Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas • Thimblerig’s Review

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One of the most challenging things about trying to review Christian-made films while living in China is that most of those films never find a screen in this part of the world.  They are too low-budget, too lacking in big names, and too religious.  Even Darren Aronofsky and Russell Crowe’s Noah didn’t play here because it was a biblical movie (a fact which would probably amuse the masses of religious people in American who hated the film because it was too un-biblical)!

What typically ends up happening is that I get a review out once the film has been released on DVD, which is sort of like surfing after the wave has passed.  I really appreciated that the Believe Me guys broke the business model by doing a simultaneous theatrical release/digital download, which meant my review for that film went out the same weekend the movie was released.  It’s to the point that I can comment on the trailer when it’s released, but not the movie, and that stinks!

But my community of Christian artist friends has been growing over the past several months, and I’m thrilled that one of my new friends, graphic artist Matthew Sample, agreed to do me the huge favor of watching the latest faith-based film to be released – Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas – and writing a review for me based on Thimblerig’s movie-watching scale (which you can read about here).

So, without further ado, I give you Matthew’s great review.  Enjoy!

Thimblerig’s Review of Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas 

by Guest Thimblerigger Matthew Sample

Part of me wanted to run up to the ticket counter and say with my jolliest, bearded, and wonder-filled face, “I’m here for Saving Christmas.”

The rest of me goes to a church that does not celebrate Christmas.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Kirk. (Not the James, but the Cameron. Holler, someone, if you know what that’s referring to and where to find it in the film.) I dislike the secularization of our culture, and I love putting Jesus first. I’ve even grown up celebrating Christmas. But my church brings up some really good points. They will talk about the pagan past of Christmas, the commercialized shadow of the holy-day that it was… and don’t get them started about the Catholic church and the worship of images.

So I came to this film with two missions. First, to write this review for Nate, who—bless his NaNoWriMo heart—is in deep, deep novel-writing land. Second, to see if I can get my head wrapped around all this Christmas stuff.

What Kirk Got Right

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When Kirk’s right, he’s right. And he’s got some spectacular goodness going on in this film.

First, he and his creative team have centered this film squarely on Jesus. He filters everything about Christmas through Christ, and we should applaud Christian creatives everywhere when they glorify Christ. I don’t think it was a marketing decision, but something that Kirk sincerely seeks to infuse in everything he does.

Second, because of his desire to glorify God, he does not go about this endeavor solely on his own, but he made this film in Christian community. We creatives should not be mavericks, and filmmaking especially demands that we collaborate extensively with others. Over the past several films, Kirk has made a point to do these films with his family. They are all over the credits. He even made a point to highlight his sister, Bridgette—not Candace who also acts in films, but the sister who didn’t make it. I think that’s cool.

0157411f0d7cdbe4622494a77e435247He also is increasingly forging creative partnerships with a wide variety of Christians in the entertainment industry. In Mercy Rule, his last film that he made with his family, he teamed up with comedian Tim Hawkins. In this film, he’s teamed up with Darren Doane and several others. He has also promoted this film extensively by joining with high profile, family-oriented, Christian entertainers—the Robinson family, the Duggars, etc.—to get the grassroots word out. It looks like they all had a lot of fun doing it.

And he’s teamed up with Liberty University again, passing his creative knowledge to the next generation of filmmakers. We in the Christian filmmaking realm learn so much by books or by making mistakes. Mentorship is needed on every level. I’m so glad he’s maintaining this relationship with Liberty. No man is an island, and no generation is, either.

Third, the cinematographer did a great job. That’s something I can usually count on when I come to a Cameron film, but it bears emphasis. I don’t think there was an (unintentionally) ugly shot in film.

Fourth, I heard genuine laughter in the audience. And the audience was about a third to half full, which is really decent for a film not on opening weekend. Kirk’s audience showed up, and they seemed to sincerely enjoy some of the laughs. Granted, there were only about 10 genuine laugh moments and a few other moments that didn’t work as well… But this film really was about concepts, and the laughs served as oases in the milieu of holiday contemplation.

