Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yes, Indeed

Dear Friends,

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Just kidding! I don't have a messiah complex.

But I do have a new website.

Check it out.


(I'll be checking comments here for a while, though, so let me know if you have viewing/commenting issues)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Get Smart, the movie

Don't leave! Also, don't punch me in the nose! Movies are fine, really!

I recently saw Get Smart, and while I don't have the patience to write a real review, I will say that it's awesome (also, frikkin sweet). However, the point of this blog isn't so much to talk about how great it was, but to analyze one of the things that worked, which can be applied to fiction writing in general.

I'm referring to the character of Maxwell Smart. He underscores the failure of all other writers to produce a believable highly-trained-yet-inept main character. Think of any movie starring a cop/spy/CEO/coach who is incapable of doing his job, but due to a series of coincidences and a whole lotta heart, he is able to save the day and get the girl. These movies are typically comedies, and we typically forgive the writers for this because we don't know any better.

The key to Max's success as a character is that he is not inept. Far from it! He's meticulous, fluent in Russian, a good shot, a quick thinker, and generally has good people skills. Additionally, he is accident prone, a little too detail-oriented at times, and sometimes says or does the wrong thing, but for reasons that make sense on some level.

In other words, he's a pretty well-rounded character whose more hilarious aspects are played up for the sake of comedy. The laughter comes from thinking, "This guy is highly trained! How can he do that?", rather than the typical, "Wow, that guy is not even qualified for the insane levels of responsibility he has! He would never even be in that position in the real world!"

See the difference? In Max's case, the audience believes his character earned his position, and the tension comes from seeing character flaws in action. In other comedies in this vein, the source of tension is the audience's disbelief that "that idiot" ever got to "where he's at." Overall, I think Maxwell Smart is more successful.

But hey, that's just me...

Monday, June 23, 2008

A mess of descriptions

The desk itself was wobbly, which enhanced the aura of disarray. It wasn't just the half-empty box of allergy meds or the assorted papers that had piled up over the course of weeks. The pens were sticking out at different angles, and some were in upside-down. He had two pairs of glasses -- the one that gave him headaches, and the one that took them away -- one of which was balanced precariously on the edge of the desk.


Speaking of headaches, I've got a killer one.

Friday, June 20, 2008

9 minutes

I need to say something, and I have to say it fast. There isn't much time! I've just discovered that I drive through some kind of wormhole or cross-dimensional transit whatsit during my commute to work, and the recent rainstorms and power outages have caused it shift slightly -- it only spans the southbound half of the road! This is a problem! What if I'm already home when I get home? Where the hell am I supposed to park? But I can't very well drive north in the southbound lane during rush hour, because that could very well be fatal, and if I die in this universe, who is going to tell my wife?

Four minutes! This communique will be disrupted and possibly disappear from existence so you need to act now! For only twelve payments of fourteen ninety five you can get me the hell out of here! I'm stuck in a world where

which is why I think a few minutes a day is better, in the long run, than several hours once a week. Well, looks like lunch is over. Take care!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

no visuals

My great grandparents lived in a mobile home park off some busy highway or another. There was a small playground across from their house -- I remember there was a slide and some swings, and maybe one of those things that you spin around on until the earth rotates in reverse. A short walk in the opposite direction led to a pool. If I sit still and close my eyes, I can feel the water caress my face, taste the chlorine on my hands as I give in to the nailbiting urge, already deeply rooted in my six year old psyche. When I climb out, the cement is both rough and slippery beneath my feet, and if I move too quickly, someone cautions me not to run. It's hard -- I really want to jump back in.

I can't remember the layout of the pool.

Traffic roared like a home game arena. It wasn't noticeable from the pool, but we could see the cars from the playground. The smell of baking blacktop was ever-present in the summer, like the noise of the traffic. It was comforting. It was a part of who my great grandparents were.

At some point they moved out of the park and into a house with my aunt. I was getting older, starting to see them less. My aunt got married and moved away; my great grandparents moved into an assisted living facility. I occasionally joined my mom when she went to see them, but even at sixteen it's hard to understand the impermanence of life. They died while I was studying music in Memphis. It was very difficult to hurt, which left me feeling guilty. The people I got most excited to see as a child were gone, and I couldn't even cry at the news.

I work in an office on some busy highway or another. As I step outside to walk to my car, the smell of baking blacktop and the roar of traffic hit me. I stop and close my eyes; fragments of memories swirl around me, whispering, laughing. A lump forms in my throat and I run to my car and nearly drop my keys as I'm getting in. I scroll through the list of contacts I never call until I reach my wife's name. She picks up; my breathing evens out. I let her know I'm on my way.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I made a couple tweaks around this here blog. The most obvious one is the totally flippin sweet banner, courtesy of my frikkin awesome wife. Seriously. She rocks.

The other one is that I changed the bullet image. Flowers? No thanks. It's now a circle, also courtesy of my wife because I am that lazy.
  • check
  • it
  • out
I'm pretty pleased. I always liked the colors of this theme, but it came with too many frills and laces for my liking. Now I like it much more.

I also put in some writing time last night. Not too much, but enough to get the proverbial ball rolling. That's always exciting. Normally when I'm working on a story, I just start writing and see what happens, then go back and rewrite it several times. That process kind of blows with longer works because starting from scratch leads to trashing everything and making something completely different. For this one, I decided to try starting with a plot outline to see if a clear sense of direction helps keep me focused. I think part of the reason my longer stuff tends to fall to pieces is because I reach a point where I don't know what to do, and therefore do nothing. Not the best approach. Maybe this approach will help. Maybe not. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Variations on "The Blank Page"

Anyone who has ever attempted to maintain a regular writing schedule has written and expounded on the following sentence:
I'm sitting at my desk, staring at the blank computer screen, wishing I could think of something to write.
It's a good standby because it inevitably leads to something, even if that something is just "more writing." I've seen introspective pieces about writer's block, fantastic alien abduction stories, and bizarre stream-of-consciousness....experiments. Complaining about being unable to write can lead to wonderful places.

Unfortunately, complaining about not having time to write just leads to procrastination. Maybe. I guess my complaining has all been verbal, rather than written, which is undoubtedly the problem. Here are some interesting facts about my activities in the last month or so:
  • Close to 100 hours of Pokemon
  • Probably 20 hours of Lego Star Wars
  • Watching assorted movies and TV shows on an almost nightly basis
  • Complaining about how I never write, never exercise, and never read (for recreation or for learning)
Yeah, I really don't have time to write. I just have time to screw around and let my dreams die. It requires a whole lot less effort, anyway.

My main problem, really, is that I don't make the effort at home. Instead, I try to write while I'm at work (like I am now, actually). I start a new post and stare at the empty text field. Then someone says something funny, and I get distracted. Then I eat food. Then I work and try to cram thoughts in while queries are running. It's not the right environment. So I sit here, not knowing what to write, with an empty text field in front of me, cursor blinking like a silent metronome of judgment.... and so on. And look where it has led! There are words.