Monday, March 31, 2014

National Poetry Month 2014

What to wear--what to wear?

I hope to write, write, write in April. I don't know...this will be kind of crazy. Will I really be writing a screenplay, a novel, and 30 poems? Sounds kind of ridiculous.

Oh, well. Away I go.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Writing by the Seat of My Pants

Starting April 1 (how appropriate!) I will be writing a story I was supposed to be developing all this month, but I've only managed to come up with an ending to. I'll be pantsing it.

That means this particular story will be an outline and rough draft in one, full of dead ends and scary surprises. Well, the scary surprises should be there, considering that it will be horror. Yet I think I'm mostly the one in for the unexpected frights. This might be one of my 'hot mess-don't let it see the light again' stories.

And I really liked the idea for this, too. Maybe I can adapt it as a screenplay later. Yeah, that's right. Convince yourself that this isn't a waste of time...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I've Made It To the Beginning

I've wrote the end of the screenplay. Yikes. That was extremely difficult. Which, I guess, was the point. I don't like writing the endings and usually give up or just write them halfheartedly.

Now I've got the beginning (and the rest of the story) ahead of me. Ugh. I might have to do this a bit differently next time. Maybe alternate scenes. One scene from the end, one scene from the beginning, then one scene from the middle. That seems way more complicated, but maybe much more rewarding.

I'm all about my comforts. Because this right here...this was punishing.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gender Equality in Writing

When I think of gender equality in writing, I'm not thinking about sex politics. Or how many characters of each gender should be in a story. Or power dynamics relating to gender in a relationship. I'm simply referring to how I approach characters of a gender in my writing. Too often when I read stories or scripts, one group or another gets the short stick.

I don't like seeing agendas. Oh, this is feminist. This is rhetoric about transgender and on and on. I didn't come to your fictional piece to be preached at. Write an essay (or blog post) for that.

Having one group of people in a story be uniformly negative is usually a giveaway of a prejudice for me--whether sexist, racist, nationalist, ageist, or whatever. Just don't do it. Make each character an individual that stands by his or her own merits, not by the inclusion or exclusion of a group or social status.

You have a character who is a woman? Will she automatically be the one is hurt or rescued? The victim? Will she be the least developed character? Oh, I'm a guy--I don't know so much about girls so I'm not going to bother...blah, blah, blah.

I've seen the same thing with male characters. All the guys are all negative or barely developed. Hey, let's make all the men abusers! Psychopaths... Mindless killing machines who are driven by sex and money. Well, I know plenty of guys like that. This one time, this guy blah, blah, blah...


What if you don't know you're doing this? Take a piece of current writing--any piece--and change every single character's gender identity. Do the character choices become strange now? Do you find some characters to be bland or weak now? Do you think some characters are detestable now?

Becoming aware of biases is a nice first step. Yet we'll all have this in our writing to some degree even if we are aware of it. It's just a matter of being in control of it and knowing how to subvert it and use it to maybe connect to people surprising ways.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Want to Write, But Got Stuff to Do

Do I stop what I'm doing and write, or do I go ahead and finish what I need to do? Well, in this instance I have to finish my to-do list. I thought today would be a push-through-and-write day, but I was wrong. I hate being wrong. It feels like the opposite of the delicious taste of chocolate.

I have to make some progress or I'll never get any momentum, though. Why can't I write in the mornings anymore? That sure would help me out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thinking More Than Writing

Sometimes I find myself having spent an entire day without writing a thing. Yet I don't really feel that it was time wasted. I have to work out these little kinks in certain scenes in my mind that niggle at me.

And if they don't have anything to do with the current scene I'm writing?

I just feel like those problems can cause problems all over the story. There have been plenty of times where I've found solutions somewhere else and that's led me to change what I'm about to write in a seemingly unrelated scene or sequence.

