This week’s guest blog is a guide to useful tech tools for writers. It’s written by American blogger Caroline, whose work you can also find at Culture Coverage. I’ll put her details below the post if you want to check out any of her other articles or follow her on Twitter


[If you’d like to write a guest blog for this website about a subject of your choice, email here for more details.]

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Useful Tech Tools For Budding Writers

It’s likely there’s someone you know who aspires to write that Great American Novel. Maybe you’re that person. Your mind swims with ideas for characters and plot, but the second you get in front of your computer to write, it all disappears. Maybe you get distracted by your social media accounts or simply watching videos on YouTube. Maybe you think you need a writing teacher to guide you through the process (George Kelly thinks otherwise). Whether you’re on your desktop or smartphone, there are several useful tools you can use to help increase your productivity.


Evernote

Available for both your PC and smartphone, Evernote is an excellent tool for jotting down random thoughts, storing photos or making note of other interesting tidbits you come across during your day. You never know when inspiration will strike. Whether you upload the images from your smartphone or desktop, you can access whatever you add from any device.

If that’s not enough, your notes are also searchable, encoded with GPS, and easy to organize via tags and folders. You can even share your notes publicly to get feedback or simply share the research that went into your piece.

[Editor’s Note: I personally prefer SimpleNote. Check it out here.


Virtual Private Network (VPN)

If you’re like many writers, you do your best work outside of the home. This can be a library or a coffee shop, but your location will likely have free WiFi. Even with a WiFi password in place, connecting to a public hotspot can still open your computer up to hackers. In order to protect your information, you should use a VPN service. When you go through this service, you encrypt any information sent over the web, making it nearly impossible for hackers to get access to it. You can check out some of these VPN reviews by Secure Thoughts to find one that suits your needs, as there are quite a few on the market.


Dragon

There’s something intimidating about a blank Word document. The cursor blinks at you waiting for words to pour forth from the keyboard, but it’s too much pressure. If you often feel this way, it might make more sense to talk through your story rather than write it down. Dictation tools such as Dragon have come a long way in terms of accuracy. All you need is a mic and the software and you’re ready to get started. It might be a bit strange at first talking through a novel, but it might clear up your writer’s block.

Even if you don’t use it for actually writing your book, it’s still a good option for outlining the story and making notes on plot lines or character background. You can also use it for other tasks. Writing emails or making a post to social media might get a whole lot quicker with dictation.


Place to Write

If you’re a Mac user, you’re in luck. Place to Write offers some excellent creative writing aids like a character builder, plot generator and more to help jumpstart your imagination. You can customize the appearance by choosing a theme if you so choose. For those who work best on a deadline, you can also set writing goals and timers. You can even share what you’ve written easily via email or social media.


Hemingway App

Looking to improve your writing? There’s no better way to learn than from the best. Of course, it’s a bit hard to do if the writer is dead, but you get the next best thing – an app named after a famous writer. All joking aside, the Hemingway app is a great tool for those who want to improve their writing. It immediately identifies potential problems with your text, such as complex words, long sentences or overuse of adverbs, and highlights them with different colors. You can then change it yourself or view the suggestions to get a better understanding of how to fix the issue.


Wappwolf

There’s nothing worse than losing all of your writing because you need to wipe your hard drive. If you’re not doing it already, you should really have multiple backups of your project in various locations such as your hard drive, an external hard drive and a cloud server. The problem with having so many backups is the time it takes to update all of these locations (and then there’s the organizational nightmare). That’s where Wappwolf comes in. Rather than uploading to four different locations, it allows you to save a file to a single folder. The software then automatically uploads the document to your preferred locations. It’s a huge time saver and ensures that all of your backups have the most updated version of your novel.


There are dozens of other useful tools you can add to your arsenal. It’s up to you to choose which one fits your needs the best. Of course, none of these tools will help if you don’t actually start writing(!)

Do you have a handy writing tool that you always use?

Tell us in the comments.


