Thursday, December 27, 2012
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Well, for months, a big secret has been kept, regarding one of the characters. The audience has been aware of the secret, but many of the characters had not been. This tension, regarding the secret, has been building and building. And finally, when The Big Reveal came today? We (the audience) didn't even get to SEE it. That's right. We weren't shown that scene at all. It was entirely skipped over. Instead, all we saw was the aftermath of the revelation. Characters discussing the secret with each other after the fact.
The audience was completely deprived of that moment when the two main characters found out the secret. We didn't get to witness their expressions, their shock, their dialogue, none of it.
How frustrating! How anticlimactic! I do think the writers had a purpose -- to be creative, to think outside the box, to move away from the predictable. But in doing so, they deprived the audience of the pay-off. Of MONTHS waiting to see.....this scene. And we didn't get to see it.
As writers, I think it's great to be creative, to handle things in a new way. But sometimes, the basics are necessary. Sometimes, the expected is exactly what the audience wants. What they've been waiting and waiting for. And if it doesn't meet their expectations (or worse, it's not shown to them at all!), they will be disappointed.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
My church holds this huge Christmas extravaganza each year, and it's always amazing. Well, this year, they opted for something a little....different. At the end of the concert, the house lights went down, and a single spotlight shone on a HUGE white canvas. A guy showed up -- disheveled, wearing a paint-stained shirt -- and started to paint. As he did, the choir sang. And for the next 4 minutes, we watched him complete his masterpiece. I'll never forget it as long as I live.
We all stood to our feet when he had finished. Yes, because his incredible talents deserved applause. But also because, in those 4 minutes, he'd reminded us of exactly why we were there to worship, to sing, to celebrate. It was Jesus.
I found his video online.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
I especially liked this part -- how clever!
9) List all of the events in your book backwards, with "because" in between them. This is also a great revision technique. "The hero won BECAUSE she had the golden apple BECAUSE she spared a witch who gave it to her BECAUSE the hero felt sorry for the evil witch BECAUSE she herself had done some bad things BECAUSE she was misled into thinking a hero needs to be ruthless BECAUSE she was young and determined to prove herself." And so on. Do those "becauses" actually make any sense, when you run it like that? Do you care about that chain of cause and effect, as a basic skeleton? If any of those BECAUSE statements are like "because I, as the author, said so," can you fix that without the whole thing collapsing?
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Case in point:
I'm a sucker for these cheesy Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas movies each year. I get out my hot chocolate and a cozy blanket, my Corgi at my feet, and hit the "PLAY" button. Each time, I know I'll be disappointed in the quality of writing, but I don't care. I like the Christmasy decorations, the predictable romance, the sweet storylines. Even if they are cheesy.
Well, today, I watched one and was able - even more than usual - to spot the writing flaws. The story had way too many subplots. In fact, by the end of the movie, I really wasn't certain what the main plot had even been. Was it the rebel teacher sparking creativity in his wayward students? Or was it his coming to grips with a painful past? Or -- was it the new potential love interest coming his way? OR -- was it the troubled student just looking for attention? Or was it the "wishing tree," (which brought the film its title, and was showcased at the beginning and end, like bookends, but served pretty much no purpose in the scheme of things).
I think the main problem was focus. It didn't have one. There wasn't a clear through-line, one main idea for the viewer to hang onto. Instead, it was like a mash-up. A mixed-up patchwork of stories that didn't work well together. And I think all it would've taken was some tweaking. Keep most of the subplots, but pick one and emphasize it as the main plot.
Studying writing -- even poor or flawed writing -- is so key for a writer. Because the better able we are to identify flaws in someone else's work, the better chances we have at recognizing those flaws in our own.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
There should be art, should be beauty, in every single day.
Friday, October 26, 2012
There are so many choices. Do we open with dialogue? With description? With action or danger or mystery? The decisions can feel overwhelming. That's why I usually experiment with my openings. Rarely do I keep the first opening I write, from the original rough draft. Instead, I like to play with it, test out other possibilities, try other avenues, until the right one "fits."
