Tags: Brain, creativity, Fiction, fiction writing, humour, ideas, inspiration, writers
Brain: OH HEY.
Me: Zzzz….buh? Wha’s goin’ on?
Brain: CHECK THIS OUT.
Me: Burglars? Fire? Aliens?
Brain: NOPE. EVERYTHING’S FINE. CHECK THIS OUT.
Me: …It’s quarter to four in the goddamned morning.
Brain: I KNOW. AWESOME, RIGHT? CHECK THIS OUT.
Me: I am going to kill you, even if it kills us both. Because you are an annoying little git.
Brain: I DIED DOING WHAT I LOVE. NOW CHECK THIS OUT.
Me:…Story ideas? You woke me up in the asshole of the night to show me story ideas? Can you not see that I was sleeping?
Brain: SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK. NOW WRITE THIS DOWN BEFORE IT GOES AWAY.
Me: I’ll have to go to the other room. Can’t you hold on to it until morning? You know, proper morning, not this cut-rate pre-dawn bull shit?
Brain: THAT’S NOT THE DEAL, MOTHERFUCKER.
Me:….Did you just call me—?
Brain: THE DEAL IS YOU WRITE THIS DOWN NOW OR I FLUSH IT DOWN THE MEMORY HOLE FOREVER. THAT’S HOW THIS WORKS. NOW STOP BEING A WHINY LITTLE TIT AND GET OUT OF BED, ASSFACE.
Me: (getting out of bed) I hate you.
Brain: HA HA HA. YOU’RE ADORABLE WHEN YOU’RE TIRED AND HOMICIDAL.
Me: (going to find notepad) Die in a fire.
Cat: Oh, are you awake now? Awesome. Feed me, servant, lest I rend your feet with my claws.
Me: (writing) I’m going to start mainlining coffee.
Tags: Captain Marvel, Comic, Fiction, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Maus, Reading, Superhero
I recently got back into superhero comics after a hiatus of almost fifteen years. Oh, I still bought graphic novels, mostly of the independent or mature* varieties, but after moving to a town without anywhere to buy comics halfway through high school, I fell out of reading the cape stuff.
I never realized how much I missed it until I started again.
Still, I get weird comments about it occasionally. I’m a thirty-year-old woman, so people assume that I should be, I don’t know, off having babies or breaking the glass ceiling or something. Not reading something that, at its heart, was designed for twelve-year-old boys.** They want to know why I’m wasting my time on something like that. They call it unrealistic and juvenile.
To which I say, well, yeah.
I get enough realism by fucking living. I don’t need more of it. That’s why I like fantasy, sci fi, horror, comics, surrealism, all that stuff that takes you away from the every day. If realism was the sole basis for choosing entertainment, we’d read nothing but encyclopedias. And considering Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of Somewhere You Don’t Give a Shit About are ‘realistic’, I don’t think the word is the high praise these people think it is.
As for juvenile, I’m going to let C.S. Lewis handle this one:
When I became a man, I put away childish things. Including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.
Besides, people who focus on those aspects of comics are missing other points. As a medium, comics are a great combination of writing and art***. It’s a unique form of story telling. It allows techniques that work only within the confines of the panels. It makes me think about creating images with writing, focusing on those perfect moments that pull the story along.
And in the end they’re about heroes. Damaged people who are still trying to do their best for the world, day after day. Couldn’t we all use a little more of that attitude?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s new comic book day and I’ve got reading to do.
*Not porn. Just stuff that is very obviously not for children: Transmetropolitan, Preacher, Hellblazer, Maus, that sort of stuff.
**As a lot of the costuming shows. Any women out there who want to read about a strong female superhero who doesn’t wander around with her tits falling out and her cervix on display should try the new Captain Marvel, written by Kelly Sue Deconnick. Good story, good characters, lots of kicking ass.
***When they’re done well, of course, but isn’t that true of everything?
Tags: creativity, Fiction, fiction writing, monday challenge, Writer, writing, writing exercise, Writing Exercises, writing prompt
Sometimes I read about an imaginary item and wish so hard it was real that I should rip the fabric of space-time and force it into being with the power of my brain.
Everyone knows about these things: the portable hole, the Pensieve*, the Tardis, the Phaser, all that cool shit. Magic and/or special items are an integral part of speculative fiction. Humans are tool using creatures, so it stands to reason that we’d give those tools a place of power in our own private fantasy worlds.
If I had to pick, it would probably either be a real Bag of Holding or the Green Lantern ring. Those of you who don’t play Dungeons and Dragons might be more familiar with the former as something similar to Hermione’s purse from the final Harry Potter book. Stores everything you want it to. And the Bag of Holding, unlike Hermione’s bag, always presents the thing you’re looking for when you reach in. Endless possibilities. And I’d never be short a pair of clean socks. As for the ring, who the hell doesn’t want to be able to create anything they can imagine? I’d even take being weak against the colour yellow and wood in exchange for that kind of thing.
Other contenders are John Scalzi’s BrainPal from Old Man’s War and Joe Hill’s Head Key from Locke and Key. But I figure I’ve got less chance of abusing the abilities of the Bag of Holding. If I had the Head Key, for example, I wouldn’t be able to resist seeing what would happen if I hooked my head directly to an ethernet cable and downloaded all the information in the world.
There are things out there that allow you to time travel, to teleport, to pass unnoticed through the most crowded room. Whatever people have ever wanted to do, a writer out there has created one to allow them to do it. It’s an incredible feat of imagination, and sometimes has hilarious results. But we think about this stuff because we want them to be real.**
So, your Monday Challenge? What fictional device would you want, and why? It can even be one you make up yourself.
