Monthly Archives: March 2012

Double-Header: The Meaning of Fantasy/Be Stressed

Do not try to find a connection between these two subjects, because there isn’t one. I’m posting both my Storyteller Reports and Notes of A Storyteller on the same day, because I am the emperor of this blog and my word is law and I didn’t have time to write the Storyteller Reports in time for Wednesday.

THE STORYTELLER REPORTS: THE MEANING OF FANTASY

I notice that whenever I type in “fiction” in Google news, British newspapers tend to have some really cool stuff. A couple of days ago, Damien Walter wrote for the Guardian about the scholarly debate about what exactly fantasy is. To my immense shock, there might be something more to the genre than watching bearded men wave around swords.

My only comment is simple. Why in the heck would you stop with just racism and gender issues? That is about the extent of the possibilities that the article brings up. Don’t mistake me; those would be great themes to explore, so long as the result isn’t preachy. I would be interested to read (or write) someday a novel that answers the question of “how much progress (has) been made in a genre that still routinely casts female characters as helpless princesses, and if highly sexualised “kick-ass” heroines are really a step forward.” In fact, I have a novella or two that touches on that issue.

But there’s so much more! The meaning of love, and moral confusion, and the quest for meaning- all of that good stuff that has haunted literature from the beginning. That’s where the best literature will always be, in fantasy or otherwise.

NOTES OF A STORYTELLER: EMBRACE STRESS!

Everybody tells you that they could do a lot of awesome things if they only had an extra hour in every day. This writer calls foul.

This writer has had several years of trial and error to convince him that the best life is spent frenetically busy. Right now, he is a sophomore in college. He is taking classes, organizing a game show for his residence hall, taking time to relax with his friends, attending meetings with the Film Club and English Club, editing a short story, and writing blog posts like these.

This stuff keeps him on his toes, but he noticed something. Every time he tried to slow down and get some leisure time to work on all of these tasks, he got lazy. Every time he felt like he had room to breathe, he stopped working.

If you’re a writer, pressure yourself. Always have something to be working on. If you let off that pressure, you won’t be pushed into growing. Comfort never inspired any good novels, did it?

Didn’t think so. Go write something that you don’t have time to write. Have a wonderful week; I wish you luck.

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The Storyteller Reports…

… will be out tomorrow with Notes Of A Storyteller for a doubleheader. See you then.

Monday Meditations: Desperado

Someday, I want to write a character for whom this song would be perfect. I’m guessing he’d be in a western, or a period drama- maybe a family saga. There’s something about the way that piano is played that’s perfect for a restless soul.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Desperado” by The Eagles

Do you know what I see when I hear this song? I see a lonely man wandering in front of a sunset, gaunt and haggard from many years of rage, blood and fruitless desire.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“The only thing I knew was the time had come for me to leave my daddy’s house. And right there the world suddenly got big. And it was a long time before I could cut it down to where I could handle it.”

August Wilson

Notes Of A Storyteller: I’m Scared of Solitude

I was overflowing with enthusiasm for writing until I realized that I might have to spend a lot of time by myself.

Solitude is a scary thing, when you think about it. We’re social animals. When we find people that we mesh with, we want to be with them all the time. It’s such a relief to find people who can laugh at your jokes. That feeling of solidarity and support is essential to existence. Believe me; I know. I have a set of amazing friends at college that I am truly unworthy to have.

I’m so worried about losing them, that I haven’t written all that much since getting back from spring break. Progress on myshort story has ground to a crawl. Coursework takes up so much time, that I want to take the time that I have left and give it to my friends.

I bet you’ve had that feeling before, if you write fiction. Our craft takes time. Time spent scribbling with a pen at night, with a lamp on, trying not to think about everybody having a good time elsewhere. Time spent banging away at a keyboard in a library- exactly what I’m doing right now. To sharpen our words and perfect our vision, we can’t have any distractions.

But some of us have such busy lives already. Taking even more time to write could seriously cut us off from those people we love so much, if we’re not careful. The less time we spend with people, the more they fade away.

That’s why I’m scared of solitude. I’m scared of the way it alienates me from other people. Sometimes, when I meet some friends after a long day at the books, I feel alien. A wall has fallen between myself and the rest of the world. In the confines of the wall, I can romp free and write what I want and never learn to communicate with another person. I can lose myself inside these walls.

The Storyteller Reports: 7 Book Adaptations To Do Instead of “The Hunger Games”

Fanboys and fangirls, prepare your rotten tomatoes. I have not read The Hunger Games trilogy, nor do I mean to do so at any point. In fact, I know a lot of books that I would vastly prefer to see adapted to the screen. I have listed seven of them for brevity.

