Friday, July 29, 2011

Born from a Scene


So where do my story ideas come from? Everywhere is the most obvious answer and it's true, but I'd like to be a bit more specific. It's a stretch to call them ideas because my stories are born more from a scene or an image. A couple of years ago, I remember vaguely my brother mentioning the DVD player clock going off for no reason and instantly, I thought of ghosts. With only that in mind, I wrote a short story. As always, it didn't turn out the way I expected. It's not a ghost story but I'm very pleased with it.

I started another short story simply with the scene of a female working late at the office. I had no idea where I'd go from there but, several edits later, it's one of my favorite stories. One I'll be turning into a novel.

My stories aren't built from grand or even well thought out scenes. I see or hear things and sometimes they speak to me. While riding in the car with my parents, I heard them say they hadn't been able to sleep the night before and I, too, hadn't slept well. Instantly I thought- monster, some creature may be playing with us. What a great story that would make!

On one occasion, I created a story in my head simply for fun. During my twenty minute walk to work, I decided to create an event out of what I was seeing. I created a monster and then imagined what it would do to this street, to that car, to that person, to that building. What would this area look like as it attacked? As I passed shops, I imagined the store mannequins coming alive with frighting expression, attacking people as they passed. What would I be doing in this situation? What building would people run to for shelter?

Don't worry. I acted like an adult and didn't run into small corners as if something was chasing me or stare at store windows as the mannequins came alive though that would've been hilarious. I didn't expect this to exist anywhere but my mind but as it happened, it stuck with me and I turned it into a novel. I ended up changing a lot of it but still, the novel was born from me just having fun with my imagination.

Often, while I'm out and about, I'll come across things screaming "put me in a story" like a contorted tree, a lone red glove draped over a fence, a rose sitting on the floor in the middle of a subway car, an abandoned factory. At my parents' house, during a bad thunderstorm, the wind toyed with the door of the dog pen. It opened and closed slowly as though something invisible was moving it. That, coupled with the heavy rain, thunder and overcast sky, made for a chilling atmosphere. I had to pull out my camera and record it.

Another time, the power went out for the entire neighborhood. I'd opened the backdoor at night for some reason and froze. The yard was pitch black. I've always lived in the city so total blackness was never something I'd seen before. I was totally fascinated with it but not enough to walk outside. That would've just been stupid. I stood on the porch for awhile registering what it looked like and how it made me feel because I was going use it in a story.

I also draw a lot from anime. In one novel, a character was half human so, I had the villagers call her a half-breed. It didn't occur to me until my brother pointed it out that I'd taken it from my favorite and first anime, Inuyasha. It's not surprising I'm drawing from animes given how much I watch them. The storyline for most is similar to what I'd write and they always have some great looking creatures.
One thing I didn't mention and cannot be forgotten- dreams. I have a lot of weird dreams and I mean really weird, probably because of the type of stuff I read and watch. You might call them nightmares but I never see them that way. (As you can tell, I'm a writer and reader of dark fantasy and horror.) The dreams can be annoying because I wake up feeling as if I'd been running all night.  They're great for spare parts though so I keep a journal nearby just in case.






Don't expect to be knocked clean off your feet by a story idea, just keep your eyes and ears open. Great stories can come from small place. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hold on to Why

 Awhile ago, I lost sight of what I said in the post Why I write. Writing stopped being therapeutic. It felt far too much like work. This is no longer the case but then, it became harder and harder to actually sit in front of my computer or before a journal and give my characters the attention they needed and deserved. I still loved writing and thought of my characters often. When I did write, I'd get lost in my stories, in editing, in watching my characters interact and grow. I heard them calling, pleading. Their voices broke my heart but I didn't give them what they wanted. I just couldn't bring myself to sit and work on my stories.

I really wanted to though and I always planned to. I just didn't feel like it and I still have no idea why. I want to say I was preoccupied with grad school and work but I'm still busy and I'm writing more than ever. Who knows why it happened. Does the why even matter? There are just points where being a writer gets kinda heavy.

