Failure of Galactic Proportions: A Writer’s Perspective of Why the Battlestar Gallactica Finale Failed


Maybe this is wasting a blog post, but I just got done watching the series finale of the re-envisioned Battlestar Glactica (no thanks to the Sci Fi channel or WMG) and just have to say something about it. After all, I invested four years of programming time into the show and what I just got was supposedly my big payoff.

Let me start by saying, “I both loved and hated you my dear BSG. We had a true romance, but now it is time for us to move on.” I’ll also say that I had a feeling going into this that there was going to be some serious dues ex machina going on with the finale. Turned out I was right. I suppose it’s fitting what with so much of the Greek pantheon involved in the storyline, the writers might as well of had an ambiguous Greek play ending to the series.

In regards to storytelling, I believe that the hand of God in a story should never be revealed and the last season of BSG has hand God’s dirty little fingers all over it, smudging up its once pristine image. While that phrase can be applied quite literally in the case of this story, what I’m really talking about is the overt manipulation by the writers.

BSG, over the first two seasons, had amazing character development with strong motivation leading to the decisions of all the characters. That’s what drew me to the series, especially with the occupation episodes. But sometime after that the characters started doing things for odd reasons. The point where Chief beat Cali is when the entire thing started to derail.

Next thing you know we’ve got the President’s aid, who had always championed the rights of the people spiraling into some “it’s all about me and my NEW people,” bit. Cali apparently had a convenient affair with Hotdog even though she totally adored Chief. Dee up and commits suicide. Just about everyone started doing things for extremely weak reasoning.

And there enters the hand of God. In this case, it had to do with the confines of the medium. When the series needs to wrap up over the course of a season, you need to make it do that no matter what. What bothers me is the way they went about it. Maybe the writers thought that if they actually put God in the story viewers wouldn’t notice that it was actually the writers as ‘the man behind the curtain.’

I guess they thought that no one actually saw them back there and therefore let their imaginations run amuck like a child telling a story, “and then they got away, but they didn’t notice the bad guy sneak onto the bridge and he reached out and grabbed the girl, but then the good guys said that they could be friends so they did, but then . . . .” and so on and so forth stringing one ridiculous moment into another.

Shall I recount a few? I shall.

Sharon escaping with Hera. That easy, huh?

The Opera House scene. It was actually pointless. They all ended up exactly where Boomer was going to take Hera to in the first place. If the little brat would have just stayed put, she would have got there just fine. Instead she made an unmotivated flee, not once, but twice. But of course I suppose she had to so that they could say that Baltar and Six had something to do with it, when really they didn’t.

Daniel. I don’t know, you tell me because BSG didn’t. He should have been Starbuck’s father buuuuut . . . that would totally frack the Hera as future of the race concept, wouldn’t it?

Starbuck. A gun toting, alcoholic, psychotic angel who apparently was human but then wasn’t and still had psychosis problems even as an “All along the watchtower” hearing angel that led man to an end that wasn’t an end because it was a beginning because all things are cyclic and . . . I’ll just stop. Starbuck’s character always irritated me and always will. Apparently it wasn’t her fault, it was because the writers had no fracking idea what to do with her.

Hera. So, exactly how was she the future of the race? Did all the Cylons die off on Earth 2.0 and only survive through the hybrid blood line? If not, then Hera was not necessary and the ending, other than a means through which to destroy the Cylon colony was pointless glitz.

38,000 people say YES! And they said it to the most trying and divisive questions of the series. Viewers are somehow supposed to accept that every one of them was willing to throw everything away to live as hermits. Riiiiiight. These folks couldn’t agree about what side to butter the toast popping out of their toaster friends heads let alone agree on this. But maybe God spoke to them each individually and convinced them that it should be so. After all, the best way to not repeat history is to forget it. Right? Riiiight.

Religion. Now Annalee Newitz’s review helped to dispel much of my original angst over the religion issue. But one thing still grates, why not do something new? Rather than create something original and then let the viewer make connections between their religions and ours, they stole ours and placed them neatly into the context of the show. This goes to Brandon Sanderson’s point of “Kill the Elves.” Unless you can take the old in redefining new direction, stay away from it and create something new.  

The Pantheon. Something else that I loved about the beginnings of the show seemed to get hijacked by Christianity after the break. Constantine apparently moved into the writers galley and tossed all the old gods out in favor of only ever talking about God. This wouldn’t have upset me so had they not done such a good job of making sure that the pantheon was real filled with spiritual backing. Of course maybe that was just all part of God’s plan.

Everyone speaks English. So we spread out across the globe, all speaking the same language and with the same information some folks took the pantheon with them, others took the one god, and somehow it all got fracked up. Not buying it.