What’s it going to be? Invisibility Cloak? Space-time knife? Bat-Mobile? And what would you do with it?
*I know a few people who could use an external storage place for their thoughts.
**And, thanks to technology, some of them are close. For example, the Invisibility Cloak from Harry Potter and the glasses from Transmetropolitan.
Tags: Fiction, fiction writing, life, Word count, Writer, writing, writing advice
Feeling sick today. I blame the change in the weather. We had five days of summery temperatures in a row, and then last night, an hour before I started coaching my beginning runner’s group, it started to rain.* And now it feels like the air pressure is going to squeeze my brain out my nose.
Human barometer: worst super power ever.
Anyway, before I take copious amounts of migraine medication and retire to hallucinate about sentient balloon animals for the rest of the day**, I’d like to pass on one of my writing tricks. Well, I call it mine, but I’ve heard it in so many different places over the years that, like a ret-conned superhero, I just can’t trace its origin anymore.
I have a minimum daily word count: 500. On average, I write about 2,000 words per day. Most times in one go, but other days by picking at it for five or ten minutes here and there.*** Either way, I usually get to that point somehow. And one of the ways I get there is by stopping the previous day’s writing before I’m done.
I know, sounds stupid, right? Leaving the act unfulfilled? Constant writing blue balls. Blue ovaries. Whatever. But I always end the day before I’ve come to the end of the ideas. And then I make a little note of what happens next somewhere, and close the program. I go do my other life stuff.
Then when I come back the next day, I have an idea of what comes next. Which means I do much less staring at the cursor, waiting for an idea to turn up. I waste less time. And, by the time I finish whatever was left over from the previous day, I usually have new ideas waiting for me. My hindbrain works on them while I’m finishing up yesterday’s work.
Of course I always reach the end of the writing day before I reach the end of the new ideas. So I repeat. And very rarely do I completely stall out. My days are vastly more productive because of this little trick.
Just like the old show business saying: leave ‘em wanting more.
*Which I wouldn’t mind so much, but every Thursday night for the last five weeks, the weather has been shit for the weekly group run. I don’t know what I did to offend the weather gods, but it must have been fucking dire.
**Just kidding. I’m not really going to do this. Because that would be crazy, right? RIGHT?
***Today feels like the latter. Sentences interspersed with conversations with Dr. Seamus O’Cyborg, my imaginary half-Irish, half-robot medication provider.
Tags: editing, Fiction, fiction writing, Manuscript, Writer, Writers Resources, writing advice
Stories are not life.
Life is complicated. Life is messy. Life throws utterly random shit at you at utterly random times.
And, in their best form, stories should mirror life. But not all of it. You’re presenting a streamlined version. Life stripped to its essentials as required by the story. In real life, you need to go to the bathroom several times a day. You scratch. You sneeze. You wonder vaguely about life. In a story, you don’t need all that. Some of it, sure, as the occasion requires. But no one wants to read about the protagonist brushing her teeth unless it is in some way essential to the scene. Mundanity and randomness are fine if you’re making a point of it. But they can quickly kill a story and its pace.
You need to take away some of the randomness for the sake of coherence. Otherwise the hero might die halfway through act two because he ate a bad sandwich en route to the bad guy and consequently shit his guts out in a public toilet. The end. Great for absurdists, but unless that’s your genre, steer clear.
This is not to say that characters can’t be complex. They can and should, because people are. But you’ll need to walk that line between realism and fiction. General rule is that inexperienced writers put in far more than they need.* Things never need to be as complicated as you think. You can cut some of that shit without losing anything but filler and confusion.
Put in the shortest possible form: complications are for characters, not writers. By all means, throw complications at them. That’s what they’re for. Just keep an eye on the final form and trim as necessary. You’ll think you’re losing important stuff, but you’re not. You’re just stripping away the gristle and dangly bits.
Cut. Clean. Sharpen. When your story hits someone like an icepick between the eyes, you’ll be glad you did.
*And some experienced writers make this mistake, too.
Tags: creativity, Fiction, fiction writing, ideas, inspiration, Monday, monday challenge, time management, Writer, writing exercise, Writing Exercises, writing prompt
After blowing off my entire to-do and chore list yesterday to go for a long run and then hike to some awesome waterfalls with friends, I started today under the gun.
And now here I am, just past noon, working on the second-to-last* item on my list. Apparently the way to get me to do something is to not give me enough time to do it in.
I’ve heard this myth before: the I-work-better-under-stress myth. Usually in school, coming from the mouth of someone staying up until 4 am to finish a research paper.** It’s a lie, of course—I am most definitely not working better right now—but it can be a useful one. One that gets you out of someday and into now.
Now, if people said that they worked better under a deadline, that I could get behind. Because nothing is more motivating than the knowledge of a clock ticking down somewhere. The clock means Consequences, which are far harder to ignore than a shrug of disappointment.
So the Monday Challenge, fellow toilers of keys and brain, is this: write me a deadline. Somewhere, there is a timer, and it will run out. What happens when it does? Doom?*** Teeth cleaning? Velociraptor Jesus descends from the sky on a hoverboard to take us away? Or something worse?
Write me tension, write me time, write me the nail-biting, heart-pounding, stomach-clenching realization that time is running the fuck out. And then what happens when it does.
I’m off to finish my to-do list.
*Note that placement on the list is more indicative of time constraints than importance. There were like eight fucking things I had to get done before eleven A.M or forget about entirely.
**I also stayed up late to finish papers at the last minute, but my excuse was more like, “What? I was busy drinking. Get off my back or get me more cigarettes.”
***Always my first choice.