Monday, March 6, 2017

Experimenting with Writing Style - Screenwriting??

So I’ve written poetry and fiction forever. You’ve seen some of my work in the past weeks. That kind of work is right in my wheelhouse.

Even creative non-fiction is comfortable for me and I’ve always enjoyed a good research project.

But in college I had the opportunity to take a film focused writing class. Mostly we were studying films and how to write about them, more like reviews with a deeper technical knowledge of the art.

But as a final project we were given the opportunity to write either a straight up film critique, or to incorporate some screenwriting into the project. When my teachers provided a creative option – that is always where I went, so I wrote my first screenplay.

It’s probably crap, it was a total experiment with a new style of writing where I didn’t really know much of the rules. But damn it was fun!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

T5W: Fictional Jobs You'd Want to Have

For this week's Top 5 Wednesday (more infor on the GoodReads page) the subject is what fictional jobs you would want to have.

I had a lot of trouble coming up with this list because most of my dream jobs are ... from Harry Potter.

Just give me magic and I'm a happy girl!

But anyway, I diversified a bit and here we go!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Writing Fiction: How to incorporate workshop feedback

Part 2 of my workshop examples has come! Last week I showed you how I revised a poem based on a few notes from my peers. Today I am going to do the same with an example of my fiction writing!

For this week’s post, I debated the merits of including the full text of my fiction piece.
Honestly, just the first draft is 14 pages. The third draft is 30 pages and the completed project was about 26 pages.

There is no room for a full copy of that work on here.

Ultimately, I’ve chosen to give the highlights of my story here and show what feedback I got and how I chose to respond to it.

Now, some context: for my final year in Undergrad, I wrote a Capstone/Thesis on authorship in fan fiction. For this project I worked closely with my mentor and few trusted peers to develop two short stories – one an original work of fiction, the other fan fiction for the TV show Angel the Series created by Joss Whedon.

The piece I’m discussing today is the fan fiction.

To start, I wanted two stories with the same premise. Based on my reading habits, I chose to explore how families deal with the knowledge that the world will end in about 24 hours. And there is nothing they can do to stop it.

My first draft of this story, titled Helpless End, was just 2 scenes – the prophecy of the end of the world, and the Angel Investigations team/family deciding to go for ice cream before the end comes.

That was it.

My mentor took this and asked for me to expand on the in between moments. How did they try to fight the inevitable? Where did they go in the time between? Were they all together? Did they separate? What was so important to each member of the family that they decided to spend their last hours pursuing it?

Basically, my first draft was a summary of the important events – discovering the end of the world, a few characters discussing it, sharing the news, and coming to terms with it.

Each subsequent draft added some details.

Angel and Cordelia spent a lot of time in the sewer, as vampires do, fighting demons. Business as usual.

Wesley, Gunn team up to take Fred, the girl they are both interested in, out to the beach and the pier and just have fun, instead of allowing their competitive history to get between them. They eat crap and waste money on rigged games. They have fun.

Once the basic structure of the story is there, I give it over to my peers for notes and inspiration about big revisions.

Some of the notes I received from them:

  • Why is Angel so accepting? He should have more angst if you want him to be in character to the show.
  • You left Angel and Cordelia at a strange spot, where are they heading after?
  • On page 29 you just gloss over a lot of time. You said, 
“The initial grief passed for Fred and Gunn as it had for the others. Acceptance comes quickly when helplessness is the only other option.“I want ice cream,” Fred admitted, hours later as the clock approached midnight.”
  • What happened in those hours? How did Fred and Gunn really react – don’t they have families as well? Did they not call their families?

One peer literally said, “I don’t believe it. They get warning of the end of the world and just… go with it? WTH?”

Each of these responses was perfectly valid and useful to me, even though I really hated to hear that last comment. She was basically saying she just plain didn’t like the premise and therefore didn’t like the story.

But I took it as a challenge.

How can I make this more believable?

Really, I think I took the peer comments to heart more than the mentor comments.

I was more invested in improving what my peers saw as flaws, which is why I’m glad I decided to have them read it. (It wasn’t a required workshop, more like a writing group of others also working on the Thesis.)

I took some time and reread the story based on their comments, making my own comments in the margins to see what they saw.

I found that I agreed with a lot of them. I did not want to add Angel-angst because it didn’t fit well with the purpose of the story.

But Angel the character is very angsty, so I added a bit more of that from him, sprinkled throughout the story rather than all at the front.

A bit of restructuring took care of the sudden loss of Angel and Cordelia.

And based on how others noted they would react to the news of an apocalypse, I upped the emotional gravity in everyone in the story to create something that read as more realistic.

I didn’t have to take the advice of everyone who gave me notes (and I didn’t, really) but I felt that, as part of my thesis, adjusting to the expectations of the readers and maintaining the established characterization from the TV show, was a very important aspect of the whole project.

The most important part of revising based on peer comments in fiction, in my experience, is deciding what you want to do with your story. I wanted to convey an idea to an audience, therefore I took a lot of audience feedback into account.

The other half of this project, the original piece I wrote, was a lot more about my own vision for a world and characters. I changed a lot less from that first draft after receiving peer feedback.

In that story, I had one person suggest I try writing from another character’s perspective.

While usually I would at least experiment with that idea, that wasn’t the purpose of the story and I didn’t bother. I knew what story I wanted to tell, and that wasn’t it.

Fiction workshops are generally a lot harder than poetry workshops. They take more time to read and respond to, incorporating feedback takes a lot of commitment.

And writing fiction takes time itself – sometimes you feel horrible when a peer makes a negative comment or overlooks something you found amazing when you wrote it.

But as most writers have heard before, sometimes you have to kill your darlings.

Cut out the pieces you really love about a work. Accept that others don’t read the story as you intended. Most of all, don’t compromise on your writing for the sake of another.

Yes, I think you should cut out the parts you love if they do not add to the overall story.

But don’t revise to please someone else. Accept the revision notes if you think they improve your writing. Not because you think another will like it if you change it.

There’s my notes from a fiction workshop. Have you ever been in one? Working in a writing group? 

How do you incorporate other’s notes into your fiction (or nonfiction, or poetry, or anything)?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bookish Musings: Detective Novels

Alright! Today is a bit different than I expected because I had a whole post planned on my laptop.... and then I went on a trip and left my laptop at home without posting it.


So today, I've decided to share some Bookish Musings and I'm curious about your input on -

Detective Novels

In the last few weeks I've read 2 dedicated P.I. novels, and before that I had read 0.

What I've found in these books (Where Angels Fear to Tread by Thomas Sniegoski & School Days by Robert B. Parker) is that ... detectives bore me.

This may not be a popular opinion, I don't know. But the serialization that seems to be part and parcel with a detective novel means it's hard to connect with a character or the world in a single book.

Also, the books I read weren't the first in either series. Maybe that was a failure on my part.

I had hoped to get at least a bit of backstory but it seemed to get swept under the rug instead.

This is really what bugged me - the individual case seemed to wither take up a whole scene or be entirely missing.

There was not a great deal of weaving stories.

Instead the books were segmented and rather one-dimensional.

Does anyone else see this in PI/Detective novels? Or is it just me?

I just couldn't really get into the story. They both seemed like a single episode of a series, and School Days felt more like filler than an integral story.

Thoughts? Opinions? Am I totally wrong? Let me know!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Homesickness: 4 Tips for Dealing

Moving away from home can be hard, especially for people like me who are super close with family.

I am a true to heart Momma’s girl, I’ve only grown closer with my brother as we’ve gotten older, and I recently reconnected with my sister and niece.

As the time for me to leave home and move to South Korea grew closer, I started feeling the emotional impact of moving and homesickness started setting in before I had even left home.

But there are a few things I’ve learned from the many break away points I’ve had with my home in pursuit of other life goals. Here’s how I have learned to cope with homesickness.

I first left home at 18 to move away to college. Then after 4 years of back and forth, mostly at school, I lived at home for 8 months before moving to Korea. After a year in SoKo, I moved home for a year and here I am moving away again.

When I left home for the first time, I was a total mess. I couldn’t sleep and I spent about the first month wondering why I had to leave and if it was possible to just go home again.

But I made it, I loved it, I eventually felt at home.

What really helps me to deal is:

  1. Keeping busy. Seriously, I will pack the first week to the first month full of events and activities. College was easy because there were a ton of orientation activities, I have to work a lot harder now. I have training during the week, and the awkwardness of living with my boss and her family, but I’m making a ton of plans to keep my weekends full so that there is just no time to think too hard.                                                                                                                            
  2. Making the bed your bed. It sounds silly, but I love to take a pillowcase or a stuffed animal or something that I keep in my bed to make falling asleep easier. I have a hard time sleeping in places that are not my own bed, but having something that smells and/or feels like home when I go to bed helps me to shift my mindset into accepting this new place as my new home.                                                                                                                                            
  3. Keeping habits. If you have a good, healthy habit that you started at home, try to keep up with it. I have yogurt or cereal for breakfast frequently, and I definitely kept that up even after moving to Korea because it’s a taste of home. Also, keeping up with exercise like running or joining a gym is important because it keeps up physical and mental health. Keeping your body busy with familiar habits can help you adjust to an otherwise foreign environment.                                                                                                                                                  
  4. Socialize. Do not allow yourself to be that person that goes back to their room everyday and never goes out and talks to people. Meeting new people can be hard, but by putting yourself out there you can create a support group that helps you when those waves of homesickness come on once the initial settlement period has passed.

And that brings me to my final note – homesickness can be hardest when you first arrive to a new place. But it doesn’t just go away after a month or so and you never feel it again. I lived at my university for the majority of 4 years, just a few short visits home in the summer.

All that time, I would still get waves of homesickness for my family. Even though, when I was with my family, I would get homesick for school and the friends I had there.

Being homesick is just a sign that you have something special waiting somewhere else. Since I turned 18 I’ve learned to really embrace the feeling. I know it’s because I have a place I can be really comfortable in.

Do you get homesick? How do you deal with it?