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16 July 2006 @ 01:59 pm
This is more of a reading assignment.

There is some pretty wretched fiction out there. We try to avoid it as much as possible. We wonder how on earth it gets published in the first place. After all, what could be gained from wasting time on a bad book?

Quite possibly the best lesson you've ever learned.

A bad romance novel can be pure gold in teaching you about some fundamental writing failures. Contradictions, bad grammar, plot stalls, character missteps; all of these things are presented in a context that provides the perfect example. Pull out your highlighter. Make notes in the margins. LEARN.

And then do the same thing to one of your own stories. No story? Write one and try and repeat all the mistakes you've just discovered.
01 July 2006 @ 08:31 am
As a resident of Los Angeles County, I only half-smirk when people joke about how everyone and their mother is out here selling a script. It's actually true. Among my general aquaintance, I'd say the ratio of people working on, wanting to work on, have worked on, or are in the process of selling a screenplay is about one in every three friends.

So what's the point if you're not here? Screenplays are visual and auditory. Books, stories, and novellas are words on paper, but except in rare cases of well thought out movie adaptations, rarely escape the confines of the mind reading them.

Screenplays are less nebulous. They paint the picture for you, requiring more thought about expression, appearance, motion, environment, etc. A screenplay isn't exactly recreational reading. It's a map of a vision, a story made manifest with detailed topography. It's a balanced blend of story and 'to do' list. Thankfully someone else has made a very instructive format available so that you, too, may speak in descriptives and keys.

Your Kiloword assignment is to take a story you've already worked on and adapt it to a screenplay format. This exercise should illuminate not only the differences in format between screenplay and story, but may also better highlight your story's weaknesses and strengths. Transforming a story into a screenplay isn't easy, but those who grasp the concept are blessed with a talent to make both verbal and visual art (as well as some serious bank if your talents are tapped for Hollywood).

Read this instructive screenplay primer first: http://www.oscars.org/nicholl/format_a.txt

Then go to town.
22 June 2006 @ 09:15 am
There's an antique shop on the corner that you wander into one day. It's like waking into a time machine, or your aunt's living room, depending on your point of view. Taking a look to the left, you see a long row of vintage suitcases. In the middle is an old red Samsonite with chrome trim. Straight out of 1950. Curiosity takes hold and you lift it out of its position in line and open it on the floor. It's empty and lined with a cream colored pillowy satin. But you notice it buckles in the corner. A little pulling reveals a hidden glass drinking flask, the design reaffriming the femininity of the prior owner. Who was she? Why did she hide this little flask? What was her drink of choice? Where did she buy the flask in the first place? From one tiny item springs a dozen possible story lines.

Your task is actually a field trip AND writing assignment. You are to go antiquing, preferably in a shop that is just a hair's breath from being a thrift store. Locked glass cases will not help you here. You want a place that will let you explore. Examine pockets. Flip through old books looking for cards and notes. Purses. Cigar boxes. Yes, suitcases. Look for the hidden treasure.

Then, write the story that explains its existance. Or, finding nothing of interest, write the story of the unfound item. This is a full Kiloword assignment, though it could easily be a series of mini-prompts depending on your imagination.
27 May 2006 @ 07:03 am
All of your characters have a past, whether you've constructed them or not. And in that past are a plethora of personalities, from the Ned Riderson variety all the way up to that bizarre former lover that they met on a trip to Carnival in Brazil. Whatever. Point being, some of these people they expect to see again some day. Most they expect will fade into the ether.

Grab your character or make a new one and plunge them into a scenario where they reconnect with someone from their past. Just one someone. Write a full Kiloword and explore how it alters your character's perspective or mood, or how it changes nothing. Do a character sketch of this past person made present. Who were they? Who are they now? And will they become a present person int he life of your character? Or is it a one time fly by?
17 May 2006 @ 11:42 am
I was reading another blog when I can across the phrase "mere enthusiasm". Here is the quote:

"There's a phrase used in the Aubrey-Maturin novels (and the "Master and Commander
movie) which I think describes a lot of people's attitude: "mere enthusiasm".

Enthusiasm is a bad thing (contrary to modern culture), as it's trivial and
shallow. An enthusiast isn't going to sacrifice themselves for a cause..."

A bit on the judgmental side. We all have our hobbies, no? They were referencing the Green Movement on the political stage. Tons of "enthusiasts." But no one willing to take the leap.

