A Story Is A Play Is A Novel Is A Show

The first time I changed formats/mediums was in university. I’d written a short story about a girl who realizes her boyfriend’s interest is moreso in the fact that theirs is an interracial relationship than in her. (It would be giving it too much credit to believe the execution lived up to that, since what I mostly remember is the character fumbling with the inconsistencies of what you’d expect your partner to “get”, what level of social maturity/critiquing in which you’d expect they could participate.)

I decided the story was better served as a screenplay, a decision probably not unrelated to the fact that moving from high school into university cut my performances by about 90%. No marching band, no color guard, no repertory theatre, no drill team. But that’s not the point.

The process of transposing a story from the page to the stage or screen is such an exciting (to me) experience. It’s also (sometimes) frustrating, stumping, illuminating, a dozen other things. My willingness/need to do this – not only when I realize a story is better suited to something other than a short story, novella or novel, but also when it would simply be an interesting variation to see it that way in addition – is probably why I’ve always taken exception with people who insist on comparing novels to their film adaptations. Or more accurately, comparing films to their source books. It. Is. Not. The. Same. It’s not supposed to be, it couldn’t possibly be. Get on with it.

So, upon hearing about the Sci-fest (the Los Angeles Science Fiction One-Act Play Festival)

…I decided to take one of my short stories – one that wouldn’t exceed the 20 min run time – and transpose it into a stage play. It was actually pretty easy to make the choice, not just based on length but also on what I thought I could most effectively stage on a budget. (The flash trilogy about planets having their own unique soul conditions or my beloved Jigsaw, whose synopsis is available on my Writing page, did not quite fit this bill.)

The clear choice was Caroline Samir is Alive and Well.

And then I got stuck.

Not inorganically, which is just another way of saying the pause in the process was necessary, but still. Frustration. (Mostly because I had other deadlines…) Because pretty early on, it was apparent that the choice Caroline makes in the short story would not be emotionally satisfying or even possibly defensible on stage. Which means that I needed to reimagine her decision for the physical audience that (if not at sci-fest then someday and somewhere else!) would be watching. And of course it still had to be consistent with who she is.

The good thing about Caroline herself, and one of the reasons I knew this story was the right one to use, is that she is very boldly herself. Probably irritatingly so, for some. Myself included if I had to spend more than 5000 words with her, to be honest. But that possibly made it a bit easier to think of another way her choice would manifest.

So, long story short (not really, we’ve already been here a while, no?), the ending of the stage play is completely different from the ending of the short story. Necessarily so. And I love that.

And don’t get me started on transitioning a novel into a tv series.

Have you ever rewritten a story for a different medium? Did you love it? (Objection. Leading.)

Yes, it *IS* bold to end a blog post with a question when your once conversational community may be gone forever, which is totally your own fault for not blogging in like ever.

Title This After Reading

So I’m listening to Hammock’s Oblivion Hymns over a 10 hour rain track and every time I do this, I just feel like a genius. You know? Like…in some very real way…it’s because of me that this is awesome.

I’m amazing.

And I’m also something else. It’s funny how I don’t trust my writing that isn’t speculative now? Which is easier to feel properly than to relay to you. I have to feel a purpose, which I have considered that I may simply be conflating with texture. Or voice. Something that takes this beyond something that happened that I am relaying to you like minutes. And when I say, why does this matter, I’m really only speaking to myself because I think this is an author-end consideration. I don’t assume the technique will “matter” to a reader, or need to. So anyway, what is communicated by speculative elements brings purpose for me.

All of which is to say, the short story I’m writing at the moment is not speculative. I had to ask myself “why would I write this” for a couple hours before I found an element that provided a “reason”. Geez, this isn’t making sense, is it? L’abort.

Anywho. I have no mixed feelings about returning to my non-speculative-writing soundtrack. It is glorious, altogether. Have some.

 

That and. I just. I need to go to Iceland. I need it. I cannot explain how I know this. But I need to write in a dome-shaped house of glass in the middle of a void.

 

So Music Be The Food Of Love

It be. No “if”s. So I thought, seeing as the other day I explained how it’s one of my five components of making a project happen – which is super misleading because it makes me sound like I’m in control like I can just make those things come together – I should/want to post one of the songs from a couple of said projects! #YoureWelcome

Jigsaw – this most recent project was a bit different in that the soundtrack (which was robust and loverly) was much more world/tone-setting than my usual while-writing soundtrack. (As in, while writing, I typically have more of a score – heavily Hans Zimmer/Antonio Pinto/etc – and then during revision, I have a soundtrack.)