HeadshotCaroline is a freelance tech and entertainment writer. As a freelance writer she often suffers from writer’s block and uses multiple apps on her smartphone and computer for motivation and inspiration. She hopes you’ll be able to use some of these tools to help your own writing.

You can find other articles by Caroline here, or follow her on Twitter here


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This week’s guest blog is about video game film adaptations by Christopher Aguiar.

You can check his previous blog here: The Fear of Subtitles.


megaWill Video Game Films 
Ever Surpass Superhero Movies?
by Christopher Aguiar

Ever since comic book and superhero movies became near-guaranteed box office monsters, other attempts throughout the film industry have been made to tackle this emergence — reboots of famous franchises that play on nostalgia (Jurassic Park, Terminator, Die Hard, etc.) being one of the main forces. Yet there is one sector that struggles to get its feet off the ground, and has yet to create a widely accepted great film: the video game scene.

We’ve sat through the idiocies of Resident Evil, the mindless and inconsequential action of every single Hitman film, as well as the exposition-heavy Silent Hill, so it’s understandable when game-to-film transitions are met with a groan. But the saddening thing is that these franchises are utilised to garner easy money from hardcore fans of the games — those who, whether they love or hate it, will pay to watch. Therefore, it’s difficult to convince studios to get on board with releasing a story-heavy film that challenges the audience — even though that is what they necessitate.

Hitman is a video game series that is almost episodic, has no conclusion, and rarely focuses on its story — the beauty of the game is its stealth, and this stems from interactivity. So why did it get adapted to the big screen? If anything, the episodic structure should mean it naturally besets itself in the TV realm.


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It is regular to see, or hear, misconceptions about how video games are just mindless fun and lack story depth. Yet one glance into what has been produced in the last decade alone tells you otherwise. The storylines are far more intricate than they’ve ever been, and game developers are no longer just creating immersive worlds with cardboard cutouts; they’re now populating these vast landscapes with fully formed characters. This added realism challenges the gamer in a far more interesting way than eating dots with Pac-Man. Video games have evolved into the beating heart of new-generation storytelling. So why should they be omitted from the big screen — or, rather, why do studios opt for the decrepit toy over the shiny one?

Recently, Michael Fassbender was cast in the upcoming Assassin’s Creed film as Callum Lynch (a character created solely for the big screen). This could be the catalyst for video game adaptations to finally hit that high note. As a game franchise, Assassin’s Creed often does a great job of embroiling drama and action within a historical time period (Italian Renaissance, The Third Crusade, The American Revolution, etc.), and this means that the film is forced to adhere to the same structure — thus, the first Assassin’s Creed film will be set in 15th century Spain.

Having an Oscar nominee spearheading the project is a huge indicator that the film’s material is strong. Perhaps the most positive aspect is that Assassin’s Creed rarely stays within one confined genre; it dabbles in action, drama, sci-fi, and the stealthy gameplay often gives it elements of a thriller. Ultimately, this forces the studio to study the source material heavily and deliver a strong and coherent story above everything else.

Furthermore, director Justin Kurzel’s rendition of Macbeth, with the aforementioned actor, shows he’s no stranger to adaptations. There is a lot to be positive about with this upcoming film, and if it succeeds in becoming the first great video game film, then we can expect to see an influx of excellent and diverse stories catapult above the mundane and repetitive.


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With the hype of The Walking Dead still knocking around, there have been various attempts at an “emotional” zombie-infestation film. Maggie was the recent trial, but it paraded poor writing and too much ham acting to really hit a tone with the majority of people. One video game that perfectly encapsulated heartfelt, zombie-apocalypse drama was The Last of Us.

