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Archive for January, 2010

Have you ever noticed how funerals bring out the best and worst of people?  In my thirty short years on earth I have attended more funerals than most do in a lifetime.  Some are the mournful affairs that most people associate with funerals while others are exciting parties held in nightclubs putting the fun back in funeral and celebrating the life of the deceased.  Trust me; there is no better ice breaker at a funeral than a close friend of the deceased getting drunk and dancing on a stripper pole.  (No, it was not me.  Yes, I do have pictures.)  Being half Italian, half Southern, most funerals thrown by my family are great affairs with excessive amounts of mourning, celebrating life, food and liquor.  There are always those that fall safely in the middle zone, too.

Tomorrow will be my first funeral since I returned to writing.  All the events from the weekend before the death to now have left me feeling like a secondary character in a novel.  Detaching myself from the grief, I came to the realization that funerals are great settings to expose back story and show off character’s true personality.

What about that sinister character who everyone thinks is a saint?  If he manipulated the circumstances around the death so he could receive more sympathy than the family, other characters may not notice a difference but your reader may question his motives, priming them for the major conflict twenty pages later.  There is always that woman who wants to play the martyr and can ask for help, but this attitude has gone on for so long no one wants to even try to help now.  Then there is Aunt Dottie, the epitome of southern grace and poise, who is actually a closet alcoholic.  Just remember, while funerals can be sad affairs, they also show off your characters.

Side note: If you are writing about a Southern funeral, I strongly recommend reading Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide To Hosting the Perfect Funeral.  It’s a fun read.

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The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides

The Back Cover:

First published in 1993, The Virgin Suicides announced the arrival of a major new American novelist.  In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters – beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighborhood boys – commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year.  As the boys observe them from afar, transfixed, they piece together the mystery of the family’s fatal melancholy, in this hypnotic and unforgettable novel of adolescent love, disquiet, and death.  Jeffrey Eugenides evokes the emotions of youth with haunting sensitivity and dark humor and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time.  Adapted into a critically acclaimed film by Sofia Coppola, The Virgin Suicides is a modern classic, a lyrical and timeless tale of sex and suicide that transforms and mythologizes suburban middle-American life.

My Take:

My first introduction to The Virgin Suicides was through Sofia Coppola’s screen adaption.  The morbid aspect of my personality fell in love with it immediately and I went on the hunt to find Jeffrey Eugenides bestseller.  While it has taken awhile to find a copy since Amazon still doesn’t have it available on the Kindle, I managed to procure a copy last week.  I settled in with the new book excited to relive the adventures of the Lisbon girls.

While it took me a little bit to get used to the first person plural point of view, I was captured by the insight into the mind of the adolescent male.  The story follows these young men through their infatuation and loss of innocence with the Lisbon sisters.  Their loss is paralleled in the American suburbs as society changes at the same time and neighbors drift away from each other like teenagers leaving childhood friendships to go to college on the other side of the country.

The grim topic of suicide was handled very well while never making light of the seriousness.  Several times, I forgot about the suicides and was more wrapped up in the infatuation.  I fell in love with the Lisbon girls just like the main characters and strived to understand their demise.  Like the main characters, I was intentionally left with many more questions at the end than at the beginning, allowing me to continue thinking of the book long after I finished it.

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DVDs to Write To

Last week Jessica Rosen posted Forum: Inspiration with many useful tips for writers to find inspiration when writing.  (If you are a writer and not reading her blog you are missing out.)  This got me thinking about what I use to find inspiration.

One best perks of my day job is playing with software I normally wouldn’t.  That is how I was introduced to Adobe Elements.  I was given the program as a tool to help me figure out what frames I wanted animations to start/stop blending at.  For months I used this program solely to count frames of thousands of animations.  During this time I realized how easy it is to make slide shows with this program.

I proceeded to make slide shows of pictures for family and friends celebrating milestones in their lives (Mother’s Day, baby’s first birthday, etc.)  In an effort to procrastinate, I made a slide show for me.  This was the beginning of the DVDs to Write To collection.  Instead of taking pictures of family and friends, I hunted the internet for pictures and artwork that fit what I was writing.  Once I had over three hundred pictures, I made a soundtrack of music that fit my writing as well and layered it over the pictures.

I now have a couple of DVDs in my collection and put them on when I am plotting.  They also help me when I am stuck in a plot hole or having issues making it through a difficult scene.  I enjoy the feeling I get when I look up and am inspired by whatever picture is on the screen at the time.

While everyone is different and find inspiration in various places, I have found this works for me.  Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a trip across the pond, why not make a slide show with pictures of where you are writing and include region specific music to get you in the mood?

What inspires you?

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Write It Down

In the never-ending battle to destroy the pack rat gene that runs in my family, I have been going through and getting rid of various objects that linger in my house.  I am proud to announce that by the end of 2009, I managed to cull my resources to a quarter of what they were in 2008.

During this process, I inspired my mother to start fighting the gene as well.  We began tackling her accumulations at the end of last year.  Having several years on me to accumulate such treasures (or junk, depending how you look at it) we had our work cut out for us.  Needless to say we are still working on it, but we did manage to find a treasure.

Being a single mom raising two girls, one severely handicapped, my mother was the queen of the day-by-day calendars.  She never went anywhere without one and wrote anything and everything that happened down in it.  Upon finding all of them staring back at us in a box, she decided to enter all the notes into an excel sheet before shredding the calendars (yes, they fall into the pack rat category and must go.)    There would be many nights where I was asked “Who is so-and-so?”  Half the time I didn’t know but apparently I spent the night at their house or went to a party for them.

In between these meaningless entries would be little gems of knowledge that had been forgotten.  “Did you know you had an allergic reaction to this medication?”  No, I forgot, but it will make its way onto the list of allergies now.  “Do you remember having a poem published in the newspaper?”  Well, I was in 6th grade when that happened and had done my best to block out junior high, so again, I forgot.  The amount of information on my sister is too much to list, but each piece is now documented and will no longer be forgotten.

As a fledgling writer, I know the importance of writing down everything, but I never realized exactly what everything was.  I focused only on ideas that were pertinent to my writing.  I am slowly learning that writing down everything of significance during the day, before I forget it.

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“Well if all your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you do that too?”  

That was a favorite saying by parents around these parts in response to some crazy thing their child wanted to do.  Well mom, I’m jumping.

After joining writing communities on Twitter this past year, I noticed that everyone has a blog.  While I don’t have very much to say of interest outside of my stories, I figured it was high time I started one to (more to keep myself accountable than anything else).  If you are reading, though, I do hope that I amuse or educate you in some way.

So on to the work.  I have two projects I am currently working on that I hope to finish by the end of 2010.  Actually, I hope to have them finished long before then, but another goal this year is to be realistic.

 

White Queen’s Betrayal

Fantasy novel that is near and dear to my heart.  Originally started as survival horror game I designed right out of school.

Current word count – 28,684

 

The Prince of Palaramo

The bane of my writing existence.  My lovely main character will not leave me alone for two minutes together.  Normally this wouldn’t be a bad thing, except that he takes me to a place I really don’t want to be.  This novel is slow going due to the emotional state the subject matter puts me in.

Current word count – 17,153

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