Just for fun, I thought I'd share the first couple of sentences of one of my novels. I've edited this novel MANY times, so the first chapter has gone through several changes. I've probably changed/tweaked/edited this opening at least five times. And this was the final result....
(Feel free to share your own first sentences in the comments!)
She knew it was a paradox, loving something so beautiful and so dangerous. Especially something that had tried to swallow her up ten years before.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
I have no doubt that book had a huge influence over my own desire (and fulfillment of that desire), to be a writer someday.
Anyway, here's the quote:
“There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.” ― L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl
Saturday, October 20, 2012
I had no idea when I started this blog that I'd have anything much to say. But I've found that it's not hard to record bits of inspiration along the way, or to share quotes by brilliant authors that inspire me.
Thanks to any readers out there who've stayed with me for this journey!
She talked a lot about the creative process, her new book, Harry Potter, etc. This quote caught my ear more than anything, though.
When he asked about why she writes, Rowling said: "I think the urge to write comes from a desire to re-adjust reality....our own reality."
I think she's spot on.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
For instance, I feel an intense level of personal/creative satisfaction when I write. I'm creating something, involved in the nuts-and-bolts process, from the ground up. I feel comfortable writing, always have. But -- I cannot dance. And I cannot draw (well, maybe a passable stick figure).
However, I thoroughly enjoying watching other people create their art. Watching someone like this be incredibly good at what they do moves me on an emotional level. Or, watching my grandmother paint, noticing the intensity in her eyes, the knowing movement of her brushstrokes.
I may not be the one creating the art, but I'm still watching it, appreciating it. Participating in it.
I guess I'm just grateful that, even if I'm not talented enough to create certain forms of "art," I can still enjoy it on a very satisfying level. And be part of it, just by appreciating it.
But I wanted to pop by and post something totally non-writing related. It's just too cute not to share. And it made me smile (mostly because I have a Corgi, and I know how true this is):
40 Things That Make Corgis Happy
Friday, September 28, 2012
Well, tonight, while watching "On Story" (a PBS program in which various filmmakers/screenwriters discuss the art and craft of writing and filmmaking), I was TAUGHT. I listened to screenwriter Shane Black give some fascinating gems about the process, and I learned things I thought I knew, but in a totally new way. Very inspiring. Wanted to share...
Link to video here
Bio of Shane Black: Thriller master writer/director Shane Black (KISS KISS BANG BANG, LETHAL WEAPON) discusses the critical elements of a taut, suspense-filled movie – raising stakes, unexpected reversals, and satisfying payoffs – using examples from such classics as ROCKY, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, and LA FEMME NIKITA. Followed by the apocalyptic short film Blind Spot by writer/director Matthew Nayman.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Tavis asked Mr. Irons about why he chooses characters who have secrets. And Mr. Irons says that, just as in real life while getting to know people, he enjoys the "process of discovery" of a character. He believes audiences should get to know a character little by little, not all at once. Characters should have secrets, he says.
Then he told about being fascinated with advent calendars as a child. Of the excitement of only being "allowed" to open one window per day, while the rest must remain closed. And he compared that excitement to acting, to developing a character. How characters need to have secrets that they only reveal a little at a time.
It reminded me of a Stephen King quote, that characters "shouldn't give up their secrets all at once."
Saturday, September 1, 2012
But, isn't that a picture of real life, anyway? The struggle to squeeze our writing, our hobbies, into our busy daily lives? To try and work inside the small spaces that each day offers, in between family, jobs, real life?
Once things settle down a wee bit, I hope to return to it. To writing. To that which makes me happy. :-)
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Her timing always seems to be a bit "off." I've talked to other writers about this phenomenon too, how the creative process seems to hit at inopportune times -- in the middle of work, in the middle of a meeting, in the middle of driving, etc. Rarely does my Muse decide to visit when I'm begging her to-- when I've got all the time in the world (like a precious summer!) and I'm itching to write. Sure, I always have bits and bobs of ideas floating around. But I didn't have the flood of creativity this summer I was hoping for.
Technically, I'm at the end of my summer. In fact, I have one week left before the first big faculty meeting. Before the whirlwind of students and planning and papers and duties and obligations.
