Tuesday, August 18, 2015

When Stephen King and Scott Westerfeld mingle in my mind

I have several TBR lists. One for fiction, one for nonfiction, and another specifically for books about writing and the writing industry. The result is that at any given moment, I am in the middle of at least three books. The result is often like walking through a chemistry lab and choosing random chemicals to mix together. You never know what will happen.

Currently, I am rereading On Writing by Stephen King. At the same time, I read Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. These two had some interesting interactions in my mind.

King talks about the level of detail he likes to use in descriptions of character and setting. He is a bit of a minimalist, giving the reader a few small pieces and letting them fill in the rest. The result is that any character in a Stephen King novel isn’t really one that King created. The character is really created by the interaction of his chosen details and how the reader interprets and fills in the rest of the picture.

This got me thinking about movies. I don’t tend to like the movie versions of books I love. Partly because the story changes. But I think my real issue is that there is no interaction. In a movie, the visuals are determined for me. The director, actors, and other crew involved present their interpretation of the characters and setting to me. As a viewer, you are not involved in the creative process.

This is where Scott Westerfeld comes into play.

In Afterworlds, Westerfeld brings up what he calls the Anjelina Jolie paradox. Here’s the premise: When Anjelina Jolie is cast in a movie, that means that the world the movie occurs in is one in which Anjelina Jolie does not exist. Otherwise, people would comment on how much the character looks like Anjelina Jolie.

What follows from that is the movie version of a book actually occurs in a different world than the book did!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Not Your Average Juliet

            Alice slips through the front door, her angel wings rustling as they brush against the door jamb. She pauses, waiting to see if anyone noticed the soft sound. Voices drift from the room to the right, involved in conversation, oblivious to her presence.
            The angel drifts to the stairs and begins the journey up, careful to avoid the fifth creaky riser. At the second door on the left, Alice pauses, her hand resting on the brass door knob.
            With a single finger, she taps softly, twice.
            “Come in,” the voice matches the volume of her knock, and she almost misses it.
            The knob turns with ease, the door swinging silently on well-oiled hinges. Alice enters Max’s room, a smile upon her lips, heaven in her eyes.
            “You look lovely.” Max says, gesturing for her to spin. She does, her skirt floating out like a cloud around her. “Stunning.”
            Alice smiles, “You are looking handsome yourself. I like it,” she nods at the heavy velvet cape draped across his shoulders. “Is it time?” she asks, gliding to Max’s side and resting a cool hand on his cheek.
            Max nods. “Did you bring it?”
            Alice reaches into the folds of her white gown, withdrawing two vials from a hidden pocket.
            Max reaches out a hand, gently brushing the smooth blue glass. “They’re beautiful. Like you.”
            Alice blushes and ducks her eyes.
            “Shall I go first? I don’t think I can watch you do it.”
            Max nods, “Go ahead.”
            The angel hands Max a vial before uncapping the other. “I’ll see you in the next life,” as she brings the vial to her lips and tips the contents into her mouth.
            Alice sinks to her knees, then sprawls back onto the floor, her breaths already shallow. Max kneels at her side, gripping her hand tightly in his own. “Alice, wait…” he begins, but it is too late. The blue has already crept across her lips.
            Momentarily torn between life and death, Max pauses. It is almost too long. But he uncorks his vial and chugs the tiny beverage, falling to the floor beside his beloved angel.
            Alice gasps as she sits up, drawing air deep into her lungs. She turns to see the man laying beside her, her hands moving to his throat, feeling for a pulse that isn’t there. She leans close, resting her lips on his, feeling the chill already setting in. “You know I’ve always loved Romeo and Juliet.”
            Her hands move to his, plucking the empty vial and cork from his grasp, tucking them back into the pocket they came from. Her vial follows.
            Alice pauses near the door to look at her reflection in the mirror. Her skin is paler than usual, lips still slightly dusky. Her fingers reach to pinch her cheeks before she decides that the paleness enhances the costume.
            She glides out the door, down the stairs (again avoiding the creaker) and into the foyer. The voices are louder, now, and music has joined the party. Alice joins it, as well. The angel slides around the wall, taking a spot near the wall, watching the costumed couples dance in the middle of the room.
            No one notices her arrival. They never have.
            She wonders how long it will take for one of them to notice the body upstairs.
            A bottle of ketchup runs into the room, “Call an ambulance! Someone is hurt upstairs!”
            Chaos breaks out, cell phones are dug out of pockets, purses, and bras. Alice is serene stillness on the outside, but aflutter inside. Hurt? He should be dead.
            Alice moves closer to the ketchup, trying to overhear his conversation over the cacophony.
            “… some guy in a cape,” the ketchup bottle states.
            “Did …… for a pulse?” This from a nun.
            “No!” Ketchup turns and runs for the stairs. The angel follows.
            Alice arrives at the door to the room and sees that everything is fine. Max is dead. Ketchup is crying, the nun offering a hand on his shoulder as comfort.
            “Who is it?” the nun asks.
            “I don’t know,” Ketchup sobs.
The nun looks perplexed at tears for a unknown man. “It’ll be okay.” She pats him twice, then looks around the room for someone to rescue her. Her eyes glide right over Alice to the paramedics stepping through the door.
The angel drifts back out of the door and to the stairs, passing a stream of animals, demons, and cartoon characters looking to be part of the story. She moves out the front door and stands on the front porch, her hand resting on a pillar. Flashing red and blue dance across the canvas of her dress and wings.
The angel smiles and begins walking.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Camp NaNoWriMo (or, What I Did on My Summer Vacation)

I just did something crazy amazing.

I wrote a novel.
In 30 days.

You may have heard of NaNoWriMo (National Noveling Writing Month). The idea is to commit to writing a first draft of a novel (50,000 words) in the month of November. They also run Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July, which is the same concept, but with a little more flexibility-- you set your word count goal.

I participated in July. Initially, my goal was 50,000 words. I had a run in with an angry neck that prevented me from doing much more than laying on the couch for two days, so I ended up adjusting my goal down a bit, to 45,000 words. I hit my word count mark on July 30th. I wrote the last scene of my manuscript on July 31st. I wrote a novel.

When I finished, I was shell-shocked. Still am, actually. I printed out the manuscript (about 80 single spaced pages) and held it in my hands, staring at it. What is this? Where did it come from? Did I just do that?

Yep. I wrote a novel. I can't tell you yet if it's any good. When you write a novel in thirty days, there is no going back, no rereading. You are constantly moving forward, writing the next scene. If you realize there is a plot problem, you either adjust the scene you are currently writing to make it work, or make a note for later. There is no going back and fixing. I honestly couldn't even tell you much of what I wrote.

Starting next week, I begin the task of editing. That will start with me reading my story. (I just said my story!) I am sure that there are significant issues. But, here's the thing. My gut says it's not garbage. So my plan is to edit. A lot. Then I will find some kind(ish) souls to read it. To be nicely brutally honest. And I will edit again. Then, perhaps, I will send my baby off into the world. We'll see.

Oh, there is one other, completely random thing. Every time I see the words Camp NaNoWriMo, the theme song for the old Nickelodeon song "Salute Your Shorts" pops into my head. Feel free to sing along: