Hi all.

Once again, thanks for coming over to see your buddy Hank’s review for this week’s Sunday Spotlight. (I wonder if Brad even reads this, lol.)

I’m sure Roy mentioned it, but today we’re taking a look at pages 16 to 55 of The Playground.

Well, let’s get started. It’s Sunday and I’m sure some of you got chores or “honey do” lists to get to.

1. Is there, non-linear, rising action?

Okay, this question confuses me. (To be fair Roy revised the questions a bit from the first ones he sent me and I didn’t get a copy of the new ones.)

Either Roy typed it up in his zombie stupor (he works long hours on the weekends) or I’m not grasping the way I’m supposed to interpret “non-linear.”

I’ll go with my gut though, and assume he meant linear action, as nonlinear movies tend to not work out so hot, and I don’t think we should be promoting it.

Anyway, the action definitely escalates.

At the end of the last review, we had just found out Aven caused the death of his brother-in-law, and he still beats himself up over it.

We pick up there and he and Clara grow closer, share a quick kiss, and then BAM, inciting incident, she’s sucked into a magical book.

(It works, but I still argue we need to get there sooner).

Aven gets knocked into the Playground after her, and now we’re over the rainbow.

This is the part I really enjoy, and Brad added a cool part.

Aven wakes up in a ball pit in the forest. He then gets chased through the forest by kids up in the trees blowing kazoos. (Although his “catch me if you can” is too playful.)

What he does a good job with is taking things that feel familiar, like being chased by savages through the jungle, but puts them in terms of kids.

Anyway, we’re taken to the Lighthouse, which is one of several illuminating the land of Playground, and we get to meet the king.

The King tells Aven he’s got to stop Sir if he wants to save Clara. There’s our goal.

Lighthouse gets attacked, Aven saves the crystal, and back to Sunny the Sunflower.

A). Is there a midpoint? (5 points) Does the sum of the positive and negative events make sense given the “type” (up or down) of midpoint the script employs? (5 points)

Not sure what Roy’s going to say, but the midpoint for me wasn’t clearly defined.

Halfway through we’re left with Aven answering Sunny’s riddles and heading for Cloud Town.

I’d argue the true midpoint is maybe where Aven takes the crystal, thus saving the lighthouse which is pretty heroic for him, but again, it seems more like a slip up than a defining moment in our story.

I’d call that an “up midpoint” if we are agreeing that is the midpoint, and it does contrast to the downs that Aven is showing throughout the rest.

Still I think we’re behind in the story here and the midpoint should actually come in Cloud Town, where Aven saves the kids as the town’s being attacked.

2 out of 5 points.

B.) Regardless of the type of midpoint, do the positive events reflect the inner strength and “heroic” qualities of the protagonist? (10 points)

I’d argue there really were no positive events.

Aven doesn’t seem to care about saving the kids, and hell he didn’t even want to really jump in after Clara. (He was pushed by our lil bug, E.)

Aside from saving the crystal, Aven is a regular old stick in the mud.

5 out of 10 points.

C.) Does the lack of success in the negative events illustrate the flaw of the protagonist? (10 points)

This one is a yes. Aven is resistant to everything.

Plus even when running away from children, he gets pwned by them.

He can’t even admit that he likes Clara more than a friend. That’s great for this point in the story.

Flaw effectively illustrated.

10 out of 10 points.

2. Are we invested in the protagonist—looking at him/her as a possible version of our self?

A.) Does the protagonist exhibit “good and bad” behavior? (10 points)

This question seems just like the one above.

But yes we are invested in Aven. I want him to save Clara at least. (Not sure if Roy does, he’s rather mean spirited sometimes, lol.)

Because I’m invested:

10 out of 10 points.

B.) Is there any subtext in the dialogue which hints at self-awareness developing in the protagonist? (10 points)

Yes, or at least I think so, but we all know how I am with subtext.

There’s a bit in Aven’s apartment, right before he’s taken, that he’s arguing that Clara is like his sister, always hopeful. It’s almost like he’s arguing with himself however. She’s just the proof staring him in the face that he needs to change.

