Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Preparing for National Novel Writing Month

Last year, I hit 40k. Not in income, alas, but in the November novel writing event, known as NaNoWriMo. Produced by NaNo bugs, of course (for those of you with elementary school children obsessed with the newest gadget...) The goal was 50k, which means filling about four 8.5x11 sheets of paper per day. That's a lot.

I wasn't too disappointed not to have hit the limit, however, because I did something that I find pretty challenging. Namely, I resolved the story.

After rewriting the story, and adding another 6k, I asked my friend Sarah to beta read the short novel. She confirmed my fear, that I never let anything really bad happen to my characters. No suspense. No pain. Only resolution. I'm now in a second rewrite.

So this year I am trying to allow bad things to happen. This is counterintuitive. I spend my whole life trying to make sure bad things don't happen. Why would I intentionally make bad things happen to people I like? I guess because I want to prove that they can handle it. Or, more honestly, because I want to write a good story, and I read over and over that there is no story in happiness.

Is that true? I think that, in my unhappy times as a little girl, I wanted to read happy. And I still dislike the parts of stories where bad things happen to characters I love. So I think I don't believe in the mantra of happy is boring. Or maybe I simply don't mind being bored in that way.

Still, this year I will stick to the script, just to see if I can do it. If I can create true drama. I have been looking at the more interesting of formulaic approaches, on, yes, "How to Write a Book Now dot Com." It's detailed. The author suggests addressing requirements, costs, dividends, requirements, forewarnings, etc. "Forewarnings make the reader anxious that the consequence will occur before the protagonist can succeed."

It isn't that I am not aware of these elements when I am reading or thinking about stories, but I think I get lazy about them while I'm writing. I want to write the honey, and skip the comb.

About one more week to settle on a plot. I've got most of the other elements down, including goal, inciting incident, characters, setting... I think I will do what I did last year, and write brief chapter summaries. Which, it almost goes without saying, will be ignored. But at least they will be there, defining my work by their opposition.

Here are the posts I wrote about the 2011 NaNoWriMo: The End of NaNoWriMoSoutherners must be laughing..., and NoMo what?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Spot the Chicken

We have chickens in our back yard. They are roaming free, though they aren't supposed to be. They're ours, sort of. Also sort of Laurent's coworker, so we are chicken hosts to their two, and we have two. One for each collective child. Lucy and Emile named theirs: Saphire and Chouchou.

I'm too tired to chase chickens all around the yard, back into their pen. I had a fun weekend.

I took part in the animation challenge by Zorobabel. You can see the results here.

We were called on to create 24 seconds in 24 hours, using a prompt of a bunch of geological and cloud shots they posted on their site.

I had the brilliant idea to use a paint on glass method, painting Emile in the clouds(ish). I should mention that I had never tried this method before. Paint on acetate, to be dried and scanned, yes. However, paint on glass, to be smoodged around and sculpted, no.

Next time I will try using vegetable oil instead of dish soap as the medium. What was I thinking, using something that dries?

24 hours easily became 36. So, yes, I cheated. And I slept. But I didn't wash or change clothes, or even eat, really, so I'm sure I made up for lost time.

I can't wait for next year's challenge.

Lyrics to the music on the animation:

Il pleut il mouille
C’est la fête à la grenouille
Il pleut il fait beau temps
C’est la fête du serpent

Il pleut, il mouille
C’est la fête à la grenouille
Il pleut il fait soleil
C ’est la fête à l’arc en ciel

Il pleut il mouille
C’est la fête à la grenouille
La grenouille a fait son nid
Dessous un grand parapluie.

Il pleut , il mouille
C’est la fête à la grenouille
Il pleut, il fait beau temps,
C’est la fête au paysan

Il pleut, il mouille
C ’est la fête à la grenouille
Il mouille, il pleut
C ’est la fête au poisson bleu

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beasts of the Childhood Wild

A friend of mine took me to see The Beasts of the Southern Wild a few weeks ago, before the return of the cold season. Still, a month later, I am still thinking about it. Stories of difficult childhoods often mesmerize me, especially when the magical mindset of youth sways the tides of reality. This makes me a sucker for really good children's lit, and even some that's mediocre. I imagine that some people think adults who read young adult fiction haven't grown up, but I think it may just be a sign of having had a really difficult childhood. The reader searches for other voices to illuminate the unfathomable jungle, one step at a time.

The Beasts of the Southern Wild is one such piece of artwork, one that takes the messy and unworkable, screws it up into another form, and proclaims it as our own. The main character is no victim, as much as I cry for her, and her father is no devil, as flawed as he is.

Wow. This movie still gives me chills.

I have often complained that CGI is taking the art and humanity out of film. I will go for a wonky puppet and a whacked animatronic any day over the slick near reality of most contemporary CGI-enhanced products.

Brave excepted.

I will watch spray-painted bubble wrap with more glee than I will a highly detailed, shockingly life-like monster. I love old Doctor Who's, for example.

So, not surprisingly, I adored that the reality of this child's life transformed itself into some massive, costume bedecked boars, super-imposed old style, maybe even using an optical printer, over the footage of one courageous little girl. It was so much truer to childhood, where the old bear rug is real, the shadow on the wall is a monster, and the wind in the trees is the banshee's cry. No CGI steals away this reality.

I don't have the vocabulary to tell you about the actors. Except to say that the little girl in the lead, Quvenzhané Wallis, has to be the best small actor on the planet. Without any exaggeration. And her father, Dwight Henry, is the best King Lear I've ever seen.