The Zelda method will make you more productive

Zelda: A Link to the past

I loved Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Never got into Ocarina of time and thought that Wind Waker looked great but was pretty simple. I was also reading The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim. The book explored Freudian Symbolism in Fairy Tales.

It appeared that Zelda: Twilight Princess had incorporated elements of this symbolism into its story. The hero transforming into a wolf, the horse that rears onto its hind legs when the hero kisses the princess. I could get into it if you want but I’m not here to talk about the deeper meanings of a Nintendo game.

What I am here to mention is the difficulty of the puzzles in the game. I found some of them challenging. I’m not a great gamer, so maybe that makes me a noob, but I remember several times just being unable to progress.

Not knowing what to do; I would play Viewtiful Joe instead.

Henshin a Go-Go baby

Viewtiful Joe was knock about beat ‘em up fun compared to the more strategic play. I would get my fill and then would go back to Zelda. I was able to find that I could progress a little further.

Zelda hadn’t changed in difficulty level. It was just that I was able to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. Approach the game objectively.

This would go back and forth until eventually, I completed the Zelda game.

Words and Lyrics

I made a film a few years ago, Deadville.

When I was writing it, I had also started up a band called Mental Deficiency. Splitting the time between the two may not be the best practice, but for some reason, it worked with me.

At one point rewrites for Deadville needed to be completed by a specific date because we needed to start rehearsals.

At the same time, I was worried that Mental Deficiency wouldn’t have enough songs to play our headline gigs. You need about six-eight songs if you want to headline your concerts and they have to be your own. Covers are cheating.

Thoughts of needing songs were in the back of my head the whole way through rewrites the Deadville script.

Almost as soon as I finished the Deadville script lyrics and song ideas came pouring out of my head.

I don’t know why I was able to come up with lyrics so fast. Distracting myself from the songs by working on a script gave my conscious mind the distraction that it needed. It was so my subconscious could work on coming up with lyrics and ideas.

You’ve probably been told to focus on one and not to stop until it is done.

Does that work for you? If it does you can stop reading, what follows isn’t applicable. I’m talking to the people who struggle with focus. If you are a person who gets bogged down in the weeds of a project, I’m here to talk to you. If you’re a person who gets emotionally invested in a creative endeavour, then you and I have a few things to discuss.

My focus is a big problem. Trying to heed the advice of those who have done so and focus on one task until it’s completed is difficult. For the last few years, I have attempted to do that, and it hasn’t got me the results that I wanted.

While I’m still learning and trying to find a way that works for me I realise that the one task at a time approach does not work.

If this sounds like you then I may have a method that might help.

Zelda Method

You may not find this useful. You’re thinking “so what?” .

In fact the majority of you reading this won’t. You have proper focus, so I know that this post is aimed at the smallest minority like myself.

Trying for years to focus on one task has led me to frustration. The “one step at a time” method has not worked for me, and maybe it doesn’t work for you.

Try what I call the “Zelda Method”. Work on one project until you hit a wall then work on something similar yet different.

With Zelda and Viewtiful Joe they were both games, but they were a different genre.

With Deadville and Mental Deficiency, they were both word related projects.

I forget about the “Zelda Method” and have recently wasted time focusing on one project. In this case, it was a play that concerned Harvey Weinstein. Furthermore, it dealt with the complicity of actors, Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey.

I hit a wall and got frustrated, the project has halted. I went back to another player and started to restructure the piece. Low and behold I now know what restructures that I should make to the first play.

If I ever want to learn to play a musical instrument, it’s going to have to be piano and guitar at the same time.

I’m annoyed that I forgot that this is how I work, let this post be a reminder that one step at a time does not work for everyone.

Those who run before they can walk stumble more often but you’ll be surprised how much ground they cover.


Gatekeepers will make you see how they are irrelevant

No more gatekeepers

There used to be gatekeepers. There used to be a way of doing things. You would enter a particular field at ground level. Over several years you would work your way up through the ranks. If you were lucky, you could get to the middle by the time you were sixty.

On your journey to the top, you would occasionally encounter a gatekeeper. A person who would have reached as high as they could go. They would decide whether you could continue the climb. Your future would depend on their favour.

Now, gatekeepers aren’t so much of a problem. The gatekeepers are gone. What was once a vertical climb is now a series of branching paths. The question becomes not how high can you climb but which way will you choose.

Gatekeepers are aware of this. Look at the news media. Why do you think that there has been a crackdown on free speech on the internet?

The term fake news has become part of our vocabulary. Not that fake news is anything new. The news media gatekeepers and they don’t care about true or false. All that they care about is where you go to get your information. They are pissed that it’s not from them.

The gatekeepers are the last wasps of summer. Knowing their end is close they’re angry, desperate and want to do as much harm to those around them as possible.

Gatekeepers no longer hold all the power.

Three conversations

I don’t like giving advice; I’m in no position to be giving any out.

What follows isn’t advice.

If you do consider this to be advice, take it with a pinch of salt. Take taking it with a pinch of salt with a pinch of salt.

I had three similar conversations recently, that’s what lead me to write this post. Hopefully, if you are in a similar position, you can take something away from this.

There are three people. There is an actor, the comic book guy and the scriptwriter. All three of them I’ve had brief consultations about projects they’re undertaking. While their circumstances are different, the theme is the same.

“If only a gatekeeper would notice me and let me in. Then my problems would be over”.

I can empathise with them, that’s what you’re repeatedly told. Start from the bottom and work your way up.

I never liked that approach; if I can skip the line, I’ll try. That was my plan a few years ago. Let me tell you how naive I was.

