The audience is screenwriters, but the ideas are excellent and valuable for novelists.
Christopher Vogler and Michael Hauge conducted a workshop for writing movie scripts based on Joseph Campbell’s work. This is the recording of that workshop which includes some questions from the audience.
I rarely watch movies. My feeling is why watch a movie when I could read a book? Books have more depth. When I see movies based on books I’ve read, I’m disappointed although I do enjoy the visuals. As I listened to this lecture, I felt further reluctance to watch movies. They’re all made with the same formula! (or most of them) The first 10% is seeing the ordinary world and the call to action. Other parts include meeting the mentor, encountering tests, the supreme ordeal, and return with the elixir. These parts were first defined by Joseph Campbell. He studied mythology and found consistency in all myths in all cultures. Apparently all humans always want the same story.
During the 1970s George Lucas used these ideas when he wrote the first Star Wars movie. During the 1980s Christopher Vogler wrote a memo organizing Campbell’s ideas into guidance for movie making. Vogler worked for Disney at the time. Vogler later turned his memo into a book “The Writer’s Journey.” I was bothered by Vogler’s claim for credit. He talked as if he were “the first one” to consider using Campbell’s ideas for movie making. He never mentioned that Lucas used them earlier. On Vogler’s website (mentioned below) he states “I had discovered the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell a few years earlier while studying cinema at the University of Southern California. I was sure I saw Campbells ideas being put to work in the first of the Star Wars movies and wrote a term paper for a class in which I attempted to identify the mythic patterns that made that film such a huge success.” This rubs me wrong. Lucas clearly stated that he used Campbell’s work when he wrote Star Wars. Vogler’s comments are pompous. My distaste is the reason I did not give this 5 stars. But the subject matter is excellent. Most of the examples are from three films: The Firm, Shrek, and Titanic. I was surprised that the speakers didn’t use Star Wars as an example.
This audiobook is a good way to learn about Campbell’s ideas. The authors talk about the hero’s outer journey, his inner journey, and major character types. Hauge defines four character types: hero, reflection (friend), nemesis, and romance character (or the object of hero’s pursuit). Vogler’s website (thewritersjourney com) has a helpful summary of the outer journey and eight character types. (My thoughts, not in the lecture: Since all plots are the same, it is critical to have unique, engaging, and fascinating characters. This seminar does not discuss that.)
A couple of Hauge comments. The inner journey is to find your essence. At the end of the workshop, Hauge summarizes with three arcs that consistently occur in American movies - three transformations the character needs to make.
1. risk being who you truly are
2. risk connecting to other people (romantically or other)
3. stand up and do what is right, the honest thing, to stand up for the truth.
He says “love encompasses all of these. All great movies are love stories.”
The narrators are the authors. Their voices were fine.
I suppose this is romance, but there was no emotional draw for me.
I was bored, I wanted to quit, but I hoped it would get better. It did not. But some readers loved this. I wonder if reading the book would have made it better for me than listening to it?
Most of the book felt like meaningless chit chat, as if the author is describing a party. Phillippa attends parties, plans parties, gossips, flirts with Philip, then gets upset when someone else flirts with Philip. I wanted more character development. Friend Nora was a bore but she could have been made interesting. A romance develops but I didn’t feel anything. I was not drawn in emotionally.
Part of the plot was not supported with logic. Marcus was a British spy. Laurent was a French spy. The war is over. Marcus finds a paper which lists some society functions coming up. He believes Laurent will attend those and do bad things. His boss does not believe him. So Marcus alone attends those events to investigate. At the first event there are gun shots. At the second event Laurent does something bad, Marcus chases him, more gun shots, Marcus is shot. Three problems: 1. Marcus should carry a gun at these events. He has no weapon and has to flee from the shooter. What kind of spy goes after another spy without a weapon? 2. When Marcus is shot, he wants to keep it a secret which I did not understand. Everyone already knows about the big bad thing that happened. But Marcus won’t let anyone call a Doctor because he doesn’t want the guests to know he was shot? I did not understand. 3. Why didn’t Marcus take some gun carrying associates to help him?
Alison Larkin would be ok for another type of book, but she did not fit 21-year-old-party-girl Phillippa. The narrator sounds like an elderly lady.
Narrative mode: 3rd person.
Genre: regency romance.
Not enough warm interaction. Great audiobook narrator.
I was pleased with Lucy Rivers. Her voice is clear, not elderly, not teenagerly. She enunciates well, speaks at a slow good pace. Nice emotional interpretation. She’s not perfect for men but good doing them. I wanted to buy more books that she narrates so I studied her list. Sadly, most of her books are 1st person New Adult - so I did not get them. I hope more authors will use her.