Fifth, as I think I’ve mentioned before, Kirk made this film about concepts. I like his experiments in narrative documentary; they seem more personal and authentic than his recent foray into fiction. I hope he keeps experimenting in this genre, and that the quality of concepts grows and matures as he continues.

What Kirk Got Wrong

It is the little foxes that destroy the vineyards, and the unexpected details that make or break a film. Every phase of filmmaking seeks to prevent as many of the little surprises from destroying the film. Inevitably, a few foxes remain.

The most prominent problem with the film is the overuse of slow motion. This has become a tendency with Kirk’s films, and I’m not sure if he is trying to capture a certain aesthetic, or if he ran out of material in post production… or if he is just in love with the view through a camera lens. It happens. We aesthetes can feel a certain amount of pleasure witnessing an event in all the gory detail. But it also makes the film seem tedious. The audience knows exactly what will happen, so the thrill of slow motion comes in what happens during that moment. And not much happens during those slow moments.

Honestly the film could have been a 30-45 minute film with a different edit. Not that the editor did a bad job—he did a excellent job balancing everything. It’s the sign of not having enough content. Either the concepts were not big enough to warrant an 80 minute film, or the concepts were not explored enough. I think the creative team could have developed the concepts more fully.

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As an example of an undeveloped story element, the film’s antagonistic force needed more antagonism. A better antagonist would have been the actor who plays the conspiracy theorist at the party and Arius in the Saint Nicholas section. A much more dynamic villain, he would be. Christian’s character is described as a scrooge, but other than having him look glum and leave the party for the quiet of his car, the filmmakers don’t show his scroogeness. He just complains. But even his complaints are groundless: Chris hasn’t actually done any research and easily cedes Kirk’s points as Kirk makes them. He is a living straw man, crafted to grouse until he metamorphoses into the awkward and exuberant convert at the end of the film.

As an example of undeveloped content, the regulative principle of worship never comes up. My church is Reformed, which means that they view the Bible and the Church from a perspective of the Protestant Reformers and the Puritans—Christ alone, faith alone, scripture alone…. Whenever well-minded people add their good ideas to our faith, those additions tend to cause problems after people forget about the reasons. This goes for worship, too. I can hear my pastor say, “Should December 25th land on a day of worship, many who claim Christ will stay home from meeting with Christ’s church—which God commanded—to stay home and unwrap presents—which God has not commanded.” That’s an interplay of concepts I would love to have seen in the film.

Overall, the concepts of the film could probably fit on one sheet of paper. It’s a very simply structured film, with a collection of introductions, three main arguments, and then a collection of endings. The many introductions and endings indicate that the main story did not have enough content for the film, or that the creative team had a middle, but couldn’t figure out how best to begin or wrap up the content.

The Golden Groundhog Ceremony

Cue red carpet music. Turn on the spotlight. Brush up on your What’s Wrong With Christian Filmmaking if you need to get a refresher.

Films made by Christians should take risks. 1/2

I’m giving Kirk half a golden groundhog for this. He’s the only Christian I know in his genre, he made a film about an issue inside the church, and he portrayed jolly old St. Nick in a brawling pub fight. Credit where credit is due: he’s got his view of the world and he’s not afraid to say it. Yet he chose a relatively safe topic, one where he will get a lot of support from his base, and he’s starting to settle into a particular style.

Films made by Christians should challenge the audience. 0

Kirk’s audience is primarily Christians, and most of them are in agreement with him. I’ve gone back and forth on this point, and I can’t sincerely give Kirk a groundhog for this one. The film reinforces concepts that the audience is convinced of for the most part. Perhaps this will motivate some to think twice about their lack of joy and glorify Jesus more in December and all year round. I hope so.

Art is art, the pulpit is the pulpit. 0

Unfortunately, this genre will almost always fail on this point. I’d love to see Kirk keep perfecting this as he improves his craft—not removing the truth from his work, but crafting his presentation of that truth to make it more powerful and more poignant.