One in a million

Film director Danny Boyle was in Belfast doing a festival screening of his film Millions. My friend Alex and I managed to find him before the screening and got speaking to him. Alex and I asked him how to get into the film industry; he told us that you start at the bottom and work your way up. Same old story.

Of course, I knew better, tried to force a VHS copy of a short horror film I made into his hands. Knowing that he would see it, understand it for the masterpiece it was, he would hire us to work on his next film.

The absolute gent that he was, declined and wished us all the best.

As years go by I realise how embarrassing the plan was. Furthermore, I’m glad it didn’t work. Only recently I have understood something important.

Skip the line

You and I are living in the best time, pre-singularity post-war.

It has never been easier to get yourself out there.

Technology is catching up with my method.

Breaks down like this, if you have access to the internet and a laptop or phone there is no stopping you from going your own way.

You don’t even need to be original. Diet, for example, isn’t rocket science. Exercise a bit and eat more good than crap. Hardly a revelation but there are people making a living selling dietary plans through their Instagram accounts.

Primarily I’m talking to creative types, but I’m speaking to everyone.

The internet is democratising information.

As someone who has made a film, if I want to make another one I won’t need to go to film school and move countries, I can enrol in an online course.

Whatever you want to do there is a course for that, and you can start learning now.

You can set up your own business quicker than ever through your computer. Set up a dropshipping site or use affiliate links to get yourself a little extra money. The nine to five is going to become a thing of the past with automation. Are you going to be able to get in early?

The opportunities are endless so what are you waiting for?

Acting school is a scam

For potential actors, pay attention.

Actor friends after graduating went on to acting school. They didn’t need to, the whole thing was a scam, and they admitted as much. My friends would say to me that the only reason that they were going to acting school was so that they could get contacts. They were not going to improve their acting ability. They gave several years and several thousand pounds for a chance of getting an agent.

Want an example of how big a scam it is? A friend went to acting school one of their classmates responded to a casting call, was cast and dropped out of acting school. It was a little film called Amistad, and the respondent was Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Again this is worth repeating; acting schools do not make people better actors so avoid them.

Chiwetel was picked because he was in the right place at the right time, the glory of the internet is that you are increasing your chances of being read, being noticed.

Build your own platform. Set up your website, make it your acting CV, do videos of monologues, do something. The more material you have to be seen, the greater your chances of being seen.

Additionally, start stacking your talents. Don’t just be an actor and that’s it work on writing, work on staging your productions be a one-person industry.

Make yourself impossible to ignore.

I was in a band, Mental Deficiency. Musical gatekeepers hated us because we were entertaining. We became impossible to ignore by being awesome and performing to full houses. They had to invite us to play festivals. Nothing makes people compromise their principles like the potential to make money. Use that to your advantage.

What I’m saying that you can reach out to a massive audience. You don’t have to do things the old way anymore. The gatekeepers have abandoned their post so you can enter.

There is no “right way” to do things.

Plot your own path and walk.

When you set your own path, every step you take is forward.

Language mastery will make you master yourself

A language theory

I have a theory about language. The argument is the better your grasp of language the better control you’ll have over your emotional state.

For the sake of clarity, I don’t think that grasp of language is the only factor when it comes to emotional control. I don’t even know if it’s top ten. This theory is for fun.

There’s someone smarter than me who has already come up with this theory. I don’t know who that person is. If you know would you mind leaving a comment because I’d like to know more.

Family matters

Let me tell you about my family. There is a language barrier in our house. It would be my mother and me on one side, my father and sister on the other.

What I’m about to tell you is an observation. My sister and father are quicker to anger than mother and I. That could be because of personality or another factor. Either way, it got me thinking.

I don’t know if I should be telling you this, but my sister and father occasionally struggle with words.

Now I know correlation isn’t causation but could it be a factor. Sometimes I can’t grasp what they are saying to me and the other way round. Is that what leads to clashes, it could be part of the reason.

The diving bell and the stupid guy

The next guy that I want to tell you about definitely lacked intelligence or I could be wrong. Thinking back, was this person dumb or was it their inability to express themselves that made me feel that they were sub-par intelligence. This guy could barely string a sentence together, and he always seemed angry.

The anger may have had many sources, but I believe part of it was his inability to make himself understood. Those he spoke to, unable to get his meaning, would frustrate him by misinterpreting his words.

You’ve probably experienced it yourself, on holiday. You get frustrated because the person your trying to get help from has limited English. You want to be understood but are unable to make that possible.

Do angry people feel like foreigners in their home country?

Is anger partially brought on by being misunderstood? If that is the case, then you would be better off being the best equipped when it comes to expressing yourself.

You do that by having power over language and extending your vocabulary.

Language and words have power

Words have power. They shape your reality. Want proof, think about yourself reading these words as they filter into your brain. They are squiggles that make sense to you. Your wondering where am I going with this, get to the point.

Words are seeds planted in you. You feel those words under your skin burrowing deeper and deeper. It may not be, but you can feel it bubbling up somewhere inside of you. You may not even be conscious of it, but you feel that burning sensation making you want to itch. You’re probably resisting the urge to itch to prove me wrong but why? I’m not there. I’ll never know if you itched or not.

Expand your vocabulary. The more words you have, the better you are at expressing yourself. The better you are at expressing yourself, the less likely you are to be misunderstood. Words have the power to change you and other people’s perception. If you want to control your reality, maybe even others then control your language.

One aspect of having a more extensive vocabulary

If you’re going to extend your vocabulary know this: be careful with big words. Having the vocabulary and being able to use it are two different matters. Big words are nukes of language. When you and the person you are talking with has them, then it’s better not to have to use them because it becomes a dick-wagging contest.

I love big words. The musicality they bring to a conversation, but I have to try to simplify the words I use consciously.

