Category Archives: Reading

Getting Ready for a New Adventure with an Old Friend

Like I mentioned before, after almost 8 years of silence, I’ve gone back to the one form of writing which really was my gateway into the creative world, playwriting!! I spent my senior year of high school in a playwriting course and I absolutely adored it!! I expected to enter into college, major in english or communications and spend my professional career as a playwright. Unfortunately things didn’t turn out exactly as I would have wished.
As I was driving to school for my last day of senior year I was t-boned. I suffered numerous injuries, most devastatingly a traumatic brain injury. All of my dreams for my future were shattered. I was shattered. Eventually I got back into writing but I never got back to playwriting. I think the time is right. 

Getting back into playwriting aka my first love!!

Right now I am writing a sort of experimental theatre piece. It’s difficult to explain, but I want to show the type of cognitive disconnect between the mind and body a person with TBI experiences. Right now i have it set up that there are two characters which represent one person. One of the characters is the patient who suffered the tbi, and the other is their inner self. For example during one moment the patient gets a shot but doesn’t have the mental capacity to voice their reaction, the other character acts as a characterization of the patient’s reactions to their experiences. 

In a sense this play will do two things, it offers me a way to write plays again, and it also gives me a way to write about my own experiences with brain injuries. I’ve tried to write about my injury before, but it was just too emotional for me. I was just too close to that story so I couldn’t write it without making it maudlin or over the top. By writing it this way it gives me a way to write my story subjectively. 

What I’m writing: Right now I’m drafting a possible plotline of my play and some character profiles. I’m writing diary entries for each of my characters so I have a more grounded idea of their mental states. I’m also sketching some ideas for the set so I have at least a vague idea of the world my characters live in.
What I’m reading: One of the things I wanted read this year was the complete Sherlock Holmes and I just finished Hound of the Baskervilles. I have to get through a few of the short stories and I will be finished!! Oh and I’m about halfway done with A Dance with Dragons, the 5th Game of Thrones book. After I’ve finished that I’m planning on reading The Godfather by Mario Puzo. 

Exercise of the Day: The Scar

A lot of people in the world have scars. I have a circular scar on my hand from when I burned myself baking a pie. Take one of your scars  and create a character who has the same scar, but create a new story for how the character got that scar. For example I created a character who had a scar on his hand just like my own, but they got theirs from a dog bite and not from baking a pie.  Did their scar change them? Did the scar alter their appearance or personality? 

Have fun with this and I will see you later!!!

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Starting Again: This week’s work in progress

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So in the past week I made the decision to start working on writing a memoir. When I was younger I was involved in a really bad car accident which changed my entire life so my memoir will chronicle my injuries from the moment I woke up in the hospital, my recovery, and my life after.

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It's scary to start a new journey, but to grow as a writer I must face what frightens me.

It’s going to be a tough journey but even though I’ve just started I’ve been opened up to a new level of introspection. I’ve told my story to people before but I’ve never written about it before because it was too real. I guess it made me feel too vulnerable to open myself that much. I’m coming up on the 9 year anniversary of my accident so I just feel like now is the time for me to tell my story.

Ok so that’s what I’m working on, how about you all? What is rolling around inside your heads?

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Exercise of the Day: the atmosphere
For this exercise I want you to describe a place. I really want you to get in touch with your senses and to go into how the air smells, what is the light quality in the room?, who else is there?, if there are other people how are they dressed?, what are the decorations? Write a deep description of this place and then read over what you have written. Can you see picture the place you’ve described?

So long!!

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Writing Update and Plot Issues: My Problems Wordiness and Vocabulary

AT LAST I HAVE RETURNED TO THE LAND OF THE LIVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Forgive me if I seem a bit overdramatic, but I feel like I have just come out of a three month long hibernation. After endless bouts of power outages, snow shovels and sub-zero temperatures I am ecstatic to say that SPRING IS HERE!!!!!!! *applause and fireworks*

WINTER IS OVER!!!!!!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!

WINTER IS OVER!!!!!!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!

