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Flash Fiction Friday: Add your own in the comments!

4 May

If you are reading this, return the favor: let us read you! Or don’t. We don’t want to be pushy. But if you are so inclined, we want to start up Flash Fiction Fridays and it’ll be so much more fun with more people playing along.

Flash fiction goes by many different names and has about as many definitions. For our purposes, though, it’s gonna be anything under 500 words. So, air any ideas, characters, or situations that you just can’t shake. Make shit up or tell us the truth, it’s all the same in fiction. After all, if fiction is “the lie that tells a truth”(via John Dufresne), it stands to reason that it is also the truth told as a lie.

Here’s mine:

The place is empty on a Friday, which works well for him. He retrieves the blanket from his bottom drawer and unfurls his yoga mat in the copy room (where it is warmest). It never gets completely dark – the exit signs glow even in the daylight and at night they light up whole sections of the office like an unholy waiting room, where you sit can for years before one of Satan’s bureaucratic minions calls you to the window. It is a lot like that in the daylight too. And even he is a lot like his daytime self. He is supine, not seated, but his mind cranks around things that are not real to him and he wonders what everyone does with their lives if they don’t do this.

The Playlist Plot

14 Mar

It started as a game over dirty martinis. I’d pick a song, then Charles would pick one, but with two writers playing it lasted all of one round before we had characters and a story playing out before us, one song choice at a time.

I started with “Bang, Bang” by Nancy Sinatra and Charles answered with “Rock On” by David Essex. So: Nancy  killed someone and she and her boyfriend David took to the road. Sure, the lyrics can literally tell the story but it was the music even more than the words that drew us on.

When words are your medium, I think it’s inevitable that you feel the enormity of possibilities offered in other intense, emotional, but inarticulate art forms like music, visual art – even film, as much a visual as it is words in a script. In writing you are tied to the linear lines of the sentences used to draw characters, plots and scenes. But the music, the image – so much can be communicated in that fraction of a second it takes the brain to interpret light or sound and so much more directly and open to interpretation of the viewer, listener.

Of course there is a voice when it comes to music or images – someone decided which notes in what key, someone decided which object and the depth of light and shadow – but the voice is so much more overt in writing where there’s a narrator (even a disembodied, omniscient one) telling you what and how things are happening. No matter how subtly you write, the voice is the mediator between reader and story. And I could write reams, grinding the narrative to a halt, and still miss some of the wordless connections that are communicated in just one frame of film, the blink of an eye.

But the fact is, the viewer, listener, reader supplies their own narrative over the image, sound or prose in front of them. For the writer, the challenge is to tell the story so as to leave enough room for the reader’s own parallel story as they process the words in front of them. As the playlist grew, it was exciting to see how we layered our stories, our characters’ stories, over the lyrics and music.

In the end, we’d decided to work out a screenplay which should prove to be an interesting exercise in collaboration. I’ve read some of Charles’ work and am excited to get a window into his process.  Until then, here’s our raw material. It makes for good, atmospheric listening and trust me, it is gonna be a great story.

“Bang, Bang” by Nancy Sinatra
“Rock On” by David Essex
“Dancing in the Moonlight” by The Smashing Pumpkins
“Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen
“Never Let Me Down Again” by The Smashing Pumpkins
“You Said Something” by PJ Harvey
“Milton Road” by Mice Parade
“I Wanna Be Adored” by The Stone Roses
“I’m Your Man” by Leonard Cohen
“Hamlet (Bang Bang Bang)” by The Birthday Party (Nick Cave!)
“Love Is Blind” by Alicia Keys
“My Sword Hand’s Anger” by Apostle of Hustle
“In Spite of Me” by Morphine
“Becoming” (the piano version) by Nine Inch Nails
“Strange” by Patsy Cline
“You Were Always on My Mind” by Elvis Presley
“Club Foot” by Kassabian
“Long Snake Moan” by PJ Harvey
Three different songs, all by the Black Keys, for three different endings (for now you’ll just have to guess which one we went with):
“The Go-Getter”
“The Sinister Kid”
“Ten Cent Pistol”

deja vu all over again

22 Sep

a few weeks ago, it hit me. that feeling, quick as a bird, that i have lived this before. it was intensely sensory as these things always are – this time touched off by the vivid blue of a dress a roommate had left to dry on the showercurtain rod. in that second i could take in all those things that are normally compressed from moment to moment: the claustrophobic feeling of the narrow shower compartment, the steamy heat of the water, the thick velvety feel of suds in my hands, and the colors – transparent black of the showercurtain, bars of blue and white tile and the dull chrome of the fixtures.

