A Dark Chest of Wonders

Welcome to the House of the Kennedy

Category: On Writing

Exercise: Let Go of the Wheel, Bro

Recently, I finally started my next novel, and I’m pretty convinced that it’s the next one. I can just feel it, this is it: this character, this narrator, he’s calling for me to write about his life (quite literally actually) so that’s what I’m going to do. Of course, it took a while for me to find the right directions to where he wanted to meet up. i knew that he lived in California, but I hadn’t been to California in a while, in fact, the last time I went to California was a great long while ago, and even then, I didn’t stay for a very long visit because my calling was in New York, and the story demanded that I finish whatever the business was in New York. In short, I’ve never been very fond of California, I’ve always looked east and south, but never west, I don’t know hy,k but suddenly, it feels right. So I finally found out where I was going, and even though the conversation got off a little rough, we shared some burgers and fries and cokes, and the afternoon went well; he even called up some of his other friends. Yeah, this is one cool dude, I think.

There is something rewarding about walking through the woods, i.e. your imagination, and picking up and investigating all these leaves, learning about all these different trees, and trying to find the way the wind goes when it’s being bent in every direction on either side of you. But there’s something like serendipity when you come up on another traveler: these travelers, from antique and far away lands are characters, the people who will be telling their story to you so that you can write it down, or at least take a break from all this walking. It is when you realize that’s all writing is, finding a character in the woods and listening to them for a little while to give your legs a break and get warm by the fire, that it becomes so much more enjoyable because now you’re not just writing, you’re telling, you’re understanding, you’re imagining.

When you write, you cannot drive the story, otherwise you come up with something that you don’t really like because you took too much control of the story. Think about this: your story, your book, is a television program, alright? Better yet, it’s a reality television program. Now imagine that you’re one of the producers for the show, yeah? As the producer of the show, you’re just there to liven up the dull moments and move the “story” along, the story being the set up for this show: 7 people, one city, one house, let’s see what happens. It’s like rolling dice. You can only do so much to make sure that you get the outcome that you want, but in the end, it’s not about you: it’s about the dice. It’s about the characters. Therefore, all you people driving your books, your stories, you need to be a little bit more like Tyler Durden and let go of the wheel, or at least ease up on it. The best stories are the stories that the characters tell themselves, they drive the story, you are a passenger who might control the gear shift, or might have an extra gas and brake pedal to keep just a limited swing of control, but you do not have the wheel: they’re taking you where they want to go. Once you learn to let go, sacrifice your control, then you’ll start writing stories that people really want to read, then you’ll start writing stories that people will remember.

Homework; let go of thew wheel. Just let go, and let the characters take the story wherever they want. Pair this with Method Writing even to help you push this out a little bit harder. Even when you feel like nothing is happening, the story is not going anywhere, you have to trust, like letting yourself fall backwards into someone’s arms, that the characters will get you there safely, that they have everything under control. If you never learn to trust your characters, then you will never be able to write very good ones, because it takes a whole of trust to become friends with someone, to let them drive your car: and pray to God that they don’t wreck it, that you don’t die. It takes trust, and as an author, that’s what you need to learn, just like you would with people, because characters are people, so it’s just a matter of figuring if you trust them. If you don’t, then you need to reanalyze the relationship.

Happy Writing, guys!

Advertisements

Exercise: Method Writing

When an actor really wants to get into his role, he’ll do something that is called method acting. This means that the actor will not break character for the duration of shooting a film: he will learn to become this character,a ll the aspects of this character, and not only know all his lines by heart for the rest of his life, but will find himself inventing his own lines, monologues, and thoughts of this character. In order to do this, the actor will wear the clothes of this character, change his apperance as much as he can–as long as it’s reversible by the end of the project, such as when actors chip their teeth for roles or lose dramatic amounts of weight–to look like what this character should and would look like. They become the character, and this is what makes method actors performances so mesmerizing and incredible when done just right. These are actors like Bryan Cranston, Heath Ledger, James Franco, Christian Bale, and others: when they get into character, you begin to forget that these are people who have played goofy dads, drug dealers, and psychopaths.

For this matter, when a writer writes a first person story, they open the skull of a particular peson whose walking in a city in their head, and follow them on their way. There are two ways to do this: firstly, you could guide these people like God stepping into a man and walking around in his skin with plenty of authorial intrusion on multiple levels, and making sure that everything goes as planned for not only the character, but also you yourself the author. Then there are stream-of-consciousness narratives like American Psycho and other works by Bret Easton Ellis, the works of James Joyce, Chuck Palahniuk, and many other authors. Stream-of-Consciousness narratives are those narratives that start  to really sound like someone riffing off their unspoken thoughts into a tape recorder without pause. These narratives are ones that have zero authorial intrusion to interrupt the narrative, and suddenly, there’s only the character: the author just so happens to have his name on the cover for transcribing these thoughts. This is what Bret Easton Ellis does with American Psycho. I highly recommend the book if you want to learn how to write better characters, because BEE totally lets Patrick Batemen be Patrick Batemen: not once throughout the entire book do we hear a peep of what might be BEE. The first third of the novel is totally embellished in brand names and superfluous adventures, the second third serves as a kind of purgatory, while the final act is served to us a la magical realism which is done in a way that I don’t think anyone can top. BEE is a method writer.

Method writers give themselves up to the character and allow the character(s) to drive the story: they don’t say a word, they just write it down like the observer of a support group. For this matter, method writers will often times write the best and worst books. The best because they are so good, so real, and manage to really portray a human being and not a fabrication: you forget that they are just that, though, a fabrication. They can also be the worst though because, like American Psycho, you only have the character to depend on to break up the narrative; you’ll often get full days as chapters with no exclusions. A chapter in American Psycho is titled ‘Morning” and simply describes every little detail of Patrick Bateman’s morning and his apartment. While the chapter does have some literary significance, when reading it for the first time open minded, one continues to flip forward to learn when the chapter ends, and it seemingly doesn’t. You get lost in all the products and little embellishments and description that Ellis throws at you. For this matter, chapters like this, make stream-of-consciousness narratives a slog to get through, but in the end, you have to admire that it was a rewarding experience. SOC narratives are often a breath of fresh air because they are both active and sedentary creatures for your brain, and if you allow yourself to fall too much asleep while reading them, you will lose yourself.

So, today’s homework? Become a method writer. Write a first person narrative that has no authorial intrusion at all, that just gives itself to the character. It doesn’t have to be a SOC narrative, but it needs to be pretty damn close if you want to write a convincing narrative that makes the reader feel like this character is real. In order to further your experience, spend time thinking how this character would think: speak how you want this character to speak, dress how this character should dress, and really become this character before you sit down to write this character. Throughout the day, interview this character in your head, really get to the bottom of why he’s doing what he’s doing in the story, and study him: what are his gestures, what are some of his catchphrases and repeated phrases? What are his ideas, hopes, dreams: learn this character like you want him to be your best friend, and speaking of that: what does he do on the weekends? Is he free? This character is now your best friend, and you’re going to write about him, so get to it!

Furthermore, look up the Chuck Palahniuk essay, “Submerging the I”, this is a great essay about how to keep the reader engaged in the story and keep the adventure communal instead of private; this could help you while writing your Method Piece.

Have a good weekend!

Exercise: It’s a Euphemism

So, today there’s not really a lesson, just the homework, but I’ll explain.

Yeah, I think is wife might’ve killed him or something, I also heard that the dog licked up the blood. It was sick.

Imagine if you wrote a story with that tone, with that flatness, as though you were having a friendly, dissociated conversation with a friend about the news that day without any real care for it, just a conversation starter. Often times, when we write, we like to embellish and add flare to extraordinary by adding figurative language and other literary devices like hyperbolic: the dancing flames were up to the stars, ravaging the night with it’s sharp jabs. Now, imagine if the sentence was written in a euphemistic fashion: The flames burned brightly. Suddenly, there’s no urgency, nothing more than what’s there. The reader is now really left to figure out what these flames look like. Imagine that your work is a minimalist piece of art work that the readers have to pay attention to or just read a couple of times to really grasp what’s being said. You as the author have to do two things: work incredibly hard to keep your inner writing voice from pushing you to write beautifully and do as little as possible.

Imagine that your story is purgatory: the place in between two stories that a reader is reading. It’s a commercial break. Too often, writers always want their work to be in the spotlight, but sometimes in order to really be in the spotlight, you have to do something that no one has seen before, or doesn’t see often. What is more, new writers, and sometimes experienced ones, will want to write and craft all these beautiful things, writing everything perfectly, and making sure that the reader gets every detail, but that will get you nowhere: the reader will begin to skim your work, begin to get bogged down by all this superfluous description, and at some point, they’re going to stop reading. What you want is to engage the reader, and one of the ways you can do that is by making every sentence imperative. Dire. Essential. And the best way to do this is get rid of all the fluff. Strip the house down, throw out all the furniture, now all you’ve got is concrete. You need to give the reader concrete, and what they decide to do with that concrete, if they decide to bring everything back, that’s on them: in this scenario, it’s just your job as the writer to show them the house. Chuck Palahniuk once wrote, in an essay, that there are two kinds of people who will sell you a house: the agents and the owners. The agents will give you all the facts, the dimensions, the build, style, and everything that you need to know about the house that’s essential. Then there are the owners who will tell you about every rock and and crack in the drive way, how they used to have dinner, how they raised their kids, and the qualms of marriage as they give you a tour of your house.

This time, you’re going to be the agent: you’re just going to give us the facts, dimensions, and aspects of the house. No heart. You’re a cold hearted agent who’s just trying to sell a house. Write a story in the form of a very long euphemism. Undercut and minimize  everything so that it doesn’t sound drastic, but it is. Hide the heart of this story like you would a loaded gun under the floorboards.

Post in comments!

Exercise: Let’s Talk About Sex Baby

Yeah, you know that song, don’t pretend that you don’t, and if you really don’t, GTFO. Today, boys and girls and horny squirrels, we’re going to be talking about sex. *Gasp*; “Oh my gosh, Becky, did he just…did he really just say that? Is he serious? Sex?” Yes, gossiping little birds, sex, we’re going to be talking about SEX. Everyone always cowers in fear when they hear the word, shift uncomfortably in their seats, or giggle a little bit, because, I mean, why not? Sex. It’s kind of a funny weard. Sex. Sex. Sexsexsexsexsex. Somehow, unlike most words, it just doesn’t lose it’s meaning after a while. It’s always the same, that sex. That’s why you guys, writers, have got to make sex something unconventional, have got to really revitalize it and turn it into something new.

I’m not encouraging you to write the next Fifty Shades of Gray but I am saying that you need to write about sex. Or something like it. Every one of us has had an embarrassing moment that we don’t like to talk about, that were really don’t want to share with the world, and for this matter, by expressing these fears and embarrassing tales, we become better writers as we are no longer afraid to tell people these things, we’re able to describe them the way that it happened because of the way and the situation that they happened to us. In order to understand how people work, you have to push them to the limit (yeah, you know that song too), which means putting them in situations that you wouldn’t even talk about with your doctor, or things that your doctor would tell you. The best example that I can give is Chuck Palahniuk’s story Guts. It’s a wonderful tale, and you should really give it a try. Just don’t hold your breath 😉

Today’s homework? Write a story about the most humiliating thing that happened to this kid you know named Billy. I don’t know who Billy is, so I don’t know what makes this story so humiliating, but it is. You have to make me feel this humiliation, this discomfort that one would get when talking about sex, and with that in mind, you have to draw this story on like when two people try to have sex for the first time: get the lighting just right, set it up before you even get to the exposition: I want to feel discomfort. Want an even greater challenge? Write it in the very rigid form of a school essay that gets derailed, but you just have to keep going if you want to get an A on this exam.

Post them in the comments!

Exercise: Legal Pads

I once wrote a 120 page book all on lose leaf paper. It was the fourth grade, and I was obsessed with Percy Jackson, so I decided I would write a book just as exciting, with Greek gods, humor, and mythology all bundled into one. Before even that, I wrote 40 page short stories on lose leaf paper about total nonsense, but damn were they good, and to be sure, they are what really set me off wanting to become a writer in the first place, especially when my English teacher at the time gave me candid feedback about a piece that she wrote, saying that it was pretty decent. When I learned to type, and I mean really type, I stopped writing on paper: it seemed primordial and savage, and I could get so much more done typing. My mind went into a totally new set when I typed, and my work advanced because of this. I was getting drafts done in less time than ever. It was many years before I actually sat down to write a real story on paper again, and I learned that, I actually wrote much better on paper than I did when I typed. It may have had something to do with the actual kinetic experience of picking up a pen and engaging with the paper, or maybe it was just that innate way that I had been writing in the beginning which kicked in again: like a suppressed instinct that had no use in modern society, yet you learn it’s just so applicable today. However, I did not altogether stop typing, but more and more I felt the compulsion to instead write on paper as there was something about it that really helped to move the story along.

The reason why it’s important for a writer to go back to either their roots, writing the way they wrote before a change in thieir method, is because now you’re forced to do something that you may have forgotten how to do or never did before. There is an episode of Parks and Recreation where Donna has Jerry put flyers in envelopes to sell, and like a machine Jerry is just throwing these flyers in and gluing them, and filing them away. At the end of the episode, we learn that he put the wrong flyer in all the envelopes without realizing it. This is what happens when you do something no autopilot: your brain takes a vacation, and leaves your body to walk easy until it comes back. At this point, you need to change up the routine, do something different: go a different path, wear your hair different: just something that wakes your brain up and keeps you from falling into a bad habit or mindset: when I was depressed, everyday seemed to start the same way. I would wake up feeling a little better, but then I would turn on the TV, and then I’d go to the bathroom and look at myself, and then I’m slump, and then I’d get my things together for school, and then I’d go to school, and then I’d sit in silence, and then and then and then and then and then: the way that I alleviated my ailment was I changed up what kind of soup I was eating. I put a little less pepper, more salt, more tomatoes, less onions, more water, less artificial flavoring. If you are looking to do better, become better, like when you become stronger after exercising for a week, you need to add something, you have to do something so that your muscles can break down and build up again as they figure out how to do this new movies you’ve added to your routine. Change. It. Up.

So, homework assignment guys: go to your local Wal-Mart, Target, or whatever major store, buy a 3 pack of yellow legal pads (I promise, they probably won’t cost more than 3 dollars for 150 sheets total in all packs), buy maybe a 10 pack of some black pens, probably no more than a dollar, and walk back home if you’re close enough to the store, if not, then drive slow. Now, take a break from the keyboard and only use the legal pads for writing: force yourself to write these stories on paper instead of the computer, get out of your comfort zone and do something different goddammit. An even further suggestion, stories are not allowed to exceed 7 pages. Why? Because, I like Chuck Palahniuk, and he says that when he was taking workshop, his instructor said you couldn’t say it in 7 pages, then you definitely couldn’t say it in 700. Plus, if every legal pad is only 50 pages, you can write 7 stories (7×7=49, for all you guys who haven’t been in school for a while) with the last story being a little bit longer for that extra page, unless you tear it out. Plus 7 pages forces you to hit all the important parts, all the vital moments of the story, and really get down to it: plus, 7 pages doesn’t take long to read or write, you could do it on lunch break, before you go to bed, on the bus, etc. So, I say, go buy yellow legal pads, write seven 7 page stories and watch as your writing improves from getting out of your element for a little while. Only write longhand until you fill up these legal pads, then transfer them to your computer if you must, or edit them all on paper, your call.

Exercise: Walking

I walk a lot. I mean, more than the normal person walks on a given weekend, especially if they have a show that they want to watch, work to get done for school or a job, or simply are too lazy to do much more than breathe in and out, lethargically and snort a couple of times when the air doesn’t go in and out right: wheeze, huuuuh-huuuh, like you’re some kind of mad cow who just had a good sprint from the whip, only, you didn’t. You’re just human, I guess.

Still, I like to think that my walking patterns are what keep me on the brink of health, per the fact that over the years, numerous times, by many doctors, that I need to lose weight. This is not only because I have asthma and all that fat pressing against my lungs will do me no good at all, but also because…fat. Not fun, nor is it pretty: have you ever got out of the shower and just traced with your eyes your stretch marks, and then you feel them: how bumpy and smooth they are,and then you just start to wonder where they came from? Time wasted pondering your fat, pudgy, lethargic, cow-like body. So, yeah, I need to lose weight, and these walks are what keep me on the edge. Now, I don’t walk just to walk: I walk because I didn’t have a car, nor a bike because the pedal fell off from my incredible girth, or something like that, and I don’t know how to fix it. For this matter, I go to stores and other people’s houses by foot, though mostly, to stores, especially since they’re all walking distance anyways.

On these walks, there is a bountiful wealth of information and idealism for me to grab from. A couple of years ago, I realized how much I hate cars, or rather, not being the one in side of it. People fly down the street, stare at you all the while, and kind of give you this scowl of discontent and elitism like they’re better than you because they walk, or because you walk, you must be some lower type of human being. The first time this all happened, I always just looked away or at the ground, but these days, I’ve learned to look right back at them and counter their thoughts: I hope you get into an accident for paying more attention to me on the sidewalk than this street full of cars. This is the idealism, almost brainwashed propaganda, crafted and distributed by the dictator that is consciousness, that you begin to teach yourself when you walk or in a situation where you are the walker. This is why not only exercise, something as minimal as walking from place to place to consume and defecate, and walking are good for the writer: you lean yourself, and you learn about the world, your perception is broadened and suddenly ideas are streaming in your head about how you can convey these idealisms and thoughts into something that is not so harsh and more entertaining…though, imagining a Grand Theft Auto like car accident can be quite grand in hindsight.

So, I’ve got some homework for you: go for a walk. A friend told me once when I said I might start running (this never happened) that don’t just run to run: run somewhere where you’re actually going to do something. In truth, really, there is actually nothing more unsatisfying for the brain to do something that has no reward. We are consumerist creatures and for this matter, we need something to consume, we need rewards for spending time and energy on something. This can be something as minimal as water, food, or cool air a the end of a workout, but in our times and the way our minds have been trained, I think you need something more: to buy something (buying those shoes you really wanted for a long time) , to receive something exciting (running to the movies to see this movie you’ve been waiting to see because it has your favorite actor), or to see someone you haven’t seen in a while, so you run all the way there because you just want to see their face. With this in mind, don’t just go for a walk for the benefit of your writing only, go for a walk to go somewhere, and alongtha t walk, that odyssey to this place, listen to music or the sound of the world, and learn about yourself and this world from the view point of someone who has always driven or been very impartial, you’ll learn a great deal about yourself and notice things you always missed while driving: “I didn’t know they got a new fence; I didn’t know they went fishing; I didn’t know she has a Porsche, I wonder how much this bitch makes.” Go for a walk this week or this weekend.

Twisty the Fucking Clown

Someone’s quite cheeky his evening…

WatchMojo recently released a video:

I was neither satisfied or particularly moved by the list, but it was the comments that really made me let a rip:

JOKER?!!! REALLY?! WHERE’S TWISTY THE CLOWN!?
Also, no Twisty from American Horror Story? This is the first list that i utterly disagree with .
You spilt have included the American Horror Story: Freak show serial killer clown. That mask is frightening enough.
Where the fuck is Twisty? AHS Freakshow fans, back me up. 
(Note, this one has over 100 likes)

Let’s get something straight people: clowns are not scary, and Twisty the Fucking Clown is downright deplorable. There seems to be some kind of misconception that horror is about how terrifying you can make something look, how malformed you can make one’s face (in this case, how Twisty of AHS is missing his mouth because, “[He’s] so stupid [he] couldn’t even kill himself.” when he tried to shoot a hole in his head; you’re right Twisty, old buddy, old pal, you are pretty stupid, and an ugly character)–no, I think you’ve mistaken the genre of horror for a eight year old boy’s wet dreams. The genre of horror is not about the exterior of the House Usher (well, I guess in the case of Mr. Poe to an extent is is about the exterior, but mute point), it is wholly about what goes on within the human mind and why it drives us to be the way that we are or do the things that we do such as shooting our classmates, murdering our girlfriend with a hammer, or tearing our body to shreds when we look in the mirror. That is what makes horror horror and not pulp fiction. For this matter, well crafted horror is that which reaches down inside of the view or the reader, and really grips them with its intense craving for attention, for it’s want of attention to its realism, and just how well it makes you realize that you’re just like itself, that you’re fucked up in the head, man. Well crafted horror does not totally rely on a mask to allow it to flourish to be scary, rather it relies on what lies on the other side of those eyes for the figure to be horrifying, it relies on the wicked grass of a sick mind as blown by the wind of twisted action to be startling, it relies on the authors ability to embody and to personify horror not so much as a person, deity, or device of terror but as a being in itself, a pillar of the self, the human in the same way that survival in food, water, and shelter are: horror is what makes us human.

With this in mind, for me, it is almost insulting that some people find Twisty to be either a compelling or terrifying character, because he is in fact quite shallow and serves as far more a mode of transport to transform Dandy into a complete monster, which is the only way that I could justify his screen time in the last four episodes. I don’t understand what’s either so compelling or terrifying about his character. He’s a bland character in that his back story was bad, his purpose for the entirety of 4 episodes is vague (it was mostly just to inspire Dandy and provide some kind of horror within the show, and to what?, emphasize the already overly-emphasized point that the Freaks aren’t freaks at all?), and he’s just not scary in the way that he should be for a show of American Horror Story’s quality. Horror has to have motivation, it has to have reason, and it actually has to be compelling in a way that’s not just all about looks. Pennywise is by no means the scariest looking clown in the books, but at least he has character, a kind of charisma that allows him to be somewhat terrifying and, most of all, memorable for such stale jokes reinvigorated like, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can? You do? Well you better let the poor guy out!”, and creating new lines like, “We all float down here”. Twisty, for me, was a total waste of screentime and something more like the recent obsession within American Horror Story for gore; he was a routine act that I’d rather skip out on and wait for Lobster Boy to come out again. I’m glad he’s dead, hopefully for long, I don’t think I’d be able to put up with more of his hilarious impracticality.

George R.R. Martin at Comic-Con 2014: A YouTube Comment

As many of you may know, more often than not, I am compelled to write some long, drawn out comment reacting or commentating on one thing or another: take a look at my rants on BuzzFeed or Yahoo. I’m a long winded fellow (some have even suggested that I could finish George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire simply because of my adhesion to epic lengths, which you can see throughout my blog’s brief history (of time; I’m sorry I couldn’t help myself)) and because of that, often times my comments can become to burdensome and arduous for the host website that I’m commenting on, so I like to post them here as blog posts because I feel like at least some of you want to read it…right? Anyways, about a week ago I made some comments on George R.R. Martin at Comic-Con, and I have to say that it was a pretty awakening experience. George is a great guy, a good writer, and I think that despite his incredible pace to finish Ice and Fire, he has some good things to say about writing. And eventually, I might even start reading comic books more often, maybe I’ll get more reading done that way at least.

LE COMMENTAIRE

I totally agree with GRRM when he talks about how ‘diverse’ the publishing and literary world has become, restricting authors to a single genre instead of allowing them to simply be writers. Books can no longer simply be books, they have to be a [insert any genre here] book, and that’s that. Sure, a book can be defined as a science fiction just so that the publishers can make it easier on themselves to market it (the book industry has become very much like Hollywood in that it has slowly become less the quality of the novel sells the novel and much more the quantity that the novel can sell makes the novel, which is a very sad thing in my opinion as it has made for a saturated market in many respects, not to mention in the realm of the ‘YA Revolution’, which don’t even get me started on, because I’ll go on for days), but that science fiction book could just as easily be a horror novel, a romance, or a mystery. That’s one of the things that always made the great books great (including George’s), is because they don’t confine themselves to a genre, they are there own genre and they exist as they exist with no restrictions, those are the best stories because they have all the stories. One of my favorite examples of this has been To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which I think is as much a fantasy as it is an autobiography, a thriller and a mystery, a coming of age novel and one of a special kind of magical realism; it has all the elements of a good story and that’s what makes it so great, one of the reasons it has stuck around for so long.

One of the best things that I have learned from Martin as a writer, along with other things (in combination with other authors, most prominently Fyodor Dostoevsky), is the ambiguity of characters, that no character is wholly good or wholly evil; as real people, we all have the capacity to save a person from falling, at the same time we have the capacity to watch that person fall and break theri neck; we all have the capacity to stop a school shooter, and we all have the capacity to be one, and because of that, no character can be good (even in those moments of ‘good’, there is something that is not noble about what they have done, something that goes against their morals) all the time, and if they do, they end up doing more bad than good. The colors black and white are simply colors; no matter what banner or color of robe you wear, those colors do not define you, only you define you and because of that no one can walk a single path without stepping on a stone from the other path and reach the end of the journey successfully, for even the yellow brick road was not completely easy in it’s going. Characters that are only good or only evil are the worst characters, because they are not believable, and while they might be fun to read about, they’re not the characters that stick with you. People will remember the epic saga of Walter White because he was not a hero, he was an antihero, and while he had good intentions, those good intentions resulted in his killing of many people, sometimes for a reason, other times based on suspension, and it lead to his inevitable downfall and his family rejecting him, the death of his brother-in-law, and even in the end, he still died (and it wasn’t even from the original threat!).

