So ONLY because I am absolutely over talking about rape, torture, the fucking Hells Angels, the dumb ass fuck Bacon Brothers and all their stupid ass friends who REPEATEDLY make the same mistakes that I am DESPERATELY trying to escape, I thought for this week I’d talk about storytelling and what I’ve learned over the years from other novices and masters alike. Because if I die I want this entire website to be a reminder to Hollywood that they should pay me, basically.
I think all fans should get paid but I think I should get paid more because I’m awesome. So Question and answer time…again until I’m tired of answering all the unanswered questions I’ve ignored over the last seven years.
How Do You Tell A Truly Great Story?
A truly great story sticks to your soul. Kim Harrison wrote a character so annoyingly realistic that when they died I literally started eating tomatoes on purpose after years of not eating them at all because that’s part of the premise of her story. And every single time I eat a tomato I laugh my ass off, because how could a fucking tomato destroy the world?
How could a book? Or a key? All these things seem innocuous at first, but when given to the right storyteller turn into a device that can drive a fan or reader insane.
The idea of Vampires is as old as time but as old as it is new authors are constantly trying to find ways to re-invent the tale so that it makes sense to younger audiences and so that it’s not the same as before.
One of the truly great stories is Twilight, and yes I know lots of people complain because of Myer’s religious beliefs and how they fold into the story, waiting for sex before marriage etc, the idea of vampires not wanting Bella to spend time with Werewolves, but here are the parts people miss about that tale.
Werewolves and Vampires have justifiable reasons for disliking each other, and they all involve seriously old blood ties. They made a deal, and so Bella was repeatedly reminded she had to choose, and in the end, it was Bella’s very weird and creepy pregnancy that brought them together. It’s Romeo and Juliet which we praise as brave and majickal and sad and heartbreaking, but we trash the EXACT same story because the vampires sparkle and they don’t do that. Have you ever seen a vampire? I have and they are all kinds of sparkle.
Taking a book at face value is easy, but digging into the story, actually looking at what the metaphors mean to you, vs what they might mean to the author is something entirely different. When you read JK Rowling you see all kinds of signs that she’s not…quite the hero that WE want her to be, but the books she wrote, whether you like them or not, still engage billions of readers every year.
More and more new authors are waking up to what could be and reading as much as they can, in order to follow in the footsteps of those storytellers that came before them. That is what good storytelling is supposed to do. It’s supposed to anger, challenge, push, and inspire you to do things in your life, and in your writing in the way that only you can do.
If I, as a non-fiction writer have ever done that for any blogger, then I’ve done my job, and ANY writer will say that regardless of what genre they write in.
Truly great storytelling will involve tears. Your tears, I learned that from Stephen King. Everything that he writes is a nightmare that he’s had, or a story that he’s told himself to get through some truly dark times, every story he’s ever written from evil clowns to cars coming to life, is about things he’s wondered about.
Maybe he was drunk, or high, or completely sober, but the content that a writer or storyteller creates is ENTIRELY based on what they are fascinated with.
James Cameron has done everything from love stories to aliens, and everything in between. He’s done war films he’s done government films and television shows, murder and all of it. There’s very little that James Cameron hasn’t covered, and in Avatar he found a way to bring all those different genres together.
Doing that in a way that makes you stop and have a “holy shit” moment when the filming is done or the writing or painting or drawing or dancing is done, is a shock to the system, and the worst part is when critics or fans complain about the colour or race of a character. Rue was Black in the book, she was Black on screen and people lost their shit.
That’s so disheartening to writers, which is precisely why I don’t write fiction. I don’t want MY message to get lost in the beliefs of the fan’s desires. I don’t write for other people, I can’t, it’s too impossible to make everyone happy. I do as Stephanie Myer once said, write what I write because it makes me happy. (Actually, she said she writes hot young vampires because they’re young hot vampires, but whatever same shit different pile.)
From Books to TV Which is Better?
When I think about “books,” I include comic books and even the Archie comic books. For those of you who don’t know Riverdale is based on an alternate Jughead series that I never actually got to read growing up. I knew the basics of it from references in the regular Archies comics panels, but I hadn’t seen the whole series myself.
