Saturday, February 24, 2007

Making Narrative Better Through Editing

So with both my short story and novel, I've started learning about the importance of revising. Editing can really help changing stories for the better (or, I guess if you're a bad writer, for the worse).

Other than the short story, I haven't really revised any work and gotten it published. Through trial, error and a suggestion given to me back in 1997 or 1998, though, I've learned to break down my censor and self-consciousness while writing a rough draft. I think I've written about this whole matter in a past entry, which basically can get summarized as confidence pretty much comes down to breaking through self censorship and that a professional writer should reach that point for rough drafting. By doing so, said professional will find plenty of great material.

I've found that I have a tendency of writing first (rough) drafts in a form of linear story telling with flashbacks showing up here and there. Overall, though, the rough draft gets told in a straight ahead linear, action-by-action, fashion. After getting through the rough draft, I then try to enter an expansive stage with the writing, again, not caring too much about repetition, consistency, tightness or small things that won't bore the reader. Plot and character aspects may change here and there to allow for more of an interesting situation.

From there, I'm all about making things tight and enjoyable to read. I haven't, unfortunately, really reached this stage in any of my writing yet.

I still have the whole making the story more concise and more entertaining to read aspects in my mind, mostly through my more semi-conscious ruminative mind but still there on the edges. This past week, I had an interesting conversation with a friend about my tendency to write the expansive rough drafts while thinking about the tightening and narrative elements. He mistakenly thought I got down on myself with these aspects and got in the way of my Muse while writing rough drafts. We cleared up that whole mix-up quickly enough, but I felt proud that I could write without my censor while also ruminating on making the writing tighter.

The ways that I plan on changing these pieces really excites me somewhat, even if I won't reach that stage for awhile. For the novel, it will take a long while since I still have at least 100 pages more to write before finishing the linear story telling. The short story will take a little bit of time, too, since I plan on adding a new final scene. I may also adjust other parts of the story, but I don't know if I should before changing the framework.

I don't plan on changing the linear story telling for the novel so much. Rather I plan on radically revising the form one point of view takes. The straight forward linear moment-to-moment story telling will be cut down while snippets of her correspondence and conversations will get presented at other times. Not much action-action happens during the latter moments and enough exposition will occur during them. At the same time, the audience won't get as annoyed with the character.

Now, with the short story, I want to change all sorts of things around. The linear approach really doesn't work well for creating suspense or for making an impact on the audience. Instead, I plan on taking on something more of a mystery/crime genre approach to the story as told by one of the bad guys. The issue will be can this guy be defeated, and if so, how? I think this approach will work better than just telling a straight ahead story as told by an unreliable narrator. Hopefully I haven't spoiled the story for anyone.

It is cool the way revising can re-tool narratives to make them more interesting for the author and audience.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ego Intact

In case you're wondering, the critiquing at the writing workshop didn't go so bad. I mostly received a confirmation of my own critiques on small things, small bits of responses I didn't expect about communicating information to the audience (starting to become useful in ways I didn't originally expect) and data about issues I wanted addressed. To some degree, though, as much as I enjoyed the people, I almost feel as if I miss the ego bashing. . .I hope no one held back because they didn't want to hurt my feelings.

Either which way, the meeting has proven constructive. My mind has churned since then about the story and the responses received. Wrote for ten minutes on a new scene last night. This morning, have come up with a possibly more compelling way to present the story (thanks, wcdixon!).

By the by, ABC continues to disappoint me by not posting the new Day Break episode.

And last night, Heroes (watched Monday's episode on TiVo) won back my attention with a generally fast paced episode that better challenges some of the characters and puts some things on the line. Even Internet Girl comes off pretty good, which I doubted (thinking her power was kind of dumb and a little overdone these days). Can't wait to see things get revealed next episode!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dang You, ABC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First, you cancel Day Break.

Then you take forever to post episodes on the Web because of something about movie rights.

NOW. . .you have the nerve the stall posting the very last episode on time and say it will be premiered sometime during the week. Some people even believe that you won't post it until next Monday because of some obsolete information over at IMDB.

