A Writer Watching – Eternals, Part 2

Hello and welcome back to “A Writer Watching – Eternals”!

This is the second part of a two part series, so if you’re just joining us now, you might want to check out part one first via this link.

But if you’re like, “Nah,” for any reason, I have to clarify again that the purpose of this series is to pick apart the bad writing of a multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster. Not just to expose its writing mishaps so impressionable young writers who love this movie can see them / avoid internalizing them . . . but so the rest of us can kick back and rag on something “movie night” style.

If that sounds mean-spirited, all I can say is that I am in no way ragging on the actors or the characters themselves. I’m ragging on the end product of capitalistic writing-by-committee; as I said in part one, I am always on the side of characters, not Hollywood executives. Sometimes I will be like, “Wow, that actor gave an extremely wooden, emotionless delivery of that line,” but I try to keep that to a minimum, because we’re not really here for that.

But also, I mean . . . the writers I’m criticizing are all millionaires in Hollywood, where the rich constantly fail upwards. If I can take heavy criticism for my work, so can they.

Anyway, because of the vibe of this series, you’ll have way more fun if you’ve already seen this movie.

But if you haven’t and you’re determined to read on then warning: spoilers ahead.

That said, let’s dive back into . . .

A Writer Watching – Eternals

Recap – Last time, we ended with the Eternals finding Druig in the Amazon. After they explain the film’s plot twist to him (that the Eternals are all robots sent to prepare the Earth to be destroyed so a Celestial can be born), Druig starts talking about how he’s been living in the Amazon, casually controlling people’s minds for 500 years, and I got so pissed off by that that I had to turn the movie off.

(1:06:17) – Now, we continue with Druig weirdly conveying that he’s angry because Arishem lied to them.

And I’m like, “Dude, you compelled someone to do something without their knowledge or consent, like, 10 seconds ago in screen time. Fuck all-the-way off.”

Seriously, my favorite part is when he makes sweet, huggable Karun throw his own camera at a wall and then asks Kingo, “Oh, where’s your sense of humor?”

I’m not going to keep ranting about this, but I have to reiterate again there’s a very fine line between making a morally ambiguous character actually morally ambiguous. This film not only makes Druig flat-out horrible, but also never punishes him for being horrible. At worst, he gets this moment, where everyone is toothlessly confrontational with him, which only accentuates his bad boy vibes.

I’ll end this here by saying, for the umpteenth time, that I will never try and control what anyone else writes. But if you’re making illogical leaps in your plot to avoid punishing the bad boy for being bad . . . then you’re making illogical leaps in your plot to avoid punishing the bad boy for being bad.

(1:13:02) – After a few good dialogue scenes, Deviants arrive in the Amazon village to attack the Eternals. Kingo tells Sprite to get Karun to safety because, despite having two of his cameras destroyed, he somehow has a third camera he’s recording with. While pushing him to cover, Sprite asks, “How many cameras did you bring, young man!?”

And, seriously, how charming of a line is that? I love the idea that Sprite is older than Karun and I really enjoy seeing her be casual about that fact. Obviously, you couldn’t have her making this joke over and over, but if anyone acted like they were 7000 years old, I wish it was her. It could’ve lent so much to her character, especially if she said this kind of thing defensively.

To put this in writing context, I just have to reiterate how badly I wish these characters were written as their actual age instead of acting like / sounding like / looking like modern super heroes.

Seriously, I just imagined a 7000 year old version of Sersi—determined to help humanity but also extremely tired. Having a normal-girl façade that she puts on around Dane only to sigh and stare into the distance when she’s alone, seeing 7000 years worth of humans like him dying in what amounted to a heartbeat for her. But what can she do? Tell her heart no? Abandon humanity like some of the other Eternals have? She’d already tried that, and 100 years alone on a mountain had been 100 years too many. Humanity needs her, and even though it breaks her heart to be around them, Sersi knows that she needs them too.

. . . Yeah, I think it would’ve made for a more interesting story is all.

