Film vs Novel – The Dark Half

What would your bad side be like, and how would you confront it?

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The opening chapter of the novel does not pull any punches and immediately throws some gore and a shiver up your spine. We get further hits of this through antagonist George Stark’s point of view scattered throughout the book, his actions are truly grotesque… I wanted to cover my eyes until it was over – but of course you can’t do that if you’re reading. The film, consequently took a while to get going, and the SPFX felt a touch amateurish, but was most likely state of the art for the time of its release in the ‘90’s. I don’t think ‘The Dark Half’ took the time to build a creep factor as much as his other film titles.

I felt moments in-between when reading, where the narrative dragged out – embellishing characters and their back-stories, or descriptions of the landscape of the novel that slowed the pace and had me speed-reading through. Though my interest in the novel never waned. I always wanted to know what was going to happen next. Eager to learn the secrets of protagonist author Thad and his alter ego Stark. I actually watched the movie in three chunks because of the same issues in pacing – which is not something you want in a horror/thriller.

FvN The Dark Half Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleThad was an interesting protagonist (played by Timothy Hutton). I related to him immediately being a writer, and how he would get lost in a fugue of writing as if being taken over by another presence entirely. Though the smoking, drinking, patriarch stereotype that edged its way into this character annoyed me a little. But on the whole I found Thad to be intelligent, imaginative and a real risk taker; all with layers of love and compassion. I found perfection in his layers of imperfection. We did not see this set up in the film however. It starts with a montage of Thad’s past and then starts the film off in present day. We don’t get to see the duality of Thad as succinctly as in the novel. And while he is set up to be a family man, there isn’t time to explore the depths of his personality.

His wife, Liz – of which I frequently was reminded of the phrase about poking a mumma bear with a stick when her twin children were threatened. Liz was always the quintessential homemaker, adoring her little family and supporting her husband. But the moment any of that was endangered she roared and snapped like a wild animal. Her protective spirit and tenacity created a deep respect. She was part of the team and very present in scenes with Thad in the novel. Comparatively her screen version played by Amy Madigan was watered down. We did not get to see her strength and though front and centre in the storyline, wasn’t as essential in the plot.

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Our straight-man (so to speak) being Sheriff Alan Pagborn filled the much needed critic against the supernatural. He guides the reader and grounds the narrative. The sceptic who deals only in facts and proof to form a conclusion. His added point of view helps to add credence to the theories Thad and his wife instinctually know. I loved his character in the book – the one person a reader is to use as a voice of reason. Not so in the film. He felt more like a plot device to counter the supernatural and be there at the end to witness the strangeness so it couldn’t be written off as imagination or a crazed Thad. We also never get to see the husband and wife team follow their hunches with uncanny supernatural radar – it was reduced to a raving and yelling Thad for a few scenes. The dynamic between these three characters is lost in the movie version.

I found the cast interesting, fully developed and added something unique to the story line, ultimately rounding it in some realism. Though the plot itself did fell drawn out a little too long, the journey there was paced well and held my interest. Stephen King’s writing style is prominent, though more intimate than his earlier works. For a novel nearly 600 pages long, I seemed to fly through it. But the film felt disjointed – subsidiary characters revealed plot points way to early destroying any unexplained evil phenomena to tease and scare us. I feel there was even some missed opportunity to creep us out even further with some of the murder scenes – especially when Stark and Thad are in the same locale.

FvN The Dark Half Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI was a little disappointed in the mythology of the novel – I’d read about the significance of sparrows before in Trent Jamison’s Deathworks novels, so this aspect was not a huge surprise to me; though Thad’s role felt like it was left hanging. Why had this event taken place in the first instance? Does Thad have some sort of ability? Was it Stark all along, clawing his way back from some dark place? I felt like I was wanting more resolution to this, or even a paragraph explaining why, but we didn’t get an answer in the novel. Comparatively, we get more answers in the film, but they fall flat. And the climactic scene felt comical. In the novel there is more of a struggle between Stark and Thad, and more of a symbolic changing of places before the final showdown. Even Thad’s twins were much more involved. There felt like there was a lot at stake, more paranormal forces in play for the novel – the film just showed one scene with special effects and that was it.