So there are a couple of songs that reeeealllly impressed upon me while working on this project but I shall choose one. ::TEARS::

It’s always between this song and “The Last Stand” by Koda, but I don’t trust you guys to listen to an 8 minute song based solely on my guarantee that IT WRECKED ME. (Like, I get that we all have different musical responses and experiences but I don’t totally get it because I will never understand someone not understanding how I feel about this song. You know?)

Seriously, writing Jigsaw had several hidden gifts, one of which was discovering Koda. I can’t. I cannot. You know what, sucks to your asmar, I’m posting it again. Because this was a huge part of writing that project.

***

The Last Life of Avrilis – Avrilis was first written in 2010 so it’s had a long history of musical accompaniment, starting with “A Small Measure of Peace” by Hans Zimmer. Gah. So good – but more about meeting the emotional tone of a character than finding a sound that matched the world. During revision, I found several songs that were – promise! – written for this book. O_O Unbeknownst to the artists who wrote them. The first such song was “Blinding” by Florence & the Machine, then Ellie Goulding’s “Holding On”, and most recently (and epically) Röyksopp’s “Running To The Sea” feat. Susanne Sundfør, remixed by Seven Lions – DO.NOT. get me started on Seven Lions.

But let’s hear the throwback anthem.

***

Imogen’s Stupid Untitled Story - @_@ Not that she’s stupid but isn’t it stupid to not tell me the story’s name? Exactly. Jigsaw and What’s-her-name aren’t set in similar worlds basically at all – Jigsaw is more traditionally, albeit sort of immediate futuristic; Imogen’s story is what I call Antiquated Futurism, or more specifically Greco-Roman Futurism – but their music has a little bit of overlap. I definitely use both the above Jigsaw songs to muse on Imogen, but then the songs with more prominent vocals don’t match.

My primary Imogen song at the moment is “Red Eyes” by Thomas Azier. If I tell you to ignore the video, it’s gonna call your attention to the video, right?

 

And together, we started Imogen’s rewrite last night. The funny thing is I used to feel tethered to the words I wrote down, years ago. It was so uncomfortable to revise (it felt so messy it made me anxious) and it was painstaking to discard (what can I say, I’m a hoarder) and starting over was a non-starter. This reads laughably to me now and I’m too far removed from it to take my former feelings seriously, but I know it was true. Now rewriting amazes me. It’s startling satisfying that you can rewind, throw away and breathe new life into a concept. Because what I wrote starting more than a year ago was boring me to tears when I tried to get re-acclimated to the story. Except there were all these elements I loved, tho getting through to them was seriously draining the life out of me. LITERALLY. O_O Literally figuratively.

Sometimes I worry that I’ll forget a turn of phrase that I really liked, which I think is where Thinking About Writing comes in. After sort of meditating on the story as a whole, rewriting it can still capture those elements – yes sometimes differently and calm down, little obsessive – and all of a sudden the project is exciting again.

 

You Christmas, You!

Regarding the title: If you’re unfamiliar with Linda Belcher’s Christmas poem….you are truly missing out.

Look what I can do!

CenterChristmas_Morrow

The lighting’s not perfect but stop being so negative, you guys. Because who knew this sweater that is so old I can’t even would still be rocking my world? Our marriage has been – literally – perfect. Mine and the sweater’s. I can’t imagine my life without it. I guess this time of year just really makes ya think.

And then, anyway. I’m trying – no, I’m *going* to get back into this WiP. The thing is, she’s already chopped liver because I left her around 12k back in March to do the first of two R&Rs…and then didn’t return to her because Jigsaw happened. And it was more her fault than mine because her world got all strong-arm-y and tried to overtake what I’d intended to be a novella, and despite being really interesting to me, I did not and do not want to write about the political intrigue of her society. Sorry, Imogen. (That’s the character’s name. Did I mention this so-and-so hasn’t even told me her title? It’s like she doesn’t want me to write her.) But I’m really into rewrites, so bye-bye 12k. I doubt much of you’ll make it to the finish.

