Mixed Salad of Thoughts

Monday, October 27, 2008

An Award!

I thought my brother would be so proud...

My Baby Yoda hat got honorable mention in a line up of the Best Star Wars inspired Knit Hats on Fandomania.com here.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Torn Between two Books- Planning Nano 2008

So, um, I think too much. It's true, I've admitted it many a time. And yet I try to avoid it, I try to just lighten up and keep things from being bogged down from over-analysis. So I'm kind of torn on what I want to write for my novel this year. I have one idea and many different ways to see it through and, knowing I tend towards the most complicated of options I'm tempted to go the light and fluffy route, but haven't made my decision yet.

Here it is. My original idea, as written by me in August:

I'm thinking of writing a "Wildly Untrue Autobiography"

"Untrue Facts" about my life:
- I was born on a small island the same day as the last of a rare species of birds was last sighted.
- I had five brothers and sisters but most of them were lost (no, not died, just lost) along the way
- I won't eat anything blue
- I had phenomenal mathematical skills until one day I decided math was untrue.
- I taught my parents how to swim
- I accidentally put out a death warrant on the love of my life
- I inspired someone famous to change careers
- I trained a goat
- I talked to an elephant
- I survived a deadly spider bite

Now it is several months later and my idea for an auto-biography (or biography) has changed. I'm now thinking of all sorts of other more complicated (of course) options.

Here are my current notes:
"A Fabulously Untrue Auto-Biography"

Main Idea:

MC leads fabulous life dealing with all sorts of interesting people and possibly influencing history
-what do they learn from all this? Do we learn to love them? Hate them? Envy them? Pity them?
-What tells us that it is untrue? perhaps they are a little "not right in the head" and this is what makes it all untrue? (great possibilities for fuzzy transitions between reality and fiction)

Life line Possibilities:

RipVanWinkle approach of waking up every Century or so to experience various events

Time Travel--mechanical, natural, unknown, alien technology? allows forward and back (quantum leap)

Start at one point and Proceed around the world until conclusion is at same point-
-perhaps walking the entire way?
-perhaps companions join for portions
-perhaps certain fixed amount of time allowed in each place
-who would have imposed this rule? (granted wish to travel for 100 years but this was price?)

Reincarnation/Possession--perhaps lives "through" several people's lives?

Different type of linear progression...
-trapped by memories- when one even relates to another they suddenly find themselves in a different day/time/person/lifetime and can only live through the event until they again will transfer upon a new relationship--kind of trying everything until they get it right? Kind of like Time Traveller's Wife but with other people/lifetimes

It's crazy to me that these all could, realistically, lead to good novels...they're all viable options, and I have to choose JUST ONE!

(It's also crazy to me that in some way, shape or form Anne Rice has seemingly written novels that would cover about 80% of the ideas I came up with. I would say that I've just read too many of her novels and am influenced, but I think actually she has just really covered all the bases quite well.)

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NaNo --My Planning Philosophy

I know some people believe in thoroughly planning a novel before they write it--I'm not one of them. I prefer the "Choose Your Own Adventure" where perhaps you've read a couple of the pages, know of a few events that will happen, possibly an endpoint you'd like to reach, and you might even know bits of the character or characters involved

I hold that until you've actually written a character and let them act things out, given voice to things, and let "them" make decisions you don't REALLY know them, even if you think you do. In fact, I feel it would be counter-productive to "know" your character before you write them. Imagine trying to write a novel using Yoda, Mr.Spock, Elmo, and Ms.Piggy. They are all characters that you probably feel you know, but outside of a couple of funny lines of dialog and gross over characterizations (I believe this is the literary equivalent of over acting) you would probably fall flat after a few pages, or perhaps a chapter. First of all because you're not working with your own characters, but secondly because you DON'T really know these characters as well as you think (although my brother may have dissected enough Star Wars to argue with me on his knowledge and ability to write Yoda).

