Tag Archives: TV review

Learning to Write from TV: The Umbrella Academy Edition

2 Mar

Writers are often told to read (and read a lot) in order to know how to write. And while I totally agree with that sentiment, I also think writers can learn from other forms of media. Yes, including TV shows. (Even TV shows adapted from a novel or comic book.) In fact, I think TV is often an easier reference for writers to discuss. Why? Because there are dozens of best-selling novels that come out every week, whereas there’s only a handful of TV shows that everyone seems to be talking about. Recently, for instance, the Netflix show The Umbrella Academy began to trend, and it seemed like everyone was chatting about it, including the publishing industry. Perhaps this is because it was adapted from a comic published by Dark Horse Comics. But what I want to concentrate on is how we can use popular TV to teach writers about trends, topics, and storytelling.

How can we use TV to discuss writing? By picking out the pros and cons, of course.

Here’s a few based on The Umbrella Academy.

umbrellanetflixcov

Also, major spoiler alerts begin here. I will discuss major events, including the ending, so if you don’t want this show spoiled, bookmark this article now and come back later. If you’re not planning on watching, I think this can still be a beneficial example of using TV to discuss writing. If you’ve already watched and don’t care about spoilers, awesome! But make sure to warn your followers of spoilers if you decide to share this piece.

Thanks for keeping entertainment fun!

Let’s start with a pro, since I like to concentrate on the positive:

Pro: Siblings with Personality

The Umbrella Academy follows seven children adopted by an eccentric billionaire after they were born in quite an unusual way. Six of these seven appear to have superpowers and are raised practicing these powers, with the seventh “ordinary” child being kept from lessons. That being said, the actual show takes place in their adult years. Rarely, do I see siblings depicted so realistically (especially in fantasy, especially in big families). Each sibling has their own personality, struggles, and place in the family. Even better? They treat each other differently based on their past selves, present relationship, and future desires. I really enjoyed watching the brothers and sisters bicker as much as joke, and lift each other up (while also pushing each other down). You know, complications. Too often we see a brother or sister appear in a minor supporting role with little to no depth or personal drive. And we definitely don’t see enough big families. I absolutely loved them and thought they were believable, round characters. (My only complaint on these particular siblings was the relationship between Allison and Luther. Non-biologically related siblings who have romantic tension isn’t necessarily my issue. My issue is that I found it uncomfortable, based on the fact that they were raised from birth together, as compared to similar tensions found in cases where they were not raised together, i.e. Avery and Atlas in The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee.) But that is a personal preference and a different discussion for another day.

Con: Female Tragedy for Male Depth

Far too often female characters suffer trauma, including death, in order to push male characters forward. Now, I’m not saying female characters cannot suffer, or die, but when the suffering of a female character (or any minority character) exists solely to push the male character into growth, then I’m not happy. This particularly happens with Diego, whose girlfriend Eudora dies for no other reason than to have Diego question his purpose, not once, but a number of times. When it isn’t Eudora pushing him, then it’s his mother, a robot, who he has to turn off at one point. A simple solution would’ve been emphasizing Diego’s desire to make his childhood suffering mean something by becoming a superhero (though this is only mentioned once, by – you guessed it – Eudora, right before she dies), while highlighting Eudora’s personality as someone who always had to follow the rules, who then dies when she finally agrees to break the rules (though this only happens, because – you guessed it again – Diego dared her to). Ultimately, these topics were barely touched in comparison to Diego’s rage over her death. This caused an uncomfortable situation where the male character could not grow without two female characters being hurt, or more specifically, killed. This also happens later in the show with Luther and Allison, as Luther consistently decides he exists in order to protect her by forcing his decisions on her. Not to mention Allison gets her throat slit once, which further takes her voice away. Now, granted, I will acknowledge that Allison’s powers exist in her ability to speak, so her losing her voice is far more symbolic than just Luther trying to oversee her decisions, but the combination of Luther’s lack of boundaries mixed with her silence bothered me. (Probably because the other brothers become complicit in it.) In contrast, the female characters are not driven by male pain. Allison is driven by her daughter, and Vanya is driven by her need to be accepted. The only instance where we see a female character driven by male pain is with Vanya, who reacts violently when her boyfriend “Peter” is hurt in a fake fight. Even then, though, the ultimate attention is averted from Peter and placed back on Vanya’s inability to control her powers. This sort of emphasis could’ve easily gone the other way with the male characters as well. Basically, it’s not about one gender causing another gender to react, but rather the emphasis at which it is focused on and what it means. We can do better.   