Erin is 5'3" pretty and smart. She starts a new job as a nurse at a psychiatric hospital. She meets Kelly 6'3" big muscles, mean looking, bouncer-type orderly who is there to restrain patients. Kelly tells Erin they are going out. He orders her drinks and food without asking what she likes. But he does ask if she will spend the weekend with him for nonstop sex.
I enjoyed Kelly’s personality. He’s all cave man. He does neat things. I liked Erin and her interaction with patients, her sister, and the sister’s bully boyfriend. But I did not like the way she treated Kelly. She played hard to get and acted indifferent to him. She was attracted to him and desired him as a boyfriend, but she didn’t want to admit it to herself. And she thought he if she showed interest, he’d lose interest. Those are real life things, but not necessarily fun to read about. When Erin’s car broke, she called Kelly for help. He came and helped her but she was mean to him because she didn’t like needing someone’s help. And when he did something really cool to protect Erin and her sister from a bully, I loved it. But Erin was mean and angry about it. So, I did not enjoy her. The effect was emotional distance. I did not feel as good as romance usually makes me feel.
The author has some good ideas. “Use the word “doctor” as often as possible when speaking to Dr. Morris. It’s courtesy but also currency.” Kelly has a calming effect on patients. He walks among them. He’s like a wall that they can lean on (figuratively).
The sex scenes are good. There is a little spanking and slapping. The cave man demands were fun. But some of the sex scenes felt too long. My mind wandered at times.
At the end of the book I felt like it should have been shortened. Something about it was too drawn out.
I was annoyed that the author used a female name for the hero Kelly. It requires the reader’s brain to do a special translation every time it is used. It reminded me of the Johnny Cash song about a man called Sue.
I would have preferred 3rd person.
Narrative mode: 1st person Erin.
Genre: erotic contemporary romance.
The author has a wonderful witty mind – so many interesting, unusual, fun phrases and thoughts. BUT... she needs to come up with a better reason to keep the couple apart. The problem in both books 1 and 2 is: The heroine desires the guy, loves the guy, misses him, and wants to be with him. But for illogical reasons or fears she runs away, avoids him, and breaks up with him - even after having great sex. Some will say this is a character’s actions NOT fitting her motivations (violating a writing rule). Others will say illogical silly heroine can be humorous. But humor is in the eye of the beholder and this beholder wasn’t there. But I did chuckle and smile several times because the author has a fabulous mind. But for much of the book I was annoyed and impatient.
Most of the story has Janie insecure and afraid. She is angsty in her conversations. For almost every question Quinn asks, she takes a long time to answer. She beats around the bush, changes the subject, answers other questions, and delays. Another example, Janie does not want to have sex with Quinn if he is seeing other women, but she takes forever beating around the bush to say it, using ummmm’s uhhhh’s and vague metaphors. A few times this happened with other characters. Someone starts to say something I’m eager to hear, and then takes five minutes of distractions before saying it. Maybe that works sometimes, but I did not like it here.
I gave 2 stars to the first two books in the series. This is book 1. Book 2 is “Friends Without Benefits.”
I gave 5 stars to book 3 “Love Hacked” – those characters and actions were really good.
Jennifer Grace did an excellent job with Janie, but she was a little off for Quinn. I felt him differently than she did.
Narrative mode: 1st person Janie.
Genre: contemporary romance.
than my own reading would be.
I am biased against 1st person point-of-view (thanks to the New Adult genre). But this book reminds me how great 1st person can be. And I can’t imagine this story done any other way. This is 1st person Luke. He is seven-years-old. He is always sneaking around and listening to things and seeing things he’s not supposed to. It was exciting. And then he’s got all these secrets. He doesn’t want to keep secrets but he has to. I enjoyed Luke’s thoughts and dialogue. His family is dirt poor but he’s happy. Luke finds joy in daydreams about baseball and getting a St. Louis Cardinals jacket. Luke feels lucky when he compares his life to sharecroppers who have no screens, no fan, and no electricity to listen to the baseball games on the radio. Their kids have no shoes.
I consider John Grisham the king of character development, and this book is full of it. Here’s an example: A poor family buys groceries on credit. Little boy signs the account book at the store for something he is buying. The store lady looks at it and says “Coming along.” She meant his handwriting was improving. I thought she was going to say something negative.
I smiled and enjoyed so many things during this book. At the end I cried, but it wasn’t a depressing cry. It was more about good things people do for others - or do for the principle of the thing. There was a very moving idea at the end – that no matter how dire your circumstances, someone else is worse off and would love to be in your shoes. I was also happy about Luke and his parents starting something new that was going to be good.