And so, naturally, what happens today of all days?? The Muse decides to hit. Ideas are flowing, wheels are churning. Yes, I'm grateful. But I'm also frustrated. Because I've been struggling with a new novel for several weeks now, but nothing's really gelled. Sure, I've had some good brainstorming sessions. And I have worked. But it's been mostly hit-and-miss....until today. Ugh. I finally, FINALLY feel "in the groove" with this story. I can see the characters more vividly, and I know what I want them to do.
But now? Time is running out. It's not that I can't or don't write during school semesters. But it's harder to do that. It takes more commitment, more energy, to squeeze in those creative moments between essay-grading and faculty meetings.
Oh, well. Guess I should be grateful the Muse showed up at all. But man, she has a wicked sense of irony. ;-)
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren’t. I’m not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people’s lives, never your own. ~Julian Barnes
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Confession: I've never read the books. I know I should, and I might someday, but I really enjoy the movies. And, I feel that movies are a form of writing. Someone had to write that screenplay. And in this case, from what I understand, the screenplay was quite true to the books.
But what I wanted to highlight in this particular post are the ideas of LOTR, the nuts-and-bolts. The themes, the elements, the symbolism. They're so rich and meaningful. (I won't get too detailed, for those who haven't read the books or watched the movies).
First, the epic nature of the trilogy: I love the immense scope of it -- all the different terrains and settings (forests, mountains, caves, swamps), the characters/races (dwarves, elves, kings, trolls, orcs, wizards, hobbits), the individual storylines (dozens of them!) that actually all meld together in the end. It's a BIG, sweeping movie, and it feels....epic. In fact, you feel rather exhausted after finishing it. But in the best possible way. You've escaped into another world, an epic world, and immersed yourself in it.
Then, there are the themes. Friendship, loyalty, jealousy, sin, forgiveness, family relationships, war, honor, love (<----friendship, romantic, familial), sacrifice, good vs. evil. Those are just a few I rattled off in seconds. I'm sure there are many more. Again, epic.
And the symbolism -- though there are many symbols, the ring is, of course, the primary one. A tiny piece of metal. It looks so harmless. Beautiful, even. But it symbolizes all that's evil and wrong with this world, and with humans. When the bearer of the ring is affected by it, such a clever picture is painted, of what sin does, and how human nature is drawn to it. I especially loved (and cringed over) the "evolution" of Gollum/Smeagol that begins the third movie.
Even though this is a "big" movie/trilogy, probably the most meaningful moments are the small moments within the epic. The nuances of friendships, decisions made that seem insignificant at the time, but produce enormous outcomes with consequences.
Bravo, Tolkien. And bravo Peter Jackson, and his entire team. Both works - the books and the movies - are masterpieces. Epic masterpieces.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
If we look to the right of the cartoon, we see what the men were digging for: diamonds. But more shocking than that, we see how close they were. A mere inches away. The man still digging WILL find those diamonds in a few more minutes. But the one who gave up? He never, ever will.
There's a quote that goes with this: "If you give up too soon, you'll never know how close you were." ~Unknown
That image and quote are so powerful. And they perfectly embody how I feel about following your dreams. To the end. Even if they're years in the chasing, dreams are worth the pursuing. Because the "what if" question is just too hard to bear. What if your dreams are right around the corner? And what if you gave up on them moments too soon?
Friday, June 29, 2012
I found a great blog post today by Kristin Lamb, and I agree with 100% of it. It's a must-read for new authors, as well as a good reminder for those of us who've been around the block awhile. Link here
And here's a link to an earlier post of mine, talking about this Readers-Aren't-Stupid issue. I think it's crucial that writers find the balance between offering information readers must have, but not hitting them over the head (treating them like they're stupid) with information they don't need. It's tricky, but if we become aware of the pitfalls, we can avoid them.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
I always feel an extra sense of loss when a favorite author passes because her writing "voice" is forever silenced.
