Thursday, August 25, 2011

Resonance - Hunger Games

What is it about the Hunger Games? It's hypnotic, it sucks you in and you can't escape. I've heard some people say they liked the books, but they had a hard time buying in to the premise. Then again, I've also seen some people scroll through the TV Guide and say, "You know, I can see Hunger Games working on the right network."

Detach yourself from the death and carnage factor for just a minute. And then click here to check out the Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League (like Fantasy Football, complete with competitive scoring system). Please, indulge me. I still have a major crush on Grantland.

If the Hunger Games were a real show, what would the scoring system look like? Grantland already has a solid points scoring foundation in place:

Female Crying: 5 points
Male Crying: 20 points
Saying, “I didn’t come here to make friends”: 10 points
Open-mouth kissing: 5 points per participant
Pregnancy scare: 50 points per sexual partner (and yes, I'm counting it)
Verbal Fighting: 5 points
Physical Fighting: 25 points
Decisively winning physical fight: 25 points
Throwing drink in someone’s face: 5 points
Winning elimination challenge: 10 points
Winning final challenge: 50 points

We'd probably have to add some show specific scoring options:
* Receiving a silver parachutes with gift attached: 25 points
* Figuring out how to use received gift: 50 points
(You think this is too high? Remember, not everyone gets gifts, and when they do, they get exactly what they need precisely when they need it. Potentially a dramatic shift in advantage.)
* Stealing a parachute gift from someone else: 150 points
(We never saw this happen, but we didn't see what everyone was doing at all times. It had to happen at some point - right?)
* Winning a fight with any type of mutt: 10 points
(Same as winning an elimination challenge; anything more would lead to score inflation.)
* Killing an opponent: 50 points
(Same as winning final challenge; technically, it's kind of the same thing.)

Note: We'd also have to figure out a way to get points to Foxface for hiding in the cornucopia and making off with her backpack unscathed. Also, how cool would it be to be an actress and have a character named "Foxface" on your resume?

Maybe we just wait until the movie comes out and score Katniss and Peeta based on what makes the final cut?

And speaking of the movie, a friend of mine is already planning a pre-movie tailgate. She's talking about making little silver parachutes, attaching them to Starbucks gift cards, and releasing them around the theater during the movie. I love this idea. I wish I'd come up with it myself. WE'RE ALL SPONSORS!

But back to our more "scholarly" discussion on resonance. I think what makes The Hunger Games work are the stakes - the 'unbelievable yet believable' nature of the interaction between these human beings. The contradictions are part of what makes it ring.

* Katniss is a celebrity in poverty, cold-hearted but kind, tough but vulnerable, wounded by loss while she's doing the killing.

* The Capitol is rich in materials but poor in spirit. They worship youth and beauty but relish watching its destruction in the arena and its distortion within their city (remember all of their fashion 'enhancements'?). They purge in order to feast. The things that made them powerful were also their undoing.

* Haymitch is a winner, but a loser. He's detached, but still invested. He practices self-preservation emotionally and recklessness physically.

* And then there's Peeta.

Peeta is the one honest character that you can take at face value - and yet, he's the accomplished liar, smooth talker, showman. The one most willing to sacrifice himself, and yet the one who is continuously resurrected. The soft, sunny dandelion who demonstrates unconditional love (and then, shockingly, unconditional hate).

When you read these books, you feel the rawness of the contradictions. There is so much emotion, it's exhausting. The pacing is perfect, so you can't put it down, and you get lost because you see the realness (which, again, we all play 'Real or Not Real' both with this book and within it).

Proposed Rule of Resonance: Resonance comes from emotion, and emotion comes from stakes.

We hear over and over again from industry professional that they want to feel the stakes, and there's something more at stake here than just obvious life and death. It's that 'something more' than resonates.

Friday, August 12, 2011

NFL Preseason Cheatsheet for Nonbelievers

You don't like football? Or maybe you're a casual observer who only watches the Superbowl (for the commercials)? That's cool. But do you feel like everyone around you is talking about the NFL and you have nothing to contribute to the conversation?

Well, you've come to the right place. Here is my 2011 NFL Preseason Cheatsheet, providing you with a few easy talking points so you can spend your valuable Sundays in other pursuits.

Topic of Discussion: The Philadelphia Eagles as "The Dream Team"
Correct Response: "Call me when they sign Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. By the way, did you know Michael Vick is left-handed?"

Topic of Discussion: Any combination of the words Denver Broncos, Quarterback Controversy, Tebow, and Kyle Orton.
Correct Response: "Tebow's fun to watch, but he's not quite ready yet. I'm on Team Kyle, even if his ceiling is low and clearly visible."

Topic of Discussion: "I think this thing with Peyton Manning's neck surgery is a bigger deal than the Colts are letting on..."
Correct Response: Nod sadly. Dismiss premonitions of the Patriots winning the Superbowl on the Colts home field in February.

Topic of Discussion: Jay Cutler's knee, Jay Cutler's toughness, Jay Cutler's broken engagement to K-Cav from The Hills.
Correct Response: "Why would a guy who hates the media date a reality TV personality, how did Jay Cutler become a sympathetic figure, and what's he going to do with that 5.2 carat engagement ring!?"

Topic of Discussion: Any team west of the Mississippi River not named the San Diego Chargers.
Correct Response: Avert your eyes and go about your business.

