Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Flash Funny

Friday Flash Funny

2009-04-08 Tiger Mt Hike 003Here’s a little script I wrote yesterday called “I Break Up With My Dog”

I don’t know if it qualifies as Flash Fiction but it comes in at 941 words including title. I may try to rewrite it from the dog’s POV at some point as an exercise but I’ll just throw it up here for now. Maybe some of you Flash Fiction experts can tell me if this would qualify and suggest what I should do with it.


I Break Up With My Dog

Master: Hey, Missy, come here! Come here, girl!

Dog: Yes, master? Do you have a treat? Can I get a scratch? What is it? What is it?

Master: Settle down, settle down, sit. I just want to talk to you for a minute.

Dog: Okay. I'll sit. Mind if I chew a bone? I love bones.

Master: Go right ahead. Listen. I don't know how to say this. We kinda need to talk.

Dog: It's okay. I'm your dog. I'm here for you. Mmm bones.

Master: Yeah. That's kinda what I want to talk to you about. You see, when I first adopted you, I kind of was looking for something, I don't know what. Now, after a few years, I don't know, it's not quite what I expected.

Dog: Well, that's normal. You hadn't had a dog for a long time before me. I'm sure we can work out whatever it is. Bones.

Master: Can you stop with the bone already? That's the thing. I've been thinking. I'm just not sure that things are really working out—

Dog: Wait. Hold on a second. Oh my God. I see that look in your eye. Are you—are you breaking up me?

Master: No! Well, “break up” is a strong word.

Dog: I don't believe this! You can't just break up with me! I'm your dog!

Master: Just hear me out. I've been struggling with this for a long time. I've been wanting to tell you but I've been so busy and it just never seemed like a good time.

Dog: I know we've been growing apart, but I don't get it. What's changed? Do you need some space? Is there—is there another dog?

Master: I just feel like—

Dog: Gasp. There is another dog. Who? Is it that bitch Goldie? I see you two playing fetch sometimes at the dog park. I never said anything but—

Master: We didn't mean for it to happen! I swear. You're always so busy with your friends. One day we just got to playing, then—one thing led to another. Now we can't stop seeing each other.

Dog: I think I'm going to be sick. Goldie? What does she have that I don't? Just because she's a few years younger, and has that long thick coat. You masters are all the same. I should have known. God, I'm so stupid.

Master: Come on, it's not your fault.

Dog: What's wrong with me? Don't I warn you about strangers? Don't I help keep the floor clean? Don't I wake you when your alarm doesn't? Don't I do my business in the accepted spot?

Master: You're a great dog. No one can deny that. It's just, I've changed. I'm just looking for something else in my life right now.

Dog: Is this about your stupid fetish to have two dogs at once? Is that it? Fine. I can do that. Bring it on.

Master: Well, when you think about, it would give you more time to do your own thing. When you're tired, I can just play with the other dog. And you'd have someone to keep you company.

Dog: Fuck the other dog. I'm a one-master-one-dog dog. The thought of another dog licking your face, letting you pet her--I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I think I'm going to faint.

Master: I didn't want it to happen like this. A master has needs. You have to admit, you're just not as spunky as you used to be. Two, three tosses of the ball and you're exhausted. Some days you don't even want to play at all.

Dog: You bastard. What did you expect? I only live twelve to fourteen years! I get old quick! If you wanted something that lasted, why didn't you get one of those woman things? Ooh, that's right. You can't get a girlfriend. So you got a dog instead. And just like the women in your life, you're willing to throw it all away because you think there might have something better waiting in the wings. Let me tell you, the problem isn't "out there". It's you.  If this is really over, then I have nothing to lose by saying this. I've tried to be a good dog, to be supportive, but look at yourself. You don't shave. You don't brush your teeth. You don't wash your hands. You don't clean this shithole of a house we live in. You're a filthy slob, only worthy of the love of a dog.

Master: I don't need to hear this from a dog. It's over. I'm sorry, I never meant to hurt you. I can put you out back for now, until you can find another place. I gotta go now.

Dog: Please, please don't do this. I can change. I can fetch balls. Look, here I go. Whee, look at me, I'm fetching.

Master: Stop. Stop! You're just embarrassing yourself.

Dog: What do you want me to do? I've been your dog for eight years. I don't know how to be anyone else's dog. I don't want to go to another family. Please. Give me another chance. I'll be better, I promise.

Master: Stop begging. It won't help this time.

Dog: Fine. But before I go, you should know this: Remember the time your girlfriend found another girl's panties in the couch so she dumped you? That was me. And I have plenty more stashed around. Think about that the next time you invite one over, you'll never know what they'll find. Goodbye, I never want to lick you again. And I'm taking the bones with me.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Blogly Writing Monday

Blogly Writing Monday

tropical heat wave

This is Iapetus999 blogging from Seattle Heat Wave Central.

