Monday, February 2, 2015

Laptop Open--Chair Reclined...WHAT KEEPS A READER ENGAGED IN YOUR STORY?


http://www.maryconnealy.com
So I have this test I use on movies.

Think of it as my variation on the old Siskal and Ebert Thumb Up/Thumbs Down test.

When I watch a movie I either have a book open or my laptop open.

My Cowboy sleeps.

So I’ve developed this test for quality of movies.

If he doesn’t nap and I don’t check my email then it’s a good movie.

Instead of a thumb icon, I will use an open laptop and a reclined chair for bad movies and a closed laptop and a chair sitting straight up for good movies

Bad Movie

Good Movie
I tend to over-analyze movies/books/songs…anything that involves written entertainment. Occupational hazard.
 
But I'm always interested in................
 
WHAT KEEPS OUR EYES ON THE SCREEN? 

It’s not always what you’d think.

Henry Cavill-Superman Man of Steel...let's all just pause for a moment over this picture...not having much trouble keeping my eyes on him...................................in fact you'd think this would sustain me through the whole movie
.............my attention is still engaged......................................................okay moving on
I was struck by this while watching Man of Steel with the most gorgeous Superman EVER. (one woman's opinion!) It’s no problem watching Henry Cavill at any time!

But there is a fight near the end of the movie and it’s a classic example of fights in these types of movies, like Transformers, X-Men, Pirates of the Caribbean, Batman, Spiderman. These fight scenes in mostly pretty good movies (and certainly expensive movies with top directors and huge budgets for special effects...movies that make big bucks) go on and on and on and on.





And honestly the 27th time Superman rams Zod’s head into a row of high rise buildings in New York City, well, it just gets boring.

How many times, now think about it, have you seen the Statue of Liberty get blown in half. Then here comes Lady Liberty crashing, head first, into a taxi cab. Sometimes I wonder if they use the same footage from other movies!

I’ve never watched a Transformers movie (that I remember? I may have forgotten) but good grief Pirates of the Caribbean? The sword fights, quirky and funny, but they  just NEVER END. You’d think watching Johnny Depp sword fight while balancing on a huge rolling wheel would be fairly entertaining but at least to me, it’s just dead space, plenty of time to check my email or read a chapter, and know I won’t miss a thing.

Plenty of time for My Cowboy to sneak in a nap.

I’ve come to realize why these endless fight scenes don’t hold my interest.

HERE’S MY POINT IF YOU’RE STILL PAYING ATTENTION!

It’s because THEY AREN’T MOVING THE STORY FORWARD.

OFF TOPIC ALERT!
Because it's Spring (okay, it's February, shut up, let me pretend) it's time for my annual Spring Parade of Calves on Facebook. To follow along as the babies come check out http://www.facebook.com/maryconnealy
And this is also true in books, each scene has to advance the story in order to hold the reader's attention. Writing is such a balance between revealing character, deepening the conflict, bringing the romance along…but all this has to be done while TELLING YOUR STORY.

Telling the story is your first goal and weaving in love and character and faith is all part of telling a good story but you have to spin a good yarn, tell a good story. The characters that inhabit that story are just one part of it. Any action scenes, falling over a cliff, a running gunfight, an explosion, all has to be advancing the story.

I’ve told writers, for example in critique groups, what is the point of this scene? You don’t advance the story at all.

One response I remember was, “I thought it revealed more about my character.”

You know what? It does reveal your character but it stopped your story dead in it's tracks. You need to do that, reveal and develop your character, but it’s GOT TO BE DONE WHILE YOU’RE ADVANCING YOUR STORY.

So the next time you’re writing a scene, picture adorable Henry Cavill bringing down the fifth row of high rise buildings in New York City using Zod’s head and ask yourself, will my whole book be one speck different if I cut the whole thing. Can I do this while only smashing down ONE row of high rise buildings. CAN LADY LIBERTY BE ALLOWED TO STAY ON HER FEET?

Metaphorically, I mean.

The Homestead Brides Collection In Bookstores NOW!
Let's think about your work in progress. Do you have scenes, however interesting, charming, action packed that don't advance your story? Do you have the guts to cut them?

Let's talk about it.

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a signed copy of a book that’s got ME, RUTHY AND PAMMY IN IT.

How cool is that? There are other great authors too, but three Seekers at once? That’s more fun than can be contained within the covers of a book.
I am also giving away this T-Shirt. It says, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A WOMAN WITH WRITING SKILLS
I HATE SELFIES, AT LEAST OF ME
Also, there's a raffle to get in a drawing for the prizes in this picture:
Click Here to Enter the Rafflecopter Drawing
The Homestead Brides Collection released yesterday, February 1st: Through nine historical romance adventures, readers will journey along with pioneers ready to stake a claim and plant their dreams on a piece of the great American plains. While fighting land disputes, helping neighbors, and tackling the challenges of nature the homesteaders are placed in the path of other dreamers with whom romance sparks. And God has His hand in orchestrating each unique meeting.

142 comments:

Helen Gray said...

Mary, I seldom watch a movie and don't even recognize many of the comments that are made about them. I'm much more likely to read a book.

But over time I HAVE learned to ask myself if scenes are necessary to the story.

Now I'll plug in the coffee pot and set the timer.

Then to bed, 'cause we have to head for Poplar Bluff in the morning for hubby's surgery appointment for removal of cancerous skin growths.

Melissa Jagears said...

I was given rewrites that included "they aren't doing enough to find so-and-so, write that in" boring.....so I wrote some more in only if I could figure out how to do it good story-wise, I had a beta reader read it asking if she saw anything that could be cut. She said "this one scene just felt like you were trying to show me they were doing everything they could to find so-and-so" Yep, that's what that was, CUT--so, just because your editor says add something, you gotta be sure it's worth adding. Thankfully I got some 'looking for so-and-so' in elsewhere....