When I was at college during my freshman year I got stuck for ideas when I was working on an essay and I gave myself five or ten minutes to work on a freewriting prompt which was completely unrelated to my essay. When my time was up after the first time I had about three pages of a story started, Through all of my years at college and the time after whenever I would find myself mentally stuck I go back to my old standby and add to it. This one writing prompt, which by this point feels like an old friend, has been slowly growing on my computer for 8 years. A few months ago I realized that my prompt was so long that it could be the starting block for a novel. So I’ve spent the past few months in editing, reworking, and tinkering around with it. It’s not finished yet, but the editing process gave me ample opportunity to exercise my brain during the winter freeze.

The writing prompt 8 years in the making!!! :)

The writing prompt 8 years in the making!!! 🙂

One of the problems I have found in my own writing is that I tend to use more, or in some instances more complicated, words than I need. For me half of my editing time consists either of cutting down words or going to my trusty thesaurus and trying to find simpler versions of certain words. As I mentioned in a previous post in the past reading was something I never wanted to do because it made me feel stupid. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen were really the first books I read that got me excited about reading. Because the beginning of my life as a bookworm started with those books I have always been drawn to books of that nature and I think that might have had an influence on my writing style. When I first starting writing some of my friends thought my style was overly wordy, pretentious and over the top and they were right.

The man in this picture= The sound of my writing style when I first started.

The man in this picture= The sound of my writing style when I first started.

The simple truth is that if you use too many words your reader may have the urge to yell ‘just get to the point already!!!’. On the other hand if you use words which are too flowery your readers will think that you are a conceited snob. The rules that I have made for myself are to make sure that I never use more words than I need to get my point across, and also to keep my vocabulary restricted that that it’s appropriate to the story and my characters.

Well I hope this will be the first of many more posts to come for this year!!! So long Winter!!!!!!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Sinking Ship

Create a story that begins on a sinking ship. Each of your characters is allowed to save only one of their possessions. Write about the item they choose to save and also what they are willing to do to protect their treasured item. Is it something sentimental like a photo album or something like an iPod? What goes through their head when they are trying to select which item to take with them?

Have fun and I will see you soon!!!!!

 

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10 Reading/Writing Resolutions to Kick-start 2015

 

Welcome to a new year!!! Gosh, it has been a while since I posted, but with working retail during the holiday shopping season I went into writing hibernation and have just now started reemerging into the writing scene. I found that I was getting so batty with work, that when I tried to write I would write a page or two and spend the rest of the night nursing a migraine and a bad attitude. But, the holiday shoppers are on their way home and it is time for me to get back to work! YAY!!!

RETAIL STRESS!!! BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

RETAIL STRESS!!! BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

The time has come, once again, to make resolutions and set goals for the next 365 days. Instead of making resolutions about losing weight or some other such nonsense I like to make a list of books that I am going to at least try to read in the next year. Last year’s list included Dickens’ Bleak House, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and a few others. I actually ended up finishing my entire list!!! Now it’s time for a new list and this year I’ve decided to read books that I had started but never got around to finishing. Like I’ve mentioned before I have a tendency to be a bit of a distracted reader but I am really working on overcoming that habit. I am hoping that working through this year’s reading list will offer me plenty of chances to conquer my reading problems.

So here’s my 2015 Reading Resolutions List

  1. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy – I’ve read the first two or three books in this series but I never got around to finishing.
  2. Finish reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy – I just recently finished re-reading The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring but I haven’t finished the rest of the series yet.
  3. 1776 by David McCullough
  4. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  5. I have to read the 4th book in the Millennium Series (title unknown) – I am not sure what the series will be like now that Steig Larsson is dead and the series is getting passed on to a ghost writer. I am not sure I will like it, but this is one that I have to read.
Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Every writer needs to be a reader, so I decided to give myself a reading and writing resolution list for the new year.

