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Writing Bliss

"If they do not write the kind of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves." -C.S. Lewis

Month

March 2014

Once Upon A Writing Time

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SPOILER ALERT: If you’re not up to date on the current season of ABC’s Once Upon A Time, go catch up then tune into this post ūüôā

I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy stories and faery tales so when ABC announced the premiere of the hit drama Once Upon A Time back in 2011, I was instantly hooked.¬† I must admit I was a bit skeptical and hesitant to continue the series after its first season because I was convinced the writers could not keep the story flowing without it seeming forced, but I have never been so wrong.¬† The acting in this series is nothing to brag about and mediocre at best.¬† The special effects are something out of a cheap video game and probably easily replicated using a simple video manipulation software.¬† But the writing…even Disney could not do what the writers of OUAT have done.¬† They have successfully combined [almost] every faery tale and children’s story into one gigantic plot that never seems to end.¬†

Viewers have been exposed to the unnamed Enchanted Forest from which Snow White and Prince Charming hail, Wonderland, Sherwood Forest, and now Oz.¬† Each magical land is as unique as the last and the people that emerge from them are just as special.¬† It takes talent to reinvent anything labeled a classic and even more talent to breath a new and modern life into it.¬† This show appeals to children today and those of us who grew up watching the Disney versions of many of these stories.¬† The characters we have been introduced to are from every generation.¬† Disney’s Snow White was released in 1937, Cinderella in 1950, Alice in Wonderland in 1951, and Sleeping Beauty in 1959.¬† The show’s more recently added characters of Peter Pan (1953) and Robin Hood (1973) have provided new twists such as Robin Hood’s fatherhood and Pan’s dark side.¬† The writer’s included in the story Little Red Riding Hood (Ruby and Granny in Storybrooke) and the giants from Jack and the Beanstalk, two tales not influence by Disney, as well as Rumpelstiltskin whose position is propelled to a leading role in the series.¬† Did anyone think all of these characters could come together in one epic story?¬† I sure didn’t see it coming, but the best part of the series has been guessing as they showed up on screen, “Oh that’s Mulan!” or “It’s Wendy’s brothers, John and Michael!”

It’s wonderful that the plots have overlapped so nicely with one another but I am truly impressed at the intricate family tree mapped out by these brilliant writers.¬† For those of you who religiously watch the show, have you actually sat down and put to paper who is related to who in this series?¬† It’s maddening!¬† But necessary to fully understand everyone’s relationship to one another.¬† The whole story started with Henry, the son of Emma Swan who is the heroine of the show.¬† She gave Henry up for adoption years earlier and their paths cross when he has to convince her that she is the only person who can break the spell to bring everyone’s memories back, vanquish the Evil Queen, and reunite with her parents Snow White and Prince Charming.¬† This is quite a task for a lonely young woman from the city who barely believes in personal happiness let alone complete faery tales.¬† Henry has been adopted by Regina, the town of Storybrooke’s mayor who is incidentally also the Evil Queen herself and the only one with the memory of what happened since she set the curse to begin with.¬† Anyone who knows the traditional story will also know that she is Snow White’s stepmother having at one time married her father.¬† So we have Regina, stepmother to Snow and adoptive mother to Henry, who is also stepgrandmother to Emma, birth mother of Henry and daughter of Snow White and Charming.¬† Confused yet?¬† It gets better.¬† We found out last season that Emma’s ex-boyfriend Neil is also Baelfire, the son of Rumpelstiltskin.¬† So Rumpy (as I affectionately love to call him) is Henry’s grandfather, as is Prince Charming.¬† To make things even MORE bizarre, we meet Peter Pan.¬† And this is not the 1953 Disney Peter Pan and further still from the original stage play character written by J.M. Barrie.¬† This Pan is dark and sinister.¬† His shadow is downright evil with a mind all of its own.¬† Viewers discovered that Peter Pan, the spirit of eternal youth, is the father of Rumpelstiltskin who selfishly¬† gave him up in order to be forever young in the magical land known as Neverland.¬† So now, to recap again, on Henry’s father’s side we have Neil, the son of Rumpy, the son of Peter Pan who is now Henry’s great-grandfather.