Natalie Monk said...

Me too, Mary. I thought Henry Cavill was the best Superman ever and then I found out he has a British accent in real life and he's like 12 feet tall(ish) and I can't figure out if he's wearing contacts or how he gets his hair to curl like that--What? This isn't a Henry Cavill post? ;)

Okay, okay. I promise I did pay attention to the post and didn't stare at that darling photo for twenty whole minutes.
Well, I mean, mostly. Let's be reasonable. ;)

Seriously, though, I'm afraid to look at my scenes this closely. A lot may need nixing. I'll look real hard for that element of change that moves the story forward. But I know cutting can make all the difference sometimes.

You're so right. All those long fight scenes, when in reality all we need is one little change. I think one thing that plays into the boring-ness is the stakes. I mean, yeah, Superman was trying to save humanity, but he's SUPERMAN, and we all know he can't die (except when he did in that one comic I read when I was little--truly disturbing). I cared nothing for the Transformers movies after I saw the first one. The Avengers, though, even with all the action sequences, they keep me interested in the story. I need to figure out how Joss Whedon does that.

Thanks for a great post, Mary! Love that cow and calf pic! :) My Daddy just finished bottle feeding one. My dad would sing to it while he fed it, and it's tail would wag, but when Dad stopped singing, the tail stopped. Adorable. :D

I've never had writer-themed clothing, but would love to be in the drawing for that shirt! Or the book!

librarypat said...

Have been waiting for this to come out. Those who settle any new frontier are a different breed of people. They need to be brave, resilient, ingenious, and have perseverance. Many who settled the West had most of these characteristics. Some had a dream and some had no choice. Some just wanted to start over.
I look forward to meeting your characters and those of the other authors.
Good post. Too often I have read scenes that weren't necessary to the story. They seemed to be added just because the author wrote it, liked it, and really wanted to use it somewhere. You are so right. If it doesn't move the story forward, it is going to bog it down.
Love the shirt. A "Writer Babe" instead of a biker babe ; )

Cindy W. said...

Hi Mary, I can't say I watch movies trying to determine if a scene needs to be cut but on occasion I know I have made the comment it should be cut. However, when I read a book I do tend to pay attention to the scenes and either wonder why the scene is there but more importantly I try to figure why the scene works.

I would LOVE to win a copy of Homestead Brides. Thank you for the opportunity to win.

Have a blessed day!

Digging out of the frozen tundra in Indiana today.

Blessings,
Cindy W.

Rhonda Starnes said...

Good morning, Mary. Thanks for the post. I know identifying dead scenes in my writing is one area I need to work on.

The cow and calf make me want a farm. Ah, if only I could talk my mountain man into buying a small farm somewhere.

Love the shirt!!! If I'm honest, I just love prizes, especially Seekerville prizes. :)

Abbi Hart said...

Never really thought about it like that but it make sense the way you described it!

Jackie said...

Hi Mary,

I thought I was the only one who got bored during some of the chase/fight scenes. Great post today! Thanks.

Helen, hope you have safe travel this morning to your husband's appointment.

Rose said...

Mary,

Where did you get that T-shirt????

I'm not really an action movie girl. Like you the fights get long and boring, but anymore they are just to unbelievable.

Give me a romantic comedy any day!

House of Lost Lace said...

Thank you for finally saying what I've been thinking for years... Yes, they've blown some things up. Now can we get back to our story? Just think of all the money directors could save if they applied a "rule of 3" to their action scenes? Keep it down to just 3 colossal punches that knock down 3 national monuments.

BTW, I LOVE LOVE LOVE what you said at the writing retreat about how you like to shoot someone if your story's getting slow, especially when you said, "I suppose you can do it metaphorically; but I like real bullets." Best advice EVER!!!

Audra Harders said...

Good focus, Mary. Especially on Henry and Lady Liberty, LOL! Hmm, I think I'd rather focus on Henry...

Most of the time I realize I'm writing those scenes that do not move the story forward because I just need to get the emotion/memories/anger out of my character's system. Once they've purged themselves of the inner goop, I can move forward with the book.

When I go through for revisions, I find I don't really have a problem deleting those scenes -- well, not really deleting them -- I just move them to toss file, you know, just in case I can ever use it.

Ha! Never once have used anything out of my toss file, but it makes me feel better : )

Love your thumbs up and down. I always want to watch movies, but never seem to get it done.

Audra Harders said...

Prayers go with you, Helen! Get rid of those growths!!!

Audra Harders said...

I love the pic of the cow and her calf. Now that screams spring to me!!

Mary Hicks said...

Excellent advice, Mary! Thanks. :-)

I'm still learning to watch for those scenes that act as filler and do nothing to move the story forward.

Helen, you guys be safe on your trip, and good luck to your hubby.

And who wouldn't like to win a book with a trio of Seeker writers in it????

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI Mary, Great topic today because I have been doing that very thing with my wip. I have great survival scenes and all the details, but I have cut so many of them because they are just that scenes that describe, but don't tell me anything about the characters. sigh

I just hope I got all of them or enough of them out. I just love them though so its tough to do.

I just have to laugh at your laptop/nap rating. So true in my house too. I do emails and tv at the same time because both are too boring by themselves. At least it keeps me awake. But when a great program comes on then I'm in trouble because I watch and don't get any work done. lol

Sandra Leesmith said...

Praying for doctors and hubby today Helen.

Vince said...

Hi Mary:

I agree with you that moving the story in a scene is highly important. I do try to follow your advice.

Yet, in addition, a scene can also do a dozen different things depending on the story and the skill of the author. Great writers can achieve many different objectives simultaneously in a scene and this makes their writing as rich as the finest marbled prime rib. (Off topic theme reference.)

However, while moving the story in a scene is very important, moving the story itself can also be boring. (Compare the infamous ‘coffee-over-the-kitchen-table’ scenes which may advance the story by telling.)

