Monday, April 28, 2014

My Bachelor Party

My bachelor party was this past Saturday, and I thought I'd share with you how it went.

The night consisted of a private 1.5 hour session of tactical lazer tag, followed by drinks, food, and games at my best man's house.

Firstly, let me clear up what I mean by "Tactical Lazer Tag." Many people (including several in my party) were under the impression that it would be a silly, childish game with "pew pew" noises and neon lights. I wonder where they got that idea from?
(How I Met Your Mother, copyright CBS)
It's nothing like that. We went to CMP Tactical, which is a bit more like this:
(CMP Tactical Lazer Tag)
Without getting too much into how it works, the simple fact is that everything was made to simulate a realistic tactical gun combat experience. From the weight of the guns, to the sound of a bullet casing bouncing on the ground after the initial sound of a gunshot, everything was grounded in reality. We played five different game modes (one we played twice since we had extra time), and some personal highlights include me capturing the flag for my team, as well as being the last man standing in a mode in which my team had no respawns, but the opposing team did. I had an incredible moment where I was crouched in a corner, shot an enemy, and had to reload as I heard someone coming up behind me. Immediately after my reload was complete (it takes a few seconds) my best man came up from the corner behind me and met his end. If I'd reloaded a second later, I'd have been dead.

After all was said and done, everyone had a fantastic time. All of the skeptics who thought the experience would be silly and lame were convinced otherwise. Best of all was that our teams were each a good mix of people who'd never met.

One of my goals for the bachelor party was to get all the guys to bond with each other so that, come the time of my wedding, they won't feel like they don't know anyone (I had a mix of friends from high school, college, work, and even my and the best man's fathers, most of whom had never met each other before). I'm confident that the bachelor party has ensured that the wedding will be even more enjoyable for the guests.
Food and drinks afterwards went well. I remember most of it, but there was a trivia game which required me to drink a shot if I got the question wrong, and drink a shot if I got it right. Needless to say I quickly became a blubbering mess with my emotions all over the place. There are videos of me, but I don't have the heart to watch them, especially since I can honestly say I've never been "wasted" drunk before then. On that note, I can also say that I've now experienced a real hangover, unlike the mild ones I'm used to.

Perhaps the most interesting event of the night was actually internal, rather than external. Having been with my wife-to-be for six years, I've gotten quite used to her being around. People talk about their bachelor parties being a "last hurrah" or a "goodbye to their manhood," but although I had a lot of fun, there were several points in the night that I found myself wishing she were with me. I don't see marriage as the end of anything, because I'm marrying my best friend, and the coolest person to be with. This mentality, combined with many nice words and wishes from my guests (including from my brother-in-law-to-be, who said he was proud of me and that I was "part of the family"), has only strengthened my resolve to be married to my high school sweetheart.

And I will be, in only 47 days.

Friday, April 25, 2014

I Edit My Stories Too Much

I'm a perfectionist. This isn't always a good trait for a writer.

I once explained in a blog post about a class assignment where we were to share a rough draft with the class that "to ease my paranoia that if nobody likes [my story] I'm a failure as an aspiring author I've recruited four of my closest friends to read it over before I submit it to class." Essentially, instead of a rough draft, I presented my class with a third draft that I'd had edited by a peer. The result was mostly positive, as I noted in my post summarizing the student responses, but I've since begun to learn of the drawbacks to this mentality of perfectionism.

This is a screenshot of the first few pages of my novel after I've taken to editing it. Using Microsoft Word's "track changes" feature, it kept track of all of my changes by coloring additions red, and marking deletions in comment bubbles on the right side of the page. Bear in mind that what little black text you see was already edited numerous times without the "track changes" feature.

The thing to keep in mind is that I haven't written the story much beyond the pages you see here. I went back and started editing the only few chapters I had written, rather than going on and just writing the rough draft. Mostly every writer I've encountered has said that you must simply get through the first draft, no matter what, before going back and editing.

Obviously I didn't feel this way. I was coming up with new ideas for scenes I'd already written, and wasn't satisfied with the characters' personalities as I had originally envisioned them. Obviously it's good that I was thinking of improvements, and it was probably okay to go back and make edits, if only to get a clearer vision for what I would write next.

The problem is that I'd gone back and edited those chapters so many times (often rewriting entire scenes), that if I had just kept on writing, I would at least have more content to show for my effort.

Let me be clear: I'm still conflicted about how I should be writing. I would absolutely love to go back and edit what I have until I feel it is perfect, but I also know that I may never be 100% satisfied, and that future, unwritten events in my novel might require me to change the beginning chapters yet again. Essentially I was setting myself up to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of edits and revisions.

In an attempt to snap myself out of it, I gave my fiancée a copy of what I've written (sans red edits) without making edits that I'd already had in mind. I forced myself to hand over my work, knowing full-well that there are specific scenes that I absolutely hate.

Hopefully she disagrees.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

A few months ago, I heard that my favorite director, David Fincher was selected to direct a movie adaptation of the bestselling novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I'd heard good things about the book before then (mostly just that it was good and a bestseller), and had already added it to my "to read" list on GoodReads, but finding out that my favorite director was about to adapt it to film made it an absolute must-read for me. David Fincher is famous for adapting many great works of literature to film, such as Fight Club (which was written by my favorite author), and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (one of my favorite books). He tends to gravitate towards anything dark and thrilling, which happen to be right up my alley.

Thus, I immediately read the free sample available on my e-reader and decided I had to finish it before the movie came out. I've only just recently for the first time read a book before the movie was announced (World War Z) and I've read a book after seeing the movie plenty of times. This would be the first time that I decided to read the book purely out of anticipation for the film (as many seem to do nowadays).