All the scenes further the same plot. The thing is to not get carried away or let 'thinking' be an excuse for not putting my pen to paper or my hands to the keyboard. Writing is a way to solve those issues and untie those kinks, too, along with actually getting the story completed. It's just that on some occasions I have to visualize the problem first.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Action Scenes

I don't really like action scenes. They feel so impersonal. I like the closer, more emotional stuff. Not melodrama. Just when people are revealing things without meaning to. I like writing those dynamics and having the characters negotiate and struggle to conceal what they really want while, at the same time, strive to get that want.

However, action scenes are so blunt. It's all about grabbing what you want. Wham. Bam. Got it. Not a lot of room for nuance. Yet I'm trying for subtlety anyway. The action is really about something else, so they can do all these activities so openly and baldly and it still mean something deeper down. Theme...blah, blah, blah. Symbolizes da da da dah.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Old Ideas

I'm looking through my stacks and stacks of writings, trying to organize them once and for all. Yeah, right.

Anyways, I came across old ideas that I've abandoned and that led me to thinking? Do I go back to them or do I march ahead with new ideas? I didn't see anything that made me cringe too mightily so there might be some gems in those heavily creased papers.

Or maybe I abandoned them for a reason.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to Tell When a Scene Isn't Working

Back to my screenplay... I've begun writing the scenes. The first scene was pretty easy--suspiciously so. I even enjoyed it. Hmm...

I wrapped it up and prepared myself for the next one. All right, what's this scene about. Got it. Goal? Uh... No, you know this. Goal. Mmm. She wants her life to be better? Nuh uh. That's not a goal. What's she going after in this scene? Well, she's just going home. Oh...

But it's important because when she gets home and is thinking about stuff... Oh... But, wait. She comes across something that changes everything. That's when she decides her new goal. She's between goals, you see.

Yuh. No. I had to nix the scene. My character needs to be after something, needs to have purpose in every scene. I couldn't really visualize the scene because nothing was happening. The solution is to shorthand all this. The audience will know she got new goals by her actions, not by watching her clean up at home (is that really what she was going to do).

And that's why I ask these kinds of questions (along with ones about motivations, stakes, and conflict) before I start writing even one word of a scene. I would have wrote a meandering, wandering, boring mess here. Maybe later something might pop into my head, but for right now, the scene is D.O.A.

Taking a Rest from Writing

Breaks are important. They keep me from stabbing things.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Protagonist Flaw

I'm back to working on my novel, and the characters for that story. This round of development is their flaws. And it's important for me to get right because it determines not just the character arc, but the story itself.

Also, the protagonist's flaw dictates all of the other characters' flaws because the other characters will be viewpoints on the protag flaw and reveal different worldviews on it.

So the flaw covers how a character might heal from two possible angles: serving others or seeing the self honestly. This can be in any combination or order. The protag might have to see the self first clearly to help others, or might have to help others before she can see herself. Or the story might just be all about internal reflections or just all about external actions. Then again, the protag might not quite learn anything at all. But I think that's advanced writing techniques not meant for us mere mortals...

The protagonist has a need that she doesn't know about but needs to fulfill. The flaw blocks that need. Over the course of the story, the protagonist's actions and decisions will either strengthen the flaw and/or make it more dominant or weaken the flaw and/or make it less dominant. Near the end of the story the protagonist demonstrates that she has overwhelmed the flaw and conquered it or has been overwhelmed by the flaw and been consumed by it.

The flaw may be hidden to the protagonist at first because her life has allowed her to work around her flaw, or at least live with the flaw unchallenged. She might even see her flaw as a strength. However, the impending story comes along and shows her flaw for what it is--a weakness. It holds her back, forcing her to try new strategies and learn different methods/ways of thinking for dealing with problems. She can no longer strive for what she wants with the flaw in her life as it is. Something's got to give.

Will it be her?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Writing the First Scene

I'm starting on the first scene of my screenplay--so scary. I'm starting with the resolution. Why, no one asked?