Films made by Christians should raise important questions. 1/2

How we worship God as a body of believer’s is one of the most important questions we should think about. How we glorify Him with our lives is another. Who Jesus is, what He has done for us, and how we should respond to His wonderful kindness are also excellent questions discussed in the course of the film. However, the core moral predicament of the film seems contrived.

Christian films should tell good stories. 0

The film told several stories. A scrooge’s redemption, the nativity, a vignette of Christmas tree shoppers, a retelling of the St. Nick myth, and the various quirky scenes at a Christmas party. As a filmmaker, I wish I could say that these stories moved me emotionally. Unfortunately, most of the interesting stories were unessential to the actual plot, and the creative team could have told all the stories in more engaging and creative ways.

Conclusions

So did this film change me profoundly? I wish it had. If you read this, Kirk, and I hope you do, here’s what would have made this film more profound to me.

First, I would use less slow motion. You don’t want to get rid of it entirely, because you have a look to maintain and it is kinda cool. But I would only focus on a few key moments when you really want to bring home a concept… and let those moments be the times that we slow down and linger.

Second, let Christian be the main character and the Arius guy be the villain. I like you, Kirk, as sage, but a sage never works very well as the protagonist. A sage is too knowledgeable and doesn’t change enough over the course of a story. In contrast Christian exhibits the most powerful character arch, but I would love to have him come face to face with the real antagonist lurking behind the scenes. Also, concepts have consequences: I would love to see his choices lead to something beyond mere hurt feelings. If the men cause harm because of their beliefs or lack thereof, or rise above the harm that they have caused, we have the makings of a more sympathetic hero and better interplay between the major concepts.

Third, I would include more concepts. I would present more of the real problems that Christians have with Christmas, and find more and better ways to deal with those problems. This would call for more time in the script stage and in preproduction. But the more time spent crafting our content before we roll film the better.

Thanks for listening to me, Kirk, and whoever else reads this. I can’t wait to see your next film. I love the way you strive to lift up Jesus. Keep serving God. I’m rooting for you.

Golden Groundhogs Saving Christmas

166332_1723873691747_2945331_nMatthew Sample II is a digital illustrator who likes, makes, and supports Christian film. In his spare time he writes a graphic novel which he will someday share with the eager world. If you want to see some of his artwork, check out his blog or his sketch club. If you want to argue with him about movies or Christmas, feel free to connect with him via Facebook or Twitter.

 

The Depressingly Low Expectations Of Christian Filmgoers

This morning Darren Doane, the director of Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, posted the following tweet:

What’s happening for Doane and Cameron’s movie at Rotten Tomatoes is similar to what you’ll find if you look at many of the recently released so-called faith-based films: extremely low critic ratings and unreasonably high audience ratings. Let’s look at some of the results of other Christian-made films:

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What exactly is going on?

Is there a secular critic bias out there that says if a film is released with a hint of “faith-based”, it will be treated differently than a movie of a different genre?

Even if the movie is brilliant, it will not get a fair shake?

Is there a faith-based audience bias out there that says if a film is released with a hint of “faith-based”, the quality of the movie will be given a free pass as long as it portrays Christians in a good light, talks positively about Jesus, or has Scripture passages used in a semi-appropriate fashion?

Even if the movie is terrible, it will be received positively if it meets the criteria?

Personally, I think there is a bit of both going on.  Yes, there are secular critics who will not approach a Christian film without adding the caveat, “…for a Christian film”.   But one hopes that a critic will be able to separate that particular bias from what they experience on the screen and write a candid review that explores the positives and the negatives of the film.

And yes, there are plenty of Christians who will gladly support anything as long as what they are seeing on the screen reinforces or promotes what they already believe.  Thus you have hundreds of positive reviews on the Left Behind website from ordinary people who make the movie sound like the best film ever made, rather than the enormous cinematic shamble that it was.