Skinjobs Needs their Spinach. So which is it? They have the strength of a robot or are just as meek as the rest of us? Because at one point they can toss folks around like rag dolls and the next they can’t even open a locked door. The final five (FF) seemed to be just as weak as humans but then Chief can lift up what’sherface into the air and snap her neck like a twig.

I could obviously go on, but this is getting far too long and is really just spiraling into griping. The point here refers to yesterday’s post, “That the end completes the book in the reader’s mind. Beautifully, or disastrously. Also that the beginning sells the book and the end sells the next, which is partially the same thing.” Unfortunately the end of the series left more questions than answers, and the answers given did not. For us writers, we can take this lesson away from the finale: Keep God’s hands out of the story and don’t just motivate your characters, believably motivate them.

 Oh, and if you need to see the last five minutes with sound, (I don't know why that would be) shoot me a note and I'll see if the hand of God can't do something about that for you. ;o) 


What Does Anybody Know About Writing


So I’ve recently taken up trolling the blogosphere: how to, agents, editors, everything and anything that I can find relating to the craft of writing. This is because I just recently learned what that silly little RSS icon is all about and how to use a reader, in my case Google Reader. And I must say what an amazingly convenient way to aggregate information it is. 

In the toolbar to the right you’ll be seeing links to some of these blogs. Google Reader has a sharing widget that allows me to share which individual posts I’ve found particularly useful as a sort of announcement. Also, as I begin to make more and more connections, I’ll link to friends, authors, agents, and editors in my links section. 

Most often, if a blog strikes me as being especially interesting or useful it will appear in the “Blog posts of note by others” category, so please do follow those links and see what all the hubbub is about. Other times, like today, I’ll come across a blog that didn’t really strike me as being particularly noteworthy, but something in it still rang true, and so I’ll make note of it in a blog post. 

Today’s interesting note comes from an interview of romance writer Jo Beverley done over at the Writer Unboxed blog. While most of it seemed to be a plug for Jo, there was a couple of nice bits towards the end. When asked what the stupidest bit of advice that she ever got with regards to writing was, she replied:

JB: That it’s stupid not to pre-plot. That there’s any “best way” to write a novel.

Q: The smartest?

JB: That the end completes the book in the reader’s mind. Beautifully, or disastrously. Also that the beginning sells the book and the end sells the next, which is partially the same thing.

The first point struck me because of what I’ve been talking about on the blog lately and personally agonizing over with my own writing, plotting. It’s tempting to throw everything that I’ve been working on by the wayside and say, “forget it, I don’t need to plot, Jo just said I didn’t.” But then again, this will be my first attempt at making a real go at it, so how can I say it will or will not work? Then again, if you refer to her answer to the first question she answers my doubts. 

I guess my point with this post is that until you’ve tried many different styles, you have no way of knowing which one is the best for you.

It is raining off and on today, and my wife is taking the little one with her to town, I see a brief window of writing opportunity presenting itself. Time to get to it.


The Ubber Weapon


So this is not what was supposed to be up next, (my attempt at backwards plotting) but it came up on a forum and is pretty much ready to go as a post, so here it is. One of the forum members asked a question about “a-typical weapons.” He wanted to know if anyone had ever read about one like his. Along with it being a tonfa that could light up like a lightsaber, it also had the ability to produce a narrow blast, wide angle blast, and temporary defense shield.

I started thinking of his weapon in context of what I’ve learned about writing. I suggested that he be wary of using an a-typical weapon and then making it even more complicated. The guys over at Writing Excuses talked about this when they did a show on fight scenes recently. They spoke to the point that many authors, especially those with martial arts experience, fall into a blow by blow description of their fight scenes. It sounds like this weapon would lend itself to that due to the need for explaining exactly what the weapon is doing at any given time, i.e. is it a blaster, shield, lightsaber, and so on.

Besides that, all the extra things that the weapon can do take away from your character. Jedi's are amazing because their lightsabers can only be used as swords, LASER swords, but swords all the same. When they deflect blaster shots it comes via the prowess of the character, not how amazing his weapon is.

I'd also caution against esoteric information. I for one tend to gloss over detailed explanations of things, especially weapons, when I read. I think it's why many authors keep things simple for the reader, Jedi's basically use swords, and that's easy enough to understand. Drizzt, while he used an odd weapon for his culture, used scimitars, something easily understood by the reader. Don't let interesting weapons compete with how interesting your character is.

But this is just one writer/reader interpretation. Maybe I’m wrong. What do you think about the a-typical 007 style weapon and its place in storytelling? Am I on to something with this analysis or just ruining a good time? 

