved its Hugo.

Not because Zagreus and that boss talked and it was cool, but because that was the very first moment where I understood that Hades was creating a world.

When I died (that first boss destroyed me), there was no return to the title screen. Zagreus, having died, just returned to his father’s home—the House of Hades, which he’d been trying to escape. Why? Because, in-world, that’s where everyone goes when they die. Did the game need to have an in-story, totally acceptable justification for the rogue-like genre model? No. Did I need to mention that it provided an in-story, totally acceptable justification for it anyway? Hell yes.

But, anyway, putting that aside, returning to the House of Hades was the moment I fell in love with the game because there were, immediately, so many characters to talk to—if I wanted to. I won’t spoil any of them here, but I will say that, aside from being extremely charming in their own ways (each of them great showcases for playing to a character’s strengths), they all make the world feel incredibly active.

Because, sometimes, they aren’t in the House of Hades. Zagreus will comment on their absence, of course, pointing out that they “must be on break.”

And sometimes, you can, in fact, find them on break.

Sometimes, new characters arrive after being away on business.

Sometimes, these characters are talking to each other! And of course, you get to listen in on a few lines of dialogue, but after the bit that’s relevant to you, they continue chatting to each other in cute whispers that you hear?

And also, every time—not even just sometimes but every time—these characters have specific dialogue in reaction to your last run. Characters comment on the enemy that just killed you if they logically would have that information. Characters comment on how they heard you beat the first boss and reached the second area of the underworld and “Good on you, lad. Keep fighting.” If you were killed by an enemy who killed you before, Zagreus will respawn in the House of Hades and angrily curse the enemy who killed him.

What I’m getting at here is that Hades is genuinely an achievement.

I am 30+ runs in, and I’m still getting unique dialogue.

It is just an incredible, technical feat. There are so many characters who are universally charming or annoying or cute or scary or hot (make me bi, Ares, you beautiful fucking monster), and all of them have an unreal amount of naturally flowing dialogue that presents an ever-evolving story that changes as you play. I desperately want to go into how, but I refuse to spoil this game for anyone. All I will say is that the first time I beat the last boss, their last line of dialogue hit me very, very hard. And that did not emotionally equip me for the epilogue, the music for which is a perfect embodiment of Zagreus’ legend. Music and legend that, mind you, both haunt me to this day.

It is just beautiful and I cannot express how incredible the writing is for this game. I wish I could watch a documentary about the writing team that handled all of it. Were there specific writers for each character? Were there maybe teams—like one person handling Megaera and her sisters or, conversely, a group of people handling Hades? Was it, impossibly, one person writing for everyone? Were the voice actors in the writers’ room riffing off of each other? And just how many pages was Zagreus’ script?

Okay—I have to stop because I will just rant forever. But what I will say is this: if you are a writer of Fantasy and you love video games . . .

. . . play . . . Hades.

The love that Supergiant Games gave to its characters; the way that they created its world and made it feel alive; the short, confident bursts of conversation between characters that they used to compliment gameplay instead of bogging it down; the slow, careful graduation of its story; and the way that Supergiant molded all of this perfectly around the rogue-like genre—all of that can only influence your writing for the better.

At some point, I will write about Hades again.

I know it without a shadow of a doubt. Because I barely scratched the surface.