Because that's where all the fun starts dying down, but everyone insists on hanging around--like at an amusement park. You know, when all the big rides are closed and yet all the paying customers are still milling about, trying to milk every last penny out of the experience though it's clear no one can have any more fun? Yeah, that's how I feel about resolutions.

Let me write the most exciting scene of the story and then go straight to the 'clean-up' scenes. Why?

This is the reason I find myself giving up on story after story with only four or five scenes to go. For this script, I'm writing those awkward last scenes first. Haha! I'm getting the boringness out of the way, an then I'll only have to revise or edit the scenes, not write them whole cloth. I'll end on a high! Why haven't I tried this before?

We'll soon find out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Character Descriptions

I've been wondering what to do about describing my characters' physical appearances. Because I'm totally uninterested in how they look. I know that it matters (but not to me) yet it will come off inconsistent or distracting if I just throw something down. I could make them look like silly messes for my amusement, or I could waste my time researching clothing that fit their personalities or whatever. Figuring out hairstyles. Wondering about eye shapes.

That all sounds ridiculous to me. Clothing might be a matter of expression. But physical appearance is kind of a nature thing, beyond how well you take care of yourself hygiene- and nutrition-wise.

I'll figure it all out, I suppose.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Imagine a Witty and Punny Title Here

I love naming things (not characters and definitely not the story itself) in my stories. This broadens the characters' world and gives their settings flavor. Stores and restaurants and TV shows and organizations--all these and more are fair game.

It's especially fun to name  them in thematic or symbolic ways that reveal the character's changing viewpoints or state of mind throughout the story.

Puns are my favorite and a weakness of mind, and I can't help using them. I try to only use them rarely, but sometimes a liberal sprinkling is fun in a first draft.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Organizing My Papers

When I'm stuck, I inevitably turn to writing by hand. I just need the stimulation of the movement and feel of real paper and a real pen in my hands to get ideas flowing.

Unfortunately, this leads me with piles of loose papers scattered about. Today I decided to organize this mess. The task is breathtakingly difficult. I'm unable to throw away anything, and my writings are so diverse that it's hard to group them. If I did a breakdown of a comedy sitcom pilot, built a magic system, researched psychopathy, etc., etc. How do I group these? Are they all research? They don't seem to go together. I think I'd be confused if I found them in the same box or bin together.

Then how do I keep the details straight of a story that I've developed. I don't just want to lump the whole deal together. I want to quickly reference the characters of a particular story. I can't do that if they're in one big pile. Yet if I separate them, there's a big chance that I'll forget that they even went together in the first place.

Oh, the boxes. I have so many boxes. Where will I put them all? Should I be estimating this to take a week?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Making It Better by Making It Worse

I'm mentally going through each and every scene I've listed to see which are weak and which are unnecessary. The unnecessary ones need to go, of course, but how do I handle the weak ones?

Some of them are just mediocre. They are serviceable. It's so easy to let them slide. The ones that slip by the easiest are the 'two people talking' scenes. It doesn't matter what the two people are talking about; in most instances, this can be juiced up somehow. So I add a character that one of the characters don't want to be there. I give one of the characters somewhere to be--like, immediately. I make the setting really uncomfortable for them both. I throw the characters off as much as I can so that they aren't too familiar or cozy. Keep them off balance.

Then there are the "only has one purpose" scenes. These scenes are trouble because they reveal themselves too easily to the audience. Oh, they say, this is here to let me know her backstory. They know this because that's all  the scene is doing. If the scene also set up something to be paid off later, revealed character motivation, and also moved the story forward, the backstory will become much more invisible to the audience--they'll barely notice it.

Lastly, my biggest weakness are the scenes that just don't know when to quit. I start late; I get out early. I know this stuff. Yet the middle is overcrowded and wanders. Nobody tells me how to deal with that. I give all the characters goal, but the scenes just end up bloated anyway. I don't know what it is. I try to trim them down and then they don't make sense because I cut out something needed to understand what's happening.


Still learning.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Using Presentation Software as Digital Index Cards

Writing, blah, blah, blah. Screenplay, blah, blah, blah.

I've done a step-outline (scene list), and that showed me major gaps in my story. However, I couldn't see where they were. Therefore, I decided to use powerpoint (generic: presentation software) to help me see what needed to be filled in.

I like small scenes, so for my particular story, each slide equals one-2 minute scene. I will need 50-55 scenes to make a 105 page script...that will probably be more like 45-50 in the end, however.

If I can't fit the scene on the card, then I know that the scene needs to be reworked. Then I play the presentation, looking for the flow and pacing. I notice which characters are being left out for too long and which storylines are forgotten. I also get a feel for when I begin a plot point too late or too early.

Something needs to go in a different place? Just drag it there. Need to delete a scene. A couple of clicks (I only do this on the copy) and it's done.

Very helpful. Best of all, I don't have a hundred cards to mix up or lose.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Subplot or Plot Layer

Okay, panic mode is over, and I've just about worked out the kinks in my screenplay.

I've laid out most of the main plot and a lot of the subplot, and I do believe I've got it all straightened out. It all started from figuring out what was really the subplot and what was just a plot layer of the main plot.

So I realized that anything depended on the main character's story was just a plot layer. Anything that was independent, that branched off and did its own thing, connecting and intersecting at certain spots until maybe at the very end, was indeed a subplot. The subplot contains its very own main characters.

That let me see that I had 5 plot layers (for each supporting character that had a small arc and resolution that related to the main plot) and 2 subplots (for the characters that had their own branching stories). I lopped off one subplot, and voila-- I had simplified my story to a manageable level.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Inciting Incident and Protagonist Flaw

Still working on that screenplay. I think I've gotten the barebones structure laid out--something that I'm kind of happy with for now. I was unsure about the climax before, but I see now that it was the whole second act and in particular the inciting incident.

Before I just had the protagonist eventually accept the call to adventure and then hilarity ensue, and she reaps the repercussions from that. However, I came upon this web site that laid out the structure of 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and at the inciting incident it had the protagonist's flaw linked to it.

I decided to do the same. What could I throw at the protagonist that tests her weakness right from the start? Then I saw that everything began building right off to a natural climax. I didn't have to force anything like I felt I was doing before. The plot points fell into place easier too and made better sense.

So I guess the moral of the story is to get it everything in order right from the start.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Writing Journal

I've been trying to keep a writing journal. Little excerpts that track things I've learned, setbacks I've been weighed down by, or anything else that crosses my mind.

This is so difficult. I want to write fiction, not non-fiction. These blogs of mine are almost impossible. Writing about my 'inner writing journeys' is just...not...happening.

I'm going to keep at it, though.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Plotting the Subplot

The screenplay I'm working on is worrying me. I've way too many subplots and the main plot already seems a little loose, while at the same time too long. I need to pick a climax that fulfills the main premise, for one.

Then I have to narrow down the five subplots I've got going. I have no idea which ones I need to let go right now. Can't dedicate myself to all of them. However, they all complete the story in their own little ways. Which are deceitfully unnecessary?

Vomit draft to the rescue! Tomorrow I will definitely nail down that climax and what this story will be culminating to and then I will sprinkle the subplots throughout the story in a way that will make sense. Or at least that's my intention.

I don't know...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Filling out the Middle

In the second story I'm working on (I'm working on three right now--yeah, I know smart, right?), I finally worked out how to make the story build to the climax instead of kind of--I don't know--plateau to it.

I had to think about the 'promise of the premise' and what someone reading my story would expect from it by the title, blurb, cover, synopsis, etc. My job is not to deliver exactly what they want, but to give them an experience that satisfies some part of what they are looking for.

I mean, my story will be labeled by genre, for one. I have to meet those expectations. If my books says 'Western' but I set it at the North Pole, then people are going to be furrowing eyebrows and getting confused. And there's no need for that. People seek out certain stories hoping for certain experiences, and I don't want to fool them--deliberately or not.

Therefore, I thought carefully about the experience and message and story I'll be promising to the audience. Will everything that I promised ultimately be delivered? Am I promising things I have no intentions of giving them? Am I continually building toward that promise to keep their expectations going up? Is what I'm giving them better than what they expected?

That last question is the one I'm always striving for. I'm not always going to give a reader what he or she wants because sometimes the reader wants the safe, boring choice. I just have to be sure to show how, in all its glory, the choice I've presented is the best one for the story.

Boy, do I fail at doing that.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Beginning to the Middle

The story I am developing this month has finally found its main character. She has a goal that will drive her to the end, and I know how the pursuit of her goal changes her and where everyone might stand at the end of the story.

Now I can go to the middle where she begins to change and see where the plot leads me there. It's funny how I can take a story which vaguely interests me and develop it into something that excites me with just a few words.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

When to Stand Firm and When to Let Go

There's an element of my story that many people in one of my writing groups are pretty consistently not liking. Well, it's not a 'not like' sort of thing. It's more of a don't understand. Their suggestion is to change it and make it more conventional and expected and just like it's always been done. 

Yet what's the point in that?

None of them give me solid reasons why changing it would benefit my story. They say that . And I got a 'if you keep it this way, then maybe your outstanding writing would save it.'  Huh? Shouldn't my writing be top notch no matter what? Moreover, no matter what state my writing is in, I doubt that it would win over that particular person. I made a mental note to not trust that person's words. I don't waste my time on close-minded people. The rest will see what I'm going for when they see the first pages.

How do I know when I'm wrong, and everyone's right? Or when I'm right and everyone's wrong? I know in most cases that the majority rules, and I bend to that. 

However, in this case, this doesn't feel right. Why should I change something to fit someone else's experiences when they go against mine? Even when that hurts the story. I thought I was writing what I know? 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Figuring out the End to Know Where to Begin

I'm forcing myself to develop this story. Not because I'm not interested in it, but because it's so dauntingly blank. I know so little about it.

But today I had a breakthrough. I began working on the ending. In particular, I chose the lessons that the main character will learn about what's going on inside herself and where she's been going wrong in dealing with others. Then I have her clearly see the correct path in righting her wrongs against others. Will she take it?

I immediately became excited when I limited where the story could go. Weird, huh? A lot of writers would say they'd lose interest if they knew the end. Yet, I don't really know the end, the end. I don't know the climax of the story. I just know the resolution. That's different. I know how she solves her problem, but I don't know how she will confront it; I don't know how the battle will turn out. I don't know if she will win or lose.

I still have many choices to make. Knowing that makes narrowing down the ending freeing. And now I know more about where to begin, at what point in the story is the starting point. I know more clearly what my first words will be.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

When You Don't Know the Story

I'm developing a story that I'll be writing in April. I have no idea what it will ultimately be about. That's truly scary. Usually, I will have thought months about it in my head and worked out some scenes and characters. I don't have any characters in mind or what will happen or how this will play out.

It will all be completely made up as I go along. The development stage has been going along slowly; I've been working more on my script than this novella. Where do I start with this? Do I plot it out? Try to get a character in my head? Piece out a scene? Come up with a compelling conflict? I generally know the end, but that hasn't propelled the story into my mind as it usually does.

I wonder if that means the idea is D.O.A.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Back in the Habit

It's been a while...

Migraines and writing don't seem to go together so well, but I'm back at it. Scratching away in the sand.

I'm doing screenplays right now, in addition to noveling and short stories. I wonder how this will work out. Probably not so well either.

I have outlined a story and characters and will be doing a scene list (step outline). After that comes the rough draft. Since my momentum slows down so drastically towards the end, I've decided to write that dry wafer of an ending first. Then the flat, crunchy beginning. Lastly, the smooth and creamy delicious, delicious, middle. Just the opposite approach of an Oreo cookie.