Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Procrastination at Its Finest

I've been posting a lot of bullshit lately and I think I've really gotten off topic. I've veered away from the writing adventure I was supposed to be chronicling, and came dangerously close to just talking about boring life stuff. Someone needs to shake me or something when I do that. Get me back on track. You didn't come here for that.

I had that prompt challenge thing, but all the prompts were super boring and didn't inspire me at all. They made writing lame and tedious. And once something you loved becomes a chore, well, it's all over. I have a bazillion story prompts, so maybe I should dive into one of those. Most of my posts lately have just been talking about what I'm going to do eventually, and I'm getting tired of it. I'm sure you are too. I really just need to stop writing my posts the night before.

I have a post in progress (that I just started) about outlining. But I realized it's going to take more time than I have right now, so I'll save it for Friday. So there's something to look forward to.

Lately, it seems I've been doing everything possible to avoid starting a new writing project. I cleaned my place  last week, and took two days (there was a lot of laundry). Then I decided to learn to play the piano. I've got the first 30 or 40 seconds of an emo song that I can marginally play, so that's cool. I'll get to the rest soon. Then, I had an extra hour on Friday morning, so I did the obvious thing and started learning Russian. I'm at the point where I know what a word means when I hear it, but I'm a little iffy when it comes to thinking of the Russian word from memory and spelling it. Unless it's кошка. That one I remember, for some stupid reason. That's "cat," by the way.

But here I am doing the thing I said I wouldn't. I'll shake myself this time, but I expect you to be on alert in the future. We don’t have time for that life crap here.

Stay tuned for Friday when I actually talk about something that matters.

Friday, May 27, 2016

There's No Place Like Home

I know I've been a slacker lately when it comes to interesting content, and for that, I apologize. I've also been slacking on these prompt things. You're supposed to do one each day, but they're so god damn boring! It's all "describe this" and "describe that." "What's your ideal party?" One where everyone leaves me alone, thank you very much. So basically I'm just skipping through them when I need something to write about, hoping to find one that doesn’t make me want to take a nap. 

That brings us to Day 8, entitled "All Good Things Come to an End?" It asks that I imagine that some place I'm fond of is closing down. And, nosy thing that it is, it wants to know why it's so important and what I'm going to do about it closing. How would I convince someone to go there with me? While I've basically accepted that establishments are going to close and parks are going to get paved over, it did get me thinking.

There's nothing quite so, I don’t know, disheartening, as the impossibility of going home. There's a song called "Acadia" that I've been listening to lately, that's about having all these memories of your childhood home, even though it's gone. It starts with "In the house I grew up in, my room in the basement…" which makes it relatable to me, since I did in fact have a room in the basement. And while the house is still there, my room has been repurposed.

Have you ever been out in the middle of Washington, around Tri-Cities? It's this big, flat, open nothingness. I find it wholly unsettling. Entirely too much sky. The point? To me, this place is what "no home to go back to" feels like. I don't know, maybe it's because there's no shelter, nowhere secure to hide. It's an incredibly vulnerable place, and I don't like it.

Usually when I find myself in this desolate corner of Washington, I've been up since some ungodly hour, and I'm only halfway to wherever I'm going. So there's always this weary sense of wanting to be "not here."

This is how my brain works. I connect things to other things that might not make sense to anyone else. I connect places to feelings. I connect flavors to shapes and colors (wintergreen and root beer are same plateau-like shape, by the way). I think this blog is just an attempt to convey that, somehow.

Over to you, readers. What does home or the lack thereof feel like?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Brief Musical Interlude

Welcome to Mad's Music Corner. Pull up a chair. Get comfy.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned possibly talking about the music I'm listening to at the time. This is that. I was going to try to link my selections thematically or something, but that proved too hard at this hour. So if these do end up having a common thread, that's just a coincidence, or a sign that all my music is similar.

Simple Plan - Astronaut

I'm not great at metaphors. I'm an illiterate kindergartener trying to read Finnegans Wake. But I can tell you that this song is about loneliness and the inability to connect with other people. It uses the image of the loneliest person ever, someone alone and adrift in a little box, while the rest of the world forgot about them. I'm not going to lie, sometimes writing this blog feels like that. Like I'm just sending transmissions out to a world that isn't listening.

