Movies/Television

Goodbye Penny Dreadful.

PennyDreadfulCastRarely does a television show come along and capture my imagination, but Penny Dreadful has proved to be one of them. Beautifully written and acted, with delightful imagery, the season finale had me both shocked and upset; doubly so when I discovered that Season 3 was the end of the show altogether.

From the very beginning, part of the appeal for me had been the characters drawn from English literature, including Dorian Gray, various characters from Dracula, Frankenstein and in Season 3, the introduction of Dr Jekyll. Other characters, such as Vanessa Ives, Ethan Chandler and Sir Malcolm had their own demons to contend with, making the show an interesting mix. In Season 3, new characters such as Dr Seward and Catriona Hartdegen were introduced and I would have liked to have seen more of them; two strong women whose characters had the potential for further development.

With the various main characters in Season 3 scattered all over the globe, I began to wonder how and when they would all come together for the resulting climax. In the end, however, I felt the ending was a bit rushed and one scene in particular jarred with me. In the final episode, when Sir Malcolm and Dr Frankenstein meet up for the first time in the entire season, Sir Malcom says something along the lines of:- ‘Dr Frankenstein, fancy meeting you here; long time, no see! Vanessa’s in trouble, do you want to help us? Good. Let’s go’.

I felt the highlight of Season 3 was the episode ‘Blade of Grass’. The episode explained a particular time in Vanessa’s past, and it was a brilliant performance by Eva Green. With the two main characters of Vanessa and John Clare (Frankenstein’s creature), as the main performers, it was very emotional. Viewers finally understood the connection between these two; showing their strong bond and eventual love for one another. It was after this episode that I had hoped John Clare would come to Vanessa’s aid. As much as I liked to see Vanessa and Ethan together, her relationship with John Clare was special, which helped make the show’s ending so moving. (And yes, I’ve always had a soft spot for Frankenstein’s creature). It was only natural, that my reaction to the ending went something like this:- ‘What? No! That can’t be right. This isn’t really happening. You’ve got to be kidding me. Arrr!’ *sob*

Penny Dreadful is testament to the high quality of television that has been produced in recent years. Although some questions remained unanswered, there is very little about this show that I can find fault with – it really has been that good, and in case you missed it, I recommend you take a look. As sad as I am to see its final curtain, I can understand why writer/creator John Logan ended the show the way he did (who can forget the ending of Dexter?).

Goodbye Penny Dreadful. It has been a real pleasure knowing you.

Have you been watching Penny Dreadful? What are your thoughts on the end of the show? Did you have a favourite character?

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Movies/Television, Writing

3 Reasons Writers Should Watch Television.

woman watching tvI’ve read advice in the past that writers should either cut down on watching television or don’t watch television at all. In order to get more writing done, we need to prioritise and make the most of our time. That’s a very valid point as the key is to live by the old rule ‘everything in moderation’. However, it would appear that this is the ‘golden age of television’, so there are still valid reasons in which to make the most of our television viewing as writers.

1. Research

One of the more enjoyable ways in which to start your research is by watching television. Things like documentaries and real life stories can not only provide you with interesting facts, but can also help fire your imagination and allows you to dig deeper. I have a tendency to watch television shows that explore the darker side of life, and therefore, there are some situations where I need to catch a glimpse of first-hand accounts. Through watching such shows, I can envisage certain situations for my characters and assist with certain elements within my stories.

2. Characters

Like some of the books you read, one of the first things you may think of when it comes to television shows is the characters. Some can be larger than life, like Gene Hunt on Life on Mars or maybe a group of characters that work so well together they almost feel like family (Firefly and Criminal Minds for example). There are also times when a character leaves the show, that the show may never be the same again – think Mulder in The X-Files. My husband said at the time ‘Mulder IS The X-Files’ (and yes, happy dance that it’s staging a comeback 🙂 ), which demonstrates the importance of characters within a show; sometimes you can’t have one without the other. When it comes to writing our own characters, we really have to work hard on making them as unique and realistic as possible. We need to ask ourselves what makes ours different? Watching television can help.

3. Genre

Watching television can give us a good insight into particular genres, including our own and allows us to ask questions about our own stories. What shows in particular genres have become popular and why? What has been done differently within this particular genre and how can I apply something similar within my own writing? Sometimes you can take an idea from a show and ask yourself ‘what if?’ and apply it to a different genre with a completely different outcome. We can learn from watching television, not only for our own writing, but it can also give us an idea of what the public wants.

Since getting pay television installed in our house last winter, I’m the first to admit I have been watching more television that I used to. I am, however, watching shows that not only interest me, but I know they will help me with my writing projects. Next time you watch television, remember to put your writer’s cap on – you just might learn something. 😉

Has watching certain television shows helped you with your writing? Do you find watching television a distraction from your writing and not watch it at all? Were you disappointed to see the end of Firefly? Are you happy to see the return of The X-Files? What shows/characters do you like best?

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to my blog and never miss a post. You can also follow me on Twitter and Google+. You can also find me on Goodreads and Pinterest.

Books, Crime & Mystery, Movies/Television

A Visit to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Exhibition.

