Tag Archives: Ramon Terrell

On Setting

A guest post by Ramón Terrell

The resident dictionary in my computer defines setting as “the place in time in which a play, novel, or film is represented as happening. As is its job, the ole dictionary gives you a sterile definition of something much more … alive.

A novel’s setting is its history, its present, and its future. It is the body inside which the story lives. Without it, you just have characters in a vacuum. I’m reminded of the time I took a mocap (short for motion capture) class. After I slinked into the skintight black mocap suit, and they fitted me with all the little white dots, I moved into the center of the circular space to go through the motions.

There was a giant screen on the far wall that displayed my movements in the form of all the dots on my body. For the purposes of this post, I’ll gloss over my elation at imitating Ken and Ryu movments from Street Fighter, or Scorpion and Sub Zero from Mortal Kombat. Or even Eddie Gordo from Tekken. While those moments were a fun and laughter-inducing reliving of childhood/young adulthood, the memory of this adds a layer to this subject. The character in a vacuum.

While I was busy playing characters onscreen, the guys on the computer were creating a troll to inhabit the white dots that I provided. Soon we had a big hulking troll monster on screen, and I was its brain. Now, while seeing the guys behind the computer screen work their magic so quickly was cool, and me making the thing move even cooler, it sat on a screen, by itself, in a vacuum. The truth is, they could have gone on to inhabit that screen with thirty more trolls, included a giant, or even a dragon. But at the end of the day, they would all have been really cool figures in a vacuum devoid of any life but themselves.

Setting, is not just the location a story takes place. It’s not just a mass of buildings, mountains, lakes, flowers and trees. It’s a character in the story, whether background or lead. In The Lord of the Rings, Middle Earth was very much a main character of that series. The sense of vastness and wonder of the place, the mines of Moria, the forests home to powerful sprites such as Tom Bombadil, the lush green homes of the Ents, on their endless search for the Ent Wives, who probably left because they were tired of picking up after their Ent husbands. The darkness and evil of Kazaad Dum. It goes on and on.

The setting is everything that a character loves or hates about their lives, their situation, their past, the anxiety of their future. It is that place of danger and deviousness that the protagonist has been told to avoid, yet dreads the inevitability of her having to go. Throughout her journey to this horrible land, the protagonist is filled with worry about what she will find there. She mentally and even physically prepares herself for the sly, conniving men, the whip-like wit of the women, and the defiant children she will encounter. She hones her senses, wary of the packs of feral dogs roving the city borders, the twisted and gnarled trees reaching their clawed branches over the trail to snatch up foolish travelers passing through the dark night. She thinks of the black buildings, sitting prostrate before the giant black tower glaring down on them.

But when our protagonist reaches what her friends have described as this place of unending darkness and despair, she discovers a city with buildings dark of color that appear black at night, but are quite beautifully designed homes, pavilions, tailor shops, bakeries. The old gnarled trees are actually thousands of years old, and she can feel the silent wisdom of many ages past wafting from the regal figures. Packs of dogs do indeed rove the city limits, chasing off bears, making wolves think twice about venturing too close to the meadow where families like to picnic. The families bring extra food that they happily share with their canine protectors.

The men of the city are excellent at a game called Spy’s Eye, in which their team uses treachery and deceit to win over their opponents. It is such a beloved game that they playfully prank each other in daily life. Women have a whip-like wit that is seemingly present at birth, since the society is matriarchal, and women hold the most powerful positions of politics.

Children are trained from a young age to be strong of mind, for the world is dangerous outside the borders of their home, and one never knows what or whom they will encounter during their travels.

Our protagonist is instantly overwhelmed at the sight of the dark-colored buildings downhill from the huge tower that provides a breathtaking view of the surrounding land. It is a tower of observation that all may enjoy. Climbing the steps of the tower is a tiresome affair that not many will complete, yet those who do reach the top are afforded the perspective of a view of a world much bigger than they are; a reward for the labor of achieving it.

In these two examples, we have a setting built in the imagination of our protagonist based on rumors from her childhood. Her friends may have ventured to this place when very young, been frightened by the trees, the large buildings, the people who might have been very different from those from the land of their birth. This setting is stays with us and the protagonist all the way to her destination. Then we see that this is actually only partially true, and that with her own eyes, the protagonist sees the buildings, the trees, the dogs, the people, for what they really are.

Our setting has changed.

In any given story, we will more often than not have multiple settings. Even if it takes place in only one city throughout the entire story, there will be more than one. Our characters will venture from the slums of their home, to high society once they’ve attained a job. They may perhaps earn enough money to move from the slums to middle society where they will own a home in a nice community.

One day a dragon may fly overhead and torch the entire city. Now we have another setting; one of fire, ruin, and death. To stop the dragon, our protagonist may seek the help of a wizard who gives him the ability to breathe underwater, and he ventures deep into the caverns of the ocean to seek help from a water dragon to battle the evil wyrm who destroyed his home. In his journey to the water dragon, we see all manner of sea life.

Why have I illustrated all of this? That’s the fun part. We go to a film, open a book, go to a play, to suspend real life for a while. We wish to be transported into a setting not our own, whether real or fictional. Some readers love political thrillers, while others enjoy flying on the back of a dragon. With either of those genres, a character must be somewhere. Be it in a courtroom, in front of the desk of the Prime Minister of a country he was just caught spying in, or in the lair of a dragon who would love to know why he shoved that one coin into his pocket. A character’s journey cannot happen without a place to journey within. Even in their own mind, there is some kind of setting.

So go forth, lovely readers. Find a setting and dive into it. Pick up a game controller and do things in ancient Egypt, Rome, Japan. Open a book and leap through the treetops over the shoulder of a band of wood nymphs. Settings are as endless as our imaginations, and our abilities to use the built-in virtual reality of our own minds to visualize them. And isn’t that, a truly wondrous and wonderful thing?

 

 

About the Author:r_terrell_030513_0129_web

Ramón Terrell is an actor and author who instantly fell in love with fantasy the day he opened R. A. Salvatore’s: The Crystal Shard. Years (and many devoured books) later he decided to put pen to paper for his first novel. After a bout with aching carpals, he decided to try the keyboard instead, and the words began to flow.

As an actor, he has appeared in the hit television shows Supernatural, izombie, Arrow, and Minority Report, as well as the hit comedy web series Single and Dating in Vancouver. He also appears as one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men in Once Upon a Time, as well as an Ark Guard on the hit TV show The 100. When not writing, or acting on set, he enjoys reading, video games, hiking, and long walks with his wife around Stanley Park in Vancouver BC.

Connect with him at:

http://rjterrell.com/

R J Terrell on facebook

RJTerrell on twitter

 

Page to Screen: Realities of Hollywood Adaptation

A guest post by Ramón Terrell

If I’m to allow myself to be dramatic, here, I’d say that adaptations are one of the most controversial aspects of the entertainment field in my opinion.

Why is this?

There is more than one answer to that question, and it also depends on the individual circumstances. For my part, I’m going to talk about adapting novel to film. Anyone who has watched a film that has been adapted from a novel can relate to that feeling of “hey wait, that didn’t happen. She didn’t go there.” Or perhaps the disappointment at the omission of a certain character, creature, or event. Whole plotlines might have been left out, or character personalities altered in some way. There are a myriad of details that can be changed, excluded, or even added in, to a novel-to-film adaptation.

There can also be cultural reasons for an adaptation. Some characters might be changed in an effort not to offend a certain ethnic group (at the expense of the negatively affected group) that might represent the largest or one of the largest consumers of that film. And sometimes, it can be something as simple as fluff stuffed into a project to extend its size.

There is a little old book by the name of The Hobbit, that was adapted into three little old films. Anyone who’d read the book immediately arched an eyebrow. Three films? The single Hobbit book was shorter in length to any one of the three Lord of the Rings books, and THAT was a trilogy. So how could they possibly stretch that small book into three movies? I could practically see the meeting in my mind, between Peter Jackson and the bigwigs up at New Line Cinema.

“Hey Peter. Fantastic work on the Lord of the Rings movies! Simply brilliant! We want to do The Hobbit.”

“Well, okay,” Peter says. “I could get started on the movie…”

“Movies.”

“…Movies? Um. Okay. Well, I can get started on the first movie after I wrap a project I’m working on, and begin the second one after that.”

“And the third one right on its heels, right?”

“Um.” Now Peter is scratching his head. “I don’t think we need more than two movies for this. The book wasn’t very big.”

Bigwigs lean forward. “You do remember how much money the Lord of the Rings trilogy made, right?”

Of course, I was not privy to that meeting, and the above scenario is strictly my own speculation on what might have happened. But one thing everyone should know is that films are made to make money. And the Rings trilogy made a lot of that. Dump truck loads of that. So three Hobbit movies was a no-brainer.

Except fluff. Lots of it. Boatloads of fluff. Characters that didn’t exist in the book, love interests that were nonexistent, etc etc. Now, before fans of the movies grab their pitchforks, I’m not bashing them. I will admit that I only enjoyed the first one, and parts of the second, I am not stomping what someone else might have loved. But there was undeniably a good deal of stuffing in that turkey to make it stretch the distance. My point in this illustration is that the adaptation had the prospect of huge dollar signs to a major studio, and they adapted it to film by adding in content.

Reverse the scenario. I remember watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. There were fans who expressed disappointment at the absence the giant tentacled creature that lived in the lake, or events being rearranged in Prisoner of Azkaban, (hmm. Spellcheck didn’t ding me for that one. Household name success. Sigh) Tom Bombadil was completely missing from Lord of the Rings, Jack Reacher went from an upper six foot tall hulking intimidating giant to mid five foot tall Tom Cruise.

The first in the scenario is likely budget. The tentacle creature would have been nice, but how many minutes would it have added to the film to make sense having it there? Was it necessary to advance the plot in some way? Would the events in Azkaban have made sense in the film if left as is in the book? Would the presence of Bombadil have thrown the whole movie off the rails if they’d kept him? How any extra minutes would the Fae have needed to justify his presence? In the case of Jack Reacher? Well, Hollywood often likes to have a big name attached to a film to ensure its success and their return on investment. It’s a fair concern, but I personally think they might have tried a little harder. I don’t know the details of those decisions, so I can only guess.

These are but a few examples of the challenges of adapting a novel to film. Some details simply must be omitted. The story has to be broken down to its bare bones, only essential elements retained. From that point, they can see what might be added in. In a novel, details, characters, and creatures, etc are a must, in creating a world for people to slip into. In a film, many of those same details don’t work. It’s simply the difference in the two mediums.

I’d like to return to my old friend, Tom Bombadil. He was a character I’d looked forward to seeing in the movie, yet understood why he was omitted. He was an enigma whose presence was open to speculation. One thing was clear, (to me) which was that Tom was representative of the purity, innocence, and power of nature. Its majesty. Tom Bombadil was The Fatherless and Oldest of the Old. He remembered the first raindrop upon the world. Not even the One Ring could tempt him. In fact, it had no effect on him at all.

Now imagine trying to add this character into a movie that was already three hours long in the theater, and four hours long in the extended editions every fan should have already seen 20 times by now? It might have been nice, but probably unfeasible.

One final scenario is the prospect of adapting a visual, or even interactive story into a novel. Instead of having to cut material or alter it, now the writer is faced with having to expound on material that might have had a small presence in the movie. In a film you are given the setting by it simply being there. You see it. The mood is set by the dreary clouds and lightening flickering behind those clouds. You feel the ominous presence in the castle by the subtle inclusion of a baritone moan, or a rumbling hum, the music, low and foreboding.