The film version is still in its casting process, and it recently picked up Game of Thrones starlet Maisie Williams to play the role of Ellie: a teenage girl immune to the infection, who sparks up a faux paternal relationship with Joel — a man grieving the death of his daughter. Despite feeling like a burden toward one another, the two become caring, and, what sets out to be a journey from Point A to B (using Ellie to find a cure to the world’s infection), ends up being one that teeters in the middle as Joel becomes protective over her safety. It’s a truly heartbreaking game with phenomenal world creation, character development, and a satisfying ending. This is a perfect project to stand out as a top tier video game adaptation, as well as an interesting zombie flick. The game garnered huge financial success and reaped in countless awards — there is little risk attached to studios going all out in launching this film to the very best of their abilities.


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And even though the films above sound like they could be great, why have their predecessors been so unimpressive to say the least? Well, there is an obsession with money over quality in the upper echelons of the film industry, and unfortunately, video game adaptations tend to be helmed by said echelons due to their high budget demand in bringing their world to life. Secondly, most video game adaptations tend to be released during the summer Blockbuster period, which forces them to mindlessly entertain rather than challenge audiences. This is counterproductive because it forces studios to opt for the turgid and one-dimensional video games. Luckily, Assassin’s Creed seems set to break the mould with a December 2016 release. The issues that constantly appear in these adaptations could be eradicated once one film defies all the odds and succeeds.

The superhero franchise was often toyed around with, but never reached the consistent heights that Marvel and DC are currently producing. There were abominations like Batman & Robin that almost killed an entire franchise. And while there were some hits here and there, it was only until Batman Begins (2005) and Iron Man (2008) that superhero films became a respectable sector of film. All it takes is one big hit for a snowball effect to kick in. Since the first Iron Man — which was fantastic — we have had superior films such as Avengers: Assemble, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and so on. Now, almost every superhero film is a grand hard-hitter with its budget and subsequent box office return.

Video game adaptations will be the next in line, and far less one-dimensional than the usual “oh, look, it’s a superhero saving the world again!” scenario.


BDSpYunD

 

Chris Aguiar is an amateur screenwriter (still learning the ropes) and incredibly passionate about film and TV. He identifies with Latin-American cinema and ranks The Matrix as his all-time favourite film (he is prepared to fight anybody — dead or alive — that questions this).

Find more of his work here: RCDAguiar and follow him on Twitter here: RCD.


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This week’s guest blog is about aspiring author Shelley Hobbs’s experiences with rejection. If you enjoy it, let her know in the comments and also share the post/like it, etc. If you want to write a guest blog (on a subject of your choice), you can email me here


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Apathetic Rejection

by Shelley Hobbs

What is it like to be rejected endlessly for a manuscript that I put my heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into?

It sucks. Honestly, it does.

I’d like to say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but actually I’m not sure in this case this is true. It just makes you want to give up. In fact, even the author of Anne of Green Gables, L.M Montgomery, gave up submitting her manuscript after only five rejections and kept it in a hat box before trying again two years later and going on to make history. It happens to us all.

This is the thing with the possibility of rejection: you start strong in the face of it, sending out your first flurry of queries, confident in the knowledge you have a bestseller parked on your hard drive — I won’t give up, I’ll never give up, I just need one agent to realise my novel is as good as I know it is. Finally the day comes when you receive your first rejection letter — and you know it’s going to be a rejection, because everyone (even J.K Rowling) got rejected the first time. It’s expected, so you read it knowing it will be a no, and it is. But at least there’s acknowledgement, and it’s a milestone.

Your first rejection. And it wasn’t so bad.

Scooch forward three months. You’ve now had the responses from your second wave of query letters, or in many cases no response at all. Some have been nice — encouraging even — but most have been bland. Nothing like the rejections you’ve heard about from authors of old.

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was rejected with: “Our united opinion is entirely against the book. It is very long and rather old-fashioned.” William Golding received a rejection stating that Lord of the Flies was “An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” This is Lord of the Flies, arguably one of the greatest works of literature of the 20th Century. What hope have we got?

