I am kaitco

a writer's log

In vain Saturday, February 26, 2011

One of the more fascinating things about writing a novel is crafting the personalities and voices of the many characters that appear on the page. What I find simultaneously enjoyable and frustrating is the physical act of creating dialogue that I could never even imagine myself saying.

In Damen, this comes about most often while writing Corey. Corey is crass, blunt and curses like the proverbial sailor, yet when I write dialogue, I often need to whisper the words back to myself to make sure they make sense, and when a character is so unlike myself that it’s rather sickening, I feel dirty even writing what he would say. That is to say, I used to feel dirty when writing Corey’s dialogue. I’ve now grown accustomed to it and can easily separate my own voice from Corey’s. Damen, however, is far different.

To make him a character all on his own, I gave him “life” by giving him small pieces of my own personality. Since Damen is not an autobiography, however, he is a completely different person with a voice and history all his own. I go to church often (not as often as I could and should, but we’re all Christ’s works-in-progress) and I try to thank God for all His gifts every day of my life. Damen, on the other hand, rests somewhere on the line between agnostic and plain atheist. So much has happened in his life that make him doubt that a creator could have any hand in the machinations of his world and the fact that he has had none of the religious reinforcement that many others his age would experience, has tainted him even further against God and all religion. And so, he when he swears (and when he’s still reeling in Corey’s influence, it’s very often), Damen will often use the Lord’s name in vain.

My mind and heart make great conflict over this. The mind says that words on a page are simply that and as long as I don’t go around screaming “Godd***t!” all the time, I remain clean. On the other hand, the heart that helped me walk out into the church aisle years ago, crying as I went to the altar to join the church, knows that it is wrong to use the Lord’s name in vain in any context. If I’m writing it, I’m saying it, even if I do skip over those words and phrases as I whisper dialogue back to myself and thus the battle continues.

This reminds of when my 16 century Brit-Lit class was studying “Faustus” and the effect of being an actor in the play during a time when folks were far more religious than they are now. The actor playing the titular character would have to call upon the devil to make Mephistophilis appear and whether one is acting or not, there is still that innate worry of “calling upon the devil.” While I have stopped blatantly swearing and using God’s name in vain years ago, the mere acting of writing such dialogue is difficult to the point that I go through four or five waves of typing and backspacing as I decide whether or not to have Damen think “Jesus Christ!” in a moment where he is clearly not praying. Even typing that last sentence used to get across my point gave me pause.

I can’t say that I’m completely indoctrinated as I have only come to the church in the last five years and had written off myself as an agnostic prior to that, but I must say, each time I’ve got a choice between staying true to my character and saying what I know to be wrong to say, I struggle…a lot.

I wrote 626 words tonight (his first extracurricular conversation about a novel since his father had passed) and when a moment called for Damen using God’s name in vain, somehow my heart took control and I’m glad I found a better way to say I wanted. That said, I’ve still a lot of Damen’s character to unleash and eventually, I’ll be pressed with the same battle again.

 

Nothing important Friday, January 28, 2011

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 11:59 pm
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Today’s prose caught me in a bit of a struggle. I was overcome with this urge to completely re-write what I had previously written, but after continuous lines that were quickly deleted, I ended up simply cleaning up what I already had. Close to fifteen minutes were spent trying to decide whether I keep Damen thinking about The Brothers Karamazov or just “something” (that was strange, I typed something as John Lennon sang the word something in the song “Something” playing just now) by Dostoyevsky, but then, I wanted to actually use a specific title, though I was certain I didn’t want The Brothers Karamazov. I looked up Crime and Punishment since I haven’t read it yet and then looked at other Dostoyevsky works before finally sighing and going back The Brothers Karamazov.

I had recently edited the end of Chapter 9 (which I did finish tonight) since I was straying into literature that was a little too obscure for my intended audience. Not saying that anything by Dostoyevsky could be on the suggested reading lists of anyone who would read my book, but I still think that I should keep to the same realm.

I’ve got nothing else to say about today, which is interesting since I feel oddly blank tonight. I wasn’t in the mood for anymore TV, so I decided to come upstairs and write. Anyway, I completed the chapter and wrote 1083 words (that Angel’s crying could be heard even down the hall) and made it through another day.

