Monday, April 26, 2010

Extreme Rules! For Maryland, at least.

I didn't have high hopes for Extreme Rules, the April WWE PPV in Baltimore at the Arena, because the Maryland Athletic Commission is notorious for laying out hefty fines for hardcore wrestling.

Vince surely took a hit to the pocket book for some of the matches last night, though they were nothing compared to the vision most wrestling fans would have when looking forward to an extreme event. Not a drop of blood spilled, though Orton stomped a mudhole in Swagger's face against the steel stairs, and the Glamazon Beth Phoenix practiced a great deal of violence against Michelle McCool to regain her Women's Championship belt.

We walked in to a backstage setup of Triple Haitch getting piped by Shame-Us. Is this the extreme portion of our programming? I want tables and ladders and chairs, oh my.

Come to think of it, not a ladder appeared all evening. Guess my purple and green ensemble didn't have it's hoped for effect.

At the entrance of ShowMiz, hope for the entertainment value of Extreme Rules increased ten fold. Miz got on the mic and shot off at the mouth about Bret Hart naming ShowMiz the best tag team that was, is, or ever will be on RAW the following night - until Teddy Long made their title defense a three match gauntlet. Show didn't swallow Miz's face with his hands soon enough to avoid it, sigh.

Morrison and R Truth came out as the first team up. Did they explain how R Truth returned from the dead on Smackdown? I need to DVR that crap. I don't care how he returned, I had fun screaming "What's Up!" alongside the sheep. This first matchup was highlighted by some quick exchanges between the former tag team partners, and a tree of woe type thing placed on Show by Morrison as a counter to the choke slam. Wrestling's favorite gymnast wouldn't let go of Show, and the tag team champs held on to their titles...for the moment.

Henry and MVP ran in next, all in shiny new jumpsuits that were black with red accents for their acronyms. Mr. Porter slid in to attempt a quick pin on Show, but failed. Henry came in at Miz's arrival and broke him down, but WSM taggged MVP for Ballin' and a KO punch from Show on the outside allowed Teh Awesome to reverse MVP's pin attempt and get two down for the Tag Champs.

Pink filled the arena, and I squealed like the Bret Hart fangirl I've been for years. The Hart Dynasty stormed the ring with the Excellence of Execution by their side, hit a short yet beautiful Hart Attack, and got the pinfall. Look at how proud Uncle Bret is. Huggles all around.

Next up, a straight edge shearing. Although I couldn't cheer for Punk's demise all that hard, he gave a great story in this match along with his society, and what's a Christ-like figure without the hair? Good spots all around and Punk pulled it out with the help of a new SES member, who appeared out of nowhere after Festus and Scary Sherri got barred from ringside. 123wrestling made me aware of a rumor it's Matthews back from obscurity, and one can only hope our hometown boy is back in the big leagues.

Though I would have much rather seen him with Morrison and Melina in the first match. They worked that angle so damn well. The only hardcore aspects of this match were Festus's stink and the squirrel on Punk's chin. And the amount of near pinfalls. My god. Here's a favorite from close to the end.

Then we got into the strap. Keeping with the theme of former partner heat, JTG and Chad of CrymeTime attached themselves with leather and got down for some borderline BDSM fun. The most creative parts of the match were these dangling moves over the ropes.

JTG won by pulling off his finisher after following Chad's slaps of the first three corners. Little Naitch got in my way of seeing this. JTG ended the match collapsed in the fourth corner. Hopefully this is not an indicator of Marty Jannetty syndrome.

The match I was looking forward to the most was next. The All American American and the Viper had a classic match, rolling around on the mat to showcase Swagger's amateur skills as well as taking it outside for Orton to show us he's still vicious as hell. I'll give it to our still reigning champion, he will take a damn beating. Here's a money shot from this spectacular match.

Swagger was a suplex king, although Orton did pull of the DDT with Swagger's legs on the ropes that he seemed obsessed with making. The All American American countered the RKO with a suplex for the win. I didn't care he retained, I can only hope these two will run another match together soon.

I went for food after the green promos. Haitch was weak after getting mauled by the White Witch on the Concrete with the Lead Pipe. Came back with my hamburger and fries just in time to see them enter the ring...uh, actually, to see the Game getting neck braced. He did the whole real man thing and walked out with it on after refusing the stretcher. Typical. Let's just say the fake ambulance was still sitting outside with an empty stretcher beside it when we pulled away from the arena. This shot of the Titantron shows the scope of the PPV, however.

It says volumes about Bethie's wrestling ability and how much you have to pay in fines for violence against women in my state that the Women's Championship Makeover Match was after Haitch vs. Shame-Us. I mean, the blinding white face was on the chairs, for crying out loud. Anyway, McCool's henchmen, lead by my favorite heel Vicki Guerro, were confused as to the proper props for a makeover match. There was the shot with the ironing board that didn't fall apart as it should, and a lot to do with a broom. Ms. Phoenix Glam Slammed McCool to get back her gold.

Ah, the cage, and Baby Flair in it where he belongs. This would've been my favorite match, but I had to watch Edge painfully attempt not to injure himself the entire time, which is always a bummer. Too many good spots to count, Jericho the spider monkey tried to escape as soon as he entered the cage and five more times over the course of the match. Here's the best escape shot.

