Writer’s Block Personified

A couple days ago, I was hit with writer’s block.

It didn’t stem from lack of content or direction: I know how I want my scenes to play out and where the story is headed.

Yet writer’s block dropped itself on me all the same.

It usually takes me a few days to overcome writer’s block, days filled with note taking and cerebral pushups to get myself ready to write again.

This time I thought I’d try something different. I’ll write a short bit of fiction that personifies my writer’s block. Hopefully the process of writing something unrelated and more freeform than my novel will help me get back on track.

 

Laptop under my arm, I decide to work on my novel in the living room that night. I build a makeshift computer desk using a wooden dinner tray and top it with an old desk lamp.

I open up the work in progress, my fingertips hovering over the keys, when a stranger saunters into the room. His boots thump methodically against the tiled floor. He’s more shadow than flesh, a black hole given the silhouette of a man.

When he reaches the middle of the room, the stranger pauses and nods toward the desk lamp.

“You mind?” says a raspy voice.

I just lean back in my sofa and stare at him.

He grunts and retreats to a darker part of the room. He drops hard into a chair and crosses his legs.

“Garbage,” he says.

“Excuse me?”

He waves a hand at the laptop. “That . . . whatever you call it. It’s trash.”

“Of course. You’d know since you’ve obviously read it,” I say.

“Don’t have to. You’re green; how good can it be?”

“We all start somewhere.”

“ ‘Every great journey begins with a single step,’ eh?” His laugh is a short, sharp dagger that digs into me. The tip must have been poisonous; I feel doubt spread into my mind.

 

Hmm, I actually do feel a bit more motivated now. The fiction above doesn’t have a “happy” ending, but it doesn’t have to. It was the act of writing something out that helped.

So tell me: how do you fight writer’s block? Or artist’s block? Or musician’s block?

Advertisements

Television and Reality: What Do We Really Know?

I’m a huge Law & Order fan.

Criminal Intent, Special Victims Unit, the original Law & Order: you name it, I’ll watch it. If there’s a marathon playing, it’ll own my attention for the next several hours.

My idea of a crisis is when several networks show episodes at the same time.

After consuming dozens of episodes from each series, I realized something: much of what I “know” about the legal system is based on shows like Law & Order and CSI.

There was a time when I studied criminal law in college and planned on becoming a lawyer; I’m no stranger to the theoretical application of the law and the powers of the executive and judicial branches of our government.

However, outside of what I read in newspapers or, again, watch on television, I have very little contact with our court system, the police, or crime scenes.

I’m guessing the same applies to the majority of my fellow bloggers.

I wonder how these shows have painted our perceptions of our legal system.  They’re so believable in many ways, aren’t they? The piercing interrogations, the fleshed out detectives and prosecutors, the hard evidence the diligent forensic scientists uncover: it all seems so plausible. That’s how it’s really done, isn’t it?

Well, kind of.

The goal of any fictional show is to be captivating first and “accurate” maybe second or third. Because of things like pacing and conflict, the situations in the show are manufactured, the obstacles created. Editing, camera work, music: they all come together to captivate us.

But the reality is much less exciting. Take away the music and witty dialogue, and a detective’s job, like most jobs, can be pretty mundane.

And real life cases, taken as a whole, can be much less satisfying. At the end of 95% of Law & Order episodes, the bad guy is caught, and we feel that warm relief once the rapist, murderer, thief is pronounced “guilty” in court.

Yet how many cases go unsolved in real life? And outside of large profile cases, who even follows an ordinary murder case for weeks to hear the verdict?

My point is that much of the information we get about the world is second-hand (newspapers, network news, websites) and manufactured (Law & Order, Grey’s Anatomy, Southland, House) and it’s interesting to think about how that information is presented to us and the effects it has on our understanding of the world.

What do you think?

Remember When You Were Young?

He was a walking mountain.

His summit wasn’t peppered with frost just yet; that would come years later.

In my six year old eyes, my father was invincible, a myth that had grown since I last saw him two years earlier. The gap in time would be the shortest of many to come.

“Shortest” is how I describe it now. But at the age of six, two years might as well have been fifty. Still, I’d stitched together enough of an impression to squeal in excitement when I saw him that night.

It was a Friday night. Pentecostal and Spanish, my family attended church service seven days a week. (The term “school night” never brought a reprieve from worship).

The devotional was in full swing with tambourines jangling, cowbells ringing, and people singing. I was sitting in a pew, my feet swinging inches off the carpeted floor, when an usher tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the church entrance.

