Tag Archives: Glee

The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 2

17 May

Well, well, well.

Just like that, and the first two weeks of the Creativity Workshop — one intro week, one actual writing week — are over.

Despite the fact that I’m an exhausted shell of myself today, thanks to four days of hosting out-of-town family (plus one impromptu day trip to Austin¹), the first week of actual writing was pretty much a success.

The Story

My first story for the workshop was loosely based on the Humpty Dumpty rhyme.  It turned out much shorter than planned (1,251 total words), but it felt whole at that length, so I didn’t press for more.  I enjoyed writing this story as much as possible, given the fact that the theme (irreparable brokenness) was sort of difficult and lent itself to a not-so-happy ending.

The characters popped into my imagination fully-formed.  On one hand, we’ve got Humphrey Dempsey, a forty-year-old man who is ridiculously obsessed with breaking eggs and gluing them back together, 3-D puzzle-style.  On the other hand, we have his wife Farrah, who is tired of seeing him waste his life on something ridiculous, stupid, and — in her opinion — pointless.  Hence, conflict.  That, I expected.  Lots of little surprises arose along the way — thoughts about being satisfied with appearances rather than truth, thoughts about throwing stones while in a glass castle, thoughts about selfishness versus love, thoughts about futility and hope, thoughts about pretense, thoughts about vicious cycles.

All in all, the story itself is a blinding glimpse into this world.  It’s short, but (I think) substantial.  It could probably be better.  I look forward to reading it after the workshop is over, then making changes to strengthen it.  This was, after all, the first short story I’ve ever written.  I’m betting it could definitely be better.  That said, I like what I ended up with.

The Story Goals

One of my specific goals for this set of stories was:

I want contrast to be essential in my character development: characters who have similar motives, yet manifest opposite actions. (For example, two characters who both feel love, but show it in completely different ways.)

Specifically, this was at the very heart of my story.  Humphrey and Farrah are both trying to fix something irreparable: Humphrey has his shattered eggs, and Farrah has, well, Humphrey.  The manifestations of this are absolute opposites.  Humphrey isolates himself, Farrah presses him for interaction.  Humphrey is unburdened, for the most part, by what others think of him, while Farrah is obsessed with ‘normal’ appearances.

The Process Goals

As far as the process itself went, last week was a learning experience.  I already touched on my difficulties with balancing discipline with patience.  Flexibility in my schedule, as opposed to sheer rigidity, helped get me into a more creative place, and thus helped me to be more productive.  One of my goals, also, was to shut down TweetDeck and all browsers.  This was good and bad.  Good, because I didn’t get as distracted.  Bad, because it encouraged that rigid mindset.  I experimented with both ways, and in the end found that as long as I am disciplined² to not go on rabbit trails whenever interesting tweets pop up, I actually feel more ready to work with TweetDeck open — it’s motivating to see others being productive and tweeting about it.  I’m going to keep experimenting with this, though.

In the midst of the short-story-writing, I managed to get some (not a ton, but some) quality edits done on my novel.  I’m encouraged by this, and ready to tackle more of it.

Generally speaking, I’m on track, but not completely on schedule.  I haven’t done the get-inspired-by-these-pictures assignment yet, and have avoided most posted thoughts about them, because I still want to do it.  Also, this very post is a day late, and I have yet to read the latest Merrilee post on organization.  Last week was an anomaly, since we don’t often take spontaneous trips to Austin or have people at our house for half a week, so I’m not too banged up about being slightly off-schedule.  At least the short story got done, and I’m mainly up-to-date on the other stuff.

Alright.  Long-overdue date night is about to commence³, followed by some intense vegging in front of Glee and a smattering of NBC comedies.  Or, maybe substitute some Curb Your Enthusiasm instead of the smattering…we shall see.  Yes.  Tonight I rest, tomorrow I’ll work.

May your notebooks be delightfully scrawled-upon, your ideas plentiful, and your shattered eggs perfectly cooked to your liking.