I believe the key to reader attention is to be entertaining. You either move the story or you move the reader. For example, I recall a very entertaining long sword fight in which Zorro, the hero, step-by-step, frees the heroine from her garments in a display of his superior swordplay. I doubt a cowboy would sleep through that scene. Still, no matter how entertaining a scene may be, at some point the writer must cut to the chase (or should I say ‘chemise’?)

In other words, it may be okay to stop and smell the roses if your characters are in the British Botanical Gardens (a picture of which is on the cover art of the book).

BTW: I really love your T-shirt with the inscription:

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A WOMAN WITH WRITING SKILLS

However, I wonder who is that message intended for? Are you telling the adversaries of women writers that they need to really prepare well so that they can defeat these powerful scrivenerettes in their next conflict? What about the saying: “forewarned is forearmed”? (Maybe that’s just my military thinking.)

What do you think? I’m not sure whether I should have left this comment or not. Did it move the dialogue or was it more of a deleterious detour?

Vince

P.S. You wrote the longest running gun fight I ever read in one of the Vince books and it was not boring at all. Louis L’Amour would have been proud of it.

Cindy Regnier said...

Hi Mary. Congratulations on the release of Homestead Brides. I especially like your theory on the superhero fight scenes. I don't watch fight scenes, don't like them and now I know why. Great lesson in there. Maybe now you could teach the movie directors. I think it's a great selfie and, as always I love your baby calf pictures. Keep them coming.

Mary Connealy said...

Helen thanks for the coffee and comment. God bless you and your hubby today.
I'll keep you in my prayers.

Jackie Smith said...

Mary, I am starting to read your Trouble in Texas series! Yep, I finally got all 3 and love to read series...in order! A friend is anxiously waiting for me to pass them on!
Please put me in (the Stetson) for Homestead Brides!
Thanks!

Mary Connealy said...

Melissa, good for you. I know those scenes you mean.

Mary Connealy said...

Natalie, clearly you've given Henry Cavill a LOT of thought.

Been there.


LOL

Marianne Barkman said...

Loved the post. I don't watch TV or movies much ( no tv at our house) but there are some books I read to go to sleep, and then there are some books( yes, definitely Seekerville authors) that I can't put down so I read them in one day! I also LOVE that i have another chance to win THE HOMESTEAD BRIDES. ( I'll share mine with you, Sandra after I've read it)

Mary Connealy said...

Natalie I watch very few movies, though I sit in front of the TV quite a bit while movies play. (does that make sense).
And my husband seems to love movies but all I can figure out is, somehow he prefers sleeping through movies rather than regular TV shows.
Because he ALWAYS sleeps. And if he doesn't that is a HUGE compliment to a film.

Julie Lessman said...

LOL, Mare, ONLY YOU can come up with a movie rating system that makes me laugh out loud!!

This is HYSTERICAL, especially your cowboy sleeping. And a two-pronged measuring system has GOT to be accurate, right???

And you nailed me on a scene I was planning to write today, just to give insight into the character, NOT any action, so I'm cutting the sucker right now -- thank you!!

Hugs,
Julie

Mary Connealy said...

We watch a LOT of lifetime/hallmark/up whatever networks have those sweet, often funny lovestory movies.
My husband pretends like he likes them but I think the noise level is just best for his napping.

Mary Connealy said...

librarypat, I am in the middle of reading The Homestead Brides Collection.

I just finished Ruthy's and Pam's is next.

I think Ruthy REALLY caught the feel of homesteading. She made me feel those vast prairies and the hardships, but also the wonder of the space and fresh air and the honor of hard work providing you with a home.

It was lovely.

I knew she had that in her. :)

Now on to Pam's!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Cindy, we are frozen tundra too!

We had 10 inches of snow yesterday and our current temperature is MINUS NINE!!!!!!

And my husband is out in it. Fighting for the lives of his baby calves. :(

Mary Connealy said...

Hi Rhonda...you have your very own MOUNTAIN MAN!?

You need to tell us more.

Mary Connealy said...

Abbi! That's why we keep doing Seekerville.

We cover the same topics but sometimes they help someone at just the right time in just the right way.

Cara Lynn James said...

Fun post, Mary! Thanks for including that cutie, Henry Cavill.

It's hard for a writer to delete unnecessary scenes, but it's so easy for an editor to do it. Only they want you it done before it gets to their desk.

Mary Connealy said...

Jackie I watch them (okay, a couple times I've TRIED to watch them) and I just wonder what the director is thinking?

Are there really people entertained by this? At the end of the Superman Zod fight....Superman got a CHOKE HOLD on Zod and that knocked him out. (Maybe it killed him, I don't know) but I just thought, "Wow, Superman, you should've tried a choke hold BEFORE you leveled Manhattan."

Carolyne Aarsen said...

Mary, I am SO with you on the fight scenes in movies. I kept hearing how amazing the first Avengers movie was. I was in for Josh Whedon, one of my favourite writers. But half an hour to destroy New York City? What do these filmmakers have against the place? I was watching it in a movie theatre so I had to sit through all that mayhem and all the while I was thinking - GUYS! One explosion is good, two is better and seventeen and a half is best of all. It was boring. And i had no laptop with me nor could I make notes on my next story because it was too dark in there. And noisy!

So yeah, I take those lessons to my writing too. Give each scene punch by making them work as hard as possible and do as many things as possible.

And no fight scenes!

Carolyne Aarsen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Connealy said...

Rose I bought the T-Shirt online. From a picture that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed.

It's from a place called Viral Styles where, I think, if I understand correctly, you can create your own T-Shirts.

So I think this t-shirt is sold out but I really can't make much sense of the website when I go in from the front door. Before I had a link.

DebH said...

