Different Arts, Different Behaviors

As a writer, I fly solo. That’s kinda the name of the game. The decisions made are mine and mine alone. It’s me and the keyboard, my imagination, and whatever command of language I happen to have at the time. If I want to adjust point of view, setting, character, or anything else, I can do it and not have to answer to anyone. 

There are times as a writer where I take in other people’s opinions. The most obvious example is my writers group. I submit pieces and they make notes and hand them back. In return, I do the same for them. And it’s rather satisfying to suggest to other people what they need to do to correct their story. (They should always, always listen to me.)
However, what they do with what I say is entirely up to them. After all, it’s their name on the title page. My name may or may not show up in the acknowledgements page. (Thanks, Fleur!) 
And I can take or leave their suggestions without a committee or an audience. I nod, say thanks, and move on. Every adjustment I make is my own and I’m the only one who has to answer for it. 
Theatre works a little differently. Theatre is collaborative. There is more than one voice going on at any given time: playwright, director, actor, etc. Collaboration has inherent constraints that aren’t present when you’re your own boss.
For example, tonight at rehearsal for Marat/Sade, I was reminded of just how different writing (solo) and acting (collaborating) are. There was a section where blocking was giving some difficulty in which Sade, who is the center man (after all, the play is his big Fuck You to the Man), was getting upstaged by some delightfully raucous musicians. This was understandably annoying to Sade, whose speech is kind of important to the point of the whole play. 
Being in the ensemble, I’m basically opposite the audience and saw that a small adjustment in blocking would keep Sade center man, instead of being brushed to the corner. I made the suggestion to the director — during the break — and he gave me a hug, said thank you, and then passed the suggestion on to Sade. 
Unfortunately, the set being the chaotic place it is, there was really no way to take the time to communicate the change in the time allotted. So there was a stumbling moment while director and actor went back and forth in front of everyone. No one got loud, but you could tell that maybe the better time to discuss this would be later. Which is basically what it boiled down to. 
Throughout the whole exchange, I cannot tell you how hard it was to stay quiet. I can see how it will work and if I had two seconds I could get the picture across. But, in the end, I’m the chorus girl. I’m not the director, or Sade, and their responsibilities aren’t mine. I’m there to fill one slot of the story. I’m not in charge of the whole story. 
And, while other writers can keep or dismiss my suggestions at their leisure (to their peril), theatre means you take the director’s note and adjust accordingly — because someone has to be in charge of this chaos. His tools are actors and sets and scripts. All of those things have opinions of their own. By jumping in further and insisting on my change (which may or may not work, after all) I would just be adding to the chaos. So, with great restraint, I kept my mouth shut. They’ll sort it out. 

The Downside of Setting Challenges for Yourself

The only reason I’m up right now writing a blog post is because I’m stupid. Yes, I’m whining. And yes, I’m whining about a challenge I set for myself not even a week ago. I’m complaining about the blog-a-day challenge. This whole post right here – the one you’re reading/skimming over – is written only because I said I do it and I can’t wimp out on the seventh day of the New Year.

I’m soooo sleepy at the moment. This is the first night ever where I almost fell asleep at the wheel. Really, the only thing that kept me awake was the thought: I still have to write a blog post. I’m stupid.

So, there you are. Voila! A blog post. A post about posting. It’s all very meta. Now I’m going to sleep.

Review: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, by Ben Loory

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the DayStories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While this book is definitely short and you can read it in one day without any serious effort…I don’t recommend trying to finish in one day. When it says “Stories for Nighttime” it means it. These are like small, modern little fairy tales and you need a second to digest each one or they all start to blur together in one heap of endless: person obsesses about object to the detriment/benefit of person’s life.

The stories themselves are sometimes sweet, sometimes creepy, and sometimes both at the same time. There are some unique, impactful images throughout.

My only real issue with this collection is a strange one and might not make sense at first.

It’s the way the story looks on the page.

Loory uses a lot of white space. White space tends to pick up the pace of a story — after all, the amount of words on a page can be used to determine how long you’re gonna spend reading it. More words = more time. Less words = less time. At least, that’s the general formula I use.

However, the white space used in these stories is more akin to how white space is used in poetry. White space in poetry = you’re pausing a lot and slowing way down.

Here’s an excerpt from “The Book” which is the opening story from Stories as spaced by Loory (and as can closely be approximated by Blogger formatting):

The woman becomes famous for opposing the book. She even writes a book of her own. Her book cries out for the destruction of the first book.
        In answer, the first book’s sales jump.
        The woman is frantic. She doesn’t know what to do. She feels like she’s going insane.
        And then one day on the street, a man comes up and spits in the woman’s face.

The woman stands there — shocked paralyzed. She hadn’t realized everyone hated her. She turns and runs sobbing all the way home. She locks the door and collapses on the floor.
        She crawls into the bedroom on her hands and knees and hides under the blankets.
        She huddles in the darkness all night long, her hands over her eyes, crying.

All of the stories are organized and broken this way.

The way the sentences break off into their own paragraphs and the amount of space between paragraph-length sections make me think more of poetry than prose…and, unfortunately, it makes me think of weak poetry because the images don’t oppose each other as much as line breaks are designed to do — the sentences are just a continuation of the same thought without anything surprising in it.

And it occurs to me that I would enjoy the stories more, if the paragraph sections were smashed together prose-poetry like. Then it reads dreamy. Now, I know reviews should not actually rewrite stuff, but I think offering a contrasting structure illustrates my odd, perhaps singular frustration with this collection (no words have been changed, only spacing and indention):

The woman becomes famous for opposing the book. She even writes a book of her own. Her book cries out for the destruction of the first book. In answer, the first book’s sales jump. The woman is frantic. She doesn’t know what to do. She feels like she’s going insane. And then one day on the street a man comes up and spits in the woman’s face.

