Playing with Storytelling

Always Sometimes Monsters is an award-winning PC game that, if you play, you will most likely only do so once — much like life!  Getting you all riled up about everything that is so wrong and right about it.  The difference is you could play it again if you wanted to – change all your choices – even develop a mod to change the game.  Game only, not life.  Or maybe.  I don’t know.

Kudos to the Canadian indie gaming company for creating such an interesting experience that had so many people talking on the internet about life choices.  It’s cheap, it’s short (unless you don’t use the help guides for that damn boxing interval), it’s – not cheerful.  An ending (or endings) worthy of some good ol’ English Lit deconstruction on self-love vs. all the other alternatives. This game got me thinking that lit writers, who aren’t feeling enough love from the paper publishing industry, might want to start turning their attention this way.  PC games today may still favour violence and a blatant disregard for logic but this game demonstrates that an absurd world also provides a lot of potential for playing with, and for, greater and more twisted storytelling.

Reminiscent to this game is the latest poem featured on the lywTube channel, Happy as Monsters, by Lauren Mascitelli: a happy, urban gothic trip wonderfully illustrated by the artist herself.  Please check out the poetry video:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading the text of Alicia Jo Rabins

Alicia Jo Rabins is a writer, musician, composer, performer and Torah teacher.   She is one of the first poets featured on the lyw Youtube channel who dips directly and deeply into religion.  In these featured pieces you will find some very nice, sharp balances :  the big story – fragmented; a guide to life made personal, individual and introspective; ancient echoes of the past aligned with a modern life.

The poem, Florida, especially rang this way for me.  At first, it seems a simple poem about an individual and common feeling of longing, however, now I consider it a look at a society that has learned to desire shiny baubles in such a profound way.

In the second poetry video, Ancient Studies: Coliseum Ghosts, the poet seems to be reconciling ancient wisdom with modern reality.  I do not know the Torah and it is clear she writes about something very specific.  But what did I find in this poem?  A quiet character thinking about how time stretches connects her present life to old wisdom and how well they align.  Also, I easily indulged the poem to be that of a writer, like myself, trying to write worth her salt today while minding the legacy of the masters before her.  It’s a fine balance to learn from your masters and also have the courage to be your own.

I invite you to please enjoy these two poetry videos on the lyw Youtube channel your way.

1. Florida – Alicia Jo Rabins

2. Ancient Studies: Coliseum Ghosts – Alicia Jo Rabins

fiction to fill an empty house

 

A long time ago, I penned a peculiar short fiction about a house with a human personality who reacts to a stranger entering uninvited.  She – the house is female – is empty only for the fact that a human does not own her.

Now Freudians might scoff that the writer clearly let slip some hidden meanings that are not so well-hidden, however – let me finish the story of the story before judgement:

The story begins with the house noticing a stranger across the street from her.  Her initial response is to be afraid yet this man is no threat to her.  He doesn’t break or break into anything.  He is only a visitor who enters her house much like a beautiful song can enter the ears without need for an invitation or introduction.  He, this song, settles by her fireside and takes a moment to rest his weary soul there.

And there it is!  This story is about how a particular song had graced my ears once.  That’s it.  That’s all.  I swear.  I wanted to use fiction as a unique way to describe how we can feel so familiar with an artist, even though we have never met, simply by experiencing that person’s artwork.

Since I chose fiction as my medium, I didn’t want to take a direct approach.  Go figure.  I decided to build a metaphor around this experience.

The development of the fear in this story began when I separated the house’s character from myself and the idea.  This is a creative writing method I often use to let my character be her own character and thus give the story a chance to grow in unanticipated ways.  Boy, did it ever.  Being a house, I instinctively made her more domesticated and thus more suspicious of strangers unlike lovers of art who are a little more free-wheeling with the unknown.

I realize my biggest mistake with this story.  Without knowing immediately that the main character is the house, the tone of the story can be very creepy instead of very curious.  This was the opinion of a friend who I had critique the piece.  At the time, I brushed him off as closed-minded.  Now I realize that he must have thought the main character was a human woman being stalked and invaded by a maniac and then becoming complacent about it.  Totally not what I meant.