To extend the confusing network of familial relations, there is Belle, most commonly known for her role in the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast, who is romantically involved with Rumpy, appropriately the Beast.¬† This was the spin the writers used that made me an official believer in the OUAT scripts.¬† He was a beast, in legend and in this show, who transformed through the love showed to him by Belle which he eventually reciprocated.¬† The roles of these two characters have been reversed at least once.¬† When Belle’s memory was lost, Rumpy had to convince her, by his love, who she was.¬† Then she had to believe with all her heart that he would return to her from Neverland because he too loved her.¬† Rumpelstiltskin’s relationship with women doesn’t end here.¬† We discovered that he was the mentor of the Evil Queen and her sister (as we found out just two weeks ago) who is the Wicked Witch of the West in the land of Oz.¬†

Now that we have traveled through three confusing but magnificently written seasons of this show, we find roles reversed again but this time in Emma and Henry.  Henry who, in season one, had to convince Emma of the truth of Storybrooke, is now clueless as to who his parents and grandparents are and it is Emma who has to work hard, with the help and loyalty of Regina, to save the town from yet another curse, this time from the crazy green lady and her army of flying monkeys.  I cannot wait to see what is in store for these characters and that is the beauty of the writing of this show.  Just when I think there is nothing more they can do, they turn around and astound me.  With the inclusion of Rapunzel last week, I am desperately awaiting the arrival of Merida from Brave and Anna and Elsa from Frozen as I know it is just a matter of time and discussion of copyrights with Disney.  For anyone who made it this far in the post who has NOT invested their precious time with this show, I highly encourage you to do so.  As a writer,  I can greatly admire the talent of TV show and film writers, but the writer from Once are in a completely different league.  Where others are in the minors, these guys are the professionals.

Age Is Just A Number

As a writer, my head is constantly swirling with ideas for stories and tid bits of materials I have to write down lest I become victim to my memory failing (yet again) and regretting NOT writing it down.¬† An idea I most recently thought about deals with the age gap in a relationship.¬† It started when I commented the other day on a “hot” celebrity.¬† Many of my favorite country singers or movie actors are all in their thirties and forties and my dad made the comment, “Why do you find old guys so attractive?”¬† I thought about it and defended that they are not really “old” but being that I’m twenty-five, I can see his concern.¬† But my question is: What’s in an age?¬† Is age “just a number” as some argue, or does it exist to group generations together?

My idea came for a young woman (probably around my own age) who falls unexpectedly in love with a man in his early forties, roughly fifteen years her senior.¬† They have a lot in common in that she is mature for her age and he is attractive and almost youthful.¬† Their relationship began as a friendship (though I have not worked out intricate details yet), but an impulsive kiss causes both parties to second guess their actions.¬† Is what they did wrong?¬† If it doesn’t feel wrong, then are they only second guessing because of the taboos society has placed on relationships separated by an age gap?¬† If so, why should they care what the world thinks?¬† They cannot deny how they feel about one another so they should not feel pressured to end it.

Final thoughts- How do you feel about the age argument?¬† I consider myself a little old-fashioned so maybe I’m way off base here.¬† Perhaps age isn’t even an issue anymore.¬† Is it something with which my character could struggle?¬†

 

Five Minutes to the Dogs

I have five minutes before I have to leave to head to work.¬† Work, today, is my second job at a kennel where I play with, feed, medicate, and enjoy the presence of other people’s dogs for a few hours.¬† The job has it’s ups and downs but this blog is specifically about what to write about in five minutes or less with dogs on the brain.

One thought- We don’t have enough time.¬† We run and run from place to place and before we know it, it’s the end of the day and we’re getting ready for bed to do it all over again.¬† What happened to relaxation?¬† The experts say (whoever they may be) that stress has gone up a considerable amount in humans over the last decade.¬† Well no wonder!¬† With computers, phones, social media, iPods, iPads, and other electronic devices we’re always connected.¬† I gave up Facebook for Lent and I’m so glad!¬† My stress level has gone down so much that I’m considering not going back even after Easter.¬† Who needs to hear other people’s problems all day every day?¬† Sure you can ignore them or choose not to comment but you can only evade it for so long when it’s right there on your News Feed.

Second thought- How do dogs tell time?¬† They don’t.¬† Think about a day in the life of a dog.¬† The dogs at work get up, love with their owners before they hop in the car, get dropped off at daycare, play with their friends (both human and canine) for a a few hours, get picked up, fed dinner, and just enjoy life…without the constraints of time.¬† Now for those of us with full-time jobs (or in my case, two part-time jobs) we obviously cannot live life THAT carefree but we can try.¬† Strive to be like a dog!¬† I know that sounds weird but enjoy the little things in life.¬† Being with your family, eating, playing, relaxing, whatever it is that makes you happy, make time for it.¬† That’s why I have this blog.¬† Even if I only have time to write for five minutes, I make time for it or else I’d go mad.

So here’s my challenge for anyone who reads this: Do something you love today.¬† Even if it’s only for five minutes, just do something that makes you happy.¬† Perhaps you will find that today, life might be a little less stressful.

