4 Tips to Building Setting: Guest Blog for Sue Santore


Today, I’m dropping in for a guest post on Sue Santore’s blog.  A sneak peak:

In a movie or a TV show, the camera pans across the scene in an establishing shot and the viewer gets an instant impression of the setting.  The opening sequences in Hawaii Five-0‘ show beautiful beaches, surfers taking on the waves, and girls in bikinis.  But in a novel, it’s up to the writer to use words to evoke the images of the setting.  Read about the four tips on Sue Santore’s blog.

I hope you’ll also have a look at my article on writing called “Strawberry, Chocolate, and Vanilla,” published in Topstone Publishing’s Rejection Lessons, part of the Inside Writer’s Guide series.

Hawaii Five-0: Action in Paradise


Hawaii was a great initial reason to tune into the TV series Hawaii Five-0.  It’s a Hawaii 2.0 of the original series which starred Jack Lord.  One of the comments made at the time of the new series premiere was that the original version was an average detective show with Hawaii, a great theme, and Jack Lord’s hair (hair makes people watch a show?).

It’s still a detective show, but it has Steve McGarrett now as a Navy SEAL (that’s a very elite military role that only a few attain), so there’s lots of action in episode.  But it’s a fun kind of action, meant simply to entertain.

My favorite characters are not the main stars, but the Asian actors who play Kono (Grace Park), Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim), and Wu Fat (Mark Dacascos, who is also appearing on Iron Chef America).  First time Mark Dacasos appeared on the screen, my response was, “No way!”  His casting made me want to see more.

Thankfully, one thing the show has stayed away from is dressing Grace Park as often as possible in skimpy clothing or bikinis in every episode.  There’s some of it, yes, but we viewers don’t see with regularity in scenes with the guys.  Many of those scenes have clothing that is appropriate for for climate and locale (sleeveless t-shirts).  Whereas, on Charmed, which had all an women cast, the way the characters dressed made me wonder how the women could be respected for anything.

Kono has a pretty decent role in the show — it doesn’t feel like she’s a token female the networks told the producers to add (Caitlin on Airwolf), especially since the show also has two other semi-regular women characters.  Kono’s had some storylines about her, and she’s — my own personal favorite — had some action scenes of her own.

But I have to say, one of the things I like best about the show is simply that’s in Hawaii. Since Magnum P.I. went off the air years ago, nothing’s been filmed there, and it’s such a great location.

What’s your favorite part of the show?  Tell me about it!

I hope you’ll have a look at my story Grateful for a Gift to ‘Any Soldier,’ published in The Washington Post.

5 Reasons to Watch NCIS


NCIS is one of those television shows that has kept me coming back again and again to watch it, even as it enters its 9th year.  That’s pretty big deal because the writing often starts to suffer after about 7 years.  Each show is like a novel, so that’s a whole lot of novels.  Writers often simply run out of steam.  Last night’s show was the best of the season so far, with a B story about Abby discovering she has a brother.  That’s one story I want to find out more about.

A few highlights on what I like about the show:

  1. It never takes itself that seriously.  There’s always light humor in the story, but it’s humor that comes out of the characterizations.  It’s not the dumb humor I find in sitcoms that make me cringe.
  2. It has action, but it’s not terribly violent action.  I don’t like gore, and this show keeps it pretty clean.  I’ve also heard from gun enthusiasts that this show is probably the closest on the way law enforcement uses their guns.
  3. I like the way the military are presented.  They make an effort to get it correctly, right down to details like how the women wear their hair.  I wanted to smack Hawaii Five-0 the other night because they had a woman military officer, and she was outdoors and no cover (hat)!
  4. The women characters are competent in what they do.  It seems like in a lot of shows and movies, the women are there basically to attract the guys, so they’re in skimpy clothes and have roles that just aren’t much of anything.  Here, we have women agents who take down bad guys and arrest them, and of course, women soldiers pop up periodically.  And they act like people doing their job.
  5. Finally, the stories are just plain good, and consistently so.  It doesn’t just feel like another cop show, even though there are certainly some elements.

The one thing I do laugh about is how they use Washington, DC.  I live in the area, so I know that they’re not shooting the show here.  I remember one episode where they described a computer company out in Annandale, and I kept thinking, “Have you guys been to Annandale?”

NCIS is a good show that remains fresh, even after so many years on the air.