So when the show came out the nerd in me was excited, get over it, but holy fuck if ever there was a single dumpster fire of a show. And I say this because I am bitter that the show isn’t written the way that “I” would write it, but also because the cast film and live in Vancouver, and they’re mostly pricks.
A lot of comic book hero shows are filmed out here – Arrow, Supernatural, Supergirl, Smallville (Jesus what a fucking…what the fuck was that show? like what? I still haven’t forgiven any of the actors because….Jesus!) Personally, I think the entire Superman / Supergirl franchise is completely cursed. It’s not the acting, it’s the writing, at the hands of writers who have never really COMPLETELY lost themselves in a comic book series. It’s fans who turn on the show because the actors are hot, not because they can act or are talented.
A REALLY great series that the entire world completely slept on was StarCrossed: Aliens come to earth and are headed into these shipping containers to live. Instead of being welcomed as friends and allies, they are treated the way all immigrants are treated. And of course, a human and an alien fall in love and have to fight their entire government for true freedom, as well as their own respective kinds, but beyond that the props were amazing. Yes, that fucking part.
The makeup was sooo cool, glowing tattoos on the faces of the aliens, the rich history of the alien families, the connections, different tribes, different rules and the many different levels of power in their community, all of these were told in two seasons and it should have been a fucking franchise. I don’t say this because the cast was hot and sexy, I say it because they were TRULY talented.
There were so many levels to this story that never got to be told, and deserved to be, but because of the way programmers are, it didn’t get the attention it deserved.
I’ve been silently, (and INCREDIBLY LOUDLY) begging for Nora Roberts AKA JD Robb to do the In Death series as a television show for years, but the reason I believe that hasn’t happened is that that story is SO original, that funding, politics, and Hollywood would genuinely trash it to its bare minimum and the majick of the stories of the In Death series would be completely lost.
To do that kind of story in the film would take hundreds of millions of dollars, and the absolute perfect actors, (Sandra Bullock for Eve, no fucking question!) but that being said, there are also millions of fans who read these stories who have their own ideas of how the characters would look, how they would sound and what they might feel like on screen.
To do it right would take an INCREDIBLE amount of work, and the perfect timing, so like all of you I have to hope it happens before we’re all dead. (Like next year maybe?)
Music in Film
The dumbest scene in the history of time is the moment when Ironman loses his shit and tries to beat the shit out of Rhodie, they picked Robot Rock, it’s supposed to be funny….it’s not. This should have been the coolest fight in the history of film, two GIANT robots beating the shit out of each other and destroying a mansion because basically, that’s what rich people do. But instead….it’s just so lame. Like I’m yawning thinking about it.
Songs in film should make you feel something, they should add to what you’re seeing on screen, and for those who are blind, songs should be able to transcend the inability to physically see, so that the blind mind can create majickal images in the mind of that person. Instead, I’m like “oh cool so we’re dancing?” but we’re not, we’re trying to kill each other.
That all being said, the overuse of classical music is frustrating as hell. I’d like to see a more mash of classical music with – well we say ethnic – but music from other countries. One of the coolest songs in the film is in The Mummy Returns. A heavy metal song mixed with Middle Eastern music and it was soo beautiful. I actually can’t listen to that song because I’ve heard it so much but here it is for the rest of you.
How To Pull A Truly Great Gangster Story
The truth of every gangster story is that everyone dies in the end. Everyone, not one single person real or imagined gets out of gangster life without a little blood or a lot. Every story I’ve ever studied about gangsters – and I’ve been obsessed since I was a child with all things cult, religious, history, and gangs – the characters that you’re supposed to hate, the bad guys, are always the heros.
Buggsy Segal, The Coreliones, ANY and all Mafia films end with all the guys becoming rich and powerful, right before they die.
