When I was in college, I took some theater classes. Some acting, mostly playwriting. I was cast as a Texan mother of a recalcitrant Texan teenager in a short play at some point, and in one scene I had to get increasingly worked up while said daughter refused to come out of her room to meet an important suitor. I memorized my lines, and had to wear a wig. (My hair was growing back after being shaved off, and the play was set in the '50s. A Texas woman could not, apparently, sport a mauve Tank Girl hair cut in the '50s.) We rehearsed.
The director told me to put more energy into the scene.
The director told me to put more energy in the scene.
I thought I did.
The director took the "door" (We were working on a spartan set where there was furniture, but no walls, so the door was literally just a door in a frame with some kind of chinzy plywood flying buttresses) and tweaked it so that it jammed. *
The next day, at rehearsal, when I went to open the door and let in the suitor, the entire door came with the knob. At me. It wasn't heavy, and he and I managed to catch it before I pulled a Buster Keaton, without the opening in the house. And goddamn, did I have energy during that scene. Actual adrenaline coursing through my veins, the same as a '50s mother might have had while trying to convince her daughter not to actively spurn and embarrass a suitor who was the son of an influential family.
Before that, you see, I was pretending to act. I was so caught up in "doing acting" for lack of a better term, that I wasn't actually acting like this woman. Also, may accent was atrocious.
The same thing happens in writing. We get so busy showing what's going on with our characters, zooming in on those meaningful looks, fist-clenching and lip-nibbling that all the energy is taken out of the characters and, because of that, out of the scene. We're so focused on showing reactions and programming emotional tension that we lose the actual emotion.
In any of my first drafts, I'll have at least a paragraph a chapter that consists of time stopping so that I can show reactions instead of just letting my characters move through their embarrassment or pain or joy. I haven't yet come up with the authorial equivalent of dropping a door on them, but I'm working on it.
And now, because I love it, some info-dumping from STRANGE BREW:
* I don't actually know that she did this. In fact, I'm inclined to believe that she did not. Still, it worked wonders.
The other entrants have created some amazing Nerd- and/or Beerscapes, and I couldn't resist adding my own. I give you: Terminator 2 on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (alternate cast), with Neil Gaiman's NEVERWHERE (see caption to understand how this ties in), and seasonally-appropriate miniature Cadbury Cream Eggs.
Cyberdyne Systems was responsible for a lot of heinous things, including a self-aware computer with an urge to eradicate the human race. You may have heard of its most devious agents, the Terminators. I bring this up because, according to Terminator lore, at 8:11 PM TODAY, Skynet will begin its attack against humanity.
Sadly, this is almost all Cyberdyne will be remembered for. And, while it is not as momentous a thing, Cyberdyne Systems is also responsible for me being a writer (this could also, I suppose, be considered an attempt to eradicate the human race... not that that's my goal, I swear!).
When I saw The Terminator in 1984, two things happened immediately. First, I fell hopelessly in love with Kyle Reese. Upon recovery, some months later, I began to write my first novel. It would now probably be considered fan fiction. I was so utterly enthralled with the post-apocalyptic world hinted at in that movie that I had to see more of it. Since James Cameron and Orion Pictures did not seem to share my all-encompassing and IMMEDIATE passion for all things Future, I decided to write it myself.
I remember the novel including a lot of dangerous patrols and German Shepherds. There were also a lot of amputated limbs replaced with prosthetics that all the refugees were slightly suspicious of. If I still had a floppy disk drive, and inserted the THREE disks I filled with my Terminator stories, the amputations would probably number in the hundreds. Why, I don't know. It was a theme of some sort.
Was this appropriate fiction for a seven year old girl to be writing?
YES. It was exactly what I needed to write. I could smell the burning metal, feel the adrenaline-soaked fear of my foot soldiers, and hear the sound of high-pitched barking echoing off the endless hallways where my civilization clung to life. With every Terminator we destroyed, my imagination grew. With every conflict between soldiers (there seemed to be a lot of animosity over who got the "good" MREs), I learned a little something about creating complex characters.
I lived in that world for months, so thoroughly woven into it that, when we had five minutes of free time at the end of class, I would lose myself in writing it. My teacher would have to come over and shake my shoulder, ten minutes after the bell rang and everyone else had slammed their desks closed and filtered out of class, to send me home. Good thing I walked.
A year later, I discovered Ann McCaffrey, and my metal drones were replaced with dragons and dragonriders. I poured my expanded world onto SIX floppies on that obsession.
