Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Party

Trick
None for me, thank you.
I'd rather just have the treat.
*door slams* That's not fair.

Treat
sugary goodness
in otherwise scary forms
ya gotta love it

A relevant flashback involving a pumpkin.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Prestige

What is the secret?
But you're not really looking.
You don't want to know.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Damn that Extra Syllable

inconvenient
that many sentences have
even syllables

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stiletto

a shoe and a blade
fashionable and deadly
isn't that clever

Saturday, October 18, 2008

When the Muses Don't Smile

Myth: Writer’s Block is a mysterious ailment which may descend upon you randomly and then refuse to go away. Reality: Writer’s Block is a temporary lack of motivation to write which can be caused by a number of reasons.

Common symptoms: lack of focus; inability to form sentences; feeling overwhelmed, dissatisfied, or uninspired; gradual increase in frustration and questioning of writing skills.

Possible causes: emotional stress, physical exhaustion, or, what’s more likely – a combination of both.

Two types: general and specific. When it’s general, you can’t seem to write about anything. When it’s specific, you’ve encountered a problem with a certain project you’re working on and can’t find a way to solve it.

First of all, let’s deal with the basic physical level: Do you have a comfortable space to work in? Somewhere you can think clearly without being interrupted for a reasonable period of time?

Good.

Question #1: Are you too tired to write?
Answer: If you feel too tired, then you may just need to get some rest. Oh I know – if I don’t force myself now, I’ll never write again… Maybe, but I doubt it. Sometimes I feel guilty when I have a free day and I don’t do any writing because I think, “I could have written so much today! I can’t believe I wasted all this time!” There are weeks when you can be busy from morning until night and still find that half-hour or hour to get in some writing, so there’s no need to feel like absolutely every free hour has to be devoted to writing. It can do you a world of good to rest.

Question #2: Are you avoiding writing because you think you’re not talented enough?
Answer: All writers have to develop their skills. No work magically materializes in perfect form. We all dream of knocking out a novel in six weeks and seeing it published a month later because it’s so unbelievably fabulous that everyone recognizes its greatness after the first sentence. That won’t ever happen, so there’s no need to find fault with yourself for failing to achieve that kind of goal. The important thing is to keep improving your skills – and the only way to do that is to keep practicing.

Question #3: Are you stuck with a specific project?
Answer: First, get some distance. Put the manuscript away for a week or two, a month even. Forget it. When you come back, you’ll have to refresh your memory a little by rereading it and chances are that will get the creative juices going again. Sometimes we concentrate so hard on a problem that we can’t see it anymore, and then we stop seeing the details that make up the problem. Stepping back a little can clear your vision.

Didn’t work? Still stuck? Try composing a synopsis for what you have written. Summarizing the narrative or basic ideas behind it can help you rethink the problem. Or, you could compare your summary with your original outline (if you have one). What’s missing? That is, what scenes or events do you need in order to complete the project? Breaking it down to specific scenes may help you find the solution.

Didn’t work either? Still stuck? Time to bring in some outside help.

This is very important: get someone you trust. Not just someone you can trust to give you an honest opinion, but someone whose mode of expression won’t cause you to give up writing. Writer’s Block can make you hypersensitive to criticism – and that will just take you back to question #2. Also, it isn’t necessary for you to give someone an actual manuscript. Simply talking it out can be as helpful – maybe even more so, since you don’t have to wait for someone to do the reading. Trying to explain the essential ideas behind the project and why you feel stuck, as well as answering the person’s questions will help you understand your writing better, thus getting you out of your creative slump.

Question #4: Do you have an idea ready, but you can’t seem to get any words written?
Answer: If you use a computer to write, the ability to edit the text as you type may be holding you back. It can depress the word flow simply by having the option to keep erasing words that don’t seem right. Try writing with a pen and paper, even if you’re not used to doing it and even if you don’t like having to type everything up later. Since you won’t be able to erase the ink easily, you may be able to get yourself writing without fixating on every single word. Later, when you type it up, you can do some editing – the point is to get the ideas out, to actually see them in front of you and not only have them swimming around in your head.