A novel doesn’t have the luxury of a music score, sound effects, or special effects. All of that has to be created without telling, so that your mind can produce the virtual reality experience of you being there. As a fan of the video game series God of War, I saw the novel for the first game and thumbed through it. I didn’t read the whole thing, but one thing I did notice right off was dialogue between several of the gods. There was never conversation between the gods in the first game, but to add more substance, the author had to bring events that happened behind the curtain onto the stage.

In this world of games, movies, animated movies, episodic shows, and novels, we are seeing stories adapted across all of those mediums. As audiences are more sophisticated than ever before, and the capabilities of the entertainment industry have reached new heights, both sides must meet at a reasonable middle.

At the same time, filmmakers have a double responsibility. They have the task of producing a product that will bring in the revenue necessary to satisfy those flipping the bill, while at the same time keeping true enough to the source material to please fans. It’s not at all easy, and sometimes it fails.

Despite the many failed attempts at adapting a novel to a feature film, I find the possibilities exciting. Now more than ever, film has the ability to adapt stories that were once beyond what special effects and budgeting were capable of. Film has reached a point where its limitations are how much money it can raise to become a reality, and the ability of the creators to properly adapt the story.

 


 

About the Author:r_terrell_030513_0129_web

Ramón Terrell is an actor and author who instantly fell in love with fantasy the day he opened R. A. Salvatore’s: The Crystal Shard. Years (and many devoured books) later he decided to put pen to paper for his first novel. After a bout with aching carpals, he decided to try the keyboard instead, and the words began to flow.

As an actor, he has appeared in the hit television shows Supernatural, izombie, Arrow, and Minority Report, as well as the hit comedy web series Single and Dating in Vancouver. He also appears as one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men in Once Upon a Time, as well as an Ark Guard on the hit TV show The 100. When not writing, or acting on set, he enjoys reading, video games, hiking, and long walks with his wife around Stanley Park in Vancouver BC.

Connect with him at:

http://rjterrell.com/

R J Terrell on facebook

RJTerrell on twitter

 

Balancing Life and Ambition

A Guest Post by RJ Terrell

Balance is a state that most of the human population strives to achieve, in some way or another. And there are different types of balance, such as with the body, the mind, career, etc. In this world that we live in, finding the right balance in any part of life is a challenge. We have so many things that call, or rather, demand, our attention.

Balancing life and career, is a particular challenge that I can confidently say an overwhelming majority of the population faces. We must earn enough income to make a living, while carving out enough time to enjoy our lives, the fruits of our labors, as well as the important people in our lives.

Since I was a child, my dad would often say to me, “you have some kind of ability to make things difficult.” Of course, he had no idea at the time what my career choices would be, but to an extent, it was right on the money. Since I was a child, I’d wanted to be an actor, and early into adulthood I realized that I was also a writer.

You may be gritting your teeth by now. Yes, I’m called to be an actor as well as an author, while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Making a living is difficult when you are working to become a fulltime working actor. Ask any actor out there, and the will agree. They may even sigh while agreeing. Making a living while working to become a fulltime author is not quite as difficult, as you can hold down a fulltime job and write in whatever spare time you can allot, but that does not diminish the difficulty. Building any career while working a job is not easy.

I wake up in the morning with the story I’m writing on my mind, almost from the start. Then whatever is happening in film industry at the moment, or what I need to do in terms of filming a scene to send to my agent, a script I need to prepare for class or an audition or a show that day, etc. At the moment (even as I type this) I’m thinking about whether I have received all the necessary forms so that I can submit my taxes.

I sign books and meet fans of the shows I’ve worked on at various comicons throughout the US, which takes me away from home at least four days per show. When I’m not on set, I spend an entire work day writing. It’s a constant seesaw battle between both professions as they demand my attention. Then there’s exercise, the passive hobbies of video games (which has become a rare enjoyment) and reading. And then there’s my poor wife.