I’ve read creepier, gorier books from King. But I have to say, ‘The Dark Half’ had just enough of both to satisfy this genre without making it difficult to read. The thriller-suspense is light, but a great story to ignite the imagination of any wanna-be writer. But the film was no-where near what I expected it to be. The suspense and build were not executed strongly enough, and I hoped for more of an air of mystery around the paranormal events, but they were explained away far too quickly and easily.

The novel could have been a tad shorter, a tad more intense, and ended with more of an exclamation point, but I’d be happy to recommend to all. I’d have to rank it in the top half of my King favourites. The film however, though entertaining in a nostalgic B-grade horror film sort of way, I’d happily miss, especially since it was two hours long. Definitely the novel for the win J

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookquotes

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Reading Stephen King always takes me back to my teen years, nestled up on my bed to escape the world outside and get a scare. The safe adrenaline junkie!

The main character in ‘The Dark Half’ is a writer, so it was doubly exciting to see the antagonist traits of a writers psyche come to life.

No nudes at work.

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I swear a Google internet search is out to embarrass the heck out of me at times. Seriously, is there a little man at the other end of the line laughing his guts out as he slips inappropriate content into my search results? I like to hunt down images to include in my storyboards for works in progress. It helps flesh out the world building and characters for me.

Parental controls sometimes block content that I feel doesn’t need to be blocked. And, I’m not searching outright for adult material, so I am always surprised when confronting images pop up in my search results.

But recently I’ve been noticing a trend where pornographic content is increasingly slipping into the results. Yesterday I typed in “cow” and “farm” and about halfway down the page a number of full-frontal images of couples ‘doing it’ were on display. Even though I work in an office all alone, I quickly glanced behind me in shame. The same happened when I’ve typed in “romance” and “flowers.” What tha! I once got images of a girl performing fellatio after typing “buttons.” It was worse when I accidently typed in “drunk girl” into the search bar instead of in my document… my eyes just about fell out of my skull.

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I know I’m a little bit of a prude. But I can handle some titillation – I mean I’m an adult. I’ve seen things. But when you’re in the middle of typing out an article, or adding to that manuscript, and you’re getting a little graphic support and these explicit images jump out at you… well it’s unexpected. Shocking.

Needless to say, I’ve reviewed my parental controls a number of times, but something always manages to slip by every now and then.

It’s amusing at how the most random, unconnected phrase will result in some pornographic picture popping up in the search results.

I remember in one of my previous jobs in an open office plan. There were close to 80 of us on one floor at workstations, no walls. No partitions. It was easy to glance up at any given time and peruse many monitors. I used to get a lot of PowerPoint presentations to whip up, and doing image searches turned into a harrowing experience. Searching for images when the boss walks by and there’s a female presenting her rear like a baboon, pants down, facial expression like it was some kind of accident she was caught in such a compromising condition… yikes!

It is funny, almost slapstick, if you can roll with the punches and have a sense of humour. But there are some workplaces where something like this could have you hauled in front of Human Resources.

I dare not imagine what images would scroll up if I actually typed in something obviously graphic… I might have to wash out my eyeballs, or lose my lunch. I’m happy in my rainbows, unicorns and puppies bubble of positivity when I’m writing. Disturbing images give me a headache and have me wondering what kind of people are out there. Great ideas for horror or psychological thrillers when you’re building an antagonist. But I don’t need to be barraged by graphic content on a daily basis at work.

It’s not the search engines fault – if you do a bit of I.T. sleuthing, these images are being tagged with more and more mundane words in ways to trap a browser into visiting their website. It’s all about directing internet traffic. An unfortunate side of the internet – sprukers for dark net. I guess it’s to be expected. At your computer you can be exposed to the entire planet, both good and bad. It’s up to us to tailor what gets to pop up on our screen. And like story writing, those computer skills develop over time – or you simply develop a thick skin. Become desensitized and no longer ‘see’ that type of content.

I get a little worried about what our children get exposed to, and it reminds me to always be vigilant and monitor kids internet activity. Educate them about right and wrong and how to navigate those tricky situations online.  It’s better to be informed than ignorant I say.

Because isn’t it better to laugh about some random picture of a man dressed in leather with a gasmask on in the results when you type in “puppies” than start freaking out about the state of the worlds social morals?

