November 18, 2010

Post Workshop Woes and Brainstorming at Work

What Happened: On Tuesday, I had a workshop for Playwriting, which was a little daunting. I've never been so nervous during a workshop before. I've never written a play before either... (the pseudo playwriting format fanfics and the Tenchi Muyo/Sailor Moon radio play do not count. Nor does the Digimon one...) so I was extremely out of my element. The workshops are conducted a little differently than the ones for fiction. In fiction, we typically have to read our own work and we spend at least half an hour or more discussing the piece. In playwriting, you have other people reading your work. Since it's a ten minute play, we spend ten minutes reading the play and ten minutes discussing the work.

So the high points of the workshop:
  • Listening to other people reading it out loud and performing it the way I imagined it. Awesome feeling. As a novelist, it's kind of similar to having someone draw a picture of your characters the way you imagined them. 
  • Being told it was pretty descent. Definitely ego boost after a exhausting weekend. 
  • Listening to other well-written plays. 
Low points of the workshop:
  • Realizing that I forgot some important aspects of a play like protagonists and goals and stuff. 
  • Noticing that I still had a butt load of typos after rereading it repeatedly. 
  • I don't think I can understand the notes that I took. I rarely ever understand the notes I take...

Likes: I enjoy that we don't spend  a lot of time discussing the work because once you hear the story, you can kind of notice what's working and what's not working.

Dislikes: One thing that I didn't like is that the playwright isn't given time to ask questions (which I suppose is what office hours are for, but it's kind of good to get questions answered by peers). Another thing I didn't like about playwriting workshop is not being able to explain your intentions. With a fiction workshop you can say "My intent was blah blah blah." and your classmates and teacher can be "Oh, I see. Well, this might help you better reach your intent". In playwriting, there simply isn't enough time to do any of this, which is unfortunate.

At any rate:
I have a love/hate relationship with playwriting. On the one hand, I can focus on things that I think I'm strong at which is dialogue and characterization. On the other hand, it reminds me of all the things I'm not so good at which is everything else. Okay, not really everything, but I do have a problem with clarity and trying to tackle too much in a story. These are reoccurring issues that other people have pointed out to me in my writing and I have to agree. And it goes all across the board, playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc....

A part of it has to do with not allowing myself enough time to work and rework things. I get a certain rush from working right up until the deadline, but doing that requires some sort of sacrifice. Out of all the plays I tried to work on, none of them were working.  In the case of the play I wrote for class, to get the dialogue, characterization, I neglected motivation and character goals. So instead of a "play", I got two people talking in an elevator. Which, when it was read out loud in class, is all well in good, but it's not a play it can't be performed only read. There's tension, there's conflict, but none of the characters had any goals and because of that there was no clear cut protagonist and antagonist. I think this happens when you let the characters do the talking and don't attempt to reign them in every so often.

The cool thing about revising a play is that it's all in the dialogue. There's no descriptions to fill in and what not. That's also one of its draw backs.

My notes for revision are below. I'm only posting this as a blog because I think it would be cool to catalog my process for revisions. It seems like the play is worth pursuing because of the mostly positive response about it and I feel that it needs some minor tweaking compared to some other hot messes I turned in for other classes that will never see the light of day:

November 9, 2010

Other Sides Blog Tour: Irk and Char of Peacock King

This is my first guest blog type thing ever so I hope you enjoy it. 

Today, I have Irk, one half of the illustrious and illustrated web fiction The Peacock King. Irk and Char have spent so much time together that they have merged into one person. Anyway, without further adieu, on to the interview.

November 6, 2010

The Journal of Ben Uchida by Barry Denenburg

Date Started:  November 5
Dated Finished:   November 5

Summary: Ben Uchida is Japanese and in February 1942, two months after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, he and his family are forced to go to Mirror Lake, a internment camp for Japanese-American citizens. Ben and his family try to make the best of situation, but they find themselves increasingly disillusioned by the constant surveillance and terrible conditions of the camp.

Likes: Ben's character is so cynical and he's so sarcastic about everything. I enjoyed reading that aspect of his character. He's kind of lazy in school and a bit of a goof-off, but he's good natured and knows when to keep his silence. He is a good baseball player and it's his outlet for all the frustration he and others feel about being interned. His cynical attitude is a change of pace from the other more uplifting viewpoints. Not that the other viewpoints are wrong or anything, but I was actually pleasantly surprised and a little dismayed with Ben's sarcastic point of view. It's surprising because I wasn't expecting the character, at twelve years old, to be so apathetic even before the internment. It was a welcome surprise though. I was also dismayed because his cynicism only worsened when he was placed in the camp, it's sad to see young kids so beaten down by things that are out their control. 