Pro: Humor Mixed in with the Serious

We do not have enough humor in fiction. That goes for flat-out humor books, as well as humor sprinkled throughout other genres. It’s one of the reasons I often find 600-page fantasy novels exhausting. (Which, by the way, is the main type of book I read.) I have found that the fantasy novels I love the most include moments of quiet, as well as humor (and from numerous characters and situations). The Umbrella Academy kills with their humor, especially with Klaus. I wish I could expand (because my negative sections feel longer than my positive), but this love is pretty straight-forward. I want more humor in everything.  

Con: Villains Suffering From Mental Health and Broken Homes

Listen, I get it, villains are supposed to be evil, and evil things can happen because of untreated mental illness. I’m not denying that. However, evil comes from non-mentally ill places as well, but modern entertainment is still leaning towards one more than the other, especially when it comes to female characters. I feel like it’s an overused trope, especially when clear lines aren’t drawn and discussed. The worst part for me in The Umbrella Academy is how unclear they made Vanya, especially when using her childhood flashbacks. It is never clarified if her powers are causing her to kill or if she, herself, has mental health issues and those issues were exacerbated by her powers, not to mention her father’s decision to cover her powers up without telling her even into adulthood. By not clarifying, especially when she begins to hallucinate (something that could be seen as schizophrenia), the art is setting up viewers to interpret mental health vs. evil, or even blending them, and I don’t like that message. We need to do better when it comes to depicting mental health. Take the time to clarify, even it means clarifying that no one truly knows. Without that, we will continue to get the same images, in this case, a young Ellen Paige discussing anxiety and nerves while shakily popping pills, then adding a montage of killing nannies as a child before she was on medication, (when no one else is depicted to be using medication or to have anxiety or anything), and that’s unacceptable. On a side note, I also hate that the male villain comes from a broken one-parent home. Is it just me, or is the only “positive” depiction of one-parent homes in popular entertainment Gilmore Girls? I’m probably biased, because I grew up in a one-parent home after my mother suddenly died. My dad raised me, and he is awesome. (I’m obvs. sick of seeing deadbeat dads, too.) Most of all, I’m really, really tired of watching motherless children become the epitome of evil, while orphans become heroes. Not that orphans can’t be heros, but why is it that losing two parents equals a superhero cape and adventure, and losing one means anger and doom? And where are the villains who come from “good” homes? And the heroes with two parents? And, and, and. We need more variety.   

giphy-2

Pro: Mashup of Tropes

The Umbrella Academy is a master of mashing up common tropes in unique ways. What do I mean by that? Well, as most writers know, nothing is new. With hundreds of years of literature behind us, everything has been done before. Writing isn’t about creating something no one has created before, because – spoiler alert – someone has created it. Instead, writing is about creating something new by using what we already have in unique ways. And The Umbrella Academy kills it, specifically with science fiction and fantasy tropes. To name a few, we have superheroes saving the world, a boy who sees dead people, a time-traveler, a monkey who has been experimented on until it’s more human than monkey, and a girl who thinks she doesn’t have powers (but, duh, she does), who is also the person who can’t control their powers. We’ve seen these characters and abilities depicted dozens of times. So how was this show unique? Let’s look at Klaus, the boy who sees dead people. Instead of trying to scare the viewer with Klaus’s powers (think Fifth Sense), The Umbrella Academy focuses on how Klaus himself is scared and how he has coped (or failed to cope) with his powers. Not to mention his dead brother Ben who follows him around to try to help him cope with his drug abuse. Learning to utilize tropes is an important aspect of writing in any genre, and I’d point any sci-fi/fantasy writer toward The Umbrella Academy for a lesson on that. In fact, I could probably write another ten pages on every trope the show used and how it spun it in a fun, entertaining way. But I’ve already rambled enough on here.