To say getting published is hard is an egregious understatement and being a writer doesn't get any easier once you're published (so I've heard). Writing, in general, is far more work then I expected but, if you feel you're a writer then write. I know, eventually, all this work will pay off. And, what am I gonna do, quit? Yeah, like that's really an option. I just need to hold onto to that next time I forget why I want to be a published writer. If everything was easy, life would be no fun.
 
*
"Far away in the sunshine are my highest inspirations. I may not reach them..."
"...but I can look up and see the beauty, believe in them and try to follow where they may lead."


Monday, July 25, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger 3D


All the movies I've seen this summer have been amazing but they were placeholders for HP7 Part 2. You know, something to tie me over. Since seeing HP, I've lost interest in any other movie. I'd forgotten all about Captain America. I saw it simply because it was something to do. Totally wrong way of thinking.

I grossly underestimated the popularity of this movie. I've been buying my tickets through the Fandango App so I've never had a problem with sold out shows. I was surprised too see Captain America was sold out until like 7pm and was even more surprised when most of the seats in the theater were taken. I had to sit in the front.

This shouldn't have surprised me. I've never read a Captain America comic but I've read plenty that feature him and...the man is amazing, a really impressive character and, from what I gathered, a lot of comic book heroes look up to him. So, like I said, I was in the wrong frame of mind going into this movie.

But once Captain America started, it all changed. The movie was amazing. What I loved most- despite Rogers getting ginormous muscles, he still had to prove himself. The army didn't automatically accept him once he was buff which shows that big muscles are useless if you don't have the heart to back it up. The movie implied this heavily without being too preachy or overemotional. Rogers was a big man with and without the muscles. If he had self-confidence issues he hid them well. It seemed as if nothing could keep him down.

The movie had some hilarious moments. I'm tempted to tell you about one because it was so awesome but you have to see the movie for yourself. I'm thinking of it now and can't stop smiling. Loved the character interaction especially between Rogers and Bucky and Rogers and Peggy. Colonel Chester Phillips, played by Tommy Lee Jones, was, at the beginning, more infuriating than Hydra but not in a bad way. He was meant to make the audience want to kick him in the teeth. The men Rogers chose to be on his team were completely insane, I loved it! Red Skull was just there to show how amazing Captain America was. (Am I the only who sees Hugo Weaving in a movie and goes "Mr. Anderson"?) The weapons he created were far more impressive and intimidating then he was. The ending fight between Red Skull and Captain America wasn't spectacular but that was fine. The characters carried the movie well.

I have to say, I prefer Captain America's costume from the comic. I didn't like it in the movie. The costumes are about the same so maybe it just doesn't translate well to a live-action movie. The shield was awesome though. Also, Captain America had some good 3D moments but for the most part... save your money. The movie was spectacular in plot and character. It didn't need to be in 3D. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Yet Another Snag


(I've been so focused on school, graduation and working on my novel that I totally neglected my blog this week. I need to balance everything so nothing falls between the cracks.)
 
I hit another snag while editing one of my novels- I can't believe how many holes this one has and I started and finished it (or so I thought) years ago. I reached another point in the story I wasn't too thrilled about. I figured I didn't like it because of the language and was going to struggle through it, leaving a comment to reword later. But then I thought about it. It wasn't the language; it was how the character reacted to the situation. I knew, instinctively, it wasn't how she would've acted but it took me awhile to fully realize it.

Creating your own race of creatures is fun but the problem arises when you have to figure out how their powers work. For this character, I hadn't fully fleshed out how hers worked and therefore caused her to react in a way unlike her, a way I wasn't too pleased with. She is different from the others because she's half-human so her power works differently. I implied this in the story but hadn't figured out how hers was different.

I had to step back and pull out my World Building journal, again. I first mapped out how other characters used their powers and then how she used hers. This was more difficult than I though. It took a lot of jotting down and scratching out before I came up with something believable but I still feel I'm missing something. I'm sure, as I continue to reread the novel, I'll find out what it is. Figuring out the origins of my creatures helped a lot.