They are always celebrating good times before the bad shit happens, and with each special event, with each luxury moment, comes something traumatic and horrible. That’s the truth of this life. I’ve seen it a thousand times from the top to the bottom and back again. My own experience with gangs was limited, but it was a very tricky rope and unlike Francis Kray, Chris Monohan, and Rena Virk, I’m one of the few who made it out of that cycle of violence…literally just barely.
If you want to tell a truly great gangster story, then you have to be completely ready to take everything good about the world and strip it away.
- How did your character become a gangster?
- What motivated them to stay alive?
- What explosions and trains and cars and guns did they have to dodge?
AND most of all you have to remember that gangster stories are only ever about three things:
That’s it. That’s all gangsters care about, and yes you can break it all down to a psychological level that will fully explain everything, but even at face value, you know that every gang story, even when the story is about women gangsters, is about those three things.
Any gangster will tell you “I did it for the family,” naw motherfucker, you did it for money. Period. That’s all they care about, money brings power, power brings safety, safety brings stability, and that’s what they really crave, but it’s also the one thing they never get because if you want to be a truly truly GREAT gangster you have to kill everyone, trust no one, and outsmart them all at the same time. Good luck with that.
Worst Story Ever Told About Gangsters
I can’t remember the name of it, but I know the main character was a guy named Lucky, he falls in love with an undercover cop, and she falls in love with him. It’s a great story, gangster or son of one falling in love with a cop right? Wrong sides of the track and all that love will perceive. No, he fucking murders her. Because even though she gives up her badge, even though she turns her back on everything she believes in FOR him, he still can’t trust that she’s not a cop. So he kills her.
Because it’s either him, or her, it’s the dumbest fucking decision, and it’s the pussy ass decision. A real man would have turned his back on criminal life for the woman he loved. He didn’t love her, he liked fucking her, he liked her on his arm, but he didn’t give a fuck about her, because you don’t murder people you love.
You don’t abuse people you love. When you love something even for a short while you want to take care of them, you don’t destroy it in a fit of rage, especially when it’s another person you claim makes you a better person.
I hate this story because it’s so realistic, it’s so true. Too many men – specifically – abuse the ones they love the most out of fear of how they will be perceived or seen by the rest of the world.
Dirty Sexy Money, a story about the richest family in NYC, is a great explanation of what happens when you have too much money and too little direction in life. Wanting to do all the things but being terrified to do anything real, you become the worst side of yourself because it’s just easier than rising to the occasion.
The pursuit of money and power is a constant in every single story, and on the other side of that are the characters who are JUST trying to survive. For every love story about a gangster, there’s an equal and opposite story of a teacher and a doctor who die because one has a drug addiction and the other is either the abuser or the victim.
But we treat stories of gang life as things to admire, we don’t think about the fact that almost all of them are based on real-life people who were experiencing bullets, car bombs, and losing family members literally hours at a time.
The movie Legend was based on real-life gangsters the Kray brothers, twins, one a complete and total lunatic, the other slightly more sane but just barely. One trying to build something, to be a part of the future of London, through violence, through drugs, through nightclubs, the other wanting to destroy the world and watch it burn. In the middle a woman who loved them both, but couldn’t possibly have loved both in the way that each needed. She was Francis, played by Emily Browning.
The one film in all of history that made me completely change the way I looked at my life, not because Tom Hardy is hot, but because Emily Browning told the story of a girl who wanted to love a boy, who literally died, rather than bring another life into this world of violence alcohol and drugs. I get that. I watched a lot of women go through that, both in the gang world and while working at the church. I watched a lot of women escape. I saw a lot of women go back. Time and time again to the same places, expecting a different result. I was not, and I will not be one of the women who go backwards.
But you love gangster films…yeah because they tell a story I understand. They help me understand what I went through, what we went through, and why I sooo badly wanted to escape.
To tell a great story you have to remember that you can’t just have 1 character always.
Even Tom Hanks had a fucking volleyball to talk to. I don’t have a volleyball, I have cats, walls, and the internet, but that still makes for a great story because man if you could see the world the way I see the world you’d laugh until you cried.
To all the future storytellers out there, please do not ever stop telling your stories, even if no one else can understand your language. Teach them.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall