Spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and Oppenheimer - I'm talking story structure, breaking the gridlock of chronology (which both of these do), the difference between backstory and flashbacks, and how a climactic beat CAN happen in a flashback!
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Good morning. Everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I'm here with my first cup of coffee.
Which is delicious if you're on video. You'll see that it's actually Starbucks because today is say it with me Friday woohoo it's July twenty first which week said it is David's birthday so um for a special treat. We I ran him into town and got him Starbucks for his birthday and not incidentally myself he got Starbucks and coffee cake. So who says I got partner. Ah yeah. so happy birthday David and so yes I've already been sucking on my vente breve latte with for stevia now you all know my ah Starbucks order. It's either a grande with two or a venti with 4 um, just in case you ever want to surprise me with Starbucks ah so you'll hear the wind chimes are going. It's breezy here this morning a nice cool breeze quite tumultuous. It's nice after the the heavy baking heat. Of this last week which I know we were not the only ones our monsoon rains have not yet started. Alas, we really could use the rains at this point things are even putting water on them. It.
Really starts to dry out, especially with as hot as it's been. So yeah I um I changed my setup on my laptop I changed my screen saver I pointed it in a different direction I guess is what I did. And so I have it now shuffling through photos and it's like all of my photos and some of them from like twenty years ago and so it's a good bad thing. Um I am rediscovering all kinds of things that I forgot about.
I am also very aware and not to be Debbie Downer here but very aware of how much everybody has aged in that time. Um, it's really just kind of remarkable like look at my husband he is. 64 today but because of the parkinson's that has aged him even more and it's remarkable to see just like over the last ten years how much he's changed. But I think that's life. Ah and and to do 1 more thing on it downer and then we'll do up. Note. But I went and saw oppenheimer last night which those of you who know me know that it's I don't know if I've ever ever gone to see a movie on opening night on a Thursday night a school night. No less. And it wasn't because I had a burning desire to see oppenheimer so much but my friends Megan and Charlie had an extra ticket and they asked me if I would like to go and I thought sure I'll go be fun because I did want to see the movie and and of course it's. Special interest here because it was filmed in New Mexico and I knew I would recognize so much of the landscape and the places and so that was definitely fun to see the movie started at 7 and oops now I'm falling off the thing here all right.
Ah, and it's a 3 hour movie it is full 3 hour movies we saw it at the um center for contemporary arts in Santa Fe so no trailers at least we started spot on at 7 and did spot on at ten o'clock which um, that is just past my bedtime people.
I didn't get to bed until um, like 1130 so I am dragging rear a bit this morning so we all know going into oppenheimer that it is not going to be an up movie. Ah and it was not but.
Ah I think Charlie and Megan liked it much better than I did I did not think it needed to be 3 hours long and I don't mind a movie being long if it really needs to be. We also recently watched streamed paid the $20 to stream. Guardians of the galaxy 3 and I think I didn't talk about that but really enjoyed that um I did not mind the scenes in that of of the animal experimentation and stuff I mean it is sad and awful. But it's. It's meant to be be and it's there for a good reason. Ah I was really interested just structure wise speaking guardians of the galaxy 3 um that midpoint is when slightly spoilery young rocket escapes from the. Labs which is interesting because that story is told partly in flashback right? where you know we have the the current timeline story arc but then you have the flashbacks of How rocket came to be how he was created essentially in these animal experimentation labs and a major beat in the movie. The midpoint pivot is when rocket escapes from those laps when he gets away and it's it's a hugely emotional moment.
Because and I'm sorry yeah I'll put the spoiler note on the beginning or if if I remember but ah, it's it's a hugely emotional moment because he wants to bring his friends with him and his friends are killed as he escapes. So and this. Sets up a whole dynamic for the rest of the movie Marvel's really good at doing that kind of thing. Um, so I thought it was an interesting story point that are climactic beats when we talk about story structure and we talk about the climactic beats. They don't necessarily have to occur in the current timeline of the story they can occur very effectively in the backstory not backstory. Sorry flashback. it's it's backstory yes but 1 way of. Getting around backstory dumps or referencing too much backstory is by having flashbacks that feel as if they're happening in the moment right instead of summarizing instead of saying oh yeah, you know this is what happened to rocket and. Or him telling the story to the others. Oh yeah, this is what happened to me instead. We have a full flashback where we go back to that time with him and I thought it was interesting that midpoint pivot right there in that flashback. Um.
