Archive for September, 2009

Happy Birthday, Stephen King!

Posted in Miscellaneous on September 21, 2009 by Scott Emerson

The Master turns 62 today.

Imagine Me and You, I Do

Posted in Writing on September 21, 2009 by Scott Emerson

“Books choose their authors; the act of creation is not entirely a rational and conscious one.”

–SALMAN RUSHDIE

Once again the truths of writing have surfaced to chomp me on the ass.

This past summer had been an uncommonly productive one for me; I turned out two feature-length screenplays (technically one and a half, the second one having crumbled to worthlessness at the midpoint), a couple of short stories, and a host of haiku, flash, and microfiction. By late August, even with the problems of Screenplay #2 mounting and the prospect of writing an unfilmable piece of dreck looming on the horizon, I was in the Groove, that magical headspace in which the words keep coming and each session behind the keyboard is satisfying and productive.

While in the Groove I’d decided once Screenplay #2 was finished–temporarily, until a better second half could be hatched–I was going to finally tackle that novel I’d been putting off. My usual arsenal of procrastination prompts had withered beneath the reams of text I’d written and the time felt right. Besides, I had a great premise that sounded like an awful lot of fun to write.

It was exciting. I felt like A Real Writer during those weeks.

And, as always, a fly makes its way into the ointment.

The day I typed “The end” at the bottom of Screenplay #2 I heard that a highly esteemed small press publisher (one that’s put out books by several of my favorite writers, as well as a leading candidate on my Get Published There list) was accepting unsolicited submissions. The window was tight, but definitely manageable, especially since I was leaking words by the bucketful. Never mind that the novel I’d intended to write didn’t really fit in with what they’ve previously published–I had something more appropriate in the ol’ cranial inventory, anyway. It was just a matter of pushing Novel #1 aside and pulling up the notes for Novel #2.

It’s been almost three weeks since that decision and I’ve hardly written a thing.

Oh, there’s been a couple of jokey haiku and some microfic hastily sketched out during downtime at work, but I hadn’t produced anything significant in that time. The Groove had definitely been lost, the thought of plunking my ass behind a keyboard was daunting instead of exhilirating.

It must be the story, I figured. Maybe I can think of something better.

And I did. It wasn’t anymore fitting with the publisher’s needs than Novel #1, but it showed genuine potential–a tragic romance between a young man and his doomed relationship with a beautiful woman who turns out to be a siren. It was also Curtis Harrington’s NIGHT TIDE, so that was out.

The Groove was quickly replaced with the Rut. Ideas felt forced and awkward. Motivation is non-existent. Playing video games seems a more effective use of writing time.

Compared to the Groove, the Rut really sucks. So last night I say, Fuck it. I’m going back to Novel #1. Whatever happens, happens.

And while it’s a relief to finally have a game plan, the whole ordeal is an irritating waste of time. Why did I stress on writing something else, only to return to square one?

Then I found the above quote and it all made sense.

When you think about it, we really don’t control our ideas, do we? It’s almost like courting–one of you expresses an interest and you feel each other out, determining if you’ll make a good match.

And like any potential relationship it may lead to something fruitful, or it could end in disaster.

365 Days of the Dead Revisited

Posted in Movies on September 15, 2009 by Scott Emerson

Hard to believe, but in just a few short weeks will be one year since I completed 365 Days of the Dead. As a way of marking my twelve-month reprieve from the living dead I was thinking about doing a brief (maybe two weeks) “365 Days of the Dead Revisited.” Not sure exactly what the final content will be, but I’m thinking of a mixture of fan-favorite reviews, re-evaluating movies that may not have gotten a fair shake, and of course a new selection of reviews.

If there’s a certain film you’d like to see mentioned (or a review to be reprinted) drop me a line.

Zombie Face!

Posted in Miscellaneous on September 15, 2009 by Scott Emerson

Wonder if he’s a Romero fan.

Kill Your Darlings

Posted in Writing on September 13, 2009 by Scott Emerson

Three little words constituting my most hated of writing advice.

It’s not that I disagree–quite the contrary, in fact–but I think the phrase is grossly misunderstood. Or, as it’s been in my personal experience, abused.

We all know what the phrase really means, right? Developing an emotional detachment from one’s work, so that they can better identify and assess flaws (both recognized by the author and discovered by first readers) in order to improve said work. Simple, really, and a crucial skill if you’re serious about your craft.

So who decided it was okay to use it as a defense mechanism?

Recently I attended a roundtable poetry workshop where this little chestnut was flung in my direction. I was relieved that the work I’d offered for critique–part of a linked series of surreal poems with a supermarket theme (because another piece of advice I adhere to is “Write what you know”) that relied heavily on bizarre imagery–was well-received, since the group was largely made up of middle-aged women who wrote nature poems. I learned when I was being subtle and when I was just being vague, which lines resonated better than others, and all that good stuff  these types of functions can teach you.

But when the workshop coordinator suggested I remove an image–one I found particularly powerful and upon which a great deal of the poem’s impact hinged–I  demurred. Politely, of course, but I explained the line’s importance and how it related to the rest of the piece. Her response?

“Kill your darlings.”

It stung, I’ll admit, but I initially chalked it up to frustration that the piece wasn’t working. It wasn’t until later that I realized that those three words are really a condescending, end-of-discussion way of saying, “You can’t disagree with what I’m telling you, and my opinion is final.”

And this hasn’t been the only instance I’ve seen this.

“Kill your darlings” is a philosophy, a principle, not an instruction. If you’re critiquing someone’s work and you disagree on a plot point, description, use of metaphor, whatever, don’t use this phrase. (I’m assuming, naturally, that the author has considered all opinions with an open mind and can reasonably state his case as to why it should stay.) I really don’t see how you can say it without sounding like an asshole.

What I would have said, were I in the coordinator’s shoes, was, “This line may hold significance for you, but it doesn’t work in its current state.”

Maybe the image doesn’t work as written. That’s not to say that with a little fine-tuning, some additional revision, it can’t work somewhere else. Or in another form. That’s for the author to decide (and in my case, I’m sticking to my guns); if he’s serious about what he does, he can kill those darlings and incorporate the suggestions that best serve the work.

Nobody wins with the attitude, Heed my words. Resistance is futile.

So kill your darlings. Slaughter them by the truckload with extreme prejudice. But when approached for advice, let the author decide which ones end up on the chopping block.

Thank You, Advertising Gurus

Posted in Miscellaneous on September 11, 2009 by Scott Emerson

Because of you I’ll never be able to eat another Klondike Bar without thinking of pubic hair.

Something On My Mind

Posted in Miscellaneous on September 11, 2009 by Scott Emerson

I don’t like to get mired in hot-button topics, and you’ve probably got thousands of other 9/11-related blogs to sift through today, but am I the only one who’s uncomfortable with a slate of new movies coming out today? Yes, I realize it’s Friday and therefore mandated that Hollywood churn at least one thing out, but I can’t help but look at the CW-worthy poster for SORORITY ROW with its September 11 release date plastered across the bottom and not feel the date has lost its significance.

God knows I’ve defended the genre on more than one occasion, but doesn’t opening a body-count picture on the grimmest anniversary of the 21st Century strike you as a just a bit tasteless?

(Speaking of the film, I’m currently watching quick snippets of it here in the projection booth; it doesn’t look like a must-see by any means, but it may be worth checking out for what appears to be some interesting switches in slasher genre roles. Or something.)