Sunday, July 24, 2011

Writing helps for hacks

When I first decided to give up on writing something I could be proud of and focus on writing something I could complete (and possibly get paid for), I wanted to keep my plots as formulaic as possible. But, when I sat down at my computer, I found that I could not remember a single plot formula. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever heard these alleged formulas spelled out, except for the ones that start “boy meets girl.” As a hopeless unromantic, that didn't seem to help.

I took to googling “plot formulas,” “formula fiction,” etc. to get inspired. Would you believe that search came up with nothing?

Finally, thanks to the good folks at i09, I have a nice, simple list to get started on:

I realize that this particular inspiration is not their intention. But it's working out great for me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Recommending the Low Life

I have tried and tried to get my friends to read Jeremy Clarke's weekly columns in The Spectator (the British magThe American Spectator, a completely different publication, is much more political, or maybe both are equally political only I'm too unfamiliar with UK politics to see it). For the most part, I have failed. I'm not sure whymaybe none of my friends has a sense of humor.

But youyou—you have a sense of humor. So you should definitely read this. You might think it's pointless. But does it really need a point? You might think that it comes with too little background information, that you don't know who this Clarke person is, why he's in Switzerland, why he cares if anyone knows Taki, and, most importantly, who the heck is Trev? But these are small matters. Trev is just this guy with a surreal problem. And Jeremy Clarke is nothing if not the best at painting a picture of surreal problems.

(I can actually explain who Trev is if anyone cares to ask. He was introduced into the Low Life several years ago, when Jeremy was infatuated with Sharon. But really, if you give him a chance, it's a great read without knowing all about Sharon.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Who are we, really? And can I be someone else?

Reading Anne Lower's guest post at Save the Cat reminded me that, as a writer, I'm still not sure what my “voice” sounds like. I did submit a random essay about birds to this one time, and was told that I Write Like … drum roll … Neil Gaiman! But I'm not entirely sure that's true.

Although it's very exciting all the same. I write like Neil Gaiman and have way more time to post on my blog than he does. Tell your friends.

But really, I just haven't produced enough finished work to have a true sense of what makes my writing mine. If I could steal any one author's voice, it would without a doubt be Raymond Chandler's. One of my favorite books—possibly my all-time favorite—is Farewell, My Lovely. That thing is practically all voice, which might be off-putting to some. He devotes so much effort to establishing the atmosphere that it's easy to lose track of the plot, and the characters, and whose murder are we investigating again? Wait, that was a murder? I thought he just, ummmm—the only violent death I can remember was the nightclub owner who was in the wrong place at the wrong time...

So that would be my preferred voice. Neil Gaiman comes a close second. And in third—hmmm, I'll have to think about that one.

While my current (and previous) project is a fantasy, ideally I would like my writing to make reality feel fantastic, the way Farewell does. Chandler makes the real Southern California as mysterious and dramatic as, say, the Bladerunner Southern California. Of course, from a 21st-century perspective, one could just dismiss that as the effect of the passage of time. But I'm pretty sure that actual life in 1930s LA did not feel nearly as much like a dystopian scifi movie as one might hope.

Anyone out there have an idea of how to find one's voice?

Plot Device

Pretty cool short by Red Giant:

Plot Device from Red Giant on Vimeo.