I remember watching my favorite Nora Ephron film, When Harry Met Sally, as an 18-year-old in the theater. It was influential to me, the idea that these affable characters could be so witty, could have such important, smart dialogue coming out of their mouths. It all seemed so natural, so effortless. That movie changed the face of romantic comedies, in my opinion. It showed that characters could talk about real things (fears, break-ups, sex), and it showed that a genuine friendship between a man and woman could lead to a solid relationship. Combine that with Rob Reiner's direction and Harry Connick Jr's Sinatra-esque soundtrack, and you've got a sure-fire winner. A classic.
So, here's to Nora Ephron. Thanks for your influence, and for giving your characters such heart and wit. And most of all, for your influence on me as a writer.
**edited to add: in a beautifully-ironic twist, her final work (written just last year) is a collection of witty and poignant anecdotes about life, aging, etc: link here
Monday, June 18, 2012
So, I decided to put the brainstorming on pause and do other things. Then, I came back to it and decided to shake things up. The core content needs to remain the same (the main character is having a fight with his father, crucial to the storyline). But instead of having this done privately, with another main character overhearing, I'll stage the fight publicly -- in the pub, in front of the other villagers. That way, the tension is ramped up, and embarrassment (on both sides) also becomes a factor. Loyalties will have to be chosen, sides taken.
I always find that if I'm bored by a scene, the best way to improve it is to shake things up. Change the atmosphere (time of day, location), change the situation (characters involved), etc. It seems to add a freshness that was lacking before.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
"Comparison is the thief of joy." ~Unknown
I had to remind myself of this today, when I read that one of my favorite authors only queried ONE agent before getting signed. That was 12 years ago, and she's written/published at least that many books since then. Sure, I was hoping to hear some inspirational story, of her being in the Query Trenches for years, getting discouraged, then finally receiving a well-deserved "Yes!" A story of triumph where she almost gave up several times, but kept plodding along. But that's not what her story was. And that's okay.
It's easy to compare our journey with another writer's journey and feel that we've come up short. Or even to be jealous of his/her path to success. But truly, I'm thankful for my own journey. It's given me time to mature as a writer, to experience life, to hone my craft by studying my genre, to re-write, to get to know other writers, and mostly, to enjoy writing for the sake of writing (and not just for getting published).
Am I anxious to publish my series someday? Absolutely. Do I wish/hope/dream I could make a career out of it? Absolutely!! But whatever the future holds, it's okay if my journey doesn't match someone else's. Our journeys are our own. Maybe we just need to own them. ;-)
Monday, June 11, 2012
But, in the end, I found several flaws in the narrative that got in the way: heavy-handed descriptions that slowed the pacing, over-explaining and repetitions that slowed the pacing, unnecessary detail about art/architecture/literature that completely diverted away from the plot (it felt like the writer was just "showing off") and slowed the pacing (see a trend, here?). Nothing takes the steam out of a suspense novel faster than poor pacing. Yikes.
As a writer, it's good for me to read fiction that's disappointing, because I can study it--realize what not to do in my own writing. Even a disappointing novel is a beneficial one.
Still, I hope to break this trend and read two NEW books from my current favorite two authors (is there anything more glorious than cracking open a new book of a favorite author?? I think not!).
Here they are:
Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand
Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans
So, what are y'all reading this summer??
Friday, June 8, 2012
Thursday, June 7, 2012
There's an older movie with Julia Roberts, called "Sleeping with the Enemy." It's entertaining, creepy/scary, and sweet, all in one package.
Without giving too much away, the premise involves an abused wife who escapes her rich husband and finds a life on her own. Well, at the beginning, the first "beads" show up. We can see how "particular" the abusive husband is, when Julia's character frantically twists all the labels of cans inside the cupboard until they're all facing the same way, perfectly symmetrical. Because he likes it that way. She also does this later, with towels on the rack. They must be even, perfectly aligned. Because heaven forbid, if they're not...
When she finally starts her new life, sans abusive mate, her old habits come back, and as she's unpacking, she starts to twist all the cans, but then stops herself. With a little smile, she turns them all out and around, lets them be imperfect. She also does this with the towels. A great symbol of her freedom, how she's let go of her abusive ex.