Writing resolution list for 2015

  1. Turn off the internet on my computer when I write to cut down on distractions. The internet can be very helpful to writing when it comes to gathering information for any research that you need to do, but it is also chock full of distractions. Best idea is to save your internet usage for research/editing time not writing time.
  2. Write more. I know this seems a bit obvious but it’s really something I need to do. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it can make me become a better writer. I think the best way to accomplish this is to work on at least two new writing prompts per week.
  3. Create more diverse characters. I’ve noticed that my characters have become a bit one dimensional so I think I need to work on making them more diverse. I don’t think that it is enough to make them more culturally or racially diverse, I must also make them more psychologically diverse as far as their ways of thinking.
  4. Explore different plot and genre elements. Research the plot elements and plot differences between different genres of literature. Going back to the basics when it comes to plot has helped my before when I’ve needed help generating ideas. A bit more research couldn’t hurt.
  5. Finish something. One of my major problems hasn’t been starting new projects is has been finishing my old ones. I need to make a better effort to finish my projects.
Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Most Prized Possession

A character of your own invention finds a note which reads

Hello you slimy piece of filth,

I know who you are and what you did. I have taken the thing that you value most in the world. Either bring me what I want or face the consequences. You have one day.

Signed,

You know who

Using this note as your starting point write a story. You must decide who your character is and the reason for the note. Who wrote it and why? What did they take? What are they planning to do if their needs are not met?

So long for now!! Hope to hear from you soon!!! Please feel free to comment with any questions or concerns.

Author’s note- I might be MIA for the next few weeks. We’re expecting now in my area for the next few days and when there is snow I have no internet. I will post as much as I can though. Later!!!

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Movie Adaptations of Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I posted this last year but I thought of some new additions to my list!! Feel free to comment!! 🙂

thewriterscafe247

Through Hollywood’s history there’ve been a great many movie versions of books which have seemed like perfect companions to their literary counterparts. However, for every good movie there have been at least three movies that make the fans of the novel want to hurt someone. We’ve all had that moment when we remember how good the book was and then we get all excited (and in some cases horrified) when we hear there’s going to be a movie. We buy our tickets and watch the movie hoping for something fantastic and in the end when the credits roll all we want to do is scream and throw popcorn. Well fasten your seatbelts movie fans, here’s my least favorite versions. (I know I posted this a while ago but I just re-read/re-watched a few movies and thought of some new additions to my list)

Romeo + JulietRomeo + Juliette (1996 adapted from the William Shakespeare play)

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Deciphering the Masks: Another Step Towards Character Development

Well dearie me!!! It’s been HOW long since I posted?! Dang. LOL!!!! Well unfortunately, for my writing that is, for the past month I’ve been trying to settle into a new job. I’ve had to brush up on my people skills because I’m in a retail sales position at an athletic store so nearly 100% of my day is spent talking to other people. I’ve worked in positions like this before but it’s still hard to switch my mind over to the sales side. In order to make customers believe that I’m not just some commission hungry maniac I have to alter my personality so that I seem like someone they can trust. That’s one of the hardest things about sales. Every customer is different. They each have a particular set of desires and expectation and so I have to, in a shirt time, assess them and figure out how I can present myself so that they will believe that I am the person best qualified to help them. It’s sort of like I have to wear a different mask for each customer so that they’ll trust me to help them. That got me thinking about my characters.

In order for customers to trust me I have to change my personality so that I present myself as a person they can trust to help them.

In order for customers to trust me I have to change my personality so that I present myself as a person they can trust to help them.

All characters have their own distinct personalities and it got me thinking of how they might change their personalities, or what masks they might wear. The first thing I had to do was to understand who the character’s ruse was intended to fool? The next question I had to answer was what my character would do to create this illusion? Finally I had to know the main purpose or why they had gone about the whole process. For example I had a character once who didn’t want her father to know that she had crashed his car. In that case the character put on the mask of the adoring daughter. She changed her voice so that it sounded infantile and called her father “daddy”. So with that all of the questions were satisfied:

  1. Who was the mask intended to work upon? The character used this particular mask to fool her father.
  2. What personality changed occurred? The character attempted to transform herself into a vision of how she had been in her youth. She speaks in a high pitched infantile voice and uses the name “daddy”.
  3. Why did the character do this? The character created this personality change so that she could emotionally manipulate her father. She is hoping that by toying with his heart he will not find out that she had wrecked his car.