MARY
your Cowboy probably sleeps whenever he allows his body to remain still for longer than five minutes since he's doing mega-work at all other times. i'm guessing because my younger brother suffers the same malady with sleeping through movies. like your Cowboy - if he remains awake, it's a good movie/show/whatever.

this is an awesome post about how to clear out writing deadwood. THANKS!!!!!!

please put my name in the Stetson for either t-shirt or Homestead Brides. both are must haves, imho.

p.s. love both the selfie and the calf pix. your Cowboy is racking up uber hero points as he braves severe cold for the good of the critters under his care. swoon worthy. (but then, I come from a long line of farmer family history, North Dakota style...)

Mary Connealy said...

Hey, House of Lost Lace...best Blogger name EVER!

Wilani Wahl said...

I'm always reading a book at the same time i am watching a movie. Thanks for the reminder to keep the scenes moving forward in the book.

By the way I love the cow picture.

Mary Connealy said...

Audra, I know what you mean about saving the stuff you cut...if it's a significant amount. It just hurts less to copy and paste it into a new document than to just delte!

Mary Connealy said...

I hope everyone who can stay off the roads today DOES stay off the roads.

We had a fatality near us in a two car accident on a road so narrow from the snow, it dropped to one lane.

Awful. I didn't know the lady who died but it's still awful.

And I heard a seven mile stretch of highway near me described as ...a smooth sheet of shining ice.

Mary Connealy said...

Vince, as always you are exactly right.

And everyone who reads Vince's comment pay attention.

Yes you need to move the story forward but you also need to develop character, put emotion on the page, give the reader Reward Per Page. I guess that's why it's tricky to get a book published because you have to do it ALL.

And this:
...cut to the chase (or should I say ‘chemise’?)

Aw, now I vividly remember that scene, Vince. But seriously, yes it's an action scene, but considering they were falling in love and Zorro was revealing himself to his enemy's daughter, I think it also advanced the story. Truly a scene that does it all.

Mary Connealy said...

And Vince, I will always CHERISH you comparing me to Louis L'Amour!

He's a huge influence for me.

Mary Connealy said...

Cindy I used to be sort of confused at why they were so boring. Mostly I think they're just too stinking LONG.

But there's more going on.

Has anyone watched Die Hard? Remember when Bruce Willis is on the roof and the helicopter is coming and the bomb is coming and the roof is full of people?

And he drives the people off the roof and the helicopter guys shoot at him and he ties that fire hose around his waist and jumps off the building at the same instant it explodes?

Okay, to me, one of the best action scenes ever and you absolutely cannot look away.

HOWEVER just before the explosion/roof scene Willis has a fist fight with a bad guy.

This is ridiculously long and boring. Just silly. One of the longest, draggiest scenes in a movie in one of the best action movies ever.
(if you've never seen it, there is LANGUAGE, so be warned)

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Jackie, you know I like reading series in order too. I'm a big advocate of that.

And I also like to dive into a series after it's written.

I don't always but then I wait a year or however long and read book #2 and I can't remember book #1!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Hi Marianne, good for you ejecting the TV. I wonder how much we'd miss it if it went. We could sit in the exact same places and he could sleep and I could read.

How would this be any different???

Mary Connealy said...

Carolyn, well NO fight scenes might be too few.

Mary Connealy said...

I may vanish for a while.

My Cowboy says he has to turn out electricity off in a few minutes.

Not for long hopefully.
I cranked up the heat and hope it has time to really warm the place up, so we can live for a while in MINUS NINE DEGREES with no furnace!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Carolyne, I almost never got to movies in the theater.

I wonder if that's why?

I'm just too afraid of being TRAPPED.

Mary Connealy said...

DebH, wow North Dakota, that is some serious cold up there!

It's ranch country though.

Have you ever heard that North Dakota's state motto is 'Catch the Spirit'?

We drive through a corner of North Dakota every year on our way to go fishing in Minnesota and we see that sign and I always think, "Isn't 'catch the spirit' another word for Exorcism?"

So North Dakota should just instead call itself the HAUNTED STATE. Which would explain why it's so empty.

kaybee said...

HI MARY,
This is a good reminder. I'm looking at that in one of my pieces now. It's a fine line, we do need to show information about our characters but it can't be gratuitous, or as Janet says, tea scenes.
I usually do embroidery or clip coupons during a movie, or sometimes do my nails. I can't just sit there, unless it's really gripping. The fight scenes bore me. My husband doesn't fall asleep, he enjoys them because he has a black belt in something or other. I'll answer e-mails or do something light if it's a really light program and I don't need to concentrate.
We are having a blizzard here. I don't care. The Patriots won!
KB

Pam Hillman said...

Mary, I did take a very SHORT break while reading your post, not because it wasn't riveting, but because I was cold and had to go find my fluffy robe and make a fresh cup of coffee to warm me up.

But I came RIGHT back to the Henry Cavil pics and the cute calf pic! Didn't even take a nap! Pinky swear.

Janet Dean said...

Mary, fun post and excellent reminder of the importance of advancing the story! In my Americana mindset, no tea scenes allowed. Love that you say cutting those scenes takes guts, cause it sure does. Our words came from within us so to cut them feels a bit like torture. The cool part is more and better words will come.

Love the T-shirt!!!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

I've been having fun seeing your spring calves on Facebook. You open us to another world, Mary. Thanks for sharing the experience.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Three Seekers in one collection is a no brainer purchase. Off to Amazon.

Janet

Connie Brown said...

I loved your post. I always enjoy your calf pictures. I always read during the commercials in shows on tv and I sometimes catch myself reading during the shows. I didn't see the Superman movie with Henry Cavill but I've seen several. I too wonder what movie writers have against New York. I've seen so many with things being destroyed. I will keep in mind what to cut when I write. Love your work and would like to be included in the drawing for the Homestead Brides. These stories aren't just love stories they have the information on how people lived them. I like it.

Myra Johnson said...

