I am kaitco

a writer's log

Some action Monday, June 27, 2011

So, it took six days of no television and no Xbox before I finally broke down and started cleaning. I had hoped this would come earlier, but such is life.

Having finished The Silence of the Lambs yesterday, I turned my sights to Harris’ fourth novel Hannibal. It’s got only 3 stars on Amazon and the reasons for this are clear. I’m not yet a third of the way through it and I’m already wishing I’d chosen something else to read. I had got up for the bathroom and stared at my Kindle on the bed and wondered what to do. I could either go back to the boring book, or I could start cleaning. So I started cleaning.

I’ve realized in these past few days that Amazon product reviews follow certain curves depending on how good they are. While there will always be idiots rating a book or film low because it arrived with bent pages or because the shipping took too long, the majority of the reviews are more or less genuine. Since most of the reviews are about content, one can tell how good a book is just from it’s review curve.

If the curve is more logarithmic (i.e. going up and towards the right) with the bulk of the reviews being favorable with a few less being 4 stars, a few less being 3 and so forth, the odds are, the book is pretty decent. The trouble begins when the reviews are more hyperbolic where there are many favorable reviews and just as many if not more negative reviews with few 4, 3 and 2 star reviews between them. It’s rare that a popular book will receive a ton of negative reviews, hence the reason it’s popular, but when one can see that the negative reviews outnumber the others, problems are present.

Observe the curve on Silence of the Lambs:

…and on Twilight.

The curve on Hannibal Rising is so dreadful, I doubt I’ll ever even want to watch the movie if it comes on Netflix.

Now, I’ve not read Twilight, but that curve is a bit of a deterrent. The favorable reviews far outnumber the unfavorable ones, but there are definitely more 1 star reviews that 4, 3, or 2 ones. That’s not natural. Ideally, a good book should be liked by many, liked less by fewer and so forth as shown with the Silence curve. I’ve got Twilight sitting on my Kindle and I’m barely into the second or third chapter, but I’m afraid to go further because I know lots of people who love it and I don’t want to read and then lose all respect for all of them for reading rubbish. Not that I’ve not read rubbish books myself, but Harry Potter is at least a good story and more or less well-written…at times.

Enough about other people’s books…I wrote a ton today. Technically, for counting purposes, I wrote 389 words (against the chair in a huff with her eyes closed.), but when I look at all the notes I wrote for Jill’s story, I’m up to 8,203 words in a day, the Damen piece included. It all started with what was supposed to be a short note in Awesome note about how Jill should take place in a town called Georgeton (previously Georgetown, but then I saw there was, indeed, a Georgetown, Ohio), but after describing the town through Kyle’s eyes, I went overboard and just kept writing about everything that happened to him right up to the point where he met Sam and fell in love and then they get Jill. I doubt much of what I’ve written will end up in the final project for Jill, whenever/if ever I get to that point, but I just loved writing it. Kyle’s simultaneously like everyone I’ve ever written, but still the opposite of anyone I’ve tried to write.

How does a straight woman get inside the head of gay man? I’m not entirely sure, but I think I got very close to it while writing today. It’s certainly not as easy as the stereotypes make it seem, especially when one is trying very hard not to create just another stereotype here. I’ve moved the notes for Jill into a Word doc from OneNote’s chaos, so now it’s a real, official project that waiting to be completed. Today, the characters just wouldn’t shut up long enough for me to stop writing and I had another one of those days where I write and write until I physically can’t do it anymore because I’m too low on electrolytes and blood sugar. I love those days.

Back to Hannibal; I’m only reading it at this point because I’ve heard the ending was better in the book than in the movie and, since books are always better than their film adaptations and that film was god-awful, the ending is bound to be good. Hopefully.

 

1121 Friday, May 27, 2011

On an extremely personal level, the numbers 11 and 21 hold no specific value for me; 11 and 24 do as that’s Grandma’s birthday, but not so much 11/21. At the back of my mind, however, I see 11:21 in the morning or at night and smile to myself because I remember that that’s the birthday of the wife of the creator of The X-Files and I remember that the numbers 11 and 21 together often appeared throughout the show and, across my later childhood and adolescence, I had always grown excited when I saw 11/21 in some capacity.

I mention this, not to show what a huge nerd I am, but to convey how my mind seems to work. Tonight, I hit “the zone” again where the right side of my brain takes over as if it were another personality out of multiple battling for control of the single host body. The right brain just writes and writes without care of hunger pains, thirst, pain in the wrist, my back, my butt, my chest, my neck, my eyes or even my jaw. The right brain just knows it has prose and dialogue it must release and, once it takes control of the body, no other senses take precedence until the right brain has said its fill.

Once the right brain is done, it almost floats to the subconscious like an evil demon fleeing from a purified body and leaves in its wake a tired, hungry, thirsty, pain-ridden husk of a Dorienne. That said, I did get a lot of writing done tonight and had some great fun researching which “King Charles” of England was the one with all the illegitimate children (it was Charles II) and also reading through about two scenes of Hamlet to find the exact words I wanted to highlight.

Tomorrow will be a long, sad day because the day after such a rush is always a long, mournful one and leaves me wishing that the right brain would take control once again to pull me out of the doldrums of ordinary life.

I wrote 1121 words tonight (“A little,” she spoke to the floor.) and my back hurts so much and I’m so hungry and thirsty and exhausted that I’d like to just crash to the floor out of fatigue, but dare not for fear that I’ll starve to death in my sleep. Perhaps some food and a little bit of Roseanne or a movie followed by wistfully sleeping with Frasier playing in the background…

 

A favorite Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Years ago, when I was still coming up with the basic notes for Damen, I would brainstorm for hours which books Damen and Brit would read throughout the novel. I think I’ve changed the list a dozen times, but the one that’s always remained on the list is The God of Small Things.

I find it very difficult to sit down and say, “My favorite book is…” because different books affect me differently and thus, are “favorited” for different reasons. I enjoy The Silence of the Lambs on a whole different level from Persuasion or Animal Farm or Moth Smoke, so how can I honestly name a favorite book?

That said, if I had to name just one in the guise of only one book to read for the rest of my life, it may be The God of Small Things. I’ve never felt so many emotions from just one book and it was the first book I’d ever read and called “beautiful” immediately afterward, which is why it was a natural choice for my protagonist and his friend to use for bonding.

Right now in Damen, they are reading through it and it makes me want to pick it up and start reading all over again. I’m excited by their excitement which keeps me in the zone and keeps me wanting to just write until my fingers break.

I wrote 658 words today (bounced into the crowds on Locker Street with a smile on her face.) and for the first time in a while, I feel great about it. My stomach hurts so badly that I nearly cried out in pain on three separate occasions today, first-job is still not moving the way I want it, and my father’s in the hospital on his birthday.

Sigh…but I still feel good about what I’ve accomplished today.

 

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
Tags: , , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , ,

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!

 

 
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