But critic bias is by far the less alarming and less surprising issue of the two on the table.  I’m much more disturbed by the way so many Christians will line up around the block to embrace any movie that builds up their worldview – regardless of the film’s quality.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that many Christians have become so needy to see their points of view on the screen that they’ve become blind to what makes for a quality film at all.  At least that seems to be the case, considering the way we rally behind so many poor filmmaking efforts, treating them like the best thing since the last poor filmmaking effort.

Yep.  Our expectations have grown depressingly low.

There has been a two-pronged effect on Christian-made films that I see as a direct result of the low expectations of the target audience.

First, the low expectations force the filmmakers to sacrifice good storytelling on the alter of hitting all the right beats to please the Christian audience.  I’ve discussed this point before, in my article What’s Wrong With Christian Filmmaking, so I will move on to the second point.

Second, the low expectations damage our potential to be taken seriously by people outside the church, as they see us vehemently defending films that are so badly produced.

Our films are not taken seriously.  

What did George Costanza say about Christian rock on Seinfeld?  “I like Christian rock. It’s very positive. It’s not like those real musicians who think they’re so cool and hip.”

If George were still around today, he might also say, “I like Christian films.  They’re positive.  They’re not like those real films…”

We did it to ourselves with a Christian music industry supported exclusively by the Christian sub-culture, we did it to ourselves with a Christian publishing industry supported exclusively by the Christian sub-culture, and now we’re trying to do it to ourselves again by building a Christian filmmaking industry supported exclusively by the Christian sub-culture.

And it’s a huge mistake.

This “circle the wagons” mentality does little to help with building the kingdom of God, but does much for building up walls between the church and the greater culture.

In his Salon article entitled, Christian right’s vile PR sham: why their bizarre films are backfiring on them, writer Edwin Lyngar says some pretty damning things about what is happening in American culture as a result of this past year’s Christian filmmaking efforts.  Lyngar says:

The people who create and consume Christian film are neither mature nor reflective. They are at their core superstitious, afraid and tribal. They self-identify overwhelmingly Republican and shout about “moochers” while vilifying the poor. They violate the teachings and very essence of their own “savior” while deriving almost sexual pleasure from the fictional suffering of atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, Hindus, and even liberal Christians. To top it all off, the stories they tell themselves are borderline psychotic.

Is this what it means to be salt and light to a dying world, that the followers of Christ come off as ‘neither mature nor reflective’?  That we’re seen as ‘superstitious, afraid and tribal’?  That our stories are viewed as ‘borderine psychotic’?  I realize that this is just one man’s opinion, but I don’t think we Christians can afford to dismiss opinions like his, because I don’t believe that his opinion is so uncommon.

And it all comes back to the depressingly low expectations that we have for the art being produced by us, for us, and in our name.

The irony is that Christians would be the first to stand up and say, “High expectations breed high results, and low expectations breed low results!” with regards to most things in life:

Education?  Aren’t Christians known for homeschooling our kids because we have high expectations for their education?

Employment?  Aren’t Christian employers known for holding employees to higher standards?

Ministry?  Aren’t we disappointed when people in positions of ministerial authority don’t live up to our high expectations?

And yet when it comes to filmmaking – as evidenced by the overwhelming support given to many of the not-so-great faith-based films that were released this past year – our expectation for quality Christian art is shockingly low.

And it just doesn’t make sense.

Meanwhile, not only was the director of Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas out this morning stumping on the social media platforms for people to speak out at RT, but the man himself, Kirk Cameron, posted this on his Facebook page:

 

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I can appreciate the grass roots campaigning of Cameron and Doane, and I haven’t had the chance to see Saving Christmas yet to speak to the movie one way or the other, but what about this…

What if – instead of just flocking to a film’s Rotten Tomato page and putting up happy reviews to support the filmmakers – we showed that we have the capability to use our higher order thinking skills, and write critically honest reviews that discuss both the good and the bad about the film?

What if – instead of just flocking to the Facebook pages of filmmakers who believe the way we believe and gushing about how much we love their movies, or flaming about how much we disliked the movies, as the case may be – we do the same thing and give them constructive feedback so that they can improve the next time out?

