Thursday, September 22, 2005

Thematic Thurs. - You can't manufacture inspirado.

Well, yesterday wasn't quite as productive a day for the Capstone, writing wise, but that's mainly because I had hit the limit of what I could do with the resources on hand, so I had to do some online research, which was a bit time consuming. But the good news is I finished the first essay, and I think I found enough stuff to finish up the other two by tonight. Then I can take Friday off to relax, and do some revision/rewrite stuff this weekend. Which brings us to today's Thinking-out-loud Thursday (Thematic edition) topic: Yesterday's short story.

It's amazing to me how, when I first wrote the two short stories that would eventually combine to form "Moving On" almost 10 years ago, I loved how it turned out, and couldn't bear the thought of changing a single word; and then last night, after reading it for the first time in several years, I was too embarrassed to post it as it was, and did some hasty rewriting. So now, the story is much stronger, IMO, and I'm sure I won't be able to bear the thought of changing any of my additional dialogue for at least another year or two.

In case you were wondering about how "Moving On" came about, it's a semi-sorta-kinda-autobiographical story, inspired by the death of my grandfather my Junior year of college. Some parts are definitely true (my recurring nightmare), some are definitely not (none of my roomies got roped into heading to Miamuh with me), and others are kind of mishmashes (nurse doing a 180 after seeing me in the parking lot and coming out with cop: true. cop knowing who I was and talking to me: false).

As some of the sharper-eyed blog monkeys may have noticed, the nickname given to Josh in the story is identical to one of the nicknames I used to describe one of my roomies in a previous entry, which begs the question: "Are story-Flunky and real-Flunky the same?" Well, as much as I want to write a "Yes, they're both emotional cripples who revel in tormenting others" comment, I shall refrain. Such restraint, no? Anyway, the truth is that the story of a flustered relative being unable to remember my roommate's name and referring to him as Flunky is all they have in common. Except that for real-Flunky substitute "grandma" and "Labor Day" for "Aunt Charla" and "funeral." As a matter of fact, during a recent visit one of my aunts asked me how Flunky was doing, because she couldn't remember his real name. I had totally forgotten about the incident until she brought it up (as had Flunky, although for him it was probably a result of trying to repress meeting my wacky family), so I was surprised when I saw that it had made it into the story.

"Moving On" started out as two connected stories, which were later edited and combined for my final portfolio for my Creative Writing class. Originally, my prof forced one addition on me. When she first read the stories, she thought that the characters sounded too "smart" to be regular college students. When I mentioned that I based it on my friends, and that we had met in the Honors residence hall, she made me add comments to that effect to the story, to make it more “believable.” Of course, when I submitted the story the next year to Papyrus, the undergraduate literary publication, the biggest complaint the prose selection committee seemed to have was that the Honors Hall comments made it sound pompous, and reduced the whole random aspect of roommate selection. I know of these complaints because I was on the prose selection committee, and was about to have an aneurism trying to figure out how to communicate that it wasn't my idea without blowing my impartiality and anonymity (submissions had no names on them). Probably would have kept my mouth shut, too, if the comment hadn't been made that that was the only thing keeping them from selecting it. I finally spoke up, using the oh-so-tricksy "I had a class with the guy who wrote this, the prof made him add it, I know he hates it and would be more than willing to take it out" ruse. Whether they fell for it, or realized "Oh, crap, it's his story" and decided to take pity on me, I neither know nor care, because it got selected and became my first published work. Yes, my first published work, a story I can't even look at 10 years later without cringing. *sigh* I’m almost scared to look at the story that was published in the next year's Papyrus now, although at least that one was accepted immediately with no reservations by the committee, much to my relief at the time.

My fiction writing output is really pretty skimpy. I wrote four or five fantasy/SF stories for my Creative Writing class (one of which, "Neat Freak," was the second Papyrus story) as well as a couple of additional semi-kinda-autobiographical stories, and a few woe-is-me poems which are only going to be published online over my bruised and battered body. I also have a ton of never-finished stories strewn about my notebooks and hard drive, mostly SF, but also a fictionalized account of my encounter with Amber "Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Benson. Oh, and I also wrote a couple of scenes for an amateur film the SXSF group was doing, but don't get your hopes up, there's a better chance of you seeing my poetry than of The Wiz allowing the general public to see the film. Interesting side note: after writing the scenes, I started thinking about writing some mini-scripts, and even considered adapting some of my pre-existing stories, with the forerunner being -- you guessed it - - "Moving On." That, of course, never happened.

The biggest problem I face with writing is that I almost always get all of these ideas when I'm nowhere near a computer or writing implement, and although I've composed these elaborate bits of story, exposition, and dialogue in my head, by the time I sit down to type them out all of the wonderful words have vanished, and I'm too frustrated trying to remember that one awesome turn of phrase I'd conjured ten minutes earlier to just plunge ahead and actually get something down on paper (or on disc, as the case may be).