I can understand how you might feel wary about giving us fans a bad product after last week. Yeah, I thought the producers made a dumb choice to show sequences out of order, even though that was a mistake and you corrected it. I didn't go to check out the correction because I understood what happened in the episode. You only disappointed me a little then, and I could forgive you without a thought.

But to put the LAST episode on stall and to break a promise you made. I don't know how easily I can forgive you. It just hurts so much. You have one more chance, though, just one more chance. If you don't show this last episode, "What if it's him," though. . .I just don't know, I just don't know. . ..

I just feel sorry for those looking forward to see Moon Bloodgood as Rita Shelten for one last time.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Preparing for Some Humble Pie

I tell you, the minister who sermonized today at church must have sensed my anxiety. He called the sermon "Humble Pie." In a couple days, when I go to my first writer's workshop in a long while, I expect to eat a big piece of the pie.

Except for four or five people, I haven't let anyone read anything I've written seriously for something like 6 or 7 years. I felt like I had two reasons:

1. I had nothing short enough to keep re-submitting to a workshop and finish within a reasonable amount of time.

2. Previous workshops had bruised my self-esteem way too much to feel submitting drafts to one worthwhile.

At the moment, I have protest number 1 addressed. I've mentioned in an earlier entry that I revived a 2-page piece I wrote during my adolescence and published in my high school literary magazine. It hasn't advanced beyond the expansion-development stage yet, but after three passes by the fiancee, I think it needs some more unfamiliar eyes. The story is short enough (clocking in at around 15 or 17 pages double spaced at the moment), however, to get some criticism, revise then submit again.

I still have to face protest number 2, though, which I have chosen to address by jumping straight into the fire. To make things even more crazy, the group will workshop my piece first without any other pieces at the first meeting getting addressed and before any organizational issues get addressed. Taking this tact will probably benefit the group, but I bet my ego will get a good bruising. One case probably doesn't provide enough basis to create a structure for workshopping other pieces, but one works better than none.

Getting my ego bruised can't be avoided. I would, of course, appreciate good tact and graces of fellow workshoppers, but if they have to say something that hurts me to improve the story, then I hope it gets said. Unfortunately, more likely than not, I will probably take something quite personally that may or may not be needed said. I believe such an encounter inevitable to the beginning of a writing workshop endeavor.

Even back in college when the teacher had many years of experience moderating writing workshops, the first workshop of the year would crush my ego. That crushing doesn't even take into account proceeding classes when my bad writing would incite reactions (amongst audience critiquers that I couldn't stand in the first place on the basis of personality) that grinded my ego under a boot heel. The first workshop would rip apart my ego the most, sending me back to my dorm room, both seething and wallowing in a puddle of despair. I expect something similar to happen Tuesday night, when we hold our first workshop.

I hope, I really hope that after the first meeting, though, this workshop will prove a more rewarding experience than my college workshopping experience. On the one hand, I'm older. Further, the average age of my fellow workshoppers will be older. We also all will mostly have the same interest of speculative fiction, since we met though the Chicago Speculative Fiction group. I don't think that necessarily means that we will all write speculative fiction (I mean to branch out, if the inclination strikes me), but I think it will provide some common basis other than going to the same school.

We will probably differentiate from each other in numerous other ways, though. After all, some may think that students at Marlboro College are all black-turtle-necking-wearing Kerouac-reading smokers, but all the students differed. THAT SCHOOL had plenty of social and economic conservatives, even if the school probably leaned more toward liberalism. The workshops I attended had a fair mixture of people, too, even if we had similar political and social leanings. We all had different temperaments, sensitivities, tastes, etc. etc. This workshop with Chicago SF will probably have an equally numbered different viewpoints, if not more, than the workshops I experienced at THAT SCHOOL.

I also fear the over time homogenization tendency of workshops. Essentially, if not careful, a writing workshop group can end up writing too much like each other. They can create a consensus of taste and criticism. At THAT SCHOOL, I made sure to stay vigilant of the homogenization, but I think having the roster of the class changing every year helped that goal. For a workshop with an indefinite length, I wonder if it will make resisting the homogenization tendency any harder. Nonetheless, other people can provide some really good advice, so I'm ready to take each bit of criticism and advice for its worth. If it intuitively works or requires me to do a little research to evaluate the usefulness of the opinion, then I'll use it. If I find something that doesn't work, though, I also have the freedom to ignore it.