Netflix Hargreeves GIF by The Umbrella Academy - Find & Share on GIPHY

Con: Non-Ending Endings

There’s a big difference between a cliffhanger and a non-ending. Cliffhangers leave the reader or viewer wondering what will happen to the characters after the ending wraps up most (if not all the questions) posed at the beginning of the book or show. A cliffhanger is a hand popping up from a grave after the characters killed the villain, only for the villain to come back to life. A non-ending ending is when the villain and the hero are finally facing off and someone holds up a gun and shoots, but we never see where the bullet goes or who shot the gun or if it did anything at all. In my opinion, I felt like The Umbrella Academy has a non-ending ending. The entire time it’s focused on surviving this impending apocalypse, only for when it hits for them to disappear to some mysterious non-named time period in the past due to their time-traveling brother. It feels really cheap. Honestly, I think it could’ve been a cliffhanger if they had showed us exactly what time period they went to. Or even their childhood with the father standing before them, ready to train Vanya with them instead of ostracizing her. It would wrap everything up, but would still make us wonder if the solution would work. The fence between a cliffhanger and a non-ending ending is thin, but I feel like creators have begun to favor non-ending endings more than actual cliffhangers, and it drives me crazy. (And not in a good way.) I love cliffhangers. I’m happy to be enticed to the next season. But don’t make me feel like I wasted my time by telling me nothing by the end either.

In non-writing related notes: I loved the soundtrack and cinematography and the storyline in general. In fact, they played one of my favorite writing songs (“Run, Boy, Run” by Woodkid) and even made it the title of Episode 2. (If you haven’t watched the music videos for Woodkid’s entire album, do it now. It’s pure art.) I also loved the sets and directing style of nearly every scene. And not going to lie, I was super happy to see Hazel and the donut lady end up together. (I’ve never been so invested in a side characters before.) The show is super entertaining, and I’d highly recommend it to sci-fi/fantasy fans. I enjoyed myself a lot, and actually made the time to finish all 12 episodes (which is rare for me). I would definitely check out another season. And I felt like I was reminded of a lot of writing skills.

So do you think writers can learn from watching and discussing TV and movies?

If so, what shows do you think are good examples?

Tell me about them!

~SAT

 

Advertisements

#SATurdate: Penned Con, Descendants of the Sun, Snow Like Ashes, & Paperbacks

24 Sep

What I’m Writing:

I’m 52,291 words into Bad Bloods: July Thunder! I was sort of—maybe—kind of hoping to keep this book under 120,000 words, but it looks like it will be just as long as the first two installments at this point. It’s kind of funny not knowing if it will be one book or two, but I’ll keep everyone updated! In the meantime, check out the Pinterest board.

What I’m Publishing:

Bad Bloods: November Snow is now available as a paperback! (Woot!) For those of you wanting signed copies, I will offer those this next week once I get back from Penned Con. That’s right. I’m at Penned Con in St. Louis RIGHT NOW. So, if you’re near me, stop on by and say hi. I’m sharing a booth with the lovely and talented Natasha Hanova. (And we have candy.)

November Rain (FREE)

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

November Snow,

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads

What I’m Reading:

Snow Like Ashes

Snow Like Ashes

I finished The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele! Adventurous and super fun, The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele tells the story of what happens when a prince and two comrades from another dimension—a warring dimension full of scary, evil creatures called wraths—fall into modern LA and meets Liv, a foster kid on the run. Chaos ensues. I loved the humor in this book. I really enjoyed seeing our modern world from the viewpoint of Cedric (the prince from a more-or-less Medieval-type society). The descriptions were on point—enough to tell the reader what it was he was talking about, while keeping it mysterious to himself. I really enjoyed that, and his conflicting ideals between his old world and the new one he found himself in. Liv was also a badass, at least in regards to personality. I loved how real she felt, and I enjoyed her friendship with Shannon. (Hey! There’s a Shannon in this book. That’s another plus.) The letdowns mainly focus on disappointments rather than anything necessarily bad about the book. Based on marketing and the first couple of pages, I thought we’d see more of Caelum (the other world), but we only see the one chapter at the beginning. That being said, it leaves on QUITE the cliffhanger, hinting to seeing more of the world next time, and I am hoping to get my hands on the sequel soon. Also, the book relies heavily on tropes, which isn’t a bad thing if you love them. BUT I will say this: I LOVE that the love triangle is two girls and one boy rather than the other way around. Overall, though, it felt more like a “part one” than a “book one.” I still recommend it to YA Fantasy readers, especially for those who enjoy Urban Fantasy and Light Fantasy. Recommended to YA readers of light, urban fantasy. Favorite Quote: Maybe hell is just a myth we ascribe to worlds we cannot imagine.

