Saturday, February 28, 2009

Switching Focus Yet Again

I'm stuck on the script and don't know how to develop next.

So, I'm taking a break on that project and finally returning to my novel. I've officially spent a month away from it now, and, admittedly, that was beginning to irritate me. I hated feeling like I wasn't making any progress on it, that I had wasted a month on a side-project that really hasn't gotten very far.

But, last night I went to bed planning to work on my novel all weekend, and when I woke up, I finally felt ready to do so. I'm focusing on my main character's (Anne's) childhood, and how that drives her forward when she's 18-years-old to discover more about the life of her mother who died when Anne was eight.

Ideas are forming and I plan to get those all out on paper this weekend. Hurrah for killing off writer's block! I guess backing away from a piece of writing to see it through fresh eyes really does help - even if it kills you to put it away for a month!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Whaling, paranormal, history, mystery and more

The Boundless Deep, a fiction novel by Kate Brallier

Why I Picked Up This Book:
In my work-in-progress novel, I ask my readers to believe that the main character, Anne-Marie Gessner, can not only travel back in time to the French Revolution, but also experience the world as if she was inside the head of her distant relative. Brallier's protagonist experiences something similiar. The main character, Liza, has vivid dreams of whaling, yet she's never even been to the sea. I picked up this book to see how Brallier made the paranormal believable, as well as how she manuevered between past and present.

When Liza and her best-friend/roommate Jane summer in Nantucket, Liza's visions of the past and of whaling become even more real. It doesn't help matters that she's living in Jane's Aunt Kitty's home - which was once home to Obadiah Young, whose life, Liza begins to think, she's witnessing when she "experiences" the past.

Liza begins to ask "why me?" even as she tries to retain some sense of normalcy over her life. She begins dating Adam, the hunky young curator at the Nantucket Historical Association, even while attempting to ignore her burgeoning feelings for Lucian, Aunt Kitty's nephew. Yet, the the visions/experiences grow more intense in every way possible. - especially once she starts having vivid, sexual dreams about being with Obadiah. (Warning to readers: these sexual dreams read like erotica). Through her visions, Liza also learns that Obadiah allegedly killed his wife, Lucy, before leaving on his ship and disappearing forever.

The characters, especially Liza who wants to understand why she's having these "visions", seem to develop naturally as their relationships continually evolve and progress. Jane is an energetic sprite; Lucian is characterized as hard and restrained but passionate; and Liza is unsure of herself, even of her own beauty. As for the historical characters, they are vividly drawn as well, albeit somewhat murkily; after all, Liza is sorting out the past, figuring out their relationships, trying to find out if it's Obadiah's life she's really experiencing, and attempting to solve the hundred-year-old mystery surrounding the death of Obadiah's wife.

It is actually one of the characters of the present - Adam - who seems the most problematic, as if he doesn't have much of a personality nor a place in Liza's new family, Jane and her relatives. As the novel progresses, though, it seems that effect was quite intended.

The character development comes to a crashing halt with the novel's "twist," which a careful reader will pick up on well before it occurs. It doesn't help matters that the readers will know how the story will end, even if Liza doesn't, simply because all the other characters know as well.

Despite the predictable ending, the novel is an intriguing read that carefully - and quite successfully - blends the past with the present, whether through dreams or Liza witnessing the street and harbor morph before her eyes. Liza has a mystery to solve - why is she witnessing the past? Did Obadiah really kill Lucy? I didn't expect to enjoy a novel about "whaling," but I learned a ton and read a good story while I was at it, despite the less-than-perfect "twist."

The Takeaway
I'm struggling with whether dreams are the right way for Anne-Marie to "experience" her distant relative's past, but Brallier uses dreams so often and so vividly that it worked quite well. Dreams are definitely a good way of allowing characters to access the past, but I think other things, like visions while walking down the street, also work well, as Brallier demonstrated throughout.