That movie I thought deserved to be as long as it was Oppenheimer didn't need to be that long oppenheimer is trying to do a lot of things. It is not only telling the story of and I'm fully aware I'm being very spoilery because you know what 98% of you did not go see it last night.
Um, so caveats out the wazoo I I feel like with a story like Oppenheimer. You can't really spoiler it because it's history. Well you know what happened it's not like um, did the bomb work. You know spoiler. The bomb worked. Ah so Oppenheimer is trying to do several different things. Um, aside from being an important movie and you all kind of know how I feel about that sort of thing like I said I think Charlie and Megan liked that about it more than I did. I felt like it was trying very hard to be important to make a statement It's telling the story of gathering the team of scientists and bringing them to Los Alamos to work on the bomb to stop the nazis. Ah, and that's a really interesting piece. Um, and and really what I expected going in. It's um, Christopher Nolan wrote and directed the movie based on a novel by someone whose name I should have looked up.
Since this is a writer podcast I feel like I have to give credit to the original writers. So the movie is based on the book which actually ah I did not realize this won the 2006 Pulitzer prize for Biography or autobiography. And it is written by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin over the period over a period of 25 years that's very interesting. So the book is called american prometheus the triumph and tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer so I know that the book served as an inspiration for the movie Christopher Nolan um you as we were driving back from the whivia processing Charlie thought that. Said that he felt like something was typical of Christopher Nolan and I'm like what else has he done because he's just not been on my radar and he said oh well, you know he did inception inception. He did memento he did dunkirk so this is like consider continuing his world War Ii. phase after Dunkirk which I did not watch because I just don't really like to watch more movies. They don't make me happy David watched it and said it was really good anyway. Ah so Christopher Nolan if you.
You know, know from like inception and memento he loves to break up the gridlock of chronology. So. It's interesting that I'm talking about this along with guardians of the galaxy 3 oppenheimer really does this breaks up the gridlock of chronology. There are reasons to do this? Um and I can see why like even I who don't normally do that would make that choice with this movie because the chronological arc of things is that you know of course Oppenheimer. Brilliant physicists brought together a team of brilliant physicists. Um, they build the atom bomb they set up the bomb at Hiroshima Hiroshima Nagasaki um Oppenheimer then goes to work on the hydrogen bomb he has. Major moral qualms over the major devastation rot by dropping the atom bomb in Japan and then later I've got like hairs blowing over my face here tickling my nose. Um. And then later he is essentially well he has his security clearance move removed. He becomes part of that whole blacklisting of the communist witch hunt of the 50 s and so forth and and there's this whole thing with.
Ah, which which I did not know and was interesting with Strauss who becomes a cabinet member and is played extraordinarily well by Robert Downey Jr he really did deliver an amazing performance. Um, and so so there's a couple of hearings. That happened major hearings one the gray board where they remove Oppenheimer security clearance accuse him basically of being a spy for the soviets. This is all like leading into cold war era um, and then there is the senate hearing. Of Strauss being put on the cabinet sort of the pinnacle of his career and so if you consider the climactic moment or 1 of the climactic moments has to be setting off the atom bomb right. I mean there's a friend of mine who ah Marcella Bernard she listens sometimes who insists that explosions are plot points. Ah it is somewhat inescapable that setting off an enormous bomb that the world has never seen before is going to be a climactic moment. So if you're putting together a movie about this, you're gonna have to choose which climactic moment is this and so they had this dueling I'm trying to think of how I want to describe it.