I’ll not pretend that I’ve got it perfect. In building two careers at the same time, you begin to understand how life works from an interesting perspective. I can literally compare the progress I make from either endeavor based on how much energy I put into either. With acting, more factors are out of my control in landing an audition and booking the role. All I can do is continue to train as much as possible, put things on tape to send to my agent, and repeat the process until I’m called for an audition. As a writer, I have a bit more control. I can write, edit and revise, and mail the manuscript out to a prospective publisher, or publish it myself. (this is a gross over-simplification of the process, but I figure you’re not interested in all that, and I don’t have enough space here in any case) The odds are a little easier, as when you submit to a publisher, good work stands out like a blinking ‘Eat At Joe’s’ sign.

So for me, I must fight the temptation to spend all of my time writing and none of my time training with fellow actors for when an audition does come my way. This is a difficult thing when with one, you can see the results of your efforts in a relatively short period of time, versus with the other, where you can put in the effort for weeks, months, or in some cases, years, without seeing results for your efforts. It’s a tough thing to do.

And there have been more than a few occasions when my lovely wife reminds me, (sometimes gently, sometimes with more force) that it would be nice to see me, or spend time with me.

So how do I manage all this? Well, it’s an interesting dance, but being that I’m an introspective person, I tend to think a lot. Often too much. But one benefit to this is I can remind myself of what is most important in my life, what I want most out of it, and what I need to achieve it. Splitting my energy between two careers at the same time is a challenge I’ve not yet mastered, but when I am building my career as an author at the expense of my acting career, I pull back and shift things. I may have to shave an hour out of my writing time to go over a scene and play with a character, or dialogue.

I can say that there has never been a reverse situation. It would take a great effort for me to ignore my writing at the expense of acting, because unless I am a fulltime working actor on a show, I need only chip out an hour or two a day to stay on top of things.

And for my personal life, I often remind myself that I should feel quite fortunate that there is someone who wants to spend time in my presence. I’m incredibly lucky to be married to the woman I am married to, who understands and supports what I am trying to do. I owe her my time, and much more. Not to mention the fact that I love spending time with my wife. The trap, for me, is being in the mindset of working to create the life my wife deserves to have, so that we can live a comfortable life devoid of financial struggle. But all of that is meaningless if we have no life together.

Everyone is different, but for me, balancing life and career(s) is a matter of communicating with my wife if I’m under a deadline, or must concentrate hard on a scene I may be filming or auditioning for. When I’m not working on set, we drive together to her work, and I do my writing nearby so that we can meet on her lunch break. She goes back to work, I go back to writing, then we drive home together.

When we get home, we may sometimes workout together, but oftentimes, if I’m under a deadline or have a scene to work on, we’re in separate rooms until an hour or so before it’s time for sleep.

Balancing career against career? It’s one-sided. I constantly remind myself to pull out some scenes and work on them, continue to exercise my acting muscle, keep the instrument working. Writing is easier, because I simply sit down and do it, whereas with acting, you get the best out of your work with another actor to bounce the scene off of. So for me, that is the biggest challenge.

So I haven’t mastered this dance. I’m still working to create that rhythm that I might sink into so that this becomes second nature. Until then, I remind myself when I am neglecting a part of my life that needs attention.

Working hard toward goals is a good thing, but keeping life in perspective helps me to keep in mind what is most important in my life.

RJ Terrell:

Ramon Terrell is an actor and author who instantly fell in love with fantasy the day he opened R. A. Salvatore’s: The Crystal Shard. Years (and many devoured books) later he decided to put pen to paper for his first novel. After a bout with aching carpals, he decided to try the keyboard instead, and the words began to flow.

As an actor, he has appeared in the hit television shows Supernatural, izombie, Arrow, and Minority Report, as well as the hit comedy web series Single and Dating in Vancouver. He also appears as one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men in Once Upon a Time, as well as an Ark Guard on the hit TV show The 100. When not writing, or acting on set, he enjoys reading, video games, hiking, and long walks with his wife around Stanley Park in Vancouver BC.
Connect with him at:
http://rjterrell.com/
R J Terrell on facebook
RJTerrell on twitter
R. J. Terrell on Goodreads

Moments That Make Me Love Being An Author

A guest post by Ramon Terrell.