Let me butcher a football analogy. Back in school, there were two kinds of footballers, the good player and the player who had all the right gear. The person with the kit tended to suck and needed the equipment to compensate.

About language, I was the guy with the gear. I had big words, but I couldn’t communicate well with others and that frustrated everyone. Knowing which tools to use is as important as which ones you have.

Over the years having an extensive vocabulary I’ve realised that being concise with your words is helpful when it comes to being understood.

How you can improve your language power today

The best way that you can increase your power over language is by reading. Read anything you like, but I recommend books. You know, like actual physical books.

You may have a kindle or read off your phone, but there’s something about holding the physical book in your hand.

Physical books feel less disposable than a piece that you’re reading off a screen. The blue light that comes from our phones messes with our circadian rhythms. This is why you must not bring your phone to bed with you.

While non-fiction and biographies are OK, I recommend that you read fiction. Fiction can increase your word power. It has the bonus of strengthening your empathy muscle. When you have to see the world through someone else’s eyes, you’re developing your empathy.

The best way to read them is to have a notebook beside your bed. When you encounter a word that you don’t know, make a note of it and look up the meaning the next day.

Once you have the meaning of that word, then use the Clueless method. From the film Clueless you take the unfamiliar word and use it in your language. You do so that the word becomes naturalised.

Good luck and I hope that you increase your capacity to use language and gain emotional mastery.

Victim plays and how you write pop songs (Genre Cheat 3/3)

This post is the final part about genre. I’ve written about the cancer of modern drama that is the victim narrative. I’ll talk briefly about gangsters and rom-coms how they are two sides of the same coin. I also write briefly about the meta-narrative and how to write a pop song.

Victim Play

This is an extension of the drama but it’s toxic, and you should avoid deliberately writing one. I’ll tell you what to watch out for. The most mainstream example of the victim play is the film Philadelphia. When people mention Philadelphia, they talk about how groundbreaking it was. It helped bring discussing the plight of people with AIDS into the mainstream. No one ever talks about the film and whether or not it’s any good. The film isn’t.

A man gets fired for being gay/having AIDS because his bosses hate gay people. A man hires a homophobic lawyer. A homophobic lawyer learns that gay people are people too. Court rules that gay people are people also. Gay guy dies.

The audience realises that gay people exist. I want to make it clear that the makers of the victim play have good intentions it’s that practically it’s a big “and” at the end. The people who need to watch Philadelphia and take the lesson from it never will. The victim play reduces people to morally simple cyphers. Gay people are living saints; everyone else is Satan.

With the victim play, there is also a degree of fetishising the injustice. If you make a film about the domestic abuse, you will have to have a scene where the wife beats the husband.

In Philadelphia, there’s a scene the homophobic lawyer uses all the slurs that come to mind. It’s a case of having your cake and eating it too.

Rom-com/ Gangster

The rom-com and gangster film are two sides of the same coin only one is feminine and the other masculine. They both deal with rules of behaviour in society. The only difference is the consequences. In the rom-com, you are undateable and lose your chance at love. In the gangster film if you snitch they will kill you. Both end in similar ways. There is usually a wedding at the end of the rom-com, the heroine leaves the dating world behind. In the gangster film, the hero leaves the life of crime behind. They leave “the life” through the witness protection programme or death.


If you can find a way to make a commentary on the nature of storytelling or filmmaking, there is a chance that you are a master storyteller. The most popular means of doing this is through the framing device, the voice over. Many times it’s forced and can seem cheap. The best example is The Ponderosa Wedding Massacre from It’s Always Sunny.

The Lord of The Rings has a meta-narrative with Frodo writing the story of the Lord of The Rings.

If you can do it subtly, then you are a master. Inception is as much about film as it is about dreams. Look at the scene in the cafe; they are talking about screenwriting.

Arrival is also a good example too. It deals with the distortion of time and our perception. You think that you are watching a flashback when you’re watching a flash forward. It’s a magical manipulation of time.

Briefly about pop songs

There’s no real another place that I will get to put this in so I’ll talk about it here.

With pop songs, you take an old cliche and put your spin on it. Let’s assume for example “A stitch in time saves nine”. You recognise the expression OK, so now what, you look for a word that rhymes with nine. “A stitch in time saves nine/ How come I’m eighth in line?” Not great but not terrible for thirty seconds of work. Those lyrics don’t make literal sense, but that doesn’t matter. Pop songs are better left vague.

As for chorus’ something repetitive and simple.

If you’re a man: Make it about either saying that you screwed up and are heartbroken.

If you’re a woman: Make it about how he didn’t do enough, and you’re irreplaceable.

Pop is all about selling a comfortable lie.


Hope that these three parts helped you gain some clarity when it comes to genre. I enjoyed writing about this and hope that you enjoyed reading up on the subject. Feels like I’ve only scratched the surface. I will return to this subject later.

If you liked reading about what genre and want to know more would you mind leaving a comment because I want to help you. Unless you want to write a victim play.

Thank you.

Fear will make you more comfortable

The fear

Fear is always with us, whether you are aware of it or not. Fear is part of our DNA. From surviving ice ages, hunting sabre tooth tigers to war. Fear is part of being human.

Walt Disney said, “Children love to be scared”. It’s why he put the old hag in Snow White. Boys were turning into donkeys in Pinocchio and pink elephants on parade in Dumbo. Children responded to it, and in many ways, Disney’s mantra can be expanded to encompass big kids, like ourselves.

Ever since the dawn of cinema, the one genre that has always been profitable has been horror. Horror films have dead rising from the grave; people transform victims chased by monsters. Horror brings our deepest darkest fears to life and puts them on the big screen.