I totally agree with GRRM on the whole thing about death mattering. When my brother died last year, it was a sudden thing that happened the day before Easter, and believe it or not, it was raining, pouring. My mom woke me up at about 4 o’clock in the morning telling me that there was something wrong, asking me if I wanted to go to the hospital with them. In a sleepy haze, I denied them (mind you, I was horribly conflicted, but in the end, sleep won out) and they came back later telling me he had passed. I cried then, but for the next 4 months, I held it within me, not believing it, even as the funeral happened, even as I watched them close the casket for the last time, even as I watched them shoveling dirt, I held it in. In July of that year, it was the middle of the night and I began to think about how I would never get to talk to him again, and a rush of memories came over me, and before long I was sobbing into my pillow, and for the next week or so, I couldn’t do much because the death finally hit me so hard. Death is hard. Death is not fun. Death is not something that anyone can really smile about in the end; when Joffrey died in the show, many people may have rejoiced, but you still couldn’t deny that he was a brilliant character. Every character’s death should matter, and it’s not something that you shrug off, it hurts and no one wants to go through it, but it’s a part of life; you’ll always be wanting to hear that it was all a hoax, but you never get that call and that’s what makes it so painful, which is what I think that all writers should strive for in their stories, there should be a mourning and a deep sorrow for the death of characters that you love, and even a small something for those that you hate (I felt a little sad when Gustavo died, because he was the villain and he was just as much a part of Walter Whites story as any other character, and then he was gone). Death is real, even in fiction. While I have gotten over my brother’s death (to some small degree at least), there is a picture that I have of him and every time I look at it, I cannot help but feel overcome by a sense of grief; death lingers. Even as far as A Dance With Dragons people still echo on about Ned Stark’s death, years after it happened. Death is real, death lingers, death matters.

“Even I can do better than that,” George echoes Stephen (King) in this matter, and while it may have worked for them, I am sad to say that such an echo did not hold up for me to well with my first book. I decided that when I was 12 (I’m 14 now and realize the error of my ways, and I’ve mature din my writing quite considerably if I say myself) that I could do better thanThe Maze Runner, because King once said that, “Have you ever read a book, and thought, ‘This really sucks?’ and said, ‘I could do better?'” and so I took that to heart after reading five chapters of The Maze Runner disliking it with a passion (more so these days than ever for other reasons that have little to do with the work itself) and began working on what inevitably became The Maze Games (the title wasn’t a jab at The Maze Runner, rather it was the only phrase that I could think of at the time that defined exactly what was going on in the book). It was a monumental flop, of course at the time I thought it was a glorious piece of fiction, when in fact it was a culmination of about every action movie I’d see up to that point (Michael Bay comes to mind, if that gives you any indication of the books plotting and pacing) along with every book I’d read up to that point with action, not to mention it was infused (at the very last minute) with every boys fascination with Greek Mythology (thanks very much to Rick Riordan, I might add). I sent it out to the publisher and it went off to print with a light edit (a very, very light edit) and formatting, and there it was (and still is) on Amazon. I regret having published it in the format that it was in (and I’m even making an effort to ‘reboot’ it with a rewrite), but in the end,  what can you do but move on, right? Better to learn from that mistake instead of crying over it; maybe if I win my statewide contest and get my more recent work out there, it won’t haunt me so bad anymore.

On writing itself, one thing that I have learned that is the most important about writing anything is that, you have to dedicate yourself to finish it. There may come a time when you will write a story that you just cannot finish, but so long as you have all the parts of a story, there is no reason not to finish it. Not finishing things can become a terrible habit, and it can be your downfall if you end up not finishing all the things that you write; you will most often try to finish everything you start, movies, TV shows, books (even the bad ones), because you don’t want to be surrounded by a court of things that you didn’t finish. You can start a billion fires, but can you put them all out?

ADDENDUM 

On another note, just as George said, if you still have to write even if you’re not going to be published, then it’s for you. I could have stopped after The Maze Games, because a) the book was fucking terrible (comparably, I suppose it’s my Armageddon Rag or The Tommyknockers), b) my royalty checks have rarely exceeded 11 bucks, and c) I’ve gotten a lot of shit for it, but you know what, I still go onto my desktop every day and I wrote something. I may not have written a story that day, but I’d probably written some comment or blog post that required me to put some kind of technique and effort into what I was trying to convey. The life of a writer is a lonely and unsteady one, it is choppy and uneven, a constant storm and war with yourself to decide ‘Can I keep doing this?’. Just yesterday I hit an epic low, and I wanted to just quit, I wanted to fuck it all, and just stop, but today I got up and I still sat down and I wrote because I had to, not even really because I wanted to, but because if I didn’t write, I’d pretty much be another kid who does nothing with his summer (and arguably, I’m still that, but my writing is what I believe makes me special by my own respects). You have to be strong, iron skinned, to be a writer and you have to be prepared to live in a very unfruitful garden.

How You’re Murdering Your Imagination

Before I begin: all you hippies who can’t handle a little crude language and some ‘nasty’ ideas, well you can leave now because that’s whats ahead. For all of you writers who want to learn something new, who want to be a writer and open up, proceed: I welcome you to my dark and twisted mind (which doubles as a sex dungeon on the weekends for a fee of ten bucks. What can I say, I’m a cheap buy *shrugs*)

That’s right! You’re murdering your imagination! Do you want to know how? I’m sure you’re not aware of it at all. 