Not much else to say about the hazy memories of workshop experiences. Still feeling pretty anxious about the zero hour of the workshop Tuesday night. Nonetheless, I look forward to facing the hardship and becoming a better, refined and enriched person after the experience. Too bad I will have to suffer an injured ego before receiving benefits from the workshop.

Oh well, such is life.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Encapsulating Recent TV Watching

Day Break: They seem to stretching it beyond my expectations, in regards to length and possibilities, but I keep watching. My questions from my long essay on Day Break have mostly been answered. They've added another element, though, which I found somewhat predictable. Nonetheless, I want it to the end so Hopper and company can find some peace. I'd probably keep watching if it continued, though.

Mahwash commented:

on abc. com in the FAQ of daybreak, it says:
Q: What's the "thing" that's causing Hopper to repeat this day?
A: Not going there.

Any thoughts what its all about?
where is "there"


In regards to ABC.com's answer, I think they won't answer this question (which is actually find with me, I enjoy the writers giving themselves this challenge, working within it and making the story remain interesting and tense), the answer sucks or the show will completely blow our minds when it reveals the metaphysical/scientific mystery.

Personally, I want Chad to have alluded to the answer when Hopper took him hostage. Beyond that, my only thought has to do with the main bad guy behind the whole conspiracy has the power to repeat days but unintentionally brought Hopper and the "crazy" guy with him. My question from there is: what happens if one of them stops their iterations. . .or do they all have to do something together to end the reiterating?

LOST: The last two episodes have blown me away with their strength. Frankly, I think the last episode should have been shown before the hiatus. I think they wanted to save it for February sweeps, which I think really sucks. They could've lost another fan, me, from all the lingering about they did in those first six episodes. Executive manipulations for ratings and such strike me as a bad thing to happen with this show. Just look at what it did to the second season and the first six episodes of the current season. Still, if the 14 remaining episodes of the season constistently stay this strong, I really look forward to them.

Check out these LOST Writing Room Spoofs over at Denis McGrath's Dead Things on Sticks.

Heroes: Parts of last two episodes have bored me. Only the Peter Petrelli and invincible cheerleader have kept my attention. The rest of the cast seems to be hanging about with sparse character development or any advancement in their "quests." The last episode had the possibility of working out well except for two aspects: (A) stripper mom has annoyed me from the beginning (even if the multiple personality aspect had potential -- the good personality just annoys me) and (B) kid admits he steals money from ATMs at the end of one episode but faces no consequences from his dad who wants to go clean? And no presentation the moral quandry for the dad?

That whole aspect reminds me of the whole Dawn kleptomania arc on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At a sing-a-long for the musical episode I attended recently, one of the games was to yell at Dawn to shut up because she's so annoying. Please, writers of Heroes, don't make the little kid annoying. He has some interesting potential.

Knights of Prosperity: I know why I started watching this show, but I'm not sure why I kept watching after the first episode. It really has a different feel from most TV out there, especially half-hour sitcoms. The original concept of pulling a burglary heist on Mick Jagger had a lot to do with it, I believe, but now that the show has supposedly pushed that angle aside, I'll still keep watching.

Knights of Prosperity warms my heart with the Robin Hood aspect. Yeah, yeah, I know: these folks have a lot more selfishness than Robin Hood, but the class and community consciousness aspect of the show really grabs my the attention of my heart. So many times, the gang has had the opportunity to accomplish their goal, but they've chosen to do the "right thing" when it comes to their fellow knights or for the hard working class "good guys." They'll try robbing Mick Jagger and break the law, but when it comes to the Knights or to other people in a similar situation as them, their leader will do the right thing for them rather than screw them over. This show has soul.

But it also has some great moments of situational comedy from the other characters and their juxtaposition with the head of the Knights. And even though I have a hard time understanding her, I enjoy the sight of Sofia Vergara. That doesn't hurt.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Stuff Happens

I feel like I should apologize for my absence. After setting up some degree of expectation for my behavior on this blog, I break it by not posting for just about a week.

