Writing as a Performance Art

Lately I’ve been fascinated by the concept of oral storytelling.

About a month or two ago, a friend sent me a link to some spoken word poetry.  It was fantastic.  The words themselves were beautiful, but the passion and skill of the performers made it better.  Around the same time, I listened to Neil Gaiman’s Worldbuilders readings of Jabberwocky and Green Eggs and Ham.  Anyone can read those stories, but he took it out of monotonous rhythm and made it interesting.  Plus, the accent.  Then I started on epic poetry.

If you’re at a party and they start passing around the Homer, just say no.

Last week, I found myself with the smudgy draft of a short epic poem, at nearly midnight.  It’s the short story equivalent of a real epic poem, and considering the inherent structure I’ve dissected and essayed upon since then, it’s doesn’t quite fall into all the parameters of epic poetry— but it has the basics.  I wrote a short poem in unrhymed blank verse, set in my current storyworld, about a mythic hero’s last sacrifice.  No, it doesn’t invoke the Muse.  No, it doesn’t begin in medias res.  Unfortunately, I skimped on both allegory and epic simile, because I haven’t created enough of this world to be that academic, and I still had a bit of a purple prose filter on.  But still, I consider it epic.

Probably the biggest reason is this: it’s written to be performed. (more…)

Writing for an Audience

November was productive in many ways, but NaNoWriMo was not in that list. While I managed nearly fifteen thousand words of serviceable writing, it was boring, filled with starts and stops, and generally not worth all the effort. Thus, I found myself scrapping the draft halfway through the month, claiming other responsibilities. Those responsibilities were real, but had my writing been more fun, I could have found time for both.

Scrapping a novel halfway through NaNoWriMo is a biannual occurrence, at least for as long as I’ve participated. Two years ago, I attempted to rewrite my second novel, then dropped it as a hurricane ripped power from my neighborhood for ten days. Despite the better excuse for quitting, I was finding the novel boring anyway. I was still new, and hadn’t gotten the hang of outlining just yet.

This year, I had a different problem. The entire October previous, I worked hard on worldbuilding and characters, making sure I would have ample material to write when November hit. The night before, I was excited. The morning of, I didn’t want to write.

I had decided this year to take things more slowly, making sure I knew my purpose for everything so I wouldn’t write trash, nor leave out anything significant. I had resolved to write for myself, for craft, and to produce the best first draft ever.

You can see how well that turned out.

Since then, I’ve restarted, and in a short while almost surpassed my NaNoWriMo wordcount. I still want to write the best draft ever, and I still want to know my purpose for everything, but I’ve changed one thing. I’m no longer writing for myself. (more…)

Why I Should Get a New Device

It has recently come to my attention that I haven’t acquired a new device in quite a long time– not since I got my graphing calculator at the beginning of the school year, in fact.  Since said graphing calculator has no internet access nor even the ability to play space invaders or anything, I feel that it is about time I got something else, something more fun.  And yes, it is possible to top the thrill of correctly graphing a quadratic equation on the first try.  This post shall strive to prove to you why I would like– nay, why I deserve– a new device.

First of all, it would help, not hinder, my writing career.  After all, isn’t it easier to Google and take notes on a small device that I could carry with me all the time?  All the functions of the internet are there, at my disposal.  Looking up definitions, calculating the velocity of a falling object, and knowing what noises a penguin makes– everything would be available to me at the touch of a screen.  More than that, I would be able to do necessary activities without losing writing time.  By using another device to check my email, chat with friends, and update word counts, I would spend less of my computer time doing mundane tasks and more of it writing.  After all, I only have so much time in which I can use the family computer. (more…)

Once… Twice… Thrice!

First of all, I wanted to call this post The Power of Three, but that sounds cliched, useless, and rather like I’m writing an Avengers fanfiction with only three people on the team– The Revengers Reassemble.

Bad post titles aside, however, this post is just to share a link I thought very interesting: Rule of three (writing) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  Skim through that.  It’s quite an interesting idea– that things in three are inherently funnier and more satisfying than other things.  Take, for instance, the comedic triplet I used in the first paragraph to describe my failed blog post title.  For some reason, things in threes work.  No idea why.

Anyway, I don’t have anything to add to that article.  Enjoy.

BONUS PORTION:

There was recently posted on a friendly blog a list of tips from the author Heather Vogel Frederick.  You can find that at the link blow:

Guest Post: Heather Vogel Frederick.