 

What parts of your characters' personalities would they be willing to hide? Why would they go through the effort to create their mask or illusion?

What parts of your characters’ personalities would they be willing to hide? Why would they go through the effort to create their mask or illusion?

In my post “3 Methods to Add Emotional Tension to your Plot” I talked about how every character needs a goal or a desire and that you as the writer need to figure out what they’d be willing to risk in order to get it, but you also need to figure out how they might need to change their personalities in order to obtain their goals. For example if you have a character named Bobby who wants to get married to a lady named June and is willing to die for this goal you also must decide what version of themselves they are going to use in order to make June fall in love with him. Everyone likes to present the best versions of themselves that they can to win people over, whether you’re like me who does it for a sales job, or like Bobby who does it for love. You need to decide what parts of your characters’ personalities they’d be likely to suppress and what mask they’re going to put on instead. Maybe at a particular part of your story you character’s mask will fail letting the world know their true selves. What could be the emotional impact from that? Did someone say PLOT TWIST?!

 

 

 

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Character Assessment

I used to have to do this exercise all of the time for my theatre class in high school. There would be a pair of us performing a particular scene and we each had to write a journal entry as our character which detailed our characters’ goals and also their mental status. That is what you need to do for this exercise. I want you to take your protagonist and antagonist and to write journal entries for both of them in which they detail their problems, psychological situation, and goals. Are you pro and antagonist fight? Why? What is one’s problem with the other? Do they believe their actions are justified? One of the hardest things writers face is that they don’t just have to figure out what their characters do or say but why they do or say them. This exercise can really help you to come to a better understanding of who your characters are and why they’re acting the way they are.

 

So long folks! Feel free to comment with any question, complaints, or even suggestions for writing prompts! It’s always nice when writers can have a place to go and pick up a few extra prompts to get the creativity flowing!

 

 

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Discussion: Do you listen to music as you write? Why or why not?

Just as I do not recommend writing with a fever, reading through jetlag and turbulence = NO!!! LOL

Just as I do not recommend writing with a fever, reading through jetlag and turbulence = NO!!! LOL

So happy to be posting again!!!!!! I know my posts have been a bit sporadic lately and I apologize for that. I’ve just spent the past few weeks job searching and also working in some time to travel cross country. I spent 12 hrs yesterday in airports, on planes, and in turbulence…yeah my stomach did not like that. I tried to get some reading done but it’s a bit nauseating when the book you’re reading is bouncing in your hands every second. Since I finally got to my destination I’ve gotten some writing done, but didn’t get the chance to post. Now I have returned!!!!!!!!! YAY!!!

For this post I’d like to open a discussion. Do you like to listen to music as you write? Why or why not? If you do like to listen to music as you’re writing, what kind of music do you listen to?

Music as you write? Yea? Nay?

Music as you write? Yea? Nay?

For my part I usually listen to music as I write but I have a very specific playlist that depends on my mood and what I need. For example I am an easily distracted person so I only listen to low key things when I write, otherwise I’ll get so wrapped up in the music it will pull my attention away from what I’m writing. It also helps if what I’m listening to is tied to what I’m writing in some way. For example last year I wrote a ten-minute play that was centered in West Virginia, and so to get into that mindset I created a Pandora station that played a mixture of old southern gospel songs and bluegrass. The music was reminiscent of what I was writing so it helped me to envision the world of the story, and the songs themselves were slow paced ballads so they didn’t pull my distraction away.

