Guest Interview: Tabitha Freeman

Today, I’m honored to have indie author Tabitha Freeman give an interview here on my blog, one of several stops on her current blog tour. See the details of Tabitha’s latest publication below; for now, here’s TRF!

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1.) Your newest book “Iniquity” debuted August 19, 2014 and has already hit the bestseller status. Tell us a little bit about it!

TRF: It’s a New Age horror fiction read and it circles around a group of six people who committed a horrific crime five years earlier. They are brought together again by some pretty dark forces completely out of their control and the story spins into raw terror from there.

2.) Tell us why this is a perfect Halloween month read.

TRF: October is the one time a year we love to scare ourselves, isn’t it? INIQUITY is practically oozing with everything that makes a person not want to turn off the lights at night.

3.) What does your writing process look like? Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? i.e. Do you listen to music, sit in a certain chair?

TRF: When your career has you working from home the majority of the time, it isn’t always easy—especially for the wild imagination and short attention span of a YA author ;-). So, most days, I’m working in my office from around 6-7 a.m. into the evening around 6-7 p.m. There are definitely times I change it up, relocate myself to a coffee shop or wherever I might travel sometimes for story research or something—but most of the time, to keep my focus, I try to keep a usual routine. I have lots of quirky things in my office and on my desk and walls, which make me feel like I’m in a constant state of “down the rabbit hole”—which is awesome! And I have always made a soundtrack playlist for every book I’ve written to listen to while I’m in the writing process. What’s really cool is that now that I’m eight books in, readers and fans have taken to sending me ideas to add to playlists once my books release and that’s a fun and unique way for me to interact my imagination with my readers’. Something like that is so surreal.

4.) Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

TRF: Nothing too out of the ordinary—though I constantly talk to myself and I do periodically have to get up and pace around my house.

5.) If you could cast your characters in INIQUITY in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

TRF: I normally don’t give answers for this question because I really like to leave that up to my readers’ imaginations, however, I definitely have some Hollywood crushes I see playing Colin Serpan—I’m talking Chris Hemsworth, or Jensen Ackles.

6.) What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?

TRF: Not being able to type 500 wpm…I could write so many stories so much faster if my typing could keep up with the speed of my imagination!

7.) Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

TRF: Nothing is off the table for me. I think at this point, after eight books in that are all completely different genres from one another, my readers and fans expect a surprise every new release I do. It’s become like my M.O. as an author.

8.) Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

TRF: I like to keep my stories as “clean” as I can while not risking the integrity of the story so that more readers can enjoy them.

9.) What are you working on now? What is your next project?

TRF: I’m working on some pretty exciting stuff right now! A spin-off novel from my Ghost Story Trilogy, a dark, apocalyptic project, and I’ve gotten a lot of questions since the release of INIQUITY about other horror reads in the works: the answer is yes, you can definitely expect some more scary-ness in the 2015 year.

10.) You have 6 incredibly relatable and complex characters that lead the story in INIQUITY. Tell us what’s on their tombstones.

TRF: Oooo, this is a fun question!

Ronnie-I Guess I Did Need That Map

Tori-Vanity is Definitely My Favorite Sin

Gabriella-(A carving of Grumpy Cat in her tombstone)

Sam-That Third Wheel Eventually Ran Me Over

Mandy-Who Knew Indecisiveness Could Kill?

Colin-At Least I Looked Like Hercules

11.) What about yours? What would your tombstone read?

TRF: “This isn’t where I parked my car.”

12.) Why the theme of guilt? This story is practically dripping with it.

TRF: I think the scariest part of the entire story is just the reality within the fantasy of it: can we really ever escape guilt?

13.) What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

TRF: I’ve always been a big fan of the horror/occult genre, whether it’s in books or movies. I had the most fun writing this story, however the drafting and editing processes were brutal because I was so particular (and nearly obsessed) with not hitting cliché walls. The horror genre and its basics can be extremely predictable sometimes, and have been done over and over and over. I wanted to make sure that I could keep the basic building blocks of a horror novel intact, while still providing a unique perspective that sticks in readers’ minds and sets itself apart from others like it.

iniquity

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Tabitha, thank you for being here today! Be sure to pick up a copy of Tabitha’s work on Amazon!