I actually don’t have much to blog about. Every Monday, I take my little netbook to Tully’s for a Grande Soy Sugar Free Almost Latte. I check my email and reader, and write a blog post.

I’m in a definite writing slump lately. I’ve had to deal with my wife’s injury and a mess of other things. Writing, running, biking, swimming, critiquing, etc. have all fallen by the wayside. Some people have told me that this should give me an appreciation for all my wife does, but she didn’t have to contend with a convalescing invalid and a writing career at the same time. We’re still weeks away from her being able to put any kind of weight on her foot, which currently looks more like a football than a foot.

Here’s the other reason I’ve been in a slump: my writing sucks. It’s a conflictless mass of exposition, where stuff happens but nobody really cares. Blah blah blah. I have serious style problems, my characters are shallow and predictable, and I can’t even come up with a decent query letter because nothing really happens in the story. It takes me forever to edit every chapter, so at this rate I don’t think I can finish this edit before I start ramping up for NaNoWriMo (which I’m going to rock the ass off of this year) in October. Basically I want this edit done and queries sent by Sept 30. That gives me 2 months to finish editing my 147K manuscript into something publishable. So my discouragement is rampant. I don’t know I can do it. Note that I’ve been working on this since April.

Here’s the thing (I just love that expression. I got it from Monk, and now I own it): the more I write, the more I critique, the more I receive critiques, the worse my writing becomes. Meaning, my previous drafts dissolve into a stinking, festering mass of pus. (It also is making critiquing a bigger chore because I keep seeing more and more problems in people’s submissions and feeling I must point them out). Does this mean that I’m improving? Or am I just becoming more critical to my own detriment? Am I now overthinking the problem? Or am I just discovering the huge chasm between where I was and where I need to be? Am I running myself ragged trying to fix problems that I don’t really have?

Well, I’ll find out some answers in the coming week. I put a few chapters of Dawn’s Rise out on, so I’ll hopefully receive from feedback from the SF writing community. If any of you are members, here’s a good way to get some critique credit! I’ll be posting the MS # once it comes out. Last time I put it out there, I got fairly roasted. My biggest hope is that I find a few dedicated beta readers. So far people have only read at most a few chapters, and I have no feedback whatsoever on the story arc, character development, plot, or how well my ending works. I’ve been editing around page 200, yet my readers have only gotten to about page 40 so far. They haven’t even met some of my best characters yet. I could have huge gaping plot holes and no one will tell me.

Well, I’m off to contend with Seattle’s worst heat wave in recent memory. I’m going to install an old window air condition so my wife doesn’t sweat to death in her fancy hospital bed. I fear our electricity bill will go through the roof. Fortunately the office where I write is already air conditioned. Going to do a lot of swimming this week, and try running only early in the morning. Should be fun.

Happy Blogly Writing Monday! Stay Cool!


Friday, July 24, 2009

Heroes VS Villains

Heroes VS Villains

hero villain What makes one character a Hero and another a villain? Where do we draw the line? Why does the hero rush into the burning building to save the orphan while the villain burns the building for insurance money? Why does the hero rescue the damsel in distress while the villain locked her up in the first place? Why does the hero commit to a long-term relationship while the villain doesn’t even call the next day?

Some people have cast this as a “good VS evil” conflict but I think it’s simpler than that. After all, I think there’s good and evil in all of us.

I once had the difference presented as “Givers” versus “Takers”. A giver tries to improve the world around them, a taker tries to improve their own lot. A giver cares about other people, a taker cares about himself. A giver sacrifices his own well-being to help others, while a taker sacrifices others well-being to help himself. Do you see how this works?

For the sports literate out there, there’s a good example here in Seattle that illustrates this difference. At one point, we had both Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) and Ken Griffey Jr (Junior) on the same team. But now, A-Rod is vilified as one of Seattle worst sports villains, while Junior is treated as a God. Why? They have comparable career stats (Junior is 5th and A-Rod is 10th in all-time home runs). Both are future first ballot Hall-of-Famers. Yet one is hated, and the other revered. Well, it all comes down to Giver versus Taker:

arod pose A-Rod is the classic taker. He’s all about the high salary, the high profile romances and flashy teams. He’s even taken steroids, all to improve himself, no matter what the cost. He lies to the public, and carefully words every statement, never revealing his private side. He doesn’t run out infield outs. He’s all about the image. And, for whatever reason, he doesn’t perform well under pressure, and teammates have been know to call him “The Cooler” because he “kills team chemistry.”

griffey pile Junior is the classic giver. People applaud him even when he trots out his anemic .220 batting average, because we all know that he’s literally sacrificed his body to help his team win. He’s given everything he has to the sport, endured several broken bones and surgeries, yet he keeps coming back. He’s the first to congratulate his teammates when they do well, and makes it his personal mission to lift their spirits when the team does poorly. He makes everyone around him perform better. You could probably call him “The Heater” in contrast to A-Rod.