What if Christians do the really heavy lifting and raise the bar on our expectations for films made in our name, helping our filmmakers by expecting them to make great movies that even the secular critics would have a hard time dismissing?

Folks, unless we start to adjust our expectations, unless we break the model set for us by the music and publishing industry, unless we start doing our best to pursue excellence in the films we are allowing to be produced in our name, we might very well find Mr. Lyngar’s heartbreaking prophecy coming true.

The fundamentalist community will continue to shrink until they start telling themselves—and those they hope to win over—more honest and humane stories… Christian film with its cardboard characters and heavy-handed messages will only drive an increasingly diverse and media-savvy populace away. Failing a profound change of heart, the best this community can hope for are films so bad no one will bother to watch them.

Thimblerig’s Three Interesting Things of the Day • November 20, 2014

Today is November 20, which means that the end of the month is just ten short days away.  If you are doing Nanowrimo, this is the time to pick it up, push yourself, and get yourself over that finish line!  Maybe you haven’t done as well as you were hoping this year, and you’ve only written a few thousand words.  It doesn’t matter!  Kick it to the end!  Maybe you’re right on track, but you’re running out of steam.  Push yourself!  Don’t let your hard word go to waste!  In the immortal words of Rob Schneider in Waterboy…

And in case you need a bit more encouragement, let’s see what Jenny has to say about it.

Forrest-Wrimo

Now on to the three interesting things I found on the internet this past week.

1.  The Peanuts Trailer

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This one is really, really interesting to me.  Like a gazillion other folks out there my age, I amassed stacks of Peanuts books growing up, and read them over and over and over again.  As a somewhat shy kid with self-confidence issues, I identified with Charlie Brown and the problems he faced.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if I could have become a part of any children’s literature at the time, I would have grown a round head and jumped into the panels of Charles Schultz’s world.

When Blue Sky Studios (the guys behind the Ice Age and Rio movies) announced that they were going to be making a new Peanuts animated feature, with CGI, I was initially pretty skeptical.  You could wallpaper your house with the bad reviews of bad movies that decent filmmakers have made from fantastic properties that I grew up with:  Transformers 1,2,3 & 4, Scooby Doo, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Smurfs, Smurfs 2, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, Superman Returns,  Knight Rider, The A-Team, Charlie’s Angels, Get Smart, The Pink Panther, Robocop

…the depressing and continually growing list represents a non-stop assault by lazy Hollywood producers on the pop culture treasures of my childhood.

Given, there have been some successful reboots/reimaginings:  Battlestar GalacticaThe Muppets, Star Trek, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, the recent Planet of the Apes movies, James Bond, to name a few.  And while they prove that it can be done, they are the exception to the rule.

And now we have Peanuts up next on the horizon.  And I have hope that it will be an exception.

The two things that gives me hope about this film are this:

A)  The studio

If you go to the Blue Sky Studios website and look at the films they have released, they are almost all good movies.  The one exception was the underwhelming Rio 2, which I forgot right after watching it.  However, they did well with the Ice Age franchise, and have several other good standalone movies under their belt.  Peanuts is in good hands with this studio.

2)  The Creative Team

Peanuts has a strong animation-experienced director in Steve Martino (Horton Hears a Who, Ice Age: Continental Drift) and Charles Schultz’s son and grandson are sharing screenwriting credits with newcomer Cornelius Uliano.  Also, I was totally stoked to see that Christophe Beck (one of my absolute favorite movie score composers) is doing the soundtrack.  Hopefully, this creative team will seek to stay true to the spirit of the original stories, and not try to reimagine Peanuts for a new generation to the point of getting rid of everything that made Peanuts special and timeless in the first place.

That leads me to the message I would communicate to the creative team if I had the opportunity:

PLEASE MAKE PEANUTS THE MOVIE TIMELESS BY KEEPING IT FIRMLY ROOTED IN THE TIME AND SPACE FOR WHICH IT IS KNOWN!