I think there is an apt analogy in my art training. As part of my 1st and 2nd year drawing classes in college I was asked to copy "Master Works" and to break down their design, their eye movement patterns, and their value (light/dark) schemes. We had to do sketches where we only drew the darkest elements and the mid tone elements as blurry forms. We did drawings of only the brightest colors and the lightest values. It was only when I did this that I really grew to appreciate a few of the artists. I could look at their work and enjoy it, but I had no idea that hidden within there were great design elements drawing the eye in and directing it. I had no idea that most of my favorite works of art were highly balanced works of design. Their internal architecture was magnificent. So now I knew right? I had dissected the master and I could use their techniques? Well, using this knowledge we were asked to do drawings using similar design schemes and I found it quite impossible. How could I replace one of Winslow Homer's sailboats with anything but? I could imitate the lighting perhaps, or the triangulation of elements based on the dimensions of the canvas and how the elements would align in space, I could evoke the tone of peacefulness or tumult, but I could not change elements without ruining the balance. In like regard one can enjoy a book, a character, a scene and never really SEE the elements in it. You may not notice allegory, alliteration, the way the author held back on that vital piece of information until just the right point, the way the author led you in one direction in order that you may feel how dramatic the shift to the other direction really is or would be. Unless you have dissected, re-written, copied, and delved fully into all the hows and whys, how can you really KNOW the characters, or the writing style, or the foundational beauty of the piece...And even when you DO know and appreciate and understand, you can't duplicate it without simply copying their work.

So I'm not saying we should dissect the character of Spock so that we can put him into our novel. But if we REALLY wanted to put Spock in, certainly we must undertake that step or our characterization will feel flat and one dimensional. But then we must expect that as soon as we add new situations, new relationships, and as soon as we use OUR voice to write Spock's voice, there will be change, he will be different....And that's okay, but we need to recognize it and accept it as inevitable

One of the reasons there MUST be change is that there is the process of growth and change that a character goes through during a novel. If, at the end of the book, Ms. Piggy is still threatening to smash Spock's silly Vulcan face and Elmo is still trying to get Yoda to tickle him it's probably better material for a sitcom than a novel. Most novels include some sort of growth or change in a character and when using "store bought" characters we must understand that by the end of the novel they cannot be the same Mr. Spock that we started with.

So what planning AM I doing?...stay tuned, I'll add that in another post

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo!!!

NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month has, for the past 10 years, encouraged individuals to allow themselves to insanely undertake the furious writing of novels during the month of November. The goal is to write at least 50K words of your very own, original, never-seen-by-the-world-before novel. It's a fun, exciting, productive, and completely crazy undertaking that hundreds of thousands of people take on each year.

This will be my fifth year taking up the NaNoWriMo challenge. I have "won" the challenge 3 of the past 4 years I've "competed" and am hoping for a 4th Certificate and another year of bragging rights.

The process of trying to write a novel requires for some people absolute isolation, the right soundtrack, or a nervous breakdown....for myself it requires feedback. I need people to bounce ideas off of, chat with and who can gear up my crazy-center just right. I need people who can get excited when I tell them that my fictional main character just punched/kissed/broke-up with/ran away from some other completely fictional character.

Will you help? Will you be one of my team? Will you let me excitedly share my story or exercise my writer's block frustration?

Ideal helpers will be available for chatting by way of phone or gchat. Those who are available late at night when I do most of my writing will be especially appreciated.

Let me know if you'd like to be part of my audience/support/feedback group for this November.

Thank you, thank you, thank you in advance.

~ Valerie

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Why I don't watch much Television

Yesterday I was supposed to have lunch with one friend visiting from Sweden and one friend visiting from LA...both were essentially canceled. So instead I stayed home and prepared for the 9 house guests I'll be hosting this weekend. I left the TV on while I did laundry, mopped the kitchen floor, swept, vacuumed, etc. This is far more television than I normally watch.

Then, as it began getting late the prime-time shows came on. These are mostly the shows I often hear about in advertisements but never see until they're re-runs. I'm just rarely home when they're on and not interested enough to watch them online or download them.