Unfortunately, Jericho the Lionhearted One couldn't forget what a douche the spearmaster is, and had to pull back from exiting the cage clean to chair shot that ugly face. Edge gets the pin on the man who is still Undisputed Champion of all wrestling in my heart after pulling him down from the cage for the sixth time or so.

Here's the Cena vs. Batista Last Man Standing Match from my point of view:

That's right, we decided it would be more interesting to go smoke in the parking lot. Best not to ruin our memories of a solid, well paced pay per view from WWE. It's been awhile, with the exception of Wrestlemania.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Ways of the World: Addled by Adverbs

Editing is hell on the self esteem.

I took a poem that was quite nice to a workshop last week, and one of the comments was a request for a few less adverbs, if possible. For a long time, I wondered why so many have a prejudice over these little words that end in -ly.

I now see why it is so prevalent. These buggers are everywhere in my writing, lengthening sentences, helping me cop out of any meaningful description.

It's a travesty.

Adverbs are useful sometimes, but their overuse is a bad habit any writer can succumb to. You become so used to them in daily speech that they pop up in all your descriptions and nonfiction work as well. I cut at least fifty words from the prologue of my novel in adverbs alone. The word count benefited from this purge. It reads a lot clearer now, and the descriptions have more depth. I'll have a longer novel by forcing myself to give full descriptions, rather than using the adverb of the day.

How can you tell if you use too many adverbs in your work? My advice is to read it aloud, or have someone read it to you. Hearing it from an outside source and reading it on your own would be the best plan, for there are things you will notice stumbling over your words that will not pop up in your brain if you are listening to a piece, and vice-versa. Reading my prologue aloud at the Hotel Chelsea Literary Night on Thursdays @ 6 SLT did it for me. Every time I stumbled over my words an adverb was involved. Every. darn. time.

Why is this? Well, it comes from all the -ly's. You use too many adverbs, the -ly's breed like rabbits, and all of a sudden you feel like you are repeating yourself all the time. Even the most convoluted and original adverbs will become just another word for a reader to skip over.

And if you cause your readers to skip over too many words, well, the best idea for a story could be lost to glazed over eyes, and your book going back on the bookstore shelf, or never leaving the slush pile.

The real problem with adverbs is that they are weak words. There's always a phrase that can do it better, always a more constructive way to get that description across. They are great for dialogue. They are verbal shorthand that most of us use in our everyday lives. A well crafted conversation will use adverbs sparingly to give that feel of "real" speech, as will a good conversational piece of writing.

Adverbs have no place in description of setting or story, however. Cut them out. I have come to the painful conclusion that they dilute my writing. They do have their place, like any other part of speech. The job of a world building wordsmith is know where that place is, and put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Ways of the World: Prolonging the Prologue

"Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar, wore white on the day he was to kill a king."

So begins the prologue to Brandon Sanderson's yet to be released book, The Way of Kings. As soon as I read it, I knew I had no reason to be worried about what is coming in August. The Stormlight Archive will be as awesome as the Mistborn Trilogy, if not better.

I can't wait.

Fangirl gushing aside, getting my hands on the paperback edition of Warbreaker, Sanderson's second standalone fantasy novel, changed my plans for this blog post. The prologue is a staple of epic fantasy, setting the central themes of a series, especially the prologue to the first book.

The Stormlight Archive will deliver more exciting magic battles and intricately designed politics like those that drove the plot of the Mistborn books. The only complaint that could be made is an overuse of capitals to emphasize new terminology, but I am a C.S. Lewis lover, so they make me happy more than exasperated. Most important to note, I felt involved in Mr. Sanderson's new world from that first line.

This is the job of a good prologue.

The proper balance of world building, characterization, and action in a prologue is a hard thing to achieve. The transition from prologue to first chapter also has to be considered in depth-it can make or break a reader's willingness to continue with your story. Some choose an action packed prologue followed by a first chapter that focuses on characterization, others choose a more historical bent to their beginning.

The prologue to The Eye of the World, the first book of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, is a quick snapshot of the big conflict behind his whole story. This is not apparent upon first reading, but come back and read it again after finishing the book. The battle between Lews Therin Telamon and Ishmael is intense; huge amounts of magic are thrown around, and the system of checks and balances Jordan developed to keep suspension of disbelief is used in a way that can't be forgotten. When the first chapter starts with the mundane tasks of a small town boy, we keep reading to see how he could have anything to do with the power displayed in the prologue.

Balls to the wall action is not the only way to go. Many authors, including Papa Tolkien, achieve similar success by outlining the history of their important races. The prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring is all about hobbits, and that foreshadows the most important plot mover in the book, Frodo. David Eddings introduces his race of Alorns in the prologue to Pawn of Prophesy, though he does it in the form of a religious story as opposed to the historical style that Tolkien uses.

Eddings's prologue is successful because the first chapter in Pawn of Prophesy presents us Garion, an ignorant country boy. Whatever could he have to do with the deep religious history of the Alorns? We read onward to find out, just as we do in The Eye of the World. The first chapter is there as follow up, and the tag team punch of both is what grabs a reader with an epic conflict and believable characters to keep them reading your wonderful setting and awesome magic system.

The prologue is rather a lost art in mainstream fiction and other genre writing, but think of the importance of a good setup in sweeping historical tales and galaxy spanning science fiction. A prologue can help any story, if it is well written and followed by a first chapter that turns to the central characters.