Some readers complained that some of the story lines were not finished at the end. I was ok with that. Sure I would have loved to keep going or have a sequel. But that was because the stories were good and I didn’t want to stop.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Luke’s family owns a cotton farm. The story begins in September as they hire a group of Mexicans and a family from the hills to help pick cotton. The Mexicans stay in the barn. The family camps in the yard. The story takes place over the next two months as these characters interact and pick cotton. They play baseball. Some local bullies fight. A carnival comes to town. There’s a mystery about a pregnant teen girl.
David Lansbury’s young boy voice and emotional interpretations were fabulous.
Narrative mode: 1st person Luke.
Instead I got physical descriptions of characters and general world building - describing the history of dragons and humans together - their past and current conflicts. Then there are several scenes where Seraphina goes unconscious while she receives dreamlike information. I could not stay interested. My mind kept wandering. I had to repeat several paragraphs. I read a fourth of the book and stopped.
Immediately after this book, I needed a character development fix. So I went with John Grisham’s book “A Painted House.” Wow, what a difference. He’s the king of character development. I read Grisham when I start to forget what good writing is like. (My definition of good writing - not everyone agrees with me.)
I liked the Seraphina setting and world building concepts. I just didn’t like the way it was filled in.
Mandy Williams and Justine Eyre were very good.
Narrative mode: 1st person Seraphina.
Genre: YA fantasy.
There was so much sex I found it humorous. I was chuckling during some sex scenes. But that’s better than being bored. I was impressed that the author could write so much sex without being repetitive. When they aren’t having sex, they are thinking about it, or talking about it.
The story was interesting, although it could have used more plot details. It’s the flavor of Romeo and Juliet. Em and Hunter belong to rival motorcycle clubs. If they become a couple, he cannot be a leader because his club won’t trust him to keep secrets from the other club (through her). In the beginning he kidnaps her to use as leverage for club business.
A lot of swear words – about every other paragraph.
When he kidnaps her, he plays with her body but does not complete the sex act. She felt desire. Some readers might call this is rape. I’m not sure what to call it.
Motorcycle Club romance reminds me of werewolf packs with the way they treat women, and the males fight for domination and fight other packs. It’s popular. But if you really boil it down, they are like gangs selling drugs and killing. But that’s not romantic. So we readers are not supposed to think of it that way. Sorry I’m ruining the mood. But hey, I still enjoy a good motorcycle club book.
A minor complaint. The formulaic fight was too predictable. He did something early in the book and I knew that was going to be a problem later when she found out. Then later just before it happened, I knew it was going to happen. My biggest complaint with book 1 was too many things were predictable like that.
My big complaint: Em’s father promised something and broke his promise. Damage was done. I was so angry, I couldn’t get over it. It ruined the happy ending for me. It’s in the Spoiler below.
Em takes Hunter to her home for Thanksgiving. She makes her father Picnic promise that no harm will come to Hunter from his club. Well, they beat him up and Picnic threw the first punch. As a result Hunter lost a tooth, had broken ribs, and other damage. I was so angry at Picnic breaking his promise. And then I was let down when Em forgave him so quickly. I could not let go of my anger.
Tatiana Sokolov and Todd Haberkorn took turns reading chapters. She read male and female voices in one chapter. And Todd read male and female voices in the next chapter. This was bad. They should have worked together so that she read all female lines and he read all male lines. Both of them were very good for their own sex, but sounded weird and not sexy doing the other sex. Also, Tatiana sometimes said the “s” sound in a way that was distracting.
Narrative mode: 1st person Em and Hunter in alternating chapters.
Genre: romantic suspense, motorcycle clubs.
Jewel and Billy had one son Shane. Billy died three years ago. Jewel’s best friend Michael is gay and dying from AIDS. Jewel, Shane, and Michael move to Colorado to be near Jewel’s family during Michael’s last days. Michael’s brother Malachi comes to stay during this time. He and Jewel fall for each other, but they both know he will leave after Michael dies. Malachi has psychological problems about staying in one place. Jewel and her father are estranged.
You can lose yourself in this large family with a lot going on, but it’s a tear jerker. Some readers will love it because of what’s going on in their life, or they’re in the mood to cry. Toward the end I cried about eight times, over different things. I don’t want that. I want entertainment and other things, so this book is not good for me.
A lot of grief and sadness about Michael who is dying. A lot of memories of the past. Not enough story or plot. It doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. It’s smells, sounds, sights, memories. It’s days in the life of ordinary people with everyday conversations. Example: “Do you want a beer? I’ll get it.” “No, you stay there, I’ll get it.” But it does have a folksy, homey, comfy thing going on.
AUDIOBOOK NARRATOR - Kristine Thatcher:
There were three sex scenes. I was uncomfortable listening to them due to the narrator. She sounded like an elderly lady and it was not sexy or sensual. I didn’t want to watch. I normally like reading sex scenes, but not these.