Real World fear

Away from the cinema, the modern world doesn’t provide us with many fears. On a subconscious level, we want to be scared. All western civilisation offers is anxiety. More concerned with social status rather than a real existential threat. Modern terror could be running late for an appointment or not being able to pay off a debt. These are concerns, but they are not life-threatening.

The threat of radical Islamic terrorism may be in the back of our heads. The odds of you experiencing terrorism are small. It would be more realistic to worry about being hit by a bus than a bomb.

I experienced more terrorism growing up in Belfast. The Drumkeen and Forensic lab bomb blasts were near my house. Still, I was never concerned about being blown up by the IRA.

I don’t like heights, not because I might fall more because I may jump. My main worries are a very first world. Will I ever have enough money to buy a house? Will I ever make enough money and will I ever do any work that will be good enough? The first two fears have simple solutions that I know the answer to, save more money.

Fear approaches

Terror creeps it’s way into my head. It’s not a case of if but when. I’m still trying to figure out what to do when it does.

I made a film seven years ago and had been trying to follow it up since. I have been trying to get better as a writer. Working with people and getting to know my equipment when it comes to filmmaking.

I realise at the back of my head that it’s not to get better at filmmaking, but it is to insulate myself from the fear. It has taken me seven years to come to terms with the fact that you are never fully protected against fear.

All I need is the air that I breathe

Fear is like carbon monoxide. It’s odourless and invisible that slips in through the cracks. Before you know it you have suffocated. The analogy is terrible and doesn’t work because there is the aspect that most people get wrong.

An emotion isn’t carbon monoxide it’s part of the air that you breathe. In trying to avoid the panic, you end up choking yourself out when what you should be doing is breathing it in. At least that is what I am trying to do. Come to the realisation that I have to embrace the fear.

The fear itself can be comforting. When I am close to the end of a script, the fear slips in to have a few words with me, impart the information that all I have done and ever will do is just not good enough.

That dread then proceeds to tell me that it is OK to put the pen down go and watch a movie or eat rubbish. Doesn’t matter I’m a normie with delusions of grandeur. The fear is my normie inclinations kicking in to remind me of my place. For the past seven years, I have been listening to that fear.

Writing this is part of the first step of breathing in the fear. You may be reading this and think to yourself, who is this for, it’s for me. By putting myself out there, I am trying to get rid of the comfort fear and breathe in the new concern. I want to replace the fear of starting with the fear of keep on going. It may come out imperfect, but if I wait for things to be perfect, then it’ll just be me with the comfort fear.

Birthdays will make you look back

Today is my birthday

Today is my birthday. I’m currently out for a meal with my family. I’m not a fan of birthdays. It’s not that I’m some bah humbug person, I think that my birthday, the date not my actual birth isn’t that important.

I’m an attention seeker. I’m loud, obnoxious and not everyone’s cup of tea. You might think that because I’m an attention seeker, I always want an audience. Not the case. I don’t like the attention given to me unearned. I want to take it for myself. When all eyes are on me, I get performance anxiety. People expect me to do something. That’s why I’m not such a big fan of my birthday.

A birthday is an excellent time to check in and see how you are doing. I’ll do that and let you be part of the process. I want to let you in on who I am. Not too much though, I wouldn’t want to spoil the mystery.

Finally becoming who I am supposed to be

Your body wants you to do a certain something. Not doing it will affect your mood. Before 2018 I didn’t write every day. In fact, I would rarely write. I would get grumpy and depressed. It wasn’t an apparent depression; not even I noticed until I looked back.

The depression would manifest itself in poor eating, overindulging in Youtube, video games and other vices. I would sleep too long and allow myself to procrastinate writing. Wake up at 12 pm and say it was too late to start.

I used to baulk at the prospect of writing 1000 words a day. Now it comes much more efficiently. I’m enjoying the act of writing, and it’s making me a happier person overall.

Each year I’m improving specific skills. You may disagree, but I think that my writing is coming on leaps and bounds. It may be small increments to you, but I am glad to be writing and believe that it’s improving.

My work isn’t perfect, it isn’t even that good, but I don’t worry about that anymore. I write for me, and if you enjoy it, that’s great.

Last year I would have spent months devoted to a post and then deleted not long after. Now I want to publish on the regular rather than putting out infrequent articles.

Blogging and publishing is a long-term system, not a goal. At the minute I’m

getting to the point where the word count doesn’t bother me.

Soon I’m going to get to a point where the quality is going to start increasing. I’m excited about that and hope you’re excited too.

Enjoy your life

I’m enjoying my life. It’s not that the previous years were terrible, now happens to be so much better. It feels like I am finally beginning to engage with life and the people around me.

Previously I was going through the motions. I was worried about being liked, coming out of scenarios as “the good guy”. Now I realise that being loved and the good guy is overrated. It’s also far worse in the long run, avoiding small conflicts will lead to bigger ones down the line. If there is something that you are avoiding I recommend that you stop that and take it head-on. Momentary pain for long-term gain.

I’ve never felt closer to my family. Finally moving out last year shares part of the responsibility for that. When we are together, we make more of that time.

I feel closer to my friends. I’m probably not a great friend but am trying to make amends for past failings.

But it’s not perfect.

Hope you don’t think I’m bragging, I’m not. One reason for writing this post was I wanted to give you a clearer perspective on what’s going on.

I may be presenting myself as living the sweet life, but it’s not the case. There are areas of my life that are gravely deficient.

First of all, there’s weird Dunning-Kruger effect going on with the writing. The more I write, the more I realise I haven’t written all that much. This leads to feelings of worthlessness.

Second I’m aware I’m probably making a fool of myself with the writing and videos. I could be losing grip on reality. This may be the start of a downward spiral that ends with me either in an asylum or a body bag.

I hope awareness is half the battle. Who knows, time will tell.

