Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Making Places Real: a short example

As promised, examples will start happening with these random explosions of ranting on my part about what is good, bad, ugly and maybe even nauseating in writing.

The car crammed in between driveways, sits a block short of where we will. Food drives almost all of the quests into new progressions of stranger and stranger places around Portland. Food is what brings us here.

When we hit Alberta, we're confronted with a multi-colored decommissioned school bus. Barney the Dinosaur purple, and quartz blue. It's full of tables now; the bench seats are gone. This is the bus to finding religion through your stomach. This is the bus to fat camp that plays a never-ending succession of Ozzy. This is the bus you get on to find Cheesus.

Honey bees frantic for their little piece of godliness, buzz around the trash cans, and the tables. The greasy nectar is a reverse trail of bees from the little window of a small pull behind camper. In the window, a man. He's got your ticket to full stomach Nirvana. Two tickets to paradise won't get you where he will.

He asks what my order is.

Cheesus, Dude. I can't help myself.

When the ticket salesman calls my name, when he calls for William he looks out and then decides he can bring it to me since no one's there. My lunch is a home fried hamburger patty. A big one. Servered with everything you'd cram on it at home. What makes this burger special is the bun. There is no bun. In the place where you would put one at home, are two grilled cheese sandwiches.

I have found Cheesus.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Making Places Real

OK, so more thought has come to this project in the interim of last post. I do not want to be the guy who remakes Julie and Julia, but with writing. So, I won't do that. As I work through the book, I will post what I believe is helpful. When that is not happening, I will throw out some stuff which I feel people who are wanting to write should know.

Making your scenes or locations real, this, above all is something which people seem to overlook. People in 200 and higher level college classes still seem to have issues with this, and it baffles me.

For instance, let's say I live in Portland, Oregon, and I want to write a scene on Alberta street, I could just say we're on Alberta. This works for me, since my eyes have seen it, and people in Portland will get a picture, because they have too. This, however, is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Boring, and fucking wrong.

You could describe the whole goddamn street, right down to the ants walking across the uneven sidewalk. You could, but I submit this is also wrong. It's dry and hard to read, anyway.

Your best bet is to pick a few locations that make Alberta street different than any other place. Any good place has these characteristics and this place is not any different.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Thoughts on Reluctant Narration Prompt

Now, let's talk about what we learned doing this. For most people this is hard to do, so if it pissed you off don't worry. In some styles of writing the amount of times the writer says “I” directly correlates to their competence. If this isn't for you then it isn't for you. I do this, right now, exclusively, and that is part of why this project is happening.

The main problem with this I see is that your character is instantly relegated to the role of follower. He is always going to be the second banana to a more interesting character (like Tyler Durden from “Fight Club”) not to say that this result is not without merit, but it gets worse. Instead of toadying to charismatic like Durden, your narrator's role in the story could potentially become the worthless and incompetent camera man from any horrible first person movie you can think of. The worst I can think of is “Cloverfield”. Don't write that. No one wants to read that shit.

Of course, if you do this well, your character can cruise through every scene and say “me, me, me, you fucker!” and be in every scene like Daniel Day Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” and do it without a blazing neon sign pointing at him, and establishing his authority at the beginning of ever paragraph or sentence.

A great book that makes this point is Dermaphoria by Craig Clevenger.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Points of view: the reluctant/observer

Who tells your story is almost as important as the idea you're writing, hopefully without over-thinking. Over thought is something we will get to when the writing starts, I promise. For now, we're only talking about who is telling the story, and how the hell they're going to tell it to your reader.

There are several ways you can do this, in both first and third person, obviously. This writer prefers first person, and the approach of the first activity in my chosen writing text for this here project. Kiteley calls this the “reluctant” narrator, I call this style the observer. This narrator is more likely to follow someone who is more interesting than himself, presumably. Although, as your story progresses the way your cameraman sees things may become just as interesting or moreso than the events which he is taking in. These observer types will establish authority when it is needed and only then. The pronouns of the first person will appear as scantly as possible with these narrators. Some authors who prefer this are:

-Chuck Palahniuk
fight club
invisible monsters

-Craig Clevenger
contortionist's handbook

There are, obviously many more, and Chuck Palahniuk has written a dozen novels.

Drowning out the pronouns in your writing sounds easy, but it takes a lot of practice. Kiteley's first writing activity is vague and rightly so, since it throws you into this style head first. What you and I will do over the next, hell, I don't know, twelve hours or so? That sound good? Is to follow this prompt: Write a story of around 500 to 600 words (around two pages courier double spaced) and use the pronoun of I no more than twice, but use it in a way that establishes without question your narrator's authority in the story.

3 A.M. Epiphany

So, I gave this new endeavor some additional thought, and decided that random ranting is fun, but it isn't going to serve my purposes very well. They for sure will not do it alone. Doing it alone is boring anyway.

Since writer's block and my distinct lack of motivation is what brings us here for the first part of this very not thought through idea, I am going to start where the English major in me would have you start as a writer.


I have chosen The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kitely. It can be purchased at this link, if you want to do this with me.

The activities in this book start out easy, and anyone should be able to get going with them, and feel accomplishment by doing them, and yet they aren't bull shit either. No describing numb feelings or explaining your favorite color to blind people who happen to be sadists.

Starting today, it's my goal to do one of these a day, and at least talk about how it works or doesn't. No opinion yet on whether or not the finished prompts should be posted here. I will take comments on that one.

We'll see how long it takes to get my own writing coming out, working this way, I mean. Decisions will be made at that point how this project will unfold, but it will continue.

It starts

My name is not William Pitts, and I may or may not know what the fuck I am talking about or spouting as truth. What I will say is this is going to be a ride for everyone involved. You, me, my girlfriend, my family, and my pets.

It appears at this point that finishing things is not my strong point, and for that matter, neither is talking about myself. Having said this, what's happening here is more or less doomed to failure. Here's the deal: I intend to get myself writing by ranting at random, and with as much honesty about my writing education as I can muster.

There is no game plan for this, and I have no idea what you will see, if you see anything at all. After all, why would you read this? This out of the sea of people talking about themselves.

From underneath the 12 by 12 Mondrian on my celling, for now, until something else comes out of my fingers, goodnight.