¹For those of you not familiar with Texas, you can drive for eight hours and still be in Texas.  Fortunately for us, Austin was a mere 3.5-hour drive away from us.  Out of sheer youthful ambition (ha) we tackled a there-and-back trip in one day, complete with eight hours of let’s-do-fun-stuff in between.  Yeah.

²Italicized, because it is quite the conditional statement.  Makes all the difference in the world.

³Why, hello, little buffalo wings and beer.  You look mighty tasty indeed.

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Scarves, Shoes, and Other Good News

11 Dec

  After a lackluster start to this week, I must say, it’s ending on a high note.  And, might I add, not one of those wow-that-is-such-a-high-note-that-it’s-gonna-crack-the-glass sort of high notes.  The good kind.

Aside from the excitement I feel about the new things pictured here — this pair of on-sale Nine West cuteness, a dangly-yet-simple-and-classy gold(ish) necklace, and a scarf I crocheted in my most favorite color — there is a whole blizzard of cool things going on.  For one, I get to wear all this stuff this weekend, to a wedding.  Another?  The bride opted to pay me on the high end of my price range for playing the piano for her ceremony — a timely bonus.  Yet another?  My completely incredible husband, who works so hard, all day every day, has finally been rewarded for his integrity.  His bosses gave him a stellar review along with a 12% salary increase.  Also timely.

Still more good news: Diligent December is finally, um, diligent.  In the past two days, I’ve nearly caught up to where I should be, despite not writing a word for three out of the past eight days.  Not only is my word count up, but I’m feeling involved in the emotional aspects of the story, enrapt, and am confident that the quality is there, too.  The scenes I wrote this morning were intense, emotional, important.  They’re the beginning of what I’ve been building up to this entire time.  Just as I was completely satisfied with the Glee winter finale, it’s nice to see loose ends begin to wrap up, lies get exposed, drama unfold.  Consequences.  

On top of all that, it is cloudy and cold and I love it.

In honor of the Glee finale, and in hopes that December stays awesome, here’s a link to a fantastic rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” as performed by Lea Michele in this week’s episode.  So.  Very.  Good.

Thanks for all your support in this process, you guys.  I can’t tell you enough how grateful I am to have connected with you all.  

Diligent December Update: 56,829 down | 13,171 to go | 81.18% finished!

Update #3: The Most Boring Title for a Post Ever. (Sorry.)

22 Oct

This week keeps getting better and better.  Day 3 of Oktoberzest proved to be the best of the week, so far.  

Why is it that rain persuades so many people to feel sluggish, tired, and downright procrastinatory, and for me it acts as instant inspiration?  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve indulged in the occasional coffee-on-the-couch-in-pajamas-watching-movies-with-my-cats kind of rainy days.  Usually, though, rainy days boost my creativity like no other.  Yesterday was no exception.

In the time I was able to spend writing – about two hours again – I finished two more scenes, which finished a chapter.  The grand total was 1356 words for the day, which I was more than happy with.  I probably could have done more than that, even, had I not allowed myself to get sucked in to watching Top Model.  We also watched Glee last night, which – (if you haven’t seen it, please get addicted soon) – was hilarious, not to mention well-written.  Loved it.

Anyway, I was pleased to discover a mistake in my calculations, too.  Turns out the day before was actually at 1109 words, not 620.  It was a weird oversight: basically, I was working off a rough draft of a 500-word scene.  I added 620 new words to it, but what I didn’t realize was that I changed most of those original 500.  So, though there were 500 words there to begin with, I changed them and added 620 to them, making 1100ish new words.  (Told you it was weird.)

Well.  Now that we’ve covered addition, inspiration, and weather, it’s time for my Thursday morning coffee date, and my friend is on her way.  After that: more writing!  More scenes!  More awesome danger in which to dangle my little characters!  More exclamation points!

Spiderlegs

11 Oct

I don’t know too much about spiders.  I know I’m afraid of them, I know they spin webs, and I know they have eight legs.  Sometimes I wish I had eight legs.    

