Haiku: Crot #5

The Horse Called Divorce 
a haiku for Olaf by Mister Misterson 
It's pointless to say
What's a good thing or blunder
I got her number 

Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 6:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Break-up Letters: Repetend #5

February 22, 2010

Dear Dick Dickersley Olaf Gastoukian,

Sorry about getting your name wrong – this is our last piece of paper and I’m using a petrified typewriter. Your spouse, Jean, recently made an appointment to discuss your divorce arrangements on March 19, 2010. It actually might have been the 20th or something – double check with her. I forgot what time slot she reserved – my secretary “went away for a while”. Anyhow, make sure to be there promptly and stuff.

Our practice is unique in that we like to talk stuff out and stay away from all that legal mumbo jumbo. We’re on the cutting edge of what I like to call “new law”. I’ve enclosed a haiku that I send to all clients. It’s to get you through the emotional h-bomb. If you don’t like it, please bring it back when we meet – I only have a few copies.

Thanks for your cooperation,
Mister Misterson, Attorney of Law (non-licensed)

Mister Misterson
Misterson & Shat
Divorce and Family Law Attorney’s since February 2010

Offices in back room of The Pawn Grotto beside Kroeger on 123
Fell free to call me on my cell – your wife’s got it
(I can’t legally give out that number anymore – long story.)

Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dialogue with Elizabeth George

“To avoid bad writing, think of the events in your novel as dominoes. Lets call them dramatic dominoes.”

“When I free write and when I employ stream of consciousness, what happens is that the essential elements of the plot become apparent. Why? Because I begin to see the relationships between characters. I learn what the characters strengths and weaknesses are, I see the conflicts clearly, and I begin to understand the time. I also get ideas for subplots. Indeed, I generally end up with many more ideas than I can possibly use in one book. It’s an amazing process and it never fails.”

“Ever character’s behavior has a number of motivations behind it. Some of these are superficial: right there on the surface for everyone to see…But some motivations are buried within our personalities, part of who we are. These are essentially basic needs although some of them are more complicated than others.”

“I believe it’s critical to know the basic need each character has in his life because the denial of that need leads directly to the second area that I consider crucial in developing a character. This is his pathological maneuver. Better said, it’s what the character does when he’s under stress…The pathological maneuver is generally the flip side of the core need.”

“Decide what the character wants in the novel…try to keep in mind that what someone wants isn’t always directly expressed, nor is it always simple. It can arise from mixed motives, and it will be colored – in any individual scene – by the character’s core need.”

THOUGHTS ON GEORGE

Elizabeth George strongly encourages the writer to know almost everything about their protagonist, antagonist, and all of the other major characters. All interesting stories have character conflict, character struggle, and character growth. Knowing what motivates your characters, what they want, and how they act under stress is more or less knowing your story.

PROCESS JOURNAL: ENTRY #3

The project is coming to a conclusion – it slowly came together. One thing I haven’t really talked much about yet is my revisions. Throughout most of my repetends and crots, I’ve revised them numerous times. It seems like not matter how much advice you get on dialogue or writing or story-telling, it doesn’t mean a thing without the emphasis on revision. In order to be a good writer, it’s important to work stuff like an artist working with clay on a spinning wheel. You have to reshape it and reshape it and make changes until it works.

I think characters become more real when you see them experience a wider range of emotions. When you see a character laugh, cry, get mad, get super focused, help someone out, loose control – they just seem to be humanized. I really liked the earlier advice from one of the books about humanizing villains and giving protagonists flaws. It just gives the characters more depth. I’ve really enjoyed this format of research – the more genres you approach a topic from, the more layers you can kind of unfold.

Works Cited

George, Elizabeth. Write Away. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004.

Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 5:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dialogue with Gloria Kempton

“You want to use dialogue to keep reminding the reader just how desperate your character is to achieve her goal.”

” Every scene of dialogue, in some way, needs to move the story conflict forward. We need to be in a different place at the end of a scene of dialogue than we were at the beginning. The situation should grow continually worse every time our characters open their mouths to talk to one another…Our supporting characters keep reminding our protagonist of his goal, of where he’s headed on the Hero’s Journey.”

