Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Progress Report: 6/29/2010

Pardon my absence yesterday. It was a sick day.

The question on my mind this week for writing is with regards to vampires, specifically as they appear in Thunderstruck. I have been toying with the outline to see if there is some way to sub out vampires with some other entity.

It just seems like vampires are starting to get really overplayed. I can't keep track of all the vampire shows, movies, and books out there now. I don't watch/read any of them, and I'm still sick to death of them. Especially the vampires of the romantic teenage variety. Can you imagine a worse hell than being stuck in high school for all eternity?

Still, there are advantages to using them. The familiarity with vampires means you don't have to spend a lot of time explaining them to the reader, which is convenient. And in terms of Thunderstruck specifically, it's hard to find a substitute that will cause the least damage to the plot. Not that I mind making changes, but the element where Gail looks like she would be capable of curing a vampire is pretty critical, not to mention Bella's contingency plan...

And if I take out the vampires, does that mean that Stephanie Meyer wins?

So I think I'll stick with them, and just make sure they don't ever show up as anything like the teenage romantic variety that's so popular.

And no werewolves or zombies. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Progress Report: 6/21/2010

A report on the Critters Experience so far.

I am currently a member of the Critters website, which is a kind of large online critique group for fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Every week, people contribute, on average, 10-20 stories. These are chapters of novels or short stories. As a member, you're required to critique at least one submission per week (and very short submissions count as only half a credit). If you decide to critique someone's whole novel, you will get a large number of critique credits based on the length of the book.

There are two other basic features of Critters that it's best to know about.

The first is that it uses a very archaic formatting standard -- pure simple text. This can be a little frustrating. You have to filter out any special characters (smart quotes, accents, stuff like that) for anything you submit. You also can't use italics or other advanced formatting, though there are various ways to indicate formatting in pure text. All commentary is done in old-school email style, like this.

>Fred noticed the bat circling his head had suddenly
>begun to fly counterclockwise. He wondered what that
>could possibly mean.

You might consider using "widdershins" instead of "counterclockwise."

The other thing about Critters is that you are required by the rules to be very, very, very polite. Now, I'm all for being polite and considerate. I've known a number of people who seem to think there's a virtue in being harsh with their criticism, and relish "tearing into" another writer. This kind of criticism is usually accompanied with something like, "Hey, I'm just calling it as I see it," or "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." I find there's generally a way to phrase any sort of reasonable criticism in a way that isn't deliberately savage.

But in Critters, it goes to a pretty serious extreme. The rules state that you need to be ultra-polite even when correcting basic grammar. So instead of this:

>"Don't feed cinnamon to the lungfish" he shouted.

"lungfish," shouted

... where you just indicate the placement of the missing comma, you have to go with something like this:

>"Don't feed cinnamon to the lungfish" he shouted.

I believe there should be a comma after "lungfish" here, as in "lungfish," he shouted.

Because, after all, everything is just your opinion, even basic grammar, apparently. And you have to make it clear that you're just offering you opinion every time.

So that gets a little tedious. I suppose erring on the side of politeness is not the worst policy to have on the Internet, but still. Sheesh.

Anyway, there have been some good stories and some pretty rough stories that I've critiqued so far, as one might expect. I think it's a good place, and I'll keep with it until I find a more intimate critique group that I can be a part of, either in person or online. We'll see what happens when I submit something for critique, though.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Progress Report: 6/14/2010

So here I thought this would be good time to take a day off from work -- have a nice long weekend, get some writing done, enjoy some hiking, that sort of thing. Then I pinch a nerve in my neck and spend most of the weekend in considerable pain. Plus, it rains all weekend.

Well, so much for that plan.

The old mutant healing factor does seem to be repairing the damage, so pain is diminishing today. It makes concentration difficult, this pain stuff. I'll be relieved when it finally subsides.

Given the circles I run in (such as my work place), it's no surprise that I run into the Gaia philosophy a lot. Roughly expressed, this is the idea that the planet has a consciousness, or the "Earth as God" (Goddess, perhaps). This is expressed in all sorts of ways, great and small, and people believe it to various degrees.

So let's go with that for now. Say there is a Gaia consciousness -- I certainly can't say with certainty that there is or isn't. With regards to the Gulf spill, it would seem to me that the question is not: "Why are we doing this to the planet?" I've heard variations on that one a lot, along with the idea that the planet is suffering, crying out, being raped, etc.

If one does accept the Gaia consciousness idea, then I think the question should be: "Why is the planet doing this to itself?" Because we are, after all, a part of the planet. We would be an agency of Gaia. Like every other animal, we try to spread our population, we consume things that give us energy, and we affect the environment through our behavior. The planet, if it is acting at all, is acting through us, as much as it acts through any ant colony, kelp bed, or volcanic eruption.

This is not to absolve us of responsibility, nor to suggest that we shouldn't try to avoid things like the Gulf spill. It's not to imply we couldn't do great harm to ourselves through our actions, or even drive ourselves to extinction if we really go overboard (extinction is an essential part of the planetary history). It's just that the mindset of separation from the Earth doesn't seem to do us much good. Even Gaia believers seem to hold this separation, as if our actions are somehow distinct from the consciousness of the Earth. Which, I think, undermines the whole idea of Gaia in the first place.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Progress Report: 6/7/2010

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a professional writer. That being said, "professional writer" describes a very large territory. I'm in one region of that territory now, writing copy for a living. Since I love the company and (most of) the products, I'm happy to be here.

And there are some dark regions of being a professional writer that I would fear to explore.

I say this because I see they have created Marmaduke: The Movie. My mind reels when I think of having to write the script for such an entity. This was assuredly a studio decision: "What property have we not mined yet? What about that comic about the dog? You know, the big one that gets up on the couch and drools... that stuff is golden. I want to see a script treatment by tomorrow morning!"

This would be nothing but a paycheck job. Sure, life is full of them. We all have to do them. Writing such a script would be the soul-level equivalent of filling out your tax forms. It would be a chore to complete as soon as you possibly could, hopefully under a pseudonym. I feel for the people who were stuck with that job.

And, thinking about it, I'd probably do it. If I were a professional screenwriter and hadn't made enough of a name to say "no" to projects I didn't like, or if I was in a dry spell for work and needed something to pay the bills. Marmaduke? Sure, why not. It's a lousy job, but low pressure. Nobody's expecting the next Inherit the Wind here. If I manage to actually shoehorn in a few genuinely funny moments that don't get lopped out by the director, maybe I can look back on it without grimacing.

I think I'd use the pseudonym, though.

Still waiting, waiting, waiting on Rose & Jade. I can see that light there at the end of the tunnel for work, though, so I'm optimistic about more good writing time in the near future.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Progress Report: 6/1/2010

It's said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. June, I would have to say, comes in like a ninja.

As in, "What, already? How did this happen?" That tends to be my reaction to June.

In terms of progress, there isn't much to report this week. I took the long weekend off, and I was happy to do it. Now it's back to work, back to plotting and scheming and writing.

See you guys next week.