And because there is no escape.

~~~

Phew. This took a while to finish. Thanks for reading though! If you made it all the way here, I have a few other “Games for Writers” posts on here, but it’s my most staggered series by far, so they range wildly in quality. On the low end: “Games for Writers: Metal Gear Solid 3 – Snake Eater,” which was awful and I don’t stand by at all anymore. On the high end: “Games for Writers – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Is a Great Fantasy World Simulator,” which was extremely fun and totally holds up.

If you enjoyed, I am not, by any means, a celebrity influencer. I’m just an aspiring writer doing this as a means of staying honest. Which means I’m still building my platform, and thus totally appreciate Follows (the button for which is on the left sidebar on PC and the top-right hamburger menu on mobile). I post every Sunday or Monday, but the topic, while random, will always relate to writing in one way or another. I might not post this weekend because of the holidays, but there’s an equally likely chance I’ll have a bizarre dream between then and now that I’ll just have to share.

At any rate, thank you for reading. Until next time, stay safe, stay hydrated, and have a great holiday!

Dream Diary – I Was the Leader of a Stranger Things-style Monster Neighborhood Watch / Monster-Fighting Corp.?

Disclaimer: While working out what to write this week, I remembered that I had multiple posts saved for future posting. I wrote them, saved them, and totally forgot about them. In one case, I actually just assumed I did post them and was genuinely shocked that I hadn’t. So, given that things are a little busy with editing and the holidays, I figured I’d post them now.

Welcome back to another round of diving into my weird dreams.

This one isn’t the most visually intriguing, but it’s still weird in a way that I felt warranted a post. Particularly because there’s an entire franchise in here somewhere.

I Was A Kid but Also the Leader of
A Monster-Fighting Army Full of Kids?

In the moment, I remember thinking how stupid and throw-away the very first facet of the dream was, but in retrospect . . .

. . . seriously?

This was a Monster Squad / Stranger Things situation where I was a kid and so was everyone else in what was, at one point, just a neighborhood watch where we specifically kept lookout for monster-related occurances.

Until, very, very quickly, the dream jumped to the future where we were a bunch of kids armed to the teeth, splitting off into platoons to actively hunt werewolves.

The part of the dream that always sticks out to me: watching a bunch of “soldiers” either open or close a gate as they started leaving or returning to . . . barracks? I seriously can’t remember details other than 1) we were in suburbia, 2) the street was wet like it had just rained, and 3) they were pulling open the gate of what I think was a multi-story brick building (which, post-dream, I can’t help thinking of as both a firehouse and “the Ghostbusters building,” even though I remember something bigger and purely made of red brick, like a school).

Anyway, as I was standing there, a soldier ran up and told me that one platoon encountered a monster–and I really, really wish I could remember what monster it was, but I can’t. All I know is, shit was so dire that I didn’t even redirect all forces to that monster–I just rerouted a single group of soldiers to take care of it. Because, apparently, there was a full on war with the monsters in my hometown? I don’t know if all of the adults were dead, but there were none in that part of the dream. Extremely weird.

Unlike most of my multi-phase dreams though, this one continued with something like a loose story:

Years Later, at the Monster Lab

In the next phase of the dream, I was an adult, but I was also Barry Burton, from the Resident Evil games. This was super short–I was in a high tech science lab. White walls and ceilings with read-outs on panels of black glass. I wish I could say I was sneaking into some monster-creation lab or something (i.e. the end of many Resident Evil games), but no–I was in the control center, talking with the scientists who were trying to figure out how to stop the monsters. And, weirdly, that’s all I remember from that phase of the dream.

Retiring to an Extremely Weird House

The final phase was me, still as myself as Barry Burton, but also played by David Harbour. And I was retired from the war and looking at my new home. You can probably already tell that the connections to the original dream premise were thin, but they got thinner really fast; almost immediately, the dream just became a static tour of that home.

Which was admittedly very strange. First off, it was tiny–not just one-story, but one-room. I remember that it was at the center of a grass plot of land enclosed by a high, wooden fence. And, in the style of dreams, it was night, and although it wasn’t raining, I had a vague impression of rain regardless (like it was raining, but someone went into the graphical settings of my dream and just turned off the visual effects for rain).

Anyway, back to the house–its walls were all doors. Pretty, gothic front doors with large window panes. I remember that at some point, the realtor showed me how all the walls could open like it was a good thing, and I remember asking something like, “Why?” I don’t remember much after that; I just stood in the house, trying to get used to the idea that this would be my weird, new home, and then the dream ended.

I almost want to know what this one meant. The consistency with rain was really interesting in retrospect.

But more than anything, I . . . kind of want to see that grim future Stranger Things / Monster Squad story? Like, it would never fly now, but there’s an alternate reality where that movie came out in the 80’s. I am sure of it. And it’s probably great and terrible at the same time.

~~~

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this. If this is your first time here, I post every Sunday / Monday about anything, from my quest to become a published novelist to the weird dreams I have. If you’d like to join me for what is clearly a weird, random journey, you can give me a Follow via the button on the left sidebar (on PC) or the top-right drop-down menu (on mobile). Likes are also always appreciated because, at my stage of z-tier popularity, they’re the only way I can tell what my audience likes.