At the ghastly hour of 7am¹, I woke up this morning, mind reeling about my novel.  The past few days, I’ve been working on switching the order of events in the second quarter of my novel.  

It’s mind-boggling, people, mind-boggling, I tell you.  Worth it, yes.  Easy, no.  

The good thing is, I’m finding my cause-and-effect skills are turning out a more cohesive product than I thought.  So cohesive, in fact, that it’s been difficult to re-order the events I wrote due to everything building upon itself so seamlessly.  Changing the order of one scene means changing six more things around it, changing those six things affects a few others.

It’s difficult, but not impossible.  This is where the eight legs would come in handy.  I feel like I’m knitting a cable-knit sweater with gossamer spiderweb thread.  With only two hands, it’s hard to keep track of all the knits and purls and switching of stitches, all while devoting care to the delicate thread so it doesn’t tear.  It’s worth the time and effort, of course, because no one has a spiderweb-thread cable-knit sweater.

So, for the past week, I’ve planted myself at the table and surrounded myself with my manuscript, lattes, and homemade double-chocolate biscotti.  When I get stuck, I get more coffee, listen to a song or two from Glee², then plant myself at the table again and keep on crunching my brain.  When I leave, my head spins, and I’m exhilarated from all the new ideas I’ve had, and implemented, that strengthen the manuscript.  I enjoy my evening, then go back at it the next day.

I love writing.  It’s hard work, but I love it.  Heck, the challenge is part of the reason I love it.  

And, I’m glad to be able to connect with all of you writers out there as I do it.  I’ve learned a lot from you guys, too, from reading your blogs and having discussions in the comments.  If I could, I’d send you all some homemade double-chocolate biscotti and a latte.  Thanks for all your support.

  ♦

¹Okay, not so very ghastly after all.  I’ve seen much worse, like 4:30AM when I worked at Starbucks and 3:00AM when we were trying to catch our flight to Guatemala.  But for a Sunday morning, after I went to bed late?  A wee bit ghastly.

²My favorite of the moment is their cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.”  Love.  It.  When I say “a song or two,” it sometimes just means this one song repeated twice.  Just so you know.  You can watch the cast perform it live here.

And…I’m a Gleek. It’s Official.

24 Sep

I was practically designed to connect with all things Waiting for Guffman¹.  After last night, I’m thinking Glee just might satisfy as television’s answer to the deadpan musical madness I so connected with in Guffman.

It’s not just because of the singing football team, who pranced around a football, doing Beyoncé’s Single Ladies dance in order to distract the other team and slip past them to touchdown, and victory.  It’s not just because they sing popular music in new ways, and sing it well.  It’s not even (only) because Jane Lynch delivers gems like this without breaking a smile, supposedly for a segment on the local news:

I often yell at homeless people: Hey!  How’s that homelessness workin’ out for ya?  Give not being homeless a try! 

And, it’s not just because there are other one-liners in the mix, delivered so seamlessly you almost miss them.  For example, as said by Finn, a member of the football team:

I got this at the school library.  Did you know you can just…borrow books from there?  [insert look of awed wonder] All of ’em…except the encycolpedias.

No, it’s not just because of these individual things that I’m spiraling quickly into Gleekdom.  

It’s because – so far – they’ve done an incredible job of setting up conflict, introducing a large cast of characters, and weaving several story threads together at once.  They’ve given us reasons to keep watching: will Jane Lynch’s cheer team (the “Cheerios”) manage to destroy Will’s glee club?  Can Will, a loving husband who works incredibly hard, stick with his manipulative wife, even though he’s working extra hours as a janitor in order to pay for a gigantic dream house she wants (but doesn’t need), and to pay for the baby she’s told him they’re having – even though she found out she’s not pregnant, after all?  Add to the mix a lovable gay kid, an egotistical prima donna, an insecure football player, a pregnant cheerleader, and other memorable secondary characters whose stories, though we’ve seen only glimpses so far, are compelling.