Let me preface. A couple of weeks ago I had the most disgusting idea I think I’ve ever come up with. It may as well be Japanese octopus porn really (you can already see where this is going can’t you?). I happened to be thinking about Carrie for whatever reason, and I started to think about the iconic opening sequence in which Carrie has her period in the shower, all the girls screaming at her to plug it up (they still echo in my head, those girls in the shower room, oh how they screamed and pointed, their fantastic bosoms bounc-Oh, wait, let me stop before I get too deep). And without warning, a story appeared in my head: a girl is having her period for the first time and when she tries to stop it, to plug it up herself, bad things occur: three tentacles emerge from her who-ha and kill her; the monster climbs from her and goes for her sister who’s having sex with a guy with the initials STD. Get the metaphor?

But, while the idea will not leave my head, I have yet to act on it. I know the beginning, middle, and end of the story; almost in every blood-filled detail to tell you the truth. But why haven’t I acted on it? Well, if you are like many of the few people I’ve told about the idea then you cringed and kind of shook your head a little. I smile about it, but still I have not acted on it. And this is because I’m censoring myself. I have a good feeling that until I get that story out of me, in one form or another whether it be as a short screenplay or a short story (or a novel that centers around the vagina monster slowly taking over the world and then wallowing because it has no friends), I’m not going to be able to move on really. I’ve had a couple of good ideas in the weeks sense, I think: killer grass and an abortion monster (only the latter is a metaphor, the killer grass is just something that I’ve always wanted to do for one reason or another); a mirror monster and possibly a food monster, all the classic stuff. 

But, to go on, you see, there is another factor in play, the reason why I have only started planning the story about the killer grass (if you’re wondering). It’s because I’m censoring myself. I’ll be honest: while I have a library somewhere in the mid-200s full of books, I don’t read as often as I’d like. Not because I don’t have the time, boy do you bet I have the time (and the money to buy more; books that is, not time, I can’t buy time unfortunetly…though that would make a fantastic little story now wouldn’t it?) but I’m a teenage boy who is easily distracted by the smallest glimmer in the distance, even if it turns out to just be aluminum foil…though I think we may know a couple of things about aluminium foil (); anyhow because of my less than acceptable pace at which I read (I’m still sitting on a book that I started in March, and it’s barely 200 pages :/) one comes to wonder if this contributes to my less than ‘original’ series of ideas and my fear of even attempting to write some of the strange monster stories that I want. I’ve always wanted to write a collection of monster stories akin to the movies of the 50s where werewolves and vampires were still scary, where a monster form he toilet had you peeing in a bottle and you went out hunting for the thing in the creek. 

My first horror story (a terrible thing, I’ll tell you that much) was called the Creature from Under the Bleachers and it was my attempt at trying to replicate Lovecraft’s Cthulhu in a Stephen King setting. It did not go over well, at the same time it was a story that I really wanted to write. I wanted to write a story where two teens learn that it wasn’t a good idea to follow strange children through a dark parking lot. Yet, I’ve slowly evolved from my ‘glory days’ of spitting out random ideas about this monster and that monster from another dimension, to a more ‘sophisticated’ form of writing. But, to some degree, I believe that it has almost been detrimental to my writing. Suddenly, I’m afraid to write about the things that I think are pretty damn awesome (vagina monster martini anyone?) and I only want to write things that are going to present a certain image about my writing; suddenly I’m only writing stuff that will have at least marginal literary merit, bloated with metaphors and figurative language so grandiose and stuffy that the judges on any panel would jerk off to it and scream at the top of their bloody lungs, “HOLY FUCK-HOLY FUCK-HOLY FUCK IN A HAILMARY!” and my less professional side (the one that aspires to write a story about a monster made of abortion babies; my friend called that idea a ‘Sharknado’ idea XD) has slowly been suppressed. And do you want to know what the result has been? I don’t think I’ve been as happy writing anymore. Suddenly, there is a feeling within me that says, “No-no don’t write that, do you want people to think your some mad pervert who likes to dismember people?” and I would switch to something that was more appropriate. 

My English teacher- who has helped me greatly, don’t get me wrong- has multiple times told me to tone down my writing, telling me that the judges on a panel will be expecting some gore filled, psychotic story written by a horny teenager with acne and little pieces of hair hugging his face (mind you, my acne is not as bad as my friend who literally is pale as paper, but his face is of such a red-radiance that I wouldn’t be surprised if we could use him as a lamp) and that I should try and prove them wrong. 

So now I ask, why can’t I write a story about a vagina monster or killer centipedes from space (that fight giant cockroaches and mushroom people) and still prove the judges wrong? Yes, we all want to tell our friends how many times we watched some stuffy incomprehensible film, but we all know we want to talk about how Godzilla crushed that city, how Rambo killed all those people, how those dragons fought all those armies in New York (this is actually a movie I remember from my childhood, and what started my addiction to action films); who says I can’t be the best at writing the incredibly grotesque? Can’t a slasher be literary, a monster story philosophical, and a story about a killer erection smart (Dammit, I’m actually considering this one now)? 