Nothing important, but still somehow valuable.

 

Progress in some areas Monday, January 3, 2011

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 11:59 pm
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I didn’t do too much other than watch “Seinfeld” all day today. I got my Kinect from the post office and got it set up, but I still don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything relevant today. Perhaps it’s just better to have had a day of rest before going back to reality and my first job tomorrow.

I wrote a total of 1720 words today, spanning from around midnight last night to just ten minutes ago. I definitely had the opportunity to do more, but…procrastination being what it is…

I’m beginning to “see” Corey a little better now and, as I continue with this chapter, it is easier to write his dialogue. I can even hear his voice clearly in my head now. I’m still dancing the fine line between hiding Corey’s major quirks and remaining true to the character, but I’m proud of what I’ve done with him today.

My favorite part of today, aside from setting up the Kinect, was having Brian and Damen talk about Star Wars EU books. Only a true Star Wars geek would be able to fully grasp the reference and I think it makes Damen seem more well-rounded and simultaneously more and less like me. Like me, Damen reads Star Wars lit, but Damen reads everything, so even sci-fi isn’t too far off for him. Star Wars EU is the only sci-fi I’ve read and, while I’d like to finish the books on my big list, I doubt I’ll venture too far into sci-fi…that is, until I get really started on Luka, but that could be years from now, and Luka‘s really more fantasy than sci-fi. Anyway…Having Damen read sci-fi books makes him truly seem like he reads everything that’s available, instead of just the same kinds of books that I would read, which makes him a little clearer to me.

I’m not sure if I’ll write too much more tonight (I’ve got at least 15 more Seinfelds waiting for me), but I think this sudden push on characterization will serve me well throughout the week.

Edit: I’ve got to start these posts earlier. I barely made it tonight!

 

Was holly AND jolly Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yesterday was Christmas and it was as nice and calm as Christmas ever could be. We didn’t get through any of our normal traditions like watching Lord of the Rings (extended, of course) or even getting to see any of 24 hours of story, but I get to spend some time with my family which is really what matter most.

I got a little writing done at the airport on Friday, especially considering that I spent at least three hours there, but I can’t remember where I stopped in the morning. I think I got through about 375 words, but it’s all starting to run together.

I thought I wanted to get some writing done yesterday, but each time the thought came to me, I considered how little time I get to spend with my mother nowadays and decided that the writing could wait for another day. Mother did, in fact, give me some story ideas as she relayed a few exports horror-stories to me; the stories may even be the groundwork for a future novel.

At some point yesterday, I got through the point where Damen physically gets to the library after to listening to Chopin. It took close to an hour of research into the best and the “right” songs for Damen to listen to while he walked to the library and what’s frustrating is that I still don’t feel very comfortable with how the scene was written.

I think one of the more difficult things about writing in modern times is how to relate my characters to current media (or what was current in 2007).

A long time ago, while trying to understand why Damen behaved the way he did, I tried considering what, if any, music he would like. Damen just inherently feels like an indie band kind of guy, but I don’t really know of too many indie bands (outside of those suggested by Jeph Jacques) and it just feels wrong applying popular, or any of the music I know, to Damen. Perplexed, the best solution available seemed to be giving him a taste for classical music.

This being Damen, however, I couldn’t quite see him just listening to all classical music; it just didn’t seem like a fit for him. A quirk for Damen, though, would make it legitimate and the quirk was just listening to only Chopin.

I’ve had this thing for Chopin’s music ever since I was able to properly pronounce his name which comes from a song I heard in an adaptation of The Secret Garden. The nocturne (Opus 72, No. 1 in E minor) is played as a theme to this specific adaptation which happened to be my favorite of all The Secret Garden adaptations I’d seen. I’ve always loved the song, so now Damen loves the song and thus the jump to Chopin-only was the easy decision.

Anyway, I think it would be great to have him watching some TV show or listening to some popular song in the novel, but the problem is that I’ve been pretty out of touch with my own generation for the past five years, which fascinatingly is what endears me so much to Damen. I’m not anti-social, I just hate new television and the techno-over-produced crap that is pop music today.

