May 22, 2015
Just for fun, I was recently thinking about historical figures I’ve written about. (Not just mentioned or talked about — had to have lines of dialog.)
- Babylonian Emperor Darius (“The Book of Daniel”)
- Henry VIII, Arthur Tudor, Catherine of Aragon (“A Princess of Spain”)
- Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Jane Grey (“The Haunting of Princess Elizabeth”)
- Shakespeare (“Draw Thy Breath in Pain”)
- Edward Alleyn (Kitty Steals the Show)
- Emily Dickinson (“In Time”)
- Queen Victoria, Princess Alexandra, George V, Princess Victoria, Maud of Wales, Carl of Denmark (the whole damn family!) (All the Harry and Marlowe stories)
- H.G. Wells (Harry and Marlowe again)
- Rose O’Neill (“Goodness and Kindness”)
- Joseph Kittinger (who is still alive!) (“This is the Highest Step in the World”)
- Janis Joplin (“Just Another Word”)
I think there may be a few I’m missing. Like, all the pirates in Steel and probably a couple of walk-on characters in Discord’s Apple.
Some of these characters I’ve done a ton of research on. I’ve read multiple books about the Tudors. I did a ton of research on Janis Joplin for one single short story. Rose O’Neill, creator of the Kewpie doll, has an autobiography that I read. I took a whole seminar in grad school on Emily Dickinson and felt very confident writing about her — or rather my interpretation of her.
On the other hand, I did zero research on H.G. Wells and Darius, just using general knowledge and context to portray them, and mostly making them do what I needed for the story.
I probably worried the most about Janis Joplin — hence all the research — because she’s so iconic, it was important to at least try to portray her accurately. I definitely worried about using Kittinger as a character, because he’s still alive, and the story was so fantastical and symbolic I didn’t really make an effort to portray him as he really is. I wasn’t writing about him, really, but about the situation. Where I did do the research was in reading multiple accounts of his Excelsior jumps, so I could at least get the details right.
I have to admit though, having used Kittinger to inspire a character, I had a really good time a couple years ago watching him (via livestream) as capcom for Felix Baumgartner’s high-altitude jump that finally broke the record after 50 years. He had exactly the wry, calm, old-school test pilot demeanor I expected him to have.
May 8, 2015
I am having One Of Those Weeks. Reverse 911 calls, bank freezing the credit card, broken printer, a week of rain, not going to ride TinyHorse because I cannot face the rain, predictions of snow for the weekend, some really annoying paperwork. The couple of unexpected checks I got (the “Hey, this’ll buy a bag of groceries!” kind of checks for short stories written years ago) couldn’t even cheer me up.
But mostly I think it’s because I’m working on this screenplay and it’s kicking my ass. I have a self-imposed deadline on this one and I really want to get it finished, because I think it’s going to be pretty good. My problem: I write short. I know I write short. I zoom through plots. Not a single one of my published novels is longer than 100,000 words. I’ve never had to cut a novel down to size. Now, on a novel, short or long doesn’t really matter as long as it’s in the ballpark. Someone picking up a 70,000 word novel or an 85,000 word novel is not going to be able to tell the difference. There’s a lot of wiggle room.
A feature length film screenplay has to be at least 90 pages. You calculate about a minute of film time per page. This is strict industry standard. But I write short, and I’m coming up short.
So, what to do? Well, a B plot would help. Looking at every single scene and seeing what opportunities for character development I might be missing. Adding to the story without padding it out, making it drag.
This is really brain-cramping work. But I can tell the thing’s going to be better for it — a more developed story, richer characters, etc. I know intellectually this is really good for me as a writer — this is actually something I’ve been trying to do on the last couple of books, to go through every scene and look for missed opportunities, look to flesh it all out more than I have.
But holy crap I’m tired and cranky about it.
(I’m not going to talk about what the screenplay’s about until it’s finished, and until I feel like I won’t jinx it by talking about it. I don’t know when that’ll be. I’m sorry.)
May 6, 2015
1. Decide to do a Thing.
2. Study other examples of that Thing.
3. Read up on how other people have done that Thing.
4. Practice doing that Thing.
5. Get feedback from experienced Thing doers.
6. Do that Thing some more.
7. Put that Thing out there.
8. Repeat forever.
May 1, 2015
My iris are blooming like gangbusters, which is great because my tulips didn’t do anything this year. Bummer. But the iris are great. I tried to take a selfie of me sprawling amidst my sea of iris, but I mostly got a nice clear shot up my nose. Not very good at this selfie thing so much.
I watched Iron Man 3 in preparation for seeing the new Avengers tonight. I think it was the right choice, especially during the “House Party” scene when all the suits fill the skies over the oil rig. Yeah, that looks like foreshadowing. Also, I had forgotten the Joan Rivers cameo bit at the beginning, and that made me sad.