If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On

I just came home from a choral concert this evening at the United State Naval Academy Chapel for the USNA Women’s Glee Club.¬† My high school choir teacher who attends my church is their director and I was excited to go see her choir perform.¬† It was nostalgic since half the program consisted of songs I had performed in high school.¬† Although I typically write about, well, writing, I could not help but be inspired by tonight’s concert.¬† Music is such an ancient art form and it too requires a great deal of writing.¬† Unlike authors who use words, composers use notes on a scale to create masterpieces that convey a message just as powerful as written words but through sound.¬† The Naval Academy Chapel has wonderful acoustics and I also performed there my freshman year of high school so it was particularly delightful to hear Ave Maria ring throughout the building as the choir sang from the balconies.¬† Music, like literature, impacts everyone differently.¬† Having been in the shoes of every woman standing up at the front tonight, I knew what they were feeling.¬† Excitement, anticipation, and nerves are all playing a role but above all, there is nothing more pleasurable than simply singing.¬† For those of us who have performed, it’s a release and I found myself sitting in the audience mouthing along with the songs I knew and it took everything in me to stop myself from singing aloud.¬† I heard different people around me muttering “Wow,” or “Mmm” after some songs that stunned them.¬† My mom who was with me got goose bumps on one song and I almost cried on a particular favorite of mine.¬† These are all the same reactions I have had when reading stories.¬† I laugh and cry with the characters but most importantly, I indulge myself in their world.¬† That’s what music does as well and specifically choral music which, for some people, can lull them to sleep, but for others can be an entrance to a whole new world of peace and awe.¬† Although music is translated from paper to sound, it does the same thing a good story does and writes quite a lasting impression on our hearts.

Book Review: Labor Day

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Be warned there may be SPOILERS in this post.¬† I never know what people consider “spoilers” so I just cover myself by saying, if you want to know absolutely nothing until you’ve read the book, then don’t read this post.¬†

I should start off by saying this is not my typical genre of literature to read but I saw a trailer for the movie released a few months ago starring Kate Winslet (a personal favorite of mine) and I just had to read it.¬† I will eventually see the film but I always read the book before watching the adaptation of something.¬† I usually read fantasy novels such as Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.¬† I don’t particularly care for regular fiction unless it is written in an historical context but here I was, reading Labor Day and I found myself unable to put it down.¬† Joyce Maynard has a peculiar writing style in this book.¬† I have not read anything else by her so I cannot say if that is how she writes or if she did this specifically for this work but there were no quotation marks in the entire novel.¬† At times this almost drove me mad, having to reread a paragraph over to figure out if something was the thought of the thirteen-year old narrator or a continuing quote but I got used to it after a while. ¬†

Punctuation aside, I could not put the book down, not because the writing kept my interests up but because the plot did.¬† The general premise for the book is an escaped convict who comes to stay at the house of a thirteen-year old boy and his reclusive mother.¬† For the majority of the time you are waiting for Frank (the convict) to either be discovered and arrested or for him to run away with Adele and Henry but more than that, you wait about half the book just to find out what he was in prison for.¬† You know it’s bad, but you don’t know how bad.¬† You know he killed someone but from the moment you meet him, you like him and can’t believe he’d hurt anyone so you want to know the circumstances.¬† This is what keep the pages turning and this was why I could not put the book down.¬†

Even after your questions are answered regarding Frank’s crime, you are still trying to find out how the young Henry will react in the next chapter.¬† He is an adolescent teenager and as we all know they can be emotionally unstable.¬† He comes from a broken family and begins to convince himself that his mother and her new found love are going to move away and leave him with his father’s dysfunctional post-divorce family which is a credible fear.¬† It would only be a fear in his mind if it were not for the new acquaintance¬† he met in the library, a female acquaintance who convinces him that the world is against him.¬† Her negativity influences him greatly and their relationship brings about the sad turn of events that follow.¬†

Overall, Joyce Maynard brings about a relatively small cast of characters but they are powerful characters and, given my last post, I think we can understand where I stand on the subject of strong characters.¬† I recommend this book, not because it was the best book I’ve ever read and not because the movie was great because I cannot attest to that.¬† I recommend this book for the simple reason that it was good.¬† This book is proof that one can try something new and come to enjoy it.¬†

What’s in a Character?

Why are characters so important?  What must a character consist of in order to 1. Bring in the reader, 2. Develop sympathies within the reader to want to see the character succeed in their task, and 3. Teach the reader a valuable lesson?  These are important and unavoidable questions a writer must ask when creating unique and memorable characters.  When coming up with my most recent character, Marielle Stone, I was faced with these and other conflicting and complex inquiries.  Although I know the context (or general outline) of the plot in which this character will feature, I have chosen not to disclose the information yet.  Instead, I wanted to focus on Marielle.  Who is she?  Where did she come from, both physically and emotionally?  Why should my audience root for her?  How does her past affect the story?  What challenges particularly affected her and how does she overcome them?  What does her name say about her character?  This is a lot to take in for one individual but perhaps by answering these questions, I can better understand her from the point of view of my audience, which is the most important perspective.

Let’s start with her name, Marielle.¬† It is a French derivative of Marie which comes from the common Mary.¬† The name Mary is most popularly associated with the Virgin Mary of the Christian religion, the mother of Jesus and an example of purity and innocence.¬† Scholars have quarreled over its origin but many believe it has Egyptian roots¬† which mean “beloved” or “love”.¬† This alone can tell my audience that this will be a love story.¬† I’m not talking about a traditional Nora Roberts or Nicholas Sparks love story, or a supernatural Twilight-esque romance, and certainly not the Fifty Shades type of lusty romance.¬† Marielle will learn a whole new definition of what it means to love and this is why I have chosen this name.¬† Then there’s the matter of her rather simple last name, Stone.¬† Although she does not know it, Marielle is a solid as a rock which is important because the tragedy she will go through during the course of this story will be enough to break any weaker person.¬† She has to be strong not only for herself, but for others as well.

So, name aside, who is Marielle Stone?¬† She’s an ordinary girl with outlandish dreams to be a film writer.¬† No, not a screenwriter, a writer who documents films.¬† She wants to launch a new industry so to speak and market books about movies.¬† There have been countless films made about books and she thinks it’s time to try something new.¬† The book industry is dying with the birth of the digital age and she wants to revive it by embracing the technologies that might just do away with it completely.¬† She attended the University of Texas at Austin and works in the Admissions office as a receptionist when the story opens.¬† Although she’d graduated, she did not make it very far.¬† A degree is not enough to convince agents or publishers to take a risk on her.¬† She cannot get into graduate programs because they are so competitive so she is stuck in the overworked/underpayed class of America.¬† Her roommate and best friend Richard, on the other hand, is up and coming in the cut throat world of film.¬† He receives a call to fly out to L.A. to begin work on a movie set the day Marielle receives yet another rejection letter from a literary agency in Austin, her back up plan.¬† Just a few months after Richard moves out and just when Mari is about to give up, Richard’s employer comes across a manuscript written by her sent to Richard for review.¬† He is astounded by her writing style and loves what she wants to do for film.¬† He decides to hire her to write a piece about the film they’re working on so Mari ships herself off to L.A. and this is where the majority of the book takes place.¬†

Knowing about her brief history leading up to the main points of the book, we can understand a few things about Mari.¬† She is frustrated and tired of rejection.¬† She seems nice and since she is in a position that most of us have also experienced, it is not difficult to find ourselves sympathetic to her.¬† We want her to do well because, if in her shoes, we also would want to succeed.¬† Once Mari gets the invitation to L.A. the stage is set.¬† We now know we can trust Richard as a friend and confidante.¬† The two are reunited and we hope their friendship can go back to the way it was, blissful and enjoyable.¬† Some may also wonder at this point if Richard is who Mari will fall passionately in love with…¬† We also know we can appreciate Mari’s work as a writer if a high profile Hollywood director finds merit in it.¬† We know she has talent and now she has an opportunity to showcase her talent, to make money at it, and live her dream.

Mari’s happiness is short-lived and she soon becomes a victim in a heartbreaking case of betrayal.¬† She finds salvation, eventually, but it takes a long time to recover and heal.¬† But then she is struck with more devastation, and this time she is forced to do something even harder than recover.¬† Now she must forgive the very person who put her in this position.¬† Knowing how her character has developed throughout the story, as an author my job is now complete.¬† I have constructed a woman whose talent, demeanor, and resilience encourages the audience and inspires them.¬† They have laughed with her and perhaps they have even cried with her.¬† But through it all, I have grown as a writer.¬† I have learned something about myself in the process and I hope the reader has as well.¬† Reading is a very intimate experience.¬† Everyone receives the story but there are several interpretations of it.¬† What Mari means to me may not be what she means to someone else and that is the beauty and the art of writing a great character.

Entering the 21st Century

Today I have successfully entered the twenty-first century of writing.¬† Blogging.¬† It is something I never thought to do, something I vowed never to do.¬† What was wrong with writing on paper or using a typewriter?¬† Remember cursive?¬† That style of writing your teachers swore would be the future of writing and the only way to learn was to embrace it?¬† Now we type our thoughts and instantly publish them for the whole world to see.¬† Well, I am here.¬† It took a while but I am finally here and ready to share my thoughts.¬† I’m not looking to be an instant success but any and all criticism is welcome on this blog.¬† Tough love, attention to detail, and harsh criticism are especially solicited.¬† I’ve always considered myself a fair writer, even my teachers in grade school and college have praised my work.¬† But nothing compares to the honest truth from complete strangers who neither know you personally nor can see you face to face.¬† I have embraced the technologies of the twenty-first century if for no other reason than people are always more open when a computer screen separates them.¬† We shall see in time if this decision was a constructive one.

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