Think of a character who is an example of this concept and write a short paragraph (or a full kiloword) about them in their "mere enthusiasm" mode.
14 May 2006 @ 01:54 pm
If you're online, there are usually a few simple rules to assist you in maintaining some semblance of privacy. One is to not post your address, your phone number, or your daily schedule. Seems common sense enough. But year after year, naive Internetizens publish everything but their blood type and wonder who it is that keeps calling and hanging up. And what is with that strange car that keeps driving up and down your street? And even when you keep everything hush hush, there are online services that will provide all your information, and that of your relatives and neighbors, for a fee of about $20.

What would it take to go off the grid? To completely disappear electronically? Would the rules change in a world where things like the Internet didn't exist? How would you stay off the books? Under the radar?

The world your character inhabits has a comprehensive mechanism of record keeping, whether you know it yet or not. You've just discovered it. Write a kiloword exercise of that system, from blood to bone. This is for your elucidation. Be detailed. Imagine the smallest nuances of this system. Do a little digging and reseach some of the ways our own world keeps tabs on its citizens.

When you finish, write another kiloword, this time about your character, who has managed to stay off the grid and out of sight for many many years, either by their own volition, or someone else's. Does someone finally find them? How?
10 May 2006 @ 07:49 am
I reread a short story last night where a small child had found a box that washed up by his seaside home. A gift from the sea, his mother called it. And when she asked him what was inside, he responded only, "Darkness."

Your own character is outside somwhere. It can be a city street, a forest, or by the ocean like the above mentioned child. They found something. A keepsake. What is it?
08 May 2006 @ 07:24 pm
Today I wrote a portion of a story that begins with a young woman's diagnosis in a doctor's office. Except I didn't write it at all from the young woman's point of view. I wrote the receptionist. The nurse. The doctor. A different doctor. The carpet. A doorknob. I wrote everythings point of view. Except the young woman's. I wrote hers last.

And how utterly freeing it was. I had shlubbed through every possible thought and worldview in the previous 20 points of view. When I finally got to her, I was left with just her. No wandering maybes. No random sidetracks. Everything else had a voice already.

She was free to be herself.

So, for this miniprompt, take a look at something you've written before, and write a paragraph or two from a different, but present, point of view. Give a voice to something else in the room that needs to be heard, but doesn't fit in your character's mouth.
07 May 2006 @ 05:50 am
Famed artist and designer, Isamu Noguchi, is known for creating beautiful things that were also meant to be useful. He applied this esthetic to everything he made, whether it was a large park for children or a bench sitting in a studio.

In a recent museum exhibit, some of his furniture was displayed alongside videos of Martha Graham. Noguchi designed many dance props for Graham and her dance company. He also designed much of the furniture that sat in her dance studio. Four long benches, irregularly shaped and polished to glassy smoothness, were hung vertically on the wall, their surfaces arranged in such a way as to make them a large three dimensional art piece.

Gorgeous work surrounded by gorgeous work. Except as you came closer to the benches to admire the wood grain, you began to notice drink rings. On a museum piece? With any other designer these flaws would be polished off. Or worse, the pieces wouldn't be shown at all, 'damaged' as they were.

But remember the Noguchi esthetic. Beauty and usefulness. These benches were used by a hard working dance company. They'd move and undulate and sweat. That makes a person thirsty. So you sit, sip, and talk.

Everything of beauty has a flaw. Even your most perfect character. Even your heroes. A lifetime of living in the world, any world, should not leave them untouched. They will have their own 'drink rings', the things that indicate a life of encounters that left marks on them. Often times you won't notice them until you come closer.

What are you character's drink rings? What are the subtle things that nick and scratch the surface of what would otherwise be a thing of untouched beauty? And then remember the esthetic. What is beauty if that is all it is? What is your character's use?

This exercise could result in a list, a drawing, or a fully fleshed out Kiloword.
06 May 2006 @ 08:24 am
Yesterday, I moved some heavy lava rocks, one in each hand, from a large pile to an area about 30 feet away where I was helping construct a dry riverbed in a desert landscaping. The large pile was made up of a few hundred rocks. Over the course of two hours, me and another riverbed maker, moved the entire pile, two rocks at a time, over to the riverbed site, and then sat down and rearranged them to form a shallow desert arroyo.

When I finished, my arms, from my wrists to my shoulder blades, were stinging and electric with sharp pain. It was impossible to move without some agony. I couldn't find a comfortable position. The pain sizzled in my arms, the result of lactic acid building up between the previously unused muscle fibers. Acid. Burning my muscle tissue. Ouch.

Pain is relative, though, to the person experiencing it. Some can handle huge amounts without cracking a wince. Some cry at a paper cut. Where does you character fit in that spectrum? For this Kiloword, put your character in pain, small or great, and write how they respond to it. Expand on it. Get descriptive. Explore the details.