I also found it intriguing that Liza learned how to harness her knowledge of the past, and force her memory to recall things when she needed to. Then again, if she was able to do that, why is she unable to remember whose experiences she's having/seeing? Despite that lingering question, I'm definitely going to play around with the idea of Anne being able to recall things she didn't necessarily experience or see on her many forays into Charlotte's mind.

My one really big qualm with Liza's visions is how she didn't want to believe they were real. Halfway into the novel she is still questioning her sanity. I get that it seems to be a crazy and difficult-to-explain experience, but it was incredibly distracting in regards to the rest of the plot. As a reader, I grew frustrated and wanted her to move on. I accepted that this other reality was possible, so why couldn't she?

From the very start of writing my novel, I decided that Anne was going to question the reality of her experiences for only so long - like half a page - and then she was going to accept what was happening to her and focus on the real issues at stake in the novel. The Boundless Deep, and the way Brallier handled the issue of 'sanity' and 'normalcy,' confirms that, at least in this respect, I'm on that right track with how I want to handle Anne's paranormal experiences.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Expectations Ruin Movies

One of my most favorite movie-going experiences was when I saw Gattaca in theaters. I walked in never having seen a trailer for the movie nor knowing anything about the characters or plot. I loved being able to watch the movie unfold and not knowing what to expect.

Something similiar happened with Milk. I saw a showing of the biopic before it was released nationwide. I hadn't read a single review or seen a TV trailer. I knew little about it, beyond the fact that it was a movie about gay rights. And, I walked out of the theatre in awe of the movie, of its message, the actors, and even the filming. It was a great film that I still think everyone should see, and I was not suprised in the least when it was nominated for a "Best Picture" Oscar.

Then there's the reverse experience. I heard rave reviews about Slumdog Millionaire for months before I saw it. So, I walked into the theater a couple weeks ago, expecting to be wowed in every respect. I enjoyed the story, but did not fall in love with it. I liked that it was a "biopic," with Jamal's story spliced between gameshow questions but didn't like how I knew that he would win. I liked that Mumbai was its very own character. But some of the dialogue, the length of the movie, and even some of the character development bothered me. Other than the main character, they didn't seem fully developed, least of all the brother who's personality and actions seemed to shift without reason in every other scene.

So, I mainly blame high expectations for ruining the film for me. And, I wasn't the only one. At least four people walked out of the theater and didn't return. One of the guys in my group would have bolted, too, had he not been with us. I'm not saying I didn't like it. I did. But I just didn't love it.

After all the hype around the movie, I expected (ah, there's that word again!) to see Slumdog Millionaire win "Best Picture" in last night's Oscars, but I secretly hoped that Milk would pull through. For an extraordinarily brief moment - when Penn won Best Actor - I thought, Just maybe. But alas, the "underdog" and this year's "fairytale" pulled through yet one more time.

I wished I liked Slumdog Millionaire as much as so many out there, but I think my feelings for the movie were determined the moment I heard everyone I knew raving about it. Nothing - not books, nor movies - are going to live up to the expectations that people espouse. That's why I never read reviews before I go to a movie.

Then again, I love movie previews. I like the way they encapsulate a movie - but also hate when they give too much away. So, I know I'll never get away from having "expectations" for a movie, no matter what I do. But, when you dislike a movie think about why. It may not necessarily be the movie, or even the story itself, but have more to do with what you were expecting to gain from it.

I won't say anything more about Milk. Nor will I say anything more about Slumdog. Go see both for yourself, and somehow try to go in there with less lofty expectations than I did (and if you can figure out how to do this, please let me know.) Then come back, read my old review of Milk, let me know what you think about both films - and, if they lived up to your expectations, whether high or low.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Classe française numéro trois

Last night I had my third (if you don't count my one and only Saturday basic of the basic class) French class. Not suprisingly, it was the hardest yet. We've moved beyond the alphabet, numbers 1 through 29, and greetings. Now, we're in full sentences... sort of.