Speaking of losing touch with society, I watched “Avatar” with my mother last night. Overall, I enjoyed the movie and I know it’s one that I’m likely to own and watch again and again. The problem is that I’ve heard everything from people getting suicidal once the film was over to the idea that it should take it’s place among the greatest movies of all time and it didn’t live up to the hype.

The movie was very pretty and I loved the happy ending, but it was predictable to the point that it was just plain formulaic. An outsider gets thrown into an odd society that he hates and can’t understand at first, but then comes to love and considers himself one of them. I can’t come up with too many titles that match this at the point, but the first that pops to mind is “The Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise. Cruise plays a drunken soldier at around the turn of the 20th century or so and when his troops engage the legendary samurai throwbacks, he gets stranded amongst them. Eventually, he picks up Japanese, learns their ways and fights with them as they battle the Imperialistic force coming to wipe out their way of life. Cruise’s character even comes “home” and goes to live permanently with the Japanese samurai. This sounds painfully familiar…

What also annoyed me about the film was its similar to the Lost Tribe of Sith e-book series. I’m not sure which came first, but one of them ripped off the other. In Lost Tribe of Sith, the old sith (5000 BBY) get stranded on some planet that’s too far into the Outer Rim for them to signal for help and they end up living as gods amongst the locals who call them the Skyborn, which is the name for the locals’ deity. The locals, the Keshiri, are purple-skinned people who are deeply religious and have a group of warriors who ride these winged dragon type animals around the islands and etc. Eventually, some of the Keshiri realize that the aliens are not really their gods, The Skyboarn, and lead a massive aerial attack to drive the outsiders out of their mainlands and hopefully to their deaths. Again, terribly familiar…

Like I said, “Avatar” was great fun and very pretty, but the only thing that actually surprised me about the movie was that the first tree actually fell. I expected the tree to actually protect itself with the locals connected to it, but then the movie would’ve been over far too soon, so what was I thinking?

Anyway…I’ve rambled on far too long about nothing in particular. This was a fun Christmas overall. I got to play (aka: got killed a lot) Call of Duty with my step-dad and I think he enjoyed the gift. I got to sit and talk with my mother for a while, which I hadn’t done in a long, long time. I learned that one of my relatives was the so-called Church Lady Bandit who had been robbing banks for close to five years (yay family…) and I watched a simple and predictable, but fun movie with my mother.

I’d like to get some writing done either this morning or later tonight and it would be a really beautiful thing if I could finish this chapter before I went back to Ohio. It would be the best Christmas gift I could get for myself…ever!

 

Compensating Monday, December 13, 2010

I got through 1355 words yesterday and could have done more had I not turned on the sims, started watching “Coupling” on Netflix and then fell asleep randomly. I spent a lot of the day mixing Job 1 and Job 2 yesterday, obviously compensating for what I didn’t do the previous day.

I’m proud of the work I did and the research I managed to complete (Phillis Wheatley FTW!), but I am still a little bummed that I hadn’t found what book Damen would be reading at the end of the part I finished. I just wrote:

Listening to the murmurs coming from the same room, he read XX from the comfort of his hiding place for a while, when he looked up and saw Jessie Clarke staring

I had just gone on about Invisible Man for a while and would like to use it again, but Damen had just finished the book during the previous scene and it’s a little too on the nose to use Invisible Man when Damen’s…trying to be invisible. It just seems a little hackish.

Anyhoo, I’ve decided to name all the streets after Jane Austen characters (Willoughby Drive, Elliott Street, Dashwood Way) and the reason I remember this, other than the fact that it’s just so fun, is that I’ve created this “Damen reminders” sheet to help me keep things straight. I’ve got two separate files from the novel/chapter that include details about Anthony’s family and Damen’s upbringing as well as Angel’s story (which I’ve got some preliminary notes for, thought I haven’t decided if it will be it’s own novel yet), but the Reminders will be more of a quick reference than the others. The “damen-teachers” and “damen-books” files have grown far to long to remain any type of quick reference and I’ve decided to move fruitful conversations that I’ve just put at the end of “damen-books” until I find the proper place for them to the Reminders.