I'm all for World Building- as I've stated in other posts. You need to know every detail of your world and your characters to prevent them from, without reason, acting in an uncharacteristic way. You may not notice it but your readers sure will and they won't like it. I sat for awhile thinking, not writing, but in my experience, thinking about it is great but it's easier to work out a puzzle if I write it down. As I said in Just Write, I stopped thinking and started writing. I broke down every element in my world, such as money, electricity, buildings, occupation and then how each works. My characters live in village. I had to draw it out which also helped me a lot.

I've read posts against World Building but I wrote my story without fully knowing how the world worked and it didn't turn out so great. In my case, word building is a necessity because it's helping me fill the holes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

 (This post has spoilers. Couldn't help it.) 


I know I said I can't wait, I can't wait and this is gonna be fun but when Saturday came, dread wrapped its steel arms around me and tightened as each hour drew me closer to seeing HP7 Part 2. I really hadn't wanted to go and thought briefly of not seeing it just to delay a little longer. All day Saturday, I just couldn't concentrate on anything else. I've been writing this post in my head since last Thursday.

It's all over people.

We comfort ourselves by saying Harry Potter will never die, which is true, but the fact still remains, it's over. When I first saw the movie poster and the slogan "It all ends." I thought it sounded cool. It's a good summation of the final book but the more I think about it the more I dislike it. Yes, we know it all ends; you don't have to rub it in our faces.

I own a lot of books. I've been reading since I knew how but Harry Potter was always my favorite series. I've known the characters for about 12 years now. Even now, when the series has ended and my library has grown, it is still the series I reread the most. But, it's all over. Everyone has grown up and gotten married. Their kids are now off to Hogwarts. The adventure is over. We are left with only beautiful memories.

While on my way the movies, I kept telling myself this is only a book, they are only characters. They aren't real. It is technically true but they stopped being merely characters a long time ago. They've become people we care about- a mark of J.K. Rowling's brilliant writing. Reading it felt like we were getting a view of a real secret world. Harry Potter is about the only book I've read that had me so thoroughly believing their world could actually exist and I've read a lot of fantasy novels. I feel I can go to Kings Cross and walk through the wall between Platforms 9 and 10.
Enough of this, I'm depressing myself and you. The movie was brilliant as I knew it would be. It was so worth the wait and the hype. They did the book justice. Yes, they changed things but how is that anything new. The things they changed weren't as annoying this time. I have to say, I'm kind of upset with the crew behind Harry Potter. The only movies of the series I really enjoyed where the first 3. With 4-6, I left the theater unsure whether or not I liked them. They just changed so much. I wanted to see my favorite book on screen not someone's interpretation of it. I had to watch 4-6 again to really like it but with HP7 Part 1 and 2, I was in the theater thinking this is a spectacular movie. Why did they wait until the end to get it right?!

Going into Part 2, I was afraid they'd milk Fred, Lupin, and Tonks' death. Reading about it was bad enough; I didn't want to see it. I was pleased with how they treated their death. They gave them enough importance without making the movie unbearable to watch. Snape's death, however, was rough but they had to do him justice. I mean he's like the bravest person of the series. I heard a lot of sniffling during the Snape flashback. It was nicely done. Alan Rickman was spectacular.
 
I was a bit disappointed with the ending fight though. Some people had problems with how the final Harry/Voldemort fight was written but I liked it. It didn't need to be drawn out. I also liked how, in the book, Harry had this amazing dialogue with Voldemort which they didn't include in the movie. Though Percy is not my favorite Weasley, they can't have him disappear then reappear without any explanation.

They didn't need to include the 19 years later part because, even for the book, it was unnecessary, sweet but unnecessary. I'm glad they did though. It cushioned the punch in the gut I felt knowing Harry Potter was over.  Dan, Emma, Rupert and Bonnie looked like children dressed older instead of older versions of themselves which was kind of hilarious. They could've done a bit better with their makeup and costumes but I liked seeing the red steam engine...

...as it left the platform with children waving out the window. In the background was the Harry Potter theme song. A song they hadn't played since, like, the 3rd movie. You know the one I'm talking about.

It ended where it started and what a beautiful ending it was.

I thought I would leave the theater upset about the end of my favorite series but I couldn't stop smiling- such a fitting ending to a brilliant series.

(Man did it hurt to remove the HP7 Part 2 countdown widget)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Just Write

( I wonder what happens to the HP7 countdown gadget when it reaches 0. I know it's the wrong picture but it's all I could find. I think I'll leave it there til I blog about HP. I won't be seeing the movie until Saturday night.)

In my previous post The Middle, I said I had an origin story for my creatures but didn't like something about it. I was reluctant to scrap the whole thing but in the end, it all had to go. It turned out for the better though. It took a lot of crossing out to find a story I liked but... I finally found one and I love it!

I just sat at my journal and started writing with just a name in mind. I was staring at a blank page for awhile though, not knowing how to begin. Even I have a tendency to over think things. It all came out as I put pen to paper. It was an invigorating experience.

For all the trouble it cost me, writing this origin story was surprisingly easy. As usual, it didn't turn out quite the way I planned. The villains aren't as evil as I pictured them but maybe it's for the best. I can change it later if it doesn't work. I now have a general idea of what the villains want with my characters and a better understanding of their ultimate goal. All I had to do was stop thinking and start writing.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Middle

I keep learning new things about writing. I like it but it gets a bit old when every time I learn something new I see more and more holes in my stories. I'd written one novel years ago and reread it so many times. I liked it a lot. I still do only now I'm realizing how much of it doesn't make sense. I included some scenes simply because I liked them but I never asked why they were there. I've reached a point where I can't go any further in my editing until I fully flesh out what the villains' plan is and the source of my character's power. It sounds like common sense, I know, but I hadn't thought about it until I started world building. I've come up with several explanations but I don't like any of them and I can't figure out why. The thing is, I read over each explanation and I like the overall concept. I'm reluctant to just scrap the whole thing but something just isn't right.

Actually, I know what the villains want I just don't know how they plan on getting it.

All the characters are in line. The initial problem has been identified but I don't know how it fits into the villains' overall plan. I wouldn't say the middle is unclear. I know what will happen next, I know the next obstacle I'll put in front of my characters. I have the scenes plotted. I just need to figure out how they all connect. I know they do. I can feel it. There's a line running through this entire story- I'm sure of it but it's eluding me at the moment. It's a lot of fun trying the find it though. Good thing I like puzzles. This is where my journal comes in. I'll write explanation after explanation, origin story after origin story until I find one I like.
On a completely unrelated note, do writers ever get used to negative comments? I'm giving them more of my attention than they deserve. Maybe it's because I'm still new to writing as a profession so, for the most part, my stories are either getting no comments or rejections. This is where a writing community comes in but I haven't been as active in finding one as I should.

I know negative comments come with the territory and I don't expect everyone to like what I create because they won't. Do writers ever reach a point where negative comments don't faze them- they look at them and just laugh? I hope so cause I can't wait to reach that point?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Enjoy


Moral was a curse used only against those you wanted disgraced or dead. Decency, honesty and loyalty were words Jade Mitchell's parents planted into her soul and words this world spat on while crushing them under their feet.

The street’s chaos put steel in her spine. Jade turned on her tunnel vision and walked with her head up. Those with a sense of dignity were gone. Temptation held their hands in its fervent grip and led them into iniquity. It offered Jade its hand but her parents stood in front of her, tall and unmovable, and smacked it away again and again. Sometimes it was hard not to hate them. 

Jade slowed her heated pace and frowned as her messenger bag sang and vibrated. A warmth attached itself to each vibration and seeped through bag and jeans to spread across her body. Such a glorious feeling it was. It felt better than those nights she sat listening to her parents' stories of a beautiful world where goodness was rewarded. Never had anything made her feel so comfortable inside and out. 

She stopped and leaned on a store wall. People tormented her, treated her like filth, said things that made her want to wash her ears in acid but, if she could come home to this warmth every day, it would all be worth it. The vibration. The song stopped.  

Jade felt around inside her bag and brushed an object so amiable she jerked back and knocked her elbow against the brick wall. She stared at the infected hand never imagining such a peaceful feeling existed and that it would come from a normal cell phone. She pulled it out and gripped it as the beautiful feeling waned.

Before Jade could do more than stare in awe at this remarkable object, someone snatched it from her. A roar rose from her depths where the fervor still lingered. She raced after him. She needed to find out why the warmth came from an inanimate object and how she could make it stay forever. The thief turned wide down an alley-like street and crashed into the opposite wall. Jade was able to grab his collar and take him down hard. He recovered faster than expected. With remarkable agility, he stood and jumped from her reach.

He lifted the phone in the air and sneered, "Since it's that important to you."

He slammed her phone to the ground. It shattered. The warmth within died.

"Noxious cretin!" Jade lunged at him.   

The force of her weight sent him backwards. She straddled his chest and beat her fists and her frustrations into his face. No one would care what she did to him. In his now bloody face she saw everything this world represented and everything she couldn’t have. She punched harder. No one would care and people were supposed to care.   

He wore a wedding ring. He had a wife, maybe even children but people didn't hold to such commitments. They married because it had become ingrained in them to do so but no one honored it and they should. What her parents had was beautiful. She wished for something like that but, because of people like him, she couldn’t have it. 

Jade had to be stronger than most. One punch was enough to break his skull. He stopped moving but still she punched. She screamed and cried. With all the strength and emotions in her, she beat his head until she was hitting concrete. And even then she kept punching. 

Because she was a good person, people ignored her. No one wanted to be around her and her morals. No one said her name with any sort of affection. The only two people who loved her died five years ago. She had to physically fight her own family to bury her parents' mutilated bodies. Her aunt had wanted to tie a rock to their ankles and drop them into the river. She deserved to feel the warmth the phone had radiated every day.

Her fingers were broken, so were both wrists. She stopped. Her muscles ached. She looked at the dead body and spat on it. She should regret killing this man but she didn’t. He had killed her dream, it was only fitting she’d end his life. So why did her hands shake? Why did her heart beat as though trying to liberate itself from its demented master? Why did her parents look at her in disappointment?

She crawled away from the body and leaned against the wall. She wanted to vomit and rid herself of this feeling but she was empty. She stared at the phone's carcass and remembered the peace she'd never felt before and would never feel again. He had deserved to die for taking that from her but she couldn't stop shaking. Never had she acted to violently without being thoroughly provoked and even then, she never killed anyone. But he had deserved it. She sank to the ground and buried her head in her knees. He had deserved it.
   
Jade looked up when she no longer heard cars or people; when she no longer felt the wall or the ground. Nothing existed except darkness. She didn't know how she'd been transported to this black place but she didn't care. The glorious feeling was here, it was the darkness. She stood and lifted her arms, trying to hug this place close to her heart. The darkness was alive. It ran down her arms, over her face, through her hair. It entwined itself in her fingers. There was still hope.

*** 
 
Under this title, I've been posting excerpts of my short stories. They're supposed to serve as a writing sample but the entire blog does that so do I continue posting them? For years now, I've been trying to get them into magazines but it hasn't happened yet (shocker right?). My stories are a bit out of the box. I researched fantasy and horror magazines- buying and reading several issues to get publishing history and found only 1 that published stories remotely close to mine.

I tried, several times, to write "normal" stories but my style always leads me astray. It would be really nice to have my stories published in a magazine but I feel I'd be happy if they only appear in my blog. What I desire more than anything, what I'm focusing on, is getting my novels published. Having my short stories in magazines would be icing. So, I'll continue to post excerpts for your enjoyment and mine.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D


Priest, X-Men, Green Lantern- I love you all to death but Transformers: Dark of the Moon just ATE you. I haven't enjoyed going to the movies so much in a long time. You can now add Transformers to the list of great summer movies. It was spectacular. I am blown away.

I'm a sucker for good action and this one had it and in 3D with an interesting story. It wasn't deep and complex but it wasn't just an excuse for Michael Bay to blow things up. The storyline wasn't perfect but the movie was still awesome. If Transformers was longer with fewer characters then they could've polished their plot but, it was great for what it was. Just like the first 2, there were some hilarious, laugh out loud, moments. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was completely engaged. 

The Autobots sure do get beat up a lot which could've tanked the movie but man do they make up for it with some spectacular comebacks. I had to restrain myself from cheering during fight scenes. And, I don't usually care about soundtracks but the one for Transformers was on point. The special affect, the storyline and the soundtrack took even me on an emotional ride.

As I expected, the blonde female was there only to be hot but her utter uselessness didn't turn me off the movie. She got Sam from point A to point B. She did her job. Because I wasn't expecting much from her, she didn't annoy me. I can't fault them from casting her to be pretty.  From what I read beforehand, one of the reasons people saw the movie was her.  A lot of females, including me, enjoy Transformers but, when it comes right down to it, Transformers was made for guys. One reviewer pointed out that only two females were in the movie. It's true but I didn't noticed while watching and even now, it doesn't bother me. 

I was really surprised by user reviews. A lot of people didn't like it but, for the life of me, I can't understand why. People said they couldn't follow the plot but I didn't have a problem understanding what was going on at any point. Others said there wasn't any character development which is true but the characters were developed during the first two movies; they'd done all the growing needed to overcome their many obstacles. Other people even said the special effects weren't anything special which completely blows my mind. The special effects were amazing.

People are just taking it way too seriously. Simple- if you liked the first two movies, you'll love this one. It's meant only to be entertaining. The movie was exactly how the previews portrayed it. Is it flawed? - yes but Transformers: Dark of the Moon was far more epic than I expected and totally worth watching in 3D. I haven't enjoyed a movie this much in a long time.


I love the music for this trailer but unfortunately, iTunes doesn't have it. So sad. I really want it. Next up is the movie I've been waiting for since like last year- Harry Potter 7 Part 2.


I never get tired of watching this.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Go Nuts!- Rough Drafts


The first draft is going to be garbage. Let's just get that out of the way right now. Say it with me- the first draft is going to be garbage. Do not sit at your computer or over a notebook and expect to churn out Shakespeare at your first go. It will not be perfect; will not be close to perfect. I've been writing and studying writing since I knew how to but even now, after I've written too many stories to count, I do not expect the first draft to be anything astounding. The whole purpose of it is to move the story from your head to paper or computer.

I'm writing out a story that's been in my head for awhile now. I called it, in Novel Planning, the draft before the draft. My characters are demons but I don't know what their powers are yet. I don't have to. If I want them to shoot beams of flowers out of their eyes I can. The first draft is the time for you to go nuts- experiment. It may sound silly now but- you know what the great thing about being a writer is... we can make anything sound spectacular. You may find you like it after you've given it some thought.

Some writing advice says to reread what you've already written before continuing on. Try it, if it works for you great! I used to do that but in the end, I found I wasn't going anywhere. I'd spend so much time polishing what I've already written, I wouldn't write anything new. Then, I read in Susan Bell's The Artful Edit how some authors gain distance by not rereading as they wrote so, I tried it and love it. Now, I don't look back. If I just finished a scene and think of a way to do it differently, I write the scene down in my journal then add it when I'm editing. Because of this, I'll be rereading my draft and won't even know what happens next! I'd find little surprises like a phrase or dialogue I don't remember writing but love. I make only minor edits during the first reread and use the comment function in Word a lot. If something doesn't make sense- insert a comment. If something needs to be reworded- comment. If a scene moves to fast- comment.

I plan as I go along. I first write out the story then see where my holes are and figure out how to fix them. This frees me to experiment more, to allow the story to take me in a direction I didn't plan. For one novel I'd been working on, I intended the female protagonist to be the main voice but as I wrote, I found I was writing more from the male's perspective and I really like it. Letting the story write itself will take you in a different direction, it may even be the wrong direction but that's what editing is for.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes. If you're like me, no one will read your story anyway until you're ready for them to. If you have a story in your head and don't know where to begin, sit in front a notebook or computer and just start writing. It doesn't have to make sense. The scenes don't need to be in order. You can start in the middle if you wish. Your scenes, your words are not set in stone. You can change them later. Go nuts, have fun and see where it takes you. Writing is an adventure. Experiment- find what route works for you.
 
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