Listening to some old Bluegrass and gospel on Pandora got me into the right mindset for my play, oh and it's also really good music!!! :)

Listening to some old Bluegrass and gospel on Pandora got me into the right mindset for my play, oh and it’s also really good music!!! 🙂

As I mention a few posts ago I was working on turning an old freewriting exercise of mine into a novel. Well the novel itself is set some time in the 1800’s in England so it really helped me to picture how that world looked by listening to classical music from that time. By listening to the same types of music that would have been popular during the time period in which I set my story it gives me a way to envision how that world might sound. I already had an idea of how the world looked, but the music gave me a way to picture how the world would sound, offering me a tool to engage the readers’ senses.

For me figuring out the types of songs my character might hear on a daily basis gives me another way to understand their worlds.

For me figuring out the types of songs my character might hear on a daily basis gives me another way to understand their worlds.

So that’ my rigmarole! Do you have specific music that you like to listen to when you write? Or do you like to write it total silence? Why? Post in the comment section below the writing exercise!!! If you have any questions or concerns feel free to let me know.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Moving Box Exercise

Imagine that you’ve moved into a new home. You know nothing about the previous owners. When you enter the house you see a box on the floor that belonged to the previous owners. Open it and describe what you find. From the items you find inside the box create a story for who the previous owners might have been.

 

Have fun with this exercise and I will talk to you again soon!!! Bye!

 

 

 

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The Art of Creating Villains

As we grow up we come to realize that life is not like an episode of Barney and that not everyone in the world is going to love us or want to be our friends. Some people are just plain mean, but how do we translate that into fiction and still make those characters seem real? If we just write someone who is mean and nasty 24/7 in the end they will seem boring. It would almost feel like every time your antagonist appears your reader will say “oh let me guess, (insert antagonist name here) is going to say something mean and stupid”.

Evil is as evil does

Evil is as evil does

Part of what makes villains seem so interesting is that their motives and goals are hidden in many cases and so they have the ability to keep the readers guessing. Also, as many antagonists are not lead by traditional moralities it gives you as the writer more options when it comes to character choices. However, like many things in writing it’s a balancing act. If you write an antagonist who constantly behaves in wildly amoral ways in every scene it defies the imagination of most readers. Most real people are made up of both good and bad parts and so if you try to make it seem as if your antagonist is 100% bad than it can make them seem unbelievable. You could really only make a character like that work if you found a way to make that type of behavior seem natural for the character.

 

Iago's nature is not hidden from the audience but is hidden from the protagonist.

Iago’s nature is not hidden from the audience but is hidden from the protagonist.

For me Iago from Othello is one of the greatest antagonists in history because he has the ability to hide his evil motives from the protagonist. He cannot hide his evil nature from the audience because, by the usage of asides and soliloquies, the majority of the action is told through his inner monologue. He could be described as being totally evil, but because his true nature and motives are hidden from all of the other characters it only serves to give him an added level of intrigue.

Nils Bjurman- the epitome of the malignant narcissist

Nils Bjurman- the epitome of the malignant narcissist

One of my favorite villains in modern literature is Nils Bjurman from Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The character puts the protagonist through numerous scenes intense physical and mental abuse  which could make him seem unbelievable. Larsson combats this by hiding Bjurman’s motivations so his vile nature is connected to a mystery and by giving the character the hallmarks of at least two legitimate and recognizable psychological disorders. Nils Bjurman is one of those characters that the reader thinks could exist, but is really glad they don’t.

Who are some of your favorite antagonists? Do they attempt to hide their motives from the protagonists or are they more open about their dark side?

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: A Lesson in Context Exercise

For this exercise you need to take the first line of dialogue from your favorite film and create a whole new story with that as the first line. Totally change the context of the line with new characters and a new plot.

Have fun with this one and I will see you next time!!!

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Is “meanwhile” the Magic Word of Writing?

Hey there!! It feels like forever since I’ve posted! Sorry about that but life…ugh…don’t you just hate it when life interrupts your blog time? LOL!!! Ah well. Luckily I have been working on my novel…well I call it a novel but actually it’s more like a massive writing exercise I’ve been doing for five years.