 

What kind of random results have you gotten from an internet search that cause you to turn red?

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Best Friend’ by Shalini Boland

An annoying main character with a wonderful mystery – a total sucker punch.

The Best Friend Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 332

From Goodreads:

They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer … Wrong.

Louisa’s new best friend has it all – the house, the status, the money. But she’s also hiding a dark secret. And as Louisa is drawn deeper into her friend’s life, events take a chilling turn . . .

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I’ve had a wonderful experience with Shalini Boland’s titles in the past and ‘The Best Friend’ was no different – her pretence intrigued me from the outset. Interest and mystery were established quickly, along with a sense of too-good-to-be-true and waiting-for-the-other-she-to-drop. Which is something you want in a thriller. And the pace does not let up.

The stalker mentioned in the first chapter had me reeling, trying to guess which character it could be: the younger brother, or a private detective hired to find our protagonist, Louisa. I love the opportunity to start guessing the plot very early on in a novel.

All my senses started screaming at Louisa when she felt things were starting to go her way – it’s like she hadn’t learnt her lesson. Though this story is gripping and suspenseful, I dislike the flakiness and lack of thought that Louisa is exhibiting – I was starting to feel that she is deserving of whatever bad luck comes her way due to lack of insight. That the only person she could rely on was herself, as the past has proven, and there she was, letting a stranger take the lead (again.)

I did get a sense of ‘where is this all going?‘ and wanting the plot to start grinding it’s gears by pg78, so I feel like the start of this novel could have been compacted, or another plot device introduced earlier.

I also get a sense that the new found best friend – the seemingly perfect Darcy, is attempting to steal Louisa’s identity – maybe to hide from great debt and scary debt collectors? Alarm bells were going off that Darcy is a con … and the flashbacks are to her childhood. But as there really isn’t a lot of context to these scenes, it could be anyone, but the narrative certainly leads you down this delicious path.

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I did need to have a break at pg265, Louisa’s stupidity was getting me frustrated to the point of violence. *pegs the novel across the room* Why is she not talking to her lawyer sister and sharing all the facts with her? It would put everything in perspective and above board immediately. It is glaringly obvious common sense. Especially with some conniving woman out to get her… if that is what is really going on. As you can see I had quite a strong reaction to Louisa and her actions – whether I like her or not, I was definitely engaged in the story… but I’m still waiting for that Boland twist.

There is a little bit of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ – especially in setting up a scene. It kept the pace up, but lost a little of that mystery-styled writing. A little unrealistic plot-wise, but a highly enthralling story. Really got me emoting. My tummy kept getting twisted into nervous knots.

Boland is a supreme writer for pacing and setting up a great reveal/climax. Even though I had guessed the ending halfway through, I was still gripped right to the end. There is a strong tone of mistrust and paranoia which is essential for a success in this genre.

I don’t think I actually liked Louisa at all, right to the end. She was flaky and stupid – but very human, and made for great reading. I did like the ending though – not so cut and dry, but extremely satisfying. And it was great to see Louisa and her husband grow from the experience. Highly recommended.

Overall feeling: makes me raise an eyebrow…

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Trigger Warnings for me as a reader

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Things that make me want to vomit, scream or pitch a novel out the window…

I tend to shy away from content I know that will freak me out or cause mental anguish – I read to be entertained, to escape and sometimes to learn. It’s only on rare occasions I read to be challenged.

So some of the trigger warnings that I’ve found which send a book plummeting in my ratings include:

Trigger warnings Pic 11 by Casey CarlisleI know I’m a bit of a prude. That’s just how I am. And I don’t mind a bit of titillation – and there are times I pick up an erotic title for a bit of a change to my normal reading habits. But I like my erogenous encounters to mean something, to have a point to make within the plot. Pages and pages of banging bodies in different positions with no story is porn. Flashy, pointless and unsatisfying. It gets the same reaction I have with watching porn – I feel violated, objectified, and my skin feels itchy and dirty. If there is no emotional connection to the characters and plot it just feels wrong. For me. If that is something that you enjoy reading, I say wave that flag from the highest mountain… but it’s a big no-no for me. I’ll squirm, eye-roll and eventually put the book down. When did I turn into an old Nun?

