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The Power of the Dark Side: Creating Great Villains, Dangerous Situations, & Dramatic Conflict Paperback – May 1, 2008
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About the Author
Pamela Jaye Smith is an international speaker, consultant, writer, award-winning producer-director, and founder of MYTHWORKS.
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By the time I got to page 37, I discovered ... there is no "there" there. Or at least, not for me. Further delving into the book did not improve things.
I honestly have no idea what Pamela Jaye Smith is getting at in this book. It is a catalog of very brief observations of the most superficial nature on a bewilderingly wide array of topics from comparing American foreign policy in Bosnia versus Darfur in one section to discussing arcane aspects of Eastern medicine in another. I would concede that it is a fairly thorough collection (in breadth) of just about anything conceivably touching on the idea of "bad" or "evil" in the world, but it's like opening a Sears catalog without knowing what one wants to buy, and with only the briefest descriptions of the merchandise.
It could be that someone who read all of the entries and mentally digested them might somehow be inspired to pick one particular kind of approach to use -- but what an incredible amount of work to get to that point. And once a specific approach was picked, that person would discover that the book offered only fairly shallow and self-evident suggestions on what to do with that approach.
I prefer books that offer a practical approach that doesn't require learning how to build a complete watch from scratch when I just want to tell the time. For a working writer who is looking for help in making their creative process move ahead more smoothly, this book is not a good candidate, because whatever value there may be in it is just too hard to extract.
1) The author relies heavily on strings of movie names in support of her points, then fails to explain how those movies demonstrate the point in question. The examples provided are useless unless you have seen the movies in question.
2) The book continually references "chakra" terminology (described as "inner drive / center of motivation"), but nowhere does the author offer an overview of the chakra system for the uninitiated.
3) The book meanders off topic. As often as not, the author is discusses how "good guys" display and/or respond to the "dark side" traits, rather than focusing on how to develop really strong villains that will drive a story forward.
4) Finally, one does wish her writing would be less sloppy. Sentence fragments, misplaced modifiers and other symptoms of lazy writing pepper the entire manuscript, and add to the overall impression that the work was not well planned or edited.
1. p.43 H.G.Wells wrote "The Time Machine" not Jules Verne.
2. p.82 Marlon Brando in "The Wild One" (1953) answered the question "What are you rebelling against?" with "Whaddya got?", not James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause".
3. p.85 "those stinking badges" comes from "Blazing Saddles", not "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" - got the wrong film and couldn't get its title right either.
4. p.126 The Saint Crispian's Day speech is given in "Henry V" at Agincourt, not Avignon, (it's Shakespeare, for god's sake, read the damn play!)
Combined with the other problems of this book, page 126 was about as far as I was able to stomach. I recognised the aforementioned errors immediately, but at least took the few seconds of Googling required to confirm my knowledge. Which is way more than Ms.Smith bothered to do.
Although these may seem paltry and petty examples, when they are combined with a general trend of overt political correctness, with the need to subscribe the female pronoun to most things good and the male pronoun to most things bad (in a book about the bad side of things, this gets to be a bit of a drag), with the generally sloppy writing and inexplicable "Inner Drives" sections, and with the tendency to choose film examples without full explanation of their impact, then this book becomes a less than valuable stocking-stuffer when you can't think of anything else to get a budding writer for Christmas.
And then to top it all off, there is this pseudo-mystical mumbo-jumbo that is meant to make us believe that there is deeply spiritual content to what we are reading.
This book comes through as a shopping list for rather prosaic ideas, something to pull out when you have a block, but is almost useless as an authoritative examination of the Dark Side. Most of the examples are assinine - I mean, please - how many times can you use Vin Diesel in "The Chronicles of Riddick" to illustrate a point? There are so many more profound and more thoughtful examinations of evil and human darkness, that were filmed before the 1990s. Maybe Ms. Smith should sit down for a weekend and watch a few black-and-white DVDs. If she drops me an email, I'll give a few examples.
Leave off buying this book for a while and either borrow it from a library, or look for it in the bargain bins at your local bookstore next to the celebrity cook books and sports stars biographies. It has about as much substance.