Really, REALLY important post, Mary--thanks! I totally hear you about the meaningless, non-story-advancing fight scenes. I feel the same way about car chase scenes and a lot of romance novels with pages and pages of open-door romantic scenes.

Oh, and has anyone ever just gotten SO irritated with cop shows where the good guys are approaching a bad guy to either apprehend or question him, and they call his name when they're about 10 feet away and you just KNOW the guy is going to run and they will have to chase him. Are these cops just clueless or what???

Jennifer Smith said...

Great points, Mary! Early drafts of the novel I'm working on had SO MANY dead scenes. And movie scenes where fights go on and on and the story doesn't move forward? Yes, those put me to sleep too!

Would love to be entered in the drawings. :)

Mary Connealy said...

Hi Kaybee, you know, all of writing is a 'fine line' isn't it?

Balance

I believe I've written a post about balance. LOL

The truth is every scene has to DO IT ALL!
And that's what makes it tricky and makes it so we need to never stop learning.

Mary Connealy said...

Pam oh my gosh I just realized that I TOO NEED TEA AND A FLUFFY ROBE!

Thank you for the reminder.


PS My electricity has been off three times this morning. My Cowboy and his partner brother have been fighting with a frozen cattle waterer.

We have electric/heated waterers for our cattle and the power went off to one and it's frozen solid.

Life is never simple when it's MINUS 9!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Here's a fun fact.

When men are out in the bitter cold trying to get water to their cattle? The little woman in the house doesn't get to complain because the power goes off (I had plenty of warning) and she can't get on the internet!

Mary Connealy said...

JANET I was just writing a scene and they were sitting around drinking coffee and talking things out and I have JANET DEAN IN MY HEAD SAYING, "NO TEA SCENES."

LOL thank you. You're absolutely right!

Kav said...

This is what I'm doing right now, Mary, and I'm embarrassed over how many unnecessary scenes I write. Empty. Redundant. Silly. Befuddling. And I also seem fond of taking a whole page to deliver a paragraph's worth of information. Sigh.

Thanks for the gratuitous calf picture, though spring in February seems a bit off to me. Those mama cows need a lesson on seasons.

And no need to enter me in the draw because I just bought Homestead Brides Collection. Can't wait to delve in.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I always wonder how Lady Liberty ends up in Manhattan when she's out on an island in the middle of the river....

It's like one icon MUST manage to fall or blow apart and land on another icon.

Mary, do you think we're getting jaded because we're writers and we're too critical?

I mean you, not me, of course.

I'm easy going. Ask anyone.

Clari Dees said...

As usual, much needed and great advice! I love the rating system. It's frequently used around here on tv shows and movies, too.

I took your advice other advice to heart and stayed off the roads this morning (which is why I actually have time to comment, today.) Cold and icy here this morning from the snow storm yesterday with a lot of black ice. So I gave myself a snow day. Now the trick is to use it productively...

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Aw, Mary, you were nice about "Prairie Promises"!!!!

:)

BIG RUTHY GRIN!!!!

I have read yours, Darlene's and Pam's so far, but I had to go back to finishing "Stranded with the Rancher" because I got it half read and loved it and then...

In the Christmas/holiday cleaning rush when things get put into boxes and shoved into closets so we don't look like slobs....

It disappeared.

Now mind you, I have two other copies for random giveaways someplace but I COULDN'T FIND THEM EITHER.

I'm pathetic.

But now I found the LOST COPY!!!!! So now I'm back to it because I think it's my favorite Tina book so far.

I am officially loving on this heroine, she is so perfectly drawn.

Mary Connealy said...

Myra, I seriously feel the same about the open door sex scenes. Honestly, c'mon, you're killing off up to 1/4 of your book acting out sex?

That's just lazy. Admit you don't have enough for a full novel and just get it over with.

And honestly those are NORMAL secular books. The racy ones that are so prevalent have seriously no plot at ALL sometimes.

FINE write a book with no plot, but if I'm me (and I am) and I'm skimming like crazy through the endless scenes, the equivalent of Johnny Depp and a sword fight, then I'm done with your lame book in about an hour.

(I just had to read some books ... let's say ... ahem ... OUTSIDE MY COMFORT ZONE....to judge a contest.

I think I recognize good writing in any genre so I can be fair about the judging....but puh-leeze!

Mary Connealy said...

Connie, I'm glad you're coming along for the fun ride with cattle. LOL

I haven't been outside now for two days. It's COLD AND WE HAD 10 INCHES OF SNOW!

Signed,
Mary 'The Wimp' Connealy

Mary Connealy said...

YAY FOR SNOW DAYS CLARI!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

KAV I really encourage you NOT to be hard on yourself.

For writers, at least some of us, we need to work through a scene IN WRITING. We really can't do it in our head.

So these scenes we write then cut, here's the deal, we may cut them out of the book but in our minds they still happened, and we've worked our way through some plot point for ourselves. And even if we cut a whole lot, that stuff still happened to the characters, we just find a really SHORT way to do the same thing or an ACTIVE way to do the same thing.

My characters right now are wading through some backstory while they ride. Is that any better than a tea scene?

Probably not.

It may all have to go!

But I think I need to write it, get it squared away in my own mind, or maybe even realize I'm on the wrong track and what I should be doing. So I refuse to feel like I've wasted time, even with a scene I cut. It's all part of the creative process.

Mary Connealy said...

Ruthy, I was nice wasn't I?

A lapse no doubt. :)

Chill N said...

Oh, great. Just when I think I've done final edits, Mary comes along telling me every single scene needs to advance the story.

Going back and checking scenes is a very scary thought -- which is probably exactly why I need to go back and check scenes.

Thanks for the reminder, Mary. Hoping all's well with calves and furnace.

Nancy C

Mary Connealy said...

Jennifer, if I know those scenes are boring, and YOU know those scenes are boring, and so many other commenters know those scenes are boring....they why do the directors do it?

