Thursday, April 27, 2006

An out-of-topic Rant...

...then I promise, right back to writing.

Obligations are obligations, let's be clear on that. Yes, it is nice to have the exact same schedule every week, because it's predictable, and even those of us who adore a last-minute change of plans--say, taking off to the Bahamas instead of spending the weekend doing yardwork--like our lives to be, for the most part, ordered and predictable. But, obligations are obligations, and you are obliged, as a human being who works to earn money to survive, to check and make sure that the status quo for this week has not experienced any changes. What am I driving at here? I'll tell you.

Check your work schedule, Robb.

I haven't slept in a day and a half. With my fiction portfolio due on Tuesday (with complete revisions on "How to Write a Three Day Novel," "Look At How Ugly the Stars Are," "Kissing Girls, Here and There," and a completely new, never-before-seen story (which I haven't started, really, because every time I start I get stuck and revise "Kissing" some more, a long process I won't bore you with details of at the moment), the refinance on the house, the ever-worsening bath tub caulk fiasco, and (of course) the 4 am to 12:30 pm entertainment scan shift at work this morning, (oh, and also the all-day preparation of dinner yesterday, which, in reality, I won't complain about because I love grilling, even if it is at 11:45 in the morning, and I can still smell the porksteak and the bbq marinade it cooked in for five hours), I just sort of depended on the schedule, hoping that I had built in enough time to do work, homework, sleep, house duties. I also depended on other people's scheduling abilities, which time has tried to teach me again and again is useless, but this time I think I really got it. So, five employees scheduled 4-12:30. Let's call the four that were not me Rich, Cleo, David and Robb. That is, actually, their names, so that will make it easier. Rich and Cleo were no problem at all. Fantastic as always. David called at 4:30 to ask if he was still needed. Problem? Yes. Still needed. Mostly, still needed because Robb hadn't shown up. At least David had the decency to call. Whatever, though. This just means that I was right in February when I said to myself, "Robb isn't really, uh, he's not so good." Now, on top of being two hours late on Tuesday, he should get into some real trouble maybe. This will get the ball sssssssssllllllllllllllllooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwlllllllllllllllllyyyyyyy rolling (that's meant to mean it will roll very slowly as it always does at the big red bullseye) on his going bye-bye.

Okay, that's enough, no more work-related rants, I intend for this blog to be a haven from such drivel, but really, I just had to vent a little bit.

Music to Blog By:
Come Find Yourself by The Fun Lovin' Criminals
(It's on my Essentials playlist. Do you have an Essentials playlist? You should.)

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Writing Exercise, and Advice *UPDATED*

*In the grand tradition of giving credit where credit is due, I have this disclaimer to add:
The following writing exercise was suggested to me by Pam Garvey, a Creative Writing instructor at St. Louis Community College at Meramec.*

Sometimes, as a writer, I get bogged down in a certain narrative style, point of view, tone, or language (use of language, not, you know, stuck using Czechoslovakian). Here is a handy exercise that really has helped me figure out how I am going to go about fixing my latest short story (the twenty-one page epic "Kissing Girls, Here and There"). I had gotten only as far as this exercise gets, and I wasn't sure where else to take it, so I rewrote the beginning a different way. I ultimately stuck with the original way, but the second way helped so much in that it let me see my main character through eyes that were not his. I even thought about going back and rewriting it from yet another perspective, and in fact I am considering taking the whole story and writing it in four different ways (having already written the "other side of the story" with "Look At How God Damn Ugly the Stars Are") just to see how else my characters can surprise me.

Without further ado, the exercise:

Take a passage from a longer short story you have written or are in the process of writing, or take an entire piece of shorter, flash-style fiction (say, 500 words or less) and rewrite it either from another narrative perspective (i.e. third person instead of first person, second person instead of third, or go more subtle and write it in third person limited perspective if it's written third person omniscient) or rewrite it using another character as the conduit through which we see the world you have created. If you are feeling ambitious (like I was), try doing both; if you've originally written it in third person omniscient with Character A as the main conduit through which we see the world, maybe try writing it in first person with Character B or even Character C as the narrator.

I have taken an excerpt from my WiP (work in progress, from now on I won't remind you of that) titled "Kissing Girls, Here and There" and rewritten it. The original text (in third person limited) is first, then following is the exercise, written in first person through a different character:

Cameron decided to become a math tutor, because he didn’t have a job, didn’t need one anyway, but was bored and wanted something to do. So, he talked to his first semester math teacher and that’s how he met Amanda; the week before Valentine’s Day she knocked on his door and Banning opened it.
“Hello, what can I do for you?” he asked, barely looking at her as he kicked a foot-shaped doorstop into place and wandered back to the middle of the room where his bicycle sat, dismantled.
“Bike trouble?” she asked, picking her way to a chair, stepping daintily around sprockets and other unidentifiable bits of bicycle. Cameron was lying on the bottom bunk of the beds, reading an electronics magazine. Peering from behind the pages, he watched her walk with grace, a dangerous span of four feet, the floor littered with his roommate’s perpetual junk, but she didn’t seem to be looking down; her large, soft blue eyes never wavered from their mark; the plush easy chair near the head of the bed. Cameron sat up, folded the magazine over his right leg, and immediately wished he had showered after his run. She sat in the chair and, for the first time, made eye contact with him. “Which one of you is Cameron?” she asked.
“That’s him,” Banning said, pointing at Cameron, who smiled at her. She smiled back, her lips easily moving into place, her eyes growing and, he thought, glowing.
“I’m your math student,” she said. “Amanda Abrahms. Doctor Macke said you could help anybody get an ‘A’ in his class. I’ll take a ‘B’ so you won’t have to work as hard, though.” He smiled at this, let out a little bit of a laugh. She laughed out loud, so loud it shook Cameron’s chest. “We’re going to have a problem if you don’t start talking.” She gave him a coy look.
“Fantastic shirt,” he finally said, though there was nothing spectacular about the shirt. She was wearing a UC Boulder t-shirt over a pink long sleeve tee. He swung his legs to the ground and the magazine fell to the floor. He bent over to pick it up, but it had slid close to her foot and she was reaching down to get it, too. They bumped heads, and both came up after exchanging “ohs” and a “sorry” or two.