This entry won't hold too much, either.

The last week or so has given me a little bit of trouble, this morning especially. I have the feeling it might have to do with my diet, but there's some things that I need to figure out, so I can have more focus than I've had for the period of my absence.

Hopefully I will write soon, but I can't promise anything.

Monday, February 05, 2007

SNAP! Day Break SNAP!

That last entry, I hit the nail. Not on the head, though. I glanced the head and bent the whole nail. Now the thing has gone in at such an angle that I have to take it out and put in a new one.

Rita and Chad's secret has become important, but we don't know it yet. At the same time, Hopper has made things worse. I've never been so happy about being wrong (about ABC supposedly repeating the second part of the two-hour pilot).

But I've reached a whole other level of infuriation. Hopper has affected Rita the same way he affected his sister and Battle. We also learn that the conspiracy goes even higher than we thought.

And just one more episode, I believe.

How will it end? What's Rita and Chad's secret? Who's on top?

And I've got to wait a week to find out! Argh!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Mysteries of Day Break Infuriate Me in a Good Way

I want a more exciting reason for not writing lately. Unfortunately, I don't have one.

Two things come closest to excitement:

+ Spending 10 minutes a night editing my short story project and

+ Catching 2 episodes of Day Break Tuesday night and another 2 on Wednesday night.

Apparently, they'll release another episode Monday. I'm a little annoyed, though, that they'll release the second hour of the premiere this upcoming Monday, billing it an unaired episode. Still wondering how will fit into the continuity this time.

As much as I feel infuriated that they haven't put up all the remaining unaired episodes at once, I have to respect it at the same time. It allows for the suspense to keep enticing an audience to come back to a Website. And how to better measure ratings than Web hits? From my perspective, better than the Nielsen ratings. So yeah, I'm looking forward to the next new episode.

* * * POSSIBLE SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED ALL THE NEW EPISODES YET * * *

The last episode really finished on an interesting note. If you have the perception that ABC had released all the episodes, the end would suck and feel very frustrating. Hopper has apparently solved the murder mystery of who killed Garza and exonerated himself, but. . .but. . .but he wakes up in the same day, AGAIN!

This time, though, the show made a very big point of dramatically creating the impression that everything had been solved. Before he woke up again, Hopper felt great and vindicated. His girlfriend, his fellow cops, etc. etc. say all these things that make you feel that everything has concluded. They have caught the killer of Garza and others and have brought all these elements together that solves most of the connections between all the disparate characters. At least, enough of them have been resolved for satisfaction at the end of the day. Yet. . .yet. . .yet he wakes up in the same day, AGAIN!

Once I realized that this last episode isn't THE LAST episode, though, I started remembering a few elements that didn't feel resolved. Rita and Chad have something in their past that they want to stay hidden. The lead homicide cop has a big beef against Hopper and his (dead?) father. There's still the crazy guy out there who apparently suffers from the same thing as Hopper. And mostly. . .Why the hell does Hopper and the crazy guy keep repeating the same day?

Alex Epstein has touched on the issues of leaving things a mystery rather than having a bunch of pieces that come together in his recent blog entry, "Sometimes Confusions Makes it Realer". Sadly, his inspiration comes from a tragic situation, brings up a good point. Pan's Labryinth does do a good job at leaving a mystery that doesn't frustrate the audience (at least, not a good one). One girl in a college fiction workshop I attended had a great knack for creating these kinds of mysteries. One day, I hope I can accomplish such a task, but it requires a great amount of skill and craft. I don't feel ready to take it on yet.

Then we have a situation like Day Break. This show relies on putting together the pieces rather than leaving the audience with a mystery. The general premise pretty much goes: someone has framed Hopper. Who, why and how? It has taken him something like 3 or 4 weeks of the very same day to figure out how all these different elements fit together. This premise essentially creates the expectation of a mystery that will get solved.