the thing that finally snapped me out of it was the recognition of it. is that how it is for you? for me, once i recognize the feeling as deja vu i am thrust back in to the present and filled with regret that the moment can be lost so easily. (imagine if you could keep running with it. if it were a story I was writing – and it might well be – the protag would only have to find a thread of previously lived experience and then just stay in that groove. yep, i’m gonna have to write that one. stay tuned.)

so the question: what is it? the truth is that no one knows. the scientific line is that it is an ‘anomaly of memory.’ perhaps your brain is storing information as a memory instantaneously alongside your experience of it. perhaps it is what happens when another, similar memory is suggested but cannot itself be recalled. another variant, from the matrix (1999), has a repeating black cat as a sign of a glitch in the system.

for a phenomena characterized by the uncanny experience of the expansiveness of time, by the way time seems to be multiple threads twining around us, it’s interesting that these explanations all put deja vu down as something confined to the present moment – your mind confuses memories as you are recalling them in the here and now; the system hicups and in that instant reveals itself to be a system.

well, what if deja vu means something closer to the feeling it brings about? because it does feel more important than the conventional explanations allow. so many interpretive avenues open up if you take deja vu as evidence of experience. depending on your perspective, it could be an encouragement to continue on the right path or a horrible warning to stop before you repeat previous mistakes.

how about you, readers? anybody have a novel take on deja vu? for my part, i decided to take my experience as a positive sign post (’cause really, what else are you gonna do way too early on a monday morning?), one that i’m hoping will give me some mileage as a short story…

She talks to Angels

20 Sep

I’ve been on a path of self-discovery, a path that I’ve followed like Alice in Wonderland down the rabbit hole.  It started last spring or maybe earlier.  It spawned from feeling of being trapped in daily life and out of the need to find peace, happiness, and abundance.  That said, I gave credence to this open-ended search by also following different story ideas for my next screenplay.  At first it was background for “Death: the study of Dying”, a feature fiction screenplay about a quirky, trust-fund baby who has it all but lives in fear.  Fear of dying.  So she sets out and joins every spiritual, yoga, mediation class she can.  In the end the character, after a near death experience, finds her answer.  Another screenplay idea I’m working on is “Fight the Bear” about a girl, Jenny, who has done the right thing all her life, yet still hasn’t reaped any karmic rewards for being good.  So she decides to make her own destiny and fight her way to success.  Then there is my baby, “Repent”.  This one is also a story of exploration.  It begins with the main character pleading with God to give her another chance, a chance to get her life right.  God concedes and Bethea is sent rushing down to earth. She is reborn. We catch up with her on the eve of her 40th birthday.  She’s made wrong choices, picked the wrong guys and still hasn’t fulfilled her promise of spiritual commitment to God.  Plagued by increasing incidents with Deja Vu, night visions, intuitive coincidences, Bethea goes to a psychic for answers.  The psychic tells her that she’s had a guardian angel by her side the entire time. This starts her on her journey toward uncovering her fragile beginning and to remembering that this is her last shot at getting life right or else.