Dislikes: The story stops abruptly and at a strange location. I wanted to know more about the relationship with the father, who was taken away at the beginning of the novel. I feel like this book barely skimmed the surface of the Japanese internment, which is probably that way to encourage kids to look into the event for themselves. The story ends so awkwardly that I found the facts and details about the actual event a bit more compelling than the last fourth of the book.

Overall: Since I'm older, the story really didn't come together for me, but I'm not a part of the target demographic. It's still an interesting book because of Ben's cynical point of view on everything, but to get deeper into the Japanese internment, one could probably read Farewell to Manzanar as well as other books. I'm not saying that this book shouldn't be read, but if you are interested in the Japanese internment or just want to learn more about the history, it shouldn't be the only book you read. This is a good starting point to jump off from though. In other words, this shouldn't be the end all be all of books about the Japanese internment.

Recommended by: I have always been interested in the Japanese internment. It was probably one of the biggest mistakes in a post-slavery world that America could have ever done. (we still haven't learned) I always wonder how America could have made such a grave mistake and I'm always curious to know how children who are old enough to remember what it was like before, during, and after. I'm interesting in reading what happened afterward as well. I remember learning about this in school and wondering why as soon as Americans are finished picking on one race, they go and exploit another. (think about that.) The sad thing is that I don't think the country has learned. Sure, we're not going to intern people again, but we're just going to deny them civil liberties and a descent quality of life. I think I'm going to stop myself now before I go on a full length rant.

Acquired: Library

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Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

Date Started: October 29
Date Finished: November 6

Summary: Hans is a Dutch-born, England educated young analyst in the oil business and doing quite well in New York. However, after the September 11 attacks his life starts to fall apart. His marriage is failing and years later he gets a call from the police stating that his friend, Chuck, has been found in a canal the victim of a brutal murder. Hans recounts his meetings and friendship with Chuck as the two of them embark on creating a international cricket club and stadium.

Likes: I was in love with the writing style of the story, though I can't exactly pinpoint why. The language is pretty high, but yet it's accessible in my opinion. The story kind of reads like a translation of the book. The way the book introduces characters is fascinating to me, because they are often caught in ways that one wouldn't expect. The story is essentially about a failing and rebuilding of a marriage, but Hans was such an empathetic and very real character that I was invested in what he was doing and how he was going to resolve the issues with his wife. I was also curious to know who killed Chuck.

Dislikes: The ending was a little confusing and I wasn't exactly sure what was going on. I could live with the fact that *spoiler: highlight to read* they never find Chuck's killer or why he was murdered,*end of spoiler* though he did have a lot of dubious business ventures and he was predicting his death the entire time. I just wished there was a clue to Chuck's death, but since it technically wasn't about his death but more about the influence he had on Hans. I just wanted more about what happened to Chuck. I also disliked Rachel, she was obnoxious.

Overall: It was a good book. I actually used it on my midterm. The assignment was to imitate the style and I found that was actually really easy to do and the book itself was engaging. Now that I finished the book, I want to at least finish my story for class. The story is an interesting read about a family in a post 9/11, but it doesn't focus on 9/11 itself, but the aftermath of life on a more personal level.

Recommended by: Professor Andrew Winer's Survey of Contemporary Fiction Class


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November 5, 2010

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Date Started:  October 30
Date Finished: November 1

Summary: Jonas lives in a world where everything is regulated. Feelings are talked through and worked out so that people don't experience them so deeply anymore. Language must be precise or one could misunderstand the meaning. Everything like jobs, mates, and children are chosen for everyone. Only the Giver and his Receiver have the memory of the times before this and the place simply known as Elsewhere. When Jonas is chosen to be the Receiver of Memory, he starts to see the dangers of a regulated world and the deep secrets that his world keeps hidden from its citizen. Jonas makes  a decision and secretly starts giving memories to Gabriel a newborn (newchild) that his family takes care of until he can sleep through the night.

Likes: This was a really well written book. It is dystopia 101. It establishes the rules of the world, breaks those rules with Jonas' character and his role as The Receiver, then it shows the "Oh sh*t" moment when the character realizes that not all is well in the world, then Jonas must decide what to do with the knowledge he receives. Even though I could pin down the story and tell you all the tropes, it was still a fantastic story. I definitely was curious to know what memories Jonas would receive. The worldbuilding is also fantastic. Isn't over done or put in as an annoying info dump. I was interested in learning what used to be and what the story is now.

