Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How to Write Dialogue

We talked a bit about dialogue in class yesterday, and I expect it will come up again, as it's one of the hardest elements to master when learning to write fiction, narrative nonfiction, and scripts. Because of my theatre background, I'm especially fascinated by dialogue, and I just remembered that I actually wrote about it back in February 2006 in a blog post called, amazingly enough, "How to Write Dialogue?". (What I was most astounded to discover is that, almost 7 years later, all the important links in the post still work. 7 years in internet time is at least 7 centuries!)

All these years later, there's not a lot I'd add to the post. Google Books now exists, though, so I can point you toward some specific examples that you can look at online. Here are some worth looking at:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Some verbage for workshoppers

Today in class I brought up a couple terms that I thought could help streamline our work shopping process: info-dump and lampshade. These terms come to us via the always wonderful

Another invaluable resource comes from the immortal Turkey City Lexicon. This gives you all manner of words and phrases to deal with fiction as it comes.

I put these here mostly because I see no reason to reinvent the wheel when we've got a good wheel on hand. And I will note that the TCL is fairly explicitly about SF/F, most of its ideas can easily be cross applied to any general piece of fiction. And furthermore, TvTropes makes for great reading. My personal favorite trope (the tropes which appear on TvTropes are not in any way limited to television, btw) is Seinfeld is Unfunny. That, and the Thirty Xanatos Pileup.

So, when we have at each other's stories, we now have access to some tools to speak about what we're seeing. Also, I've found reading through these to be excellent places to get ideas and a deeper understanding of the things people do when they write stories, and how they can be used to great effect, both ill and otherwise.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Good Evening, Vanessa

I know how odd I look. The only person sitting watching the rest of the wedding guests jump around on the dance floor with huge smiles on their faces enjoying the company the others give them. I smooth the wrinkles off of my lap and stare at my bare fingers against the silky pink. I never really understood modern dance. To me it does not look entertaining, but people like it so there must be something about the spastic movements that I must not see.  To tell the truth I’d rather be reading.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The untold story of Pearl Krab's mother

This is a story I told a few years ago to my best friend. I have edited it since then so that the story makes a lot more sense. This story is not for everyone. This is a story based off the popular children’s TV show, “Spongebob Squarepants”. If you do not know this show or if you despise this show then I don’t recommend reading this short story. For everyone (or anyone) who reads this story, pleases enjoy.


You guys have no idea what I’m going through. I just really do not know what to do. Oh my God. I’m so disgusted and sick right now. I just really can’t stop thinking about it. I’m kinda concerned. No way!  I’m not really feeling this.

Mmkay. You can’t have like, an attitude.  I will go, because I get it. 
Wait, why didn’t you invite me? You have got to be kidding me. You’re such an idiot. GET OFF THAT CAR!

Totally. I’m an adult. What’s the emerge? What’s the 911, hun? Oh my God. I haven’t seen you in like, two weeks.

She’s not a TOY! Eww, it pooped on me. I’m going to take matters into my own hands.
I’m gonna kill her. If he wasn’t calling me I’d be like... Oh my God.

You’re crazy. This is SUCH a bad idea.I still love you.

Bye doll.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Drunk Love

He walked into his girlfriend’s room drunk and without thought. 

A Page of Nothing

              If the point of it all was reason, then the tangerine had a lot to fear. It wasn't the fuzzy toes that were blue, but rather, the goat had left out the milk. The hammer dropped at dawn, but by the look of things, no one was in any mood for Scrabble. Pickled as they were, the mafia wanted their onions sliced. The dub step was in full swing and the moon rays were on full blast.  Santa, however, was nowhere to be seen.

The Last Straw

                It was like fingernails on a chalk board had erased the writing on the wall. They say curiosity killed the cat, but I planned to act cooler than a cucumber, and be twice as careful. Lemar thought he had an ace up his sleeve, but all bets were off. His Achilles Heel was that he was all thumbs, and I made sure all hand were on deck for what was about to go down.  He had put all his eggs in one basket, and that's when all hell broke loose. I tried to tell him all that glitters isn't gold, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. There was no turning back. He'd cashed in his chips and sent me down the river. It seemed I was at the end of my rope when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. The answer to my problems spread out like a map before me, as clear as day. I knew what I had to do. It cost me an arm and a leg, but in no time I was free and clear. Lemar wouldn't get off as easy.
                This meant war.