That was really helpful.  I can’t say I really like the author, though long ago I read some of the author’s works and enjoyed them fairly well.  I don’t remember much, but I do know that the storytelling was vivid and the characters seemed real– that was enough to make me pay real attention to this list.  I encourage you to do the same, if you’re interested in writing.

AND THAT IS ALL.

Good Vs. The Evil Fourth Book

The best fantasies have the same premise: good versus evil.  Lord of the Rings.  The Chronicles of Narnia.  The Dark is Rising Sequence.  Grimm’s fairy tales.  The Inkheart Trilogy.  The Redwall series.  Rangers Apprentice.  Leven Thumps.  I’m listing off my favorite fantasy series’ here, and all of them are the same.  The Kane Chronicles, Percy Jackson and the Olympians.  The Beyonders, Fablehaven.  Star Wars, even.

All of the authors of the series’ listed have different ways of showing right as opposed to wrong.  Brian Jacques, in the Redwall series, has all the villains a part of the same race of creature.  Good people are some harmless thing like a mouse or a squirrel, and evil people are rats, foxes and the like.  In Inkheart, it’s rather easy to see who’s who.  Since the Inkworld, where most of the adventures take place, is a fairy-tale sort of land, bad guys are generally ugly and good guys are generally good-looking.  The same with Grimm.  The green-skinned, shriveled old hag is always the antagonist, whereas the handsome prince is infallibly good.  In Rick Riordan’s books such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the bad guy is usually the one trying to take over the world and destroy human civilization.  QED.  Rangers Apprentice, the same thing.  The bad guy is the person going against the king of the realm.  Lord of the Rings, the good guys are good-looking and have the unique ability to ride through rivers without drowning.  The bad guys are usually giant eyes in the middle of nowhere, shriveled kleptomaniacs, and large hideous beasts.  Chronicles of Narnia.  Aslan, the embodiment of righteousness, is quite obviously good.  The White Witch, the oppressive tyrant who likes hypothermia and petrification, is definitely bad.  Star Wars baddies have red lightsabers and evil blue lightning, and run on fuel such as hate.  Good guys are wise, peace-loving, and wear constricting robes.  It’s obvious which side to choose.

My favorite way to show good versus bad, however, is in Leven Thumps.  There’s a specific character named Azure who is on the side leaning toward world domination and the destruction of all we hold dear.  He used to be a thoroughly good guy, who was all for the exact opposite of the above.  Unfortunately, he turned 180 degrees and is now working diligently for evil.  The cool thing, however, is that all the good that was left in him after he turned was concentrated into his right ear.  That sounds really funny, but it’s quite profound.  That ear itches constantly and he can’t stop scratching it, making it swollen and bleeding.  It’s a perfect metaphor, saying that no one bad is completely bad.  They all have their conscience nagging at them like an itchy ear, which they try to scratch away, but keeps coming back.  This is brilliant.

Now, to end the post on an unrelated note, I’d like to rant for a little while on the fact that when you’re looking for something, you never find it.  When you stop looking, it pops up everywhere.  For instance, when I first read Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I got through the third book without a hitch, then went to the library for the fourth.  It had disappeared.  Eventually I had to request it from another library just to read it, wasting a month and a half in the meantime.  When I went to the bookstore to buy this fourth book, I found the third and fifth, but not the fourth.  I went about a year with a large hole on my bookshelf, where I knew that the fourth book would fit perfectly.  Each time I went to buy it, it wasn’t there.  I gave the series to my younger sister to read, and she was fine until book three.  Then I went to the library to look for the fourth book for her, and found a large space on the shelf.

Just about a month ago, I bought that fourth book at Barnes & Noble.  The next time I went to the library, what do I see, but there are two copies of that fourth book sitting there on the shelf.  Those two books have not left their positions from that day to this.  Now I can look at my completed set of PJ+O on my bookshelf, never to search in vain for the elusive fourth book again, but I can hear their derisive laughter following me wherever I go.  I’ve never kicked a book across the room before, but I could honestly do it to those two library copies right about now.

Good thing I won’t.

Really, Was That Necessary?

What am I talking about?  My review of the Hunger Games trilogy, of course.

I have never done a review like that before.  (Excuse me as I guffaw loudly.)  My past reviews consisted of me saying “I love the book!  It’s perfect!  What should I read next?”  I’ve never actually analyzed the writing, the story, or the author in the way that I did with this trilogy.  There’s a very good reason for that: I’m not usually looking for the flaws.  It’s true that when you’re looking for flaws, you’ll find a lot of them.