If I were to fix the story now it would be a whole new fiction influenced by the person I am today.  And I still love the original intent and moment of this story so I will leave it in the past but with the added disclaimer: the main character is the house!  And it’s a metaphor for crying out loud!

I heartily invite you to take a moment to enjoy the song, if not the story.  The song was Anthony Hamilton’s Do you Feel Me?  A very pretty, quiet and soulful tune.  He (as in the song — not the artist!) still sleeps peacefully in a special place in my heart.

Fiction is dangerous!  But let it.  Let it make this writer be more careful and more precise. Let me be misunderstood about something that is meaningful to me so that I can get to a better meaning with another human being.  This is a practice worth carrying over to things other than fiction-writing.

Another interesting note: the confusion related to this short also illustrates the stark difference in the way art and real life deals with strangers and strange ideas.  When we experience a stranger through their artwork we are more open to letting them in; when we experience a stranger on our doorstep, we are less inclined.  Reality makes this difference so sadly wise.

© lyw 

Link to song:

Side note on the The Treachery of Images by René Magritte https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images

Photo of House by Cindy Tang on Unsplash

digging up old ideas

Recently, on the way to my day job, I remembered a film script idea that I had about 10 years ago.  I went digging for that old idea in my files and couldn’t find it.  I am sure I left it in the past for a reason and shouldn’t be too concerned by the loss.  Good or bad, though, I would still like to see it again.

It’s funny how a creative idea that was never realized always feels precious like a rough gem.  It could have been the worst idea in the world but as a fledgling bad idea it always has the potential to be magnificent.  Funny, still, how I feel more attached towards ideas from my past than people from my past.  Perhaps this is because people are not within my control, whereas an idea is — or should be – can be?  If nothing comes of my idea, I am the only one to blame.  I am that idea’s only hope.  Nobody would have that idea quite like me.  Certainly, nobody would love my idea quite like me.

Funny on funny.  Because, again, if I had developed those ideas into the ugly monstrosities that usually occur when I develop script or novel ideas then that preciousness would be lost.

I did a major purge of creative files a few years ago mainly because I was advised that it was a very healthy thing to do for writers.  This purge promised to help me to:

  1. Let go of the past that is keeping me from experiencing the present or having any mind for the future.
  2. If I have been dogging on a story for years and not getting anywhere, remember that I am mortal; my time here is finite.
  3. Realize that an idea that is 10 years old or older probably has little relevance to me now or would need to be turned into a new idea to suit who I am as a writer.
  4. Consider that since I probably have at least a few creative ideas a year — if all of my undeveloped ideas continued to follow after me, year after year, like tin cans attached to my waist with strings – I’d make such a royal din everywhere I went.
  5. Accept that some ideas are just bad and deserve to be put to rest.  I don’t know if I can ever believe this statement.  After all, aren’t I the bad one if I can’t make something out of one of my brilliant ideas?

**Important Note: I’m only talking about literary ideas.  An idea such as doing your own amateur household electrical or medical surgery.  No.  Don’t do it.

I think the lesson learned is that if I should have a good literary idea then I should develop it immediately.  Embrace the sucking, as They say, and just do it — so it doesn’t follow after me for years and I don’t suffer the regret of needing to purge them. I bet some sort of angel or spirit weeps every time an idea dies before it’s even given a chance.

Ultimately, there is wisdom to this funny business.  Whenever I have tried to develop a creative concept into a novel or script it has grown into a hairy kind of Frankenstein with lots of heads, arms and legs and eventually feels beyond my control to develop any further.

I do believe, though have not yet proven, that I must persevere long enough to see the beauty in the ugly reality of my idea.  That’s life, isn’t it?  An idea is an ideal.  The ideal is perfection.  Longer creative pieces will never turn out the way I had it in mind.  The writer and the story develop together and the reality will always come out differently.  The reality is where I will learn and test the truth about me, my story and my perspective on this life.  Time is a factor as well.  The act of stretching out an idea through linear time, page after page, scene after scene — it does stuff to an idea.  It applies maddening and rigid logic to the abstract.