Yes, I’m suggesting that they should keep the film in the 60’s – 70’s era.  No cell phones, no internet, no Facebook references, no hip lingo or jokes about celebrities, no setting in modern-looking neighborhoods.  Keep the music reminiscent of the jazzy style of Vince Guaraldi, as well as orchestral music – but no pop songs by One Direction or Christina Aguilera or some other teeny bopper music group that would plant the movie firmly in the 2014’s.

Go CGI all you want, and make it fun and funny for the kids!   But remember that the setting and the score are characters into themselves, and if they aren’t there, they will be missed as much as Linus or Schroeder.

At least by 40-something guys like me that grew up with Peanuts.

Now, I started all this saying that I was excited to find the release of the new Peanuts trailer, and so, without further ado…

The trailer looks pretty good.  We’ll hold out hope for the finished product!

2)  Bono and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

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First, Bono is on an airplane over Germany that loses a door (and Bono’s luggage) mid-flight.  Then, a few days later, Bono is involved in a very serious bike accident in New York City while biking in Central Park.

I don’t mean to sound snarky with another man’s misfortunes, but… I mean, wow.  That has to go down in the books as one of the worst weeks ever.  I sincerely hope that Mr. Hewson will have a very quick recovery and be able to get back on the road sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Fallon had to have the best response of a host having a guest not be able to make it, when he and the Roots stepped in for Bono and U2.  I have not been the biggest Jimmy Fallon fan before, but this cover might just have made me a believer.

3)  10 Year US/China Visas

chinaThis one is quite selfish, but I was thrilled to hear that the United States and China agreed to extend ten year visas to each other’s citizens.  Living in China, one of the most annoying hassles is reapplying each year for the work visa.  This past year was especially excruciating, as we had several extra things we had to do to be able to get visas for all of my family.

But, thanks to President Obama and President Xi Jinping and their diplomatic staffs, I’ll have one more visa for which I’ll need to apply, and then I’ll be done!

Hopefully my airplane won’t lose a door as I fly home this summer…

 

Thimblerig’s Three Interesting Things of the Day • November 12, 2014

First of all, NaNoWriMo continues, and we’re nearing the middle of the month.  The middle of the month in NaNoWriMo is typically the time where we separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the dogs from the cats.  It’s the time when we find out who is really serious about finishing 50,000 words in thirty days, come hell or high water.   I wish I could say it’s the time when one’s writing becomes really spectacular, but unfortunately, it’s when the quality of the writing starts to become sacrificed on the alter of word count.

In honor of the middle of the month, I give you Gandalf the Grey, and his experience with NaNoWriMo.

NanoGandalf

I do have to say that if I make it to the finish line, I am going to have a very precocious eleven year old girl to thank.  I teach 6th grade here in China, and my class is doing the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program.  We spent the month of October in intense preparation, and part of that was allowing the students to choose their own writing goals.  Most students chose around 15,000 words in the month, but one ambitious student chose 30,000.  When NaNoWriMo began, she made it her new goal to beat me, and so while I’m writing close to 2,000 words a day, so is she.  Currently, she has about two hundred words more than I do, so I’ve convinced her to up her final goal to the adult level of 50,000, and she has agreed.

This has worked out really well for me, because now I base whether or not I will quit for the day on her word count, rather than if I’ve reached my daily goal, so I’m being pushed forward.  50,000 words, here I come!

Speaking of young people, my own eleven year old daughter took an extremely cute picture of her seventeen month old brother, Noah, who has just discovered how to make duck lips.   The picture she took was so cute because Noah is standing much like an adult might, if they were striking a heroic pose.  I absolutely love this picture.

noah duckface

And of course, the more I looked at this picture, the more it reminded me of one of the promotional posters that Darren Aronofsky put out for Noah.   And since our Noah shares the name, I thought it might improve the poster a bit to get rid of the sour looking Russell Crowe, and give Noah a more upbeat expression.

The Real NoahNow that would have been a spectacular movie.

And finally, I give you John Oliver, and the Salmon Cannon.