(1:14:55) – Sersi is trapped under debri and a Deviant is charging her. Before it gets there, however, a bunch of people start shooting at the Deviant. Normal, human people who are being controlled by Druig. Two of them are killed as Druig runs in, grabs one of their guns, and does an admittedly awkward spin onto its back while shooting it. Said Deviant is then stopped by Sersi, who uses her powers to collapse a crystal (?) tree onto it. Sersi then finally tells Druig to let go of the people he’s controlling because he’s “better than this.” Druig reluctantly releases them, and they seem confused, asking Druig, “What’s happening?” before he tells them to escape to “the river.”

My favorite part is when the super hero makes the innocent people kill themselves to save the other super hero.

Nothing wrong with that; just a full 180 from the entire point of super heroes.

Seriously, could you imagine the fucking uproar if Wanda made the people of Westview fight Agatha for her in WandaVision?

It’s just gross. The idea that any super hero would do this is awful, much less a super hero using humans to fight the monsters he was created to fight.

And it’s made so much worse by Druig running in and capably fighting this fucking Deviant on his own anyway. In the grand scheme, all he did was distract the Deviant so Sersi could drop a tree on it, which means they didn’t need the puppeteered humans helping to begin with. Fuck’s sake, Sersi didn’t even need Druig’s help! She demonstrably could’ve just turned the floor to water under that Deviant, then turned that water to stone or whatever exactly like she did in the canal fight at the start of the movie. And then she could’ve pushed her crystal tree on it.

It would have completely sold me on Druig’s supposed concern for human life if he’d been shown stopping people from fighting the Deviants and making them escape. Holy shit—omfg—can you imagine if he made them escape even though they were trying to save Sersi!? Fuck! That would’ve been so goddamn cut throat and awesome. Like, not only would it solidify his reasons for leaving (that he cared more about human life than he did about the Eternals), but it would’ve rolled up his anger from his last scene into such a nice, badass ball. And then Sersi kills the Deviant anyway (she would’ve killed it in my draft) and Druig starts to smuggly explain himself only for Sersi to cut him off like, “Keep getting people to the river.” Ugh! It would’ve been so fucking good! Such good, juicy, complicated drama!

But . . . no. Instead, we got Druig making humans unwittingly kill themselves fighting a monster they couldn’t hope to kill.

Cool.

(1:18:39) – After saving Ikaris from a Deviant, Sersi is pushed into a pool of water. The Deviant dives after her and Sersi grabs its face, transmuting its body into a tree.

And in this moment, with the hero music in full effect and the Eternals staring in awe, I thought, “. . . Wait, is something special happening here?”

I didn’t realize she transmuted the Deviant until it was clarified later.

And to some degree, that’s because the scenario in which it happened made it very vague. Sersi and the Deviant were in water, so I thought she just transmuted the water into wood. Earlier, when she pushed a tree onto one of the Deviants, not only did they show her selectively transmuting only a small part of that tree—they showed her transmuting that part of the tree . . . into water. How could I possibly not assume she was just doing that reaction in reverse here?

But on top of that, Sersi’s powers are extremely vague to begin with. What can she transmute? How much can she transmute? Is it difficult if she tries to change something  to an extremely different element?

What I’m saying is, in writing terms, it definitely would’ve helped if Sersi’s powers were more clearly defined, and / or if this moment happened in a less confusing scenario.

(1:20:40) – Gilgamesh protects Thena from the head Deviant only to get caught by said Deviant and killed. After assimilating his powers, the head Deviant becomes humanoid and starts . . . talking?

This is just the weirdest tangent this movie goes down.

For no discernible reason, the head Deviant can talk so he can express what would be an interesting perspective on the whole Eternals-Deviants thing . . .

. . . but they just do absolutely nothing with it. He learns to talk just so Thena can kill him later and get revenge . . . which he didn’t need to be able to talk for? Seriously, even in the one moment near the end when it seems like this Deviant will team up with the other Eternals to fight Ikaris, nope—that just inexplicably doesn’t happen.

It’s just bizarre and feels 100% like something cut from a different draft of the story. Like maybe there was a draft where the Eternals learn to accept and work with the Deviants, who would also logically want to fight Arishem. But, if that plotline ever existed, 90% of it was excised for whatever reason, leaving only this talking Deviant for . . . some reason.

Seriously, kill your darlings, people. This head Deviant only serves to slow down and confuse the plot.

(1:23:24) – Druig and Sersi talk while watching Thena spread Gilgamesh’s ashes in a river.

Right in the middle of this conversation, you can seriously see a weird cut in dialogue—a jump in topic from “the Eternals and Deviants are the same and both want to fight Arishem,” which is the plotline I just imagined was removed, to “we need to stop Arishem,” the plot of the theatrical release.

Sersi: “These Deviants are trying to keep us from killing their own kind. They have a conscience now. That makes them more dangerous.”

Druig: “No, Sersi. That makes them us. Eternals and Deviants. Arishem’s children.”

And then, from Druig again, with absolutely no pause or justification: “But you are asking me to take control of a mind of a Celestial.”

It’s easy to miss, but it’s there. A jump in topic so awkward that it almost feels like a few lines were cut in post-production. I don’t want to put on my conspiracy hat and be like, “There was definitely a plotline cut!” but I will say that if there ever needs to be any cut of any kind in a story, it’s definitely worth going over dialogue to make sure there aren’t weird hiccups like this, where topic A and topic B kind of smash into each other.

Also, “the.”

The mind of a Celestial.” If you want a crash course on 90% of what I do when I edit my own stuff, it’s changing lines like this. “But you are asking me to take control of a mind of a Celestial” should be “But you are asking me to take control of the mind of a Celestial.”

It just flows better.

(1:23:24) Continued.

Also, wait, hold on—did Druig just say that at one point he thought about controlling everyone in the world? He did—and Sersi asked him, “Why didn’t you?” as if he can just . . . do that?

How fucking powerful is he? How powerful are any of these Eternals? What the fuck?

Also, gotta love the gross way that he was like, “I didn’t do it because then they wouldn’t be human anymore.” Like, “Cool. I’m glad that was the reason you decided not to brainwash me last Tuesday, dude. Can’t think of a single other reason. ‘Because they are flawed and I like them that way’ is definitely not the worst fucking answer you could’ve given there.”

(1:27:15) – After the Eternals (once again) kind of just teleport to the next part of the plot—reuniting with Phastos in Chicago—Ikaris and Sersi sit down to explain everything to Phastos and . . .

Phastos: “It all makes sense why she wouldn’t let us interfere with human conflicts. Conflicts lead to war, and war actually leads to advancement in lifesaving technology and medicine. So our mission was never to make a peaceful or harmonious world, but to increase the population at all costs.”

Me: “I mean . . . was your mission ever to make the world a paradise? Cause I just thought it was to kill all of the Deviants. Also, I kind of just assumed you weren’t supposed to interfere in human conflicts because you were supposed to have killed the Deviants hundreds of years ago and then peaced out (thus leaving humanity untouched either way). Like, you clearly wanted to solve a plot hole here . . . but that plot hole is only a plot hole if I needed an explanation for how humanity continued to grow without killer aliens eating everyone, and like . . . I don’t need an explanation for that because I am human on a real-life Earth where Deviants aren’t real and the population just kept growing?”

Seriously, I’ve never seen a movie be like, “Oh shit! Human history is a plot hole!” before, so my mind is kind of blown right now.

(1:31:25) – The gang goes back to their ship, the Domo, which is buried in Iraq. Despite the ship being buried, Phastos steps on a bag of potato chips on the way in, leading to the discovery that Makkari is inside, reading a book.

And I’m just so confused on so many levels.

  1. The ship was buried. How did Makkari get out for chips? If she teleported out the way the Eternals did at the beginning, why couldn’t the others teleport in the same way?
  2. Why is Phastos reacting to seeing Makkari by asking “What has she done?  Is that . . . a sarcophagus in my lab?” Did they all know she was on the ship? Why did she stay on the ship?
  3. Also, why has she just been on the ship for the last 500 years?

None of these questions get answered.

But I get why she stood on the ship from a writing perspective; once again, it’s the speedster problem. If Makkari had been a part of this plot way earlier, she could’ve run all over the world and gathered the other Eternals together in 30 minutes of plot time. The head Deviant never would’ve gotten away from her in the Amazon, Gilgamesh never would’ve died, etc.

Still, it just kind of blows that Makkari was locked out of the film until the hour and thirty mark on a technicality.

(1:32:33) – Inside the Domo, Druig picks up a box of Twinkies while Ikaris looks at the Emerald Tablet. Druig walks up and the two look at each other before grudgingly swapping items.

And, like, I get what’s happening here, but it falls so amazingly flat because neither character was shown having an affinity for either item earlier in this film. Seriously, if you swapped it so Ikaris was holding the Twinkies and Druig had the tablet and they swapped in the same way, this moment would’ve been exactly the same.

Writing-wise, a little reinforcement goes a long way; even if you were super lazy about it and just focused on one of them—maybe showing earlier that Ikaris loves food—this moment would’ve worked much better.

(1:32:49) – Druig asks Makkari how she got the Emerald Tablet and things get flirty real fast.

And here’s the totally unrealistic zero punishment I mentioned earlier for Druig.

It is completely unrealistic that we get no scene where Druig has to explain himself to Makkari. Was she not mad when he left? Did she not feel abandoned? I totally get that she’s morally grey like he’s supposed to be, but ‘morally grey’ doesn’t mean, ‘totally accepting of everything always.’

Makkari should feel something complicated when she sees him again, but almost like she’s not a character (and Druig needs to get away with murder), she just smiles and acts like shit’s great. It could’ve been a good, emotional moment that told us a lot about Makkari, but instead, she’s leveraged to make Druig look cooler.

And Druig doesn’t die by the end of the story or learn the error of his ways, so . . . <shrug>.

(1:34:34) – The group is debating how to stop the Emergence and what will happen if they fail. During the debate, Kingo turns to Ikaris and asks him for back-up by, saying, “Boss, am I right?” In reply, Ikaris points out that Sersi was chosen to lead the Eternals. Sprite barrels straight past that and says Ikaris should lead them.

And I just wish this bit of complexity factored more heavily in the story.

The idea that the other Eternals would soft-mutiny Sersi because she isn’t Superman is extremely interesting and could’ve amplified Sersi’s arc if it was just seeded a tiny bit better. It would’ve pushed the film more firmly into PC territory if you leaned too hard on it—turning the plot into a very obvious message on sexual discrimination—but if you didn’t want to make it that in-your-face (which seems like the movie’s MO), you could’ve sprinkled in moments earlier on where someone assumed Ikaris was the leader, or otherwise showed their lack of confidence in Sersi as a leader. And that would’ve made her hero moment at the end of the film that much more gratifying.

It’s absolutely a second-draft issue, but it’s still an issue. Non-essential, but if you hired me to edit your script, this is one of the things I’d tell you.

(1:37:02) – In a flashback, Ikaris and Ajak talk about the Emergence. During the conversation, Ajak mentions off-hand that she has followed Arishem for “millions of years.”

And *phew.* Is she saying she’s never had her memories wiped? Does Ajak have millions of years worth of memories in her head? I know that this might just mean that she gets wiped every time like the others and then a new copy of her is told the plot twist, but it really seems like she has had the same batch of memories the entire time . . .

. . . which means that I have to say for one final time how fucking rad it would’ve been if she was written that way. Can you imagine if she was aloof and exhausted? A leader executing rote actions with little patience? Cold to everything and everyone, almost always lost in thought? That would’ve made her such a better vehicle for mahd wy’ry too—like maybe change it so that at the very beginning, she’s fine, but as the flashbacks progress, she gets more and more distant. And in plot, the explanation is that she has mahd wy’ry, so she’s sent back to Arishem, who tells the others that she will return to usher them back to Olympia. But then, by whatever means, Sersi contacts Arishem and finds out that, no, Ajak has been dead for a thousand years by Arishem’s hand (possibly because she tried to fight him on her own when she got back to the World Forge but failed) and also the world is ending.

(1:41:09) – After killing Ajak, the head Deviant goes back into his Deviant cave with the other Deviants. He then tentacles them right in the necks, changing their forms.

And this is seriously on my Top 10 Unnecessary Moments in Movies.

I’d be hard-pressed to believe that anyone was wondering why some Deviants are bird-shaped while others are wolf-shaped, etc.—especially after it was shown earlier in the film that Deviants evolve (the entire reason Arishem designed the Eternals to be incapable of evolution). But this moment exists to explain why these Deviants aren’t all just wolves . . . which is a question created by the previous scene. And the explanation inherently doesn’t make sense because it isn’t based on anything previously established in the plot; these Deviants don’t just look like wolves because the head Deviant can . . . change them into other animals inexplicably.

. . . Thanks?

I always think of this as a ‘clean cut’; when I’m editing, I will run into a situation where, say, a character is awkwardly standing outside of a house, holding open its door, which swings inward, so another character can jump down from the ceiling inside and kick it closed. But after a few minutes of trying to figure out how to gracefully explain all of that, I will just be like, “Holy shit, the door just swings outward.”

Like, fuck it. Clean cut. If I’m ever wasting time trying to explain something that doesn’t matter because I want to justify it for myself, I just fucking cut it. Seriously, it’s to everyone’s benefit.

This scene? Even people who dig the CGI candy would not notice if this scene was cut from the script. Get rid of it. Clean cut.

(1:45:04) – After finding out that the Emergence has started, Phastos gives some tech to Makkari and tells her to find “the point of emergence.” Makkari proceeds to run through several time zones in six seconds.

This moment is extremely cool. I love that it’s not showing the world slowed down while Makkari moves at normal speed—it’s Makkari moving incredibly fast in real time. And it looks great.

But also, this is the moment on my first viewing where I was like, “Ah . . . Okay . . . Makkari is unstoppable.”

Just all tension gone, all confrontation invalidated.

I love Makkari. But also, we will come back to this.

(1:49:02) – After Ikaris turns on the group, admitting that he killed Ajak, Sprite decides that she’s going to go with him.

And here’s where the character complexity starts to feel kinda whiplashy.

I know Sprite is in love with Supermannequin . . . but she also very visibly loved Ajak, to the point that after her death earlier in the movie, Sprite was shown to be the most hurt by it.

And yet . . . she’s throwing in . . . with the guy who killed Ajak?

On my first viewing, I thought this was setting up a double cross, with Sprite turning on Ikaris at the last minute, but nope—she legit joins Ikaris.

And it just feels like the writers were working with a checklist. “It says here that Sprite loves Ikaris so <shrug> I guess she goes with him,” instead of Sprite feeling impossibly betrayed to find out the man she loves killed a member of her family.

All I’m saying is, character traits are dope, but your character who loves spaghetti doesn’t have to be eating spaghetti in every single scene. Especially after he finds out spaghetti killed his mom.

(1:50:05) – After Kingo explains that he won’t help the Eternals fight Ikaris and stop the Emergence, Makkari catches him and tells him, “We need you,” to which Kingo says, “Even with my help, we’re no match. It’s Ikaris.”

And, seriously, Makkari should just be like, “I will go snap Ikaris’ neck right now before he even knows I’m there.”

“No worries. I will go pulp his brain by vibrating his skull at the speed of sound.”

“You just blinked and, oop—what’s this in my hand? It’s Ikaris’ still-beating heart! The movie’s over!”

(1:50:05) – Continued.

Also, when Kingo leaves, he says, “But I hope to see you on the next planet,” and man, someone needs to explain the Reset button to Kingo. Like, “Dude . . . you are going to die in a few hours and a new model of you—not even a clone—will be on the next planet. You aren’t going to see anybody ever again after the Emergence because you will have exploded, my guy.”

But, of course—and yet again—I have to acknowledge that Kingo gets written out here on a technicality; he probably would’ve been too helpful in the fight against Ikaris, so the easier solution was to have him be like, “Nah. Peace.”

And at this point, it’s 2AM and I’m tired, so whatever.

(1:55:30) – We finally enter the film’s endgame, starting with Ikaris flying onto the Domo as it arrives at the Emergence. Upon blasting his way into the ship, Ikaris encounters Thena, who confesses that she’s always wanted to fight him as they initiate combat.

And I love that dialogue choice.

I was expecting, “I’ve never liked you,” but “I’ve always wanted to [fight you],” achieves the same while saying more.

That said, this moment where Thena finally returns to being a badass warrior doesn’t feel earned. It feels like we needed a scene focused exclusively on Thena’s struggles with her memories and her feelings about Gilgamesh’s death. Instead, she silently dealt with stuff in the background. How did Thena get her mojo back? Was it seriously watching Gilgamesh die?

Just saying, it would’ve been so much more rewarding if maybe she’d stopped Ikaris from killing Makkari earlier instead of Kingo. Maybe in that moment, when another member of the family was about to die, she triumphantly remembers why she fights and battles Ikaris to a quick, tense stand still, making him flee (which would of course make this fight on the Domo a significantly more intense rematch).

But no. She floats around the plot before eventually just sorta becoming Thena again.

(1:58:01) – After killing-but-not-killing Druig, Ikaris lands and says a vague, “Druig is gone. It’s over.” Then Makkari charges in, grabbing Ikaris by the throat and running him through a bunch of scenery before chucking him against a wall.

All of this looks great.

But also, Makkari, for real, just vibrate his head extremely fast—give him five thousand concussions in 3 seconds and he’s done.

Build up speed and kick him in the nuts so hard that you yeet his ass into the fucking stratosphere. Like, explode his balls! He will just stop fighting, I guarantee it.

I dunno—am I evil? Maybe I’m just evil.

But for real, there are countless ways Makkari could’ve ended the film right here.

Pure speedster nerfing in full effect.

(2:00:26) – Nearly everyone is fighting Ikaris and it’s really cool.

And while it’s happening, the head Deviant—who’s called Kro–shows up. And despite it seeming so much like he’s going to help everyone fight Ikaris, he just lands a single cheap shot before Thena splits off from the others for revenge.

And . . . why?

This fits so poorly with the rest of the endgame. It is seriously no longer time to even think about the Deviants—we’ve moved on to stopping a Celestial from destroying the planet and the idea that we’re taking time away from that to continue fighting the red herring villain is absolutely bonkers to me.

Seriously, if you set up a red herring villain for a story, I think this case is a great argument for why you should never try to resolve their threat in the endgame; the threat of the actual villain will always eclipse them. Kro was just a massive, bizarre mistake in this film.

(2:01:10) – After Kro and Thena fuck off, Ikaris tries to fly away, but Phastos catches him, pinning him to the beach with tech that limits his powers.

And I’m just frustrated.

Why did Phastos not open with this?

I hate this phenomenon in general, and it’s something I try to avoid in my own work; characters inexplicably not using the best of their abilities so more plot can happen. Like, “Hrrm. I could pin you down and drastically weaken you while two other Eternals are fighting you . . . or I can wait until it’s just you and me to use this fight-ending tech. Hrrm.”

(2:02:44) – Sprite distracts Sersi with a hologram of Ajak and then stabs her in the back with a tanto.

And I laugh every time.

Not because I’m sadistic (I’m not) or because I hate Sersi (I don’t).

I laugh because we just watched 70% of the Eternals bat each other around at sonic speed, with laser beams that are capable of slicing off Deviant limbs. Druig was just hit with that laser and sent hurtling down hundreds of feet, literally into the Earth, and he still comes back a-okay.

But Sersi gets stabbed with a knife and she’s like, “Urrrk! I am undone!”

I know she turns the tanto into water and just gets up in a minute, but that makes this moment even worse.

Seriously, I wish I could go to Sprite and be like, “So . . . Sersi is what’s called an ‘Eternal,’ which—and this may surprise you—means that stabbing her with a knife won’t kill her. I know that you’ve been an Eternal for 7000 years, but apparently you didn’t know this somehow, so FYI.”

The movie is trying so hard to play this off like a Loki style assassination, but it doesn’t work on even a single level.

(2:07:15) – The Emergence has begun and we see Tiamut’s fingers rising out of the ocean. At this exact time stamp, we get a very good shot for size comparison, revealing that each finger is larger than the volcano that’s been in the background for the entire endgame.

All of this looks extremely cool. It exudes such Final Fantasy vibes that I can’t help loving it. The world is well and truly ending, the stakes are ridiculous, and it looks super pretty.

But also, I’m noting that this Celestial’s fingertips are larger than volcanoes. In one shot, no exaggeration, those fingertips are in the mesosphere.

We’ll come back to this in one sec.

(2:11:37) – At this exact time code, we get an amazing shot of Tiamut’s head and left hand, turning to stone (which I used as the feature image for this post). In this shot, we see that both head and hand are so large that they’re practically in space.

Which is the moment where I have to say it.

The Eternals . . . did not save the world here.

I hate to be that guy, but in a few hours, massive tsunamis will hit every continent, killing countless people, because something of that size breaking that far out of the Earth would just end everything.

But . . .

. . . it looks so cool that I, as a viewer, am able to suspend my disbelief.

Or, well, I’m clearly not able to do that, but I’m willing to give it a pass.

I am absolutely certain without a shadow of a doubt that countless people on MCU Earth would be dead by the next day.

But the rule of cool is a rule for a reason. I usually don’t abide by it.

But this time, I will abide.

(2:14:02) – Sersi just kind of teleports back to the beach with the other Eternals and Phastos asks her how she turned Tiamut to stone. She says Tiamut joined their Uni-Mind. And Phastos says, “I always wondered how we survived the destruction of other planets that we were on. By being connected to the Celestial as it emerged.”

And just like that, three minutes later, I’m reminded I’m watching a terribly written movie.

Thanks, Phastos. Once again, that explanation makes zero sense and fails to solve a plot hole that wasn’t a plot hole. Didn’t they die every time? Didn’t their memories just get beamed up to Arishem via cosmic wi-fi and then a new copy of them was sent to other planets?

Seriously, I don’t know who was determined to have characters explain all of these nonsense plot holes, but every single time, they just make them worse.

And, putting it in writing terms, I’ll say flat-out that I think it’s always bad when characters try to explain plot holes in dialogue. This movie absolutely taught me that; never have your characters say, “Hrrrm. That explains why . . .” because it almost never, ever works. I know it’s primarily a Hollywood thing to leave plot holes in and try to explain them away like this, but it’s always worth repeating that it’s better to just take the plot hole out instead of trying to justify it to your audience.

Also—and I feel like I’m losing my mind here, but—if you absolutely must leave a plot hole in, at least make sure it’s actually a plot hole before you try to justify it.

(2:15:30) – Sersi tells Sprite that with the power left over from the Uni-Mind, she can make Sprite human. She accepts.

And, once again, I would gather all of the Infinity Stones myself if I could change this scene so she makes Sprite into a Furby instead. Like, imagine if in this touching moment, Sersi got mad ratchet like, “That’s what you get, bitch! You stab me in the back!? Fuck you!” while the other Eternals are like, “World Star!”

(2:26:30) – Finally, we end our journey with the mid-credits scene, in which a CGI troll-man teleports into the Domo and heralds the arrival of . . . Harry Styles.

Okay, look.

I have rewritten this last part so many times.

At first, I was openly confused. Then I was vitriolic while writing directly to Marvel Studios. At one point, I was like, “I didn’t even realize that was Harry Styles!” and went on a tangent about why they must’ve chosen a pop culture icon for the role.

But I don’t want to do any of that, because I’m not writing this for Marvel Studios—I’m writing this for us.

After watching this mid-credits scene, what I want to say to every aspiring writer out there is . . .

. . . write your good ideas.