Miss-Phryne-Fisher-miss-fishers-murder-mysteriesDuring a recent visit to Parramatta, a suburb of inner western Sydney, I visited Old Government House; Australia’s oldest surviving public building. It was here that the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Costume Exhibition was being held. This series, based on Kerry Greenwood’s novels and produced by the ABC, have run for two seasons, and there is currently debate on whether there will be a third season*. Fans, like myself, are hoping it will be given a green light, as it has proved popular both here and overseas. This particular period in history had never really held much interest for me, but since watching this show, it has changed my mind.

Set in Melbourne during the 1920s, the creators of the show have done a terrific job of displaying the time period. The costumes on the show, as demonstrated in the exhibition were amazing and I was captivated by the level of detail that went into each piece. Unfortunately, given the delicacy of the walls within Old Government House, flash photography could not be used. I tried to take a photo, but my camera insisted using the flash. It was around the time I also noticed that the battery in my camera was also out of charge, so I guess taking any photos were not meant to be. However, that didn’t stop me from inwardly doing my best Homer Simpson impersonation and cursing myself – ‘Not happy Jan!’Phryne Fisher

The exhibition mainly displayed the costumes worn by Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher, but also on display were some costumes worn by Jack, Dot and Aunt Prudence. As well as clothing, the exhibition featured accessories, including hats, shoes and handbags. There were some costumes that I fell in love with just by seeing them up so close.

If you enjoy the show or are interested in the 1920s or vintage fashion, I highly recommend seeing this exhibition. It has certainly made me appreciate the dedication that goes into making high quality television.

Are you a fan of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and would like to see a third season? Have you visited the exhibition – what are your thoughts? Have you watched or read something that changed your mind regarding a certain period in history? Do you have an appreciation for vintage fashion?

* A month after writing this post, it was announced that a third season of Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries will go into production. Filming is due to begin mid October, 2014. 🙂

Images via the ABC and Fanpop

Horror, Movies/Television

The Twilight Zone & ‘The Dummy’.

The Twilight Zone & The DummyWhen I was growing up, television and old movies were a big influence in my life. One of the television shows I always watched was The Twilight Zone. These stories always caught my imagination, for just when you thought you had it all worked out, there was always that element of surprise. I have enjoyed reading stories with a twist in the end ever since.

One story in particular I have never forgotten was ‘The Dummy’. Believing that his dummy, Willie, is alive and talks to him, Gerry begins drinking. His agent does not believe Gerry and tells him he should see a psychiatrist. The story is psychological horror; is Willie alive or not, and if so how can Gerry escape? The plot resonates with our anxieties regarding mental illness; in this case schizophrenia. Horror does not always need to be physical, yet this episode reveals horror in both its physical and psychological forms.

There have been many stories of objects that are possessed, including dolls. Robert the Doll, believed to be cursed and possessed by evil spirits, is said to be the influence of Chucky in Child’s Play. More recently, in the film The Conjuring, is the story of Annabelle, The Haunted Doll. Although Willie is not possessed, as such, he does come to life only for Gerry, which causes much mental suffering.

My mother has a wooden puppet that I cannot stand looking at; I find it ugly and creepy.  When I mentioned that to her, she could not understand why I felt that way. Such is the influence of this particular episode from The Twilight Zone.

If you have never seen this episode, or would like a trip down memory lane, here’s a short clip:-

Is there an episode of The Twilight Zone that you have never forgotten? Do you find ventriloquist dummies give you the creeps? Do you prefer psychological horror rather than in its physical form? Do you believe inanimate objects can be possessed?

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Movies/Television, Writing, Writing Process

Writing Suspense – A Lesson from Television.

Some months ago I had been glued to my television screen.  Like many Danes before me when The Killing was aired in Denmark, I had been eager to find out what would happen next.  As expected of any good police drama, there were many plot twists and characters which meant any one of them could be the killer.  I enjoyed the series so much I bought the DVD and I’m currently watching it again, mentally making notes as I go along.

So what exactly does a television show have to do with writing you may ask?

  • When each episode ends in a cliff hanger, you desperately want to know what is going to happen next, especially when the end is in sight.  It’s the same with the novel.  Leave the reader in suspense at the end of each chapter, demanding more of their attention.  This can also be applied in a book series – make the reader want to buy your next book.
  • The Killing has so many twists and turns, it leads the viewer in all different directions.  By using this tactic in writing, especially crime or suspense, the reader begins to doubt who they originally suspect, which may lead them away from the real culprit altogether.
  • The events in The Killing took place during the first twenty days after the murder of a young woman.  The use of time is a technique within novels to heighten suspense, thus hooking the reader in.  As a writer, you want to grab the reader’s attention quickly.
  • As events take place, eventually characters begin to doubt those closest to them.  Characters’ personalities develop, leading the viewer to take either a liking or dislike to certain ones.  It is the same within the novel; create multiple layers to your characters and let your reader empathise with them – even if they are horrible, at least your reader needs to understand why.  Know your characters well – they are the driving force for your plot.

Next time you watch a drama that hooks you in, try thinking as a writer and apply some of their techniques to your own writing.

Image copyright Danmarks Radio