All of which brought me to the topic of What It Takes For Me To Write A Project. I’d say in no particular order, but that’s probably not true since I typically come up with the first one first. I’d also say, some combination of these but honestly, I feel like I need all five. So maybe I’ll just stop talking and list them.

a) Concept – Obviously this is pretty important for speculative literary fiction. Jigsaw was a dream, Keepsake came out of my brain trying not to let me fall asleep, etc. This is one of the most AHA! moments – or at least, the first.

b) First look – This is either the first line of the story/book or a mental movie of the first scene. This one’s interesting because it’s not tethered to a particular point in the process. Sometimes the first line happens several times. Like in the case of rewriting. The thing is, it has to feel like “the one” every time for me to move forward. The first look might also come before or after the Thinking About Writing phases, which aren’t listed because duh. That’d be like listing “writing” as part of my writing process.

c) Music - Yeeees. This is a big one. Again, this one isn’t set in stone, in terms of when this happens. With Jigsaw, I think it was right after concept, to set up the world, because often the only way to properly translate it before literally translating it to paper is to find music that does it for me. I do not understand people for whom music is not everything. I do not. With the WiP, I sort of lit up yesterday when I realized I had a song for the soundtrack. This is especially exciting because this is the WiP that tried to change shape and ended up getting relegated to the corner for the rest of the year. O_O So, yes, finding a song that matches what she’s meant to be is a good sign.

d) First query - This has become increasingly important to me over the last several projects. First of all, I love queries. I do. Writing them. Revising them. Nom. So I’ve found that when I’m really serious about a project, I have to write a query for it, sort of flesh out not just the crux of the story but also the character and sometimes the actual tone of the voice. I could get reeeeal inaccessibly in-my-head on this one. But I won’t. Because it’s Christmas and that’s your present.

e) Title – Man, this is another one that has become sort of paramount. Because titles come quickly to me, when one doesn’t, I’m missing something very important to my process. The title is everything. First of all, I keep a lot of “administrative” documents and I HATE them being titled after the main character, unless of course it’s also the title, which has only ever been the case with Keepsake, and even then, it’s not her given name.

I need these things.

And then there’s Semantics. Mostly having to do with the question of how it needs to be presented. What makes the most sense for the world/character/story being told? Vignettes like Keepsake, single stream of events like Jigsaw, chapters like Avrilis? That needs to be woven into an element of the story itself, which is why Jigsaw had to be immediately rewritten. Don’t even get me started. Nom.

These things, these are my lil’ babies.

 

You Are Hearing Me Talk

I have for a long time been consumed (hyperbole) by the consideration of writing separate characters. I think that would be my nightmare as a writer, to wake up one day and realize I’d just written the same person over and over again. Mustn’t it be the same for other artists? Would it not be humiliating to write the same song again and again? Unless you’re Thomas Kincaid and that’s your platform, who wants to paint the same thing over and over? And really, isn’t that the basis on which people dichotomize artists and people who make a living from making art? (Which is to say, on which I?) One of the criterion, at least?  Do I have a declarative thought to share in this piece?

Not that I have to point this out since I’m fairly sure you all know where you are, but these are just my thoughts. Possibly just my “this season” thoughts, of which I’ll someday be disabused, but I doubt it. I wonder sometimes if people think concept and world are the only things that matter, if that’s where creativity is proved. And then, the assumption that the concept or world and how it bears on the MC will ensure the MC’s distinctiveness. But unless it’s a conscious consideration – how was this character socialized by this reality – it’s still possible to put a cookie cutter MC in a thousand different (even speculative) worlds. Actually, it’s in speculative fiction that I’m most concerned about the oversight. I don’t want my characters to be interchangeable. Slash will not allow.

To be fair…none of my characters are that happy…

So as I have two WiPs, one active, one to which I’ll return, I’m thinking back on the last three MCs and really trying to imagine them in the other worlds. They’re all women, they’re all the equivalent of Black American – but these aren’t character traits. Doy. Yes, why they are who they are has always had to do with the society in which they grew up, the circumstances, and the best part is when you’re writing and the character informs you of how they would naturally respond to some stimuli. As in, that’s been my desire and attempt. But I still have to try to envision them in one of the other societies, because – in my mind – they shouldn’t be able to fit. (Obviously, we’re talking about my rules and parameters for my work – but I can tell you the times I’ve seen a writer/creator’s cast in two separate shows be the same basic archetypes, I’ve wanted to rip my hair out. And theirs, too. So it’s not entirely just about self-regulation.)