Third I don’t have a routine. Routine is the biggest obstacle I have to face. This is the piece of the puzzle that needs fit into place. It’s not even that I can’t find the piece, I have it in my hand, I’m too afraid to put it in. That puzzle piece is getting a new job.

I’ve been a cinema worker for almost ten years. Ten years on minimum wage, ten years waiting for a weekly rota. I have to get out of there, but I’m too afraid that I’m useless and I’m too old.

If you can sit for extended periods of time, you have an advantage over me. As I write this, I’m stood at a chest of drawers typing. Sitting kills me. Tall men shouldn’t sit for too long.

Getting a new job and developing a routine will be the hardest for me. For years I believed that habits were for normies. Looking at a lot of these normies, I ask myself, what’s wrong with normality?

Fourth and finally, my finances. My finances are in shocking shape. One of the good things about moving out is it’s made me realise how much money I pissed away.

Take Away

You’re reading this because I want you to know that on some levels I’m doing great. I’ve never felt more creative, and the amount I am writing is increasing day by day.

On other levels, I’m falling apart. I’m perma-broke, and I’ve gone from bad relationship to bad relationship.

I don’t want to be giving a false impression of myself.

You go through this life meeting people wearing masks with smiles on them. I’ve met those people too. I’m taking the cover off. Maybe you’ll take yours off sometime.

That’s where I am.

Hope that whatever you’re doing you’re doing well.

Know this: Everyone is carrying their cross, and you are too, but sometimes all you need is to adjust your attitude.

You could say that you’re excited about the future and what it may bring. I am too, but I’m more excited for what’s happening right now in the present.

I hope I can meet you there one day.

This Cheat Sheet will make you master Genre Part 2

20180511_030248_00018780830504285575838.pngWelcome to part 2 on genre

Hello and welcome back to the second part. In this part, you’ll read about mystery, tragedy, comedy and drama. These are genres that are the foundation of western fiction. Understand a genre and you will understand what your audience expects of you.

In the final part, I’ll talk about meta-narrative and give you a bare-bones guide to writing a pop song.

Mystery Thriller Genre/ Police Procedural

Oedipus Rex is the foundation of all detective fiction. The play is the basis of the mystery genre. The story of Oedipus is also the infant subconscious. You have a hatred of the father and the lust for the mother. That element doesn’t need incorporated into your plot. Detective fiction needs to have a hero who sets out to the right a wrong only to find out that he is the cause of the wrong.

The extension of this is the police drama.

If detective drama deals with the fault of the self, detective drama is concerned with the fault of the parents. In the detective drama, it usually starts small with the murder of some nobody in a derelict area. Our hero discovers that the corruption doesn’t come from the criminal underworld but within the police department. In LA Confidential and Minority Report, the police chief is revealed as the criminal. In Insomnia Hilary Swank discovers that it was Al Pacino who shot his partner.

TV Detectives

I can’t write about mystery thrillers without mentioning Columbo and Jessica Fletcher.

I’ve never understood the appeal of either as there is no progression. Each episode is like a self-contained film that has no relation to one or another. You could watch either show in any order, and it would make no difference.

Let’s talk about Columbo first.

Anyone who has read Homicide by David Simon will know no detective would get away with what Columbo does.

Columbo’s unorthodoxy gave me an idea that he is the manifest guilt of the murderer. The theory doesn’t hold up, but it makes the show more fun to watch.  Frank Columbo almost exclusively interacts with the guilty party. Columbo keeps showing up and nags the suspect. Lt Columbo is more like the three Furies from The Eumenides than an actual person, let alone a cop.

Columbo is manifested by the occurrence of the crime. You never get an idea of who Columbo is apart from being a bit of a bumbler and resilient. There are mentions of a wife and some episodes he has a dog, I think. I’m not watching every Columbo for this article. Each episode ends with the criminal either confessing or confronted with irrefutable evidence. You never see the trial; there’s never any follow-on. The episode stops once a confession has been taken from the criminal.

Murder, she kept writing

As for Murder, She Wrote there is a joke about how she’s the real murderer. That would make the show far more enjoyable. The show is camp. It would be enjoyable to see it as an episodic version of Kind Hearts and Coronets, with Jessica as the murderer. Alas, it’s too much of a stretch. Angela Lansbury is a treasure though, and you must cherish her.

Mystery Money

You could probably make a lot of money if you wrote a half decent mystery. I am convinced that all you have to do is write a kind of interesting mystery and have it end well for it to be successful.

Look at some of the more popular authors from previous years. There’s John Grisham, legal thrillers, JK Rowling; you think that Harry Potter is a book about magic? Think of the titles of her books; they are mysteries set within wizard world.

Is that why The Cursed Child didn’t quite excite people the way Harry Potter had done? Did switching the focus to time travel spoil the magic?

If you have an idea for a mystery, get it written and make your millions. I’m envious because I never could, nor will I ever have the motivation to write one.


Think about the genre tragedy. Macbeth is a great example of the genre. The character is told a lie and is unable to turn away from his destiny. With a little tweaking, the genre could change from tragedy to comedy. Towards the end of the Scottish play, the two armies are preparing to clash. They’re ready to fight when one of the kings gets a letter saying the witches manipulated the whole thing. They decide to forgive kooky Macbeth, he still gets punished, but there is forgiveness.

Think about Romeo and Juliet. The sleeping potion wears off Juliet right before Romeo poisons himself. The parents come in and say that if their children can set aside differences then so can they, it becomes a comedy.


The same goes for comedy. At the end of Liar Liar, Jim Carrey arrives at the airport to find out that his ex-wife and son took off hours ago. It becomes a tragedy. The misconception about comedy is that because it brings out laughter it must be jovial. Comedy has some of the grimmest subject matter.