That’s when I saw him.

His tall, muscular form took up the entire doorway. He had on a black leather jacket, black jeans, and black shoes. He’d combed his hair back and trimmed his beard into a solid, neat form.

“He named you after Michael Knight from Knight Rider,” my mom would tell me. It was my favorite show. I’m not sure if what she said was true, but I did think my father looked like a Latin David Hasselhoff except with facial hair, like a real man.

To say I ran down the church aisle is an understatement. I bolted towards my father yelling “PAAAAPIIIII!” (dad in Spanish) without a thought to how I looked to everyone around me.

I jumped into his arms, and he scooped me up as if I were the lightest thing in the world. I can still feel his needle-like whiskers on my cheek as he kissed me.

I was going to spend the weekend with him; my mom hadn’t told me anything. She’d secretly packed my clothes in a bag and brought it with her.

God, the church, even my mother melted away in a blur of pure ecstasy. I was leaving right then and there with my father. He carried me to his car and buckled me in. My mother couldn’t afford a car, so knowing my father had one left me in awestruck.

We drove off into the night, and I had him all to myself.

This is a powerful, sacred memory I keep tucked away in a safe part of my mind. I pull it out every once in awhile to siphon some of the positive energy I felt that night. I blame the always honest, never boring ifidiebeforeisleep for my little reflective post. Do yourself a favor and visit her blog.

What fun, beautiful, or powerful childhood memories do you hold onto and revisit?

To Dream Yourself Awake

I often wonder if dreams are where our memories, ideas, and other thoughts go to play once we melt into our beds.

I had an amazing dream Saturday night, so amazing that I hopped out of bed and typed down my thoughts like a madman lest I forget something.

I’m not going to bore anyone with the full details of my dream; it wasn’t some bizarre landscape inspired by Salvador Dali or scenes pulled out of Twin Peaks.

In fact, what surprised me most about my dream was how coherent it was, how positively ordinary it turned out to be. It reminded me of the movie Inception.

For the uninitiated, Inception is about highly trained professionals who can travel into another person’s dream and extract (or implant) information. It’s basically dream espionage.

The concept of a lucid dream is very important to understanding the movie. I’m sure everyone’s had a lucid dream at one point: it’s a dream in which you know you’re dreaming.

I’ve had lucid dreams in the past, but Saturday night’s dream was on a whole different level.

You know how people claim that a dream feels “so real!” You’ve probably uttered it yourself at one point when describing your dream to a friend: “That gnome riding a unicycle across the Grand Canyon looked so real! The wind on my face felt so real!”

Before Saturday I slung those phrases around too, but looking back on those dreams now, I realize they were still covered by the “fuzz” of the dream world.

You know what I mean, right? It’s like a screen of lint, a membrane of some sort that’s draped over your senses in a dream. It doesn’t have the clarity of the world as you read my blog or scroll with your mouse or listen to your boss in the background.

Yet my dream on Saturday did.

And it fascinates me.

In the dream, I looked down at my hands and could make them out perfectly, every ridge and nail and wrinkle.

I knew I was dreaming and willed myself to remain inside, asleep, so that I could listen and see and touch. I was in a car and could make out the bumpy texture of the leather dashboard.

Time wasn’t elastic: I wasn’t in one place one second and miles away the next. Time was linear and tangible.

I could simultaneously feel my body under the sheets in the real world and within the car in the dream world. And it was the dream world that was sharper and clearer.

Again, very oddly, I refused to rouse myself from sleep. I wanted to explore the feeling or consciousness in both worlds.

Ok, that’s enough of that. I’d love to hear your thoughts on dreams.

Have you ever had an especially potent dream? What do you think dreams are or believe they signify?

Updated Novel Page

I hope everyone’s having a splendiferous weekend so far.

I’ve been semi-diligently typing away at my novel for the past week and making substantial progress, so I thought it’d be a good time to update the original novel sample with a new page.

Here, we begin to see that there’s more to the little kid Aaron found near the abandoned home than we may have thought . . .

I also added some new clothing to Aaron’s Pinterest board, and I plan on updating a certain character’s board in the near future, but not just yet . . . 🙂

Note: I’ve combined the two pages in my Upcoming Novel Samples page, so if you haven’t read the novel’s first page (or if you need a refresher), click the link.

Enjoy:

He thought he saw the kid shake his head, but it might’ve been another sob. “Good. The things they ask for.” He whistled. “It’s robbery. Can’t get anything decent to eat without giving up an arm or a leg. Take The Chinaman, for example.”

