Thursday, April 28, 2005

Not much to report, and I'm not feeling particularly creative today.

Now Jamie is down with my cold from last week. She's trying to be a trooper, but, man... bad colds just ruin you. Not being able to breathe is a total drag.

My brother (Adventures of Steanso) is headed off to New Orleans for Jazz Fest. It's sort of a big roving party across New Orleans as near as I can tell. He's wanted to go for years, so I wish him luck. His legal scheming only works in Texas, so he must be more careful than usual in the great state of Louisiana.

I'm finally back at work. I feel like I haven't been there much lately as one of us is always sick. Luckily, it's not my busy time, and I've been there long enough to be familiar with the ebb and flow of some of the stuff which used to give me hives.

I was reading Maxwell's recent entry regarding her struggle with a prose work she's dealing with outside the world of blogging and her online public persona. Sounds like she's tearing herself up working on thsi thing, and I think that's a good sign. If writing were easy, we'd all be reading Golden Girls scripts.

It got me to thinking about a prose bit I mess with once in a blue moon. I started work on it in roughly 1996 or so. School, work, marriage and smelly dogs have all conspired against me to keep me from ever really completing the thing. Let alone getting past the turning point for Act I.

I am most certainly struggling with many of the issues Maxwell describes (albeit, in no way in such a colorful manner as Maxwell), but just hearing her describe the specifics of what she's struggling with informs me that her story already sounds much, much better than my own. And while that drives me mad with jealousy, after following her NYC based adventures, learning maxwell is crafting what sounds like a fantastic story comes as no real surprise. She can write, she can.

I confess that I have often pondered how much further along I might be with the prose-thing if I spent an 1/4th of the time on the prose-thing as I spend entertaining you jerks. In addition, thanks to the the extremely long period of time I've spent dinking with this nonsense, I've been in an odd situation of passing from goofy college-guy to goofy working-guy, all while working on the same tale.

Experience has provided me with a wider view of the world, which certainly helps to color characters and situations in a different hue. But "maturity" (or whatever you want to call it) also makes you take a step back and look at what you wrote, and wonder "Did I really think that? Was that a situation I would ever write today?" So in a lot of ways, I'm glad I started when I did. And I'm glad I have a different perspective to bring to the table than I did in 1996, 1997 or whenever I first started.

I like to think it's all about character motivation when you're trying to tell a story. You can't tell any story without knowing exactly what every character in every scene is looking for or wants. It's not just a nifty acting tip, it's what writes your dialog for you, it's the weirdness that occurs when you hear writers saying "I don't know. The characters just started talking to me and acting on their own."

It's probably the number one thing to drive me beserk when I'm watching a movie or television program (because I don't think it happens nearly as much in books or plays as those are usually written by a single person). The verisimilitude is broken when characters simply act, but not in a way which serves their stated motivation. Especially when that act is a lynch-pin for carrying a story forward... ugh. Really, I think series television such as X-Files, Smallville, etc... are probably the worst offenders, but that's due to a bullpen of writers and changing technical staff week after week.

But after this extended period, it's tough to remember the motivations I started with, especially as you start imagining lumping in story element after story element. And unlike writing a screenplay, narrative economy is not the watchword in prose. Nor should it be. But it's also tough to balance what is necessary story, what is interesting flourish, and what is a precious baby you dreamed up which you're going to have to kill to make sure the story keeps moving. Prose certainly gives you more of an opportunity to keep those darlings around, but it's tough to know when you're really enhancing and when you're just babbling.

Like most writers who aren't real writers, I've flatly refused to allow anyone to read the damn thing as I'm an overprotective freak, and I take criticism only so well. Jamie looked it over, but she knows she has to live with me, so she's got to be nice.

So two weeks ago I handed the thing over to Steanso, who cares not a lick for my feelings, and who is going to know best where I'm going with the whole thing without a treatment or outline in his hand.

His review?

"Dude, I keep sitting down to read it and then I fall asleep."

Not exactly inspriring, but it speaks volumes. I have not written a gripping tale, but he's a nice enough guy to at least TRY to finish reading the pages.

I do await his comments, because it's worth knowing whether or not what you've slogging away on is tolerable to the average literate mammal. You can't take a little comment like "and then I fall asleep" to heart. You have to find out WHY he's falling asleep. And then decide if it's worth fixing or wandering off to move on to a different project (I've always wanted to try widdling).

I should say: Jason is also known to take his sweet-assed time to do everything, from returning movies to reading your latest opus. And if you can't take the honest word of your own brother, Sweet Christmas... who can you listen to?

I'll probably continue after hearing his input. At this point, I feel almost a biological need to push this mutant baby out. But one thing I learned in school, you can't just write in a vaccuum and assume your words drip with genius. You need brutally honest folks around who aren't afraid to tell you exactly why you suck. You need to listen, decide if what the critic is saying is worth a damn, or if they brought their own troubles to your work, and then move forward.

And sometimes, you need to realize you might not be the genius you thought you were and move on with your life.

Anyhoo, this has turned into a fine little entry.

In other news, despite a luke-warm performance, The Phoenix Suns are once again victorious. But they have to start playing real defense if they plan to finish this series, let alone succeed in the next round.

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