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Holy shit guys I found it

2 Mar

A very long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) I was looking for a video by a Pixar writer that my high school show choir coach/screenwriting had showed once at a workshop.

I wanted to show it to the club and I searched and searched and couldn’t find it.

I have no idea why, because ten minutes ago I found it with an embarrassingly obvious two-word Google search.

It’s about the beginning of a story, but it also (obviously) has a lot to do with the makeup of a main character.

Behold:

1 Nov

Happy NaNo/MoWriMo everybody!

 

You Need This Book

7 Oct

I’m only half way through, but I’m making the call. You need this book:

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As I try to get my novel on track, I’ve been exploring quite few how-to-write books to help me along. Most of my favorites are already in the Bookshelf under Recommending Reading, and everything else has been just so-so. Not incorrect necessarily, but not especially revelatory.

This one is different.

One thing I’ve noticed about how-to-write books is that I click better with authors who share my writing process. I’m a proud Plotter. I make outlines, I have too many index cards, I want to know my whole plot before I write a word. You might be a Pantser. You might start writing immediately and let your idea and story structure work itself out as you go.

Lisa Cron doesn’t believe in either. Well, actually,  in the first chapter she’ll tell you that whichever you are, you’ve been doing it wrong. A bit hard to take at first, especially if you’ve been working on a project for any length of time, but a grain of salt on that proves well worth it.

This book isn’t about inspiration, and it isn’t about plot structure, it’s about something every story has and needs: an emotional core. Every writing book I’ve ever seen has mentioned character motivation, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen it explained in depth, a whole book’s worth of depth: why you need it and why it works, right down to the neuroscience behind it. (Don’t worry, the science is broken down in small bits that this English major had no trouble chewing on).

Part of the hook of this book is that you follow a novel through its development process, with the author moving through the chapters as you do. Most how-to books break down finished commercial works that we all recognize, which is helpful but can be a little daunting when your own project is a jumbled work-in-progress mess. Of course every published pieced started that way, but that can be hard to imagine once you’ve met them in their finished, polished form. In this book, you get to watch as someone embarks on the development process from the ground up, just like you’re doing.

The one thing I can’t say about this is book is I don’t know how this would play to someone who’s just beginning to develop an idea. While that’s ostensibly how Cron’s process is presented, I would likely feel overwhelmed with the depth of character exploration she’s asking for without at least some time-derived understanding of my protagonist.

So basically, someone please read this book, because I want to know what you think of it, if it really is as universally ground-breaking as it’s coming off to me, and also, of course, because I think it’ll help you with a topic we’ve never covered up until now in CWC: character motivation and vicarious reader experience as the make-or-break emotional “third rail.”

However, like I said up top, I’m only half-way through reading it. I was trying to wait until I finished, but I just had to gush.

(Check back here in a few day to find out if it stayed amazing or if the second half flamed out and I incinerated it in my emotional fireplace, much like I am continually doing to Age of Ultron, but that sucker won’t burn, if just keeps melting into a reeking, gooey mess.  (Newbies don’t ask).)

P.S. This is a, not really a sequel because it stands on its own, but a follow-up to Cron’s first book, Wired for Story, which, I assume, is more of her neuroscience-based argument for the universality and biological necessity of storytelling. Anyone read it?

Welcome to the Blog!

12 Sep

Hello and welcome, Nerdy-Wordies new and old!

You’ve found your way to the blog of the BU Creative Writing Club!

Here you’ll find prompts, info on events, resources, and more!

This is also a great place to post finished pieces, snippets, works in progress, questions, updates or any other part of your projects that you’d like to share. If you’re new, ask your friendly neighborhood e-board for an invite so you can post too!

And don’t be afraid to comment either! Knowing someone read their post will make the poster’s day!

Check out the Bookshelf in the far right menu tab for movies, TV shows, books, comics, games, and more recommended by your fellow CWC’ers.

Wishing you the best CWC year yet,

Your Nerdy Wordy Overlord, (Retired)

 

Write-it Wednesday #11 — Theme Pitch

24 Aug

First of all let’s get this out of the way:

NerdyWordyOverlord:

YouHaveFailedThisBlog

Two weeks without prompts! And in the last weeks of summer no less! My bad.

But! rather than dwell of the past let’s jump right into it with what I think is a very useful prompt. I use this idea with my projects and with movies etc that I see.

So, what is a Theme Pitch?

Most of you are probably to young and innocent to remember the first outside guest workshop the club held. My high school show-choir-director-by-day/screenwriter-by-night came up to give part of his workshop on screenwriting. It was great fun. He breaks down Rise of the Planet of the Apes beat by beat and I’ve actually seen that twice, but never seen the rest of the movie. Eh, she shrugs and takes a sip of tea.

This instructor, Kevin Lasit, has a particular way of pitching his and others’ projects. He omits plot and character entirely and jumps right into theme.

For example, instead of saying “Wicked: the Musical is the untold story of the witches of Oz, following the Wicked Witch of the West as she falls from grace, making unlikely enemies and even unlikelier friends along the way.”

a Theme Pitch would be something like: “Wicked is about friendship. It’s about relationships with the people who change the path we’re on, whether they come into out lives for an hour, or come to stay.”