If you have two stories in the chamber, and you know one of them is an awesome idea but the other one is a little niche and you’re wondering, “Can I make it work?” I’m here to say, “Maybe . . . but please just write the awesome idea.” The world wants to see it, and it will probably be infinitely better than the story you’re trying to figure out.

And, to be clear, I don’t mean, “Write your more typical ideas,” or, “Be a hack.” I just mean that you should write the ideas you’re more certain of—the plots you know are intriguing with the characters who have strong silhouettes.

Write your Silver Surfers, not your Eternals.

Full disclosure: I needed to hear this too. I still don’t like Eternals, but I’m glad this film led me to this conclusion, because now I have full, undeniable confirmation that, yes, I should just abandon some of the ideas I’ve had on the docket. The one short story about characters trying to find and kill a god? Cool, but also, I’ve known for years that the conclusion didn’t work, and I have to drop it. It just isn’t going to work as well as other, functional plots I already have.

And, for the same reason, I just have to drop my high school series.

Yes, I mean the series I started working on in high school—the one I spent every moment of every day thinking about and worldbuilding on post-its for nearly a decade. I’ve known that story wouldn’t work for nearly 20 years for a whole slew of reasons.

And I just can’t keep bashing my head on it anymore. I’ve always thought, “Oh, I’ll rework it at some point and it’ll be my magnum opus,” but decades later, I’m such a different writer that I don’t even care about those characters anymore. Hell, I don’t even care about writing a magnum opus; I just want to write the handful of awesome ideas I have. I just want to tell those stories.

But also, the world has moved on, so that high school story’s cast, which was 90% vampire stereotypes, is not worth reworking (PS-yes, I was a goth in high school).

Anyway, all of that is to say none of us have an infinite amount of time on this world.

It isn’t worth spending any of that time tinkering with a story that doesn’t work.

At best, writing the stronger story will help you figure out how to write the weaker one.

At worst, writing the stronger story will make you realize the weaker one is a lost cause.

So, with that said, farewell, Darkness Nightmare. I’m sure there’s a reality where I could find you in paperback, but that reality will never be this one.

Also, yes, it was called Darkness Nightmare. And yes, I know. Watch your glass of milk—it might slip off this e-e-e-e-edge!

~~~

Phew.

This post was even longer than part one.

But holy shit . . . I never have to watch Eternals ever again! Dobby is free!

If you made it all the way to the end, thank you so much for reading. This series was exhausting, but it was also a lot of fun.

No idea what I’m posting next week, but if you’re new here, it’ll be random. It could be anything from an update about the novel I’m currently editing or a post about The Book of Boba Fett. If you’d like to be here for it, you can drop me a Follow via the button on the left side of the screen (on PC) or in the hamburger menu on the top-right (on mobile).

Until next time, take care, stay safe, and rewatch that Silver Surfer chase scene from Rise of the Silver Surfer. The dialogue is still painful, but the Silver Surfer holds up. To this day, fifteen years later, he’s still amazing and terrifying. Like, you could lift that scene, put it in Avengers 5, and replace Johnny with Captain America and it would still be awesome.

Anyway, have a good week!

A Writer Watching – Eternals, Part 1

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 a member of the team 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 prune from 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 film. 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 a hallway 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 because I guess she just doesn’t give a fuck?? D) Their secret identities are still intact somehow???

Not to mention how 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 he’s not?”

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 abortabortabortabortabort.” 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,” he says, 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 Ikaris 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 . . . not great? At the very least, it’s 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 team seemingly just 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 in my current WIP 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 that one zombies episode of What If…?

But to be more constructive, 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 no . . . because in the posters Kingo shows off, he has different hairdos.

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, “Meeting my white girlfriend’s parents for the first time over dinner at their house 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 a total 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 ‘America’ so she says ‘Rogers’ instead.

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 blank . 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, the twist 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, “Yep. 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 kinda 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 into the exact town where Druig lives. I’m not saying I want to watch them trek across the Amazon trying to find him, 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 the team has explained the plot twist to him. 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: 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!