April 17, 2012

Responding Versus Arguing: Written by David

Beginning a life of substitute teaching (because hey, cash is cash) you find yourself in some interesting situations. In the period of a week I found myself in a school where after two days I was being questioned by students I didn't even know about my life, and a school where the students every action was a rebellion against my authority. Guess which school I'd like to teach to again?

But the problem of people rebelling against authority is not isolated to a school classroom. Shock and awe, I know. Rebellion is a part of life. So what makes one rebellion different from another?

The question is whether someone is responding to a problem, or arguing.

Quick quiz, is calling something stupid "gay" the same thing as calling something stupid "black."

Fundamentally, of course they're different. One is homophobic and one is racist. But they both are similar in the fact that they're hateful words. This was an argument that I had at that second school, and I didn't want to get in the argument. But a student decided to argue, not respond.

Responding is discourse. Both sides get to speak, and both sides should learn something by the end of it. But arguing is different, nothing is solved by arguing. Arguing just exists to anger the other side so that you can claim  you ticked them off and you must be right.

As frustrating as 7th graders arguing with you are, it's more frustrating to argue with adults. 7th graders have age as an excuse, but adults have no reason to just be so pigheaded.

April 9, 2012

Writing Other People's People: Written by David

This is a problem that I just encountered in writing my Jovial Brittanians project, and one which any writer who decides to take on a famous character or person may face in their own writing. How do you write a pre-established character who isn't your creation?

Unfortunately this week's problem doesn't have a clear cut solution. And I'll warn you, it's definitely going to feel a little weird.

If you haven't tried writing a character who you didn't make up, take the opportunity to try it no, because it's an experience every writer should try at least once. If you can do it well, then your own characters may just gain a little something as well.

All right, so how do we step into someone else's skin?

The best way to write someone who is not your own creation is to become familiar with them. Take them out to a private engagement if possible. Don't interview them, so much as study them.

All right, so that's all fine and dandy if the character is your best friend, but how is that going to help you write Tom Cruise? Or Mork the Orc?

If you can't familiarize yourself with the person personally, then your next step is to study them as much as possible. Deconstruct them. Use that skill we call literary analysis and analyze your way to an understanding of a character.

And then the hard part. Start writing them.

I warned you it would feel weird, kind of like the feeling of slipping into another persons skin. It's supposed to feel weird, because ideally the character is not going to behave in a way that you feel is natural. That's a good thing, if they behaved how you wanted them to behave it would mean you're putting too much of you or your other characters into them.

Step away from the comfort zone.

To really try your patience try throwing the character into situations you normally wouldn't find them. Let Washington wind up on a space station. Put a military captain into the middle of a tea party. Put your characters into uncomfortable situations and you'll work out the uncomfortable nature of a character who doesn't behave how they're supposed to.

And then you can put them into the situation you've devised for them, and feel a little better about how they're acting.

April 3, 2012

Something to Consider

If you haven't done so already, be sure to go read the fantastic poetry and fiction that is featured in the Spring issue of Obsession Literary Magazine. Our current issue is up and will remain so until our summer issue. Which if you haven't already, be sure to submit for our summer issue!

There's nothing I feel like talking about this week. My mind is defunct due to interviews, adjusting to a new sleep schedule as a substitute teacher, and a whole mess of thoughts jumping around my skull relating to matters both real and otherwise. So this week I'll just ask you to consider the following.

March 29, 2012

Book Versus Movie: Written by David

I recently had the pleasure of watching The Hunger Games movie, and while you might be afraid of some sort of review or spoiler, I'm not going to give you either. Unless someone wants to pay me to do so in which case I'm broke enough to endorse almost anything. But not Kenny G.

What I am going to talk about though is what it means as a writer to have your work put into movie or television form. Now, I myself do not have any experience in this, but I have heard a few authors discuss such things and so that's what I will discuss.

As what I suppose we might now call an Indy writer, but really is just an unpaid writer, this isn't an issue that I will probably have to worry about, unless I actually do finish a novel. In fact, it's mainly novelists who will face this problem, since short stories are only turned into movies long after their publication, and usually authors demise. But what does it mean to have your work turned into a movie? Is it selling out?