At any rate, take care, stay safe, and, if you didn’t know, mudskippers are fucking hilarious. They are seriously everything I strive to make when I create an animal for one of my novels. Just knowing these gross mud fish exist brightens my day to no end, and I hope it does the same for you. See you next week!

Process in Progress #5 (continued) – I Realized What Was Slowing Down My Edits: Me

Okay.

I promise that I’m not stressed out.

Edits didn’t go poorly.

But they didn’t go poorly because I had a breakthrough . . . that took extremely long to hit me.

“If you edit something for long enough, it stops getting better—it just starts getting different.”

I don’t remember who told me that. Someone from an internship I worked decades ago, I think.

But it is extremely true. It’s a principal I held close while writing this draft of Memory, determined to make it good while also making firm decisions about what the novel would be.

And somehow, in the interim between finishing Memory and now, I’d forgotten that principal.

And I didn’t realize it until I was agonizing over a worldbuilding conundrum in the first chapter—the road block it took forever to get past. It was a moment I’d just reworked the previous week and decided needed reworking again.

Until I got there, texted a friend, brainstormed, and realized . . .

“. . . What the fuck am I doing?”

The result of my brainstorming was a complicated answer that I realized would never make it into the novel. Or, rather, it could, but it felt like it wouldn’t improve the novel at all to include it—it would just make the one scene slightly different.

And immediately, like a person freshly released from mind control, I realized the thing I was agonizing over truly did not matter. It’s an answer I’m glad that I have, sure, but not one that would improve the MS, so . . . <shrug>.

It’s weird too, because in that moment I realized I’d forgotten a bunch of my internal writing tools that I use to make it past hurdles like this: things like ‘writing out scene possibilities and why I like them / dislike them so I can decide which to go with.’

And ‘pulling back and looking at the big picture of my setting to solve worldbuilding-logic problems.’ Being able to say, “Well, of course character A would be able to do specialized-action B. It seems like they wouldn’t, but they just learned it off screen when they lived in a culture where specialized-action B was common.” The kind of affirmation I used to have in droves while writing the first draft—moments where I’d just nod and say, “Ah, right. Makes sense,” and keep writing.

The good thing: this was definitely just a case of me being rusty. I let those tools slip because I convinced myself the writing part of my brain and the editing part are two totally separate things and the tools that work for one side don’t work for the other.

But that’s not true, and, thankfully, I remember that now.

So my editing process, is, at least, finally set.

  1. Big Fixes Pass.
  2. Small Tweaks Pass (remembering the mental tools I have at my disposal making sure to not massively over-think things [which I guess is a new mental tool?]).
  3. And the Line Feedback Pass.

Outside of all of that, I’m just accepting that I can let go of Memory and that, outside of suggestions from potential future editors, this second draft is just going to be what the novel is.

Because changing it into something else isn’t helping anyone—least of all me.

With that said, I’m off to edit the hell out of the rest of the novel in the coming month.