-jdt-

Merry Christmas

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is [e]Christ the Lord.12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a [f]manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men [g]with whom He is pleased.”

Merry Christmas and God bless you all.

merry-christmas-roses

“The Journey of St. Laurent” Now Available!

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure I announce the unveiling of Bryce Beattie’s long-awaited, much anticipated sequel to Oasis, entitled The Journey of St. Laurent – now available on Amazon’s Kindle platform, Barnes and Noble’s NOOK platform, and in many additional formats and platforms from Smashwords!

JoSL

From the description:

ER nurse Corbin St. Laurent has had a bad couple of weeks. His hometown was overrun by zombies and then bombed to the ground. Now he finds out aliens are not only real, but hostile. To make matters worse, the government’s response it to tell the everyone to calm down. With washington strangely reluctant to fight back, Corbin searches for a weapon that could give the people cause to rise up – the same zombie virus that destroyed Oasis.

The Journey of St. Laurent is a pulp action adventure sequel to Bryce Beattie’s debut novel Oasis. If you like zombies, aliens, fiery redheads, loud mouth radio hosts or non-stop action, you’ll probably like this book.

Check it out at the links below!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Journey-Laurent-Bryce-Beattie-ebook/dp/B00GVM1N5C

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-journey-of-st-laurent-bryce-beattie/1117495901

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/381116

Guest Post: Irene Helenowski

Note from JDT: Ladies and Gentlemen, I promised this author a guest post some time ago and I’ve neglected to fulfill my promise! Irene, I’m so sorry it took me this long to get to it. Things in The Real World have been dreadfully busy and tough, and I haven’t forgotten so many things as I have these past couple of months. I apologize, everyone. But, without further ado, I present: Irene Helenowski!

Order of The Dimensions

About The Author:

Irene Helenowski, the author of Order of the Dimensions, is a statistical analyst at an academic medical center in Chicago and recently received her doctorate in biostatistics. She also enjoys going to movies and concerts in her spare time.

About the Book:

When Jane Kremowski first began her graduate studies in physics at Madison State University in Wisconsin, little did she know where her work would take her. Now, she is embroiled in a multitude of dimensions all leading to different outcomes. She and her colleagues therefore must act wisely in order to take and keep away the Order of Dimension from falling into the wrong hands for the sake of her loved ones.

From The Author:

Have you ever thought about what you may be doing in another world?  Maybe you’re a painter in Paris, or a rock climber in Colorado?  I have had many such thoughts.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if the multiverse theory as advocated by theoretical physicists Michio Kaky, Brian Green, and Lisa Randall is correct and we could be living such lives in different dimensions within our universe simultaneously?  Such ideas led me to the premise of Order of The Dimensions, where we see the different paths that heroine, physics student, Jane Kremowski takes in different realms.  Adventure ensues with the introduction of villain, Anton Zelov, who schemes to get his hands on her and on the Multiverser, the technology allowing for inter-dimensional travel.

With this work, I not only hope to entice the reader with romance, adventure, and a world of what-ifs, but also encourage young adults, particularly young girls, to look into the wonderful world of science.  I recently read an NPR article about how there is still a major discrepancy between boys and girls in the sciences, especially in physics.  As someone working in an academic medical center, I hope that we can change the attitudes of our youngsters, leading to a new generation of scientists.  Will my book be a vehicle for such an objective, at least in one dimension?  I don’t know, LOL, but it’s been fun so far, thinking about it and trying.

From the Blog Owner

Helen, thanks so much for this post today! And all the best of luck with your ventures in publishing – may you sell a million!

-JDT-

Guest Post: Craig Andrews

Today, I’m happy to introduce guest blogger and author Craig Andrews! Craig is the author of a thriller novel called The Ninth Martini, now available on Amazon’s Kindle platform! So I’ll let him tell you about himself and his book.

Take it away, Craig!