So, they’ve introduced conflict, and begun to weave a bright fabric out of it.  Yes.  They’ve also juxtaposed the unexpected, like sticking the lovable gay kid on the football team, having them all dance on the field as a plausible plot point, and having the kid score the winning field goal, thus helping him to bond with his macho father.

I especially love the creative way they flipped the stereotype with two of the main characters, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) and Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison).  One is a cocky coach, the other is a sensitive music teacher.  Putting a woman in the role of cocky coach, and a man as the sensitive type, puts a new spin on old clichés. 

Also cool?  They support every action and reaction and motivation, and they accomplish this by showing, not telling.  There are too many examples to list, but the one that sticks out to me at the moment is their use of popular music.  They don’t just stick in a song and dance – they justify it.  If not by direct plotting (the football scenario), they justify it indirectly.  Like a music video, they let images tell the story during certain songs, showing us what the character is feeling while she sings passionately².  

One last thing about Glee in this (very long) post: I know someone’s doing something right when the writing, and the execution of that writing, makes you feel.  I feel pain for Will’s marriage, frustration with his witch of a wife, shameful identification with the egotistical prima donna, compassion for the gay kid, and a whole slew of other emotions.  Sprinkled in with those is the huh? factor – scenes, settings, and witty lines that are off-the-wall, yet somehow make complete sense in context.

I like shows that make me laugh, feel, and think, all at the same time.  Unlike Community, which I blogged about the other day, Glee is teaching me effective ways to go about showing v. telling, expanding characters and their motivations, tweaking stereotypes, and stirring up conflict and tension.  If you haven’t seen it, we’re only four episodes in³, and you can click here to catch up on Fox’s website.

¹Small town + musical theater = things I’m all too familiar with.  Add in quirky randomness, desperate-for-something-to-live-for characters, and so-bad-they’re-awesome musical numbers?  I’ve been a fan since day one.  

²The song I’m thinking of here, specifically, was from the episode “Showmance.”  At the end, Rachel (Lea Michele) sings a song by Rihanna.  Let it be known that I hated this song with a vengeance before hearing her sing it.  By the end, I was moved to tears at her performance.  I connected with her not only by hearing the passion in her voice but by seeing the video roll clips of other story lines that made her feel like singing with passion.  Brilliant.  Click here to watch the excerpt from the show.

³In my opinion, the best episodes so far are #2 (“Showmance”) and #4 (“Preggers”).

Lock Them In A Room

20 Sep

It’s been a while since I’ve posted – oh, how I’ve missed it! – and even longer since I’ve written anything specifically related to the writing process.  Lately, it’s been all cats and bad drivers.

Not tonight, though.  I’m writing about writing tonight, y’all (though it’s disguised, in parts, as a television re-cap…trust me on this!).

Tonight is an effort to redeem the twenty-four-ish minutes I spent watching the new NBC comedy Community, which I hoped would be on par with The Office and 30 Rock.  Sadly, if the rest of the season follows suit after episode one, that hope is unlikely.  Thus far, I measure its worth not in how many times it made me laugh, but unfortunately, how many times it made me groan.  

The thing about Community is this: though it made me roll my eyes and sit there not laughing, it did inspire me to think.  Yes, I rolled my eyes, but why?  With such snappy dialogue (sometimes), why did it just not measure up to the tried-and-true treasures of the NBC wonderworld?

As a fledgling author, I’ve done my fair share of thinking about the whole what-makes-a-story-work question.  You’re familiar, I’m sure – depth of character, suspense, tension, conflict, realistic motivations, show-don’t-tell – all that good stuff.

I hate to say it (but I’m going to, anyway) – Community broke all of those rules in its pilot episode.  

First, we are introduced to a bunch of half-developed characters who have their own sorta-cliché little roles (the Pretty Girl, the International Dweeb, the Old Guy).  Then, we move from one uninteresting location to the next, and not only is there very little action, we basically just watch as two or more characters engage in conversation while they stand/sit in one place.  I’m pretty sure this is the definition of boring, and sadly, a bunch of quippy one-liners fell on deaf ears for lack of ability to call attention to themselves.  They drowned in a sea of static blahdom, crammed and glossed over.   Many words were written and read, but good writing consists of more than just words, it seems.