Now, considering that I’ve used several hundred words here that should have been on my NaNoWriMo novel, I’m going to go ahead and close it up.

See you next week, with the next three interesting things I can find!

P.S. On principal, I refuse to include Too Many Cooks in my list.  I just refuse to do it.

 

Don’t Kill Your Darlings… Yet…

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It’s November, and that means NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month.  The month when you work like mad to hit 50,000 words in thirty days.   It’s an insane activity to take part in, but I’m going to give you a huge piece of advice, a key component to successfully making the goal.

You must reject the age-old writing adage to kill your darlings.

kill-your-darlingsThis idea, to kill your darlings, simply means that when we’re writing the first draft of our novel, we will have parts of the novel that we love with all of heart, but they also happen to be the parts that don’t do anything for the story itself.  They don’t push the story forward, they may even be wildly self-indulgent, and while we may love them dearly, they simply have to go.

They are our darlings, and they have to be killed for the greater good of the story, as painful as that might be.

But in fact, November is a magical month!  It is the month that your darlings will love you, because not only are they permitted to live, but like little bunnies, they are encouraged to multiply at abandon, because your darlings are what will help you reach that golden number of your word count goal.  This is why you breed them, why you allow them to exist at all.  They will be the ones that help to carry you all the way to the finish line, and to the winner’s circle, so that you can get that cool little winner’s avatar and display it on Facebook and Twitter for all the losers to see and envy.

mandrake_harry_potterOf course, it’s best not to let them in on the secret that – like the mandrakes from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – they are only being bred to help you fulfill a grander purpose, that your intention is only to use them, and that when the time comes they will be chopped up into little bits and boiled up in a potion to help free Mrs. Norris from her petrification.

Yes, one day most of your precious darlings will have to die, and this is very sad.

But this is November, and it’s not the month to lament.  This is the month to revel in their creation, to encourage their reproduction, to massage them and make them feel like they are the most wonderful darlings to ever come out of the imagination of any writer since humanity first began organizing words onto papyrus back in Ancient Egypt.

And then, come December, they will die.  Most certainly, they will have to die.

But not until December.

So for now, breed your darlings, writer.  Breed your lovely little darlings to your heart’s content.

Nate Fleming is using NaNoWriMo 2014 to write the first draft of Thimblerig’s Ark Book Two: Forty Days and Nights, the sequel to Thimblerig’s Ark, published in March 2014, which he also wrote in a past NaNoWriMo.  So far, he’s written many more darlings in his first draft than he’d care to admit, but he looks forward to some bloodletting when time to edit and revise rolls around.

Thimblerig’s Three Interesting Things of the Day • November 4, 2014

I’m home from work with a sick daughter and wife, and so while everyone is blessedly sleeping, I decided to throw up (sorry) a few things onto my blog that I’ve found of interest the past couple of days.

First, my Nanowrimo word count is just over 4,000 right now.  Not as high as I’d like it, but not as low as it could be considering the sickness and family responsibilities I’ve been dealing with these past couple of days.

Snape WAYW

Second, Mat Kearney’s very cool new music video for his upcoming album, Just Kids, just went up.  The video was taken with a drone in one shot, and features some really nice dancing and video work.  I’ve been a big Kearney fan since 2007, when listened nonstop to his breakout album, Nothing Left to Lose, on my way too and from screenwriting classes in Hollywood.  I have a feeling that Just Kids will be immediately going to my writing playlist, as soon as it’s released.

Unfortunately, I can’t link directly to the video as it’s still not wide released, but if you click on the screenshot, it’ll take you to the video.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.04.59 AM

Finally, living in China never stops being interesting.

For example, when I went to our local Walmart yesterday to get something to feed the sick women in my house, I found that – even though it’s November 3 – and even though China doesn’t celebrate the holiday – Christmas decorations were already up.

WP_20141103_001

November 3, in China, and Christmas decorations are already up.  In China.

Isn’t the world fascinating?

Anyway, got to get back to Nanowrimo while things are still quiet.   Why aren’t you writing?

Cheers!
Nate