About the  Author

Craig L. Andrews is eclectic when it comes to writing genre, connecting creative wires to whatever sparks a great story that could take the reader somewhere memorable. He tries to develop characters and stories driven by logic and plausibility. He is the author of Broken Toy, A Man’s Dream, A Company’s Mystery, a biography of a man whose small company patented a toy mouse, Micky, two years before Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse. The book was a major reference used for the PBS History Detectives program. He is the author of two works in the horror genre, The Godmanchester Stone and The Bed and Breakfast. He’s a member of the National Writers Association and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. He holds a B. S. and an M.S. degree in physics, was nominated to the Sigma Pi Sigma National Physics Honor Society, holds a patent in design, and has authored physics and automotive engineering papers. When he’s not writing he dabbles in photography and video animation.

About the Book

The Ninth Martini, is a Clancy-type thriller with the best of heroes and worst of the villains.

When hard-nosed Navy intelligence officer and former SEAL, Zack Hawkshaw, reluctantly agrees to use skills from an extinct CIA program for a mission, he has no idea he’ll be plunged into a race to save the world. Zack agrees to one more field assignment and goes head-to-head with a man from an old secret KGB program who has Middle East connections, as well as the same skills Zack developed in the CIA Gondola program. Zack must discover if ex-KGB agent now Shiite, has warheads from a Russian SS-19 missile, and if so, the number and destination. Zack confronts the ex-KGB agent on the mental battlefield trying to stop the nuclear destruction of cities around the globe. You won’t know if he succeeds until the last tick of the clock!
Buy now on Amazon.

From the Writer

I was thinking the other day how literature mirrors reality, tries to explain what is happening, and many times provides a forewarning. A case in point, the latest NSA revelations. I started writing concepts for my book, The Ninth Martini, in 1996.
A year earlier a CIA Technical Adviser went on the Nightline television program and spilled the beans. Yes, the CIA had been engaged in spying, but he wasn’t referring to the usual cloak and dagger routine with men meeting in dark backstreets. He was referring to something that the government started before the 1970s and was so enigmatic that most people would just grin at its description. The Russians had been working on this methodology as far back as 1950s at the Odessa Institute under Dr. A. N. Leontyev. The CIA came to the dance late but soon began pouring money into programs, one of which was called Project Grill Flame. The methodology that psychologists and scientists labored to research and perfect was psychic spying or remote viewing.

This CIA research was said to have been abandoned in the 1990s but why would the agency walk away from something that didn’t rely on wires or electromagnetic waves zipping through the atmosphere? Maybe it’s still alive. What a remarkable premise for a battle between two opposing theologies, societies, and men of conviction. Think of it, two soldiers who can see each other and possibly hear each other’s conversation separated by thousands of miles. There really was an incident in which a Soviet submarine was located by an American psychic spy. Just think what would happen if Jack Bauer of 24 Hours had the same tool.

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Thanks for stopping by today and sharing a bit about you and your story today, Craig! Look for his work on Amazon today!

Race

My lungs burn as I round the corner, the damnable soles of my expensive shoes skidding on the concrete, driving me to my knees. The raking breaths burning in my lungs matches the burn on my palms when I stop my fall with my hands, a hot white bolt shooting up my arms.

I shoot a backward glance, down the dark stairs, suck in my breath and hold it against my pounding heart. Silence and night.

My vision smears the lights in their neat, white globes as I fight back to my feet. No time. No time!

I shoot back to my feet and pound forward, coattails flapping in my slipstream. The station isn’t bright enough, but it’s not dark either. I’ve been in Podunk towns where a single bare bulb swung from an exposed wire wearing a flattened stainless steel funnel hat. The fluorescent bars here offered some illumination at least.

It just doesn’t feel bright enough.

I glance back again, confronted now by the turnstiles and pay booths. They’re unmanned. I check the rest of the area.

No guard. My heart sinks.

I spring over the turnstiles and yank my straining body up the concrete stairs by the cold iron handrail beside me. It stings my scraped hands as I launch myself faster up the flight to a landing, a break in the climb before another set of steps taunts me.

I freeze for a split second.

Did I hear something? Something coming, from behind me?