One of my favourite sitcoms, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has an episode where they exhume their dead mother.  Another great plotline is George Costanza from Seinfeld, his fiancee, died licking envelopes. Furthermore, there is the oppressive atmosphere of The Office UK.

If you want a great example of a comedy plot, I recommend season 5 of The Wire. There is a lie told by one of the characters, that lie builds. More people believe in the lie before the truth is revealed.

Comedy is the lie discovered. The tragedy is the lie discovered too late.


Drama is a less heightened version of tragedy/comedy. If tragedy and comedy deal with justice and forgiveness, a drama is “everyone is a bit shit”. A recent example of a good drama was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

What’s the film’s plot? It’s not a mystery thriller, the identity of the daughters killer is never revealed. Is it about a mother grieving, no, all the grieving seems to be done by the start of the film. Mother and daughter don’t even like each other that much as you are told through flashback. Is it about an asshole sheriff who learns something, sort of. The cumulative effect of the drama is to leave the audience with a sense of nostalgia.

Theatre darling

Furthermore, look at some of the greatest plays from the previous century. A Streetcar Named Desire and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? There’s no real plot, and there’s no real hero. Everyone is kind of awful; everyone is kind of weak all are human. I can’t offer too much advice on drama. Don’t mistake subtle progression for no progression.



This Cheat Sheet will make you master genre Part 1


Genre can be difficult to pin down. You know what works but you find yourself grasping for something but you don’t know what.

First of all, this is by no means a comprehensive list. I’m not an expert either so treat the following accordingly. While I’m not an expert I have a skill for pattern recognition in film.

I’m going to be looking into what are the subconscious undertones of each genre.

If you’re a writer and are considering working within a genre there’s no harm being prepared.

Even if you’re not a writer you understanding a genre can help why you watch something that is fine, but there’s a missing element. Usually, it was because the creators have deviated from some of the staples of the genre in an unsatisfying way.

A quick example is Kill Bill. Revenge movies have to end with the death of the character getting revenge. The heroes purpose in revenge stories is to right a wrong and then die. The hero cannot come back from the underworld and return to the normal world, certainly not whole, they have to lose something on the way.. Kill Bill not only has the hero returned from the underworld alive she has returned unscathed. That may be good filmmaking, but it isn’t great storytelling.

Know your genre.

I’m going to be talking mainly about screenwriting but this applies to other forms of fiction writing if you can see the patterns at work.

If you are considering writing a script, then I recommend The Hero With A Thousand Faces, anything on Jungian archetypes and The Uses of Enchantment.



Sci-fi is about the quest for higher knowledge about ourselves and our universe. It ends with the hero transcending, either by dying or disappearing.

Sci-fi in it’s most simple terms is “Where is god, there is god, I am god”

By god I don’t mean Yahweh the Christian God I mean god in the sense of being a higher being, higher knowledge, the next step in evoloution.

Sci-fi deals on the subconscious level about shedding the ego and the id to be part of something greater.

There is always an element of the religious when it comes to sci-fi. That is because the Bible is the basis for all sci-fi. That is why you will see a lot of Jesus imagery in sci-fi films. 2001: A Space Odyssey ends in death and rebirth as does the Matrix. Even low key sci-fi taps into religion Children of Men is the Nativity story. Battlestar Galactica is Moses in space.

The key to creating good sci-fi is reading the Bible.


I love horror; I made a horror film that you can watch here. Horror is the inverse of sci-fi. Sci-fi is an outward optimistic journey whereas horror is a pessimistic journey inward. Consider 2001 and The Shining. In 2001: A Space Odyssey the Discovery travels from Earth, and David transcends to become the Star Child. In The Shining Jack Torrance enters room 237 and goes insane.

At a basic level horror is a fear of death but let’s look at it on a deeper level. If sci-fi is the voluntary releasing of the ego, then horror is the taking of the ego. Horror is the loss of identity before the self is ready.

In slasher horror like Halloween, Evil Dead, Cabin in the Woods, Texas Chainsaw Massacre there tends to be five main characters. This number can deviate, but five is a number that represents psychological wholeness.

When the characters enter the world of the film, they are stable but as the numbers dwindle so does their psyche.

The characters in horror aren’t individuals, but together they make a whole. Cabin in the Woods spelt out Jungian archetypes for audiences. That film is a good resource for anyone wanting to develop their horror writing skills.

Monster Monster Monster

Let’s talk about the monsters of horror in broad terms.

  • Vampire stories are about the fear of promiscuity and sexual diseases.
  • Zombies are about the fear of losing your identity and becoming part of the crowd.
  • Werewolves are about the darker side of male sexuality.
  • Demonic possession is about our dark shadow, the evil that exists in the best of us. There is an argument to be made that demonic possession with the dark side of female sexuality, in Evil Dead the first victim has been raped by a tree and Regan from The Exorcist gets possessed right as she enters puberty.

Ghost Stories

Ghost stories are a genre onto themselves. They tend to have less death and any deaths that there are tend to be less violent.

The basic structure of a ghost story is as follows: There is a ghost, you are a ghost, I am a ghost. The Shining follows this structure as does The Others. There are ghostly goings-on that start small. Creaky floorboards etc. Usually ends with the hero finding out that they have been dead the whole time.

Ghost stories are about repression. It’s not uncommon for the ghost to be a symptom of the repression rather than a cause. An unsolved murder or a past wrong tend to be the centre of ghost stories.


If you had to sum up the fantasy genre into a sentence, it would be: Let’s set aside our differences and tackle bigger problems. You see it in Lord of the Rings; the kingdoms must unite to take on Sauron.