In other news, I FINALLY began Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch. How has it taken me this long? UGH. I’ll never know.

What I’m Listening To:

What I’m Watching:

Descendants of the Sun is my latest K-Drama obsession, and I love it. Seriously, I’ve cried so hard during this show, it’s stupid. It follows a female doctor and a male solider as they get to know each other on various landscapes during numerous issues. They have a lot of moral conversations about life, and the life lost around them is heart-breaking! Definitely watch this right meow. It’s on Netflix.

Descendants of the Sun

Descendants of the Sun

I also watched Amazon’s Original Fleabag, and I LOVED it. This one is about a 20-something girl dealing with the death of her best friend while trying to survive in the big city. It’s tragically sad and hilariously funny. Check them both out.

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

No baking for me this week! I’m on the road, eating Halloween candy at my booth at Penned Con. Come grab some Airheads or Snickers.

What I’m Wearing:

Penned Con 2016

Penned Con 2016

Despite my non-Pikachu picture, I am wearing my Pikachu hat at Penned Con. Because nothing says “I’m an author” like all the nerdy clothes I’ve been dying to wear.

What I’m Wanting:

As I’m writing this, pasta—because I’m starving.

What I’m Dreaming Of:

Honestly, this is the first week where I wasn’t writing down my dreams, so I got nothing.

What Else Is Going On:

Okay. One more time. I am at Penned Con in St. Louis RIGHT NOW, so come on out, say hello, and read awesome books.

~SAT

TV Time: King of the Nerds

7 Mar

Four P.M. Update: My Twitter hit 1,000 likes too :]

Noon Update: My Facebook Author Page hit 100 likes! I am spinning in circles of happiness. Thank you for the consistent support. I appreciate you all as much as I appreciate my morning coffee (something I cannot live without.) Have a wonderful day! 

Okay. So I know tonight is the finale, so I’m a little late (super late?) bringing this television series into my nerdy light, but I HAD to. My biggest excuse is the fact that TBS just got the GO for season 2. And, yes, you can now apply to compete yourself.

King of the Nerds tests the intellect and varies capabilities of eleven “nerds” (such as a game designer, neurologist, and a NASA employee) as they compete for $100,000 and to be crowned as they sit on the Throne of Games. (Yes. Pun intended.) All of the nerdy action takes place at Nerdvana, and the contestants are hilarious. Even better, there isn’t as much useless drama as you may find on other reality shows (which I, personally, can’t stand about reality television.) Nerds seem to understand what matter, including when emotions get out of hand. 00097787-608003

The show comes on TBS on Thursdays, 10/9c. It’s hosted by Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong, both actors are known for their characters in the comedy series, Revenge of the Nerds.

Tonight, I’m really rooting for Ivan to win (mainly because he painted himself red, stood on stilts, gave himself horns, and waved a flaming sword around in the “create your own fantasy world competition.)5cd6f791f96ebcc80870087bbc4dbca7

If you haven’t checked this show out, it’s a new (and definitely a celebration) show about being a “nerd.” If you’re anything like me (definitely nerdy) this show is a wonderful reminder of why being “nerdy” isn’t a bad thing; it’s a great thing! Watch what it’s about, and maybe you’ll forward to season 2 like I am! Click here to visit the show’s home page.

~SAT

P.S. Thank you for the all congratulations! I’m really excited. I will surely keep you all updated, but I have to clarify that November Snow is already available as paperback (through Amazon) because I got a few questions regarding that.  I also got my first submissions for the cover for Minutes Before Sunset, and I’m working hard to get everything ready!

In other news, an aspiring author, the lovely Lee Paige, wrote a very touching piece about my blog, and I wanted to share it, because it’s a perfect example of how my followers help move me forward (and how I strive to help others move forward.) I want us to achieve our dreams together, and it seems that Lee Paige is a great example of how that dream is happening! Click here to read her piece.