My adrenalin jumps another notch and scorches my veins. My heart flutters and I dart up the second flight, trying to keep up the pace, but slowing. The platform is at the top, but the loading area is far from where passengers vomit out of the stairwell. Dimly, something far in the recesses of my mind realizes this isn’t ADA compliant as I push with my arms while racing with my leaden legs up the stairs.

Then I do hear it. Clear, definitive, something banging and grinding behind me.

No!

My feet skid on the corner of the stair riser and bark my shins. I scream out, no longer caring what hears me, and I push through the pain. I feel the warm trickle of blood down my shin, and know I’ll leave a trail behind me.

I can’t care.

The sound grows to a din now, and then there’s a scream, a wailing howl like metal dragging over metal, and I can smell the thing now. I can’t look back, I have to press on, move, move, dammit, move!

It’s on me, I can see it as I round the corner of the platform, my damn shoes betraying me again, and I hit one knee on the ground while my feet still scrabble for purchase. I launch myself up, but my equilibrium’s gone and I fall into the brick wall just under the schedule.

Too late! Too, too late!

The shriek sounds again, and the klaxon bangs a tattoo of hopelessness against my ears. In huff it’s moving, foul air rushing into my face and blowing back my hair. It gains speed in an instant, and I fall, helpless, to the cold floor of the platform as it rushes to me, and then past me.

I watch the train’s lights vanish into the night, down the dark tracks, and groan when I see the schedule above me.

Next one’s not due for an hour.


I misread the prompt, too. It said, “plane,” not “train.” *Sigh* Oh well.

Why Most Movie Sequels Aren’t As Good — The Final Battle

Well, if you’ve made it this far, you’re doing pretty good. I’ve prattled on and on about how movie sequels generally don’t measure up, and used the Terminator franchise as an illustration of why they don’t.

I chose them deliberately. For one thing, the movies got larger budgets, improved special effects, and grander scopes as they went along. I chose them in part because I wanted to demonstrate none of those things are what make a movie (or story) resonate with an audience.

I’m picking on movies specifically because book sequels are generally planned. They’re typically written as a part of a greater whole, and aren’t thrown together in response to the success of the original work. Sometimes that’s true, I suppose; but that brings me to what helps make a sequel successful.

The Terminator succeeded because of an interesting premise, a sympathetic central character, a good story, and one of the most basic of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs being met. Terminator 2: Judgment Day equaled or surpassed the original because the Maslow tier had not been traversed, the acting and writing were superior, the special effects were innovative and ground-breaking, the antagonist was new and different, and there was the twist of the former antagonist become a protagonistic force. (Yes, it was a twist at that point.)

But Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was a dismal failure because the Maslow need had been met in T2, the guardian robot was a rehashed idea, and the girl robot’s only new twist was being female. And sexy. So…meh. Throw in weak writing and mediocre acting, and you have a formula for the dust bin of movie history.

Terminator: Salvation has the same thing happening over again. An anti-hero central character cyborg (more advanced than the others, frankly, which is dichotomous to the story line), a John Connor who didn’t fulfill his future (for no apparent reason), and a departure from the story line firmly established for the last twenty years. Throw in the Christian Bale factor and even through there was the threat of death late in the movie, we knew it simply wouldn’t happen. So again…meh. Injecting a child character from the original movie didn’t help. Nothing could. It was simply too failed from the get-go.

What’s the Secret?

Okay, so how do you make a good sequel then?

A unique premise?

That certainly helps. But the fact it’s a sequel sort of indicates the premise is at least similar, if not the same. You need to be sure the premise can be continued. But continuing it ad nauseum isn’t a good idea either. The Terminator series shows us how, even though time travel appears to be a limitless-possibilities endeavor, you can run it into the ground. How many terminators can travel back through the lifetime of John Connor, or Sarah Connor, or any of the other characters, until at last they succeed in eliminating their target? It never ends, and we as an audience know that.

Why didn’t you send a robot back to a time when Sarah Connor was a child instead of trying to kill her as an adult? Once the failure of the plan became apparent (and how would you ever know in the future if the past has been altered?), would the logical thing be to move ahead, closer to when it’s too late, or move back, to when there’s still distance between the key events?