It started as a free writing exercise I did about five years ago and during times when I don’t have any projects going on I pull it out and add to it. It’s gotten so long now I’ve realized that it is practically a novel in and of itself so I’ve been going back through it to see if I can make it work as a novel. It’s actually a really interesting exercise but one of the hardest things for me to write are the transition pieces that connect scene to scene and chapter to chapter.

Sometimes I just say “forget the transitions” and start a new chapter, but you can’t do that too often or your book will end up being 100 pages filled with 300 chapters. I like for my transitional pieces to be smooth and for one scene to just sort of flow naturally into the other but in many cases it just feels wrong to me. I read an article somewhere that said that the best way to combat a difficult transition is the usage of the word “meanwhile”. The basic principal was to use the word “meanwhile” when you were undecided as to how to move from one scene to the next.

Making my scene shifts have a workable rhythm is one of the hardest parts of writing for me

Give your scene shifts a smooth rhythm

Example:
Chad didn’t know where to go from here. His father was dead, his home a pile of rubble. The only things he had left were an old scorched picture and a goldfish.
Meanwhile in a shopping center across town Kerri wondered if life could get any better. She had a sweet ride, a credit card, and a father who didn’t ask questions.

Without the word “meanwhile” in between those two bits of scenes, it would’ve felt a bit slap-dash and there wouldn’t have been much of a flow. However, that one word added in it allows for a fluid movement between the scenes and also adds an interesting thematic juxtaposition between the characters’ lives.

Meanwhile= The Writer’s HOCUS POCUS!!

Some might say that “meanwhile” is the magic word of writing and true, there is something a bit magical in the word’s ability to pack so much practical usefulness and potential thematic depth in one word but you can take it too far. When I started off using “meanwhile” to help with my scene shifts I felt great…but then I read back over what I had written and…oh dear. I realized that I had used the word so much that it was almost laughable. A small part of my mind half expected to turn the page and read MEANWHILE AT THE LEGION OF DOOM (I tried to just add a pic of the Legion of Doom headquarters but my computer wouldn’t let me, the video was all I could find)!!!

How do you like to transition? Do you use “meanwhile”? Do you like to add a chapter or page break? What are some techniques you’ve found?

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Looking for a Haunt
For this exercise I want you to imagine that you or one of your characters has just died and has become a ghost and are now looking for a place to haunt. How would you decide which place to haunt and what would you do to haunt the house? Are you a poltergeist (a playful ghost? Are you a friendly ghost? Are you a vengeful ghost? Why?
See you around!

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The Times and Trials of a Bookworm

I’ve said before that the vast majority of writers begin first as readers which I still think is true, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. One of my younger cousins was complaining about having to read a boring book for class and when I told them the list of books I had to read for my lit courses she said “well that’s different! You like reading!!” True, I do enjoy reading but that doesn’t make it any easier.

For me, my struggles with reading started in kindergarten. For some reason I just couldn’t get the hang of reading. I knew my letters because of the alphabet song and the like, but I couldn’t make sense of written words. They told me “This is an A, this is a B, and this is a C”, to which I would reply “No it isn’t!!! That one looks like a funny hat, that one’s a snowman, and that one is a squiggle!” After literally months of these little episodes my teacher was thinking I had something like dyslexia and I just thought I was stupid. I would sit for hours holding my books in my room and would try to piece together the mystery of what they meant. For almost an entire year I saw my classmates breezing through books while I was still stuck on page two. Finally someone had the thought “maybe there’s something wrong with her eyes”. EUREKA!!!!

As easy as ABC? I WISH!!! :)

As easy as ABC? I WISH!!! 🙂

I went to the eye doctor and after my exam I remember that he told my mother “I’m not surprised she’s having trouble reading!! She really needs glasses.” So finally after almost an entire school year the mystery of my “reading problems” were solved. For a long after kindergarten I absolutely hated reading. Whenever I picked up a book I remembered the struggles I had and how stupid they made me feel. For nearly 13 years I avoided reading whenever I could but slowly I learned to let go of those negative feelings and let myself fall into the wonderful world of books. Now that’s not to say reading isn’t still a struggle. Even with glasses every once in a while I get terrible migraines and more often than not my mind starts wandering and by the time it wanders back to the book I can’t even remember what page I was on. So for me reading is wonderful and I really enjoy it, but it’s a struggle. But when I finally reach the end of a book I feel like I’ve just won a massive battle. So yeah for me reading is a struggle, but that doesn’t mean it is not worth it!!!

Reading = Worth the stuggle

Reading = Worth the struggle

 

Exercise of the Day:  The Lesser of Two Evils Exercise

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Imagine a situation where your character must choose between sacrificing two things, both of which are important to them. Describe the situation itself, the two things your character is deciding between and also the thought process they would use to come to a decision. How would the situation resolve itself? How would the character feel at the end?

Weighing the options

Weighing the options

 

Have fun with this exercise!! Feel free to comment! I love feedback!

🙂

 

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Movie Adaptations of Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Through Hollywood’s history there’ve been a great many movie versions of books which have seemed like perfect companions to their literary counterparts. However, for every good movie there have been at least three movies that make the fans of the novel want to hurt someone. We’ve all had that moment when we remember how good the book was and then we get all excited (and in some cases horrified) when we hear there’s going to be a movie. We buy our tickets and watch the movie hoping for something fantastic and in the end when the credits roll all we want to do is scream and throw popcorn. Well fasten your seatbelts movie fans, here’s my least favorite versions. (I know I posted this a while ago but I just re-read/re-watched a few movies and thought of some new additions to my list)

 

Romeo + JulietRomeo + Juliette (1996 adapted from the William Shakespeare play) ~ There have been thousands of adaptations of Shakespeare throughout the years so how can you really mess that up? How bout by setting it in what looks like modern Los Angeles and by having the Montague/Capulet struggle look like gang rivalry? That’s the ticket! Look, maybe it would have worked out if they had done the time shift with the gang war but had changed the language to suit the time they’d set the story in. Much of the costuming, particularly for the males, seemed to look as if it had been designed for RuPaul’s Drag Race. That plus the addition of actors like John Leguizamo makes this version seem more like a comedy then a tragedy. The writers wanted to make their version different from all the others so it would stand out but they strayed so far from the feel of the source material and to me it felt like a weird joke. Tip for writers: You have some creative and interpretive powers as the writer but when you go too far it will not feel natural.

 

Scarlett LetterThe Scarlett Letter (1995 adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorn’s novel of the same name) ~ Ok, well if you’ve never read the book I’ll just give a bit of a recap: this book is about a woman accused of adultery with the town’s reverend. That said I doubt they were quite as kinky as Demi Moore and Gary Oldman made them seem. Hollywood went a bit too far with this one. In a lot of movie versions of books the love scenes are drawn out to boost ticket sales but this movie takes a few too many liberties. Not only were numerous love scenes added, but the ending was morphed in a way that almost makes it seem as if the screenwriters said “sure it’s nothing like it was in the book, but the audience gets a happy ending and that just makes them feel so good”. Happy endings are fun, but not like this. I’m not saying that if you’re writing an adaptation of something that you can’t rework things a bit to make them work within your movie, but be smart about it. Tip for writers: If you are going to change major things from the original text make sure  you’re not destroying the whole thematic motif  of the text just doing it to make things “edgier”.

A pretty good movie, but a bad adaptation

A pretty good movie, but a bad adaptation

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) ~ This adaptation suffers from many things but for me it fails because of Keanue Reeves’ trying to do an English accent as Johnathan Harker, overdone violence, and for those of you who know the film you will recall the graveyard scene…WHY?!!! JUST WHY?!!! The writers/director of the film took particular elements of the novel and manipulated them so that they could distort as much lewdness and eroticism from them that they could. The film itself was a box-office success simply because the cinematography was very well done. For my part it is an alright movie when it is considered by itself, but it falls well short of the mark as an adaptation. Tip for writers: While I understand that certain novels have erotic elements you need to be sure that if you’re writing an adaptation you’re not focusing only on one plot point because then you end up sacrificing all of the others. In Dracula there were a lot of plot elements which concerned Victorian Religion but the film did not use them at all because they were focused on the sex. Oh and also if you’re writing a period piece DO NOT CAST KEANUE REEVES.