Oceans Divide - Barely Alive

I don’t have a lot to say about the content of this one. More about why I prefer the acoustic version over the regular one. Spotify gave me this one first, so I could just be biased towards it, but the regular version seems so caught up in its own production that it loses some of the emotion. Or something. What do I know? It's a good song, listen to it.

We Are the Emergency - All We Ever See of Stars Are Their Old Photographs

I'm going to warn you, it gets a bit screamy towards the end which is, if nothing else, kind of startling. I only recently (just now) learned what the words were. This one earned its inclusion with its very flowing sound. There are parts where the beginning of one line overlaps the end of the one before and it's just very cool.

That's all for this installment. I hope to maybe introduce people to music they've never heard. Or at least give you an idea of what I'm listening to while pretending to write. Anyone who's been paying attention might notice the lack of a certain band I've been obsessed with lately. That's because I made a deal with myself that I could only include one of their songs in Mad's Music Corner (ever!), and so I had better make it a good one.

Until Friday, when we talk about… something.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Must be Crumbs in the Butter

I'm going to be honest. I'm really flaking out on this 31 days of prompts thing. Probably because they're super boring. It feels like some of them are just teaching people who can't describe things how to describe things. But Mad, you might say, aren't you terrible at describing things? Damn right I am. But I don't think describing how an everyday object feels, smells, tastes, etc., is going to help me.

Anyway, so I skipped ahead to Day 4, which sounded like more fun. Basically, it asks what line from a movie do you quote a lot, or makes you laugh or smile, and why this line stands out to you.

Of course I thought this would be an easy task. I know tons of movie lines! I quote them all the time! And then I spent four or five hours trying to think of one (and watching the season finale of Legends of Tomorrow, which was quite an ordeal). I watch a lot more TV than movies, so we may have to take an alternate route.

All right, many hours later, and I have a line. The funny thing about this is that no one realizes it's a line from a movie. I've absorbed it into my lexicon. The phrase in question is "a different kettle of onions." From what I can tell, this is the lesser used version of the usual "kettle of fish." I actually stole it from a movie called Alice (no, not that one). It’s a little known movie (technically it's a two part miniseries) that is very important to me for… reasons.

Honestly, there are so many great lines in this movie. I love it. When I first saw it, it was a rental. I went out and bought it the next day, and watched it every day for at least a week. Everyone should watch it. You should watch it. It's a modern Alice, who ends up in Wonderland, where things have gone a bit downhill. The whole place is run by the Queen of Hearts, who harvests emotions from Oysters (people from our world) in her casino.

Anyway, the line. Why did it stand out, that was the question. Because it was different. I'd never heard the phrase before. So I stole it (and even used it in a past post). The movie also contains the line "madder than a box of frogs," which I think I should use more often.

It’s currently 1:30am, so I'm going to call it for this post. Maybe by Tuesday I'll have something more interesting to write about. I'm not counting on it. I did mention in the past that I might do a regular feature where I talk about cool music I found. This is still in the works, not to worry.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Rejection of Reality

I've recently acquired a challenge thing that gives 31 days of writing prompts. The idea is to get yourself in the habit of writing every day. The first prompt is to write about a favorite childhood book. Like, you're supposed to relive your memories of experiencing this story.

This veers dangerously into the realm of reality. I don’t do reality, as a general rule. I'm not really a fan of "write what you know," because what I know is pretty boring. But I accepted the challenge, so here we are.

The question of a favorite childhood book is a tricky one. What are the parameters of childhood? That's potentially a lot of years, and a lot of books. When I initially read the prompt, the story that came to mind was Dr. Seuss' "Too Many Daves" which was actually part of a collection called The Sneetches and Other Stories. The thing about that story is that I barely remember reading it as a child. As an adult, I actually had it memorized for a while. I revisited it this past Christmas, so it was fairly fresh in my mind. So all of today I had bits of it rolling around in my head. And I'd laugh to myself like a weirdo.

But this isn't a very interesting story. Do you see why I don't write reality? It’s not fun or exciting. I want very much to tell you a detailed story about reading a beloved book and getting lost in the story and some wonderful tale of youthful imagination. But I don't remember that. I remember reading a lot of books, but not anything noteworthy about the reading experience.

That's my issue with prompts like this. Anything that's "Tell about an experience you had" is going to end in automatic failure for me. For a supposed writer, I'm a pretty terrible storyteller. But you give me a prompt that's like, "Make up a story where something explodes," and we're golden. I can make up anything. I don’t have any interesting personal experiences to draw from.