In one (excruciating) part of the class, we had to explain why we were taking French class while speaking in French. Um, yeah, not so much. With a LOT of coaching and confusion, I finally said, "J'étudie le français parce que j'étudie l'historie française le 18ième siècle." (Don't ask me how to pronounce most of this - particularly the last two words; I only know how it's spelled because my professor wrote it on the board).

I realized, after the fact, I could have just said that I was studying the life of Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d'Armont, but as I'm being reminded in these past couple weeks - I kinda have a hard time learning/practicing a new language in front of people I don't know, and, hence, make things much more difficult on myself than they really need to be.

Do I regret taking this class? Not at all. I like being able to "converse" with others (especially when I know what I'm saying) and practicing with my professor, who corrects my pronounciation - which I wouldn't get at all with a CD. But, I need to keep reminding myself that this isn't an overnight thing. I can't expect a couple classes to really teach me French. After all, I took Spanish for a good six years, if not more, and I was nowhere near fluent. I also know that I need to "practice" more, with my friends who speak fluent French (or, at the very least, know far more than I do), as well as my sister who is also learning beginner's French, albeit through the less expensive route of a book and a CD.

The benefits of taking classes at the Alliance Française are also going beyond me earning the language. My professor previously had a student, far more advanced than I, who is well-versed in French history and who is willing to talk to me about the French Revolution & any questions I might have. I'm going to also probe his brain for any info he has about the French riots of 2005, which is what I'm still struggling with more than anything. There is so little out there other than factual articles about what happened during that time; I need more of what people were feeling - both of the boys and men who were involved in the riots as well as the Parisians who, I keep assuming, didn't feel any threat from the riots that were raging in the suburbs of France. But all that is another matter, another post for another day.

In the meantime, I'm forcing myself to keep away from the novel and work on other things, or at least, not the pages of the novel itself. This isn't an excuse for me not working on the novel, seriously. I need to back up from my novel's main plots so I can look at it with fresh eyes. Of late, ideas have been bubbling and my novel journal has been brought forth again. I don't know if I'll ever totally understand my writing process, but, so far, this French class really has had an inspirational effect on that process.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dreaming About My Script

This morning I woke up and I had it. Or, at least, I had a lot of it. I dreamt about my script, about certain scenes that I’ve been mulling over for the past week or so. Not wanting to lose the images that I had dreamt about, I got out of bed and immediately started writing. Of course, there were a lot of absurdities in my dream that just didn’t make sense (Barney moving in with Robin and Ted because he’d lost his apartment, and me suddenly appearing to make eggs and toast for all the actors), but other things, like Lily’s relationship with her mom, and Barney’s war with one of his co-workers began to fall into place.

I still don’t have the complete “story,” (I can only ask so much of a dream!) but I’ve got the bones and a little bit of flesh now. This morning, I also did a little bit more research, a.k.a. I watched a few episodes to make sure I had some key facts on the background story correct.

I’ve wanted to dream about my writing, and key scenes I’ve been having trouble with, for a long time now. Granted, I’d been hoping to dream about my novel, but I’ll take what I can get it.

I’ve had dreams about writing before—sitting at a park bench and whipping out an entire chapter in long-hand, for example. But, I’ve never dreamed about, or at least remembered, specific things that I could actually use. So, I’m amazed that my dream was even slightly coherent and usable. Not only that, but in my dream, I played certain things over again, changing things slightly, and then running it by my boyfriend to see if he thought it made sense. It was like I was writing while I was dreaming. I wouldn’t mind if dreams like this happened more often!

I don’t expect this to be a nightly thing. Hell, I don’t even expect it to be a monthly or yearly thing. But the dream, at the very least, acted as an impetus to actually start putting things on paper. Lately, I’ve been writing without writing, if you will. I mull things over, wonder about characters and how they would react if I put them in a certain scene, but hadn’t committed very much to paper as of yesterday. As of right now, I have a good five pages. Not much, but it’s a start.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Follow Me

Want to tell me you're a fan of my blog, but aren't a fan of leaving comments? Or, do you like leaving comments and enjoy reading my blog on occasion? Either way, become a 'follower' of Liz's Ink!