“Dialogue’s purpose, and there is no exception to this, is to create tension in the present and build suspense for what’s to come. As a fiction writer, you want to remember this. No matter what kind of scene you’re writing, no matter the genre, tension and suspense must be included, most often at the core of the scene.”

“As storytellers, we have a number of writing tools at our disposal – narrative, action, description, and dialogue, to name a few. When you’re considering how to pace a story, description and narration will move it slowly, steadily, and easily along. Action and dialogue will speed up – dialogue even more than action. When characters start talking, the story starts moving. Usually. Dialogue is a way to control the pace of our stories.”

Just for Fun

“Take a notebook and go to the mall or a park or a cafe and eavesdrop on a conversation. Chances are, it will be pretty mundane, as is. Now write a scene of dialogue, giving the conversation you just heard a purpose.”

THOUGHTS ON KEMPTON

Gloria Kempton makes a many excellent points in her book on dialogue. Each scene of dialogue should push the story forward and reveal something new. The tension should rise as the story moves forward. The speed of dialogue often reflects the speed of action, which is why dialogue can control the pacing. Having changes in the pacing (or energy of the scene), as in music, is important in keeping the story interesting.

I love Kempton’s idea for eavesdropping, writing a scene inspired from the conversation, and giving the scene purpose. It seems like it would make for a fun assignment – as long as the eavesdropping wasn’t illegal or inappropriate.

Works Cited

Kempton, Gloria. Write Great Fiction: Dialogue. Cincinnati: Writers Digest Books, 2004.

Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Student Assigment: Crot #4

Coffee & Cigarettes Dialogue Assignment
by the inglishologist 

Coffee and Cigarettes is a compilation of vignettes woven into one overarching idea. Every scene includes a table, coffee and cigarettes, and two or more people somehow interacting with each other – engaging in small talk about coffee and cigarettes (in the midst of their conversations). Some people are trying to quit, some people try to convince others not to smoke, some people simply enjoy it, and some people argue that it doesn’t qualify as lunch. Everybody seems to have a take on the issue.

CHOOSE ONE OF THE OPTIONS BELOW
(keep scenes PG-13 - 1st draft due two weeks from today)

1) Write another variation of “cousins”, “twins”, or “doctors”. Your scene should incorporate a conflict between two or three characters, a reason for why they are interacting, at least one awkward moment, and some small talk pertaining to coffee and cigarettes. Your dialogue needs to be at least three pages, but try not to go over ten. Lastly, your scene should have at least five separate insertions of action, but try not to go over ten. For this exercise, simply [write the action] in brackets.

2) Write an entirely new scene for coffee and cigarettes. Your scene should incorporate a conflict between two or three characters, a reason for why they are interacting, at least one awkward moment, and some small talk pertaining to coffee and cigarettes. Your dialogue needs to be at least three pages, but try not to go over ten. Lastly, your scene should have at least five separate insertions of action, but try not to go over ten. For this exercise, simply [write the action] in brackets.

3) Write a scene in the same vein as “coffee and cigarettes”, but replace coffee and cigarettes with two new items for small talk. Your scene should incorporate a conflict between two or three characters, a reason for why they are interacting, at least one awkward moment, and some small talk pertaining to coffee and cigarettes. Your dialogue needs to be at least three pages, but try not to go over ten. Lastly, your scene should have at least five separate insertions of action, but try not to go over ten. For this exercise, simply [write the action] in brackets.

Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 6:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Dialogue in a Vignette: Coffee & Cigarettes

Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) was written and directed by Jim Jarmush. The movie offers many excellent lessons on dialogue, characters, and parallel plots. If high schoolers were allowed to watch this film, I think an engaging assignment might be for them to write another scene for the film. We wouldn’t actually be filming the scenes, so the cigarette aspect hopefully wouldn’t be an issue.


