Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hello friends

I'm sorry that the last post was so scattered. I wrote the first paragraph one afternoon and then three days later came back to it... this did not lead to continuity. I'm not sure if I really have that much to say about how seductive it can be to write openings other than it is :P

I think, in a way, writing can be like reading. When we read, we start off with huge ideas of what the story could be, and then the writer narrows those down for us. When we write, we can find ourselves being squeezed, knowing we need to narrow, and feeling that pressure, but being unable to do it because we haven't decided what we want to happen and we have no idea where our story is going.

Being a writer is fascinating--when it's not frustrating. It's such a unique art. I really don't think there's anything like it, except thoughts, and living, and becoming aware of things. It's one of the only art forms that really expresses the interior life, mainly because it is the language of the interior life. Which is interesting. It can be hard because the language of our art is the language of our daily lives, our interior lives, our reading lives... if you put an artist in a prison cell with paint and canvas they'd be able to create for a little while before going insane. I think a writer would go mad quite sooner :P

I speculate that many writers take English in school because in doing so they're surrounded by writing, and while that can be overwhelming at times, it's also part of our artistic relationship--writers do not live in a void. No artists do.

I think that writing necessitates the ability to maintain two perspectives at once: the overall scope and the minute progression of tone. Tone is an interesting thing in writing, I have found it is a life-saver. Knowing your character's emotion is one thing, knowing what sort of tone that demands is another. I had been working on "The Mark," my current novel, and I wrote this scene and it just felt wrong. I went back and re-read from the scene before and saw that in the "wrong" scene the tone had changed completely from serious to one of levity, and that there had been no real reason for this.

I am probably not being specific or in-depth enough. Sometimes I don't know how to be. My mind is very much "big picture oriented." So those are some of my thoughts.

Until next time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Larry Brooks (scattered post)

The problem with opening lines and introductions is that they’re extremely seductive to write. I’ve never had a problem starting a story. But when the story reaches a certain point where it is meant to launch and instead flounders, the writer may find themselves embroiled in many problems.

The main problem for me has been that the trajectory I established does not fit. Does not fit anything: my idea of the story, the appropriate way the story should go, etc. But how do you determine where the story should go? How do you combine that with your great ideas?

I’ve always thought it should be more than running through the dark. I am the writer, after all. Ray Bradbury said “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. That is all Plot should ever be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal. It cannot be mechanical. It can only be dynamic.”

His ideas are interesting, because they can actually be molded to fit many viewpoints--which is part of the problem. On the one hand, you could look at that paragraph as speaking to the person who despises outlines. They jump up in their seat and make an exclamation of validation when they see “it cannot be mechanical.” But for the person who does outline, the paragraph is simply a metaphor for what they do. First, they follow the footprints of their character and create a map. They allow their character’s desires to determine the outline they make. They do not rely on mechanics; they rely on the dynamic of human emotion.

As you can probably tell, I’m a bit of an outline person. Just a bit. I also read a lot of books on writing, and recently I’ve been reading “Story Structure – Demystified” by Larry Brooks. He has a lot of interesting things to say, this one in reference to my opening paragraph:

“You have to know. You have to study. You have to search for it, see it, recognize the how and why of it. Most writers don’t get to read unpublished works, which means almost everything they see conforms to the principles. It’s seductive, it looks simple, so you think you can do it, too. That the power of your initial idea is enough.”

But he has more to say. He has a structure to give. It is basic only in that it is universal, and that is what makes it powerful. Many structure books are too specific, or frighten you away from using your “silly” ideas. Which, in hindsight, might be why some people don’t like outlines.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been using this book with success and there are some very interesting things in there that might be helpful even if you don’t enjoy outling. It’s specific, but again, universal. You can recognize the principles he lays down in pretty much any successful book or movie. Unless it’s Twilight :P

“The difference is discipline. Insight. Recognizing the magic, then the honing of skills that allows the magic to become second nature. To become instinct.”

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Making endless decisions"

"From the Washington Post today:
Having to make too many choices can affect one's ability to stay focused, finish work and do complex mental tasks, finds a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Almost 400 people took part in seven experiments in which some were asked to make choices or rate various products. The more choices individuals had to make and the more time they spent deciding, the worse they fared on later tasks, regardless of the complexity of the choices."

An interesting article. Writing certainly involves more decision-making than plopping down in front of the computer screen and twiddling away time on hulu.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"To readers a great story seems like one of two things: it looks easy… or it looks like magic.

But to a writer that understands the magic, it’s all physics and mechanics and principles dancing with a demanding muse. Just like the magician, storyteling is about diverting attention, then commanding attention, then paying it off."