But the paradoxes of time travel become problematic too. So we have to be careful and not ask “Why?” too often, lest our premise unravel.

So, how do you make a good sequel?

A new premise might be one way. Or a new take on the same premise, such as with T2. Still a killer robot traveling back in time to kill someone, but this time it’s a new robot with cool new abilities, and there’s a new twist: The OLD robot is now the protector, not the terminator.

So if that worked once, it should work again, right? Wrong. See T3 for details. Same premise, and nearly the same execution, and the twist? Yeah, not so much. Didn’t help.

Setting a Good Example

So you say, because you’re all really good at this, “What about not dwelling so hard on the premise of the series and having each movie have a new focus, within the same premise?”

Good idea! You know…like the Toy Story series, for instance. Wood, Buzz, and the gang all face the same premise in every movie: They’re toys, trying to be loved and love the only way they know how (by being fun for their owner), trying not to become lost or cast offs or to move down the hierarchy (hey, there’s that word again!) of their universe. (Yes, the toys are moving along Maslow’s hierarchy, like any good characters should.)

But in the first movie, there’s a personal tension between Woody (the number one toy and sort of defacto leader) and Buzz Lightyear (the newest member of the group, a very cool toy who threatens to be the favorite and displace Woody on the hierarchy, knocking him back down the scale). They have to work together when they become lost toys and they have the time-sensitive moving day deadline and a psychotic toy killer neighbor to deal with along the way. The basic need to meet lies in the middle on Maslow’s hierarchy: Status and position. See my first post in this series for the illustration, or Google “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”.

In the second installment, Woody is the victim of a kidnapping, and the newfound friendship between Woody and Buzz is front and center rather than the competition between them. In this take, the toys have to work to recover Woody, and still face the world as toys. The premise – living toys in a human world doing things the best way they can – remains the same. But this movie doesn’t operate the same way as the first. The toys have moved up the hierarchy, so in this movie, a new basic need has to be met: Safety.

The third movie is more emotional, but with another unique premise. They’re still toys; they still have the desire to be played with and bring joy to their owner. But their owner is on his way to college now, and the toys need to find a new home. They want to belong, they want to continue doing what toys do, but they can’t do that if they stay loyal to their current owner. The need? Self-actualization. Pretty high on the list, but also very noble. And thus the audience can root for them.

Now, toss in good acting and writing, CGI of legend, and clever use of the overall premise of the universe established by the original (are you listening, Terminator franchise?!), and you have a formula for successful sequels. And these were.

Want More Proof?

Okay, if you’re not convinced yet, I’ll give you another example. The universe and story arc remain the same across all the movies (and the books upon which they’re based), but the audience couldn’t wait for the sequels.

It’s Sorcery!

Harry Potter comes readily to mind here. That series of books and movies followed a single character with a single premise across a long, long arc which concluded, and within each of the installments the story was slightly different. The premise didn’t change, but what had to happen to fulfill the premise did (are you listening, Terminator franchise?!).

JK Rowling might be many things, but she knew how to hook and retain an audience, and when those books were optioned into movies, retaining as much adherence to the stories as possible ensured fan support, and therefore financial success. But the stories don’t get boring or tired because each one fit into the over-arching story of Harry’s time at Hogwarts and his growth into a powerful wizard. Or whatever.

It Rings True

Another way to handle the sequel dilemma is to have a really good story to start with, break it into parts and market each one as a sequel to the last. The Lord of the Rings, anyone?

Tolkien masterfully told a story over a long discourse and each one had a different focus while preserving the same premise. The premise, therefore, unfolds over the course of the series, just like with Harry Potter, but instead of telling a single story in each episode which contributes to the whole, the whole is chopped into individual episodes to play out over time. (Hey, Terminator franchise…)

A similar idea, but executed differently. And the audience loved it.

In The End

I might add here the above examples may not technically qualify as sequels. The same could be said about any series, I suppose. But to make a good sequel, you need to import and utilize Maslow’s hierarchy within the premise of the story line, or the audience will not care for long.

