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[Note: this article was written before the airing of the March 8th episode. If the episode tonight is suddenly extremely awesome, this post may be moot. ...But I doubt it]
Glee, you broke my heart.
In the beginning, you made me happy. In the beginning, you made me believe that TV was entering a new realm of sophistication and creativity. Now? You just mostly make me sad. And also a little annoyed.
When you first premiered, Glee, I was one of your biggest fans. As someone who spent two years of her life learning the art of musical theater, I continuously advocated for music and drama to combine on the small screen – it was uncharted territory (okay, not completely, but I think we all want to forget that strange, strange LSD trip that was Cop Rock), territory that had the possibility of reaching millions of people and providing them with an emotional release the way that only music and lyrics can. When you came along, Glee, I finally felt like my prayers had been answered. Not only were you hilarious and fresh, you were also keenly aware of how a well-placed song could move people.
But then…something started to happen. You got…less fresh. Sure, there were – and still are – moments of wip-smart humor, but you also started to come down with a case of cliche-itis. Your drama began to veer down Cheesy Lane and your songs began to feel awkward – and you didn’t seem to care. Read more »
I took a creative writing course last semester, and one of my assignments was to take a small notebook and lounge around random spots on campus where lots of people congregate: the arts quad, the café, hallways after class lets out, and so on. I was asked to be a listener, to listen to all the conversation going on around me and to jot down some of it. It seemed like a weird request at first, but overhearing a few conversations and seeing how they looked on paper surprisingly taught me a lot about dialogue and what realistic dialogue sounds like.
I have been keeping track of daily dialogue since that experience, mostly in my mind. Thinking about the way different people talk in different situations, what their style of talking reveals about themselves, their character, their education and background, their emotional state or their intended emotional state. Now I am trying to apply those real world examples to my fictional ones, so that they are as realistic and human as possible. Below are some examples of things I’ve picked up along the way, examples which you shouldn’t necessarily follow by the book, but rather keep in mind when you are constructing dialogue. Read more »
With so many different styles of writing in the world, it’s completely possible that two people can call themselves writers and not even be in the same ballpark. There are poets, essayists, journalists, novelists and bloggers, not to mention reporters, short-story writers, reviewers, and playwrights.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses; I personally love writing fiction, although it’s sometimes difficult for me to create it. My sister is excellent at writing blurbs. Another friend of mine is great at spoken word poems. I consider myself to be good at a few things, but blurbs and spoken word poetry aren’t part of them.
But it’s the new year, and we’re all about challenges! So, I want to know what your literary kryptonite is.
What writing style makes you curl up with fear and cry?
Your challenge (if you choose to accept it) is to come up with something in that style and post it below. I’m going to come up with something too. Winner gets my love, and the satisfaction of knowing that you are awesome enough to break through everything you ever thought about yourself. Right on!
Everyone has their writing ritual. Maybe you need to make a huge pot of coffee before you start. Maybe you get out a particular kind of pen or paper. Maybe you turn on some moody music.
As I’m growing as a writer and working with themes and ideas beyond thinly veiled, somewhat autobiographical short stories, I’m finding that there are certain rituals I need to follow to get into my writing groove. And strangely, I’m finding that these little habits, these scenes I set for myself, help my writing. Perhaps they don’t enhance my actual writing, but they do let me settle in and be incredibly productive (rather than lead to two hours of web browsing for every three sentences I write).
Keep a nice little notebook in your back pocket, it'll do you wonders.
SIFI is the name of a little notebook I carry around in my back pocket at all times; it stands for “Shit I Find Interesting”. It’s full of scribbles and illegible statements in no real order. Snips of thoughts, ideas, musings, observations and well, anything I find interesting. It’s the type of book every writer should have.
Ideas strike writers at all times of the day. You can be on the train and over hear an interesting conversation, maybe see someone who looks eccentric maybe wearing something odd––and an idea for a story or a character might follow. You can be in class, zoning out in the back and in that moment of lapse, your mind jumps to a vivid thought, a memory of use in a story maybe even a scene. Or, you could just be lounging with your friends, talking shit around a table. One might say something, a statement that summarizes a complex belief of your age group, maybe a bit of slang that’s poignant, possibly useful for your narrative.
[Let me preface this article by saying that usually, I can take criticism, and I can take it well. I took it in college. I took it (in bushels) in graduate school. I took it from studios and producers who later ended up not giving a shit. Hell, I even take it at my job...every day. And usually, I take it with a smile. Or at least a half-hidden grimace. Because most of the time criticism helps more than it hurts and is an essential part of being a writer. Okay. Now that we're clear...]