The thing is, I’ve got quite a few of these conversations, usually coloured dark red or blue, interspersed through several chapters, which makes me think that I should perhaps drop them altogether. I think it’s just a matter of determining whether the little talks between Damen and Brit are moving along the story.

I’ve also been seesawing with my decision to include the “I know what you’re thinking…” pieces for Angel, Anthony, Brit and Corey. I want to include them because Corey’s is very poignant and Angel’s gives the kind of insight into her that would be very long and difficult to explain since novel is a close 3rd on Damen. I have this inkling that Brit’s will be just a rant that’s almost my own words about being a black girl in America and Anthony’s will be just sound like a raving imbecile, which is how I see him at this point.

I don’t know how it popped into my head yesterday, but I imagined Anthony snatching away all Damen’s books and poetry by black authors; everything except Langston Hughes. I don’t bother going into Zora Neale Hurston since Damen and Brit will be reading her later, but somehow I see Hughes work as a little argumentative on the subject of being black. He’s like Malcolm X to Countee Cullen’s MLK and, while it often sounds beautiful, it annoys me. Also, at least at my school, black American literature is not even introduced until the Harlem Renaissance when we’re just doused with Hughes’ work and the teachers make it sound like blacks never wrote a darn thing prior to 1921 (Phillis Wheatley FTW!). Anyway, where I was going with this is that I’m beginning to dislike Anthony even more than when I first started this endeavour.

Two years ago, I imagined Anthony as having his flaws, but still having some good-naturedness to him. Nowadays, I’m about two steps from having him actually strike Angel to make him truly the most vile character in the novel, surpassing even Zach. I don’t know if it’s because I identify more and more with Damen as I continue, so it’s easier to hate Anthony or if I’m just venting my frustrations with so many black American men, but I there’s definitely more hostility in the prose when I write Anthony. Hopefully, all of this will work itself out when Damen later sees a functional mixed family (perhaps “art boy” will have an older white brother…), but for now, Anthony’s getting the third degree from me.

Perhaps all of this stems from reading about Roll of Thunder again. I haven’t read the book since I was in 7th or 8th grade, possibly even 6th, and I’ve included it as one that Kevin had read to Damen often. I suppose it’s just bringing home the point that despite any off hand remarks about blacks, Damen is not actually bigoted, but Anthony’s just an a**. What I can’t seem to get my mind around is why Angel finds the book dear to her. I came up with some info, but I still don’t know…

All right…time to make this day the success that yesterday was, though I must say, working Sundays is probably the worst thing in all the world.

 

Determination Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Filed under: The Sims,Writing — kaitco @ 10:43 am
Tags: , , , ,

I didn’t write at all last night and eventually just put myself to bed when it was apparent there was no use in even trying to write something. Whether it was from fatigue or worry or just the Aleve, my brain would not, could not function properly; I barely enjoyed playing the sims.

This morning, however, I was determined. I knew that if I went more than 24 hours without spewing anything creative, the spell would be broken and there would be no way I could face January 1, 2011 knowing that at least I did everything I could to get this novel complete before the year end.

I got up this morning (not that early, I am still me after all) and wrote 987 words and got just past Damen’s first conversation with Tabitha about Jessie’s allusions to his masculinity. The words fell quickly and I’m in the mood to read The Fountainhead. I think that novel is a little too on the nose, but I’m far happier with it than I was with The Odyssey and Beowulf analogies.

I really want to finish this chapter tonight, so perhaps I’ll just come home and write tonight. I’m a little burned out on Guitar Hero for the time being and I know that this chapter is the major hump before the rest of the book gets really interesting. From here, Damen gets to actually meet Brit and we get to see how Anthony behaves with his siblings and, of course, meet Anessa and get her brilliant barbs to her brother. It just gets better from here and I’m so excited to just get that much further into the novel.

Maybe I will have this complete by the 31st December…

 

Must stop resting my eyes in my chair Friday, December 3, 2010

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 11:18 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

This counts for last night since last night suffered the same debacle as the previous one.

I only got 439 words last night…miserable failure.