Why was it beneficial for me to do a crushing review?  Well, I need to edit my own writing, and if I can’t be critical with someone else, I can’t count on myself to be critical with myself.  Thus, I went through looking for scenes that should have been cut, grammar mistakes, author cliches, and ill-fitting characters.  If you think about it, I went through the Hunger Games as if I was the author.  No, actually, because I was daydreaming about how I was going to tell the author off about all the flaws.  Maybe I’m taking too much delight in finding things wrong.  Especially when I cackled evilly at finding a weak beginning to the first book, and the mention of a large carnivorous rodent in the second.  Yes, I was having too much fun.

Back to the subject.  If I plan on editing anything ruthlessly, I’ve got to start somewhere.  Everyone knows it’s easier to be critical of someone else than of yourself, so I started on someone else.  Maybe this isn’t the best practice, but I’d like to get on with the post.

When I read anything, I have a first impression.  As I think about the book, I realize more and more that my first impression was wrong.  Thus it was with the Hunger Games.  Thus it was with the Inheritance Cycle.  (Some of you can attest to the fact that I attempted to argue you out of thinking badly of Inheritance.  Well, I’ve had a change of heart.  I still like the book, and I’ll argue about the story all you like, but I’ve found a few flaws.  And it wasn’t because I reread it more critically– only because I thought about it a lot.)  Thus it was with my own writing.  Sometimes, however, I think I’ve found a flaw after thinking about a book for a long time, but when I reread it I find that my worry was unfounded, due to the author adding a detail that I had forgotten.  I forget things a lot, which is why I reread.

Another thing these reviews helped me to do is to analyze the writing, not just the story.  I’ve never bothered myself with the writing before this– just the story.  If you said you didn’t like one author’s writing style, I couldn’t argue, since I didn’t analyze it.  I didn’t understand writing style, what makes it good or bad.  I wish I could say that now I do, but I’m still working on it.

The thing I don’t want to do, however, is read other books as I did the Hunger Games.  To go through books constantly looking for the worst not only is tiresome and time-consuming, but will put the kibosh on many of your friendships with other writers.  People don’t like people who can’t say yes.

In short, I think the latest reviews were quite beneficial, but I shouldn’t let that attitude rule my other reading.  But if you don’t really like the author, it’s quite fun to give his or her work a bad review.  What do you think?

Musings

Yes, I admit it; I did something that looks quite stupid. I picked up a dystopian novel at the library yesterday. Now, after reading the Hunger Games I thought they all would be like that: depressing and anti-war. But this one seems to be different. It’s called The Unwanteds, and this is not a review. I haven’t read it through all the way yet, so you’ve got a little time to prepare for the end of civilization as we know it. Anyway, it’s a pretty good book; it’s colorful, well-written and not at all depressing. I’ve heard that most dystopians have main characters that are girls. This one was the second dystopian novel I’ve read, and the first one to have a boy as the main character. Of course they’ve still got the never-failing love triangle going around like a contagious disease, but other than that it’s pretty original.

And yesterday I finally figured out what a dystopian novel actually is. It is a novel, obviously, with the main storyline being a rebellion against the government. Usually it’s a bad government. This one is no different. But I shan’t say more.

Next on the imaginary agenda: I’ll probably be coming out with another list of things you can do to catch, kill, escape, or just plain look at imaginary things… the day after tomorrow, which is scheduled for Small Minds. Oh, goodness… I forgot! Ah, I’m fine. So today let’s just sit back and talk about regular stuff.

I just got the irrational urge to listen to U2, which I should be glad for; what if it was an irrational urge to listen to, horror of horrors, ACDC? Excuse me while I– Thanks.

If you have any ideas at all for what mythical animals I should try and kill, capture, or see next, comment. Thank you Gwendolyn for already doing so, but if you want to you can do it again.

Thus ended the casual post of a Saturday morning. Tune in tomorrow for chapter eight of Small Minds.

Tips on Catching a Gnome

You see them everywhere: a little man clad in a blue tunic with a ridiculous red hat on his head, heavily in need of a shave. As you catch sight of it, the chilling word flits through your head: gnome! They seem to follow you about, hiding under leaves when you look around, but you know they’re there. What can you do when confronted with one of these knee-high terrors? How can you capture one of these pranksters for a speedy execution? The following tips have been compiled through the experiences of many different victims of gnome pranks for your safety in capturing… a gnome.