Alright enough of my complaining! Now not all adaptations are bad,  here are a few movie adaptations of books which I really think act as models of what writers of screen adaptations should strive for.

Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility (1995 adapted from Jane Austen’s novel of the same name) ~ There have been thousands of adaptations of Jane Austen’s works, but none captured the story so well as Ang Lee’s 1995 film. Emma Thompson took on the roles of both screenwriter and actress in this film and ended up winning a Golden Globe for her writing. Kate Winslet was perfectly cast to portray the young and overly romantic Marianne to Emma Thompson’s sensible and even Eleanor. The dialogue was so perfectly handled that even certain scenes which never appeared in the book seemed as if they had been there all along. Tip for writers: if you want your adaptation to be well received, then you have to make any of the changes you’ve created so natural that they feel like they could have been in the book from the beginning.

 

Fight ClubFight Club (1999 adapted from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name) ~ This movie with its sleek dialogue takes the Postmodern words of Chuck Palahniuk and translates them in a way that is both thematic and understandable. I actually had to read Fight Club for a lit class in college. I hadn’t seen the movie, and after reading the book I was nervous. I wondered how any screenwriter and director could take that book and translate it into a movie so that it wouldn’t lose its thematic integrity. After having watched the movie I can say that there was no reason for me to have been nervous. The writers and director of this movie were like magicians!! They made something which I thought would only be good as a book into a fabulous movie. Tip for writers: Use everything at your disposal (music, cinematography, dialogue) in order to capture the feeling of the novel or whatever you are adapting. That way when your audience is watching the movie they can feel the same types of things they had when they read the book.

Understatement is the mother of creepiness!! LOL!!!

Understatement is the mother of creepiness!! LOL!!!

The Haunting (1963 adapted from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House) ~ The concept of the haunted house has existed in various forms for years. One of its best versions was in Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House. Stephen King rates the novel as one of the best examples of the haunted house genre in literature and actually cited the novel as one of the greatest pieces of horror fiction of the mid to late 20th century. The 1963 film version of this novel, while only moderately successful at the box office, has become a cult classic and is considered by many to be one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The writers of this film changed a lot from the novel but everything they changed had a distinct purpose for the plot of the film. It did not feel like they had increased the shock value and add in tons of gore and gratuitous violence. One of the reasons the book was so scary was that it left a lot of things unsaid, giving the readers’ imaginations a chance to run amok wondering what or who is haunting Hill House. That same feeling was kept in Robert Wise’s film because 99% of the horror elements occur off-screen and the audience and characters both can only hear what is happening. The writers and director’s of their film also did something almost unheard of today, they kept the writer in the loop. They questioned Shirley Jackson about her intentions regarding certain scenes and also the characters and then got her views on some of their plot ideas. Tip for writers: If you’re writing an adaptation then you must  walk the line and pay respect to the original novel and its creator while at the same time exploring with your own ideas. Oh and also if your writing a horror movie/novel LESS IS MORE!!! More gore and violence might get you an R rating and perhaps some publicity, but with this genre of books and movies more opportunity you give your viewers/readers imagination’s run wild the freakier it will be!!!  

What movie adaptations of books do you love/hate? What about the movie made that impression on you? Feel free to comment!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: A Conversation with your Characters

Choose a character from a story you have written or are in the process of writing, then write a scene or multiple scenes in which that character interacts with you, the author. Write with the assumption that the character understands that you, as the author, “created” him or her and are responsible for the things that happened to them in the course of the story. Does the character agree with what you have them doing? What does the character think of the story? Write an exchange of dialogue (it doesn’t matter if it’s in play/novel format) between yourself as the author and your character.

Talk to you later folks! Please don’t be afraid to comment, I love feedback!!!

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