WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: The Music in Me Vol. 2

In case you missed my first instalment discussing music and my WIPs, you can catch up here. Musical choices in storytelling fascinate me. After watching the LoTR franchise, I can’t fully appreciate life in The Shire without hearing the jaunty melody that enhances the light and playful experience of running through the grass. The juxtaposition of rock and roll and other more modern songs in A Knight’s Tale doesn’t seem like it would work, but it does. And our favorite erstwhile bounty hunter The Mandalorian, a.k.a. Din Djarin, travels about in a galaxy, far far away, to what? Space Opera music? Space Western music? You can hear some of the score in the Season 2 Final Trailer here. (Fair warning, there are spoilers if you haven’t watched the show yet. And if not, what are you waiting for?) Whatever we want to call it, the music brings that part of the universe to life in a way uniquely its own.

It’s as though the music becomes as integral to the worlds we create and the characters within them. One could argue that the music we ascribe to the stories we tell are characters in their own right.

Yes, these examples are for a different medium. However, I’m a visual writer and have been told as much by others who’ve read my work. I want my words to leap off the page and into life, whether on the page or on screen. I aspire to write screenplays as well as adapt the WIPs I’ve already begun in book form. Either way, music has always been an essential part of my writing process.

If it’s not music I already love that I incorporate into my WIPs, I somehow hear a score as the scenes unfold in my mind. There’s no other way to describe it than that. I’m not adept at music production but I am intrigued by the process. As part of the various creative outlets that I’m pursuing for my own edification, as well as for their therapeutic benefits, I want to delve more into illustration and music creation. The art supplies have been purchased and I do have music apps and tech that will (ideally… hopefully… lol) help me bring out the musical notes that have been dancing around in my cranium as I write. Adding other tangible aspects to my stories to supplement and enhance the words is an exciting prospect for me. Considering the technology available to us and how innovative people have been during the pandemic, I would be keen to try an immersive, interactive and potentially collaborative means of storytelling. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for years and there’s no time like the present, right?

Have you ever seen behind the scenes footage of a show or film you like? They’re blocking the scene, filming it from different angles, but it’s completely silent other than the actors speaking or certain sound effects activating. The score is added in post-production. The viewing experience is completely different when you have music accompanying the various emotions of a scene. How about moments where no words are necessary but you see a character realize something crucial to the plot?There are musical cues and dramatic pauses that allow the audience to come to that realization along with them. You’re really brought deeper into the story and find yourself in suspended disbelief. You’re no longer a spectator but an active participant in the story and the stakes are just as high.

I have a very similar experience when reading or writing stories. The scene unfolds, the music swells, and I’m right there with the characters amidst the adventure and turmoil. I’ve had to close a book because it left me overcome with emotions. The respite is almost immediate as I’d be drawn back into the story, no matter how late into the night I’d go. As an insomniac, it’s so late it becomes early–as in, early morning.

Do you have musical inclinations when you’re drafting your stories? Do you like listening to music to help you get in the writing mindset or do you also enjoy particular music to help inspire the scenes themselves? Either way, music is a powerful component of my story creation.

A compelling score adds texture and nuance to the scenes as they unfold in my mind and translate to words on the page. What are you writing? And what music, if any, moves you? Music that moves you to write, music that moves your story forward. I’d love to hear what inspires other writers and add to my playlist.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: Planning by the Seat of Your Pants

With Camp¬†NaNoWriMo¬†coming up fast, I thought I’d try to go into the event with eyes a little more open than last time. If there’s anything I learned from this last week in writing, it’s that any and everything can and will happen to throw you off course. That’s life. It doesn’t mean you have to pack it up and call it a day.

Make the most of your off-road experience. After all, side quests are arguably more satisfying than the main storyline in games. Why shouldn’t it be the same in your writing journey?

It’s true. It’s about the journey, not the destination. What’s the point if we can’t enjoy the ride?

Take, for instance, a short story competition I learned about in the wake of my missed deadline faux pas. With the deadline being what would be 4pm my time today, it wasn’t feasible for me to rush a 1000 word short story with everything I had going on with my darling X-23, Izzybear.

Add to the fact that I had two ideas I wanted to run with and only one entry was allowed, I decided to flesh the story out further and give it the TLC it deserves and over the course of the week, I developed a plot more rich in texture. It goes to show that not all plans laid are best.

If I had stuck to the original plan, I would’ve had a piece that I wasn’t fully satisfied with and only submitted for the sake of meeting the deadline. However, isn’t it preferred to put your best foot forward the first time? It’s hard to get past a wrong first impression. The fact that I like the way the story is now versus what I had come up with on the fly a few days ago further supports the advice of taking a step back to really see what you’ve got. It doesn’t mean that I’m ignoring my main goals. It doesn’t mean that my detour is a distraction or is less important. It’s a matter of perspective and looking at the bigger picture.

I read about an author sharing something she called an editorial calendar. The premise is simple and straightforward but you then realize how the simple things are so profoundly helpful in organizing your writing life. Take a calendar and map out all deadlines and writing tasks. Simple, right? The fact that you can then strategize your day around everything else you need to get done, you facepalm at how the methodology makes perfect sense.

As you might have gathered by now, I’m not saying to stick to plans hardcore. In my life, it’s been virtually impossible. Heck, I’m perfectly content doing a crossword puzzle in pencil. Nobody can be that certain of everything all the time. Also, if you tell me not to do something, the six year-old me perks up and says, in the words of Barney Stinson, “Challenge accepted.” The result? Such wonderful and potentially life-altering changes. And this can happen when plotting a story differently from your original idea. Or, you can decide to write poetry instead of prose. Maybe, you make the choice to scrap the idea and go in a completely different direction. Graphic novel? Limerick? Screenplay? There are no wrong answers here. Who wants a boring journey, anyway?

I guess what I’m saying is make a plan. Sure. But as I’ve said before, nothing needs to be set in stone because the universe will just laugh at you while tossing the odd molotov cocktail in your general direction. So, while I’m still a work in progress, I’ve transformed myself into FlexiGal, a person of ordinary means with an extraordinary passion to do some good in the world. I roll with the punches–and dodge the ones I know will land hard.

Easy peasy.

How do I know? As I write this, I’ve had to step away from the laptop at least a dozen or so times. I’m currently typing with a stuffed toy–a golden retriever pup, for those curious–sitting atop my noggin like a fascinator at a pet-themed Royal Ascot. X-23 has me chasing her again while intermittently sneaking in some cheese and crackers. The cheese to cracker ratio is obscene. I have only myself to blame. My favorite cheese is the Kerrygold Dubliner. I had her try some one day and I’ve never quite had any cheesy snacks to myself since. Anyway, I think she might be attempting a reenactment of a Doc McStuffins version of the Wolverine v. Sabertooth battle scene from X-Men and these were all we had to work with. Given the theme of today’s post, I fully appreciate her effort and 100% approve.

So, make a plan. Or not. Stick to it. Or don’t. Either way, take those twists and turns, but keep going. Every moment you experience becomes a part of you and when you reach your destination, you’re so much better for it. A better person, a better writer. And that’s a huge LEVEL UP, in my book.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: It Is Wednesday, Right?

a.k.a. When the Days Blur Together

I can’t believe we’re already almost halfway through the month. As mentioned previously, I didn’t have strict expectations on myself for deadlines if something took priority. A little bummed at what ended up happening, but I know I made the right call when it came to family.

Izzybear was having a tough time these past several days. Her sleep schedule, or lack thereof, is almost as erratic as mine. Therefore, I thought it was a good thing to work with her through what could’ve ended up being a tough meltdown, and instead eventually got her back to laughing and running about–at 2am. She was happy and we were trying to find different ways to communicate with each other. Despite the late hour, I call that a win.

As the weekend drew to a close, I knew I had to dig deep to get the submissions in for impact x SKYDANCE. It was Sunday night and I even remember thinking I still had another day to go. I’d work through the night and hopefully would be finished by the following afternoon. That’s when I happened to look at the date on my laptop. Because of the late night/early mornings, I’d gotten my days mixed up. I knew the deadline the entire time, but it was around 10pm on Sunday that I realized that March 7 WAS Sunday and not Monday as I somehow thought.

The disappointment soon faded because somebody wanted me to chase her and I had to demonstrate the need for soft steps at that late hour. She humored me for about a minute, then chuckled before flailing off into the living room.

My main takeaway from the experience is that I need to learn how to stop feeling guilty for choosing one or the other… or neither, for that matter. If I want to spend time helping the kids, I should. If I need to lock myself away to write undisturbed–though I hear her lil’ stompy feet as she runs a floor above me with or without noise-cancelling headphones–I can do that, too.

Camp NaNoWriMo is just a couple weeks away. They have a prep guide that I always manage to forget to do in a timely manner. I always seem to remember it much closer to the start date. At least, this time, I was busy working on a project already. Since I’m currently revved up about the missed story prompt and my mirrored closet doors are still filled with brainstorming material, I’m going to do some research on serial storytelling and might work on that in April. After I get my bearings, I’ll go more in depth about Camp NaNo next week.

I’m definitely going to finish what I started for the prompts so that when the next submission call-out is posted, I’ll have something ready, especially the screenplay that serves as the writing sample. I really got into the story ideas I developed and whether or not they make it to the next round, I intend to play around with them either in stand alone novel form or serial story structure, similar to what was originally intended for the TV series submission.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Pitch Perfect

a.k.a. Prompt Submission Update #3

We’re in the third week of impact x SKYDANCE prompt submission period. How did time slip away so quickly while at the same time, I feel like I’d been suspended in a vat of molasses? Monday’s upcoming deadline draws near. I suspect Dali’s clocks are going to melt all over my face soon if I don’t start wrapping this puppy up.

I’m polishing a short film screenplay I’m submitting as my writing sample. I’ve got the story ideas for each prompt ready-ish to go. The other major submission requirement is a 30-second video pitch. In the last year of zoom meetings and social distancing, I was never in front of the camera. I attended webinars where participants were visible in username only. Heck, it was only a couple days ago that I got my hair cut after two and a half years. I didn’t attempt any quarantine DIY hairdos (or hairdon’ts, as they more frequently appeared to be). Now I gotta go in front of a camera? My introverted self didn’t just pump the brakes, I got outta the car!

Shyness aside, it’s the pitch itself that I’m more antsy about. I had the wonderful and terrifying experience of pitching a Middle Grade Adventure story at a writers conference eleven years ago. It was my first writers conference and I did not prepare myself for the magnitude of the event. Sure, I read all these primer articles long after the fact, but that was probably one of my most “fish out of water/deer in headlights” experiences, so far, as a writer.

By all counts, this should be easier. I just need to record myself summarizing my two story ideas in under 30 seconds each. I don’t have to quietly fidget in front of a literary agent or editor. I even have the opportunity to finesse and edit the pitch so that the final product is seamless. Well, that’s the logistics covered, what about the pitch itself?

The story pitch, also known as the elevator pitch, is a convincing argument or idea that can be summarized in the amount of time it takes for an average elevator ride. Simple, right? What happens if you’re overwhelmed with ideas but the person is already out the door before you can finish? Lucky for us fledgeling writers, many have come before us and many have shared their expertise on the subject.

When Kenn Adams created this method 30 years ago, he called it “Once upon a time…” Initially intended as an improvisation exercise, this set of steps has since been widely used, adapted, and modified by authors, playwrights, and screenwriters. It’s even found its way into the world of marketing and other aspects of collaborative brainstorming. Over the years, it became known as The Story Spine. Adams, a teacher, author, and Artistic Director of Synergy Theater, outlined the pitch steps and broke down the animated film The Incredibles, to illustrate the story flow. SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

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I read the example aloud and it ran around 45 seconds. My story ideas are for one-hour television series, and while the ideas have to be overarching for their respective series as a whole, each episode, would probably require only one or two “Because of that…” steps. What I like about the breakdown in the chart is that it goes hand in hand with story structure so I can be sure that I’m covering the basics of the story’s progression. As the name suggests, this is only the spine of the story. Anatomically, we’d need to put meat on the bones. In the physical sense, we’d need to add the many leaves to the book where the spine holds everything together. Even in scriptwriting, we’d need to fill in the spaces between each story beat.