But the show has also created an emotional expectation. At this point, we have all but two emotional elements created and resolved. Hopper helped Battle's drugee boyfriend get into rehab (I missed that one, but Denis McGrath does an awesome job analyzing and summarizing that episode in his blog entry, "Long Taye's Journey Into Night (With Moon Bloodgood)". The estrangement of Hopper and his sister. The good homocide cop has come around and becomes pretty kick ass.

Though possibly, most of all, we feel why Hopper wants the day to end. He doesn't want to just stay out of jail, solve the mystery, get captured the bad guys and repeat the same day because it annoys him. No. . .every time he see his girlfriend, his sister, his partner and everyone else die, he feels it like the first time. Some people might grow cold to it either because they see it so many times or because they think they'll wake up in the same day tomorrow. No, Hopper's a tough guy with some hard emotions. On top of that, though, he's also something of an everyman that doesn't necessarily understand the theories behind the crazy day repeating (even though Chad knows something about it, which is hilarious). He doesn't know why it keeps going, but neither he does he know when it will stop. All his loved ones could die then maybe the day won't repeat. But damnit, he can't live his life without those loved ones!

So we have two things told to us by the narrative logic: mysteries will get solved by the facts presented and emotional problems brought to our attention will get resolved. Crazy man repeating the days with Hopper presents a mystery of the repeating day along with an emotional issue. The crazy presents so many possible paradoxes. First off, if he somehow figures out how to reach the next day, what iteration would Hopper meet if Hopper doesn't make it to the next day? Crazy guy also has a mystery: he really does repeat day after day, but he had an operation that was supposed to fix it? Has his brother died? If not, where is he, really? What's up with that doctor, if the crazy guy didn't have the operation? In the end, though, does crazy guy and Hopper have to both do something to make the day stop reiterating? Maybe not so immensely important, but many possibilities introduced.

The head guy on homicide also presents something of a minor issue. For a guy who has such a big beef with Hopper and his dad, why does he cave so easily in the end? Does he have the intelligence to realize that the preponderence of evidence beats him, even though he tries to stop the investigation from going contrary to the original suspicion of Hopper killing Garza. Does the guy really have a beef? Or does the guy just have very simplistic ways of approaching things? Does he just want to get a case over and done with? I'd like to learn more about this guy's beef.

The biggest emotional sticking point, though, comes from the secret that Chad and Rita want to keep hidden. Chad has worked with one of the bad guys to keep the secret hidden. The head homicide guy brings it up during an interrogation and apparently the secret should have been erased from the books. That type of power can only probably come from the conspiracy that has framed Hopper and done tons of other crazy crap.

Most of all, though, this secret provides a great opportunity for TENSION! Right now, it's potential, which almost feels more tense than having it just about happen. The day hasn't stopped reiterating, and we have this big mystery and also the mystery about the head homicide cop. Head homicide cop doesn't matter so much. He did his job of showing a connection to the conspiracy and being the only one to bring up the secret other than Chad and Rita. If the secret is so huge that they want it to stay hidden, though, what will Hopper think? Did his friendship with Chad go sour because of it or just because Hopper started dating Rita. Did their relationship break up because of the secret? Also notice that on the Website, they're always pictured together (from the beginning, I thought it meant something insidious). Day Break has solved most every other mystery and the day iterates again, so I expect this secret to get revealed. Whether it brings on resolution, I don't know if I care. Right now, I just want to know the secret.

And, most obviously, the mystery of the reiterating day. What causes it? Will we get an answer to its cause? Does the councilman Tobias have something to do with it (he does keep talking about actions having consequences)? If so, why would he have Hopper reiterate the day? Maybe Tobias has taken to reiterating days every once in awhile to get it perfect but accidently sucks other people into that reiterating day? If so, how does he do it? Does the guy do magic? Does he have some kind of device? How and why does the day keep reiterating? Maybe I won't care all that much by the end if this mystery doesn't get solved, but right now, I really want to know the answer, especially since his original cause of vindicating himself and saving the people he loved hasn't stopped the iterations. I will wait on my tippy toes to find out the answer, and it had better be good.

* * * SPOILERS DONE * * *

OK. I ended up writing more than I intended. Stuff about the short story and other life things will have to wait.