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Trigger warnings Pic 12 by Casey Carlisle– if the ‘hook’ on the back cover does not hint at some emotional connection to the main character, or at least a point of interest, I’m not going to buy it. Nine out of ten times it has proven right that a terrible blurb has meant the story was lacking in some way.

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Trigger warnings Pic 13 by Casey CarlisleI’m no atheist or anything, but when I’m reading a book, I don’t want to feel like the author is shoving his or her spiritual beliefs down my throat. With fantasy books, we get magic systems, mythology and never do those aspects of the narrative feel like they are imposing on me as a reader. But for some reason when it comes to religion, many of the novels I read are so heavy with worship and forced opinion, I can feel the vomit gurgling in the back of my throat. It’s a sensitive topic to talk about, but I feel a fictional story should be balanced and not overshadowed by the authors personal beliefs. I feel a great author will not isolate their audience.

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Trigger warnings Pic 14 by Casey CarlisleSometimes they work if the author is great, but on the most part, I’ll skim over, or simply refuse to finish if it is littered with unoriginal content. The main reason for reading about characters is to walk in their shoes, experience something new… so it needs to be inspired and not a regurgitation of many books that have already been published. A number of books deal with stereotypes and tropes in a tongue-in-cheek way, completely aware of these devices, and that can be fun. Others submerge themselves into the genre but include a twist or great dialogue, which usually fit into the guilty pleasure category. But cookie-cutter writing is about as palatable as eating a brown paper bag.

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Trigger warnings Pic 15 by Casey CarlisleThis one is hard to judge until you’ve already made it a ways into your novel, but having protagonists constantly making silly decisions – just to fit into the plot are a sure fire way to have me throwing the book across the room. Nothing worse than being aware of the authors guiding hand – or having a delusional main character that can’t think for themselves. Some may find it endearing or even cute, I feel like I want to push them in front of a bus.

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Trigger warnings Pic 16 by Casey CarlisleYou can usually gauge this from the blurb, or by reading a few pages and a light skim. I’ve read some books that have great writing, but the whole novel ended up being a number of scenes attached together through a flimsy line of narrative. I need a discernible beginning, middle and end. I need to know what the protagonist is risking for the pay-off at the end of the novel – and a well written climax! There is a fine line between a great concept and fitting it into a story format…

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Trigger warnings Pic 17 by Casey Carlisle– they are a selling point! If you don’t go to the trouble of designing an attractive cover I’m going to think you don’t value your writing, and therefore, skip your title in favour of another. Also covers with models in a half-naked display are a big turn off, I’m going to think your book is one big naked sex romp… see first point above. Plus who wants to be on the tram flashing about sexy body parts on the cover – people will think you’re a sex fiend! Some other book covers look like they’ve been put together by a fifth grader with ‘Paint.’ With so many easy to use tools available, PhotoShop, and a bit of imagination there is no excuse not to have an attractive cover that fits to your genre and target audience. You spent a lot of time writing a book, so take some time to get the cover right. There are so many cover artists for hire out there too. When I see stock photos and crappy covers now, I take it as a personal insult. Boo to you!

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Trigger warnings Pic 18 by Casey CarlisleIf a character is living in their head all the time in ponderance, it often comes across as boring or whiny. It’s also a bit of a case of telling instead of showing. I like characters who act on their convictions and interpret them through the scene. Long lamentations also bog down the pacing of the novel – and continual navel gazing is not an attractive quality. I come across this from time to time, protagonists getting on their soapbox, all hidden in the stream of consciousness of their mind. All I can say is they probably look like those first person video game characters when they glitch and continually run into a wall. No fun for anyone.

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Trigger warnings Pic 19 by Casey CarlisleIf you are going to go to the point of describing facts, objects, or scenarios in your story, make sure you’ve researched them thoroughly – I’ve read too many novels where the scene is so unrealistic that it has pulled me from the narrative…. Ultimately leaving me with the thought that the author couldn’t be bothered taking the time to present a realistic story. Insulting. Sheesh, Google it, crack a reference book, it’s not that hard.

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There are many more, but these have been the generally issues over the past year of reading. And I think I’ve ranted on long enough. But it is all in fun, and my personal preferences. It is still a great accomplishment to actually publish a novel so I commend anyone who has spilled out half their brain to create a world on paper…

Happy reading.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.