Now, I create my own worlds. Yes, they have facets of the scenes and characters I have seen along the way. They also, now that I'm not seven, include chunks of my own successes, humiliations and heartbreaks.
So raise a glass, dear readers, and join me in toasting Cyberdyne Systems. And tell me, what dragged you into writing? Something as sinister, or something sweeter?
I'm a big fan of the post-apocalyptic future genre. I like rough, gritty characters, and stories characterized by chronic shortages of essentials and the perseverance of morality in the midst of crumbling civilization.
I also enjoy the dystopian futures where either the government has restructured the world to contribute to its nefarious goals, or mankind is hiding and fighting against some big nasty: annihilating aliens; computers burdened with blissfully single-minded superiority complexes; zombies; and vampires?
Post-apocalyptic and dystopian books and movies are high stakes affairs. Every decision or refusal to make a decision has life or death consequences. There are sterling moments of humor, iron-strong ties between characters, and really bad Bad Guys. Self-sacrifice is a repeating theme and, honestly, that never gets less compelling. The settings are amazing, emotionally evocative by themselves. Burnt-out landmarks, charred children's toys, rusting razor wire. (Fire and oxidation apparently run rampant in these futures.)
Probably the only reason I can read or watch such stories without running, screaming, from my seat is because I know them to be works of fiction. But every once in awhile, I come across a true story that makes me wonder if we're closer to these fictional situations than we know.
This one caught my attention today. It's not a situation of urgent peril like the ongoing nuclear disasters in Japan. In fact it seems static, almost benign, in comparison. But it's also borderline terrifying. Farm families are being displaced. Farmland is being destroyed. Natural resources are gobbled up and twisted into place, only to be let immediately to decline.
I know I could probably find examples of such programs being perpetrated in my own country, but the sheer scale of this operation is what I find most astounding. It's the impudent hatchling that ate an entire country. It reminds me, frankly, of Science Fiction stories where some mega-corp builds up this or that planet or orbital and then abandons it.
So what, dear readers, will happen next? I've got two dollars on idyllic young families being moved it at no cost, followed by a zombie spider outbreak.
I came up with the perfect topic for a blog post today. Scout's Honor, I did. (For just a moment, I thought that two of three of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's children were named Scout and Honor, and I thought a-ha! you clever bastards...but it's Scout and Rumor, and Scout's Rumor is...well, I don't know what it is, but it sounds vaguely scandalous, or like the sort of book that might find itself banned in Kansas).
Anyway, I wrote the opening of the post in tiny letters on a large sticky note, which is how I keep track of most important things. And then I stuck it in my bag and brought it home, unveiling it - viola! - mere moments ago. And what to my wondrous eyes did appear? Why, a grocery shopping list. I seem to have snatched the wrong sticky. Story. Of. My. Life.
So, in lieu of sweet inspiration, I give you:
kalamata olive bread red bean paste beets (small) Mini Eggs (before they're all gone oh dear God move like you got a purpose!)
Yes, I do editorialize my shopping list. And yes, I will look for that Sticky Note of Great Ideas and try to get that up over the weekend. In the meantime, please do try to make something delicious with these ingredients.
Yesterday I bought a MacBook. I needed a new laptop, have for some time. The laptop I have been using is a hand-me-down, generous on the part of the giver, but that hasn't made me and the machine BFFs. It likes to listen to honkytonk and randomly refuse to allow me access to my files. It is a morning person and has a bowl haircut. We have politely shared space and several hundred thousand words over the last year or so, but it was clearly time to part ways.
Except, I have no idea what to do with the MacBook. Some history: in grade school, when computers were just worming their way into the general public, I worked on an Apple Macintosh.
We did not use it for schoolwork, or to skim wikipedia in the name of "research". No, they taught us Basic programming. We programmed elementary games, and something related to creating graphs. That was the last time I worked on a Mac, back when it was still using its full name. And now I have this sleek, colorful, beauty that literally sings when I turn it on:
So tell me, MacMinds, what are your favorite parts of the MacBook, the things it does so well that PCs can't even hope to match? And don't tell me about the no viruses or out-of-the-box badda-bing capabilities. I already bought the thing. No need to sell me twice. :)
Tell me about the programs, the computing equivalent of the dive bar with the killer steak burritos and $2 cocktails made with top shelf booze. Help me to fall in love with this aluminum-encased feat of engineering.