The Dreaded Outline turned Toolbox


Those few passersby might have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. It’s because of not having adequate time and because of guilt. The time excuse I’m sure anyone with a child can understand. The guilt issue might require a little explanation.

Even this lovely writing scene was interrupted by an emergency,
"Aiden's learning to crawl," episode.


You see, I’ve been stuck with my writing. For the past month I was trying to get my rewrite of “Covers Can't Hide You” done so that I could submit it to my Crit group. If I don’t get a lot of writing done, I don’t feel like I should be posting much on the blog. I feel sort of like a hypocrite sitting here telling others, “write write write,” while I’m trudging through my own work. Which brings us to the point of this post.

This image pilfered from

Having been gone from my novel for so long I find myself needing to reenter it. What was flowing nicely before has suddenly grown murky and stagnant. So what do I do? Normally I would reread what I’d already written, all 20,000 words of it in this case, and dive back in. However, that’s dangerous for a few reasons. First, there’s the constraint of time. Second, I run the risk of going crazy with revisions as I am reading, (because I have done this in the past with other projects). And third, I have to try and keep track of all of that information in my head. As the story progresses, the amount of information that I am trying to keep track of is getting overwhelming.


That led me to a decision to try something new. First, I decided to start from the end. In the Writing Excuses podcast they spoke to this point once upon a time. Brandon has always started his books with an ending in mind and then written to it. Dan, who used to have very weak story endings, just winged it. He has now gone to Brandon’s way of thinking and finds that it produces a much better end product. So I figured, what the hay, I’ll try it too.


But in trying to get the ending down I found that I needed to poor over everything that I know about the two worlds and all the characters inhabiting them. This led be back around to one of my original problems, keeping track of it all. So, I decided to try another first for me, outlining.


So the first thing I did was trolled the net trying to find what an outline actually looks like. Is it that Roman numeral thing we learn in school, is it something more organic, are their specific things that definitely should be in it? Well, those answers are not all that easy to find. I found several websites dealing with the issue and each of them in their own way and none of them gave a visual example (I’m a visual learner).


As fate would have it, Dave Farland sent out a kick in the pants dealing with this very issue while I was … dealing with this very issue … only he didn’t say how they should look either, just talked about the general idea of not wanting to do one and how you should. “But I do want to do one, I just need to know how,” I wrote back. He sent out a follow up the next day responding to an email that he got … about getting stuck writing from the outline. Seemed I just couldn’t win.


That’s when I set my mind, late last night at about 1:45 in the morning, to coming up with my own outline guide. I decided to use the tools in Word 2007 to develop a roman numeral styled outline that would cover everything that I’ve been hearing and reading about. It has sections for the worlds, governments, magic systems, characters, try fail cycles, acts I, II, and III, story worthy problems, just about everything that I can think of is going into the outline. Will I use it all? Probably not. Will I fill it all out? No. But it will all be there if and when I need it.

As I was going through my books, I came across an anecdote by Stephen King where he talks about bringing a toolbox filled with tools to do a simple job that required a screwdriver.

“Yeah, but Stevie,” he said, bending to grasp the handles, “I didn’t know what else I might find to do once I got out here, did I? It’s best to have your tools with you. If you don’t, you’re apt to find something you didn’t expect and get discouraged.”

Having worked in construction, I can completely understand this example. I can’t list the number of times that I’ve started working on something only to wind up finding that I needed a tool that I left behind. That inspired me to call this, not an outline, but a TOOLBOX. In it, we put everything we think we might need, and even some stuff that we think we won’t need. It has the shop drawings that show us how the project should be completed and all the tools we’ll need when we find that the ideal world that the engineer who came up with the shop drawing lives in doesn’t match what we find out in the field.


I’m not sure how to post it as a downloadable link, so until I take the time away from writing to do that, send me an email at and I’ll send you out a copy of it. What I love about the Word 2007 formatting is that the outline is expandable and contractible, so you can close down certain strings of information much like a folder tree. That way, when you’re not worried about the intricacies of your government, you don’t have to let it clutter up your screen.

The first 21 pages of my outline for Diviner. Now I
can see how people get to 100 pages plus for these things.

A word of warning though, don’t let this lead to WBD (World Builders Disease). Don’t get lost in the outline and never come back out of it to write.


Now then, I’m going to head over to the outline and work on it some more. Maybe pull out some of my many books on writing and see what else I can add to it.


If any of this is helpful, please leave me a little note. As Philip Difranco used to say at the end of his videos, “Comment, Rate, Appreciate.” Or something like that. And be sure to tell others. 

Next up: Brainstorming in reverse.