Topic of Discussion: Fantasy Football draft
Correct Response: "Josh Freeman wins football games!" (Just repeat this over and over until whoever you're talking to walks away)

Topic of Discussion: The Houston Texans as this year's 'sleeper' or 'team that turns things around'
Correct Response: Nod happily and know that this person is a sucker. Try to figure out how to use this information to your advantage.

Topic of Discussion: Any team from Ohio, Carolina, or Florida (other than Tampa Bay).
Correct Response: Shake your head sympathetically and make plans to bring fans of these teams cookies sometime around the middle of October. If the fans in question are in Carolina, don't bring fig newtons.

Topic of Discussion: The possibility of a team moving to Los Angeles
Correct Response: Avoid eye contact with any fans of the Minnesota Vikings and/or Jacksonville Jaguars until the conversation turns in another direction.

Topic of Discussion: Brett Favre
Correct Response: Make jokes about the possibility of him moving to Florida because that's what old people do... and then declare yourself a genius when he joins the Miami Dolphins around week 4. Oh, and see if you can work in the whole "taking his talents to South Beach" thing - people love that, especially in Ohio!

Topic of Discussion: Donovan McNabb
Correct Response: (Despite all the joke possibilities, I'm afraid to say anything. I don't want to incite his mom's wrath.)

Topic of Discussion: The New Orleans Saints
Correct Response: Swoon and casually point out that this is a contract year for Drew Brees.

Topic of Discussion: Chad Ochocinco going from Cincinnati to the New England Patriots
Correct Response: (Honestly, every time I read that sentence, it leaves me speechless. I'll get back to you on this one.)

Topic of Discussion: Teams that should be good this year.
Correct Response NFC: Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Philly Cheesesteaks (oops, I mean Eagles)
Correct Response AFC: New England Patriots (ugh), New York Jets (also ugh), Pittsburgh Steelers/Baltimore Ravens (they often seem interchangeable to me), and for the love-of-all-good-and-holy-things, maybe the CHARGERS will finally live up to their potential (but I kind of hope not because that would be inconvenient for me).
Correct Bonus Response: Indianapolis Colts should be contenders if Manning can get rid of whatever he's named that pain in his neck (I'd like to submit 'Philip Rivers' for consideration.) If they make the Superbowl, they'll be the first team to play for the championship on their home turf since the NFL started the location rotation. BELIEVE IN BLUE!

Topic of Discussion: Teams that might surpass expectations (always fun to root for if you're a neutral observer).
Correct Response NFC:
* Detroit Lions! (Been showing flashes of potential when their young quarterback is healthy, and their defense is frisky.)
* Tampa Bay Buccaneers! (Josh Freeman wins football games!)
* San Francisco 49ers! (New coach Jim 'Captain Comeback' Harbaugh will be interesting to watch, especially since the 49ers kind of slacked off last year. Also, I've loved the Captain since he quarterbacked the Colts during their miracle season when I was, like, 12 years old.)

Correct Response AFC:
* Tennessee Titans! (Introducing quarterback Matt Hasselbeck - he has no hair at all, and I enjoy his work.)
* Houston Texans! (Alright, fine - I'm a sucker - but they've got to put it together one of these years... right?)
* Buffalo Bills! (So many heartbreaking near misses last year - it wouldn't take much to surpass expectations.)

Season begins for realz on Sept 11th (with, I anticipate, much 10-year commemoration and ceremony, with the teams from New York, DC, and Pennsylvania playing each other). One last friendly reminder - this year's Superbowl will be in my beloved INDIANAPOLIS on Feb 5, 2012! Start planning your parties now.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Seventh Mile - The Art of Finishing

Repost from a few months ago over at InkSlingers.

I recently conducted some statistical analysis on my life and discovered a phenomenon I've termed "The Seventh Mile."

Memorial Day weekend I participated in the Soldier Field 10-mile Run (for which I acquired the shiny new t-shirt I am currently wearing). I trained for months prior to the race (following a program), and got to a place where I could consistently run 6.5 miles any time I wanted. Slowly, but always with a predictable result.

You know what happened the day of the race? When I reached that seventh mile, my body assumed I was done. That's what I'd trained it to do - go about seven miles and then stop.

A year ago, I started working seriously on my second manuscript. When it was about two-thirds of the way finished, I decided to set it aside for an idea that I thought would be more marketable. Now, that third manuscript is also two-thirds of the way done.

I'm nothing if not consistent.

And I'm in danger of training my writer-brain into a rut - a repeatable result of coming up short. There is something to be said for practicing the art of finishing.

I watch a lot of sports and study a lot of athletes. When you look at your Kobe Bryants and Peyton Mannings, the experts always want to talk about how they prepare, train, maintain control and relish the clutch moments - because they are READY for them.

I want to pattern my writing life after them. Study the competition, do fundamental exercises, study the craft and the business... I want to be the best conditioned, the most prepared, etc so that I can avoid that seventh mile trap in the future.

During the run, I walked that seventh mile. I nursed my fatigue and my side stitch and put one foot in front of the other. When I got to mile eight, I felt better. And when I hit mile nine, I could actually SEE the finish line and struggled to control my adrenaline so that I didn't run too fast and completely destroy myself.

The point is, I finished. It wasn't pretty, but I made it. You don't get style points for your process - just your finished product. One keystroke at a time, I'll give it a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even if at first it sucks, I will practice the art of finishing.

What would you like to practice "finishing" today?