The kid went silent.

“He’s the worst ‘cause he can get anything you need . . . medicine, clothes, canned food, even fresh meat. You just gotta ask him. That’s what he says anyway ‘ask, and ye shall receive.’ But the fine print says ‘your ass belongs to me after.’” Aaron laughed and looked over. The kid’s face was still hidden between his knees, but the muscles under his pale skin were tense. He also smelled odd, like boiled eggs. Though Aaron hadn’t noticed it before, the stench was getting stronger.

“Anyway, that last one’s what I need. Meat. I’ve got plenty of other food in here.” He set his bag between his knees and dug inside. “Spam—ugh, like eating a block of salt. Sardines, anchovies, tomato sauce. No noodles though.” He placed the cans down next to the kid; he’d eaten half the Spam, and the sardines and anchovies were leaking oil. “But they’re not enough. So I did what The Chinaman said, I asked, and now I’m trying to receive. See, I made a deal: he’ll give me a few pounds of fresh meat. God, it’s been weeks since I’ve had any.”

Aaron watched the sun dip behind the other abandoned homes; night brought its own kind of trouble, and the coming rain wouldn’t help. He needed a little more time, but he’d have to wrap things up soon.

He leaned towards the kid and asked “Do you know what he wants in exchange for that fleshy ambrosia?”

Ever since the world had gone to hell, few things surprised Aaron anymore; life was a snuff film on repeat: one awful scene after another. But as the kid slowly lifted his head for the first time, Aaron had to fight the urge to flinch.

The “kid” had no eyes. Instead, his eye sockets were black tunnels that ran deep into his skull and ended in pinpricks of white light. Purple lips curled into a wide Cheshire Cat grin of crooked, yellow teeth.

"His eye sockets were black tunnels"

 

"Cheshire Cat grin"

The sympathy scale would need a few adjustments after this one.

“The tongue of a demon,” said the boy-thing. Aaron wasn’t an expert on children, but unless the kid had hit puberty remarkably early, his voice was way too deep.

Aaron cleared his throat. “You’re pretty clever. Close . . . close,” he replied. “See, it’s not an ordinary tongue; It’d make my job a lot easier if it was ‘cause I could just find any old demon and pluck it right out of his mouth. The world’s gone to shit, and your kind’s a swarm of hungry flies.”

I’ve been enjoying Logan’s artwork and humor for a couple of weeks now, and I couldn’t selfishly keep it to myself anymore.

His most recent project, found on his blog http://literarybandit.wordpress.com is Wonder Woman’s Boyfriend, a hilarious look into what it’s like for an average Joe to date a super hero girlfriend.

Here’s the first in the comic series; I hope everyone checks out the next seven on his blog for a good laugh. 🙂

The Literary Bandit

View original post

Listen, Watch, Read . . . Repeat

The more you experience something, the less of an impact it’ll have on you.

Movies, music, books, food, you name it—repeatedly experiencing a single one, even one of your favorites, lessens its enjoyment until you’re saying “meh” instead of “WOW!” Try eating the juiciest lobster every day for two weeks, and you’ll know what I mean.

But, this post isn’t about lamenting over what was once enjoyable and has lost its power over us.

Instead, I’d like to make a short list that includes a song, a movie, and a book that break this trend; they have the same (if not stronger) effect on me the 20th time I experience them as the 1st.

A Song

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Pink Floyd

Album Cover for "Wish You Were Here"

No matter how many times I listen to this song, I can’t help but get all contemplative.

The words are just so haunting; if you’re unfamiliar with the song’s origin, it’s supposed to be a tribute to one of Pink Floyd’s former members–Syd Barrett–who pretty much lost his mind to the point that he would stand on stage and play one chord or just stare blankly at the crowd. Some say he had schizophrenia, others that he just took a lot of LSD that damaged his mind. He was eventually removed from the band.

The song has the somber feel of nostalgia for a better time (“Remember when you were young / you shone like the sun”) and resignation that everything comes to an end (“Pile on many more years / And I’ll be joining you there”).

Truly a song that hasn’t lost any of his power, even after multiple plays.

A Movie

The Godfather

Mario Puzo/ Francis Ford Coppola

The Godfather: Connie's Wedding

There isn’t another movie in the world that I own multiple copies of yet I’ll STILL watch a television marathon from beginning to end no matter what else is on.

Maybe it’s my fascination with The Mafia that helps keep this movie perfect in my eyes (I have a lot of shelf space devoted to true crime books). But it’s much deeper than that.

Every scene is a work of art, from our introduction to the Godfather at his daughter’s wedding to Michael’s insistence that he personally murder a rival gangster. Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, and James Caan lend a life to their characters that makes me want to watch them again and again. And each time I notice something new.

That’s all I’ll say about that . . .

A Book

Harry Potter

J. K. Rowling

Hogwarts in Christmas. Yeah, I'd like to live here too.

It has to be the world Rowling created.

I grew up watching ’80s movies; many were empowering for kids (The Never Ending Story, The Goonies), so I always felt that longing to go on an adventure and save the adults for a change.

Harry Potter lets children discover a place that is different from—better than—the mundane one we live in; it’s  a world where kids matter too. It’s a place where an eleven year old and his friends learn magic, confront evils that no one else can, and save the world–a world that makes school seem COOL.

I’ve read the series multiple times now, and I haven’t read a line and said to myself “Ugh, again?!” or felt the desire to flip forward a few pages to get to the “good parts” (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had that effect on me).

Every part is a good part, and I fall deeper in love with this world every time I pick up a Harry Potter novel.

Alright, you’re turn! Share a song, a movie, and a book that you can enjoy again and again . . . and again . . . . and again.

Three of the Most Interesting Film & Television Characters

One of the reasons why I read books or watch movies is to get lost in another world, to escape the mundane and taste the exotic.

However, another equally powerful reason is to meet interesting people. Just like a good story will make you want to escape and live in another world, a great work fills you with the desire to meet the characters that inhabit that world.These are the people who you’d like to hang out with, talk to, pick their brains if possible.

This list was in danger of being dominated by a single movie (The Godfather is my favorite movie of all time, so the top 3 slots would easily be filled by quite a few of the cast).

But, that’d be boring! Instead,  I thought hard about the characters on the big and small screens that have left a significant impact on me. These are three of the most intriguing and characters I’ve come across.

 

Walter White

Breaking Bad

There’s just something about a good man going bad that intrigues the hell out of me.

Walter White is about as average a Joe as you can imagine. He lives in a New Mexico suburb, teaches High School chemistry, and has a loving wife and son.

Yawn, right?

Well, that life is soon turned on its head when Walter is diagnosed with cancer and decides to start manufacturing and selling crystal meth with the help of one of his former students to pay for his chemotherapy and to provide for his family once he’s dead.

Try yawning at THAT.

Walter’s transformation from nerdy chemist/father/husband . . .

. . .to hardcore gangster . . .

. . . is a delight to behold. I know it sounds like overhyped hyperbole, but I truly believe that Breaking Bad has the best writing on television.

The characters, plotlines, and dialogue are THAT good.

 

Dr. Gregory House 

House

There isn’t anyone quite like Dr. House on television. Sure, you may run across characters that are jerks, characters that are intelligent, and characters that are amoral/immoral.

But rarely do you get a jerky, intelligent, and amoral character who you can’t help but respect.

Dr. House is damn good at what he does. The absolute best. And because of his skill as a diagnostician, he’s able to tear into the people around him with near immunity.

But it isn’t just that he’s a good doctor; that’d be selling him short. It’s that he makes sense whenever he’s treating other people like idiots. He constantly questions societal norms, and he’s willing to say what other people are too afraid to admit.

Dr. House will call people out on their bullshit constantly, whether it’s a patient who’s making a stupid/selfish choice or another doctor who is naïve in thinking that everyone is honest.

 

Captain Jack Sparrow  

Pirates of the Caribbean

Ok, this one is certainly a guilty pleasure.

But come on, watch Captain Jack Sparrow for just ten minutes and tell me he isn’t a unique and interesting character.

From his surprisingly vast vocabulary (for a pirate) to his unmatchable savvy, there isn’t a situation that Jack Sparrow can’t talk his way out of.

His elastic swagger and slurry British accent are icing on the cake. His enemies (and friends) might hate him, but they can’t help but respect his ability to turn any odds in his favor and come out victorious in the end.

Maybe he’s making it all up as he goes along; maybe he’s a master tactician who thinks two steps ahead of Black Beard and Davy Jones. Either way, his motives are usually a mystery (does he really want to save the damsel in distress or just get rich?), which keeps me wondering if he’s a good or a bad guy.

 

So, yeah, I tend to like anti-heroes best when it comes to characters. The more morally ambiguous, the better. 🙂

 

What are some of your favorite characters in film or television?