retsuko: (yay doctor!)
Day 3: In your own space, talk about your creative process - from what inspires you to what motivates you to how you manage to break through blocks. Does your process change depending on the type of creating you're doing?

For fanfic! )

I should add here that my trick for beating block in both fanfic and original work is two-fold:

1) Ignore all voices coming from mental radio station KFKD (thank you, Anne Lamott) with a constant mantra of, "It's just a rough draft, mistakes don't matter, it's just a rough draft, you can always go back, it's just a rough draft, writing is a recursive process..." (Or some shorter part of that.)

2) ALWAYS quit while I still have something to say, even if it's just the last sentence of a character's speech, or a more cliffhanger-y, pivotal moment. Even if it's just the sentence, keeping it in mind for a while often leads to other thoughts, like, If Character A actually says this, then B will have no choice but to do that... UNLESS... or, Character C doesn't know about A&B yet, what would she/he say if she/he saw this scene take place?

More questions are always better than fewer!

For my original works, it's more complicated. )

For crafting stuff... )
retsuko: martha jones from 'doctor who', in black and white (martha)
Prompted by this excellent discussion over at the Onion A.V. Club, I got to thinking about the pop culture storytelling conventions that really, really drive me crazy:

1) The Hollywood shorthand for "misanthropic genius on the brink of a breakthrough" is the scene where said character writes down everything he (because these characters are 99% male) know regarding the problem on a chalkboard/whiteboard/wall/vertical surface and stares at it until the Moment of Revelation occurs. (Bonus points if sidekick!character tries to help out and receives only snark and mockery.) This scene always bugs me because it's lazy storytelling. On one hand, I understand the issue that writers have: showing someone's thought process is difficult, and if we go with the real world, solving-aloud method, the story slams on its brakes. But I would challenge writers to find another way of showing internal process, one that doesn't involve a cliched, been-there, done-that image. "Sherlock" got beyond this rather nicely in Baskerville Hound episode, where we see a literal animation of Holmes' thoughts and mental connections, and that was a nice change. I'd like to see a Moment of Revelation occur, though, in a silly, everyday life situation as it often does: why can't we see characters eating cornflakes or doing laundry when the revelation comes along? Mundane, repetitive tasks often afford a perfect space for independent thought, and I'm willing to bet these sorts of activities would help make the character more accessible.

2) Killing any characters to motivate the main character to do something he/she doesn't want to. Much has been written on the subject of female characters' deaths in service to this ridiculous plot trope, but I think killing anyone off merely to provide drama is a lazy storytelling motif. It's one thing to have a character motivated by vengeance, but vengeance is a complicated theme, and it's one with long-term implications. Sure, Main Character A will avenge the death of Beloved Character B by murdering Villain C, and then the story's over; but what about years down the line when A realizes that he/she betrayed B's fundamental beliefs and therefore dishonored B's memory and wishes? Character death does happen, but I think it needs to be made clear that the whoever gets killed isn't just being made into a plot device to drive the story forward.

3) The ugliest or most beautiful person in the pool of suspects turns out to be the murderer! Because average-looking people never commit crimes. ;)
retsuko: (book love)
Quite recently, I had the pleasure of spending time with a rambunctious 6-year-old after calming him down with a game of "soccer" that largely consisted of me kicking the ball far away so he would wear himself out running and getting it. We went inside and he declared that he was bored. I located some scrap paper and markers, and his eyes lit up. He started drawing "The Adventures of Lego Batman", which took the form of an elaborate drawing of a complicated level ("Level 10!"), complete with villains, traps, and the consequences of those traps (fire and acid.) Somewhere along the line, he started to narrate the action of the drawing to me in bits and pieces. It went something like this:

Him: Which Bad Guy should be next?
Me: What about the Joker? He's pretty bad.
Him: (enthusiastic) Yeah! I can't beat him yet!
Me: Where's Harley Quinn? She's always with the Joker.
Him: Oh, yeah. (drawing) She's right there. They're kissing. Yuck.

And, later:

Him: How do you think Batman will escape this trap?
Me: Can he use his glide suit?
Him: NO! Now he's caught in the trap! FIRE! (He draws flames coming out of a volcano mouth, does BWWRRRRR sound effects.) OH NO BATMAN!

And, still later:

Him: (Now utterly oblivious of me) Now there's fire! Batman tries to dodge! But he's not fast enough! (More sound effects, more scribbling of red ink) He barely made it! Now Robin's going to try! (Various sound effects) Oh no, he lost a heart! They're on the other side! But WAIT--it's a pool of acid! OH NO! (Sound effects of, presumably, Batman and Robin trying to evade the acid and saying "ow ow ow!", more scribbling of green marker this time.) OK, now they're nearly at the end. But wait, it's the Penguin! And Mr. Freeze! And ANOTHER TRAP! (etc. etc.)

I always enjoy watching kids enjoying being creatively involved with things--whether it's art of their own creation or art in other forms. As an adult, even when I write my original fiction, it's very seldom that I get into it the way kids do. I may pause and frown over what the characters will do to get themselves out of one scrape or the next, but I don't usually talk back to my keyboard, worrying over how the bad guys have constructed their plots. It's usually when I read books that my child-like instincts to talk back and negotiate with the characters finally come to the fore. In her wonderful book on creativity, Lynda Barry talks about this dichotomy of the way children and adults experience making art: "When kids draw, they make sound effects or start talking out a story that seems to be happening live, as they draw. There is a change of place and time. Another world contained by this one. They seem to be both in it and watching it. When I'm reading a good book, it's like that. Another world activated. I picture it. I move around in it. I can tell you what happens at the end. I can tell you the whole story." With my original fiction, I can most definitely tell you the whole story, and usually throw in details about characters and settings that others aren't interested in and I've deemed unimportant, but hate to throw away. But I miss the sensation of drawing, the feeling of being in a story and watching it at the same time.

That's why I love books that manage to recreate that child-like instinct in me to talk back to the story, and give me the feeling that I am experiencing it and watching it simultaneously. Not every book manages to do this, and of course different books do it for different people. I think my great loyalty to the Harry Potter series stems from feeling this, while some people dislike it because to achieve that feeling, they would have to employ too much suspension of disbelief. Recently, though, I've had the great good fortune to read a string of books that left me talking back to the pages, culminating with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This deceptively thin volume (well, thin for a novel that I would normally pick up, say about 300 pages or so) provoked all the "involved in/watching right now" feelings that I adore as I worried about the character(s) and the outcome of the terribly disturbing plot that revolved around her/them. I talked back to the pages on several occasions, including one where I had to censor myself because I was in public and I didn't think dropping the F-bomb next to a pair of sweet-looking elderly people would be polite. And, above all, I can tell you that story. I pictured it, I moved around in it, and it was a complete and total sensory experience, including some senses that most authors cannot usually pinpoint well, like hunger and thirst. A wonderful book, scary and beautiful and alive. Part of me wants to see it in some kind of movie form, while part of me fears how Hollywood would mess it up. (You just can't *show* some of the things she's writing about!)

In sum, I adore reading experiences like this one, because suddenly I'm a kid again, drawing along and participating in a story that seems as real or vivid as any life experience. This kind of imaginative state of being isn't as prevalent as it used to be, and the less I have it, the more I crave it.

May 2016

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