Even the anti-Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones you can see the structure asserting itself. The four houses are now having to unify to take on the undead.

Why You Find Star Wars a bit dull

Part of the reason that the new Star Wars films are boring is that there is no advancement of what went before. Star Wars is a fantasy film within a sci-fi setting. I tried to rewatch Return of the Jedi recently, I struggled, it’s a boring film. It should have steered into the fantasy structure.

Instead of a pointless rescue mission that takes up forty minutes of a two-hour film, you could have raised the stakes. Princess Leia is on diplomatic missions to win over more worlds to the rebellion. Meanwhile Luke goes to confront the Emperor and in doing so becomes the new one.

I may go into how I would have written Return of the Jedi. Even though I’m no longer interested in Star Wars, I still fanboy over the prequel trilogy and the missed opportunities in the saga.

To be continued

I didn’t expect to have so much to say about the genre. There are still more to cover so I’m going to split this into two and I’ll post part 2 on Monday.

You have a great weekend now.

Getting into Dune: Gateway Spice

Arrakis…Dune…Desert planet

Brief summary

You don’t have time to read this and I understand, thanks for the view either way. This post on Dune is is long so I’m going to boil it down to one sentence. There’s no set way to approach something so experiment with different paths. In order to get into Dune I had to take a different path.

I Love sci-fi

What’s your favourite genre of fictional book?

If your a normie there is a good chance that you like mystery thriller novels. Books like Gone Girl, Harry Potter and Jack Reacher might be right up your avenue.

You don’t want anything too heady because that’s not why you read. You want something that’s easy to read, has a few thrills and maybe a sex scene. I don’t blame you. Life is depressing enough without long-winded, boring books with no hanky panky.

You probably aren’t a big sci-fi fan. It’s nerdy, unrealistic and has no characters. That’s not how I view it but understand your point. I don’t find sci-fi boring because I don’t read it literally.

On a basic level, yes sci-fi is about flying cars and laser guns, but those elements are window dressing. What I find so enjoyable is that underneath the surface sci-fi is an exploration of what it means to be human.

Sci-fi asks, “who are you” and “if everything about you were to change, would you still be you?”. The answer to the question is hard to pin down, and I’m going to butcher it here. “I am a part of the universe, and the universe is part of me”.

A lot of sci-fi ends with the hero transcending. The Matrix ends with Neo realising he is “The one”. Interstellar ends with Cooper outliving his daughter and flying off into space.

In novels, it’s more heavy-handed. Philip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch ends with humanity taking on the teeth, eyes, and bionic hand of Palmer Eldritch. Richard Matheson’s I am Legend ends with Richard Neville executed. He lives on in the tales the new vampire civilisation will tell each other.

Delaying the inevitable

There was always one book that I avoided though, and that was Frank Herbert’s Dune. I have many reasons for not wanting to read the book. It was long, I don’t like dessert adventures and that so many people like it must mean that I’ll hate the book. I had many reasons which is the equivalent to no reason.

The real reason and a problem that I have with reading, in general, is that I struggle with comprehension. When I talk to people about books, I’ve read, and we’ll be talking about sections and the person asks me if I’ve read the book. I get embarrassed.

I tend to come up with my own vision in my mind’s eye and don’t like books with too much description. I’m going to come up with whatever I want anyway.

I avoided Dune. It wasn’t until I read in the back of Tools for Titans that the change started. Dune was on several smart people’s top ten list. I knew that I would have to give it a read.

The book still intimidated me. I decided to take the indirect approach.

Dune the movie

I’d seen the Dune movie years ago whenever Channel 4 used to put on cult movies late at night. I wasn’t impressed then but if I was going to read the book I w decided to watch it again as it was available on Prime.

I’m going to talk about the film in general terms.

First of all, it’s beautiful, the production design and costumes are great. It’s nice to look at, and the special effects still hold up today.

Second, the cast is excellent, but the performances are not. There are so many roles in the film and trying to develop them all in two hours would be impossible. Kyle Maclachlan does well in his first film role. Kenneth McMillan stands out because he’s so over the top and appears to be enjoying himself. Everyone else fades into the background.

A more accurate title for the film would be Dune Plot Synopsis. The movie covers the majority of the main action of the novel, but it lacks the spirit.

I understand why this film failed to connect with audiences.

The first three scenes are cinematic dead weight. The first scene is someone explaining to you how the world works. The second scene is about the main planets. This scene is infuriating because this information is never brought up again. The third scene, in essence, is “Watch out for this person” but it goes on forever. The scene is included because it’s the only scene aside from the sandworms to feature a creature. The scene could have been thirty seconds.

For comparison could you imagine if Star Wars: A New Hope began with someone explaining the Force? Then the next scene explained the Empire and rebellion. Would the film have been as successful?

Once Dune’s plot kicks in the film is more enjoyable. It’s not the disaster that everyone thinks it is, but it never rises above being acceptable.

The movie Dune may have failed as a film but as a primer for the book it worked.

Do your own research

I then looked online for as many explainers as I could find. I didn’t want to read this book, so I tried to prepare as much as I could for taking it on. It wasn’t until I watched Thug Notes break down that I found the theme that would hook me in. That theme was the idea of fulfilling the prophecy v being the one prophesied.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey because of a prophecy. If Jesus was the Son of God would it matter if he fulfilled the scripture? Did Jesus become the Son of God by fulfilling the scripture?

You’re probably thinking, who cares, what does it matter but this kind of question is my Chicken or egg.

How can I make this more relatable to you? What is the difference between being confident and acting confident?

I don’t consider myself a confident person. I have a lot of doubt struggle with decision making, but I’m told that I’m confident. That is because I act confident. If you find yourself with diminished confidence, take this small step. Stand up straight and take up more space than usual. You’ll give yourself a confidence boost. This has nothing to d

This philosophical Chicken or egg question got me excited to read the book. The book has confusing words, so I downloaded the book on audible first and gave it a listen.