  1. Some have said that gnomes become bad-tempered if you steal their fishing rods, but most gnomes don’t carry fishing rods, and many more don’t even have them! So instead of stealing their rods, try another trick: steal their hats. Now, most gnomes are made of something quite hard and resilient to cap-filching endeavors, so you might need to bring along a saw or perhaps a hammer. If you dent the little guy’s head while taking off his cap, why do you care? It’s just one step closer to his inevitable fate. Of course, there is the little problem of keeping the little guy unaware of your thievery. There are more than one ways you might go about this tricky business, the most sure way being this: kill them first. Dead people tell no tales, and can’t stop you from stealing their hats. Unfortunately, killing gnomes slightly defeats the purpose of taking their hats, so the second best way to get them unwary of hat-burglary is to give them sleeping pills. Sedate them heavily. Some have said that brain damage results in overdoses of sedatives, but when you’ve got a rock for a brain, will they really care? Try this, and if it fails, just go for the age-old method of sneaking up behind them and whacking them over the head.
  2. The next best thing to do is to steal their shoes. While they’re looking for their hats, pinch their shoes! It’s absolutely perfect! If you were trying to find your hat in a garden full of plants and that sort of stuff, and you were barefoot while walking amongst all those spikes, wouldn’t you be uncomfortable? Of course you would, no doubt about it.
  3. Now that the articles of clothing are removed from both their ends, your gnome will probably sit down in the shade. His feet will hurt and he won’t want to get sunburned, so he’ll go into the shade of a flowering petunia and rest for a spell. Now, if you’ve got a trap right where he was planning to sit, and he goes and does something stupid, like sitting there, the trap will have him!
  4. Now there’s only the small matter of keeping the thing behind bars until the proper authorities can arrange the execution. You can 1) sedate him again, 2) whack him on the head again, or 3) give him to your dog for torturing. It’s just what the little fiend deserves, right?

Now you’ve got your gnome captured, in four easy steps. With a little bit of prodding he might repent and you can spare him so he’ll pass on the message to his buddies. Within weeks your garden will be free of the creatures and their hideous little smirks. But be careful; garden gnomes sometimes carry weapons, and can be very dangerous indeed. If you get killed, call us and we’ll reimburse you, providing you put us in your final will and testament as the heir to all your possessions. Have fun gnome-catching!

Tips on Kraken Spotting

Krakens, or sea monsters if you prefer, are notoriously hard to find. In fact, they are often proclaimed to be nothing but the stuff of legend and myth. For a few dedicated people, however, krakens are very real. What was Moby Dick? A whale? Bah! Moby Dick was a sea monster. What really sunk the Titanic? An iceberg? Not a chance! That was a terror of the deep. Monsters such as these are mentioned in most great literature: Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea contain examples; Moby Dick, as already stated, contains examples; The Chronicles of Narnia name one; legends of all kinds speak of these monsters. Indeed, some explorers are still trying to find the Loch Ness monster, but to no avail. Silly people; they think monsters don’t migrate. For more success than the aforementioned hunters, most of whom never lived to tell the tale, follow the tips below.

  1. Find a body of water. If you think you’ll find a sea monster in the middle of the Sahara desert, you’re messed up. They’re called sea monsters because they live in the sea (or sometimes just murky bodies of water).
  2. Your best chance of seeing a monster is going out onto the water. Sea monsters rarely go sunbathing, you see, and most of them are rather large. Thus they will need deep water. And if you think you can find deep water three feet from where you’re standing, you’re wrong. Probably. So it’s best to go out, preferably on a boat, to find the monster.
  3. Sea monsters come in many shapes and sizes. For some, the perfect sea monster is an extremely long scaly thing like a snake. For others, it may look like a giant whale. For still more, the monster is a seven headed snake that has automatically regenerating heads. Decide which sea monster you’re looking for before you begin looking.
  4. Sea monsters don’t like you to invade their privacy, so do so immediately. What do most people of your acquaintance do when you knock on their door while they’re shaving? They get in your face and tell you to shove off. Most krakens do the same thing. It’ll probably come up and destroy you and your boat, but if you can snap a few pictures and stick the camera in a bottle and send it off to some lucky friend of yours before you die a horrible death at the tentacles of the kraken, you’ll be better off than most.
  5. Bring something along as bait, like really tough beef jerky. And make sure it gets in the kraken’s mouth before it eats you, so it becomes so occupied in chewing the jerky that it doesn’t notice you discreetly taking pictures.
  6. Sea monsters don’t like publicity. Scratch that; they like publicity, but they only like bad publicity. They’ve taken the saying “Bad press is better than no press at all” and made it into “Bad press is better than any press.” Thus you see headlines like “Kraken destroys barge full of rubber ducks” and “Giant squid tries to kill international celebrity Percival Tospockingtonham” quite regularly. Of course, in Percival’s case, he was defended by a group of dragons. Useful things, dragons…
  7. Whatever you do, try not to be eaten. Nothing ruins a good day like being killed in a nasty way. And nothing ruins a good lunch like thinking about being killed in a nasty way, so if you’ve ever been killed by a kraken, please don’t share your stories; we have things in our stomachs that we’d like to keep there.