In truth, A-Rod is probably the more complex character, driven by a somewhat broken home life in his childhood, growing up without a real father figure. Junior is more of the man-child, a person living in a perpetual childhood fantasy, growing up in a baseball family. A-Rod is cloudy and dark and moody, whereas Junior is smiling with his hat on backwards. A-Rod is divorced and linked to various celebrities, while Junior just attended his daughters basketball championship game during the All-Star break. He also changed his uniform number to “3” to honor his three children (one of which is adopted). We admire Junior for how much he’s given to the game, and wonder “what if” he had been healthy his whole career. But we also know that he’s broken because of what he’s given to the game. We also wonder “what if” about A-Rod. What if he actually legged out infield hits? What if he sacrificed himself for the good of the team?

So when creating heroes and villains, keep in mind how they view the world. Is your villain looking out for number one? Does your hero give of himself? Note that some of the best heroes can start out as villains, and then see the error of their ways. If A-Rod had a sudden epiphany about his life, and stopped thinking about himself for once, he could become the greatest baseball hero ever. He could sign with a small-market team for a tiny salary, then lead that team to a World Series title by leaving everything he has out there on the field, without the benefit of steroids. He would redeem himself and become a hero for the ages. But of course, that will never happen, because A-Rod is all about A-Rod.

Note: The Heroes vs Villains image comes from the Facebook app by the same name.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Supporting Characters

Supporting Characters

Hospital Bed I’m learning what it feels like to have a supporting role in my wife’s broken-leg drama. She garners all the attention and sympathy while I’m tasked with picking up all the duties she normally performs, leaving no time for my own pursuits. Now, this particular drama isn’t one I’d want to star in mind you, but it’s started me thinking about supporting characters in general, and what their true purpose is.

This is some of the activities I’ve been working on in the last two weeks instead of running and writing and drinking:

  • Cleaned the family room so we can put in a hospital bed (pictured above)
  • Cleaned the kitchen (a daunting task)
  • Hosted a BBQ for her friends
  • Bought special pillows and sheets for the hospital bed
  • Bought a special basket and accessories for her walker
  • Took her to the hospital in the middle of the night to be re-cast
  • Dispensed the 13 different meds she needs to take
  • Hand RailsInstalled some lovely handrails (they came out real nice. I rounded the ends with a circular sander and stained them with some random wood stain I picked up. The end result looks much better than I had hoped, and walking up and down those 2 steps is now easier for me as well). Also added rails to the toilet (pictured below).
  • Handled all the shopping and transportation of kids to classes and appointments
  • Walked/groomed/fed the dog

Meanwhile, this is what my wife has accomplished in the same time:

  • Hurt
  • Hurt some more
  • Hurt instead of sleep
  • Take maximum doses of Rx painkillers
  • Hobble
  • Miss out on two incredibly important trips

This all brings me around to the role of the supporting characters. I’ve realized a couple of key points:

  1. Supporting characters do all the work (while the hero endures heavy emotional trauma and of course physical pain)
  2. Supporting characters have their own story arc and challenges to face
  3. Supporting characters are wholly underappreciated

This is one of the major flaws that I’ve been correcting in Dawn’s Rise. I’ve focused all my attention on Dawn, and completely neglected my supporting characters. When it comes down to it, Dawn doesn’t really do anything. She doesn’t save the world. She doesn’t fight the bad guys. She’s half crazy and a pretty poor leader. In fact, one could argue that she’s not even worthy of hero status (I’ve got other posts somewhere that explain why she is the hero, mostly because she sacrifices the most, blah blah blah). John creates the plan to save humanity. Sam figures out the cause of all the disasters and validates Dawn’s paranoia. Maj. Edwards puts together her army. Alpha captures the equipment they need. Kaila defends her from an attack.

But my supporting characters don’t really have complete arcs. Dawn’s Aunt Rose shows up once and then disappears. She’s Dawn’s only link to her past and I killed her off. Um…no. Need to fix that. John does all this heroic stuff in his own right, but what does he really learn from it? What’s his transformation? Where are his flaws? I have elements here and there:

  • Alpha, the secretive commando leader, must become a father instead of a commander to his children/troops.
  • Kaila, the only female commando, must learn that there’s another side to life besides fighting, and she can allow herself to be a woman.
  • Sam, who could have easily become Chairman instead of Dawn, must stop playing second fiddle in his own life.
  • Major Edwards must come to grips with his grief over losing his family (as most characters must, but he’s particularly shaken)
  • Rose, Dawn’s aunt, must stop playing the victim all the time and take responsibility for her life.
  • John must also take charge of his life. He must also allow himself to care for someone who drives him crazy (don’t we all).