I did not like the narrator’s voice for Shane. He’s 6'2" and 17 years old. He should have a man’s voice. She read him like he was a little boy.
Other than that, her narration was good.
Narrative mode: 1st person Jewel.
Genre: womens fiction, grief.
I don’t like the subject. It’s grief and an unlikeable heroine.
This is women’s fiction with some romance at the end. Janie’s husband died in a bicycle accident. The story takes place during the subsequent year.
It’s hard to like a book when you do not like the main character Janie. She is antagonistic, snide, snotty, insufferably irritable, sarcastic, angry, hurting others, and disrespectful to others. One character said to her “You snarl and snipe at people all day long. The people that love you the most you treat the worst as if they’re disposable.”
I want enjoyable and feel good stories. So this was not a good choice for me. 99% of the book is watching Janie’s grief, rage, and meanness to others. Another thing I did not like about her: Janie was going to throw out some of Dillon’s toys when he wasn’t around because he would disagree on what to throw. I find that disrespectful to Dillon.
What a nasty person Janie’s mother was. I did not enjoy watching her. She did something mean concerning Janie and Jake. She should have talked to Janie first before talking to Jake. Later she was critical and insulting about Janie and Tug. If you're going to have a nasty person I'd prefer some reaction, resolution, regret, or change. Here there was no change, just meanness thrown in.
In the physical book the diary pages are written in italic and in 1st person. That is a problem for the audiobook because the reader doesn’t know when it is switching between diary and regular narrative. It was disconcerting to hear changes between 1st and 3rd person. But more important, the diary was a distraction. It should have been eliminated.
WHAT I LIKED:
Marguerite Gavin was excellent. She was wonderful doing dialogue for two 4 year old boys. That had me smiling.
Narrative mode: most is 3rd person Janie, with frequent diary entries done in 1st person.
Genre: women’s fiction, grief.
Things are not well thought out. Audiobook narrator not good.
Too much stretching things out at the end. The bad guy catches victims, you know they are going to die, but the authors interrupt the scenes too much. Example: Someone wakes up and finds themselves in chains. Scene switches to other. Bad guy talks to the prisoner. Scene switches to other. Bad guy injects something into prisoner. Scene switches to other. It was too manipulative for me.
I was bothered that not enough details are shown when the bad guy catches victims. Authors don’t show how he avoids being seen and how he drags heavy victims from public places to his dungeon. In one case a trap is set, but we don’t see how it worked. Victim sees bait. Next scene has victim in chains in a cell.
I don’t mind suspending disbelief if it makes the story fun. But here it was used instead of logic. That’s not a good reason. For example: a dead woman is found and taken to the medical examiner. There’s been nothing in the papers. So how does Pendergast know that she exists and that she is the Surgeon’s latest victim? He shows up at the medical examiner’s lab and tells the examiner to look at her back. Some kind of Super Knowledge? Later Pendergast operates on himself without a pain killer (more Super Something?)
The cell phone problem: It is current day New York City. Cities have good cell phone coverage. There are several scenes where someone needed help, but they didn’t have a cell phone. It made me think the authors couldn’t think of a better way to create suspense so they got rid of the phones.
The authors had an argument for the ending, but I did not like it. (See Spoilers)
I was angry when someone destroyed something. This was similar to if you had an inexpensive-easy-to-make cure for cancer would you destroy it?
The bad guy was killed due to bad luck. I’d rather see Pendergast plan the thing that killed the bad guy instead of passively being saved.
I LIKED ONE LINE.
Pendergast was talking about opera: “I loathe it. Opera was the television of the 19th century – loud, vulgar, and garish, with plots that could only be called infantile.”
I was unhappy with Jonathan Marosz. You know how young adults end sentences on an up note like a question? Jonathan Marosz is the opposite. He ends sentences on a down note, which normally appeals to me. But the way he does it sounds like he’s reading a SHOPPING LIST. It is not good. He is not “acting” the story. He’s reading a list of sentences.
A second problem was editing. At least three times a section (a few sentences long) was read twice in a row – repeated.
Genre: mystery suspense.
I was hoping to laugh, but I didn’t. It’s told in 1st person by Judd, talking about his siblings, his parents, his wife, and others. It’s wry humor about mistakes and choices that are not good or not smart. His wife has an affair with his boss. His brother has never been able to keep a job, is into drugs, and has sex with lots of different women. It’s also about bad luck. It was depressing. No one is having a good life.
I did not like the ending. It’s open and unexplained. I’m supposed to guess what will happen. I wanted closure and didn’t get it.
Ramon de Ocampo was ok.
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