A great story idea is one thing. A great story pitch is another. Even after all that goes well, the story ain’t gonna write itself. That’s where we can add texture and depth and take the reader or viewer on a journey we hope they enjoy as we do. Everything is coming along nicely. I still don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to meet this deadline on Monday. If it goes through, great. If not, there are always more submission call outs ahead. I’m happy for the opportunity to focus on a meaningful writing project again and whatever happens next week, I’m a better writer for it.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: Rewind, Remix, Recycle, Reuse, Reduce?

I’ve been feeding my insomniac self by watching midnight movies and shows, rather than having a midnight snack. Despite ratings, despite warnings, depending on who’s talking, I watched Terminator: Dark Fate and Bad Boys For Life on back to back evenings. Then, I recently caught myself up on the final season of Lethal Weapon and saw a commercial for a new Punky Brewster series. This semi-FLASHBACK FANGIRL FRIDAY post maybe hit me with the nostalgia bug finding some connection to characters I knew and loved, but I started to wonder if that’s all there was anymore.

In a recent article about a possible Criminal Minds revival, it got me excited. I’d recently binged the final season and already miss the characters. The article explained that a revival involved original cast and crew members, though no actors had yet to be attached to the project at the time of announcement, whereas a reboot could have completely different characters or a redo of a previous iteration with new actors. Revivals, reboots, reunion specials, series based on the big screen, movies inspired by the small screen. Different versions. Different perspectives. Same enjoyment?

What keeps us coming back to these types of stories? Is it the formula? Is it the familiarity? Is the market so saturated that we go with what’s comfortable? As a writer, this is something I think about a lot and it scares me as much as it motivates me to want to share my stories with the world.

As for the fangirl in me, I do enjoy these types of shows and movies–when they work. There’s a fine line between beating a dead horse and realizing the horse ain’t dead and you need to let it live its best life. When it came to Terminator: Dark Fate I think I wanted more. I loved Terminator 2: Judgment Day and remembered watching it in the theatre (*sniff* remember movie theatres?) and leaving so empowered. Linda Hamilton‘s portrayal of Sarah Connor is iconic. This (final?) instalment that reunited her with Arnold Schwarzenegger should’ve been awesome, but it ended up being too campy and dare I say, felt like the production was banking on their names to lure us in. I mean, it worked. I was lured, but I didn’t end up enjoying it as much as I wanted to.

Bad Boys For Life, on the other hand, answered a question I’m sure every fan had asked. I wonder what Mike and Marcus are up to these days? Yes there were cheesy moments, but the chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is undeniable that it’s like they fell right back in step with each other–or maybe they’ve been fighting crime on the streets of Miami this whole time. Who knows? Maybe it was the storyline in Dark Fate or what I perceived as forced acting between Hamilton and Schwarzenegger, but I didn’t feel as emotionally invested in their lives as I did our Boys from Miami.

Maybe that’s why I don’t want to always hedge my bets on these types of offerings. Expectations are too high and sometimes we’re left with disappointment. It’s also perhaps a good reason why I’m such a fan of shows like The Mandalorian and WandaVision. They’re expanding on storyverses that I’ve grown to love and are giving us new characters and storylines that can satisfy our late night binge watching hunger. You can be certain that I’m all in for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier when it comes out next month.

How about you? Are you into revivals, reboots, redos, and/or continuations, or are you a one and done type of viewer? Whatever it is, there’s definitely something for everyone. Enjoy your midnight visual snacking.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.