Here’s to hoping it isn’t a total nightmare.

~~~

Thanks for reading. Next week, I’m back to content that doesn’t directly involve my process. If you enjoyed what you read here, I definitely appreciate Likes and / or Follows.

Until next time, take care, stay hydrated, and, if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the teaser for Across the Spider-Verse: Part One! Bye!

Process in Progress #5 – I Need to Figure Out My Editing Process

Things That Happened While My Back Was Busted:

  1. I watched The Princess Bride, and in doing so discovered that . . . holy shit, Inigo Montoya is really the protagonist of that story. Like, the Han Solo factor of “Why am I not following this guy the whole time?” couples so strongly with his arc getting the most satisfying payoff that I came away from this last viewing like, “How is he not the protagonist?” Seriously, having read the book, it’s bizarre seeing how much the screenplay beefs up Westley (as if someone behind the scenes knew he paled in comparison). Potentially a post coming up about that. In the meantime, seriously, ask anyone to say a quote from The Princess Bride and consider how quickly they answer, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
  2. I started playing Hades. Possibly a post about that coming up as well.
  3. I trimmed the tip of the tree branch that kept bashing at my window, which I only mention because just imagine walking down the street and looking up to see a Hispanic man with wild, Medusa-like hair, Danny DeVito-panting as he clumsily hacks at a thin branch with an old bread knife. That was me. It only took seconds, but just in case no one saw it, now you did.
  4. I barely got any editing done.

Being totally real; my back was bad enough that I just stopped caring about anything. Coupled with the holiday, I just totally stopped trying.

However, the last time I edited (Wednesday) I did realize something.

I have no idea if I’m over- or under-editing.

To explain, my editing process so far has been as follows:

  1. The Big Fix Pass. I consider big feedback I’ve gotten from my writer’s group and pair that with larger edits I wanted to make to a chapter.
  2. The Small Tweaks Pass. After a break, I read back over the chapter, focusing on tweaking everything so it reads well and makes sense. Especially descriptions, which I realize I go super ‘implied magic’ on in my first drafts. Shit like, “The wind swirled blue, stalks wayward swaying,” which is not actually something from my first draft of Memory, but does perfectly represent the kind of starry-eyed bullshit I write sometimes. Although I’m much more guilty of under-describing because I don’t want to flood the read with worldbuilding. It’s weird to have to reign that reflex in (from what feels like the wrong direction), but I’ve really enjoyed getting to go ham with additional descriptions so far.
  3. The Line Feedback Pass. I whip out whatever line edits I have from my writing group and go over the chapter one last time, which works really well when it comes to catching anything I missed.

And that’s it. It definitely feels like a healthy approach to editing.

However . . . the problem is the Small Tweaks.

It definitely feels great every time I find a paragraph that doesn’t make sense. When I catch a description like “he rode the elevator down and the wall fell away” (paraphrasing here), I’m always super pleased to catch that, “No, the wall isn’t ‘falling’—it’s literally going up past the character because the elevator is going down, so I really need to find a new phrasing here.” Moments like that always feel like small victories, where I’m teasing out the best ways to describe a scene.

But I also feel like that side of myself—that focuses on literal meaning, clarity, and flow—can keep going forever if I let it.

Maybe that’s not true. Maybe if I went back and looked over the first chapter again, I wouldn’t find anything new to edit. But I can’t help feeling like I’d find myself thinking, “Well, is ‘chartreuse’ 2% more accurate to the color of the scum in this run-off ditch?”

But then, at the same time, if I don’t go back, am I going to feel massively unsatisfied when I finish editing this book? I’m two chapters in and every time I think about moving forward, there’s this nagging sensation that something’s wrong. And, being fair to the editing-Terminator part of my brain, I’m usually right when I get this feeling.

I think that what I need to do is add one more pass over a chapter. And, just imagining it, I’m sure it’s going to come down to this:

  1. I look over the chapter and fully accept that I can move on. That might mean finding a balance: adding charming descriptions to make things less clinical and further smoothing out moments that don’t make enough sense. Either way, I need to walk away feeling . . . Okay. This is going to sound super intense, but at this phase in my writing career, I think I need to walk away from every chapter feeling like it would be okay if it got published immediately. Like, if no one else ever touched the Prologue, I’d still be okay with the public reading it.
    Or . . .
  2. I look at the Prologue again and my eyes glaze over, indicating that my brain can’t handle another pass right now, which I would totally accept. And which would definitely constitute some kind of Final Pass on a 3rd Draft after I finish this edit.

Obviously, I don’t know which of these things will happen. But I do know that either way, all that matters is that I walk away from those edits feeling certain I can walk away.

Especially because, around all of this, there’s a time constraint; I still don’t live in a world where I can casually take another year to edit this novel. At best, I have until June of 2022, but I seriously can’t take that long or I’ll feel like a failure. Just personally, as a human being, I need to be submitting Memory by February at the absolute latest.

That’s . . . a lot of pressure.

Regardless, I’m grateful I was able to write all of this out here. Because when I started writing this post, I genuinely didn’t know how I’d solve this editing problem.

But now I’m both excited and terrified to attempt that one last pass and hope that I come away from it feeling certain. Of anything.

~~~

Thank for reading. I feel like I have to follow up on this next week, so that’s what I’ll probably do. If you’d like to find out what happens—if I’m relieved or infinitely more stressed out come next Sunday—then you can give my blog a Follow via the button on the left side-bar (on PC), or the top-right hamburger menu (on mobile).

Until next time, take care, stay safe, and if you’ve ever enjoyed any rogue-like, you owe it to yourself to play Hades. As a fan of the genre, Hades is easily my favorite ever. I seriously haven’t felt this strongly about a game recommendation since Spiritfarer.