And yet, sometimes I think a writer is purposely or at least permissively fixated on a type of person, or a group of people, to great success. I might say Toni Morrison’s casts and her musings on this community in Ohio allows for fluctuation – she is a master of never writing a minor character – but also similarities. Maybe I just need to read all her books again (challenge accepted. again.) but I couldn’t say the lead character is always distinctly different from another one because their predicament tends to be the same. Or related. If you know what I mean, you know what I mean. Let’s take a moment of silent reverence for ToMo and then move on.

So. Standing Avrilis next to Dolores/Elsie next to Imogen next to Eva. Making sure their similarities are only skin-deep. (Well, not only. I’m not trying to rewrite the human spirit. Always.) I can remove one immediately. One is in process, so she’s the one in danger. Her circumstance could result in a self-consciousness not unlike another MCs, but how she responds or how it manifests should continue the conversation her world/concept began, I think.

I think…I may be entirely in my head right now. My apologies.

Additionally:

::Looks back at all the above words:: So you know. Do something with that.

Take It To The Page

Things I Do (As A Writer)

1) I muse while I write. I listen to a piece that reflects the emotion of the scene itself.

Ways This Can “Backfire” (Or: Why You Can’t Muse Too Hard)

A) It has occurred on occasion – read: more often than not – that I have taken myself on a journey, girl. Got all up in those feels and expressed an entire process of emotion-ism-ality and just experienced this entire narrative that’s rich and intense and lengthy. Because…I was feeling between the words.

Things To Know So That You Don’t Come Off Like A Noob, Bethany

I) [Like the Roman numeral, not like the letter.] It takes longer to write a scene than to read it. ….Read it. With or without the muse (music). Actually, I prefer with. Because then it’s really super abrupt when I realize how much did not make it to the page. The read doesn’t match the muse, so to speak. I got down a sketch, a skeleton – but not the meat. So I go, whoops, maybe let’s try that again.

So.

And Start Again At Your Beginnings

One of the best things about writings – the tangible things, I’ll say, otherwise I’ll be making all kinds of obnoxious inserts like this! – is starting over. Taking everything you know, all the things that didn’t make it on the page and going back to the beginning. Or the fact that the beginning can change, if you like!

I’m starting to wonder if anything feels as good as revising. It’s a love so much more mature than the first time you write something down. (I should probably stop universalizing since I have no idea whether it’s true for anyone else, no?)

And it’s a small thing I’m considering maybe working on right now. A short story from at least two and a half years ago, if not longer. The heart of which I still need to tell. It’s what I used to write and so it’s exciting to go back to it – if alarming how many of its one-time companion pieces I no longer “need”… and so they’ll be put away for good. But this one, yes. It still matters.

I’d say it’s a wonderful phenomena, the privilege to start over, knowing what you know now. Only that would be dishonest – in real life, I’d never want to start again. Even though I could have done much better, there are too many minutes, too many hours, too much space in between that I’m not passionate enough to live again. So it’s only in my work that the concept is so refreshing. In real life, you do better by proceeding forward, knowing what you know now. It’s better that way. The story is doing the same, come to think of it. You’re starting over but you’re doing more than just reliving it again.

Mmmm, revision.

 

Eleventy Queries

So, the other part of that lovely award granted by the Pen Punks was a set of questions.