Last night I watched an episode of the new "Beverly Hills 90210" (same as the old premise but more glam and possibly better acting)and an episode of "Privileged" (Twenty-something Yale graduate turned tutor/nanny for young, naive, and sexually adventurous high school aged trust fund babies). Both shows I found rather disturbing.

The 90210 I remember had a bunch of awkward rather clean cut teens, with Dillon as the one "bad boy" although honestly the "bad-ness" of him seemed to be his broken home and cool sideburns. It was centered on the sweet and idealized Midwestern family of the Walshes who were a loving nuclear family. Poor acting made it a little cheesy and less dramatic (which made it also more fantasy than reality). The new 90210 was full of young adult-acting teens with polished looks, expensive designer clothes, and all-access passes to the world of fashion, sex, and drugs. The one episode I watched dealt with drug addiction, sexual predation, racism, and jealousy. Perhaps it's my imagination, but I don't remember THAT much of the nastiness of the real world exerting it's influence on my generation's 90210.

"Privileged" has an uber-cute character, Megan the tutor, who is the perfect Mary Jane at its core, so how could it go wrong, right? We're going to be teaching good values and bringing these over-privileged children back onto the right track, right? I assumed that was the premise anyhow. This episode dealt with the younger girl (14?) trying to become more sexually capable by buying porn (defiantly saying that she's not a virgin anyhow). The well-meaning Megan feels it's necessary to say something to discourage this girl or say something was wrong with her beliefs but doesn't know what to say, so she does a bunch of research on porn, watches a bit of the girl's DVD and frets about her own sexual history. Meanwhile she contemplates whether or not she should sleep with the guy she's been seeing on their next date (their 4th). She decides she really likes this guy and is going to go through with it and then gets nervous at the last second and freezes up. Meanwhile she says nothing to the 14 year old but instead berates the young boyfriend when he comes over and demands to know if he really cares. (Eventually the girl realizes on her own that the guy doesn't really care and dumps him.)

The young girl solves things on her own while the Tutor waits to see if the guy she didn't sleep with will call back (we are led to assume that the reason he isn't calling is probably because she didn't sleep with him and she struggles to believe this was the right decision). He finally does and she rushes to his house to have sex with him.

I'm confused. Maybe it's just that I was expecting the "adult" to make the wiser choices and be the example for the younger characters?

I'm guessing the moral of this show was that if you're prudent it's okay to sleep with a guy on a FIFTH date? Or that if you don't sleep with a guy by the fourth date and he doesn't dump you, he's a keeper and NOW you should sleep with him (to keep from losing him)? Or that it's okay NOT to teach young girls about self-esteem and the repercussions of comparing your sexual experience with the unrealistic sexual portrayal in porn, because kids are smart these days and they'll figure it out themselves?

The show ended with a Public Service Announcement-type statement that One in Three girls becomes pregnant before the age of twenty.

Wait a minute...


HOLY CRAP! Where have I been living? Is this true?...so I did a little research:
When teens give birth, their future prospects and those of their children decline. Teen mothers are less likely to complete high school and more likely to live in poverty than other teens. Pregnant teens aged 15–19 years are less likely to receive prenatal care and gain appropriate weight and more likely to smoke than pregnant women aged 20 years or older. These factors are also associated with poor birth outcomes.

About one-third of girls in the United States get pregnant before age 20. In 2006, a total of 435,427 infants were born to mothers aged 15–19 years, a birth rate of 41.9 live births per 1,000 women in this age group. More than 80% of these births were unintended, meaning they occurred sooner than desired or were not wanted at any time. Although pregnancy and birth rates among girls aged 15–19 years have declined 34% since 1991, birth rates increased for the first time in 2006 (from 40.5 per 1,000 women in this age group in 2005 to 41.9 in 2006). It is too early to tell whether this increase is a trend or a one-time fluctuation in teen birth rates.

from the US Center for Disease Control




Yeah, I'm apparently naively living in another time.

No more television for me, it's going to give me nightmares.

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