The woman stands there — shocked, paralyzed. She hadn’t realized everyone hated her. She turns and runs sobbing all the way home. She locks the door and collapses on the floor. She crawls into the bedroom on her hands and knees and hides underneath the blankets. She huddles in the darkness all night long, her hands over her eyes, crying.

What happens there is I, as the reader, get to find what is meaningful, rather than having line/sentences that try to emphasize it for me. As is, it’s sort of like having italics telling you how to read a word. Sometimes it’s okay. Doing it every time makes it lose it’s impact. After a while, the stories felt monotonous to me.

So I highly recommend taking this collection slow, one story at a time, and then you have a good set of bedtime stories.

View all my reviews

I intend to do both today:

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” ~Ben Franklin

Historical Novels Before the Internet Existed. How?

This last hour or so I’ve been working on my WIP, which is a historical novel. It’s a little slow going, but I’ve written every day since the New Year, which is my goal.

However, my internet went out about forty-five minutes ago. It has only just recently come back on. During this internet blackout, I hit a snag on my WIP. I needed to know someone’s name. It wasn’t in my notes because I didn’t think this person was very important (and story-wise, he isn’t), so I didn’t note his name.

But here’s the interesting thing about novels…even a lot of side characters/bit parts have names. I just needed to know this guy’s name because using his title would be obnoxious. This small dilemma led to a small twinge of panic.  

My initial reaction was: Go to the Internetz! The Internetz! knowz all! You can Google that shit in two seconds, fill in that blank, and call it good. About the time that I was clicking over to Google, Pandora stopped playing my magical writing music.

Uh-oh. The Internetz! had heard my need and said, “Fuck you, Jenny.”

Now I had an issue.

Do I need to whip out all of my research books (and there are definitely more than one of those!) and try to find this dude’s name?!

I’m not sure which book he’ll be in. WTF?

How the hell did James Michener write all of those freakin’ historical tomes without the internet or the awesome power of Google? His notes must be astronomically good and take up about three rooms worth of filing cabinet space. He must have somehow crossed referenced and indexed that shit. How could he possibly have found time to actually write the damn books? The thousand pagers he cranked out — how do theyz existz?

I’d like to say that I’m an organized person, but I now realize that would be a lie. An outright, flagrant lie. So, now that the Internetz! is back…I’m going to take this opportunity to Google the crap out of a couple things before I lose it again.

Tonight there was a lot of screaming

Luckily, no one was injured in the riot rehearsal process of Marat/Sade. (That’s the short title. The long title is The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. It’s by Pete Weiss.)

Not to give anything away — but I totally am — the inmates stage a freakin’ riot at the end of the play. In case you were curious, staging that kind of thing a very aerobic activity. Especially when you have to do it six times.

To help you imagine it:

Picture an aerobics floor.

Picture some aerobic dancers on the floor.

Picture them doing something synchronized in a circle in the middle of the floor.

Picture the aerobics instructor leading them in an orderly fashion.  The aerobicizers do something cool and orderly. They do stuff like jazz hands and kickboxing moves.

It’s not at all like that.

Oh, there’s plenty of kickboxing moves. And there’s spinning. There’s clapping. There’s even some jumping jacks to go along with the skipping. You could even say there’s some step aerobics, because a few people go up some stairs and a few people go down some stairs.

None of it, however, is synchronized. There’s a significant danger of running into other people. There’s a distinct possibility that at a given moment you will step on someone’s toes, or pull their hair, or bump into them in some fashion.

And that’s just the visual elements.

Did I mention there’s singing? Well, there is. And the singing turns into screaming.  A crap ton of screaming.

Yes. Tonight there was a lot of running. Tonight there was a lot of screaming.

(My throat’s a little sore.)

Challenges 2014: EPIC Edition

Because I’m a little insane, I’ve decided to give myself some challenges this year. (I don’t like to call them “resolutions” because then I won’t do them. I rebel against that kinda shit.)

So, instead, I’ve decided that I will do a writing challenge, an acting challenge, a blogging challenge, a reading challenge, and a physical challenge.

The Writing Challenge
I challenge myself to write two (2) full fledged novels this year. This means that I will have two completed first drafts by December 31, 2014. The first one is to be finished by March 31. The second is to be finished by October 31.

The Acting Challenge
I will act in three (3) different plays this year. This one might not be that difficult, since I’m already cast in two plays already. However, with theatre, since it’s such a subjective kinda gig, it’s hard to know when a director will be like “YES” or “no.”

The thing that is within my control, however, is auditions. I’m going to any and all local auditions I can get to until I land that third part.

The Blogging Challenge
I’m gonna write a blog a day for 2014. It might not be good. It might be boring as hell for you. It might degenerate to kitten pictures. But there will be a post-a-day.

The Reading Challenge
I will finish reading the complete works of Stephen King, William Shakespeare, and Jane Austen. This means that any books by these authors that I have not already read previously, I will read. That’s something like 30 from King, 20 from Shakespeare, and two from Austen. (See Goodreads sidebar for progress!)

The Physical Challenge
Confession. I have been unhappy in my body for a little while now. So I’m going to start putting it back into shape. I’m 101 pounds overweight. This year, I’m going to lose 60 pounds. There might be a lot of blog-crying on this one, so just a heads up…health related posts are sure to pop up!

So, 2014 should be delightfully busy, busy, busy!