Monday, June 20, 2011


I'm on vacation from the day job this week and I just finished up some edits on a story that will see the light of day sooner rather than later, so I'm celebrating a bit tonight. Dr. Whiskey IS a close friend, after all.

As I write this, Inception is on HBO and this is one of the best movies I've seen in a long, long time. This blog isn't turning into a film review site, but what I like about Christopher Nolan's wonderful film is that it MOVES. There's exposition, sure, and there's a lot of talking, but it goes forward with every scene. The story I've been working on has had trouble with moving forward and this final draft (in actuality the third) solves a lot of the problems I've had with my writing in general.

I like to have people talk. It's real. It happens. People do this.

But in fiction it sucks. There needs to be ACTION that moves the story. I've fooled myself into thinking that words are actions because in real life they can be. In fiction they're not. In fiction words are not actions, they're just words.

This story (and I can't wait to announce it as I've been working on it off and on over the last eight months) needs ACTION. This draft brings the Action like nothing I've written before. I've had to step way beyond my comfort zone to write this thing, and I like that. It's been a particular challenge that I've had a lot of trouble with, but now that it 's almost done I feel like I'm a better writer now. I understand more than I did before.

Of course, you'll have to be the judge of that once it's released into the wild. My opinion is that it Moves way better than it did in the first and second drafts. We'll see what the editors think in the end, but I'm happy with where it's at for now.

Everything a writer does is an exercise. We learn from each story, from each scene. Inception is a brilliant bit of writing and a masterful bit of direction. In the end it's a story and I can learn from that. I have but there's still more to learn.

This story is not my Inception. That's yet to come. This story is just one of many to come. It's not the story of my life, but my life is in the story. I can't wait to share it with you.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What a Dad Does

I just missed photographing Elliot and ET cycling by.
Yesterday I asked on Twitter and Facebook if I should go see Green Lantern or Super 8. I already knew I wanted to see Super 8 a lot more than GL, but damn if the superhero trailer wasn't sexy and flirty and REALLY tempting. Big, stupid summer fun based on a cool comic book wasn't enough though for me to forego seeing a throwback to my childhood.

I am old enough to have gone to the movies with my entire family as a teenager. We went to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 (it wasn't Indiana Jones and... back then) because Dad wanted to go. Raiders reminded him of old movie serials and just had a sort of Saturday matinee feel to it. We'd been to see Star Wars (A New Hope) in '77,  Close Encounters of the Third Kind also in '77, Superman in '78, The Empire Strikes Back in '80 and would go to see E.T. the Extraterrestrial in 1982. These are pivotal movies for me and my Dad was there with us for all of them. (He even created an ET sculpture out of fruit for my mother's birthday later on. It was eerie to open the refrigerator door and see an alien head there, but that's another story.)

Super 8 recalls those great movies of my youth. It's also unafraid to channel the classic SF and monster movies of the 50s. Set in a steel town in Ohio in 1979, Super 8 is really about loss. Joe, the main character, is trying to get through the grief of his mother's death as is his father. The Army has lost a Great Big Secret. Dr. Woodward (the catalyst for the film's story) has lost his innocence, as do all the children in the film. There is redemption in the end and that's part of what makes the film work. It's a solid film, well told and I really enjoyed it.

Is JJ Abrams on par with Spielberg, Lucas or Donner as a storyteller? Not yet. One day, though, he may be to my son, who went with me last year to see Abrams' version of Star Trek and yesterday to see Super 8. I look up at the moon and see possibilities because my dad encouraged me to dream about such things by taking me to the movies. It was a way for us to connect. I'm trying to do the same thing with my son. I hope that he dreams big and tries hard.

That's what my dad did for me.

Thanks, Dad. And Happy Father's Day.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Alive in the SuperUnknown

I was just going to post the title of this entry as my Facebook status and leave it at that. However, on further thought, it needs some explanation.

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano
Shared Experiences are important. They're what bind us to others in ways seen and unseen, known and unknown. I'm a fan of The Sopranos and watched the last four seasons with anticipation and frustration at the final ten seconds of the series. I shared that experience millions of fans of the show. It's a touchstone for anyone who's seen it. I'm not a fan of Glee, so I don't have any of the experiences that millions have with that show, or American Idol or lots of other shows. I have Shared Experiences with lots of folks around comic books, concerts, work, events concerning authors, musicians and even presidents. I can use those Shared Experiences as reference in my writing and that's why they're valuable. Like the rest of you I have Shared Experiences that you'll never know about (and which you don't want to know, too).

What happens when Shared Experiences lead you to places you didn't know you needed to see? That's where writing happens.

Recently I completed a tour of a Shared Experience called Writer's Block. I'd never really gone through it before, where I couldn't get creative or even really express myself. I knew all the things I was supposed to do: keep writing, go for walks, clean things and otherwise look for the one thing that would have triggered The Flow of Words. Nothing was working.

The dam finally broke and I'm back up on the horse and riding hell bent for leather. (I'm really mixing metaphors like Mrs. Field makes muffin batter here, sorry.)

What did it? Just time and patience. I did the work I could do and then a Shared Experience along with another Shared Experience (neither of which are your business) broke the dam. The gears clicked and words came out. Good words. Finally.

What I'm getting at was it took me a long time to realize I was Blocked and when I did, I didn't know what it would take to get out of it. Could I have prepared more for it? Maybe, but I don't know how I got Blocked in the first place. If it weren't for having resources that showed me that I would be able to get out of The Block, I might have despaired ever getting out of it. It's a crushing thing, an unknown thing that's terrifying when you confront it.

In the end, The Block was simply a Shared Experience, one that thousands of others have had, albeit a very personal Shared Experience. What it did for me was show me how to work through it when it happens again. The words came out and started Flowing for me again, like magic. The events that happened that flipped the switch in my head were important. I can't say if those that were with me had similar revelations, I don't know. All I can say is that when Shared Experiences change you, your mileage may vary.

So now I'm Alive in the SuperUnknown. What that means is that I'm looking for the things that will challenge me, make me better. I don't know what they are, but I'm watching for them.