Obviously, if my storytelling craft adhered to a popular formula or template the work and product would be different.  Ideas, I imagine, would have a clearer and smaller path to follow to completion.  Kudos to writers who can successfully write longer creative pieces within a template.  My monsters have always managed to escape such prisons.

And those are the few times when I have actually been very proud of my monstrosities.

© lyw 

Photography credits:

Dave Michuda

Nirzar Pangarkar

commas: the tracks that stalk the lone writer

Image result for comma clipartFor the life of me, no matter how hard I try, how many times I edit or how long I take to publish, blogging without the help of an editor always leaves me with useless commas running around my text.  I don’t know how they get there!  I don’t know how I miss them during my own editing process.

Sometimes I choose to write in fragmented sentences because I prefer to write like I speak whether it’s grammatically correct or not.  However, there’s no good reason to have extra commas.  It’s not cute.  It’s not casual.  It’s just wrong and annoying. Periodically, I also suffer from being a semi-colon fool.  Since I don’t speak with a stammer, I must stammer in thought or think in a stop-n-go style.  This could explain a lot about my issues with longer creative pieces. Oddly, my business writing does not suffer nearly as much from these short, staccato uuhh’s damaging my flow – it’s true, I swear!  I suspect this is because I find less to hesitate about.

Image result for comma clipartRegardless, useless commas are the most annoying thing about my blogging experience and expound the importance of the editor.  In fact, if editors can save me from those maddening track marks, they should get equal, if not higher, credit for the work.

I am often faced with dualities when it comes to blogging.  Whenever I see a benefit, there is always an almost equal risk.  The blog’s charm is frequency and immediacy.  It encourages me to leave the past in the past, write for the present and keep an eye to the future.

However, this freedom doesn’t provide the same level of polish and quality that would come from a traditional, slower form of publication and processing from established publishing companies or larger publications.  Lone bloggers generally don’t have editing and marketing talent behind them.

comma%20clipartHowever to that, there is more creative freedom in a less restricted environment such as a blog.  I’m grateful for the way social media has loosened me up (a little) to imperfection and being ‘out’ instead of hidden in that small place in this world where I silently write. Social media provides access to a lot of other great writers and ideas as well as venues to develop a personal craft, story and following.

However, the literary arts industry is already small, and possibly shrinking, suggesting that online writers and publishers need to ally themselves with traditional, industry-standard publishers and academic partners to keep this market growing.

However, blogs in a blog aren’t meant to be permanent and often serve as a prelude to more important work or ideas. A cooking blog is meant to guide us to the more important work of cooking rather than admiring the blog (although, there is an unusual trend of people who would rather stare at pictures of good cooking than make it themselves). My literary blog is aimed at chewing on another literary piece or ideacomma%20clipart not the blog itself.  Is it then worth getting a 3rd party editor to go through this stuff?  Yes. At this point, I say, yes.  Just because those commas are driving me mad!  Blogs don’t need to be Nobel-prize winning stuff but they should be clean-er.

OR, one day, writers like me must evolve enough to be as much a 3rd party editor as a writer.  Editing while writing is not a good idea because honestly, I don’t think it’s even possible.  Writing needs a pair of fresh eyes to be critical about those little details.  Could I learn to separate myself from me, after the draft, long enough to be an impartial editor to my own work?  That certainly sounds like evolution.

© lyw 

** comma artwork c/o: http://www.clipartpanda.com/categories/comma-clipart

Qabbani’s Letter from a Stupid Woman

salsa2The first poem that I read from Nizar Qabbani was ‘A Letter from a Stupid Woman.’  At first, I thought this was a poet who had been bitter towards a lover.  On the contrary, it is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem from a poet who loved women.  This poem’s simple honesty is powerful and elegant and continues to have a lasting impact on me.

Late last year I made the attempt to revitalize my interest in poetry.  When was the last time you asked somebody if they had a favourite poet or poem?  I was jaded but I started that way.  I expected people to tell me that they did not read poetry.  In this way, I met Qabbani’s poetry.  I was lucky to have clicked on this poem first.