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Archive for April, 2010

A couple of years ago, I did some free-lance work for a design company. Basic advertorial stuff. It paid well at the cost of being tortuously dull. As I was getting the details for the assignment, I somehow got sucked into a corporate brainstorming session for an unrelated project. To this day, my inner muse still resents the awkward, forced, and unnatural shenanigans that ensued.

The concept: come up with a T-Shirt friendly snappy catch phrase for a corporate sponsored outing.

The execution: Do so in one hour. In front of the boss. In stream of consciousness…No pressure. (more…)

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OMG, I’d rather be at school than at this boring hospital.”

Last week, my father had the extreme fortune of spending every waking hour bound to a cot, fortuitous because the alternative would have been death. Discovered unconscious on the side of the road, he was the rare survivor of a motorcycle joyride gone awry. I left to see him as soon as I heard the news. Everyone was there, everyone but his eighteen year old daughter. The above quote was her reaction when she finally showed.

Objectively speaking, this is a clear-cut example of youthful naiveté. But there is one aspect to it that I found incredibly fascinating. For someone else, the mundane experience was anything but. (more…)

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Overlooking the excitement of being a father-to-be, sitting in the OBGYM can be fairly boring. The absence of a laptop (left it at home) and the fact that my game of brick breaker was abruptly interrupted (thanks, Jen) certainly didn’t help either. But one thing did. The windows. Permanently bolted shut, they were about as authentic as Twinkies, but I was nevertheless drawn to them (also true for Twinkies ). I watched sunlight trickle through, clouds roll past, the occasional bird collide violently into the pane (I’m kidding, of course…it was more of a gentle thud). Trapped within concrete and steel barriers, two sheets of glass saved me from an uncomfortable fit of claustrophobia.

This same phenomenon applies to writing. (more…)

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The Elusive Plot

Objectivity doesn’t exist. Something happens, and the moment it’s over the only thing we are left with is our interpretation of what took place. “Facts,” an equally slippery term, are as a result hardly as important as the impact.

The impact.

Few resources are as rich with storytelling potential as our reaction to something that’s happened. Are we offended, pleased, indifferent? Outraged, pacified, left wanting? The gamut of emotions knows no bounds, and herein is the key to creating a great story. Visualize the scenes that come to us before our book is written, images that we replay over and over in our imagination without a clear concept of where they belong, and then populate them with people. People we’re interested in, personalities we want to explore in our writing, individuals who linger over our shoulder, demanding that we tell their story…and then watch and see how they react.

From their reactions, and the inevitable counter reactions, emerges our plot.

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“It doesn’t matter how good your writing is, if it isn’t formatted properly, no one will give it the time of day.”

I’ll never forget the day those words were spoken to me. They were my introduction into what ultimately became a frightening foreshadowing of the future of fiction. “Learn the art of writing,” my creative writing professor insisted, “and success will surely follow.” The art, as it turned out, was a model painstakingly deconstructed into universal archetypes, familiar themes, conventional plots, etc., by a handful of books on writing.

I was never more offended. (more…)

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