Dislikes: I dislike the fact that I didn't read this as a child, because it would have been cool to read it again and see it in a new light. The cover is off-putting. I think it doesn't really appeal to children with an old bearded man on the front. It could definitely use some updated packaging because I knew I wouldn't have picked it up on my own had we not be forced to read it (see the overall section below.) And the updated packaging that I saw doesn't look much better to be honest.

Overall: Obvious it's not in my age range, but I still enjoyed it. In fact, I probably liked it more now than if I had read it in school. It's a good book and I feel that despite the horrors of the world, it is still age appropriate and not overly long or gratuitous. I'm curious to read the sequels. It definitely left itself open for being a series.

Recommended by: I had to read this for class in 6th grade or middle school, but for some reason we never got around to it. I remember having this book in my hand and opening it, reading the first page, then getting sidetracked and having to return it to the library before I got a chance to finish it.

Acquired: Library

November 3, 2010

Logline Blogfest: Sex, Drugs, and Steamwork

Copyright belongs to respective owners.
Since Sex, Drugs, and Steamwork isn't finished, I couldn't enter the logline contests, however Steena Holmes is holding a logline blogfest and I squeaked by just in the nick of time. Having this logline helps me find the focus of the story (since it doesn't have one really and/or is incredibly convoluted.)

"When steamwork mechanic, Alessandra Mijares, unwittingly becomes a criminal for saving a fugitive magician, she seeks refuge in Underground with the magical creatures. Her fate rests in an eccentric mage or a skirt-chasing prince, both eager to use her for their own interests."

 I hope this piques your interests. I'm curious to know what your thoughts are. Now off to the next blog.

EDIT: Thanks for all the feedback. Here's the edit:
"When steamwork mechanic Alessandra unwittingly becomes a criminal for saving a  fugitive magician, she seeks refuge in Underground with the magical creatures. To get to safety, she must rely on herself, but an eccentric mage and a skirt-chasing prince are both eager to use her for their own interests."
EDIT 2: Another edit. I need more action in the second sentence. I hope this clears things up (most likely not, but it doesn't hurt to get feedback). I'm wondering if giving the names of the mage/magician and the Prince would make things clearer.

"When steamwork mechanic Alessandra unwittingly becomes a criminal for saving a fugitive magician, she finds herself stranded in Underground with dangerous magical creatures. The eccentric mage blackmails her into deactivating his war machines while she catches the eye of the spoiled skirt-chasing prince who's family wants her in jail."

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November 1, 2010

Time's Arrow by Martin Amis

Date Started: October 30
Date Finished: November 2

Summary:  In a strange world, where doctors injure people and harm saves people, the narrator, a conscience, a soul, is somehow stuck in the mind of Tod Friendly and all his aliases, after Tod is brought back to life.

Likes: It takes a lot of skill to write a novel like this. For one thing, you have to make sure that you don't expose your world. The idea is a bit of a gimmick and perhaps would have been a terrible novel in the hands of a less experienced author. The story takes an old "cliche" and puts a different twist on something that is so overdone. I don't want to say too much about the story without giving away the gimmick, but the story is well written in the regard that once you learn the "gimmick", you are willing to suspend your disbelief. If the story doesn't keep you interested, you do read to see if a character

Dislikes: Once I found out what the main character, Tod Friendly, was years earlier in his life, I was less invested in his story. In fact, this is the part where the narrator and the character of "Tod Friendly" become one and the novel seems to be rushed to me. I don't really like Tod and his aliases, but the opinionated conscience made his character a little more bearable.

Overall: I apologize for keeping this review sparse, but I don't want to ruin the secrets of the novel for you. It's an amazingly well crafted novel and I am in awe of how deftly it was handled in terms of the writing. I'm not really impressed with the character that we have to follow, but this story definitely falls into the realm of the experimental. It can't be written an other way otherwise you'd just have another cliched story about a horrific point in history. It is fun to watch the story unfold, but my only complaint was that the character we're forced to follow is a little boring. That being said, I wouldn't recommend the story to people who don't want to work hard to get to the heart of the story. If you want to read something that takes an idea and runs with it, I'd recommend reading this story more so for the technique and craft moreso than the actual story itself.(the story was inspired by a part of Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5")

Recommended by: Professor Sal. P for Anatomy of Fiction Class.

Acquired: eBook. (my print book is coming this week, which is irritating because it's after the point.)

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