The most important thing to remember about Writer’s Block, no matter how bad it is – and I have this as one of my chief writing guidelines – Writer’s Block is not arbitrary. The muses are not angry with you. You are not being punished. There’s a reason you’re stuck. Once you’ve figured it out, you’ll also figure out the solution. Then bye-bye Block.

Next time on Technical Saturday... Writing Exercises, flexing your creative muscles.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Japanese

right after Spanish
it's the next thing on my list
(may take awhile...)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Typewriter

yu loo k & sound c00l
But youre quite inpracticle
typos cant' be fiXed

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dune

no water in sight?
okay, but here's the bad news:
no humor either

Monday, October 6, 2008

Spontaneity

I didn't plan this
ha ha! watch me improvise:
tra la la la la!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

You’re supposed to offset my character, damnit.

For my last post in this characterization series, I’m going to talk a little about foils. An important part of developing characterization is in comparing your characters to each other and seeing how they play off each other’s qualities. Taking Pride and Prejudice as an example (what, like you didn’t know I’d do that?):

Jane Bennet exhibits the classic definition of ladylike behavior – soft-spoken, mild-mannered, keeps her opinions and emotions invisible from the public eye. Elizabeth Bennet, though she’s still ladylike, is vivacious and doesn’t keep her opinions and feelings under such careful check. However, she’s a far cry from her mother and youngest sister Lydia, who are always being tactless and vulgar. Later in the novel, Lady Catherine serves as a foil for Elizabeth’s good breeding when she behaves condescendingly to her guests. Elizabeth is the true lady, while Catherine merely holds the title.

These subtle and not-so-subtle differences in behavior engage issues of propriety and breeding throughout the novel without Jane Austen having to butt in all the time with comments like, “See, this is what you shouldn’t do and that is what you should.” Otherwise it would read like an etiquette pamphlet. Casablanca also makes good use of foils for characterization:

On the scale of virtue and vice, Victor, resistance leader and bona fide hero, ranks highest in virtue, while Nazi Maj. Strasser is evil villain par excellence. That’s a given. But in between them you have Rick and Capt. Renault – Rick more toward the virtue and Renault more toward the vice, the difference being determined by Renault using his position of power to get vulnerable women to sleep with him. Rick isn’t the type of guy to do that kind of thing, so even though he “sticks his neck out for nobody,” he’s not in the same category with Renault.

Also note that between the four of them, Victor, Renault, and Strasser have polished manners whereas Rick is the common man with an edge, distinctly American. Victor’s overt heroism is a foil to Rick’s latent heroism. Victor’s the kind of guy who gets people to sing the French national anthem to stick it to the Nazi soldiers, while Rick sticks it to them by having as little to do with them as possible – until you really push him, that is. Even when Rick becomes overtly heroic by shooting Strasser, you’re not sure that Victor would have done the same thing. By the end, the distinctly American Rick has jumped into the fray and “rearranges” the Europeans by saving Victor, bringing Renault over to the good guys, and killing Strasser.

Good use of foils is especially helpful in a fast-paced, plot-driven movie like Casablanca. You get the differences between the characters without having to stop to think about it. No one has to actually say, “Rick isn’t the kind of guy who uses his connections to get women.” Very often we rely on explaining things by narration or characters’ direct remarks, but setting up a scene to demonstrate difference in attitude or reaction can also work very nicely. (I know you might as well say “show, don’t tell” but personally I think “telling” isn’t necessarily something to be gotten rid of. It all depends on how you do it. But that’s another subject.)

You should try to isolate specific qualities in each character and highlight the differences. Jane and Elizabeth manage to be ladylike but not identical. Let’s say Darcy had proposed to an Elizabeth with Jane’s more reserved manners: she probably would have refused him politely and not let him have it about her sister or Wickham. (Now I think I should stop before this post turns into science-fiction...) The point is characters don’t have to relate to each other in a purely functional way, as in “protagonist = good” and “antagonist = evil.” If “good ≠ evil,” then “protagonist ≠ antagonist.”

Next time on Technical Saturday... Writer’s Block, why you may have it and how you can get over it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Charade

oh Adam Alex
Peter Brian I love you
you devious man