Storyline I mean that's the thing is that they really wanted to tell this story of what then happened to Oppenheimer because yeah, we just looked at the title of the book that inspired this the triumph and tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer so triumph but then the tragedy is a big piece of the story right? but that would make for a very uneven movie arc right? Ah, if you have like early career building the team these are familiar tropes for us setting off the bomb. But then there is the. Everything is downhill after that right. It's all these tragic things. So how do you manage the beats of that. Well you break up the gridlock of chronology and I could see why they did that the problem from my point of view. And I'm sure everybody else will think this is a brilliant movie and they don't care what I think but this you all presumably care. What I think um I thought that the early parts of the movie really dragged because they were doing clips of these different. Um, reviews the the gray board and the senate hearing and I didn't really know who the characters were yet I didn't know who the players were and this is something we run into a whole lot especially with.
Modern expectations and I've talked about this a lot you know like with Kushiel's dart by Jacqueline Carey you know how I've been telling people to start at chapter 27 and I had that conversation with someone just the other day because she said she had told a friend. This friend had like loved mrice's cry to heaven. Love love loved it. She tried to get the friend to read Kushiel's Dart and they bounced off and so I told her I said tell him to start at chapter 27 and and and we had an interesting conversation about it because that had not occurred to her and she's a you. An award winning winning author who's been out of the game for a while and now she's building her career again. So we have this conversation about how expectations change and 1 thing we try to do when we start a story is have it. Start much much closer to the insiding incident than used to be right that we don't get 27 chapters of backstory before we finally get to the point of the story. Well the danger of starting in the middle of the action is that you don't. Know who the characters are and you don't care about them yet. So I feel like Oppenheimer relied on us knowing who the players were and I'm not a history buff and so I didn't really know who a lot of these people were.
And I felt like the first hour to hour and a half the movie really dragged and then it picked up. Ah they did a lot of things with trying to transmit the horror of the atom bomb with sound effects and visuals which I mean I felt like. We went into it knowing that it was awful I'm not sure that we needed that transmitted. Ah I don't know maybe we did so anyway, that's that's my take on oppenheimer interesting things on story structure. Um. Um, my favorite subject me and my work I kind of buried the lede but I finished Oneira. Yes, thank you I'm hope you're all happy dancing for me Oneira is done I finished the book on Wednesday it came out right about what I thought it would be eighty seven seven 63 I spent yesterday clearing out the square brackets I've mentioned before that as I'm drafting I put things in square brackets like if I can't think of the right word I want or if I'm worried that I'm repeating a word too much. Um, if I don't want a name. Ah, secondary character or a place I'll put those things in square brackets I also put in things like check timeline weave in that sort of thing so I had 92 sets of square brackets and I got them all out yesterday and I began smoothing I just got to like 8 pages of the first chapter.
I posted to my discord group I try to drop things in there to let people know about my process and how it works as I as it occurs to me as I'm doing it and 1 thing about my process especially a book like this where I wrote from the beginning all the way through to the end. I write linearly I do not break up the gridlock of chronology typically um I don't think you need to necessarily for a ah you know, especially like an epic fantasy. There's reasons to do it in other stories. Especially if you have like really heavy backstory. The reasons I've already talked about um but but 1 of the things that happens is I started writing this book on the beginning of may first of may and what finished it july.
So over the course of that time those seventy three days of full time I know because I'd like tracked it. Um, it's not that many working days I could tell you how many working days it is if you if you care. Ah, because I always think it's interesting. It was it was seventy four days from beginning to end and 50 working days is what it took me to write this. Um, by the time I get to those later sections of the book. There are things I put in at the beginning that I forget about? ah. So like already like going through and removing square brackets I like discovered a secondary character I'd put in near the beginning that I totally forgot about later but then it's like okay so do I delete them entirely. Do I bring them back later. Ah, sometimes I throw in world building things like as I'm working that I'm thinking about that. Maybe the world works this way and then later it becomes. That's not the case. Ah so these are things that I have to tweak as I go along. So I'm going to do some smoothing today and then send it to agent Sarah I don't know if I mentioned on here that she is going to expedite reading for me, we went back and forth on email earlier this week. She's going to read it and see if she wants to submit it to trad.
And then we will make some choices I'll still have to do some revising if she does um if she doesn't want to take it to trad I'm going to try to get this released in August which I think is entirely doable so we shall see how so. On that note I'm gonna go get to work I hope you all have a fabulous Friday I hope you have a wonderful weekend and we are full of alliteration today. All the alliteration and I will talk to you all on Monday you all take care bye bye.