New Text:

My roommate Cameron never did anything but go to class and take these long walks with his camera. He came to a bike race I did the third week of first semester and took some pictures, but that was the extent of our sharing anything more than living space. It must be nice, I thought, to have enough money coming from home that you don’t need to have a job, but he seemed bored and restless anyway so I was glad when he announced he was going to be tutoring second semester.
It took until the first week of February to find somebody to tutor. Racing season was getting ready to start, so I had my racing bike disassembled in our dorm room on Wednesday that week when somebody knocked on our door. “That’s probably my student,” he said from behind his magazine, or catalogue, whatever it was. He was laying on his bed, and despite the fact that I had grease all over my hands, he didn’t show even the slightest movement towards answering the door.
“I’ll get it,” I said after a minute. I opened the door and noticed a girl, briefly, before I pushed our doorstop into place to keep the door opened. “Hello, what can I do for you?” I asked. I walked back to my spot to continue cleaning my bike.
She started walking to this chair in our room that Cameron brought back with him from winter break and said, “Bike trouble?” I didn’t answer, just kept cleaning. I heard her sit down and sigh. “Which one of you is Cameron?” she asked.
When Cameron didn’t respond, I pointed and said, “That’s him.”
“I’m your math student,” she said. “Amanda Abrahms. Doctor Macke said you could help anybody get an ‘A’ in his class. I’ll take a ‘B’ so you won’t have to work as hard, though.” I continued cleaning, wiping away dirt from the crankcase, and I heard her laugh out loud. “We’re going to have a problem if you don’t start talking.”
Cameron’s response was, “Fantastic shirt.” I looked over at him as he dropped his magazine. The two of them bent down to pick it up and bumped heads, giggling like children. I glanced over at Cameron’s desk where, out of view from either of them, a picture of his girlfriend smiled at me.

As you can see, the story comes out much differently through Banning's eyes, and we have some immediate sources of conflict not prevelant in the first excerpt, though these later come out in the continuation of Cameron's story.

Hopefully, somebody out there stumbled upon this who was stuck with writer's block and this helped. Most likely, though, Jerry, Colleen, Kathy, Mo, Kevin, Alan, Mom, Bridget, Mark, and various other hangers-on (fellow Targeteers, any of you in my creative writing class who know how to find the blog, anyone from Art Conspiracy who may have somehow managed to find my ancient profile and gallery in the sea of new postings there, old friends clicking on AIM profile links, and anybody else that stumbled blindly here--welcome, by the way--plus anyone I forgot about) will read it and say, "Good Lord, the boy does ramble. Let's see what our dumb president is up to."

Use this advice and this exercise wisely. In the wrong hands, it could wreak a havoc so dangerous, so destructive, so powerfully dangerous, that children everywhere will, um, eventually peter out and mumble incoherently when they can't think of a good way to finish what they started to say...

Music to Blog By: Blood, Sweat and Tears - Forty Thousand Head Men
(I like me some B,S,&T, so S,B,&L*)

*Shut it, Bite it, and Leave

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Back Again, Back Again, Jiggety Jig

I got my computer back, and I could not get it online. For some reason, it would connect to the wireless network, but I couldn't go anywhere. Aha! When Best Buy had my computer, they manually configured my IP address to connect it to their wireless network, no doubt to download copious amounts of porn. Anyway, they did not reset it, and that was the problem. Well, problem solved.

My last "short" story for class ended up being 21 pages long.


Saturday, April 01, 2006


As if leaching off the parents (and random neighbors who leave their wireless networks un-secured and on all night) wasn't already an impediment to my internet usage, now I have the extra roadblock of no longer having my laptop. My left speaker has been out for a few months and on Tuesday, the right speaker went kaputski as well. So, as it is still under its three year service plan, I took it up to Best Buy, to the Geek Squad, and they took it from me for at the very least three weeks. That's three weeks no wireless theft, three weeks without some of my most recent mp3 acquisitions, and, most importantly, three weeks of writing using Kathy's desktop computer. Do you know how long it's been since I wrote using a desktop? I mean, really actually wrote? The last piece of any relevance that I wrote using a desktop computer was my three day novel, and if you haven't read that consider yourself lucky because it's crap, and I think that's got something to do with the computer being a desktop.

Boo hiss.

New story first draft due on Tuesday, possibly an excerpt up here for discussion.

Music to Blog By: Pink Floyd - Hey You
(I watched The Squid and the Whale last night. Not sure about it yet, give me a couple days to let it sink in.)

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