Fellow Book Monkey and Blogger Bubblegum Tate (I think I may have to refer to him by that full title from now on) recently sent me a link about National Novel Writing Month, which has me sort of intrigued. He's said that he's considering it, and if I actually knew someone else who was doing it might make me more inclined to try. The up-side: will be totally done with school by then. The down-side: it's in November, which, in addition to being Thanksgiving time, is also TV Sweeps month! How could I possibly concentrate on writing a novel during sweeps? It's madness, I tell you, madness! Plus, it might cut into my blogging time, and I would hate to deprive all of my faithful blog monkeys of my daily ramblings. Cruel and unusual punishment, that is.

What would my novel be about, you may wonder (if you've made it this far, of course, I do seem to ramble when I'm Thinking-out-loud, don't I?)? Well, here are some of the general never-finished story ideas that have been bouncing around my head for a while:

  • The Psi Cycle: gotta come up with a better name for this one, but what do you expect, I've been kind of developing this one since I was in elementary school. 4 out of 5 of my SF stories for Creative Writing (including “Neat Freak”) were Psi-Cycle stories.
  • Elemental Saga: fantasy story I came up with during college whose main characters are thinly-veiled interpretations of various Parkerites.
  • Martyr: SF story where a rebel leader is presumed dead and becomes a symbol for the resistance, only to reappear years later, much to the chagrin of the new rebel leaders.
  • Super-hero story: Come on, you know I had to have some sort of super-hero ideas percolating up here, didn't you?
  • Continuing adventures of Josh and Bill: I've had various story ideas pop into my head about Josh, Bill, and their pals over the years, might actually put them all together.

As Papa Lightbulb likes to say, "Any questions? Comments? Cute remarks?" Any of these ideas sound intriguing/boring/innovative/old-hat/anything at all? Post a comment, and let me know. And I'm not just saying that because I really want people to post comments. Yes, that's the main reason, but not the only reason. I truly care about what you people think. No, really. Honest. I mean it. Kinda. Sorta. A little.

Boy, for a column that was just going to be about "Moving On"s inspirado, that went a bit off course, huh? If you have any more questions about the story, please, post a comment and ask it; I'll be glad to answer, especially if it means I get to make fun of the real-life Flunky. That never gets old.

One last thing: on the Seinfeld DVDs Jerry talks about how confined the episode titles to simple "the" statements (The Contest, The Scofflaw, The Yada Yada) so that the writers wouldn't spend more time trying to come up with clever titles. A wise man, that Jerry Seinfeld. Me, not so much. I generally spend half the time I'm typing up a post trying to figure out a relatively entertaining title to use. I try to wait for the muse to strike me, but sometimes you have to manufacture inspirado. So, if you recognize some obscure reference in my titles, please, post a comment to let me know that I'm not the only person obsessed with such minutiae.

(Can you guess the hidden theme of today's post? No? Here's a hint: if you think you might have an inkling, then POST A COMMENT! Got it now? I thought so. CoIM blog monkeys are the brightest blog monkeys around, I always say.)

6 comments:

CAP'N Disaster said...

Okay, I'm posting a comment! Of course I already said that I enjoyed yesterday's story and do appreciate the revisions, especially the part about the honors hall, it seems that it would be totally unnecessary to me. I'm not sure where your instructor got that these kids seemed smarter than average college students, but maybe her comparison was so brain dead becuase I drank too much and haven't gone to class in 3 weeks kind of a college student. Then I could defenitly see where they are smarter than that college student and the numerous ones out there that are like them, but there are also some very smart college persons that are not part of any honors affiliation...ahem, like yours truely, of course it did take me 8 years of studying off and on to finally graduate, maybe I'm not as smart as I like to think of myselft being...hmm I'm depressed now, Thanks Todd for making me think about these things and for making me feel totally insecure about my intelligence now. sigh...moving on... I laughed so hard over the William Robert = Billy Bob statement and the foreign lesbians thing too. Thanks for a great post!

Cap'n Neurotic said...

"I'm depressed now, Thanks Todd for making me think about these things and for making me feel totally insecure about my intelligence now."

No problem, D, that's what we're here for. Seriously, it's going to be our new slogan: Crisis of Infinite Monkeys: destroying your self esteem so that real life doesn't have to.

Flunky lover said...

It looks like you already have lots of ideas for stories but Flunky is a big fan of the nobody that everybody hates, abuses or ignores becoming some great hero, warrier or saver of the universe. (Transformation, Bakers Apprentice, etc.) Throw in a little Connie Willis wit and you've written a Hugo/Nebula award book.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

"Flunky is a big fan of the nobody that everybody hates, abuses or ignores becoming some great hero, warrier or saver of the universe."

Too...many ...Flunky-bashing jokes...mind...overloading ...

Okay, all better now.

Has he read any of the Crown of Stars books by Kate Elliot? Two of the main characters in that series kind of fit that mold. If not, I can pass them on if he makes it up for Squatchtoberfest.

aimless said...

No more thinking out loud?

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Much like the phrase "Suit up!" has an assumed subject of "You", all Thursday posts shall have an assumed subject of "Thinking Out Loud," with whatever variation that pops up in the title being just another random thought from my head.