Today’s Art (31st August 2013)

Well, I guess today’s drawings turned out fairly well, although I was feeling less inspired than usual and didn’t really try out that many new things (apart from attempting to draw creases in the character’s hoodie in “Neon Graffiti”- which isn’t really that noticeable because I had to do a lot more digital editing [including lowering the brightness quite a lot and increasing the contrast more than usual] than I expected to make the drawing even look vaguely good).

As usual, these two drawings are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Neon Graffiti" By C. A. Brown

“Neon Graffiti” By C. A. Brown

"Research Station Beta" By C. A. Brown

“Research Station Beta” By C. A. Brown

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Think Of Your Chapters Like Scenes From A Film (Or A TV Show)

2013 Artwork Chapter Film Sketch

(Ok, I was originally going to publish another article today [about writing more risque types of stories], but I kind of had a whole bunch of self-censorship issues with it, so it’s been postponed indefinitely until I feel like publishing it. Sorry about this act of creative cowardice, but feel free to enjoy this article which I was originally going to publish on the 2nd September)

I should start by saying that this is only one way to approach the subject of writing chapters. There are other schools of thought about this subject and different things obviously work for different stories. However, this approach usually works fairly well for me, especially in episodic fiction (such as “Ambitus” ), fast-paced stories and/or in stories with fairly short chapters (eg: 500-1000 words per chapter).

Anyway, one way to write dramatic and compelling chapters is to think of them as being like scenes from a film or a (scripted) TV show. Just watch a few scenes from a film or a TV show and you can probably guess what I mean by this and why it can work so well in prose fiction too. But I thought that I’d expand on it, in case you missed anything. (Plus, let’s face it, two paragraphs is hardly long enough for an entire article.)

So, without any further ado, here are two of the most important ways that you can take inspiration from films and TV when it comes to writing chapters of your stories.

1) Time and pacing: Although there are some exceptions to this, most scenes in films and TV shows are usually only a couple of minutes long at the most. Whilst there are some practical reasons for this in films and TV shows (eg: fitting a whole story into a 45 minutes or 90 minutes or whatever), it ensures that the story keeps moving at a reasonable pace and that, there is usually only room for things that relevant to the plot and/or character development in each scene.

One obvious example of this are the “deleted scenes” on DVD boxsets of TV shows. Although these scenes are usually fairly good in their own right, they aren’t usually essential to the plot (although they may contain some extra characterisation) and, as such, there is no room for them in the 30-45 minutes which the show has for each episode.

Now, whilst some stories might have length restrictions, writers don’t have to worry about running time in the way that filmmakers do. After all, most people read at different speeds, so it can be difficult to say with any certainty that each chapter will take five minutes to read or whatever.

However, as I mentioned before, all of this still means that each chapter should only contain things which are relevant to the plot and/or character development.

Or, in the case of horror and comedy fiction, chapters can also occasionally contain things which either disturb or amuse the reader, even they aren’t strictly relevant to the plot or a source of characterisation. However, it isn’t a good idea to do this too often.

2) Location: For practical reasons, a scene of a film or a TV show often usually takes place in one location. Whilst you can cut between multiple locations in longer chapters (even so, stick to about two or three at the absolute most), if you’re writing stories with shorter chapters then it’s essential to make sure that each chapter only takes places in one location unless you have an extremely compelling artistic reason for including multiple settings in your chapter.

Only using one location in each chapter is also a fairly clear way to switch between locations in your story too. Switching between multiple locations too often without clearly signposting it can quickly become confusing for your readers. Although there are obviously other ways to signpost this (eg: just writing something like “Meanwhile in London/Brighton/Manchester/ Paris/Berlin” etc…..), starting a new chapter when you switch to a new location is certainly one of the most clear ways of doing this.

Likewise, quite a well-known way to keep two plot threads running pretty consistently is to alternate between them in each chapter (eg: all the odd-numbered chapters follow one plot thread and all the even-numbered chapters follow another plot thread). Writing shorter chapters which each take place in only one location is absolutely perfect for this kind of plot structure (which is why, for example, it it is often used in thriller novels.)

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Although this article was relatively short, and mostly focused on stories with shorter chapters, I hope that it was useful 🙂

How To Draw A Paint Roller

For today’s instalment of my “How To Draw” series, I thought I’d show you how to draw a paint roller.

This one is kind of random, but I couldn’t think of anything to make a guide about and then I saw an advert for a DIY store on the TV, which included a paint roller. And, since it took me less than a minute to work out how to draw it, it seemed like a good subject for today’s drawing guide.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

Introducing “Ambitus” – Episode Two: “Dexis Hold ‘Em”

"Ambitus Episode 2 Cover" By C. A. Brown

“Ambitus Episode 2 Cover” By C. A. Brown

Well, I am extremely proud to introduce episode two of “Ambitus” – “Dexis Hold ‘Em”.

In case anyone is new to it, “Ambitus” is a sci-fi comedy fiction series which I’m working on at the moment. The episodes will be about 10,000-15,000 words long (episode one was approximately 9800 words long) and they’re sequential, but mostly self-contained.

Following the events of episode one, Captain Jola has recieved a terse message from the admiralty demanding a meeting on a nearby space station.

Meanwhile Jill, Tellare, Misaki and Paul have landed on a mostly-abandoned and turbulent planet called Dexis Prime in search of supplies and a new ident chip for their transport craft before the military catches up with them again……

Anyway, I’ll post chapter one on the “Ambitus” blog in a few minutes. Other chapters will be posted daily at 22:30 GMT.

Today’s Art (30th August 2013)

WOW! I’m extremely proud of today’s drawings 🙂 Both of them originally started off as my attempts at a couple of drawing excercises (drawing someone’s face when they are looking upwards and sketching a woman sitting down ) from a book called “The Fundamentals Of Drawing” By Barrington Barber that I bought ages ago.

I don’t know, I kind of want to learn how to draw in a slightly more “realistic” style at the moment – hence all these exercises and books.

However, when I was sketching both of them, I kind of thought “hmmm… this would look a lot cooler if….” and ended up changing the characters entirely, altering the characters’ poses slightly (eg: extending the character’s legs in “Quayside” etc..) and adding backgrounds etc….

Plus, you can probably guess what type of music I was listening to when I drew “Riding Through Hell” too…..

As usual, these two drawings are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence

"Riding Through Hell" By C. A. Brown

“Riding Through Hell” By C. A. Brown

"Quayside" By C. A. Brown

“Quayside” By C. A. Brown

Review: “The A-Team” (film)

Well, since I’m currently watching the second series of “The A-Team” on DVD, I was quite surprised to notice that they were showing the 2010 film adaptation on TV tonight (well, a few days ago, I usually tend to be several days ahead of what I post on here).

So, knowing a sychronicity when I see one, I decided to watch it – since I’d originally planned to see it at the cinema three years ago but I was too busy at the time. Anyway, it’s a film which is definitely worth watching, even if you haven’t seen the 1980s TV show.

“The A-Team” follows a team of four US Army rangers (John “Hannibal” Smith, Templeton “Faceman” Peck, B. A. Baracus and H. M. “Howling Mad” Murdock) who are serving in Iraq, following a series of very successful covert missions (the intro to the film shows one of their missions in Mexico and it is epic). Anyway, some of Saddam Hussein’s supporters have got hold of the printing plates which are needed to produce US Dollars. The army wants to hire a team of what are presumably private security contractors (working for a group called “Black Forest”) to get the plates back.

However, after some discussion and help from a CIA operative called Lynch, Hannibal’s superior officer (Morrison) gives them permission to recover the plates before the private contractors do. As such, they concoct an incredibly clever, daring and characteristically over-the-top plan to recover the plates and a shipping crate of counterfeit money. This goes well, but when they return to the base, there is a series of explosions which kill Morrison and destroy the counterfeit money. The plates also mysteriously go missing to.

As there is no longer any proof that the A-Team had orders to recover the plates, they are all sentenced to ten years in prison. Naturally, it isn’t long before they start hatching a plan to break out of prison, clear their names and find whoever has stolen the printing plates……

One of the first things I will say about this film is that there are obviously different actors playing the main characters (Liam Neeson, Quinton Jackson, Sharlto Copley and Bradley Cooper) and, if you’ve watched the TV series, this can be slightly disconcerting in the early parts of the film. During the first five minutes, I thought that I was watching a strange parallel universe version of the A-Team.

But I quickly got used to the actors being slightly different, since they portray their respective characters very well and, dare I say it, give them more depth than they had in the TV show ( B.A. Baracus especially). Plus, there’s a brief cameo by Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz after the credits too.

Another thing I will say about this film is that the plot of it is a lot more complex than an average episode of the TV show. It’s anything but formulaic and some parts of the film will catch you by surprise. This works really well and, despite all of the over-the-top stunts (which frequently bend the laws of physics), it lends the story a certain measure of realism.

Whilst “The A-Team” retains the sense of humour and ingenuity which made the TV series so great, it’s a lot grittier and slightly darker in tone than the TV series was. All this basically means is that, when it comes to combat, they act like ordinary action/thriller movie protagonists rather than people who intentionally shoot to miss all the time (but, at the same time, they have a much lower body count than, say, James Bond). Whilst some fans of the TV series might not like this, they’ve basically just brought the series up to date and made the characters a bit more realistic. And, although I’m sometimes wary about this kind of thing, they’ve done it surprisingly well.

Visually, this film is pretty spectacular and there are plenty of fairly dramatic high-budget special effects (which would be unthinkable for the original TV series). But there’s a fairly strong story to back them up and, although they’re obviously over-the-top, they’re innovative and just generally badass enough (eg: a scene involving a tank and two military drones) to really add something to the film.

Despite all these changes, “The A-Team” still remains true to the spirit of it’s source material and there are tons of small references to the original show too. If you’re a fan of the show, then this film is certainly worth watching. If you’ve never seen the show, but you like action/thriller films with interesting characters and a sense of humour, then it’s also worth watching this film. Although, looking on the internet, there apparently isn’t going to be a sequel 😦

If I had to give “The A-Team” a rating out of five, then it would probably get four and a half at the least.

How To Draw A Pencil Sharpener

Well, for today’s instalment of my “How To Draw” series, I thought that I’d show you how to draw a pencil sharpener.

Since I ended up drawing a different style of pencil sharpener to the type I usually use (which is one of those ones with a plastic box to catch the pencil shavings), I kind of had to draw it from memory – and part three of this guide ended up being slightly badly-drawn, sorry about this.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.