Follow these tips and try not to die you’ll do fine. Send us pictures! Unless they’re pictures of you getting eaten… Which, if you’re one of our enemies, would be fine too. Anyway, we aren’t responsible for you dying, or being injured in body or in dignity. Now go to it!

Genres and a Facepalm

I’ve decided to write about something stupid. What that may be, I’m not quite sure yet. I shall now go through my vault of Word documents looking for something suitably silly. *giggles* Okay, I’ve got something: genres.

Fantasy first. If you think about it, fantasy is silliness. Fantasy is a dream. Fantasy is basically the opposite of reality. A book is fantasy if 1) it takes place in a world/country/culture that never existed, 2) it contains elements that also have never existed, or 3) all of the above. For example, Wise would probably be considered fantasy because it takes place in a country and culture that never existed, though it contains nothing unreal. Percy Jackson and the Olympians would be considered fantasy because it contains elements that never existed, though it takes place in the “real world”. The Lord of the Rings would be fantasy because it takes place in a world, country and culture that never existed, and contains elements that also have never existed. Dr. Seuss said this:

“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.”

That’s brilliant.

Of course, there’s a slight difference between fantasy and just plain old fiction: fiction contains nothing that is nonexistent, except perhaps characters. What I mean is in fiction you don’t have little purple slugs that when squeezed create a noise akin to the mooing of a cow. But you do have characters who have never existed either, like, say, the Count of Monte Cristo, from the book of the same name. He never existed, and nothing he did ever really happened as it was written. That’s fiction.

Then there’s historical fiction, which is basically when a writer tries to figure out what a certain historical figure (say, George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, someone like that) would think in whatever instance he was in, or what he would say where there are no records of the kind. So in that case there are almost no fictional characters, and the major events are real,  but it’s the minor events that are fictional.

Now, fiction has a lot of sub-genres. There is romantic fiction, children’s fiction, animal fiction, science fiction (almost fantasy, but not quite; I’ll explain later), and much more.

Romantic fiction is basically regular fiction where one of the biggest parts of the storyline is a relationship. Let’s move along before I throw up.

Children’s fiction. I won’t go into this, but it’s regular fiction where the main characters are children.

Animal fiction is just a bunch of animals leading intelligent lives, mainly unnoticed by humans. Take for example the Warriors series, a series I dropped after the third portion of the series turned it into a sort of battle over a ghost-ruled religion where dead cats give powers of prophecy. Sometimes. Other than that little thing, this series is one where cats live their lives in their own little feudalistic culture.

Science fiction, I think, is a genre where authors who made some money on their first book go on to write way too many in the same series. These, I have found in the ones I’ve read, don’t have very big plots, very good characters, or even very good concepts; the only thing that sets them apart from badly written fantasy is the fact that the authors try and explain the strange parts of the other world. Either that, or it’s just a fantasy written on another planet that was found when the previously earth-dwelling people got too numerous. Also, instead of having strange inexplicable and invisible forces at work in the world (aka magic or some such thing), they have machines. I don’t have the highest opinion of science fiction.

The next genre is nonfiction. This means it’s completely true, and I’ve found that I like to make up things just too much to ever write nonfiction.

The definition of a classic, I think, is a book that’s still popular enough to sell even 100 years or more after the author is dead. Thus we have Moby Dick, War and Peace, The Three Musketeers, Shakespeare, and so on and so forth.

I can’t recall any more genres to write about. Perhaps I got this whole post mixed up, because I do believe fantasy is a sub-genre of fiction. Whatever. It ought to be separate.

Oh, goodness, I’m so stupid! I posted a post labeled “Top Ten Tuesday” on a Monday! Silly, stupid me. I suppose that’s something to add to my list of ways to fail, huh? Do whatever it is at the wrong time. Well, have a fail-filled day!