Ansley Asher

writing thoughts

Archive for March, 2008

Leaving Something Out?

I don’t write articles. But there is something about articles–I mean professional ones, not unpaid bloggers–that I don’t understand. Countless times I have read articles that talk about an event or a quote and never mention the quote or when or where the event was. I still can’t find out when Earth Hour is supposed to be, or if it already passed. Because no one will say. I even read a multi-page article about what will happen for Earth Hour but no mention of what hour when it will be. I wish I could say it was limited to this one time, but it happens daily, and I do searches on Google to find out answers that I really wish would have been in the article.

With political blogs, there’s a lot of posts regarding “what so-and-so said” while never posting a quote. This trend never seems to die. I wish it would. Oftentimes I never find the quote, and don’t even know if it’s true.

What You Say Reflects Who You Are

Oh, Onion writers, you are so full of funny!

Dear reader, enjoy these two old, uh, “news” stories first:

It’s Not Nice To Be Smarter Than Other People

Nation Afraid To Admit 9-Year-Old Disabled Poet Really Bad

Do you change what you say to others because of:

  • fear?
  • anger?
  • peer pressure?
  • pressure from your boss?
  • their inability to understand?
  • the fact that you want to play a joke on them?
  • the fact that you believe the rumors about them?
  • the fact that they helped you once?
  • your best friend’s opinion of them?
  • desire for friendship?
  • desire for love?

Do your characters? Shouldn’t they?

Match It For Pratchett

Jennifer Jackson, an agent at Donald Maass Literary Agency, posted about this in her blog. That’s how I found out about it. The Match It For Pratchett website explains what it’s about:

“Terry Pratchett, author of the bestselling Discworld novels, has been diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer’s. He has donated half a million pounds (approx $1 million) to Alzheimer’s research and appeared in the media highlighting the low levels of research funding Alzheimer’s receives. Millions of loyal readers from around the world have responded and are helping to match Terry’s donation.”

Ms. Jackson is offering a special reward in order to help Mr. Pratchett reach his goal: she will review the first 50 pages of the highest donating writer’s manuscript if he or she sends verification to her by midnight (EST) on Saturday, March 22. Even without this very kind incentive, it’s a very worthwhile cause.

Please do what you can to help.

Arthur C. Clarke Dies

Writer Arthur C. Clarke Dies at 90 – washingtonpost.com

“Sometimes I am asked how I would like to be remembered,” Clarke said recently. “I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer and space promoter. Of all these, I would like to be remembered as a writer.”

Writing Exercise 2

I love Jonathan Coulton (sorry, my dear SO). You can probably already tell if you checked out my Lastfm widget on the sidebar of this blog’s main page. His songs are hilarious and oh, so singable. My favorites are “Creepy Doll,” “Ikea,” “Mandelbrot Set,” “First of May” (NSFW), “Chiron Beta Prime,” “Bacteria,” & that Portal song, “Still Alive.” (I have a lot of favorites, okay?) What’s interesting to me is that in “Skullcrusher Mountain” and “Still Alive,” both singer-main characters are talking to people who are only ever referred to as “you”:

You like monkeys, you like ponies
Maybe you don’t like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn’t it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

In “Still Alive,” it’s thus:

Look at me still talking when there’s science to do.
When I look out there, it makes me glad I’m not you.
I’ve experiments to run, there is research to be done
on the people who are still alive.

But it’s quite clear in both songs who each “you” is (a woman “rescued” by a mad scientist, and the protagonist of Portal, respectively). This technique lends itself to comedy by making the lyrics appear to be spontaneous and irreverent thoughts.

Now, it’s your turn. Write a piece–a poem, a song, a paragraph, whatever you choose–from the POV of an unusual speaker who is talking to a “you.” Make it clear who the “you” is indirectly, through the speaker’s tone, word choice, and anything else that makes sense (and fun!).

The Slow Death from Hypercritism

Last night, I watched Superman 2 with my honey. Having seen the movie many times before, we didn’t watch so much as laugh at all the inconsistencies. And let me tell you, a movie about dudes flying around in their underwear is full of them.

But you know, I still enjoyed Superman 2 much more than the latest one. It was charming and entertaining. Christopher Reeve was great as the hero and his alter ego. He could act! And so could Margot Kidder, though she was no raving beauty. They breathed realism into the whole crazy show; they were believable. They made the world they were in seem to function according to its own quirky rules.

The point is, yeah it was inconsistent. But it kept being funny. It made fun of itself. The actors got the joke and went along with it. The story did its job: People were entertained. Being overly nitpicky of events would have killed the story. It wasn’t The Bourne Ultimatum. It wasn’t meant to be. I could replace the title Superman 2 in this post with many popular stories: James Bond, Harry Potter, The Hobbit.

Stay on target with the point of your story. Don’t kill too much of it before you are sure it needs to go, especially if it’s funny and if you believe it works.

Don’t Just Imagine It All: Try It Yourself

“Write what you know,” is a phrase so worn out that it has all but lost its meaning. If I only wrote what I knew, my work would consist of lots of tea and lots of laying around playing video games and perhaps the passing of gas. I often have to make stuff up simply because there are a lot of situations I can create that don’t or can’t exist yet, like living on another planet, riding on a giant eagle, etc. But even someone like me can still try to “write what [I] know,” even when the story calls for giant eagles.

Visiting a shelter that cares for injured wild birds might be a good idea, for example, so I could see the birds in action eating, sleeping, and playing. Or I might want to try hang gliding, to see what its like first hand to fly free. In all honesty, you’d never get me up in a hang glider (I chose being a writer over being a master hang glider as a career for a reason, note the aforementioned tea and laying around), but it’s still an option. The point is to go out and try to experience something similar to what you want to write about in order to add some life to your work; in order to be able to bring something more to the notepad than, “He got on the giant eagle. It was big. And eagly. And the wind was in his hair. Oh, the wind! Hey, did I mention the wind? Oh yeah, I did. Again.”