Anyway, have a good week, everyone!

Sorry–I Need Another Break Today

I never, ever like taking multiple week breaks these days.

But I’m working with a half-charge on my laptop and a thrown-out back. So, like, can I get to my laptop charger on the other side of the room? Sure. Am I going to do that? Hell no–even lying down right now is uncomfortable.

And, on top of that, I just don’t have anything to talk about.

I tried writing something (thus the half-charge), but I’ve seriously got nothing. Lesson learned–always write posts earlier in the week. Never leave them for Saturday night / Sunday morning, when my garbage-y body might betray me, crazy-old-scientist style.

By way of an update, I’ve been entirely focused on editing Memory, which has been an interesting, impostor syndrome-tastic experience. On one hand, I’m worried that it’s taking so long (I’m only a chapter in). On the other, I’m glad that I’m being extremely thorough (and that I had enough time away to be hyper-critical).

That said . . . I’m going back to sleep if I can.

I seriously despise the idea of full, 100%-do-nothing sick days at this point in my life.

But, holy shit, fuck it. It’s 1PM and I am done.

Last thing: if you missed it, only weeks after I talked about my Fantasy fiction Smash Clone, Arya Stark . . . is officially in a Smash Clone: Multiversus, Warner’s newly announced platform fighter.

Here she is with Bugs Bunny, Garnet, Jake the Dog, and Personality-Sold-Separately Superman

I mean, I knew my Fantasy platform fighter would never come out, but now it’s well and truly dead.

But at least we can have Arya versus Shaggy from Scooby Doo, Harley Quinn, and . . . Reindog?

Truly the epic battle we’ve all been waiting for.

Anyway, take care, stay hydrated, and if you’re in the states, have a good Thanksgiving!

A November 2021 Break – In Prep for Editing Memory

Apologies for this one being a little late; my sleep schedule is such that I accidentally missed the majority of Sunday.

I would have done a November “Read/Watch/Play” today, but A) I haven’t finished the novel I started reading last week and B) the only good thing I’ve watched so far this month was Shang-Chi, and telling anyone to watch that would feel like an incredible waste of time. Because, yeah, I liked it—it was good—but also everyone saw it months ago.

Still, I wanted to take a break because this week had some weird medical bullshit that threw me off track.

And, as a result, I fell back into “Emotional Prep Mode.” Initially just to prepare for the steadily approaching nightmare of getting those leg surgeries.

But I realized halfway through the week that what I was really preparing for was editing Memory.

It’s been almost two months since I finished it, and, this week in particular, the corrections that I need to make started burning a figurative hole in my imaginary pocket of corrections. More than anything, I’m dying to get back to the ending, which I know needs a ton of changes; I went full “this part of my life needs to end” mode and settled on a bunch of stuff for the epilogue that I know is terrible.

On top of that, I’m also at the point where I think I can honestly read and edit earlier chapters without just skimming over them. The all-important distancing period is finally over.

So, I’m just gonna end this post here, because I want to finish prepping for tomorrow by compiling all the comments and critiques I’ve ever gotten into a complete, like, Editing Dashboard (and yes, of course it’s a spreadsheet). Maybe I’ll write a post about it if it’s actually effective.

Anyway, with that said, thanks for passing by.

I finally feel like I’ve gathered enough info from Likes to know that my most popular posts are the ones that focus on my writing process and WIP’s.

And first–aww, thanks, everybody! But second, okay–I’ll start focusing more on those posts. However, I still appreciate Likes as a way of gauging how readers feel about the content I put out, so if you enjoyed this, you can give it a Like via the left sidebar (on PC) or the top-right hamburger menu (on mobile). I also appreciate Follows because they help me grow my platform.

That said, take care, stay hydrated, and is anyone else as obsessed with the Shishi from Shang-Chi as I am? Seriously, I see people talking about Morris a bunch, but not the Shishi, which surprised me because, as a Fantasy nerd and a cat lover, they blew my mind. Like, they made me 10 years old again; I seriously just went wide-eyed like, “Whooooooaaaa,” and paused the movie to stare because they were so cool looking . . . Anyway, just asking. And also, my next D&D character is going to have a Shi Shi as a companion for sure.