The Blade Itself – a review

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie - Peter ReyOver the weekend I finished reading the The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. This is the first book of  The First Law trilogy and, as it is often the case for Fantasy trilogies, it doesn’t have a conclusion–not even a minor one.

As a matter of fact, The Blade Itself sets up the setting and introduces the main characters of the trilogy. But in it there’s almost no mention about what mission our heroes are supposed to embark on, or why. There are only vague hints, and suppositions.

Considering what I’ve just said, this book doesn’t sound so interesting. Yet it managed to grab my attention and to keep it from beginning to end. And it did so for a series of reasons. Continue reading

Books and Movies — Three Reasons Why I Prefer Books

transformation - horror booksI read The Hobbit for the first time when I was a child. Tolkien‘s book immediately captured me, and made me fall in love with the fantasy genre. Some years ago I decided to reread it and gladly discovered that I still enjoyed it as thoroughly as I did on my first read. Indeed, great books and great wines are the same, they both age with grace.

Of lately I’ve watched the third episode of Peter Jackson’s adaptation–The Battle of the Five Armies. Even though Jackson’s work is quite different from the novel, I enjoyed it as well. In particular, I found the special effects simply terrific. For sure the first scene, in which Smaug is playing havoc over Lake-town, is a treat from the visual and aural point of view.

Indeed, over the last few years computer graphic has made possible the creation of settings and special effects that were unthinkable even only a handful of years ago. This notwithstanding, I believe that movies aren’t at all the most immersive fictional experience one can enjoy. As a matter of fact, I believe that books can be much more immersive than movies. And I think this is the case at least for three reasons. Continue reading

Creative Writing — Story, Plot, and Vocabulary

stained glass - creative writingWhen it comes to creative writing any theory is, to say the least, tricky. In fact, as soon as someone comes up with a definition, whatever that may be, we can be sure that a writer is bound to come along and write a story that proves that theory wrong.

From story to plot

However, this doesn’t mean we cannot draw any interesting conclusions about storytelling. For example, paraphrasing E.M. Forster, while a story is a narrative of events exclusively arranged in their time-sequence, a plot is also a narrative of events, but one in which the emphasis is falling on causality instead.

The king died and then the queen died  is a story.  The king died, and then the queen died of grief is a plot. The time sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it.

This might seem a subtle distinction, yet it is essential to storytelling.

In a certain way, it’s like looking at the picture below on the left.  We can present it, without any comment or explication. Or we can present it as A new day, The dying of the light, Contrasts, and so on.

As a matter of fact, each title gives the readers a different reference frame and so, to a certain extent, can drive their reactions. Can lead them to think about why the writer has chosen certain words and not others. And this even without having to recur to any external time sequence. Continue reading

Applied Inspiration — How to Ferry a Dream into Reality

sunset - inspiration for writersIn a previous post I wrote about inspiration. In short, I argued that inspiration is essential to kick-start the creative process and so come up with a really novel idea — a core around which we can build a fully formed project.

Obviously, inspiration has an important role also in the everyday process of writing, but it isn’t at all as essential.  In fact, if we sit down at our desks and start writing, within minutes ideas are bound to flower into our mind. Besides, what we write while struggling for inspiration is virtually indistinguishable from what we write on the days we feel instead blessed by the muse.

That’s good news, sure. But even if we don’t need to wait for inspiration to glue our ass to the chair and start writing, isn’t there something really essential to the creative process? Continue reading

How to Make More Effective Resolutions

gorilla selfie - effective resolutionsSure, we all have made many of them – especially New Year’s resolutions. And we all have forgotten about them by the end of the first week into the new year. Indeed, to me, New Year’s resolutions seem more like a ritual. We all have to make at least one, otherwise we don’t feel comfortable with ourselves. Besides, in this way, we have something to turn to when it comes to small talk.

A waste of time?

In any case, the sad truth seems to be that New Year’s resolutions don’t work. And in fact according to research 88% of the people fail to keep them. However it has to be said also that often we fail to keep our resolutions because we make them without paying the necessary attention. In particular, to make effective resolutions we need at least three elements: selectivity, motivation, and definition.

Selectivity

Some years ago I came across this passage by Peter Drucker:

“The great mystery isn’t that people do things badly but that they occasionally do a few things well. The only thing that is universal is incompetence. Strength is always specific! Nobody ever commented, for example, that the great violinist Jascha Heifetz probably couldn’t play the trumpet very well.”

I think it’s illuminating. In fact, if we really want to improve some aspect of our life we’d better keep the number of our resolutions to a bare minimum. Only in this way we’ll be able to devote all our energies to the goals we really value. Continue reading