(Spoiler) - finally, at the end of the movie (the ex has been searching for her by now), she returns from a fun evening out with a friend, and is horrified to find....all the labels of the cans in her kitchen perfectly symmetrical. The towels are perfect too, which tells her (and the audience) -- he's in the house!!
The ending is dramatic and tense, and it's truly, in part, due to those "beads." In fact, if it weren't for the beads set up in the beginning, we (the audience) would not be quite so horrified at the end. But with the careful placement of those beads beforehand, the audience was in on it. We, like Julia's character, knew exactly what they meant -- those cans aligned, those towels aligned. And when we see that bead for the final time, it sends chills up our spines.
Anyway, I think this is a perfect example of how to use "beads." Not heavy-handed, but noticeable. And, placed very carefully throughout the script. So that, at the end, those beads pack a very specific punch. They make the audience think, "Ahhh. I know what that is. I know what that means." It makes the audience feel smart. With the beads, they're drawing their own conclusions. The beads pull the audience into the piece, make them feel interactive.
Beads can be incredibly effective, if handled well. I think the key is placement (not too many times, not too few) and subtlety (those cans/towels are not super-obvious the first two times they're shown, but wow, at the end, they have huge impact).
Can y'all think of any other movies/books where beads are used effectively?
Friday, May 25, 2012
And lately, as I've been in the agent-query trenches once more, I've really grilled myself about this: Is it (publication) worth the pain/time/energy/money/patience? Is it?
In the end, my answer to myself is still "yes." And here's why:
Sure, I completely enjoy writing for the sake of writing -- the process of it. Absolutely. Nothing else gives me the rush that a burst of inspiration can do. Nothing. It's indescribable. And I'll (hopefully) do that for the rest of my life, fingers dancing across the keyboard, creating new characters, new dilemmas for them.
But why did I start to write in the first place, years ago? Because I was a reader first. And when I saw the power of words, when I experienced the emotions as a reader, I knew I wanted to be on the other side of the curtain, producing new worlds and experiences for a reader. I wanted to give someone else that same feeling -- of connecting to a character, of being moved by a story, of being transported to another world. So, I suppose the source, the foundation of my desire to write, was actually because of reading. Because I wanted to give someone else an experience I'd received.
Of course, by now, I'm well aware of the reality of publishing -- I've researched enough (and experienced enough) to know that publication is mostly business. It's about money and decisions and trends and rejections and....more money. And I realize that getting published won't give me nearly the same artistic/creative satisfaction that the actual writing does. But--I still have a desire to see my work in print. To come full circle and let someone else (hopefully) experience what I often do, as a reader.
I think there are good reasons and not-so-good reasons to seek publication. And in the end, we have to ask ourselves if it's worth it. In my case, at least right now, it still is.
There's something satisfying about that. And, freeing. Leaving our own world behind, to enter a new one, entirely of our making. Even if it's just for a couple of hours a day.
I came across a quote that I think embodies this notion. Just wanted to share...
I think everybody needs a place to go when things become too much. A place where the world is the way you want it to be, and if you had a choice, it’s how you would have created it. ~The Isabel Factor, a novel by Gayle Friesen
Sunday, May 20, 2012
But sometimes, a movie can be too quirky. Like, bizarre. Or completely unnatural. And when that happens, it takes me out of the film. Makes me think, "The writer is trying to be quirky here, and it really didn't work." (I realize this is completely subjective -- some people DO love anything and everything quirky/bizarre, no matter what. But I guess, for me, sometimes quirky can be too quirky).
Last night, I watched a road-trip film about two lost souls, two quirky characters (a guy and a girl) becoming friends and falling in love. And I liked it. Most of it. But there were a couple of scenes/moments that just made me roll my eyes. Parts that were too quirky. Parts where I could see the writer trying too hard to be quirky. For example, when the characters made a quick stop at the guy's parents' house, his 50-year-old mother was wearing.....her wedding dress. For no apparent reason. Just standing there in the kitchen, making eggs, wearing her wedding dress like this was a completely normal activity. No explanation at all. And the son didn't seem surprised or disturbed, which told me that this happened more than once. Quirky? Yes. But did it make any sense? Nope.