The audible version of Dune is more akin to a radio drama version of the book.

The production is sloppy. There is a narrator, and other actors provide the voices. It’s inconsistent; sometimes the narrator replaces the voices of the actors sometimes not. If anything the poor production made me more determined to read the book.

Dune the book

It turned out that the research paid off. I flew through the book. It’s split into three sections, and the chapters are short. The annoying, confusing words weren’t a challenge.

The book is odd as it is greater than the sum of it’s parts. The plot is basic. It’s a story of revenge. When Avatar came out, everyone called it Dances with Smurfs. Having read Dune, I’m surprised there weren’t more comparisons made. Outsider turns on the system, joins native population. The outsider becomes their leader and finally drives back the invaders.

World building is the books strongest feature. You get hints of a larger world. The dialogue is on the nose, and the characters are simple. Whenever you’re dealing with massive concepts, it’s better to keep it simple.

There’s more I want to say about this book, but this has post already run long so let’s sum it up.

The weird in way

Throughout your life, you’re going to have encounters that intimidate you. Could be a book could be a person, something that you have to engage with. You don’t have to use the direct approach.

Think of yourself as the frog in the pot, even though the frog dies in the end.

If you try to jump straight in you may get burned and be put off getting back in. Instead, ease yourself into something, do your research.

If you’re considering reading Dune, which is recommended, but don’t know where to begin I suggest this overview. It gives away the ending but the ending is such a small part of the journey.


What Brian DePalma can teach you about life

Brian De Palma says, “Most of us don’t know what we’re doing; we go from one thing to the next. Something gets delayed, and we do that.”

De Palma, the film, is Brian De Palma, the filmmaker talking about his films. Brian sits in front of a camera for an hour and fifty minutes. While Brian talks we get cutaways to the films that he talks about.

This may not sound entertaining, but it’s a captivating watch. Brian is open and honest as he looks back over his life’s work. De Palma pulls back the curtain and lets the viewer in on what makes him tick and how his life fueled his films.

I like De Palma’s films but am not a huge fan. I was hoping for a scandalous tell-all about what went on behind the scenes on his films. The documentary isn’t about that. Instead, it’s about a man who can look back and be objective. There are a few lessons not only for wannabe filmmakers but all of us. Hidden within the film are lessons that you can apply to your own life.

You have to keep at it.

I was mistaken in thinking that Carrie was his third film. De Palma had made ten feature-length films by the time he got to making his breakout hit Carrie. The industry has changed since then. When I was growing up the nineties, it was Tarantino who was the one that you had to emulate. Now with the nature of the industry directors have to make a masterpiece straight out of the gate.

A director’s trajectory goes as follows: make your indie microbudget film (Safety Not Guaranteed, Kings of Summer, Hunt for the Wilderpeople). After that, you do a big-budget summer movie (Jurassic World, Kong: Skull Island, Thor: Ragnarok). After that who cares, either it’s a hit or a bomb.

De Palma was coming to Carrie a veteran of his craft; he had developed his style by then. DePalma had made a good deal of mistakes by the time he made the adaption of the Stephen King novel.

Film directors don’t have the chance to develop. Tarantino has said that he is going to retire once he has made ten films, that’s when most are hitting their stride.

In life, like in film, you work with what you got. You keep plugging away with what you have. What you’re doing may not be perfect, but by working more, you increase your chances of creating perfection.

Know as much as you can

De Palma says himself that he was a science nerd who wasn’t interested in film. He had to learn a lot of aspects of filmmaking himself. He did this so he would know how to pick up the slack if someone let him down. The expression about “Jack of all trades” is only half the expression. In full it is “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but often better than a master of one”.

De Palma had a talent stack. He was a good camera operator, could write scripts and work with actors. Brian was able to combine his OK talents to become a brilliant director.

Even if you are average at a couple of things that is better than being amazing at one discipline. If you ever notice how people who aren’t particularly good rise to the top of their field. That could be because they have a stack of talents.

Look at Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Tesla was the more clever of the two, but that’s all he had, and he died a pauper. Edison wasn’t a great inventor, but he was good at business and PR. That’s why you associate Edison with more inventions.

In my case I can sing OK, comfortable with public speaking and, while I’m no Arnie, have strength and endurance. This led to me, a non-musical person being able to front a comedy band. That band headlined several gigs, released an album and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Think about some of the skills you have; they add up.

“Be healthy.”

De Palma advocates for physical fitness if you are going to be a director.

Filmmaking is a gruelling process. Directors are working on a project for the guts of two years. David Mamet and Sydney Lumet write in their respective books about how as soon as a film is complete the director gets sick. Their immune system collapses after months of twelve hour days and food from the craft cart.

I’ve started taking my health seriously within the last few years. I am beginning to feel the benefits. Fitness does not just make me feel physically stronger, but I am starting to reap the mental benefits.

You have to remain strong. “I’m old” or “I deserve it” is the battle cry of the person who will die of a heart attack.

I used to be cranky and snappy with people. Don’t get me wrong I still am like that, especially if I have a load of white bread, but I recognise that I get into moods. I avoid sugar when I can although I will always love chocolate. Once I get into lifting more, I know that my energy levels are going to go through the roof.

Lying to yourself about how you are in the short term comforting. Long term you are killing yourself. I call it, passive-aggressive suicide. You can’t bring yourself to kill yourself outright. Do the next best thing. You do it slowly over several years. You have so many problems. Physical, emotional and mental that could be avoided if physical health was maintained.

Take Brian’s advice, stay healthy.