Work wise, after something like three weeks of feeling like I’ve been spinning my wheels, I’m back on track. At least for now. I’ve been working on this screenplay since December — I finished what I thought was a first draft, but it was only 50 pages long, which is not long enough for a feature-length film. More like a TV episode. The story needed a B plot, and my brain turned to mush and I couldn’t figure out how to do it.
I figured out how to do it this week. And I’m really, really excited.
I need to write a big post about branching out, learning to write in different formats, and trying to figure out an entire new field from square one, which I haven’t had to do since I was figuring out the whole novel thing twenty years ago. My brain is getting a workout.
But right now I need to write that B plot.
April 29, 2015
Lesson I’ve been reminded of this week: Don’t compare myself to others. Especially don’t compare my blooper reel to other people’s greatest hits.
I’m back to that thing where I’ve got a bunch of projects in progress and if I could just finish some of them, just get a couple of things out there, I would feel so much better.
But hey, I’ve got tickets to see Avengers: Age of Ultron on Friday. So there’s that. No idea what to expect with this one. I’m sure it’ll be a fine ride. It’s weird, the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels like it’s turning into this really high-end TV show that only has two episodes per year. And you know what? That’s okay.
People are passing around this link: Shit People Say to Women Directors. And it’s horrifying. It’s one thing to know that sexism is pretty darned rampant. It’s another to get individual stories and specific examples. Imagine going to work every single day and hearing this stuff. Imagine going to work at a job you’ve dreamed about doing for your entire life and hearing this stuff. Imagine the courage and will it takes to keep going. Yeah.
Heading into an election cycle with Hillary Clinton as a front runner after the kind of backlash to feminism we’ve been experiencing over the last couple of years — we’re all about to hear a lot more of this kind of shit. Brace yourselves.
It’s almost May, isn’t it? Geez.
April 15, 2015
Did I ever talk about the playlist for Paranormal Bromance? I don’t think I did! Like other shorter stories from Kitty World, this doesn’t have a playlist, but it does have a song that got stuck on repeat while I was writing it. This one:
It’s funny, because I’m not a fan of Nirvana. Never was. They hit big when I was college and I should have been exactly in the demographic of their fan base. The thing was, I wasn’t done with the New Wave yet, and the grunge movement was specifically a reaction to the 1980’s electronic pop music that I loved, and it annoyed the hell out of me. The popularity of Nirvana annoyed the hell out of me. There were a couple of years there where I couldn’t seem to get away from them.
But the characters in Paranormal Bromance? They would have been fans. And while hearing Nirvana turn up on classic rock stations over the last ten years has amused me to no end, it would really bother Sam — as he states in the story. (For my part, hearing Duran Duran turn up on the local Oldies station — not the classic rock station, mind you, the actual oldies station, the same one that used to play Buddy Holly all the time — led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth.)
So, I listened to Nirvana voluntarily for the first time ever. And I have to admit, I do like this song. It belongs with the story.
April 8, 2015
It’s a very interesting time in my brain right at the moment. Those two novella-things I finished revising last week? Turns out finishing them cleared up a big chunk of real estate in my brain. Those two projects have been living in my brain for years, and now that they’re done, I can clean under the creative sofas, so to speak, vacuum up the dust that accumulated around them, and see what the place looks like.
A bunch of new projects flooded into the space, which I’m excited about, because these are also ideas I’ve been thinking about for a real long time but haven’t been able to do anything about while those other things were parked in the prime real estate. (People keep asking if I’m sad about wrapping up the Kitty books — and I’m actually not, for this very reason. I’m satisfied, and I’m looking forward to see what shows up when I’m not thinking about new Kitty books.)
Like, I started outlining one book, but then ended up outlining a whole other book — one that I’ve been thinking about but didn’t know when I was going to get to. I also carefully opened the gates on a brand-new novel idea, one I hadn’t really thought about until the last couple of weeks but I finally got something of a eureka-moment about how to handle it that makes it much more viable. (See how this works? No room for eureka-moments until this week! It’s so fun!)
This also means it’s time to run inventory on what I’m working on and prioritize projects. And reading lists: research for two different novels is going to mean reading about, variously, the Donner Party, the Miwok tribes of California, giant squids, and the War of 1812. (I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide which of those research topic goes together.) I’m also going to need to reread Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed, because I want to study the structure to help me out writing that brand-new novel idea.
I also figured out a short story I’ve been stuck on.
So yeah. This part is kind of fun. But if you talk to me in two weeks, I’ll probably be going crazy because I can’t seen to settle on one thing to work on. Heh.