Uncreative Writing

In class, we're going to listen to Kenneth Goldsmith discuss "uncreative writing". Here are some places to find out more about such writing:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Joey and Rachel

            "I've never been here before. Antonio's Italian Pizzeria, it has a nice ring to it. I like it."
            The young man nodded, his hazel eyes staring intently at his menu.
            "It has a great atmosphere. I just hope the food is good." The young woman opened the menu. With her head cocked to the side, her own blue eyes scanned the various dishes, "Wow, there's a lot of choices. I don't know if I can decide! Who knew for a pizza place. Joey, have you decided what you want to eat?"

Comatose Beauty

           Dr. Elliot Turner looked upon the sleeping form of the heiress, Rosalie Desmond. Lost in a coma, her story had transfixed him from the moment he had stepped foot in Lafayette Hospital three years ago.

            It was seven years ago when Rosalie and her family had crossed an intersection on their way home from a Gala event, only to be hit full on by a tractor trailer whose driver had drank just a bit too much that evening after being delivered divorced papers by his wife. It was at this precise moment that Rosalie had pricked her finger on the wine opener that had been given to her as a gift from an uninvited thirteenth guest whose name no one remembered. Elliot often thought of what a peculiar gift it was to give a then fifteen year old, Rosalie.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Gusev" by Anton Chekhov

Russian stamp: Anton Chekhov

For Thursday, please read Anton Chekhov's short story "Gusev" and be prepared to talk about how Chekhov uses point of view in the tale. The link is to a Google Doc of the story that you can download if you wish, or just read online.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Space Between Breaths

The world hangs ripe, the weight of juice pulling it down and into arm's reach. All within his clutch, his fingers freeze, poised hooks of tendon and bone quivering. Inhale. The universe spreads out and the foreground recedes, a tunnel to infinity, arm pulled to the limits of existence. Snap.

The lights come on; white washed walls cracked with the forgetfulness of time. One sink, one mirror, tiled floors, it's cold. Ragged breath sounds from a distance, small and tinny, a broadcast from a transistor radio; he realizes the time to breathe has passed. Standing into the stratosphere, his head nearly scraping the dingy ceiling, he tries to walk to the door. His legs are so far away. He tells them to move. He waits. They move. He nearly falls but for the gyroscope in his chest; he thinks it's his heart.

As he stops the room exits, flying past him. He hasn't moved, but the outside is around him. He can see now, the world is a series of hallways, each inside a bigger one; they never end.

The weight of profound despair turns his body cold, damp, his skin ever thickening moss, sickly yellow. There is no right way to go. Escape is impossible. The floor gives out as his heart gives up. There is silence, and falling, and the fire of blood screaming in his chest; it wants to move.

When the world stops spinning, and the sky lives again above his head, he realizes he might make it. The sun is too hot. He brushes it with the back of his hand, and the burn lasts forever. But now that clouds crowd around him with so much good advice, friendly voices a hum to lift the spirit from the body and into space, he can't be worried about such trivial matters.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Resurrection of Mercy Lena Brown

~Based on the reading, "The Great New England Vampire Panic" by Abigail Tucker

            Mercy Lena Brown knew she was dying. From the moment she began her coughing fits and those first drops of blood appeared on her pale and ghostly palm, she knew her end was coming.

            Soundlessly, Lena lay in bed with the window to her balcony cracked open. There was a light, autumn breeze and her curtains swayed. The full moon was high in the night sky and it cast its illuminating glow upon her sheets. It was on nights like these that she thought of her mother and sister who had left the earth a short ten years ago. Her own brother had succumbed to the disease, but he had left for Colorado Springs in hopes of improving his health.

            She lifted up her frail arm and stared at it. That same arm had once been strong and full. Now bones, bones that she did not even know existed, protruded and her skin was a mere and hollow covering. She let it fall to her side. How many more nights would she have? How many more days would she see?

            Her lungs ached, she breathed in deeply and let out a raspy breath. Unwillingly, a cough broke out which soon turned into one wretched cough after another. It took over her, consumed her. Her whole chest was on fire. She wanted nothing more than for it to stop.            

Bite the Apple

So, two things: Firstly, I think Steve Jobs is a great human being and a really savvy businessman. Secondly, I'm pretty sure Apple can't sue me because of parody/satire protection laws (which I believe exist in a just universe, though to be fair I've never actually looked them up and confirmed them).