It must be something about their 16-year-old boy target audience but honestly I'd think on some level those young men are also bored. I bet they're all checking their phones while the movie goes on....and a director realizes that and his solution is to have MORE AND BIGGER EXPLOSIONS!

Brilliant deduction, Sherlock.

Chill N said...

Mary Connealy said...
But I think I need to write it, get it squared away in my own mind, or maybe even realize I'm on the wrong track and what I should be doing. So I refuse to feel like I've wasted time, even with a scene I cut. It's all part of the creative process.


Thank you for that!

Nancy C

Connie Queen said...

My husband LOVES action movies, but me, not so much. And I'm lucky I married such a patient man because I tend to grumble about how ridiculous some of the fight scenes are.

"Really? That guy just stood up w/10 people shutting machine guns at him and he didn't get hit?" Drives me crazy. But my husband moves and dodges the blows right w/the characters.

Now, I love my John Wayne and most of the older westerns but not the newer computer-generated scenes.

Connie Queen said...

"Shooting" not shutting.
LOL.

Great post Mary. And the pics of your babies makes me want to raise calves again.

Meghan Carver said...

I know exactly what you mean about those fight scenes, Mary. The first time I see a movie I keep watching, waiting for what happens next in the plot. But if the whole movie is one big fight scene and very little dialogue...boring!

It makes me think of the final fight scene in the third Star Wars, where Obi-Wan and Anakin are dueling on that planet that's like one big volcano. Wouldn't they be burnt up in a nanosecond? Anyway, I know the ultimate point is to show how Anakin comes to be in the Darth Vadar get-up, but why does it have to take so long? In the special features, the costume lady talks about how Obi-Wan went through something like twelve costume changes in those scenes, always looking a little more singed. Twelve? Come on! Shouldn't that have signaled to them that the whole thing was taking too long?

Okay. Deep breath.

The giveaway is amazing today! Love the sunflowers on the cover. Thank you, Seekers, for all you do! :-)

Zombie Anne said...

I'm working through a scene and wondering if the chapter has stalled. My mind keeping cycling the following question: What suspenseful element could I add to liven up the scene? So far, all I hear is my evil twin laughing in my ear.

CatMom said...

Loved this post (and your system for reviewing movies) Mary! :)
You gave me a much-needed reminder about cutting scenes that are not moving the story forward - - yikes, I have a feeling my WIP will need a bit of surgery. ;)
LOVE the pics of your calves....so cute.
Hugs from WINDY Georgia, Patti Jo

p.s. Love that t-shirt too - - AWESOME!!!! :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I know I write scenes to cement my brain.... and then give 'em the big heave ho because they're weak, boring, insipid, and did I mention weak? But then I feel like I know the characters!!!!!

And then I can feed tiny bits (like feeding worms) here and there.

So much better.

Mary, your lapses on the kindness factor are always appreciated.

:)

My snow crew of kids are making VIDEOS right now. This could be trouble.

Pray for me.

Caryl Kane said...

Mary, I enjoyed reading your post! I pray that my spiritual life is moving forward even though in the natural it may seem that I am going nowhere fast.

Have a fantastic Monday. :)

BTW, I love your selfie!

Julie Jarnagin said...

What a cute t-shirt!

Valri said...

Mary, I love your posts, anytime, anywhere! Although I'm not a writer, I find that I can get something out of them for my own life whatever the topic! Thanks for that! I think even my hubby would have liked it this time because he LOVES the Superman movies!!! I love your giveaway this time - even the shirt is cute! Thanks!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I think Connie hit it on the head.

Those scenes aren't for US, the double-Xers....

It's for the Y chromosome side of the planet....

Although I'm with Ivan. I'd rather sleep, LOL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my stars, is that our age talking????

SAY IT AIN'T SO!

Jeanne T said...

Okay, so I hope I didn't comment twice here today. I added my two cents earlier from my iPad, but I don't see it here. Sigh. It was such a masterpiece too (I'll blush if I just missed it and it's here. ;) )

Mary, what a great post! I'm with you on Man of Steel. The fight scene became too long for this chickie. Constant intensity, no break, and no forward progress in plot or character growth? This is what made me say I don't really care for this movie. You nailed what it was I didn't really care for. Thank you. :)

I've got scenes from my wip's that needed to fly off to "scene-heaven," because they didn't do anything for the plot. I found that putting them in my first draft was good because it helped me understand the character better, or it helped me refine what needed to happen in the plot. Ideally, I took the essence of those scenes and nuanced them into scenes that really helped move the story forward. Ideally. I'm not sure I'm quite that good yet. ;)

Great post today! Stay warm! So sorry about the minus nine degree temps. Not sure how it can be so cold and yet be so nice one state west. Praying for you and your man today.

Mary Connealy said...

Nancy C, you're welcome. It helps me to let go of the hours of work because THEY ARE NOT WASTED!

I heard someone say once, "A reader should always get the sense that the author knows way way more about her subject and characters than she's telling."

Not sure exactly if that makes sense but to me, backstory that I cut and scenes that I cut, I KNOW THEM but I don't necessarily have to tell someone every detail.

Mary Connealy said...

CONNIE Have you ever seen the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall?

After it was over, well, it is honestly one of the most intriguing films ever, the idea of implanted memories and what's real and what's implanted. If they have only EVER been able to movie from point A to point B without shooting fifty people.

Mary Connealy said...

Meghan and every minute of screen time HAS to cost a zillion dollars right? All that computer animated stuff is expensive. And your movie is TOO LONG. Surely you know that, so why do it? Why crank the fight scene up to a half hour when a nice little ten minute fight scene would make the movie so much better?!

Tina Radcliffe said...

hahahaha Natalie...I like Henry with his hair slicked back. He is so durn cute.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Move the story or move the reader. Amen.

I have read many books by my favorite authors and afterwards wondered what the plot was, and yet, I was entertained enough to finish to the end AND I recall the protagonists names to this day.

