Saturday, May 2, 2015

How much detail do you need?

I developed a hobby in the last few months, one that I never had interest in, until I was curious about something for a short story.

I started to make my own yogurt.

It started innocently enough, I had an idea for a scene in my head and it involved making yogurt. So I researched how to do it. I realized as I was reading about it, that it was pretty simple. So I decided to try it. I didn't have to make the yogurt just for research. But doing it myself made it easier to write about it. I keep doing it because it's the type of yogurt I like, that is hard to find in the stores (full fat). Also it has led to making farmer's cheese, which my husband loves.

Did this mean that that scene became a recipe for how to make yogurt? No. Because that would be boring. But it was tempting.

We like to show off what we know. I don't think it's a pride issue. I think it's because we want to share knowledge with other people. But if you are writing a story, that is not the place to give a chapter lecture on theoretical physics. Even if you are writing hard science fiction. The reason, you will lose a lot of the audience.

It's happened to me as a reader. I remember a really interesting story about this man that could flip between parallel universes. The author must of been a fan or studied Eastern marital arts. Because when ever the hero got into a fight, every blow was named. Every fighting style was described in such detail, that I forgot I was reading an adventure story and thought I was reading a fighting manual. The story was slowed down with such detail, to the point I stopped reading.

How much to put in?

Enough to drive the story.

If you want to test yourself to see if you have put too much detail in. Read the story and skip that part. Better yet, get another to read it. If the story still makes sense without all that detail; CUT IT.

There are a lot of things I do as a hobby, that would be great to put in a story. And show off how much I know. But really, does a reader need to know that grandma screw up her gift sweater because she used the wrong cast on stitch while knitting.

If the detail is needed, add it. Maybe it becomes a plot point that you need to know every step in the tanning process, to figure out how the murder happened. Even then, just give the reader enough. Especially if you are describing the pre 20th century tanning process, you don't want your reader getting nauseous.  Skip to about 3:20 in the video if you want to know why.

by Mari Miniatt

Friday, April 3, 2015

What We Do in the Shadows

Another movie review...

Have you seen What We Do in the Shadows?

One of the funniest films I have seen. And one of the few vampire films that deal with their everyday business of being vampires. I have heard it called the "Spinal Tap" of vampire movies, and that is the best description.

Seriously, you need to see this film.

There are so many things to like about it.

  • Who knew New Zealand had a large vampire population?
  • Vampires as room mates (flatmates). Interesting concept.
  • Werewolves are more like a support group.
  • Stu.*

Although not a true horror. Shawn of the Dead was still a zombie movie with more laughter. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil turned the "kids hunted by rednecks" upside down, but still had some good horror bits (played for laughs more than scares). What We Do in the Shadows plays down the horror, turning much of the vampire tropes on their heads. The ending does includes a violent scene with the werewolves, but the way it is shot, it comes across as bad footage.

Instead the film deals with the nightly problems vampires have. Such as, how do you know you look good if you can't use a mirror? Or how to get into a club, if you have to be invited in? How embarrassing, but necessary, having a familiar can be.

We see the stereotypes of vampires played with. Vlad "the Poker" is a parody of Dracula. Viago is your dandy, gentleman, vampire. Petyr the Nosferatu that lives in the basement. Deacon is the rude, peasant stock. And finally Nick is the modern twist, who has the hardest adjusting. Thank goodness for his mate Stu.

There are some great sub plots. Such as "The Beast" and Viago's unrequited love for a woman that he followed to New Zealand. But what keeps you watching is how real it seems.

For a vampire film, this one feels the most realistic. It actually has the looks of a real camera crew finding a group of vampires and following them around. Some of the special effects are so well done that you don't realize it was a special effect. The bat fight is a great example. The different vampires and other creatures you meet in the film, feel as though you could accidently stumble upon them.

Speaking of other creatures, a small bit, but one I enjoy, is the zombie that talks about the problems zombies have and speaks in a well articulated voice. The closest to that portrayal, is Reg from Discworld.

In America, right now, this film is hard to find. In June the DVD should be released. If you come across it, watch it.

* Stu is played by Stu Rutherford, who is actually an IT guy. And now he can call himself an actor as well.  IT Guy Turns Accidental Film Star
by Mari Miniatt

Thursday, March 12, 2015

You might have a legendary creature in your house, and not know it.

**Sorry for the lateness. My artist had technical difficulties.

There is an assumption that most folkloric creatures are rural based. While that it is true that the woods and farmland have more than their fair share of mythological creatures lurking. It doesn't mean that the cities didn't have any.

The urban creature that might come to mind is of course the vampire. The second, might be the zombie. Both creatures are not defined on where they are active. You can find them anywhere. But let's not talk about them. There are far more interesting ones.

House spirits are the largest group of these. They are small human like creatures that live in your home and will help you out, if you are nice to them. Or make your life a living hell if you are nasty. Some will even start to look like you. Which could be embarassing.

Dobby from the Harry Potter series is a great example of one of these creatures. The name Dobby is also a name given to Brownies, on which the house-elfs were based on.

Brownie by Matt Miniatt 2015
Brownie by Matt Miniatt 2015

Brownies are from Scotland and Northern England. They are small. They do not like to be seen. They will live in unused parts of the home, like the attic. And if you want them to help you around the house; leave out some food, especially honey. And if you want to be really nice to them; leave a little place in the kitchen for them. In the past, it was a small seat next to the fire. Now-a-day's I suppose you could leave a seat by the oven.

Similar to Brownies but from the Slavic lands is the Domovoi. These are hairy, bearded little people, that will take on the appearance of the owner of the house after a long time. Or sometimes they will look like a cat or dog that likes to hang around the home. They are a bit noisier than Brownies. They will help out the owners of the house if treated well. But like to pound and knock things around while doing so.

Domovoi by Matt Miniatt 2015
Domovoi by Matt Miniatt 2015

Domovois, if treated correctly, could also warn people of dangers. If a woman was in danger, he would pull her hair. He would moan or howl if trouble was coming. And like a Banshee would cry and scream if death was coming to the house.

One you do not want attached to your house is the Boggart. They make things disapper. They cause pets to become injured. And if they really don't like you, they will try to injure you.

Boggart by Matt Miniatt 2015
Boggart by Matt Miniatt 2015

Unlike the others; Boggarts are real jerks. If you think leaving your house will solve the problem. Think again. THEY WILL FOLLOW YOU!

Luckily, it is easy to get rid of them. Hang a horseshoe on your door or spread salt on the threshold. The way the winter has been in Central New York, there is more than enough salt out to keep them away.

by Mari Miniatt

Art by Matt Miniatt