The main thing that inspired this post, however, was the lack of sufficient motivation present in their characters.  I noticed this particularly in a scene toward the episode’s end.

The scene:  Main Guy has crush on Pretty Girl.  Pretty Girl likes honesty, Main Guy is a liar.  Main Guy offers to tutor her in Spanish, but he doesn’t know Spanish.  She agrees.  To Main Guy’s annoyance, International Dweeb invited several people to attend the tutoring session.  All are strangers at this point.  Cliché Strangers don’t get along and awkward bickering ensues.  Pretty Girl pulls Main Guy aside, tells him to fix it.  Main Guy goes back in the room and gives witty speech to Cliché Strangers, who listen and cease the awkward bickering.

Okay.  Now that you have the run-down, what bothers me so much about this scene is why don’t they all just leave?  It’s not like they’re forced to be in this room at the library, at a study group together, with a man who isn’t really in charge of anything.  The door is open, they could just walk right out.  But they don’t.  They sit around a table and bicker, they sit there while Pretty Girl talks with Main Guy, they sit there as if they’re chained to the chairs.  Are they really such losers that they’d rather sit in a room at the library all afternoon with a bunch of strangers, mad at each other?  Are they really that desperate for something to do?  Same with Pretty Girl – if she doesn’t trust or like Main Guy, why not just leave?  She only met him two-and-a-half seconds ago.

This, obviously, got me thinking about conflict and proper motivations while writing characters in our novels.  Characters need to be believable, and not flat paper-dolls puppeted by our contrived little agendas.  We have to lock them into rooms with their adversaries if we want them to stay, because logically, why would a person stay around someone who is berating, abusing, torturing them, or just plain wasting their time?  And, these rooms aren’t merely physical – we have to lock them to the conflict by developing what’s at stake emotionally.  Only then do motivations become plausible, and staying face-to-face with the enemy becomes not only reasonable, but inevitable.

And…that’s the end of that.  To make up for my (slightly negative, though good-natured) criticism of Community, expect a more positive post in the near future about Glee, a show that is inspiring me in much more fun and sparkly ways!

Anyone else have an example of how pop culture has influenced your writing process, whether for good or for bad?

So Many Posts Start With S.

9 Sep

Just something I noticed.  I even told myself last night, when I wrote my latest post, that I could not start the title with an S.  

And look what I did: I wrote about sincerity.  Now, even in my writing about starting titles with the letter S, I’ve gone and done it again.  

It would be a little silly, I think, to tease you into a post and just stop right there.  Who wants to visit someone’s blog only to read about rogue S’s that sneak their way into everything?  Here’s some other stuff to make this worth your time.  

Writing is going well today!  Though my time is not abundant, I’m making the most of it and I really like what I got accomplished so far on the novel this morning.  This is a feat in and of itself, since it’s the first I’ve written on it since last Thursday, due to our weekend trip.  Fortunately, I left off in a good spot, a place where it was easy to slip back into the scene and pick it back up.  I love when that happens.

Plus, I woke up sore – in a good way – because I spent some much-needed time at the gym yesterday.  Long weekends are fun, for sure, but for some reason I always crave a treadmill at the end of them.  I’m thinking the barbecue and the sweet-roll-stocked breakfasts had a little something to do with that craving, as did my tendency to feel sluggish after eight-hour car rides.

This week is looking like a busy one, but if the writing and the workouts go anything like the past two days, it will be a good one.  Plus, Glee starts tonight, so (unless my DVR refuses to cooperate) I’ll be watching that, and probably singing “Don’t Stop Believin'” at the top of my lungs along with Lea Michele for the next few days.  My DVR had better cooperate, and that is all I’m going to say about that.

 

PS: Remy the Cat is doing just fine, thankfully, after suffering last week’s Incident.  Thanks to everyone who felt sorry for him and hoped he’d get better (for both his sake and the sake of my guilty conscience).