Mary Connealy said...

Zombie Anne...catchy name. :)

If you need the scene and don't feel like you can cut it, my advice is just plow on through and get out, move on. Then come back and edit, revise, make the scene move faster, work better.

A first draft can stop you if you can't go on until you're really happy with it. You can get trapped in a scene that will not end. Move on, give it a little time, then come back and bring it to life.

Tina Radcliffe said...



Darn, Jeanne T lost her masterpiece. Um and hey you forgot to claim your WE ED prize, young lady.

Mary Connealy said...

I just read Ruthy's comment and all I came away with is
blah, blah, blah, FEEDING WORMS, blah, blah, blah!

Very disturbing, Ruthy!

Mary Connealy said...

Caryl, I probably took ten pictures and that was the best I could come up with.
Why take it from a low angle and show the ceiling fixture?

And yet the other pictures were SO MUCH WORSE!

Tina Radcliffe said...

And for goodness sakes, when you cut a scene don't toss it. Put it in a file for future use.

Mary Connealy said...

HI JULIE! Your names in the drawing! Thanks for commenting.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Yeah, I am trying to figure out what she was saying about chromosomes, but she lost me.

Was it a science quiz?

Mary Connealy said...

Valri, honestly the only thing I remember about the last Superman movie is Henry Cavill coming up out of the water soaking wet.

My mind kind of froze on that and beyond that, well, who knows what the story was about.

Oh yeah, his dad died saving the family dog rather than let young superman help.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wait, mustn't insult Ruthy. She just complimented me.

Sorry, Ruthy.

Mary Connealy said...

Jeanne T if you left a comment I don't remember responding to it, so you're probably okay!

:)

It sounds like you've found a zen-like calm, acceptance of the journey. You've found your happy place.

Literarily speaking. :)

Mary Connealy said...

Well, Tina, if we're not allowed to give Ruthy a hard time, what's the point???

Mary Connealy said...

I'd be more inclined to believe that men like action scenes if My Cowboy wasn't snoring through them.

Tina Radcliffe said...

brow lifted in question


What IS the point?

Must go meditate on this.

Janet Ferguson said...

Great article! I'm having to go back through my scenes in all my WIPs (if WIPs is a term) and delete or repair. Better to learn this one right out the gate!

Chill N said...

Tina Radcliffe said...
brow lifted in question


What IS the point?

Must go meditate on this.


Which calls to mind a sign hanging in my favorite retaurant ... "What if the hokey pokey really is what it's all about?"

Leola Ogle said...

Love this post. My main thought on fight scenes in movies usually goes something like this: How could anyone still be standing after that many blows to their head and body? or..Seriously? You shot at him ten times and missed every time?

And I have been known to lean over to my husband in a movie theater and whisper, "Enough with all the fighting already. Is there a plot here?"

And I frequently skip over the boring parts of a book. But never yours, Mary! Never yours.

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOLOLOL, Nancy!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Janet Ferguston, long time no see pahdner!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Connealy, you're SUCH A BRAT.

My comment was succinct and oh-so-brilliant.

WHATEVER.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Zombie Anne, if you have an evil twin, what is her name????

I'm most curious, darling.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

"I must have missed the chapter in Emily Post that said all abuse is heaped on the mother of the bride... or the Ruthy in Seekerville!"

Steel Magnolias, Melinne (Sally Field)

I am wrapping up my FIRST EVER SUSPENSE STORY for spring....

I'm just radically hoping it doesn't stink to high heaven...

Pass the chocolate.

Mary Connealy said...

JANET if WIPs isn't a word it should be.

You can officially claim to have invented it if you want.

Mary Connealy said...

Nancy is the hokey pokey IS what it's all about, that would explain so much!!!!!!!!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Aw, Leola you sweet thing.

I know, they get dropped out of a moving semi or bashed in the head with a door and that just makes the MAD!

Mary Connealy said...

One of my beloved lines in literature is from the Sackett book, I believe, called wow, I'm gonna get this wrong. I think it's The Sackett Brand.

Tell Sackett is in trouble and when a Sackett is in trouble all the other Sacketts come arunnin'.

So one Sackett is on his way and runs into another and says, "We've gotta hurry. Tell Sackett is trapped in the Mogollen Rim with forty armed gunmen after him."

"I'll ride with you, we need to get there fast to save him."

The other guy says, "No, we need to get there fast or Tell won't leave any of 'em for us."

Now THAT's a tough guy.

Wilani Wahl said...

I have a question for all you authors!

I had to give a 3 star review on a book I read this weekend. Someone in a reading group I am in shared a link telling reviewers how to review. This link basically said that you should not leave a review if you are going to give anything less than a 4 star. I have a problem with it. The link further goes on to give you exactly what to write in the review.

I just wondered what your thoughts are on this. I fell like I have been blasted for giving a 3 star review for a Christian book that was full of non Christian activities that were offensive to a Christian. When I wrote the review I listed the positives as well and there were a lot but I could not in good conscience give a 5 star or even a 4.

Vince said...

In Defense of 16 Year Old Non-Y Chromosome-Challenged Individuals.

It is not only what is on the screen that creates the movie experience. It is also what the viewer brings to that experience. To those who transfer their mitochondrial DNA to their offspring, the scene may seem to be only a long boring car chase; however, to the young man the screen is a delight of many things that raise many questions in his young mind.

"How does this car chase stack up to all the others I’ve seen?"

"How did the SX people create those shots?"

“How would it feel to be the stunt man in those cars?”

“How much of that driving could I try in my father’s car?”

"Is that Ferrari hot, or what?”

“Wouldn’t it be great to pick a prom date up in that car?”

"What girl in school would look best in that car sitting besides me?”