Sappy, I know, but on the thematic level, that is what Wicked is about.

And, let’s just play this out for a second, because theme is something I’ve always struggled with, and maybe some of you do to. It all started back in grade school. Do you guys remember when you were first being taught to analyze literature? Suddenly it wasn’t okay to like a book because it had good characters and and interesting plot and led you on a vicarious experience through a different world. It had to be about something. And not just anything. It had to be about Family™, or Friendship™, or (everyone favorite) Loss of Innocence™. That really pissed me off. Suddenly these stupid Themes™ were supposed to be more important than everything else in the book, than the words, the characters, the story. All of that was there to present a theme, nothing more. At least that’s what I felt like my teachers were telling me. Maybe they were oversimplifying to give us youngins a way to understand the concept. Maybe they had a view of literature different from mine (and that’s fine by the way). But honestly, if I hadn’t had Harry Potter (and then others similar genre series) to hang on, I might have come out of grade school hating reading. Because what a bunch of bullshit. I couldn’t understand why, if theme was all they cared about, these super fancy writers didn’t just write a quote: “Loss of Innocence is tragic — Steinbeck” “War is bad — Hemingway” etc. It seriously miffed me that, as I was understanding what I was being told, so many writers created rich worlds and characters only to make a point, only to state a theme. The experience of the world itself didn’t matter, it was only an absurdly ornate soapbox and megaphone.

Obviously I understand that’s not what’s happening, but it took me a long time to realize that theme and story have a much more delicate and nuanced relationship than I had been led to believe. What finally flipped the switch for me was understanding that theme can exist without intent. A work can have strong and important themes even if it wasn’t created specifically to voice them. Themes often evolve along with a work itself and grow with it, not because all authors are assholes using literature to beat you over the head with their points (some are, for sure, but not all), but because stories mean things to people. They remind us of experiences we’ve had and people we’ve known. They give us a place to store and explore our feelings on topics very personal to us, and that we’d never considered before. Themes help us talk to each other. One of my best friends recently asked me to duet “For Good” with her at her upcoming wedding, not because Gregory McGuire or Stephen Schwartz dictated that a major theme of Wicked would be friendship, and therefore we must agree, but because the show focuses its attention on something very real and important to the two of us. It gives works and notes to something we have experienced, providing us a shorthand to express how glad we are that we met each other, and how much we’ve changed because of that. That’s what a theme is. That’s what a theme does. I didn’t understand that for a very long time.

You probably think I’m an idiot for not grasping this sooner. All I can say is, conceptually sure it made sense, but a false dichotomy between school themes and analysis and the vicarious enjoyment of reading for fun prevented me from understanding that themes are big part of the enjoyment and fun I got out of reading, and are why certain stories meant and mean so much to me.

*rant over*

Sorry. I really don’t want to go do what I’m supposed to be doing today.

So — your prompt is to write a couple of theme pitches. They’re short, so try one or two for your own projects, and a few for movies, shows, plays, etc that you like.

Since themes evolve with a story, finished works will likely have clearer themes than a work-in-progress. Projects you’re neck deep in will be harder to read than ones you experience as a casual fan. Challenge yourself to think about all the possible themes your project has, or has had (changes along the way may have drawn you toward or away from certain themes). This might also be a good time to look for and flag any Unfortunate Implications   (elements that imply themes you don’t particularly want in your work, see TVTropes) for later consideration. You might notice some of your personal interests coming through. Which themes would you most want your work to represent?

 

 

C’mon Guys

3 Aug

According to the Bookshelf, I am the only person in this club who has ever watched and enjoyed a television show.

With all the NetfuluAmaroll binge-watching we all know is going down this summer, not one of you found a TV show you liked enough to recommend?

Don’t hoard your binges, share them!

Write-it Wednesday #10 — Have Your Characters and Eat Them Too

3 Aug

Wow that sounds a lot creepier than it did in my head.

Today a fun, light character prompt. There’s not much of a long rambling preface to go along with this one. My mom and I just finished re-watching Psych (fantastic show, see the Watchlist). We were looking over the specials at one of our favorite breakfast places, and saw a bacon and egg sandwich made with two grilled cheeses instead of bread. Blarg. But my mom said, “Shawn and Gus would get that,” and now we’re here.

So, your assignment for today it to pick a favorite restaurant of yours–classy, quaint, cheap, expensive, national chain or mom&pop place, it’s up to you. Now select a cast of characters, yours or not. Look up the menu for your chosen restaurant, and decide what each character would order.

Of course, not all casts are going to make perfect sense in this exercise. The Star Wars cast at Wendy’s? But don’t shy away from that! This is about character, not plausibility. So suspend your disbelief and work on character. How well do you know your chosen cast? Why are they ordering what you’ve chosen for them? How well can you define their tastes and preferences? Unless strongly liking or disliking a certain food is an important character trait, you might not know exactly what foods they like, so try to bring in other known characteristics. Does you rich character have classy tastes, or a secret love of cheeseburgers? Does your muscle constantly crave meat or are they a vegetarian? And so on.

You could even use this as a game the next time you’re bored in a restaurant.

For extra special bonus points, write this up as a scene, challenging yourself to exhibit as much characterization as possible through food choices and mannerisms, as well as dialogue.