For most of my writing career, I’ve entered contests. While some of them are designed to take your money and nothing more, a lot of writing contests – espescially the ones that include feedback – are a good way to actively let the world know who you are and what you do. They can be great resume boosters, and sometimes even lead to contacts.
These days, I still enter the occasional contest, but have also started to work for a few, providing the oh-so-important feedback. So I know how it works. I know that sometimes readers get slammed with entries and have to juggle their judging along with their own work. I know that sometimes, most of what they have to wade through is awful. I know they often do it for so little pay it’s laughable. But I also know that they freely sign up for all of it.
Which is why I was so pissed when I received coverage on a script of mine from a certain contest that shall remain unnamed. Actually, pissed is an understatement. Slamming-cupboards-looking-for-nothing-in-particular-kind-of-angry is more like it. Read more »
The Brainstormer is an innovative, free web-based idea generator for those plumb out of ideas, so now you have no excuse not to write. At the spin of a (virtual) wheel, the Brainstormer churns out a combination of objects/phrases/ideas, like “colonial dwarf in flight” or “pool hall involving fidelity and enlightenment.” Is it the stuff of great ideas? Uh, maybe. But at least it pushes you through that first hurdle of forcing yourself to actually sit down and write.
For those on the go, it’s also available as an iPhone app.
This weekend, I was fortunate to attend a lecture given by one of my personal heroes, Joyce Carol Oates. Queen of the contemporary American (specifically New York-based) gothic, Oates is as prolific as she is profound.
I finally found my way to The Hilton on 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue after taking 3 subways, a cab and then sprinting on my sprained ankle through the Casimir Pulaski parade on Fifth. Unable to find a seat due to my late arrival, I perched on the table in the back with my journal and a bleeding pen. There she was: the small, pale woman with shiny eyes that haunts the back cover of her books. I was surprised by how, well, sweet she sounded when not discussing evil fetuses and murderous country wives. These are the types of things that get me excited! Call me sick or macabre, but when I’m having a bad day, I appreciate the sound of a chainsaw mercilessly tearing through teenage flesh (on-screen only, I swear).
Though the lecture seemed to be geared towards the casual reader (not the obsessive gothic-loving freak of an English major I am), I found some gems in her speech, or at least some confirmations of my methods and madness. Read more »
The Jersey Shore. It’s one of the most popular shows on TV right now, has single-handedly made MTV relevant again and is constantly in the news – so why won’t anyone admit they watch it?
Not only will no one over the age of 17 admit they watch it, but ragging on the guidos and guidettes that make this show so successful has become a national pastime. A recent article in Vanity Fair is a prime example:
“…which is more than can be said for MTV’s Jersey Shore, a cynical slumming exercise whose carefully chosen cast of lower primates with limited vocabularies would seem to get the last laugh by becoming famous for accomplishing nothing, the new American Dream…”
Okay, so James Wolcott hates The Jersey Shore. Or at least he thinks he does. The reason I’m not sure he actually hates Snooki and the gang is because his description of the show is hardly its reality. In fact, I’d like to wager that most people who turn their noses up at MTV’s newest sensation (Wolcott included) haven’t really watched it. Because if they had…they’d realize the “cast of lower primates with limited vocabularies” are actually just a bunch of people who aren’t afraid of being exactly who they are. Read more »
It was a Sunday night. I was exhausted and on my second glass of wine and that’s probably why I didn’t protest when someone suggested putting on a movie starring Gerald Butler, Jamie Fox and the worst plot ever imagined.
I knew this film would suck. I could just tell by looking at the DVD cover. Also, I remembered critics panning it months back. Two strikes. But like I said: wine and exhaustion. So someone slipped it into the TV and we all sat back to watch what turned out to be exactly the kind of lame, violent, stupidly plotted movie I thought it would.
What frustrated me about this film wasn’t the acting, or the surprise violence (I’d like to be warned before a bullet makes a person’s head explode, thank you very much), it was the fact that it even got made in the first place.
As freshly minted writers, every opportunity that comes our way is always packaged in a “this is your one chance so don’t screw it up” kind of way. We work our asses off writing, rewriting, swallowing mind-numbing critique and even giving up scenes we’d practically date if given the chance. We run mental triathlons because, well, our art has to be perfect – or no one’s going to give it a second thought.
So we beat ourselves up to create this expressive masterpiece, and then someone brings over a DVD that’s so full of every writing Don’t it makes our mouths hang open in disbelief. How the hell does something like this get made?! It’s awful. Don’t tell me this was someone’s magnum opus. It’s impossible. The only way this makes sense is if a bunch of big execs came up with it in the back of a party van on the way to a strip club. Read more »