Here's an example of when quirky works. House of D is a brilliant, quiet, coming-of-age film, written and directed by David Duchovny. In it, David's character starts out by sketching (he's an artist) under a bed. Like, his 6-foot-something frame is squeezed underneath a bed, with a tiny lamp, as he scribbles in a sketchpad. Quirky? Yes. But did it make any sense? YES. It made perfect sense at the end of the movie. There was a reason he liked to crawl underneath beds, and it had everything to do with how he grew up, with how he tried to be protective of his drug-using mother. And even when we find out why he crawls under beds, that doesn't make it any less quirky. It just makes it authentic.
So, for me, I guess I have to have my quirky with a wee dose of reality. Or at least the quirk has to be semi-explained or make at least a grain of sense. If a character does something totally quirky for no reason at all, it feels to me like he's being quirky just to be quirky. It lacks authenticity. And, it shows me that the writer was trying too hard.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
As writers, of course, we do want our readers to feel something, to make a connection with the plot, the characters. But if we force it, the reader will feel manipulated. They're smart. They can sense when we're working too hard. So, I think the best thing we can do as writers is to stay honest. To write a scene because it serves the plot, challenges or reveals the characters--not because we think it will guarantee tears from our readers.
If we're authentic, if we tell the story naturally, let it unfold as it should, the reader will connect to it and yes, if moved, the reader may shed a couple of tears. ;-)
I know this sounds odd, but my test is....myself. (This works best if I've gained some distance from my work -- if I've set it aside for a few weeks or even months, so that I "forget" what I've written and can see it through fresh eyes). If I read over a particularly emotional scene I wrote and I start to get tears or empathize with the characters, I know I've done something right. But if I find myself neutral or even shrugging my shoulders at a scene that was meant to move, then it needs tweaking. I need to roll up my sleeves, dig in, and let the scene unfold in a more natural way.
I found a blog post today at Kidlit that discusses this very thing (along the lines of forcing big, emotional scenes on your readers too quickly, before they even have the chance to connect with the characters). Excellent advice: link here
Monday, May 14, 2012
I usually write the query letter as early in the novel-writing process as possible---when I've got a pretty firm idea of where the plot is headed. That way, as I write the novel, I can continuously go back to the query letter and tweak, tweak, tweak. Set it aside, read it again. Set it aside, read it again.
That little synopsis/summary paragraph is VITAL. In fact, it (and not the author bio or the cute little rhetorical-question opening of the letter) is probably the most important paragraph in a query. I believe it's what "sells" your book idea. In fact, it really should feel like the summary on a book jacket cover. It should contain detail (not too much, not to little), mystery, and a "hook." And, it should flow effortlessly, leaving the reader wanting more.
So, it's worth all the time and energy to get it right. And usually, you'll know when you do. When you can read it and not stumble over the words. When you can picture yourself in a bookstore, picking up this particular book, and reading the jacket cover and thinking, "Hey - this is something I'd want to read."
Honestly, putting yourself in the reader's shoes is probably the best way to know if you've tweaked it enough to get it right. But it sure does take a lot of time to get there. ;-)
**edit - well, how's this for good timing? I just read some great query advice on the Behler blog (she's a publisher): link here
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Sunday, May 6, 2012
But last night, I was reminded of what REALLY matters. Real life. And family.
My grandparents celebrated their 90th birthdays last night, and we all gathered to celebrate: three sons (and their spouses), eight grandchildren (and their spouses), fifteen great-grandchildren. All in one room, for the first time in about 13 years. And it was wonderful. We left all that "stuff" outside the door, all the little things in life that get in the way, and just had fellowship: swapping memories, catching up, singing, praying, laughing, even crying. It reminded me of how blessed I am, to be part of a precious, supportive, intact, God-loving family.
Sometimes, as writers, as human beings, we forget to live. To foster relationships and even to look back at who we once used to be. To reflect on memories, to STOP and slow down and soak everything in.
And, you know, doing that -- living life -- will help make us better writers, anyway. We'll have more to glean from, more to mine from, more to use in our stories.
So today, if you're caught up in the whirlwind of life "stuff," stop for a moment. Email or call a family member you've been neglecting. Look back, reflect on easier times. Make plans for a future family reunion. Go out to lunch with a special friend.
Drop everything and just.....LIVE.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Because my time is so precious right now, it's particularly frustrating to invest time in a novel and be disappointed in the end. I finished a novel last night and closed it with....a shrug. Up to the last five pages, I'd adored this book, and had expected to close it with a triumphant smile, glad about the characters getting together (finally!) in the end. And they did. But the way it happened was....strange. Unexpected. And maybe that's what the author was going for. Maybe she was trying to rattle expectations and keep the reader on her toes. But, instead, it left me disappointed and confused.
So, does a disappointing ending cancel out the whole book? Taint the whole reading experience of that novel? Some people might think so. I think it depends on how disappointing the end was. The novel I just finished was only mildly disappointing, so I didn't regret reading the other three hundred and fifty pages before it.
Also, I think something else factors in, with writers. We tend to close a book we've read, disappointed, and take it further: "Man, if I'd written this book, I would've ended it this way or that way..." (C'mon, I know you've done it). And yes, those were my thoughts last night. :-)
I guess the main lesson here is that we (as writers) can't please everyone all the time. We can't expect to meet each reader's expectations. Surely, the author of the book I finished last night didn't intend to disappoint. I'm sure she thought her ending was creative and unique. And, there might be some who loved it. But I didn't. And that's okay. As a writer, I'll try to please my own sensibilities first, follow my own writing instincts, and then hope the reader is pleased, as well, to the very last page.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
I'm torn about this -- one part of me is intrigued, after seeing the video promo (link here). I love the soothing music, the idea of hearing/seeing quotes from Walden in a new way. But the other part of me is a bit horrified at the notion of entering a "fake" nature that's computerized. I mean, isn't that completely defeating the purpose of Walden? Sitting indoors, in our pajamas with a joystick, staring at a screen? And not experiencing actual nature with our own senses, for ourselves?
Heh. Wonder what Thoreau would think.
Consider the romantic comedy: two people meet, likely hate each other, but Fate continues to place them in each other's paths. (There's also usually the sidekick guy and the sidekick girl, who put the "comedy" in romantic comedy). After a long series of misunderstandings and obstacles, the air is finally cleared, and our couple will look dreamily into each other's eyes and kiss while the music swells. Totally predictable.
Some people hate that kind of predictability and will avoid it at all cost. But some of us actually like it. There's an odd sort of comfort in predictability, I think. Since we know the ending, we can sit back, relax, and watch the journey. In fact, for me, the mark of a good romantic comedy is the journey---when it's unique or quirky or well-told. Or when the couple has amazing chemistry. Sure, I know they'll get together in the end. But how will it happen? That's what I'm interested in. What will their journey be?
My most favorite examples are While You Were Sleeping (quirky, original, even silly "journey" to the predictable ending), When Harry Met Sally (smart, witty dialogue and great jazz music), and Return to Me (again, quirky/original plot and sweet chemistry between the leads). I knew the outcomes of these movies the first time I saw them, but that didn't stop me from enjoying them. Over and over again, in fact. It's all about the journey.
So, when I write my women's fiction and am occasionally told the ending feels a little "predictable," I don't always see that as a bad thing. Because, hopefully, I've given the reader an interesting journey along the way, with strong characters and good chemistry between the protagonists. Some might like that kind of predictability, and some might not. And that's okay with me.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Friday, April 20, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
~Leonardo da Vinci
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Friday, March 2, 2012
So, how do we avoid being "seen" as we write?
Read, read, read (educate ourselves to recognize what good writing looks like). Remember to be subtle (treat your readers as "smart" - don't hit them over the head with obvious details). Practice good grammar and mechanics (those are the basics every writer should know).
And, in the end, just use your writers' instinct. Listen to your gut as you write. Let your voice come through. As long as it's natural, as long as you're being truthful with the emotion in the scene, you're less likely to be "seen" writing.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012