It did not help that I didn’t leave my first job until 11pm yesterday, but much of my night was spent just staring at the laptop screen and trying to figure out how to end the scene. Yesterday, I realized that all my allusions to The Odyssey and Beowulf were over the top and stupid, but I didn’t go to sleep with a plan in place. I just “rested my eyes” in my chair and that was the end of it.

Last night, I tried to peruse as many books and short stories that I thought would make a similar analogy, but nothing produced from an hour of searching. I bounced back and forth between Damen reading The Phantom Tollbooth and Animal Farm; I settled on Animal Farm (though, now that I think of it, maybe it should be The Phantom Tollbooth).

Then, I had no idea what should happen next. Previously, the scene just ended with the Grendel’s mother thing, but now I had to have him do something and make it connect or at least foreshadow what’s coming the next day. I decided on a drawing and then got a burst of inspiration by making the allusions via Facebook. The problem about writing about Facebook, is just that. There’s no way I can write out the last ten of Brit’s status updates in the novel, so now I have to just say that’s what Damen sees. 😦 I played around with a dozen different methods of showing how Brit’s status updates implied that she knew what went down between Damen and Jessie and probably wrote a total of 530 words, but most of those can’t be used.

Everything fell apart when I was trying to decide what Damen should be doing. The foreshadowing was in place, but then what? Does he try to chat with her? I tried this at first, but the pair haven’t even said Hi to one another yet and I’ve got them chatting a Facebook? I even thought to bring this up in the prose, but by then, it was almost 3am and nothing else would come. My brain just wonked out on me and then I decided to lean back in my chair and “think over the scene.”

Well, today is another day. Maybe I can just finish the rest of this scene and the actual chapter tonight. I’m getting kind of sick not knowing what to do in my own novel.

 

Fell asleep on the job Thursday, December 2, 2010

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 9:56 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I fell asleep in my chair before I could post anything, but I’m counting this for last night anyway. I was so tired that all I could do was just drag myself to my bed and fall.

Yesterday was just a long and miserable day, the type that have been far more frequent since I all but stopped going to church. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence…

I read/edited 1946 words last night before I hit a wall; a rather large one at that. I wrote:

He grabbed The Odyssey from the top shelf of the bookcase in his room, quickly found Book 6 and lay across his bed where Jessie Clarke had lain in an attempt to seduce him.

If it weren’t for this line, I would have been able to finish the whole part or got at least 2105 words finished, but the part about Book 6 of The Odyssey sucker punched me.

The problem with taking two years to write a novel is that, sometimes notes get lost and prose that made loads of sense a year earlier is practically gibberish much later. Like anyone who’s graduated high school, I’ve read some bits and pieces of The Odyssey, but I’ve not, as of yet, perused the whole story, so the part about Book 6 stood out like a sore thumb to me. There was no way to ignore it either because I wrote about a better analogy involving Beowulf, Grendel’s mother and “sword of Eotens” and after re-reading that, I knew that part had to go.

I stared at the line for close to twenty minutes trying to remember what part of Book 6 could Damen be relating to his recent experience with Jessie Clarke, but nothing came to me. I then started with Wikipedia and then moved onto just finding a copy of the text online to just read Book 6 and see where I was heading with this. The problem was that it was 2 am and my capacity to read eons-old literature had diminished, so I went to SparkNotes for a quicker understanding (Cliff’s Notes was totally useless).

I read the summary for Book 5 and 6, but still found nothing, so then I tried to read the text again, but again, came up empty handed. I then started from the beginning of the SparkNotes summaries and spent an hour reading the entirety of story’s summary; still nothing. The closest I could come to The Odyssey becoming some great analogy for Damen and Jessie Clarke was Odysseus being Calypso’s love slave and I can’t imagine that I was groping at that weak a straw for an analogy. That’s when I leaned back in my chair to consider if it was even worth trying to relate Damen to analogous book for his dilemma and, if I did, which book it would need to be. I woke a few hours later with just a enough strength to crawl to the bed.

I’ll have to research this throughout the day today before I start my second job because I knew he needs to read something since he always turns to books in times of stress, but which book and why will be the questions of the day.

The good news, though, is that I am still consistently writing and, if I can keep up this act, I may yet get finished before the new year.

 

 
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