Works Cited

STRANGE TO MEET YOU /Coffee & Cigarettes [Video]. (2009). Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXlbhjTNkWI

Tom Waits & Iggy Pop – Coffee & Cigarettes [Video]. (2006). Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6Mw6b1T50U

GZA, RZA, & Bill Murray: Coffee & Cigarettes [Video]. (2006). Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6EZkIaJcCI

Coffee & Cigarettes – Twins [Video]. (2007). Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2MyCmRrCaQ

Coffee & Cigarettes – Cousins (pt1) [Video]. (2009). Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhNyafL1cm4

Coffee and Cigarettes – Cousins [Video]. (2007). Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjEvS7ZlvsA

Coffe and Cigarettes – Renee French [Video]. (2003). Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mi-9fLp8oYc

Coffee & Cigarettes – Those Things’ll Kill Ya [Video]. (2010). Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGCtZPti_mg

The White Stripes in Coffee and Cigarettes [Video]. (2008). Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhfq7DAnoh4

Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 4:42 am  Leave a Comment  

The Break-up Letters: Repetend #4

J-spot,

Thanks for laying down the law on Trandon – it means a lot. I got that video to work! Also, I’ll be publishing “those photos” of you on my blog if you don’t pick up your mom by the time I wake up on Saturday.

~Your highness

Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 3:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Dialogue in Music: Part 2

Tom Jobim & Ellis Regina sing Aguas de Marco (Waters of March)

Tom Jobim sings Waters of March (Aguas de Marco)

Paul Sonnenberg sings Waters of March (Aguas de Marco)

THOUGHTS ON WATERS OF MARCH

Aguas de Marco by Antonio Carlos Jobim is widely considered the best song in Brazilian music. It’s a great tune that fringes on the notion of dialogue in music. Yes – it’s a melodic duet, but there’s more to it than that. It’s a beautiful rhythmic conversation between two people. I wanted to include an English version because I don’t even know Portuguese.

The English version’s nice because I actually understand what’s being said, but I prefer Ellis and Tom’s version way more. There’s something special that happens when they sing it together – there’s something to be said for that, considering how wonderfully Jobim and Paul Sonnenberg sings the English version. Ellis and Tom simply make the song come to life. Like music, dialogue usually has a rhythm that the writer should be aware of.

Works Cited

Aguas de Marco – Tom Jobim e Elis Regina no Fantastico [Video]. (2007). Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srfP2JlH6ls

Atonio Carlos Jobim – Waters Of March (Aguas De Marco) [Video]. (2008). Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFGQtGJZto8

Waters of March – Jobim – for Simone [Video]. (2007). Retrieved from February 21, 2010 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zlLGd_70uk

Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Poem: Crot #3

Say What?
by the inglishologist
Speak to me in cursive with the Eagle by your punch
Squawk out where we're going even if it's just a hunch
Pull that ancient walkman down and hide it in your bag
Push record and let it roll when boss man starts to nag

Stroll into a dive and grab a stool that's near the back
Grab a brew, enjoy your view, and scribble as they quack
Rent a couple movies that you normally wouldn't see
Dully note the subtle glance that hints at what will be 

Let your thinkings loiter 'round until they find a cause
Underline a ball of twine revealing something odd
Keep a box of tissues on the table near your bed
Scratch down stealing Jesus from a dream about that shed

Tuck a ball point pen into the crescent of your ear
Vandalize your upper wrist when nothing else is near
Post a thought beside a pot that dangles from a hook
And any time it strikes your mind go out to lunch

Published in: on February 20, 2010 at 5:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Interesting Discussion With the Cohens

Big Lebowski Interview Part 1

Big Lebowski Interview Part 2

Big Lebowski Interview Part 3

THOUGHTS ON THE BIG LEBOWSKI INTERVIEWS

I recently stumbled onto some sweet interviews with Joel and Ethan Cohen about their dark comedy The Big Lebowski. I would’ve posted the actual videos on this blog, but the embedding was disabled. It’s fascinating to hear writers/directors discuss the thought process behind their work. These interviews are not focused solely on dialogue, but they reveal mountains about the craft of storytelling. It’s also nice because the actors weigh in on the story and their thoughts on the Cohen’s artistic choices. It’s incredible how much thought and detail can be overlooked when watching a movie.

Published in: on February 20, 2010 at 2:07 am  Leave a Comment