And then, of course, we have the anti-supporting character, the villain, who also needs an arc.

  • Susan, the evil corporate Chairman, must reassert her power at all costs.

This is kind of a negative arc, probably worthy of a separate blog post.

I still have a handful of supporting characters I haven’t even mentioned: Brenda, Izzy, Missy, Joe, Angela, Delta, Muhammad Saed, Mya (Dawn’s dead mother), and more. They all show up at random times and either help or hinder the rest of the characters, but most of them don’t really have their own stories. I need to fix that. This experience has taught me a much greater appreciation for supporting characters, and how they can make or break the hero’s journey.

So as an aspiring Supporting Character, I’m working out my own story arc: Iapetus999 must find a way to publish his breakthrough novel while tending to his stricken and immobilized wife and two children. Can he succeed in reaching his dream or will the financial and emotion burdens force him back into the wretched workforce?

Stay tuned. Who knows where my dreams may wind up?The Shitter

Friday, July 10, 2009

Free Plot Idea #53

Free Plot Idea #53

don_adams Has anyone else started finding themselves critiquing everything? Looking for turning points in movies? Studying the use of adverbs by their favorite authors?

Lately I’ve experienced a curious phenomenon. I’ve been critiquing in my sleep. Literally. The other night, I had a dream that can’t remember, but I distinctly remember thinking, “this would be a great plot. Good action, interesting characters, nice resolution. I definitely need to remember this dream.” Huh? Of course I didn’t remember it.

I’ve also caught myself editing in my dreams, working on my story. Unfortunately (or not) I don’t have implanted recording devices in my head like the characters in my story, so I can’t actually edit while I sleep. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to work on your WIP 24 hours a day?

Which of course brings me to my Free Plot Idea: Imagine a world where people “plug in” when they sleep, and their brains are harnessed to do all kinds of work. Think about it. You could write while you sleep, and then do whatever you want during waking hours. Basically a reversal of normal human activity. You could have a whole second career during sleep, your brain hooked up to a robot or something.

So then we throw in the requisite action/adventure elements and it’s a novel. Maybe during sleep, you’re a spy, or work in a classified position. You’ve uncovered a vast multi-layered conspiracy. During wake time, you tend flower gardens. [That means to write this story, you get to research flowers :)] One day you’re tending your gardens and you do something strange like cut off all the buds or mow a message into the lawn. It’s your nighttime self trying to contact your daytime self, but you don’t know that of course. Maybe nobody knows that they are being used this way. Your friends start acting strange. You become suspicious of people. Is your deli clerk really a mastermind of espionage? Is your spouse the enemy assassin? Is that annoying IRS agent IRL really your dreamstate lover and confidant? The possibilities are endless.

Of course things need to start unraveling. You discover that you are the enemy assassin, not your spouse. Your day and night selves are opposites. Perhaps the dream time persona is dealing with all your issues of childhood abuse or some other trauma that your wake time self has no recollection of. Your wake time self has to come to grips which who you really are, and make some choices about both your wake and dream time activities. Then the shit really hits the fan, because the conspiracy is real and they’re coming to get you. All the while, of course, no one believes you and you don’t even believe it yourself.

Wow, that was a lot of 2nd person writing there. Let me know if this inspires anything for you, because if anyone runs with this, I’d love to help. Or I may take it up at some point.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Gang Aft Agley

Gang Aft Agley

shit-happens Recently, someone asked me what the theme to Dawn’s Rise is. Among others, I came up with, “The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, gang aft agley” (often go awry). Which I have converted to “No sufficiently advanced technology can save us from destruction. Or ourselves.”*

Take stairs, for instance. Not very advanced technology. Yet how many people are injured on killed on stairs every day? Hundreds, probably. Well, my dear wife fell down some this weekend, and practically ripped her foot off her leg. It was awful. She needed surgery including screws and plates and a basic reconstruction of the ankle. It will be months and months before she can even walk, and more months before she’s back to normal. This comes right on the heels of my own hospital adventure. At least this time we know exactly what the problem is. Needless to say, I’ve gotten absolutely no writing or critiquing or blog reading done.

I had a lot of running plans this summer, and they’re all falling apart. My wife had a lot of travel plans, those have gone up in smoke. Who knows how much all these bills will come to. I can’t imagine surgery is cheap. I’m starting to get sick of the drama and unexpected expenses. I just want to focus on my writing career, but life is getting in the way. Sure, maybe this is good “writing fodder” but enough is enough. 

Everything that can go wrong is going wrong. Maybe I need to work on a book with a more positive theme.

*Thanks to Robert Burns, Arthur C. Clark, and Edward Murphy, if such person ever existed.