1. What is your biggest personal achievement?

My family. My hubby, little boy, me family. <3
2. Do you have a goal for this year? If so, what is it?
Who…has no goals… just out of curiosity. Lol – yes, I have a goal. I want to hold on to what I’ve realized through my recent re-vision (yep, Imma be obnoxious and keep saying it thusly – HAH, see that, Jen?!). I want to be ever more courageous in my work. Actually, in all aspects of life, though it’ll look different depending on the area.
3. If you could pick any imaginary world (from novels/movies) to live in, which would it be and why?
Weeell. I’d love to see if I have what it takes for Battle School… otherwise, I’m a loyalist. We’ve talked about this before. I am bound to my world, my people, etc. I always root for the human, haha. So while I looove so many imaginary worlds (esp sci-fi), I don’t care to be in them. I like reality. (Is this a huge disappointment coming from a writer?)
4. If you could spend a day with any celebrity, whom would you choose and why?
Well, I’d love to spend a day with: Toni Morrison (obvious reasons – I already know I love to hear her talk thanks to multiple episodes of Charlie Rose); Bill Cosby; Charles Stanley. These are people I want to hear speak, up close, before their time is done.
5. What’s the last book you read that surprised you?
Speaker for the Dead – and YES, I’M STILL ON PAUSE BECAUSE IT’S SO OVERWHELMINGLY GOOD. And yes, every page, it seems, is a surprise. Just. The crafting. The clarity. The worlds. Gah.
I’d say Invisible Man surprised me, as well, in a different and yet similar way. I cried. I don’t know that I’ve literally, physically cried before while reading a book. I can be moved and carried aWAY by literature without physical tears falling – but they did. It was brilliant. Brilliant.
6. What’s your favorite game show to watch, and would you actually want to be a contestant on it?
I guess Wheel of Fortune? I really can’t be sure, I just know I loved playing that on the computer back in the time of floppy disks. :D
7. If you could pick any novel besides your own to be made into a movie, which would it? Why?
Well, Ender’s Game is coming out soon. :D ICANTEVEN.
8. What is your favorite YouTube Video?
That. Is a weird question, hahaha. If we’re talking representative videos (like music videos, whether homemade or professional) than it depends on what mood/season/stage of the writing process I’m in. I’m loving Hammock right now, if I haven’t been clear enough – and there are full albums on YouTube.
If it’s just ridiculous clips. Too many. #TooMany
9. What is a book you hate but wish you liked?
I’m sorry, I cannot. I can talk about films, shows, music by name when I hate it but I can’t with books. Except that one time, but it so doesn’t fit this question. I like it just as much as I wanted to.
10. Who is one of your favorite philosophers?
Way too loaded of a question. With far too many qualifiers. I will choose Herbert Marcuse and spare you all the diatribe of why and why not.

11. Where do you do your best thinking about deep questions?

On my bed, when I’m comfy with ice water and my laptop. Or near water – whether it’s in the bath tub, at an overlook point somewhere on West Cliff Drive, at Sentinel Point… it sort of centers on water.

This does not capture it at all. And, if you promise not to prosecute, I’ll admit that I actually did my best thinking past that bench, down a short drop to the actual cliff where you couldn’t hear much more than the waves.

And So It Is

New idea: let’s talk about all the ways I’m dumb.

The most obvious way (to me – and feel free to chime in, friends, with things you’ve been dying to say but haven’t) is that I am loyal beyond reason. No, I’m not talking about toward people although, yes, even there I’ve experienced how that can be unhealthy but let’s stop being serious and let me ramble. I’m loyal in the way that one cannot not buy Crest and also doesn’t know why and I don’t have to set here and answer your questions. (Sorry. I watched Ali yesterday. Which won’t stop being on my top 3 favorite movies ever for always amen.)

I’ll just…put this here for ya.

So Crest. Loyalty. It’s like I think this is some intrinsic aspect of my personality. As if if people thought I used Colgate (which is a stupid and LUDICROUS, obviously) they would somehow misunderstand me in a very meaningful way and I would be misrepresenting myself and the whole system would fall apart.

And so, I find myself having to – or attempting to, at least – give long-winded, unwarranted and uninteresting disclosures (which totally works on Twitter, by the by) when discussing my writing soundtrack. Because there was a time that it was 100% Hans Zimmer/James Horner/Thomas Newman – and if James Newton Howard, Antonio Pinto and Dario Marionelli make their way into heavy rotation, I’m not hurting anyone.

But then Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy soundtrack sort of overwhelmed the writing of Cait, or maybe the revising, I can’t remember… and Florence & the Machine actually seemed to be singing about Avrilis, which was fine because I was reading, not writing. And when I was actually writing new words on new pages, I was still for the most part going back to my mainstays. Imogen and Elsie, they were conceived legitimately. (Was that a weird way to phrase that??)

And then I don’t know what happened. I re-envisioned one of them. And I can’t even really remember how I came upon it but I made a playlist of Tycho, Hammock and God Is An Astronaut. O_O And that’s all I’ve used. And I love it. And am also ashamed. … WHO is ashamed of things like this?! Seriously. What is going ON. When I talk about what I’m writing to, I feel the need to give back-story-info-dump on my progression and how maybe this shouldn’t so much be considered a progression (which the other party never said it was in the first place because they truly don’t give a good doggone beyond initial interest in seeing what other people listen to while working) because I still very much consider Zimmer/Et Al to be my writing companions even though, no, at the moment, I’m not listening to them but I’m sure I will – and, believe me, I understand such info dumps to be an occupational hazard. Yet I am helpless. Rendered ridiculous by a strong sense of loyalty to SOUND, when it comes down to it.

I dunno. Pray for me.

Oh and also, this:

Hiiii, angles that make me look ALL of the wide!

Hiiii, angles that make me look ALL of the wide!