Within the first few chapters, the book grabs you and holds on tight. You're treated to chapters that alternate between the perspective of the husband, Nick Dunne, as he copes with the realization that his wife has seemingly been kidnapped and possibly killed, as well as his wife, Amy (famous for being the inspiration for the main character in her parents' famous book series "Amazing Amy"), in the form of diary entries from before her disappearance. It's made clear early on that Nick Dunne has something to hide, and hinted to several times that he may have, in fact, killed his wife. Amy's story, on the other hand, is of the joyful beginnings and middles of a relationship and marriage to her perfect guy. The interlacing story-lines not only serve to show you the contrasting perceptions of their marriage (though Amy's chapters eventually show that things were not going so well for the married couple as of recent), but also serve as tools meant to keep the tension at an all time high, as new information in Nick's story is then interrupted by Amy's diary entry.
Author Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl could have simply kept this format through to the end and it would have been a good, suspenseful novel, as we would potentially find out slowly that we're following the narration of a killer, but apparently Gillian Flynn wasn't satisfied with her book simply being good. After the first of the three parts ends, a major twist occurs that affects the format of the storytelling itself. From then on the book keeps the surprises coming, until the last handful of chapters where it slows down and ends on a less thrilling but just as dark tone.

There's not much more I can really say about the story without revealing some major plot points, especially since the biggest plot twist occurs quite early on in the book. What you need to know is that Gone Girl is a mystery novel turned on its head. It was written well, the characters were interesting, and the plot was exciting. If that's your kind of book, Gone Girl is for you.

So how has this affected my excitement for the movie? I'd say I'm about equally as excited as I was before I started reading it. As luck would have it, the trailer for the film came out only one day before I finished the book:

One of the things that I'm most excited for now, however, is that Gillian Flynn herself has penned the movie's script, and has stated that she's changed some things (including the controversial ending) and that the story won't be told in the same way. Considering how the story was told was such a huge part of what made this book great, it will be interesting to see an alternate take from the writer herself.

Oh, and check out the movie's website. It's awesome.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Exciting Existence

As seems to be the norm, a lot is going on in my life right now. Here are some updates separated by topic, so that you may skip to what most interests you about my exciting existence:

My grandpa is doing better. I just saw him (he's now in a rehabilitation facility rather than the hospital) and despite the fact that he's eating out of a tube and he's lost weight he barely had, he's back to his old self.
When I originally saw him in the hospital he was looking pathetic (for lack of a more appropriate word). He had been lying in a bed, hooked up to machines and feeling like his life was at its end. Of course, his life was at an end; as far as I could tell he'd come dangerously close to passing, and his entire attitude had changed. It's sad to see how much a fear of death will change people who believe it's quickly coming for them. I don't think I'll ever forget how sad he was - believing that his time was almost up.
That was not the case when I most recently saw him. He was up, walking around, talking in his normal tone, speed, and volume as if nothing were wrong. He even did a little dance to show us how good he's feeling (an unexpected side effect of being fed the exact perfect balance of nutrients through a tube seems to be that he feels absolutely fantastic). It's good to know that a disaster was averted.

I wish I could say the same for my uncle. The idea that Mickey is no longer ... a person at all ... still haunts me. I've still not had time for a "proper" grieving (no funeral, as was his wish, but no family gathering yet either), though I doubt that would make me feel much different than I do now. It's just not fair; loosing someone so close so suddenly. It seems that the cliché is true; I'd do anything to talk to him just once more. For the most part I try not to think about it, or I think about it in some sort of abstract, segmented way where I think about the idea of me not being able to talk to him just now, rather than think about the fact that I'll never see or speak to him again.

The wedding is fast approaching (June 14th, mark your calendars!), and I cannot wait! We've met with the coordinator at the hotel (we're doing everything in one location, so people don't have to waste time driving around), my fiancée continues to check things off on the to-do list while I'm at work and she's not, and tonight we'll be taking advantage of a free dance lesson. Aside from the obvious fact that I'm excited to be getting married, it's a bit odd to wrap my head around after being together for six years, living together for four, and being engaged for three. It's weird to think it's finally happening, but it's about damn time.

Writing my novel continues to be an educational experience. It's clearly my first real attempt, because I've only gotten a few chapters in and have already had to go back multiple times to change or add details to fit my continually growing idea for what the book should be. All of the changes, I feel, are for the better, but I wish I'd had the foresight to iron out such details before I began writing so that I could just write the damn thing from beginning to end rather than go back and change so many details before I move on. Unfortunately I'm a perfectionist, so I refuse to move on until what I have written is perfect!

I'm actively in the middle of three books right now: Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk (hardcover, signed by the author), Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (e-book via my Nook), and Under The Dome by Stephen King (audio book, from the library). There are a few others that I'm in the middle of, but stalled on (my shelf says there are three, but there are perhaps more), not all of which I intend to finish. Gone Girl is by far the best of them, and I'm nearly done with it. Under The Dome is good, but in typical Stephen King style I'm on the sixth disc and not a lot of plot has really happened, which I'm not a fan of. Doomed is by far the most disappointing, since Palahniuk is my favorite author and I loved the original (called Damned) and it has almost none of the things that made the first one good. It's not bad, exactly, but it's nowhere near as good as everything else I've read by him.

Work is going well. My internship has been extended through September, giving me some more time to impress my superiors and prove to them that they are, indeed, in need of a full-time copywriter. I wish they'd just give me an answer one way or the other already (full time, part time, freelance, or out on my rear-end), but I'll take what I can get. It's not great news, but it certainly isn't bad.

Perhaps I should blog more often so I can make my posts shorter.