I suppose there's a variety of ways to view that question. Selling your product isn't necessarily selling out, except to the most anti-pop culture people out there. If they are your audience then selling out probably won't work for you. Keep in mind, that for every blockbuster movie out there that made millions of dollars, there are just as many cult classic that may not generate huge income, but develop a following that often can lead to a life long following. So pick your battles. If you want to go for the biggest market, some things to consider.

Once you hand over those rights, they're generally completely out of your hands. You may see an author's name attached to the screenwriting credits, such as with the hunger games, but don't let it fool you. Technically speaking all an author has to do is look at the script to get their name on there, and if you think hollywood is going to say "I see your point on page 7, line 3, that doesn't work at all. We'll rework the whole script to fulfill your vision" not at all. You may have also noticed that the Hunger Games was produced by the author as well. Money will always trump artist.

Again though, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The big or small screen is a way different monster from writing that book. You may not want to have any hand in it at all. You may not even have a choice!

But enough about the hypothetical involvement. Is it a good thing if your work is picked up for the screen?

Jonathan Mayberry, a local writer, stopped in to visit my children's writing class at Arcadia and he talked to us about some friends of his who had their works adapted for television, mainly the Sooki Stackhouse novels, and the Darkly Dreaming Dexter series. I asked what many of you might have asked in the same situation. How did these authors feel having their works adapted where they had no control over how things changed between book and screen?

His response: They loved it! Huge paycheck aside, which as a writer is always nice, he went on to tell me that from the creation of these series, the authors actually saw an increase in their readership. Because let's not forget what people see right in the opening credits of any adaptation.

Based on ___________ by _____________

Now, this is probably a hypothetical situation that many of us will never face, but seeing The Hunger Games reminded me of all of this. And hopefully you've found it entertaining as well.

Shameless self promotion time, I recently began an online project titled "The Jovial Brittanians," an experiment in online publishing similar to the weekly web-comic format. Check it out if you're a D&D fan like myself or want to see an interesting new experiment in wirting. You can find it here at jovialparty.blogspot.com

David is, among other things, unpaid for his weekly ramblings about whatever happens to be on his mind. He has been published enough times to make the claim he's been published, and is one of the editors of the great magazine Obsession Literary Magazine.

March 26, 2012

Junk: Written by David

You may have noticed that generally these posts tend to follow things that I, your faithful author, happen to be experiencing around the moment they're written. Well if there's one thing being a poet has taught me, it's how to relate one thing to another thing that generally revolves around my life.

This week that happens to be junk. Or more specifically, written junk.

I just spent a good twenty minutes clearing out an E-mail inbox full of junk as I prepare for my future as a substitute teacher, and I needed to clean out my non-university professional inbox. What did I find awaiting me but over 1000 unread E-mails.

Why should you care about my unread E-mails? Who am I, but some mad man sitting on his laptop divulging to you the lax care with which I treat my secondary E-mail account. Well, there is a reason that applies to you, and here it is.

How do you go about storing and cataloging your artistic endeavors? Is everything neatly arranged in its own little nook which you go to every day and clear out before it can pile up and overwhelm you?

If so please leave comments on how to manage such amazing organizational skills because I don't have them. But if you're not one of those royalty of organization, your artistic endeavors may have become a seemingly unmanageable pile of confusion, and you may be wondering how to go about cleaning it out.

First things first, don't be afraid to throw things out. I know what you may be thinking or actively screaming at your monitors. How could anyone throw out art that has come from their own hands, put down for future generations to appreciate and cherish. Or even buy!

Well, here's the thing. If it's sitting on the bottom of a stack of other such masterpieces, is it really all that special? Even if your habit is to stow thing away to let them stew and then return to them at a later date to tweak, how many of those pieces do you actively stew upon and how many do you forget about until you shuffle through your work again?

The first step towards recovery is to admit you have a problem. So if you're like me, you've got several half filled notebooks with half started ideas, hastily scribbled notes, and maybe a finished work or two. It's time to learn how to pluck out the gold and toss out the junk. Hint, if it's more than a year old and you haven't worked on it, it may just be for the garbage. But it ultimately comes down to you whether you want to be a hoarder of ideas just in case one time in the future when you look at it again it inspires you to greatness.

But for every E-mail of gold, there's a hundred facebook notifications waiting to be deleted. See what I did there? And you wondered why I was talking about my E-mails...

David is most certainly not an alien despite what some people may say. When he's not writing blog posts for Obsession, he splits his time between assimilation and overpowering futile resistance.