Just scroll down the right-side of my blog to the "Follow this Blog" Gadget and add yourself. It'll make it a ton easier for you to know when I add a post to my blog.

Plus, I like knowing who is enjoying my blog, of course! So, follow me and my blog down the yellow brick road. =)

Happy reading!

(Image thanks to

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Writing a TV Script

Miss me?

Cuz I’ve missed writing on my blog.

My French is coming slowly but steadily along, and it did give me a bump of inspiration last week… but I’m still feeling a bit stuck right now. I’m smack dab in the middle of the story and I still don’t feel like I have enough motion driving the story forward, especially for the story that centers on Anne and the riots in Paris during 2005.

So, I’m taking a break, a.k.a. taking a step back from the novel. I was kind of wary about doing this, since I’ve had pretty good momentum until recently, but sometimes I just feel like I need to step back and reassess. And reassessment, for me, involves not looking at my story for a little while—at least a week, but no more than two.

At the same time, I’ve obviously got to keep the creativity and writing flowing, so I’m now working on something totally new and different. I’m writing a spec TV script (a script for a current TV show). For a long time, I’ve been curious about whether I could pull of a TV script, whether I’d enjoy it, etc., and figure it’s about time I try. After all, you can’t know if you’re good at something unless you try.

I have NEVER written a script. This is completely new for me, including how to format a script. But I’m already having fun with it. I’m basing it on the CBS show, “How I Met Your Mother” since I know the characters inside and out, given that I’ve watched every episode of the four seasons multiple times.

Comedy is not usually my thing, but since I know this show so well, ideas are already flowing like crazy. Plus, my boyfriend is a huge fan of the show as well, and we’ve somewhat been working as a writing team, bouncing ideas off one another, shooting for ridiculous plotlines (as are common on the show) while also making sure the plot makes sense for each of the characters.

This is totally unlike any writing I’ve done before, and, so far, I’m loving it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

To Post or Not To Post Every Day

I posted to my blog every day in the month of January, which gave me some sense of accomplishment in a month that didn't treat my novel too well. (I spent a good three weeks on Chapter 7 alone).

The feeling of accomplishment, though, is overshadowed by knowing that some of my posts were complete crap. Some days I just got too busy - whether it was because I was working overtime (which is happening more and more often), meeting friends for dinner, finishing a portrait that needed to get done, or getting into the groove of my novel - and, on those days, my blog posts didn't carry much value to me; they were just something I felt I had to do to accomplish my NaBloPoMo goal.

Without a doubt, there's value in NaBloPoMo and how it holds me accountable to writing every day. There's something about putting your words out onto the Web that makes me accountable, that gives me the added push I need to make sure I take at least a few minutes out of my day to write, no matter how busy I am. But it killed me to add just random filler onto my blog, for the simple purpose of filling the monthly 'quota,' if you will. I don't like filler and I don't like writing about my personal life.

My blog isn't for me to vent (well, most of the time it isn't). My blog is not my diary, in which I share myself to the world. I'm an introverted, private person. And I like it that way.

Instead, the purpose of my blog is to write about writing, to document my journey into the world of fiction writing and publishing, as well as to depict how I face the challenges and joys of writing/revising my first novel. (Well, I should say 'second novel' but I wrote my first novel when I was seventeen and other than 200 pages of teenage angst and a stack of rejection letters, not too much came out of it. Let's just say that first novel was my set of training wheels. The novel I'm currently working on, that will get published one day, is my real 'first' novel).

My blog is also a place where I share what inspires me to write, and a place for other writers to come to be inspired, too. At least that's what I hope. When I write filler or random posts just to say I posted that day, I'm not really fulfilling my goal.

At the same time, I don't want to return to only writing a post or two a month. I like that I've been posting more, coming up with new 'writing' categories and topics. (See my post, Taking Stock, for those categories.) In that way especially, writing every day has helped me be a bit more creative with the way I approach 'writing about writing.'

So, that's my manifesto for this blog. Now, back to actually 'writing about writing.'