It would be a mistake to think these young guys are one-dimensional. You just don’t have the back story.: )

Vince

P.S. JANET: Your comment that, “Love that you say cutting those scenes takes guts, cause it sure does. Our words came from within us so to cut them feels a bit like torture. The cool part is more and better words will come made me think of cutting words as a pruning a plant so that it can grow back even better and more healthy. That is a very positive image.

Rhonda Starnes said...

Mary, Mountain Man and I have been married for twenty-nine years. The first time I met him, he was wearing overalls (without a shirt) and was barefoot. Did I mention I was on a date with one of Mountain Man's best friends when I first met him (and I don't remember what my date was wearing)? Mountain Man wrote me poetry, took me spelunking, and stole my heart at a Conway Twitty concert. He is a modern day Daniel Boone. He walks outdoors barefoot in the middle of winter, hikes, rides mountain bikes, and kayaks. He is a rugged outdoorsman, who has a sensitive, romantic side, and he's my biggest cheerleader.

Janet Ferguson said...

I'm pretty sure it's Tina's inspiration/fault that I'm reworking my WIPs, and I've been in dazed lurkdome.

Janet Ferguson said...

Lurkdome is also a new word

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wilani,

We have a professional reviewer in Seekerville on Wednesday. You could ask her.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I love being responsible for dazed writers.

Mary Connealy said...

Wilani, there are no rules.

and I've got the one star reviews to prove it.

Tell it like you see it!

Mary Connealy said...

VINCE -- there can be no doubt that you are right.

Those movies WORK for their target audience.

Apparently they aren't targeting ME.

Mary Connealy said...

Rhonda, I hope you're creating heroes based on him.

This is a story you know!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Janet, Tina gets all the credit when things go well around here...it's only fair we blame her when there's trouble!!!!

Debby Giusti said...

I'm late...had something that needed to get to NYC. It's winging it's way there as I type this comment. Ah, happiness!

Love the cow pics! I watched your Cowboy and his bro with the windmill today. Oh my gosh! That could be in a suspense novel!

Where did you get that T-shirt! May I enter the drawing? Pretty please?

Great post! Good info. Yes, the story has to progress...always.

Moo!

Mary Connealy said...

Hey, Debby. You've been INSANELY BUSY.

It's nice to see you here!

Yay on the book being ON THE WAY

Wilani Wahl said...

Thanks Tina and Mary.

I hope you have a great night.

Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Mary! And not just the selfie, which I loved. But also the reminder to try to cut a scene out to see what would happen!

Sandy Smith said...

Very interesting, Mary. I also get tired of pointless scenes in movies sometimes.

Please enter me into the drawing.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, that is a solid perspective. :)

Ask a boy.... Laughing, because that was spot on.

Oh, Wilani.... Reviews are what they are, darlin', and these days everyone has an opinion and a forum so it's okay to share as you think.

Honestly, 3 stars is generally listed as "GOOD".

When did "GOOD" become "BAD"????

When we started seeing everything magnified into 5-STAR glory.

Piffle. Write 'em the way you see 'em, but the one thing I have learned is that sometimes what I see as a problem in a book is more a difference of opinion. So I'm self-critical of that now.

jubileewriter said...

Mary,
This is a great post. I can so relate to the overkill fight scenes. The Prego Spaghetti comerical comes to mind as I consider my novel with your thoughts in mind. "What other bad choices have I made."I want the T-shirt and always love books from you all.
Cindy Huff

Vickie McDonough said...

Mary, I confess to loving the transformer movies--maybe because I raised four boys. I bet you'd enjoy them too, especially the first one. It has some good humor. I usually have my laptop on my lap while watching TV.

Deanna Stevens said...

Great photos & comments today but I have to admit I haven't watched a Superman movie since the very first one. But then I don't watch many movies.. I will read the book made into the movie :)
I'd like to be entered in both giveaways please. Like that t-shirt & still hoping to win a copy of Homestead Brides...

Sherri Shackelford said...

Well said! (And you don't have to enter me in the drawing for the t-shirt because I already have one ;)

Becky Dempsey said...

I call those parts of movies that drag on and are unnecessary "Pink Elephant" segments. (from Dumbo) They can just leave the whole thing out and you wouldn't be any worse off. I need to remember that for my writing. I'd love to win the book and the shirt!

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Mary! What a great example, using the Man of Steel reference. Hubby loves Superman, so I've sat through this movie several times. It's pretty good, but I totally agree with the ending fight scene--too long and too drawn out. Although it COULD be argued (by my husband) that this is character revealing and furthers the story, because Superman NEVER kills anyone. I suppose it shows that Zod was unstoppable and the only way to cease his reign of terror was to kill him, a decision that tears Superman apart. But anyway...

I hope you are having a great day with your calves!

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Oh, what a fun post! And your selfie is lovely, Mary. :)

I am in a revision/rewrite process with my WIP and your post is what I need to hear. I have wayyyy too many scenes that aren't moving my story forward. So, thank you for the figurative kick in the head. LOL

Deanne said...

I am not a movie type person at all. Give me a great book any day !

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

That is one great shirt by the way, nice looking model too! ;)

GREAT comments.
We watch movies at home in a similar fashion except with the iPad playing solitaire on the slow/predictable parts (which sigh might be for the entire film.

Then again, there are some films we've seen several times, but we keep watching. Fortunately, my DH tends to critique them also and we discuss what is working and what isn't.

All that's to say, OK! Not just me that's crazy! BOL!

Love those calves, whatever season!

Great comments on story-telling as always. You are so inspiring and wise... (Really.)

Carolyn Chambers Clark said...

I wish there was a way to edit my comments. I found a typo in mine, but when I went back, it was gone, gone, gone.

Agree about the fight scenes. I always put a crafty woman in mine and she outsmarts the villain, not shoots, rams, or knifes him.

If a movie sucks, I just turn it off or switch to another channel or go back to writing. Am I alone in this?

Love the giveaway. I'm in.