But to be fair I think I’d prefer that kind of response; something to goad me into fighting back rather than the continuous stream of apathy. And that’s the thing with indifferent rejection: you keep plodding on, but little by little the light behind your eyes goes out. And it’s not because it hurts; it’s not because you feel gutted by every letter that says no (because they all do and you kind of get used to it). It’s because it doesn’t hurt. It’s because the lack of reaction fails to stoke the fire of determination. It’s because as many rejections as you receive, there are equally as many people who don’t even bother to reply. Sometimes I just wish I’d get a response that would rev up my indignation; something that would reignite the passion that made me want to be a writer in the first place — something inflammatory, insulting, and even downright offensive would make my day.

But the best I can hope for is a thanks but no thanks (assuming, of course, I don’t get imminently discovered as The Next Big Thing), and rely on my own relentless enthusiasm to send out the third wave of query letters. Which I’ll get round to. Next week. Or next month. But definitely before Christmas.

Definitely.


KmqUX5WGShelley Hobbs is the author of two as yet unpublished novels — Thumbing it and Far From the Tree, neither of which have yet been recognised as bestsellers, works of literary greatness, or even trashy bathroom reads. She lives in Spain with her two cats, and would like to thank her employer for giving her such an undemanding dayjob that she has penned both novels in company time. She will credit them in her acknowledgements when she one day graces the shelves of W.H Smith.

For inspiration on staying strong in the face of apathetic literary rejection, follow her on Twitter: @Theshlobs


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Today we have a guest post about the fear of foreign cinema by upcoming writer Chris Aguiar. This is the first in a new series of guest blogs, which I’ll be showcasing every other week.

I’ll still be posting new writing advice/inspiration every Monday, but these guest slots will cover a variety of subjects from writing to cinema to serial killing elephants and one-legged parrots. If you’d like to write one and end up on the site, email me here to discuss it further. And if you’d like to see more (or less) posts like these, just let me know in the comments (or email me).  


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The Fear

Of Subtitles

by Chris Aguiar

Foreign cinema has long been an inspiration for its Western counterpart so it’s disappointing to see how the average viewer reacts to a subtitled film — there’s a complete disengagement from the opening scene until the final frame (if they last that long), and then they ignorantly lambast the picture and label it “boring”. But what many fail to realise is the impact foreign cinema has had on what they now regularly consume via Westernised film.

For example, some are quick to label The Departed as their favourite Martin Scorsese film, but how many of these same people know it’s a Western remake of Hong Kong classic Mou Gaan Dou (also known as Infernal Affairs)? Many will argue that the original is better, as it showed more realistic grit without suffering from the slight goofiness that The Departed exhibited. However, assuming a person has not watched either and is made aware of the US remake, they’re likelier to gravitate toward the Western incarnation. This is understandable due to the star-studded cast and visionary director, but is watching an inferior Western film worth it if you know that the original foreign film is also available? Quite simply, there would be no Departed if not for Mou Gaan Dou.

A phobia of subtitles seems to be the tipping point for many mainstream audiences. “I’m watching a film, not reading a book,” is something often spouted, but how many of these people will gladly watch a Western film that’s feeding them piles of manure just because it’s presented in their own language? That’s like throwing away a croissant because you can’t quite understand its origins and replacing it with a pot of boiling urine instead. Shunning foreign films means they rarely take in the revenue deserved, and are thus restricted to their own country. Meanwhile, generic action films like Transformers are breaking box office records.

Movies are increasingly similar and devoid of any creativity, and that’s because many people refuse to immerse themselves in another country’s rich, qualitative cinema. Foreign films are bolder than Hollywood’s platter, take bigger risks, and introduce beautifully intriguing plot lines that have yet to wash onto Western shores. Cult horror classic The Ring is a fine example of an abstract and fresh idea reaching mainstream cinema screens, but not everyone knows it’s a remake of the Japanese movie Ringu, which is a far superior and creepier movie. In part, this is because it eschews the typical Hollywood horror tropes and isn’t constrained by Western clichés.