That being said, when asked to re-imagine the story of Adam and Eve from a more sympathetic and feminist point of view than perhaps was given by the bible proper or later Milton, I wrote this:

Bite the Apple

ADAM – Junior, thinks he’s cooler than he is. Not the brightest, and wants EVE.
EVE – Sophomore, fairly level headed, but not very confident.
LUKE – Smooth as a snake and oily as a used car salesman.

Scene 1: 2005, a mall. SR we see an Apple Store. There is a bench SL. Walking in the middle, ADAM and EVE, highschoolers on a date.

Whale Watching

As I slightly squat down and put all my weight on the balls of my feet, I take a quick deep breath before allowing myself to fall back. I spring my body off my feet pushing all my weight to the back and ever so easily my body forms itself into an arch and before I know it i’m plunging into the deep blue. Deep blue the ocean is, it’s all I see around me until my vision can’t make out the blue haze anymore. Any creatures that are out this far into the aquatic world even resemble the blue of the ocean, which makes it difficult to actually find what i’m looking for. I hear a muffled splash and turn to see the rest of the divers making their way to where I am.

We start flapping our legs in the heavy liquid and make our short journey in hopes to find what we’re looking for. I listen for any slight noises around me that could signal one of them coming our way. I listen to the deep blue as hard as I can but I can only hear emptiness around me, my ears starving for any kind of noise at this moment. Then within minutes I hear what all five of us have been wanting to hear since before we even stepped foot on the boat that was taking us deep into the Pacific Ocean. I listen again and hear a long, slow, low pitched almost squealing like noise. It’s a noise I can never really describe to someone because it’s one of those “you have to be there” kind of things. The rest of the divers and I start making our way in the direction where we think the noise is coming from. Luckily we went in the right direction because in the distant hazy blue I can slightly see a slow hazy blue figure moving. The figure is so big that when it first came into view I couldn’t even tell that there was a figure moving at all. It’s shape for quite sometime keeps blending in with the rest of the hazy blue until the sea creature is finally close enough that I have to swim off to the side of it before it even reaches me. It let’s out another low howling sound and right before me is a Blue Whale. The largest creature on the planet that lives in this deep blue world is right before my eyes. 

I move along far enough away from the whale so the strong current of it does not catch on to me and take over any control I have. I take my underwater camera and snap pictures of the magnificent creature gliding slowly through the heavy blue liquid. The Blue Whale continues along and becomes playful by slowly spinning around so that it is swimming upside down, showing off for the paparazzi . Time seems to be going by as peacefully and slowly as the whale is and in this moment I never want it to leave. I never want the Blue Whale to leave because I know that life will not be nearly as peaceful or beautiful as it is right now in the deep blue.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


The wind combed it fingers through the long grasses in the front yard. The old Ford in the driveway sat rusting, slowly forgetting what color it used to be. Some neighbor kids had taken the wheels long ago. The biting november air creaked through the wood of the porch and Sammy curled his long furry body against the wind. There was a short pause between gusts of wind and a tiny squeak carried from the yard. Ears perked, Sam glanced around at the dry grass and thin gravel, his old eyes barely making out the shapes just beyond the edges of the wooden porch.

Monday, November 5, 2012

On Reviews

We're going to talk about reviews in class, so here's a link to a Google doc with some materials we'll take a look at, in addition to a few I'll photocopy.

If I were to review my own collection of reviews there, I would say it is adequate to get a class discussion going, but it is otherwise extremely limited and evidences the author's haste in putting it together. But it will serve its purpose just fine.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Good Afternoon Vanessa

The walls of my parent’s room were covered in pastels and blooming flowers to match the curtains, the bed-spread and the lampshades when we first moved in three months before Priscilla was born. Since then, two footpaths from each side of the queen sized bed branched from the entrance way have been embedded in the foam green carpet. Next to it in the corner stood the full sized mirror with the dark cherry claw footed frame that was giving as a wedding present to my mother. Tucked around the rim were pitchers now curled and faded from age of family members smiling and embracing the younger, thinner bodies of themselves that my mother had placed there years ago. As I looked into it I could see out the door behind me into the hallway that was covered in neatly framed and hung family portraits. Throughout the years I could measure myself by glancing at my reflection in this mirror. I watched my body stretch and block out the posed memories behind me. People say I look like my mother. I don’t think so. My mother was thin and elegant like Priscilla. 

A Misunderstanding

When I was a little girl my mother would always tell me that I am what I eat and whenever my father scolded me he would wag his finger in my face and ask me why I wasn't more like my sister. I must have done it wrong because everyone tells me that I'm sick, and I haven't turned into my sister yet.