My basic point in this post, true ladies and gentlemen (or sickos like myself) who have made it this far, is that you cannot limit yourself. Sure, one day you want to win the Pulitzer, but why not have fun on the way there, huh? Why not write a story about killer grass or a pen that has a killer grip, or-or the killer erection? Why not? Everything you write is an exercise, everything you write is a test, so why not see how far you can push the test, how fast can you go in your new sports car before the cops finally pull you over? We all have some ‘bad’ story within us, a story that we believe no one wants to read, but how will we know that if we never write it? Our greatest enemy is ourselves. You cannot keep a canary in its cage forever and expect it to sing a beautiful song if it’s never been out and heard one; a mockingbird cannot repeat a melody if he has never heard one; your imagination cannot sing to you if you do not let it sing. Let it go free, allow the inner child in you to write that monster story, and you know what? Make it the best damn monster story there has ever been and ever will be. Believe that never in time has there been a better monster story! Hey, you could be this generations Mary Shelly, your monster could be the next Monster of Frankenstein, the next big mistake, the next story that you’ll remember forever when you’re sitting on your three fat Master’s Degrees and you’ve finally solved the puzzle put together by James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake. You can look back and say, “Man, that was a good story,” and reminisce on the nightmares you had and all the ways you retold the story to your friends, all the nights you spent up finishing this bloody, bloody book but you just couldn’t put it down because it fascinated you that much. Let people say, “God, that’s just a load of trash,” and move on. Are you happy? Then keep on writing my friend, and never look back, don’t stop until the clock stops, until your heart gives way to the pounds of coffee and chips that you devoured between stories; until your brain explodes from an attempted ejaculation of ideas. 

Be grotesque, be ugly, be crude: if you like it, if you enjoy it, then someone will too (despite what you might believe!). Do not censor yourself, even to the ‘dumbest’ ideas; for all you know you could have a cult following just waiting to pounce on you, you could be sitting on the next Song of Ice and Fire and not even know it. It is your job as a writer to be a hiker and an archaeologist: of your own mind that is. Your mind is like a great vast woodland, and inside there are a million things from a world ago: there are spaceships, time machines, UFOs, dead bodies, and murderous vaginae: so go out and find them, and don’t be afraid of what you might uncover under a rock. One day you might find a worm, but on another you might find a killer centipede from space. You’ve just got to keep looking. 

Stay strong and fly high my ravens!

Key to Prolific: The Subject That Shall Not Be Named…

Gra-a-a-a-ammar 

I would like to warn anyone first and foremost if I come off as harsh or brash in this post, I’m not in the best of moods at the moment, but I still would like to be as informative as possible despite my grievances and angers. Anyhow, today I decided I should talk about the one thing that many of us fear and hate: Grammar. He’s the big kid from the rich family who dosen’t associate well with the common folk. He has his own private playground, a special class just for him, and an entourage that goes to the bathroom with him.  Grammar can be a big douche, but secretly at night he cries in bed because despite all of his riches, he has no friends other than his lonesome, ill mind. Grammar is a person that all writers should learn to become friends witch, because while he can be quite aggravating, he still can benefit you in ways you could never imagine. He’s rich, you must remember that: he could be the one paying your bills for the next ten years, the person who finally get’s you that part in the movie or TV show you’ve been wanting to be in for a long time. Grammar is the gateway to success in the writing world. 

Speaking anecdotally, my writing has been heavily ridiculed my entire life because of my appalling grammar. No one has outright said that my grammar was that bad, but people can be highly indicative of what they mean by simply implying things with diction. Today was a very bad day for me because of the works that I have been truly most proud of was called out for it’s grammar. This made me decide that I was sick of people calling me out, not because my writing was bad or my ideas stupid, but simply because they couldn’t get over a misplaced apostrophe or comma that may not necessarily disrupt the flow of my work, but just because they cannot look past simple flaws and read the story for what it is rather than how it looks. Anyhow, I have 30 dollars to spend and I’ll be going to Half Price Books tomorrow and purchasing grammar books so that way I’ll stomp on the faces of those people who have stomped on mine for the past few years, and yes I’m a bit bitter, but soon when I have my book as number one on a bestseller list of some kind I will be spitting fire, you betcha! 

If you don’t want to be as bitter as I am, I think that it is a valuable and fruitful endeavor for every writer to invest in some kind of grammar guide and grammar books. The literary world has been very particular and punctuated about how they want shit done: no misplaced commas, no misused words, no misplaced apostrophes. If you ever have dreams of seeing your work in print, you better get your shit together and get your grammar right. 90% of average book buyers will read your work regardless of how well your grammar is because their grammar is limited to what they need to know in order to write a well written email or response letter, but nothing more: the average reader is not going to take apart your syntax or punctuation and look in awe over how wonderful it is, if anything they are going to gawk at your beautiful wordplay and powerful ideas, but I’m ranting now. Any respectable agent or publisher will not even look past the first sentence of your book if you have a misplaced comma because that single comma will be the red flag that your writing is shit. It’s a cruel and harsh would out there, and if you want to survive, you better start learning the difference between your and you’re fast. Otherwise, as the old saying goes: GTFO.