1. Redwall by Brian Jacques

Yes. It can be done. Talking mice vs. rats with swords- with a code of chivalry to boot! It is ludicrous, rousing and deeply satisfying adventure. Motion-capture technology could get a new challenge with a cast of mice, badgers, moles, shrews, and other woodland creatures. God rest the soul of Brian Jacques, and may he find someone who can bringRedwall to life without the result being cheesy or pretentious.
This novel is practically begging to be put on screen. It would be a pain for whoever had to write the screenplay, but it can happen. Not only is it an enthralling murder mystery, but also it paints some terrifying portraits of humanity. Poor Alyosha meets some very lost human beings. Watching them self-destruct on screen would be a cinematic tour de force. Just saying.
Everyone likes a good adventure (Morte has lots of questing). Everyone likes idealistic heroes (Perceval’s journey to knighthood). Everyone LOVES swordfighting (which there is in abundance). Plus, I’ve been told that this is the first written story about the Holy Grail in human history.
Take some of King Arthur’s knights, put them in “Faerie Londe”, and you’ve only just begun to understand the awesome that is The Faeire Queene. In addition to having six books, each of which will easily take up a full-length book (series alert!), there is a wide cast of memorable knights and villains. Plus, Spenser finds a way to write about virtues without making it sound preachy. If he can do it, so can Hollywood.
Do not speak to me about the 2006 movie. This is another escapist story that could immense fun if done right. Please avoid the “beat-you-over-the-head” moralizing of The Dawn Treader movie.
Flannery O’ Connor’s dialogue is so visceral that you can hear her books speaking into your ear with a Southern drawl. Francis Marion Tarwater is the most disturbing little boy I have ever met in the world of fiction. His story will turn heads. Oh, and his uncle must be played by Jeff Bridges.
The odds are not in your favor that you have ever heard of this book (see what I did there?). I hadn’t heard of it either before I scooped it out of a library shelf my junior year of high school. To make a long story short, it’s about a monk who is searching for the disembodied voice that makes his monastery thrive. His quest takes him to a city called Ararat, a cosmopolitan full of magic, gods… and even wackier stuff. This would take not only brilliant CG effects to pull off, but also a cunning screenwriter. I extend to Tinseltown this challenge.
 Don’t like any of these? Too bad. I really think that any of these would be more interesting than another dystopian story. If I’m wrong, I’d like to hear why.

Monday Meditations: The Heart Is Hard To Translate

Life is impossible to translate fully. Why do you think we have literature in the first place? We’ve spent thousands of years trying to talk about life, but we still have no consensus about what it means in its entirety. We cannot even decipher our own hearts. It is that great yearning for understanding that this week’s song addresses.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“All This And Heaven Too” by Florence and the Machine

This band (and it is a band, not a solo act, the way I see it) doesn’t play subtle with their music, and this is no exception. It is big, loud, powerful and exhilarating.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“And the heart is hard to translate
It has a language of its own
It talks and turns and courts sighs and present proclamations
In the grand days of great men and the smallest of gestures
And short shallow gasps

But with all my education I can’t seem to command it
And the words are all skipping and coming back all damaged
And I will put them back in poetry if I only knew how
I can’t seem to understand it

And I would give all this and heaven too
I would give it all if only for a moment
That I could just understand the meaning of the word you see
‘Cause I’ve been scrawling it forever but it never makes sense to me at all”

Florence and the Machine
BY THE WAY…
A while back, I reviewed James Hutchings’ The New Death: an eclectic short story/poetry collection. Turns out it’s free on Amazon for a limited time. Go get it! If you need a reason why, here’s my review and Hutching’s site.

Notes Of A Storyteller: A Journalist Is Like A Boy Scout

What do I mean by this, exactly? Why, a journalist is always prepared!

This was a lesson that I had not considered in several months. The last time that I had a job remotely in the field of news, I was writing articles for the official newspaper of an Air Force Base in Montana, as a summer intern. Before that, I interviewed the editor of a book on Tolkien scholarship, and before that I copy edited at my high school newspaper.

I learned to improvise. I learned how to react to a sudden change of events. You can be the most talented writer or talker on earth, but if you can’t think of what to say if a situation suddenly changes, your talent is worth very little.

Let me show you what I mean. Remember those interviews I posted yesterday? I didn’t have time to prepare for those. I was wandering a book festival, and saw some booths with authors shaking hands with people.

“I say,” said I. “What if I featured those guys on my blog, took their picture, and wrote about them on my blog?”

“Wait a minute,” said my sensible self. “Think this through for a minute. You don’t have any questions prepared. What if you make a fool of yourself?”

“Maybe you’re right… I should have thought of this beforehand…”

“And you didn’t. Just don’t try it!”

“I could make some sweet contacts, though…”

“If they say yes! They might be too busy for an interview while they’re shaking all those hands, Sean! Don’t waste their time! If you stutter, they won’t be happy! A contact who’s pissed off at you isn’t much good, is it?”

“Fragnabbit! I can’t let this opportunity pass! I do know what questions to ask them. If I stutter, I’ll look confident as if I didn’t, and keep asking questions. I mean, they’re authors. All I gotta do is get them talking about their writing journey, and work my way from there to find out what makes them tick!”

“But- wait- how are you going to find what makes them tick? What exact questions-”

“Shaddup and get out of my way.”

“Wait. You don’t even have a business card for your blog!”

No. I didn’t. If you must know, I wrote down the URL of the blog on a piece of paper, and added my signature- adds a more personal touch if you ask me. I’ll probably use business cards next time, since that is the formal way people share that kind of information in person. And writing down that stuff with a pencil looks really, really tacky. Don’t do it.

But the point is that I took my chances with what I had, and wound up having a blast. Tom Kinkrade, Jay Falconer and Drake Maxwell welcomed me with a smile. I chatted for 5-10 minutes with each of them at their tents, learning about the stories they have written with both their pen and with their own lives. I enjoyed writing my mini-features about them.

All that is the journalism instinct at work. When doors open, you have to walk through them. When a curveball comes your way, you have to try your best to hit it. You’d be surprised what instinct can do. Do what you do with confidence. In uncertainty, it is better to make a mistake with a smug confident look on your face as if you know what you are doing. Tentatively making a mistake with a self-conscious frown will kill your enterprise, whatever it may be.

With that said, do prepare everything that you can. Think through every possibility, and always bring more tools than you think you will need. But if something happens that forces a change in your gameplan, improvise! Trust your instinct. In writing and all other endeavors this will serve you well.