So I failed the Day 1 prompt. We'll see if we can do better tomorrow. I looked ahead to the next one, but I've forgotten what it was.

What about you, readers? What was your favorite childhood book, and do you have an interesting story about it?

Friday, May 13, 2016

But Not Too Similar

I really need to embark on another writing project, because this, 'Oh hell, what am I going to blog about?" thing is getting old. Mostly I've just been working on stupid emo projects, including rewriting all of the verses in one thing because I didn't like the melody of them. And I've started like two others, and I have this idea for a concept album (an EP, technically) that's never going to happen. Basically, I'm wasting all my energy on crappy writing that is definitely never going to amount to anything. And I did say I wouldn’t mention that again.

Along with all of my past posts, I have here a list of possible future post topics. It’s a short list. The only one I haven't covered yet is the question of making characters similar to or different from yourself. So I guess we're going to talk about that now.

I have many, many stories and what-not posted online, and I got my start in that, as many people do, with fan fiction. Now, there's a little thing that tends to show up in terrible fan fiction (although it exists in original works too) called the "author insert fic." That's where you, or a thinly veiled version of you, appears in the story. Sometimes this character is the best thing ever, everyone loves them, and they save the day. This is called a Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is not necessarily an author insert, and an author insert is not necessarily a Mary Sue, but these often happen together.

With the exposition out of the way, we can get to the point. I try to keep my characters from being too similar to myself. Unfortunately, since I'm the one writing them, at least one in each story will end up with my sense of humor. Poor them. But none ever shared a similar background to me. None shared my particular eating habits, or my myopia (that's nearsightedness, I you haven't got a thesaurus handy), or my education/interest in history. To do so would make them a cheap copy of myself. And I would be writing crappy author insert fic.

The closest I think I ever let a character get to myself was in my second NaNo novel, The Tower, the so-called "steampunk Rapunzel" story. The main character had long hair, a practical fashion sense, and a dislike for emotional touchy-feely-ness. That was a mistake I wouldn’t be making again.

On a related note, of the dozen-ish projects I've embarked on, only about three have a female protagonist. Is it because I can't write a female character without making them like me? I don’t know. Probably. Maybe it's because I find female characters boring, with all their requisite emotions. Maybe it's because I've been seeing really lame female characters and I need to write a better one.

Bottom line is, you can't make a character too similar to yourself without people accusing you of straight up putting yourself in the story. Why does it matter what other people think? Because I'm trying to get published, damn it.

See you Tuesday, my dear three readers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Face the Music When It's Dire

I don't know what we’re talking about today. I was working this past weekend, and it's a lot of standing and walking and carrying things, as opposed to all the sitting and thinking about things that I've been doing since August. So there was a lot of sleeping when I wasn't working.

I have also been listening to a lot of music. Mainly a band called Marianas Trench. Literally, 95% of what I have listened to in the past week is them. I even ordered one of their CDs as a graduation present to myself. Not going to lie, I'm more excited about that than my diploma being mailed to me.

Anyway, maybe a little more on topic, music is a huge part of my writing process. Sure, I like to have something playing in the background while I write to drown out all the background noise (and trust me, I can't hear a damn thing with my headphones in). But, music also plays a more direct role in the narrative process. I have, in my highly organized collection of story ideas and elements, a page entitled "Song Bits" with little snippets that I find particularly inspiring or compelling. These can lead to a scene or even a whole story. I have a couple of stories that owe their entire existence to a single song. I'm only going to tell you about one, because I can actually share it with you.

This came from a creative writing class I took. The details aren’t important, but the particular exercise involved using a song title as a story title, then writing the story from there. I ended up using Breaking Benjamin's "Unknown Soldier," and wrote a whole story based on it (found here). It's not a perfect story, but I did write it something like eight years ago. Although I was about 20 at the time, so it's not a great excuse. Unless I was 12 or under, I expect a higher standard of quality from past me.

Even when it's not directly influencing the plot, music is super important to my process. I tend to make playlists for each story that I'm working on. Since I imagine all my stories as movies that play in my head, it only makes sense for them to have soundtracks. There could be songs that fit the overall mood, or a particular scene, or a particular character. I haven't done this as much lately, for whatever reason, but some of my past stories have extensive playlists. An example for you is The Midnight Carnival's playlist. The protagonist was a teenage girl, so there's a lot of emo type stuff in there. When (if?) I try to revise that story this summer, I'm sure I'll be adding to it. I have a lot more of that sort of music than I did two years ago.

I've considered adding a regular feature to the blog where I share the music I'm into at the time. But I don’t know if I can consistently relate that back to writing without getting repetitious. Sometimes I just want to fangirl about a new band I found. For some odd reason, I try to cater this whole thing to the readers and what they want to see. But I don't know what that is. I'm just throwing spaghetti here. I need a little feedback if you want this to stay interesting. This isn't a monologue, it’s a conversation. And if you've ever met me, you'll know how terrible I am at keeping a conversation when I have nothing to work with.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Rhyme or Reason

I may have lied on Tuesday. I don't really write terrible poetry. Typically I write terrible song lyrics, which is somehow much worse. It's more emo, at any rate. And the paranoia factor is so much higher. If you think I come across as weird and embarrassed about sharing story bits, you haven't seen anything yet. My more poetical ventures are never to be seen by human eyes.

Why am I telling you all this, if I'm not going to share it? I don't know. Maybe I'm running out of things to talk about. Maybe I figure no one's listening anyway.

The issue with writing lyrics is that they're completely useless. I don’t read music well enough to write it, I don't play an instrument, and I'm pretty sure I'm tone deaf. So I can hear a whole, completed thing in my head, but I can’t actually create it.

So why write something if I'm not going to use it? Same reason I write anything. Because it's in my head. I have to write it down or it's just going to rattle around in there taking up space. And there's a lot of crap in there as it is, so space is at a premium.

I wanted to start a steampunk emo band. It'd be a kind of pop-punk sound with songs about time travel and things made of clockwork. See the above reasons why that wouldn’t work. Namely the zero musical talent thing.

Here's the thing I don't get. I write lyrics about time travel and things made of clockwork. I am incredibly embarrassed about this, like it’s something I'm not supposed to admit, like I'm writing Twilight fan fiction or something. But why? What is so inherently wrong about it? Would it be different if I could actually play an instrument and compose music? Would that make me a "songwriter" instead of an "emo kid who likes rhyming"?

As it is, I can imagine several people who would tell me to shut up about this and never speak of it again. And that's probably what I'm going to do. Because this is something I'm not supposed to talk about and not supposed to admit. I'm still that angsty teenager with a notebook of bad poems about how I feel. I'm supposed to grow up and stop feeling shit, or at least stop talking about it. (I'm also supposed to not say "shit" in my own personal blog that I write for my own personal self, for some reason, but whatever.)

Anyway, this is what happens when I'm not working on a story and have nothing to report. I start getting all existential and having emotions. I wouldn't worry. It'll pass.

I'm writing this on Wednesday, but by the time it posts on Friday, I'll be done with class. Then, maybe, I can focus on some new project. Stay tuned, or whatever.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Rewriting What We've Already Written

I'm going to take it easy this week, writing-wise. I have two finals on Thursday, back to back, and I should probably pretend like that's going to be a challenge. I can have a 5x7 "cheat sheet" for each, so I need to make those. That's going to be the majority of my test prep.

Last… whenever, I mentioned doing a revision. The story in question is The Midnight Carnival. It's something I did for Camp NaNo a couple of years ago. I had a collection of strange and interesting characters thrown into a weird situation. Namely, they were all trapped in a circus run by some kind of demon and his clown henchmen. The protagonist was a teenage runaway who was assigned the role of target girl. That paired her with the knife thrower (who throws knives around her), a guy a few years older than her. There was a whole unrequited thing going on.

But, a lot of it doesn’t make as much sense as it could, and the pacing in all screwed up. And then there's the pinnacle of literary issues: I have no clue how it ends. Our main character has to escape somehow. Doesn't she?

So I'm thinking that it might be time to revise it, either for July's Camp NaNo, or before then. Of course, I still don’t know how it ends. But I have some scribblings around here somewhere.

Here's the point where I futilely ask what you, my three readers, would like to see. The chances of me getting an answer is pretty slim, but here goes anyway.

  • Would you like to see the path of revision?
  • Also, would you like to see writing besides fiction? I've been known to write terrible poetry now and then.
  • What, in general, do you want from me?