Monday, May 30, 2011

Who Do You Write Like?

I I the only one who shudders slightly when someone begins to rave about a new author, only to almost instantly begin comparing this author to other established writers?

Never will I forget an early experience on the internet, as I was chatting with a science fiction writer who, upon hearing that I too was a budding wordsmith, instantly asked me "well who do you write like?".  The question confused me at first.  I told him that I write like me, at least I try to.  He was adamant though.  "Well yeah, but what writers sort of write the same way you do?  Who do you look up to?  Who do you try to write like?"

I was dumbfounded.  This invisible person then began to list his literary idols, those who's styles he was attempting to emulate.  Is this normal, I wondered, is it normal for a writer to consciously look to the writing of other successful authors and attempt to copy their form?  Of course, its impossible to write without having the influences of those you admire rub off on your prose.  But is it really common to forcefully fashion one's self-expression out of used bits and pieces?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Abandoned Work

Writers, you know how it goes.  A great idea hits, smacks you hard in the brain, forces you to sit up and grab for the nearest sheet of paper and a pen or for your keyboard.  Inspiration for a short story, the opening passage of a novel, or a poem has struck and you feel the unmistakeable need to let off some of the pressure before the thought implodes and becomes lost to the day.

It starts perhaps with a single sentence, or a word even, running through your head.  You get it down into visible form and it looks great.  You're running on pure creative excitement at this point, fashioning prose and poetry so quickly that you can hardly be bothered to think of anything other than emptying the imagination onto a physical space, releasing you from the burden of it.

At last, you run out of steam.  You stop to breathe, to crack your knuckles, to grab a swig of drink or to take a bite of long gone-cold food.  It is then, as you look back at what has been transcribed, that you realize that something has been tragically lost in the translation from inspiration to the written word.  Still recognizable are the little gems of phrases and lines, remnants of that original lighting bolt that sent your writer hands into their fury.  But the vast majority of the language surrounding these spots of brightness fall dead and flat on the page or screen.  On your lips, the words taste wrong, gritty, as if the batter composing the work had not been properly mixed into a homogenous liquid.

And sadly, try as you might, you are unable to fix the numerous structural and conceptual deficiencies.  You realize that this work was built on a faulty, flawed foundation.  Even complete demolition and a rebuilding process would most likely fail to make good on your once-glorious vision, as the original drive that pushed you in the direction of its creation has, by this point, all but fizzled out.

You are forced to realize that the idea that seemed to be so full of promise within your head, does not have the lungs and legs to survive in the outside air.  Having been scribbled or typed far too quickly for sustainability, the work now lays as little more than an artistic miscarriage.

It is forever doomed to lie as unfinished, abandoned work.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Those Damn Coyotes: Act One, Scene 1

The third and final piece done for my creative writing course, the opening scene of a play.  I used to write short, one act plays quite often in high school but have since fallen out of the practice.  Doing this piece was quite eye-opening and I learned a lot about the medium much like I did during the writing of my screenplay.  Enjoy.

SCENE: A pale-colored living room.  The front door stands stage right.  The entryway to the kitchen is out stage left.  A third door stands upstage center, MARTIN’S room.  Next to it, upstage left, hangs a large painted portrait of a calico cat with a dark mask of fur covering both eyes.  Shelves of books and decorative knick-knacks line the walls.  A new looking, brown leather couch covered in throw pillows sits center stage.  A long, glass-topped coffee table sits in front of it.   A window upstage right reveals the dark night outside.

MARTIN sits on couch, grips pillow.  Doorbell rings.

Thank god.
(stands and walks to front door)
Let’s get this done with.

Opens door, ROBERTO enters.  MARTIN hugs ROBERTO.

Thank you!  I know, I know.  It’s weird to ask you here so late, asking you at all.

Hey look, you call and I come running, that’s how it works.

Look, Rob, this is going to sound weird but I have a really big favor to ask.  Don’t even bother taking your shoes off.  Won’t take long.

What’s up? 

It’s Bandit.


A long, high-pitched howl is, followed by several short barks and several shorter howls.  The two stop and listen.

What the hell?  You got wolves?

No, coyotes.  We’ve had a problem with them for years.

Sounds like they’re having a party.

They tend to get like that on warm nights.

I bet that’s what I saw running across the way.  Looked like wild dogs.

Roberto, please, pay attention.  I need your help.  It’s about my mother’s cat.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mango Day

The following was written for the Spring 2011 24-hour writing contest.


The fruit vendor smiled at her through sightless eyes, enjoying the warm breeze and salty air. During casual banter with his customers, he seemed to remember the smallest details, even ones they couldn't remember sharing with him in the past. The girl had been coming to his stand daily for as long as she could remember. As she turned to leave, she patted his hand and said, "I'll see you tomorrow morning, friend."

Still smiling, he replied, "No, you won't..."


WORD COUNT: Stories for today's topic must not exceed 900 words.

Mango Day

It was finally mango day.  For Ramona, it had been too long since her last mango, months like years, years since getting a mouthful of that yellow flesh, having the sticky, sweet juice drip uncontrolled down the side of her mouth and face.  Today is the day, she thought.  Today the mangoes are back.  The last crop was a good one, that's what the old man had said. He said it mystically, like he said everything, like he just needed to smell the air that day to know that the mangoes were ripening right then in some far-off, tropical, sunny-skied paradise.

Thoughts from the day before touched her mind as she rode through the thin, snaking roads up to the main way through town, the thing he had said to her, the vendor, just before leaving him for the day.  It had been an off-hand comment from him, part of an everyday exchange, "I'll see you tomorrow," was the reflex string of words out of her mouth, but as Ramona rode away with her basket carrying the choice apples and pears, she faintly heard his strange response.

"No, you won't..."