Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When writing veers off

Progress has been very slow for my writing this past week and a half. I'm working on episode 5 of my serial project. It was one that I'd planned to offer a slightly lighter tone than the episodes around it...and I just wasn't feeling great about it. I had it all planned out though, and sometimes that's the main part--if I can just tell myself, "Suck it up--once it's written you'll see it's not as bad as you feared," then I can often get the draft finished and surprise myself. Not necessarily that it suddenly is brilliant, but that it works better than I thought and that what doesn't work so well now has a concrete solution rather than a nebulous doesn't-feel-right-ness to it.

So plugging along, in the second scene I threw something in that completely changed the dynamic, an interaction that was supposed to be antagonistic became neutral. That pretty seriously changes the entire arc of the episode...but I much prefer the surrounding events that make things neutral. And I could get rid of some bits that had seemed fluffy and superficial. Problem is that then I'm stuck, unsure how to move on through the remaining scenes. I don't think I've added more than a few paragraphs in the past week, and in the past couple of days I've done little more than rewrite the last sentence and delete it over and over.

I've just written a new sentence that will make it veer off even more...but I think it gives me an angle to continue. I hope.

(On the other hand, I have been getting a lot of stories out on submission over the past week, so I can chalk part of the lack of writing to getting all those polished and out there.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Changing My Name to Chrysler"

I don't claim to be an expert on the economy, but the crisis on Wall Street has me singing along with Arlo Guthrie:
Since the first amphibians crawled out of the slime
We've been struggling in an unrelenting climb
We were hardly up and walking before money started talking
And it said that failure is an awful crime
Well it's been that way for a millenium or two
But now it seems that there's a different point of view
If you're a corporate titanic and your failure is gigantic
Down in congress there's a safety net for you
(actually by Tom Paxton, but I know it from the Precious Friend CDs that pairs Arlo with Pete Seeger)

Check the song out on YouTube.

Monday, September 15, 2008

(Pseudo) Victorian clip art

So I've been having fun continuing my little serial fiction project. One of the things I've been playing with is arranging the story, once a second draft is complete, in a way to mimic an old newspaper. Not fully--I've read through enough archives to know that many newspapers had five or more columns rather than the three I'm using and much smaller font. So I'm trying to balance readability with atmosphere. Playing around with old-looking grunge fonts has been fun, and I like how episode one looks when I export it from Open Office as a pdf.

One part of that atmosphere that I believe I mentioned here awhile ago as one idea is that I'm inserting fake period ads in with the text. Steam-powered chimney sweeps, government health warnings, clockwork maids, exotic travel... I'd like to have more art included with those, but my scouring of clip art sites has led to very few that will be suitable. I don't want cartoony, in fact I can't use color at all. But I'd like things that have the feel of a 19th-century woodcut, and I haven't found a lot. The subject matter could be pretty broad, though the focus would be on commercial things of interest to city dwellers, so not nature scenes. If anyone has any leads on where to find such (preferably for free use), I'd love to hear it. There's something of a steampunk flavor to this project, though I hesitate to label it that way, so what things I've found have often been through searching for steampunk-related art.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Story idea

This article on a "new art form" makes me want to create a story that's entirely built of fictitious reviews of a fictitious collection of poetry. It's only a small step from other things I've done, stories that incorporate poetry as part of the secondary world the story is set in. It wouldn't necessarily be seen as especially original, but more of a variation on/homage to Borges. In fact I seem to remember reading a short story (perhaps from Farrago's Wainscot?) that was very similar, though I'm not sure what the reviews in that story were of. [Edit: They were reviews of a book: "Praise and Criticism for M. Rekling's The Bottle" by Alex Dally MacFarlane] But even so, it's the type of thing I would find very fun, imagining not only the snippets of poetry but the reactions of many to that poetry, letting those reactions reveal the way people in an imagined city think about such things as poetry and art and...really everything.

I'm not planning to write this story at the moment. It's such a bare bones concept now that it's hardly even a story idea. Maybe a story ghost. But if it keeps haunting me in the coming months, maybe I'll try to turn it into something fun.

Friday, September 05, 2008

A non-partisan musing

This is inspired by the coverage of Sarah Palin, but it isn't meant to be political really. I mean, I'm an adamantly unaffiliated voter with generally moderate views on many issues (though certain governmental actions have radicalized me on some) in one of the crucial swing states, but I haven't been undecided for this election for a very long time, so it has no bearing on my vote and isn't meant to influence any else's.

But why even bother to include "she married her high-school sweetheart" in discussing someone's biography? What's the romanticism behind that phrase, really? I mean, what's it say about a person? My first inclination, when I think back to how much I changed as a person from high school until the end of college (and even since then), is to wonder if this fact implies a certain static nature to the person's beliefs and ideas, especially if they were high school sweethearts but then apart during those formative college years. I was incredibly sheltered back then, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as you do come out from that shelter and learn something of the world, but what kind of judgment would I have had then on the kind of person I could live with? And if the judgment proved true, would it mean I was especially wise or just that I didn't allow myself to be influenced by later experiences?

When I consider it more, I recognize that that isn't totally fair--I know people who married their high school sweethearts (if I must use that phrase), and they did grow and change together after that. And, too, I married my college girlfriend, and we've each continued changing during my wife's medical school, having children, moving to a new state, residency... But for me those college years were so drastically formative, and I do see people I knew from before then who don't seem to have changed at all, don't seem to have allowed themselves to be open to new ideas or experiences that it makes me leery to focus on something so banally irrelevant. Should it really make any difference in how people see a person if she married a college beau or a friend of a friend or an online contact or some dude she met in a bar?

Again, this is not an attack on the candidate--I try to keep politics away from my blog for the most part. This is an attack on attaching romantic resonance on something so trivial...and if meaningful, possibly even suspect.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Story to Cinema Spec!

I got an acceptance email last night for my story "City of Facades," a flash piece that I wrote specifically for Cinema Spec. I'm excited about that--it's a story loosely related to the one I had in Sporty Spec, riffing again on Dunsany and Calvino with a touch of Milorad Pavic in one part. Sporty Spec was great fun to be a part of (and is a great anthology, full of whimsy and wonder...so, you know, go buy a copy if you haven't yet), so I'm really looking forward to this one as well.

Monday, September 01, 2008

5K run

My wife's work was sponsoring a local running event and strongly encouraging their associates and staff and families to participate. I enjoy running, and I've frequently run much further distances...but I've actually only raced that distance once, and that was in high school.

To add to my uncertainty, most of my exercising of late has been pacing back and forth with my daughter, not running. I've done some biking, some stroller-walking, and some pick-up basketball games, but I think I'd only been running two or three times since she was born in April. My hope is that once my son starts preschool (tomorrow, actually...yikes), then I'll have some chances to take my daughter out in the jogging stroller, but that doesn't help much when it comes to preparing myself for the race this morning.

So I had no idea what kind of time I might get. At my peak mileage in college, I always suspected that I'd be able to go 16 minutes pretty easily and with a few races to get used to the pacing, probably even faster, though of course that was just guesswork based on the pace we did on much longer runs. The pace I'd been going with the jogging stroller (and a 35-pound child), though again for further distances, would have put me at something closer to double that.

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit my time--it was no where near 16 minutes. I'd only just passed the 2-mile mark by about then. But it wasn't as bad as double either, and I enjoyed it. Hopefully I can do the kind of running I'm envisioning over the next few months, and then maybe I can try another race in November or so.