Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Milestones and finish lines

I hit 10,000 words on "The Box", finally.  It's coming along nicely, and I'm gearing up to bring it to its big, Baysplosion-y finale.  This made me think of the issue of pacing.

Generally stories are supposed to build to the climax, which is the big moment or scene where everything kind of hits the high point.  All of your storylines converge, the emotions of your characters reach their tipping point - essentially this is when you get to the entire point of your story.  When the audience is gripping the arm of their chair, riveted by whatever you're showing them.

When it comes to action-adventure stories, this generally means that things are at their most dire for the hero, and the villain is on the cusp of victory and world domination or some such.  Sometimes, it's okay to buck this idea.  In "Raiders of the Lost Ark", for example, the climax of the film is really when Indy and Marion are tied to a post and the Nazis are opening the Ark - although the film's biggest action sequence is arguably the fight on the plane tarmac followed closely by that amazing truck chase (which to this day is one of my favorite action sequences in any movie - ever.)

Or sometimes, even, your biggest action sequence comes at the beginning of the film.  The Battle of Hoth, anyone?  Generally, though, I think I like films that have a slower first-half and then unleash hell in the back.

Writing a short story is a little different.  With "The Box", which has a lot of action adventure elements in it, more so than any of the other stories from "Show Me the End of the World", I've tried to maintain a sort of even pace in the sense of building it steadily.  There's a creature hunting the characters in the story, and each encounter with it gets bigger and longer and more dangerous than the last.  What I'm hoping is that this lends the story a feeling that it's leading to a huge climax, that the finale of the store will be me letting loose with something truly awesome that made reading the rest of the story worthwhile.

Because if your climax fizzles, well... quite simply, as a writer, you've failed.  Don't let the reader come away disappointed in your payoff.  That's a fear that I've had about my writing rather often.  I'm afraid that I have these great ideas that I can't follow through on for whatever reason.  In screenwriting, I often found my way around this by tossing in some kind of action sequence which ultimately, regardless of how much I love the action/adventure genre, is just lazy writing.  If I'm ever going to overcome my own fears regarding my writing, I've got to force myself to sit down and think about what I'm doing and if I can't come up with a way around a problem, then the solution isn't to sidestep it with action but to go back and address why the problem exists.

But I digress.  "The Box" is almost finished.  At this point, I'm proud of it.  But it's not finished, it still needs work.

I still need to unleash it.

Current Soundtrack:

"Captain America: The First Avenger"
 by Alan Silvestri

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Decisions to be made

You'll recall in a previous posting I mentioned that I was rewriting a lost story that didn't make it into "Show Me the End of the World" called "The Box.  Well not only have I been rewriting it, but I've also expanded upon it.  From my admittedly spotty memory, the story wasn't all that long.  But the new version I'm writing is actually quite a bit longer than I remember the original being.

Whether this makes it better or not, I can't be certain.  It might suck. I'm gonna have a couple people read it and give me some feedback on this one, I think.  I'm not sure why I'm so uncertain of it.  My usual rule is that if it's fun to write, then it's fun to read.  This one is fun to write, but for some reason I get the impression it might not be that fun to read.  Maybe it's the length?  Maybe parts of it feel kind of repetitive?  I won't know until I get some people to take a look at it and tell me what they think.

But because it's turned into a bit of a longer project, it's sort of usurped my novel that I was working on, so that will be delayed a bit.  That's totally fine, of course, because I don't want to rush that, nor do I want to demand that my friends and family who just shelled out their hard-earned cash for "Show Me the End of the World" to do so again just a couple months later.  No, the novel will take time and patience and preparation (but, y'know, I've already nearly finished a cover for it...)

I will, however, put "The Box" up on Amazon for the Kindle.  I might even enroll it in the KDP Select program, which requires that it be exclusive to Amazon for 90 days, but gives it some greater promotional push.  "The Box" was supposed to be a short story; honestly I think it'll end up being more of a novella.

Current Soundtrack
"Battle: Los Angeles" - Brian Tyler

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Writing = reading?

I may have mentioned previously that writing more has led to a side effect of reading more.  This remains true.  I've downloaded a bunch of books for my Kindle, many of them free, and enjoyed several.  I'll continue to review them, but for today I just wanted to mention that there seems to be a relationship between reading and writing that I hadn't recognized before. Y'know, beyond the obvious.

I used to read all the time, so much that I was going through books like a fiend.  In high school, it was not unusual for me to finish a book a week, and I was a regular patron of the town library.  Somewhere along the way, I lost that.  My reading habits atrophied to mostly just comics and then eventually just the occasional graphic novel.

In the last few months, I reversed that.  Of course, I'm still reading graphic novels - I just finished the collected edition of Greg Pak's "Planet Hulk" which was sadly disappointing - but I've read several novels and short story collections lately that I've quite enjoyed.  And I've found that reading has enhanced my enjoyment of writing and vice versa.

Last night I ended up writing and then reading before bed, and it was a very fulfilling experience.  I didn't get all that much done, but I felt the juices flowing.  I was on, y'know?  The words came easily, and then when I switched to reading - I'm in the middle of a fascinating novel called 'The Windup Girl' - even that just felt right.  The fact that the book is good helps a lot, I'm sure.

Current Soundtrack
"Need for Speed: The Run"
Brian Tyler

Saturday, February 4, 2012

In my head, the conversation continues

If you, perhaps, don't know... I love movies.  It's commonplace for me to walk down to the very excellent Somerville Theatre on a Saturday afternoon and catch a matinee.

Today I caught a cool flick called "Chronicle."  And as commonplace as it is for me to see movies, it's just as common for me to think about the things I'll be writing in my head.  Today, for example, as I was walking back from the theatre I was going over what I was going to write for my review of "Chronicle."  It doesn't usually strike me in the midst of these thoughts what I'm doing, but today for some reason it did.

Today I noticed what I was thinking, which is kind of a weird sensation to describe.  But, y'know, I didn't stop.  I just kept going with it.  If I'd had some kind of photographic memory, maybe I'd have simply come home and regurgitated those exact thoughts into my keyboard.  Instead, I came home and just wrote what I could remember and filled out the rest.

One thing I can admit, though, is that this is not the only circumstance where I do this.  I'm constantly going over conversations in my head, continuing on in different directions or trying out different combinations of lines as though the discussions I'm having are me writing dialogue.  If that strikes you as a little neurotic, I won't blame you.  It sort of reminds me of that 'Seinfeld' episode where George is obsessed with crafting the perfect comeback ("Oh yeah, well the Jerk Store called, they're runnin' outta YOU!").

So if you see me walking down the street, lost in my own world and perhaps even muttering to myself... don't be too afraid.

I'm harmless.

...I swear.

Current Soundtrack:
"Need for Speed: The Run" by Brian Tyler