I also think his continued reference to Clara as a “friend” is subtext for more.

10 out of 10 points.

3. Does the story aim at a target?

As I read through this time around, it’s a kids movie. That’s why I like the initial scenes of Aven getting to The Playground, because kids will laugh at how other children are making fun of this adult and constantly beating him.

A.) Are the protagonist’s eyes on the prize? We should be convinced, by page 55, that it is essential to the core being of the protagonist that s/he get to the end of the story. (10 points)

Other than NOT jumping through the door, we know Aven wants to save Clara. He might not want save the Playground, but he wants to get his girlfriend back to get to second base.

10 out of 10 points.

B.) Is there only one goal in sight? (no narrative distraction) (10 points)

Two technically, but they more or less work hand in hand. I’m assuming since Clara is now the Storyteller (that whole point still seems a bit unclear as to what power the Storyteller has), that once Aven saves her the Playground will also be saved.

10 out of 10 points.

4. Do we doubt that the protagonist has the ability to hit the target?

Yes, because he still questions whether he has what it takes, or even wants to.

A.) Is the character’s weakness, or flaw, exactly the kind of weakness or flaw that will make the task at hand impossible to finish? (10 points)

Yes. Again, Aven doesn’t believe in himself. He thinks of himself as a boring grownup, which is exactly what Sir changes the children into, and he doesn’t see a real problem with that. Kids grow up. That’s life.

10 out of 10 points.

B.) Is the writer able to create the idea that the protagonist will not hit the target? (10 points)

I don’t know. I’d say yes given the above question, but Aven hits a home run on those questions from Sunny too fast, that means he should have a bit more of a struggle. Plus now that I think of it, he more or less just takes the crystal.

7 out of 10 points.

5. Do we care whether the character succeeds? (10 points.)

Yes, because we like the world created, and don’t want to see it destroyed by Sir.

10 out of 10 points.

Conclusion

Overall it’s good, but I think there’s still some major problems with it. Love how Aven runs from the kids being chased by kazoo blowing, and I even like the snack/nap time, but those last two need to be cut.

Thinking in terms of “keeping things economical” (I was reminded of this yesterday on someone’s Reddit post), you can easily cut out those two scenes and still not lose the plot of the story. This should be done as we’re already running behind.

Another major problem I had, and maybe you caught it, was Aven not jumping through the door after Clara.

He should be confused, and question whether it’s a good idea, but ultimately he’s got to do it himself as that’ll be a big reason we’ll be rooting for him.

Lastly, two things I HATE.

Sir. That’s lame, and it confused me at first. (I remembered you mentioning the change, but initially I read it as, “Sir? Sir WHO?!”)

Reading the Stand currently, and the reference to the Dark man, I don’t think the Tall Man was bad.

The other point I didn’t like was the Lighthouse being attacked.

This should be one of the last points of resistance to the Tall Man, the last beacon of hope, if you will. Stragglers should be streaming in from all over, telling tales of how he turns kids into adults and takes away the Playground.

This even gives you an excuse to use the snack time scene, as these kid refugees would most likely need to eat.

Lastly, and I still believe you’re planning on doing it, is we’ll see a similar attack on Cloud City…er Cloud Town. Maybe a refugee mentions that’ll be the next town to go, so the King orders Aven and crew to go. We don’t need to see this scene twice PLUS I think where it is now is too soon.

THEN your midpoint can be in Cloud Town, having Aven willingly save what kids he can, and finally accept his quest. That’s more defining.

Fixing the first 15

I had a thought as I was reading this portion on how to fix the first 15.

As the tie between Aven’s boss and Sir doesn’t really need to be in the story, the first dinner scene should just have Clara there.

You can still cut to for the early scene in grandpa’s house, and with a few lines of exposition, set up that Aven likes Clara, but that this is their first real date.

We’ll get he feels bad about Henry (and “you’ve never told her” makes more sense inferring Clara and Aven have been friends for some time), and we’ll even get a bit of the “I’m not fun” at his apartment, BUT, and more importantly, we’ll get to The Playground faster.

Total 84 out of 100 points.

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