With successful sequels, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows the characters operating to either move up the hierarchy, or meet one of the base level needs, or not be pushed back down the tiers. In all cases, the audience embraces the story only to the degree the need being met is common to them. You’re not likely to see someone care whether Bill Gates retains his position as world’s richest man (he didn’t). But in the movie Arthur, the audience does care whether a man retains his money. Not because of the money (losing it moves Arthur down the hierarchy, remember), but because Arthur has fallen in love with someone (ah, a more base-level need!).

Keeping the characters moving up on the hierarchy gives them something to strive for. Obtaining or retaining their new positions gives the audience something to care about with them. If the audience can relate to that goal, they’ll embrace the story.

And it’s that simple.

Right?

Well…

Have a good weekend y’all.

-jdt-

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While I love taking credit for great achievements, I can’t take full credit for the information you’ll find here. Most of it comes from reading the works of David Baboulene, a great thinker of story theory and a clever guy. You can find him here.

Why Most Movie Sequels Aren’t as Good — Part Deux

So, where was I?

Oh, that’s right. I was about to address your concerns regarding why sometimes a movie sequel can be equal to, or in rare cases, better than, the original movie upon which it’s based.

I used for my example The Terminator and its sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day as a prime example of how a sequel can surpass the original (with a bigger budget and the right premise).

But you pointed out, helpfully, that the follow-ups on the success of T2 were horrid failures. And you’re right, they were. At least, from the standpoint of viewer satisfaction they were.

To their defense, both Terminator: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation seemed to succeed on some level. T3 made enough money to buy them time to produce T4, and with the bigger budget, special effects and yes, bigger stars, what could go wrong?

And yet, they did go wrong, didn’t they? They weren’t as good. Why?

Let’s check and make sure we have the ingredients the same as in T2:

  • A hero who has to survive to lead the resistance – check.
  • A set of characters we’re somewhat familiar with – check.
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs base-level goal – check.
  • A terrifying, seemingly unstoppable cyborg from the future bent on humanity’s annihilation – check.

Um…okay, so whuhapp’n’d?

Missing Ingredient

Before we say “check” to everything, we’d better go back and see what’s what with the ingredient list.

It’s number three on the list which is the culprit here.

You blink at me. “But…we have exactly the same premise as in the first two movies. How can it not be the same here?”

I’ll tell you why – the producers and directors of the second movie didn’t do something new with that premise. They did the exact same thing as T2 did – a robot has been sent into the past to destroy John Connor before he can become the leader of the resistance.

So? What’s the problem?

In The Terminator, remember what I said – the ending was left open. The audience sees Sarah Connor riding off into the coming storm, uncertain where the future will go, how it will unfold, what will happen.

In T2, we see something much different. We have much better answers to the question “What will happen in the future?” Because the running theme is, “The future is not set,” nothing is definitive. Anything can happen. But let’s face it, and be very honest about facing it – that loop was basically closed off in T2 and inadequately reopened in subsequent movies.

This is the problem. The characters moved up the hierarchy in the first two movies. In the next two movies we see them trying to stay put on the hierarchy rather than trying to move up. (Getting up the hierarchy is what our lives are about, remember, at least in Maslow’s theory.)

So when Sarah and the gang moved up a rung on the hierarchy, that storyline is closed, fini, done. Time to move on. Time to leave well enough alone.

Ah, but Hollywood can’t do that, can they?

So T3’s approach was to reprise the role of the hero robot. You know, the one who killed John Connor in the future. Dun-dun-duuuuuuunnnn!

Doesn’t that put enough spin, enough uncertainty, enough newness into the plot? Huh? Doesn’t it? Huh? Huh?!

Suspension of Suspense

Nope, sorry. For one thing, we see that John Connor’s right here, right in front of us, going through the movie. We can see he’s okay, doing his thing, and he’s both the central character and the protagonist, so we know nothing’s likely to happen to him through the course of at least most of the film. Suspense killer number one: Check.

We also know his wife, the love interest in the movie, is the one who captures and reprograms the assassin robot to be a guardian, just like John Connor did in T2’s future. So we know the love interest will survive the film. Suspense killer number two: Check.

Because both of the suspense killers above are in place, we know the odds of success for the new girl robot (see here for the joke which NEVER ceases making my wife and me laugh) aren’t good. Suspense killer number three: Check.

So, why do we care about this movie? Oh, that’s right…we don’t.

We aren’t worried about our group of protagonists at all. We know the killer-turned-hero robot won’t survive the film – it’s basically the same movie as T2 after all, and he didn’t survive that one – so we don’t worry about him. The humor and nods to the earlier films didn’t work well. And there was no Sarah Connor to inject psychotic randomness into the movie, so we have a subplot with the love interest’s father, a computer virus destroying the Internet (*snicker*), and because things in the world really changed between 1991 and 2003 (when T2 and T3 were made, respectively), the shift had to be made from a hardware-based monster to a software-based one. Skynet, the evil, self-aware antagonist producing the killer robots, isn’t a robot after all. It’s a computer program.

Niiice. (No.)

We simply don’t have anything to care about. The special effects and the smokin’ hot blond “Terminatrix” are all we want to see. (She is running around in red leather, after all.) After that, the movie had nothin’.

But what about Terminator: Salvation? Didn’t it have The Dark Knight, Christian Bale, one of the hottest names in Hollywood, starring? Didn’t it have the biggest budget for special effects, the impact of Transformers driving the CGI, and a new premise?

Tailspin

Well, sure. Those things are all true, at least to some degree, for the franchise’s fourth, and God willing, final installment.

So, why didn’t it succeed?

Well, primarily because we violate the Maslow thing yet again, and we have a number of suspense killers in it. Again.

Killing the suspense is key to making a movie a failure. One of the reasons we go see a movie series, or read a book series, is because we like the characters, or we worry about the characters. Since we never really get to love John Connor in the long-term the way fans love Harry Potter and his friends or James Bond, there isn’t a continuity across the stories to endear the hero(es) to the audience in the Terminator series.

So, each film requires its own character building arc, making the character sympathetic to the audience. Somehow.

Did that happen in T4? What do you think?

Checklist? Again? Yep.

The suspense killers started with casting one of Hollywood’s biggest draws as the lead in the film. Think Christian Bale is going to be killed off, now that he’s firmly established as Batman, and one of the biggest action heroes in the biz? Suspense killer number one: Check.

What about the unset future thing? Isn’t that the premise the film takes on? Because the future’s not set, John Connor isn’t the leader of the resistance, isn’t saving humanity, and is facing a new set of machines and challenges he didn’t anticipate. “This is not the future my mother told me about,” the movie’s trailer says. So, why didn’t it work?

Because in addition to SK1 (Bale won’t die), we have an unsympathetic protagonist in John Connor. He’s already part of the resistance when the movie opens. We’re supposed to be disoriented by this because it shows it’s not the same future Sarah Connor prepared him for. But we also know the machines have already taken over by 2018 and are hard at work producing machines to eliminate their enemies. And because we’re not familiar with this universe, we have to have time to get into it. After all, we had three movies with something like the same universe before this one. So this is more like a reboot in a way.

Lack of story development. Suspense killer number two: Check.

Too much of a good thing is bad for you. And so, with a dystopian future getting more dystopian by the moment, we have a situation in which John Connor must find a way to kill Skynet. Sounds familiar. But he’s going to need help. And usually, that help comes from a robot turned good. So you know that convention is going to continue in this film, and sure enough, we have it. It’s Sam Worthington’s character in this movie.

Predictable. They didn’t even try to hide it. And that, my lovelies, is suspense killer number three: Check.

Three suspense killers, plus rehashing the same ol’ movement on the hierarchy? Yeah, a formula for failure despite big name actors, big special effects, and a sound byte of Christian Bale being one of the biggest a$$holes alive going viral.

Then What’s the Answer?

How do you fix it then? How do you write a movie sequel, or even a book sequel, and make it work?

Next time, m’pretties. Next time.

-jdt-

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While I love taking credit for great achievements, I can’t take full credit for the information you’ll find here. Most of it comes from reading the works of David Baboulene, a great thinker of story theory and a clever guy. You can find him here.