Thursday, May 19, 2011

One good story for every two written.

Lately, as my friend J.M. Martin will attest, it usually takes me a few tries before I get a story right. And even then, it is hardly right. But it is at least good enough to submit by that time. Unfortunately, the only way to shorten that time--to really get to the meat of the story after some lengthy experimentation--is just to practice and get better.

A recent example. I labored over a 7,000 + word story that started out with a group of adventurers standing in front of a cave, about to embark upon some dungeon capers. It wasn't a horrible idea, specifically because I wanted to work on character interaction, dialogue and flow. It was an exciting story with the typical dungeon humor, two battles and an interesting ending.

But something bothered me about the story. For one, the length. Nothing wrong with a longer story--if you can get past the cliche premise--but it just seemed like I was beating around the bush about something. My character interaction was fun, but it just did not seem did not make me feel anything. One of the characters screamed at me "you've only just scratched my surface!"

Who am I not to listen?

So I started again...right in the middle of the story, with a burst of revelation from one of the characters. I then found it necessary to have only one battle sequence, and my screaming character was next appeased. I ended up with a new story that was around 3,500 words; it was more serious and more real to me.

I realized then that the original story was simply an exercise to get to know my characters better. What a way to do that! Hours and hours spent writing only to realize that it needed to be redone.

The lesson is that there is nothing wrong with spending some time with the story in your head before spouting words. Mediate on it, sleep on it, or do whatever it takes to sniff out the real story.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Facebooking our virtual tombstones?

Facebook is like the iPod shuffle feature. One minute you are just cruising along, and then BAM, a crazy friend requests hits you smack in the face. Sometimes, it's a blast from the past, someone you liked or at least got along with who evokes old memories that may have dropped on your brain's selective retention list.

The most fascinating aspect is that as we get older, people on our friends list will start to pass away (some may have already), yet their pages will remain as a tribute to their memories; virtual tombstones, if you will.

Right now, sites of those who have passed away are still available online due to privacy concerns that keep anyone from actually accessing and deleting the accounts. But there is some indication that the creators of social networking sites have already begun preparing for the future and may offer family members of the deceased the option to take down the site or keep it up forever.

I think it is a great idea to leave these sites up. Whether you would like to visit the site of a deceased friend in silence, or would like to leave a comment, the opportunity would be available. How cool would it be to leave a comment recounting some old memory for everyone to see and be a part of?

When you think about the billions of people who have gone before us, forgotten, with no records of their existence whatsoever, social networking seems like a bit of a miracle, giving us some modicum of immortality. Chalk one up for the little guy.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I drank a shot of 1792 the day Bin Laden died.

I'm not a political person. Not that I don't have an opinion or don't care, I just do not see the point in expressing my political opinion every five minutes given the lines that currently divide our country, and the heat associated with being on a specific "team." Following politics too closely is usually a disappointing and emotionally draining exercise for me, so I just do not do it. I think a lot of writers feel the same way. Besides, political discussions do not go over well at parties. So, in the past 8 months I have not watched the news for more than ten minutes. That is, until last night when I heard that Bin Laden was dead.

I initially found out about Bin Laden's death through FaceBook, proving that my vigilant friends will always bring the "big issues" to my attention and reinforcing that I can continue to ignore the news.

Maybe this will become a political issue in the upcoming election, but for just one night we put politics aside. Both the Bush and Obama administrations encouraged our CIA agents to continue to hunt for Bin Laden, and that is all I need to know. Those agents (whose names we'll never know) were the ones who made the biggest difference. I do give props to our president for making an extremely gutsy decision in authorizing this attack.

The simple truth is that Bin Laden got the ass-kicking he had coming, and it had nothing to do with politics in America.