Even Pixar paid tribute to Japan’s Studio Ghibli by including a toy Totoro (from revered animated film My Neighbour Totoro) in the third Toy Story film. Studio Ghibli produce animated films that teach children life lessons through dark, emotional and beautiful tales, never once treating them as though they lack intelligence. There is Grave of the Fireflies — a tale of two orphaned siblings who lost their parents to World War II bombings. There’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which is about a princess who discovers a toxic forest and strives to keep the peace between two warring factions (and released ten years before the very similar FernGully: The Last Rainforest).

The females in Japanese animated films are not like the typical Western incarnations; they do not require a prince or king/father to aid them — a strong message worth sending out to any young girl that Western animation rarely strives to match. John Lasseter — principal creative advisor at Disney (as well as director and writer) — said, “Whenever we get stuck at Pixar or Disney, I put on a Ghibli film sequence or two, just to get us inspired again.” Without Ghibli, would Pixar films be half as good as they are now?

Of the three facets of foreign cinema discussed, all of them have pertained to the Oriental/Asian scene — gory horror, intense cop-action, and beautifully emotional animation. That’s just a mere fragment of one culture’s style of cinema. Latin American countries succeed in delivering dark and morbid comedies as well as gritty, no-holds-barred gang dramas. The Scandinavian scene focuses heavily on human, day-to-day drama, and the issues that can inhibit the average person’s life. Additionally, the Middle-East (Iran in particular) mixes an amateur, yet masterful, style of filmmaking to depict conflict induced by war and family. Lastly, everybody knows the South Asian ‘Bollywood’ where powerful dramas are embroiled within a musical to create lengthy family films accessible for all ages.

Every single nation, continent and culture adds something refreshing to cinema that is portrayed in a more truthful and believable manner than your typical Hollywood cash-grab movie or Oscar bait.

The argument, though, is not about which is better. It is about enlightening oblivious audiences to the cinematic world around them that exists beyond English-speaking moving pictures. There is a particular style of film associated with every nation that anyone in the world can identify with. It’s just about finding what suits you most and taking a leap of faith into whichever foreign section appeals to you.

If, upon reading this, you realise that you have completely alienated foreign cinema from your watchlist, then here are a list of ten films that could help you discover a new sector of cinema:

1.) The Hunt: A Danish drama about a man who works at a nursery and is falsely accused of paedophilia.

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2.) The Raid 1 & 2: An Indonesian soon to be action-trilogy about a cop gone rogue that displays incredible hand-to-hand martial arts choreography.

The-Raid-Redemption-movie-posterThe-Raid-2-Berandal3.) Oldboy: A Korean action/drama/romance about a man who is mysteriously kidnapped and locked in prison for 15 years and then released with a task of finding his captor within five days.

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4.) Wild Tales: An amalgamation of five Argentinian short stories that contain dark tales riddled with humour.

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5.) The Devil’s Backbone: A Guillermo Del Toro ghost story set to the backdrop of the Spanish civil war — a true, chilling, yet emotional tale about friendship and unity.

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6.) A Separation: An Iranian drama about a man who is accused of causing a woman’s miscarriage and how those accusations tear his family apart.

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7.) Spirited Away: Arguably Ghibli’s best film, this animation is about how far a little girl will go to bring her parents back to life. Touching, hilarious and adorable.

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8.) The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: A Japanese sci-fi animation about a girl who discovers she can time travel, but rather than getting lost in the science of it all, this film delivers a poignant message about attempting to correct the past.

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9.) Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham: A Bollywood family drama that centres around a son’s prohibited love, and his subsequent expulsion from his family. A moving tale that follows the lengths a family will go to in order to repair estranged relationships.

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10.) City of God: A Brazilian film about an aspiring photographer who finds success in taking pictures of gangsters in his favela. As he rises into mainstream media, those he grew up with turn to a life of crime.

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BDSpYunDChris Aguiar is an amateur screenwriter (still learning the ropes) and incredibly passionate about film and TV. He identifies with Latin-American cinema and ranks The Matrix as his all-time favourite film (he is prepared to fight anybody — dead or alive — that questions this).

Find more of his work here: RCDAguiar and follow him on Twitter here: RCD.


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