To be honest, there are many things and many moments that make me love what I do and what I am. There are aspects of being an author that are great, such as the freedom to set up my own schedule, or work from any location in the world. It’s an excuse to research topics I find interesting, as well as go to the movies or play video games as an educational experience on top of entertainment.

Being an author is one of the most rewarding endeavors I have ever engaged in, and though it is hard work, just as with any profession, the rewards so far outweigh the difficult times that they are as easily forgotten as a cold once you’re healthy and running again.

But moments are something different. Unlike aspects of a profession that are a constant, moments are something that are fleeting, and often powerful. Sometimes moments can be inspirational, or enlightening, or even life-changing.

One powerful moment that I will never forget, was actually shared by an amazing fantasy author by the name of Tracy Hickman. (If you haven’t watched the video, do yourself a favor and watch it.) The story he imparted was the stuff of legend among our craft, and will leave you struggling not to shed a tear.

Now, while I don’t have a story, or moment, nearly as powerful as Tracy’s, I do have a few in my little newbie writer’s box. One such memory was the day a reader told me that my battle scenes reminded him of R A Salvatore’s. To say that I am a huge Salvatore fanboy would be the biggest understatement of the decade, so to have a reader tell me that anything of mine reminded him of my favorite author, was both humbling and, quite frankly, arm pump inducing. (I may have shouted a couple “YEAH’s!” in the privacy of my home)

Another moment that made me sit back and bask in my love of being an author was when a reader recently told me that he was a huge Terry Brooks fan, and that he really enjoyed my most recent epic fantasy novel, Unleashed. I can’t begin to describe what it feels like as a relatively new author to have someone mention your work alongside the work of the legends of your genre. And while I do not consider myself a Terry Brooks, or an R A Salvatore, that a fan would think of me in relation to them was an amazing and humbling feeling.

Of all the special moments I’ve had that make me love what I do, two come strongest to mind. First was when a reader chuckled and said she was pleasantly surprised at how strong and powerful my female characters are, and that it seemed to her that they were more powerful than the guys, without it being heavy-handed or forced.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love powerful female characters. A well written powerful female character that uses her strengths to greatest effect is something I never get tired of, and I think this reflects in my work.

The second moment was one that touched me deeply, though she may not have realized it. It was a simply thing, a simple unconscious gesture that really made my day, and made me love being an author.

I was talking to a reader who had just purchased Revenire, the final book in the Hunter’s Moon vampire series. After I signed the book, she told me she couldn’t wait to jump into it, then she smiled and held the book to her chest and wrapped her arms around it.

You see, when we hold something to our chest in a hug-like gesture, it is us holding something close to our heart. We don’t hold things of little value close to the heart. You don’t hold a bottle or castor oil, or a pair of smelly socks to your chest and wrap your arms around them. You don’t hold a can of cola or a bag of fries (maybe some do) close to your heart. But what you do hold close to the heart is something you value.

We hold great memories and feelings close to the heart. We hold all that is positive and welcome, and joy inducing close to our hearts. So for that reader to wrap her arms around that book and hold it against her chest, close to her heart, that was a silent way of saying that she felt that book was going to give her great joy, great entertainment, and great memories. I was honored and (again) humbled, and to be frank, thought it was pretty doggone cool.

So for me, aside from constantly being humbled, (grin) moments like these, when a reader expresses their love for my work, and the subtle gestures they make when interacting with one of my books, to expressing the enjoyment and inspiration they’ve gained from them, are the things that make me love what I do, and serve as a constant reminder of how blessed I am to be able to touch people in such a profound way.

Guest Writer Bio: R. J. Terrell was instantly a lover of fantasy the day he opened R. A. Salvatore’s: The Crystal Shard. Years (and many devoured books) later he decided to put pen to paper for his first novel. After a bout with aching carpals, he decided to try the keyboard instead, and the words began to flow. When not writing, he enjoys reading, videogames, and long walks with his wife around Stanley Park in Vancouver BC.

Connect with me at:
RJ Terrell on Facebook
@RJTerrell on Twitter
R. J. Terrel on Goodreads