Art, creation, time, life, these are themes looping through my mind. Depending on the day, I am in triumph, full of hope.  Only to waken to the reality of my daily existence.  One without awe.  Without inspiration.  But I must will it.  I must believe it.  I must tear my way forward.  To give and to receive.  Last week I was up.  I wrote, “All things needed to move forward are converging like tiny streams to a river. Rushing and pushing me toward the glorious pool that is my destiny”.  My buddy gave me a hard time with a comment on whether it was my idea of being in the “right dimension” or is this something different.  To which I retorted, “All things are pointing to go. Whether it’s described as living in the ultimate dimension, fulfillment of ‘pre-destined’ mission in life, realizing full potential, strength-based leadership, balancing your chakras, mindful living, meditation, visualization… it’s the same message and I am listening”.  And thus, this is where I am today.  Listening, keeping an eye open for a sign, yet moving forward toward my goal.  Writing.  Thinking. Writing about writing. Living. Loving…

fit to be writing/game on

16 Sep

So, here it goes folks.  The latest and greatest idea.  To write.  In the here.  In the now.  This is me writing.

Firstly, I am determined to create a television series, worthy of Dexter and Breaking Bad. The characters already live, Rian Pedde and Penny Jones.  Better yet, the feature film already lives, Suckerpunch.  No, not the slickly produced but crappily written 2010 film.  BTW- I came up with that name before they did.  But not before the folks who also penned “Sucker Punch” screenplays in 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009.  Okay, it’s a popular name. INSTEAD, this screenplay is a character driven, vigilante, drama about a new mother and a party girl who take their coworker relationship to new heights when they experiment with the edges of danger (to semi-quote the coverage we received from Slamdance Screenplay Competition 2011.  oh, yeah, we didn’t win).  That’s right, danger.  These girls are mad as hell and they’re not gonna take it anymore.  Plus they look like the average Jane so they can get away with murder… or can they.  This Suckerpunch, was written by myself and one, Haley Hemen, 2010.  And it’s gotten some good coverage, won a table read, and made it to the semi-finals in the Script/Pitch Competition for Nextventertainment.  And undoubtedly needs to be condensed, reworked, and just may fit nicely into the episodic rockin’ television series category… to be shopped to AMC, Showtime, HBO.  So it’s out there.  In the universe.  Now let’s go to it.

This post is actually a long time coming.  It was a response to an earlier post that Haley wrote… and then was saved and almost forgotten.  But not so, dear friends.   Here it is.  Fit to be writing.  And the real meat of what’s been plaguing my self-help, seeking person is to come.  It’s a long strange trip to peaceful and happy, nomatter what self-centered a-hole you run into.  See you in a few. wink.

what do hemen and hemingway have in common? shitty luck, as it turns out

31 Aug

i’ve been on quite the book reading jag lately and yesterday’s selection, the paris wife, is getting to me. it is about hemingway’s first wife, hadley richardson, and their time in paris. this is the same hadley richardson who famously lost ALL OF HEMINGWAY’S WORK on a train out of paris. well, in a bizarre twist of evil sympathetic magic, i seem to have accomplished something similar. not that the comparison between hemingway and i goes much further, but i’ve lost the usb drive that houses all my stories, sketches, scripts and notes from the last few years.

now, knowing me it’s not really lost so much as misplaced in my, shall we say, disheveled room. at least that is the hope. but the fact that it’s missing at all has given my overactive imagination license to do terrible things to me.

of course you can’t lose an idea or a story in the same way you do a physical object, but here’s when a writer’s work on an idea is very much physical object: you are sculpting the raw material of the rough draft into your best version of the story. you cut a word or phrase away or you mold new words onto the structure and by the time you feel done (even if you’re never really done), you have a singular representation of your idea. you lose that object, that well-molded story (well, molded story anyway), and you have done just that. you have lost it. you can write on the same subject, with the same characters, following the same plot, but it won’t be the same. it can’t be and it can’t help it – you are writing a new story.

in a lot of ways this is extremely freeing, though. while there are a few things i’ll be sorry not to see again, there’s also an amount of crap i’ve been puttering with that will have finally been cleared out. nothing to do but start fresh.

and all of this is as good a lead-in as any to the fiction project i wanna start posting. i’ve got characters and a few situations for them but nothing’s truly jelling yet. maybe if i put them up here, together in one place, i’ll see what i’ve been missing (or perhaps someone reading will and be kind enough to clue me in). if nothing else, i know i won’t be able to lose the damned things if they’re posted online!

so, up next: the characters…