My Author Page is 10 away from hitting 100 followers; it'd make me spin in circles of happiness if I could hit that mark. I may even record it.

My Author Page is 10 away from hitting 100 followers; it’d make me spin in circles of happiness if I could hit that mark. I may even record it. 😀

TV Time: Being Human

12 Jan

It’s great to see you all on Shelfari. I really love connecting with readers and writers further. This is why I want to take some time to thank one of my followers, Indiscriminate Critic, for finding my Goodreads page. Now, you can join me on that site as well by clicking here. I really like Goodreads, because you can connect, but I LOVE the neverending trivia quiz about the books you’ve read.

However, I’m here to write about the t.v. series “Being Human.” (Official website via Syfy here.)

tumblr_mby7t5DEFA1r9a7fc

Season 3 premiere on the Syfy channel this Monday at 9/8c. I’m REALLY stoked, because I LOVE this show. It’s based on the original British supernatural series, and it follows the basic plot line the same (I watched both the American and British version of season one to see.)

“Being Human” is about three twenty-somethings attempting to live together–except they’re supernatural. Aidan is a vampire, Josh is a werewolf, and Sally is a ghost.

If you like supernatural, this series is for you. Even cooler, the Syfy channel posts all the old episodes, so you can catch up! Catch up on Season 2 here. It’s worth it. One of my best friends who lives far away watches it like I do, and we talk about it over the phone the next day. It’s a great show to try to predict and enjoy with friends.

~SAT

 

 

TV Time: Alaska Marshals

25 Nov

Hey all!

I’ve been enjoying the family time at home recently, but I thought I would share some cool information with you.

During my family reunion (not the ENTIRE family, but more than I normally get to see), I saw family from Pennsylvania and Alaska. We caught up, ate a lot of food, and, most importantly, spent quality time together. During our talks, however, we all sat back, turned on the television, and watched one of our own on the tube.

My cousin is a U.S. Marshal (great guy who deserves a lot of praise for his hard work and dedication), and he is now on the Discovery Channel show, “Alaska Marshals.” These marshals do what they do, chase down the bad guys, and arrest them, but they also do it in the Alaskan elements.

I’ve seen the first episode. It’s intense ! Watch a clip via YouTube here.

So cuddle up on your warm couch, and watch these brave marshals partake in hunting down some seasoned criminals in the cold. Get more information here & an episode guide here.

Hope the holidays have been wonderful for everyone, and here’s a picture of my reunion: my grandma, three uncles, two aunts, four cousins, brother, dad, and a great time! 

~SAT

TV Time: American Horror Story: Asylum

17 Oct

Happy Wednesday, readers!

I’m back, so be expecting daily updates again, and thank you all so much for all of your condolences and nice notes. I hope everyone took a moment to hug their loved ones this week.

I thought today would be a great day to come back, because American Horror Story (season 2) is premiering tonight on FX. Set in 1964, this television thriller takes place in an overly religious insane asylum, and the characters are sure to cause shivers to run up your spine all night long. Plus, season 2 is completely separate from season 1, so you don’t even have to catch up like you do with other television shows.

If you’re looking for an October scare (or just something different and unique), then turn on FX tonight, and give the insane asylum a try. What could be scarier than Nazis, serial killers, mutants, and aliens? Maybe the troubled Sister Jude? I can’t wait to tune in tonight and find out!

Click here to see more about American Horror Story (or watch some of their intros!).

~SAT

TV Time: Gossip Girl

7 Oct

Considering I’ve been watching this show since 2007, and I started reading the book series in 2002, I cannot believe the last season is premiering tomorrow night!

Based on the best selling YA series by Cecily von Ziegesar, Gossip Girl is a drama-filled soap about the Upper East Side—who’s rich and who’s richer. Although the show itself doesn’t follow the books at all (except for the very first episode of season one) I fell in love with this guilty pleasure of mine. If you have the same guilty pleasure—watching melodramatic teenagers throw money around while attempting to control their angst and act like adults, then this New York soap is for you. Even better, the final season is upon us tomorrow, so you don’t have to wait for anything new once this season is over.

Click here to watch the season promo (because it’s as drama-filled as the show itself).

And click here to read more on the original series.

XOXO,

~SAT

%d bloggers like this: