Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dammit, Hemingway (Part 2)

Now Playing:
  • Nine Inch Nails - The Four of Us are Dying
  • Jem - 24
Last post I didn't mention that my professor gave us an assignment before sitting us in a circle and handing us the Hemingway story. The prompts are always very open but focused nonetheless. For next week, we must have the plan (not the writing) of a 3-5 page story of a protagonist who loses something and then compromises themselves trying to get that something back. I tried planning it out while in class and during the break. Eventually I got to thinking about Daylight Runaway, a little short story I wrote for Carpathia as a Christmas/Late-Birthday present. I've been having a bit of a sudden interest regarding imaginary friends, and in the short story there's a faceless motorcyclist by the name of Caroline Rose who keeps alluding to Ophelia's crazy state and imaginary friend. Caroline Rose can't see Ophelia's imaginary friend, but she knows, somehow, that he is there.

It's never explained in the story, but while I was planning out this next one for class, I remembered Tommy (Ophelia's imaginary friend) was really displeased with the fact that she had brought along a gun when she ran off from home. He's convinced if she shoots someone, she might as well be killing him.

So ta-da! That was going to be the story. Caroline Rose is a young girl and she shoots someone and loses her imaginary friend. And that's like innocence and stuff because blatant double meanings and metaphors and yeh.

But anyways, I'll get back to that later.

After my professor handed us out the Hemingway story, he proceeded to read it out loud, with the perfect blend of emotion and flow. He doesn't have a deep thundering voice, and he didn't exactly distinguish too well from a child's voice and an adult's, but it worked for the story.

As a bad habit of AP English Language and my current annotations (off the book and into my journal so I don't damage it by marking all over it) of Neuromancer, I started writing down little notes and observations on the margin.

I'm certain I've read Hemingway before, but not in any recent years. When I went to the Hemingway house, I bought For Whom The Bells Toll. I couldn't have been more than thirteen when I attempted to read it, and now it sits at the bottom of my shelf with other classic works, untouched because I don't want to open it and see nothing at all.

So I've left Hemingway alone in the past couple of years. Indian Camp has gotta be the first time I've ever read a Hemingway work thoroughly, and that was maybe no more than five pages long.

I noticed immediately the simple sentences, the minimal descriptions, the odd, but somehow natural dialogues, the repetition of words while being in close approximation  Basically, everything I've been trying to avoid since I was thirteen and started writing Redemption. It didn't sound awkward. It didn't bother me as much as I thought it would, but I couldn't shake off the thought: isn't this suppose to be amateur writing?

I don't even know why I think like that. It's not like I ever picked up Christopher Paolini's book and went, "oh wow yes indeed here's a great, useless description about Eragon's thumbs! Oh how I wish I could write like this!"

I know writing too much details with heavy prose is ridiculous and a common mistake by newbie writers. But I didn't know doing the exact opposite was any better, nor did I think anyone could make it work.

By the time we were done, I had thankfully written down about half of the things our professor was pointing out so I managed to just listen. There was that focus on the simple language.

That was around the point Frank told us Hemingway really hated the comma, then Angelina added that the simple writing makes it sounds "primal" (not in the...violent sense, I think. That's how I understood her, at least). Our professor explained the Iceberg Theory that Hemingway employed thoroughly -most of the story is underneath the details. It is what you don't write, but what you imply.

Last time I forgot to mention another lady that was in the class. She came in third to the room so she was the person I saw after Ralph and Chloe. She's a little bit older than us, but I couldn't really pin point any age. Somewhere between mid 30's to mid 40s. I know, that's a stretch, but I really can't ever pin point anyone's age. I just assume everyone's in their 20s unless it's blatant that they're older/younger.

She handed the professor a note from the disability department, and he read it and said it would not be a problem, whatever it was. I'm kicking myself for not remembering her name, because there were two things she said that are important (to me, I guess).

The first one caught my attention. When we left for a short break, before reading Indian Camp, she went out the door, walking with our professor to speak with him. She was saying how much she'd been interested in writing and how she always imagined if she ever wrote anything it would be a memoir because of the life she had. I didn't get to hear the details because her voice faded away as the door closed behind them.

The second was when we were analyzing the short story. Really only a handful of people spoke (Ralph the Illusive stayed silent) and the lady was one of them. She commented how she had been pretty sure since the beginning that the story would involve some sort of death because they were crossing the lake, especially because the water was cold, and writers have used that often as a symbol of death. Plus at the end, when Hemingway writes that Nick was certain he would never die, the waters are warm.

The professor then said that reading it that way was great, and something we are taught to do in literature courses.

But you can't do that in the class.

This is where the "read as writers not as academics or critics" line from the syllabus comes from. The water is cold and then warm because the water is cold and then warm. There is no other reason. He said, "don't ever write that the guy is swimming on the lake to represent his death. The guy is just swimming on the lake."

And I get it! I really do! The reading is suppose to be about the interpretation, it is up to the reader to draw conclusions from it. It's not about what you, as a writer, meant, it is about what the readers see from it. And whatever messages are in there must occur naturally; you hammer the point in you're spoiling it for everyone.

Because of that, I knew I needed to shoot to death the Caroline Rose Shoots Someone Loses Imaginary Friend idea. It was blatant.

But I couldn't get the idea of losing an imaginary friend then desperately trying to find them out of my head. It seemed important, and I wanted to write from the perspective of a young girl (between 8-10, even if that's considered too old for an imaginary friend) because writing young people is appealing. I realized that while watching Pan's Labyrinth: it's fun to write from a child's perspective. They seem to accept magic a lot easier, they're more naturally curious, authority figures find it easy to ignore them no matter the reason, and they can slip and crawl in between all sorts of small or disgusting or even dangerous places.

That's how all my stories start, I picture someone and then see them in a scene. I started to imagine Caroline Rose as a little girl and immediately saw that her appearance and her name did not match. She was a little girl with terrible shoes, torn clothes, dark skin, and messy black hair. She was Indian, Hindu, and living in a slum. Her real name was not Caroline Rose, but she did have an imaginary friend, whoever that was, and she does lose him before the story starts.

I knew immediately that would take me down the wrong direction. If I researched India and the poor, as well as the conditions of the children living there, adding to the fact that she loses an imaginary friend, I would end up inserting some message. And I wasn't gonna let that happen. I didn't want to write anything boring, I wanted some sort of fantasy element in it, but I couldn't plan out a story like that without it backfiring on me. So I put it on the back burner and decided to worry about it the next day.

In the morning, I told Ren about the class and she tried coming up with some ideas. Maria Gabriella followed, then Bianca, and finally Bernie. Bernie came up with the more sane suggestions (losing time, losing youth, losing a pet), Mary Gaby just sort of listened in, and Ren came up with the most of them, but she kept forgetting that the point of the story was trying to find the lost thing, not about losing said thing. Out of all the suggestions I wrote down from her, one involved the Earth losing the Moon. I told her that didn't have a protagonist, she said, "The Earth is the protagonist!" I said "I don't think I'm talented enough to make a planet the protagonist" but did eventually think that maybe personifying the Earth and the Moon would work.

Bianca started throwing around recommendations too. She eventually said a girl hits her head, gets amnesia, but knows she has lost a locket. Then at the end of the story she hits her head again and realizes that the locket is buried with her lover.

So when I heard that, I immediately blurted out, "She's a serial killer?"

Bianca's expression was a mixture horror, disbelief, and accusation. In her, "What? No! It's her love who passed away and-" I could hear her complains of this was beautiful, dammit.

Turns out that's my cop out. Don't have a plot twist for the short story I'm writing for class? Well. She was secretly a serial killer the whole time.

Needless to say, I was torn between Ren's idea of the Earth losing the Moon, and the girl in India who loses her imaginary friend and goes to get him back.

I told my mom that if the professor asked me "Why a slum in India?" I wouldn't know what to respond. After all, he also advised us to, "write what [we] know" and I've never been to India nor have I researched the country or its poverty until a few days ago.

So she said, "well why are you writing about a slum in India?"

And I said, "Uh. I dunno. I just picture it that way."

And she said, "well that's your answer."

But that's a terrible answer, yet there's no balance. I can't come up with some complicated metaphorical reason because that's pretentious and wrong, but I can't exactly not have a reason because that's vapid and dull.

(My mom guessed at some point that I may have been thinking about Slumdog Millionaire, but I really wasn't. I like the movie well enough but it didn't have an impact on me as a storyteller and didn't remember it until my mom pointed it out. In fact, I think I was actually more fixated on that scene in the Avengers when the little girl lures Bruce Banner into the house where Black Widow is waiting. Is that lamer?)

I really liked the idea of personifying the Earth and the Moon, with the names Terra and Luna so they actually sound like people. However, after the initial suggestion, I couldn't properly explain the concept to everyone, and Ren kept drifting into "the Earth has always been sick because the humans treated her badly..." and "so the tides are disrupted and-"

Two problems:

  1. NOT SHOOTING THE MESSAGE. Like yeah, I may have been shocked at the Hemingway thing, but it's not like I didn't know about Being Totally Unsubtle in your messages. And either way, the story is not suppose to have a massage, it's just suppose to tell a story and a message must be created from it, not hammered in.
  2. How would I even personify all that? The Earth starts falling apart in looking for the Moon? And then, how does she get her back? Where does she go? The point is the protagonists compromise themselves in finding that thing/emotion/person, whether or not they succeed.

I feel like that story would also end up being way longer or would work better as a 20-min short film as it feels more visual than anything. So I thought maybe I should just focus on the Indian girl from the slums, but then...am I overdoing it? Every time I write a note down, just because I feel it should be that way, my brain immediately starts looking for the hidden reason as to why it happens in the story. I can't stop it!

It sounds like overthinking this is going to make me hit the greatest wall of Writer's Block ever, which, despite my past delusions and melodramatic moments, I haven't actually ever gotten. I've just been too lazy to write, but I always knew what was needed to be put down.

So really, the only problem I have with the Iceberg Theory goes back to the point of this entire DAMMIT, HEMINGWAY dilemma: I am so not him. I think I've tried to rewrite seemingly simple-on-the-surface stories that are open for interpretation, but I'll be dammed if there ever wasn't a person who said "I don't get it" after reading them. If I try to write something simple with allusions and hints to deeper meanings, the work just sounds incomplete. I can't do it! How does Hemingway do it?

This could all be a freak out without a reason. Hemingway is a great writer, but he is not the definite writer, and his style is not the End All, Be All of writing styles. There are hundreds of them I could adopt and replicate and steal.

However, I don't know which of those hundreds to pick and develop and follow.

I know. I know. That's the point of the class. That's what I'm going to learn. This is going to hurt and they're gonna hate my stories and my professor is never going to single me out, pull me aside, and praise me as the next Great American Author or a sure winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards. In fact, he might wince at my end essay where we're suppose to plan out our futures as writers. In that paper, I will ramble on about my dreams of being a published author and prominent screenwriter.

And he'll shake his head slowly with his lips pressed tightly into a thin white line.

But that should all be okay. Thirty-year-old me will thank me for trying to get better now than later.
~Becky

P.S: I'm sorry for the crazy nature of the post. I didn't exactly wrote it the way it's written right now. More like chunks and pieces I interconnected.

P.S.S: I like to pretend The Four of Us Are Dying is Ataraxia's unofficial theme song. Ahah...yeah... >.<

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dammit, Hemingway (Part 1)

Now Playing: Wolfmother - Pyramid. 
I should have known better than to watch today's LBD episode before attempting any homework or cohesive writing. I know I've been sitting at this cafe for almost an hour, laughing to myself and squealing with each rewatch of The Lizzie Trap but...screw it, I'm gonna go see it again.

~*~*~
Okay, half an hour later, done. (Not really, I'll rewatch it in between writing this and research >.>)

Now, first things first.

Note: I was going to do my best to accurately retell a good chunk of yesterday afternoon/night, What Happened With the Hemingway Dilemma, and this morning's planning. So in short, this post was gonna be bloody long. However, because it's already late and this is taking up too much space, I'll continue tomorrow.

So from the beginning.

The bus ride was a little painfully long. Turns out even though the downtown campus is technically bus 7's last stop, it doesn't really come to a halt and pushes all the passengers out like the other buses do. It just stops for a brief second then immediately keeps going, except with the 7A heading. I had no warning.

Needless to say, I leaped out of my seat a little manically yesterday, especially because I'd been altering between reading, writing, and daydreaming about the class. I was also a little enamored by downtown. The hour and a half bus ride makes it worth it, just because I hate how the long distances in Miami make it impossible for people to casually walk over to the nearest mall. Cars are a necessity in almost all the towns and neighboring little cities, but in downtown, with all the shops, stores, public places so close together, I can actually see people (as well as the occasional homeless) wandering around. The city actually feels alive, even if not conventionally beautiful.

I got off at the plaza and got to walk around a little bit before ordering for a cup of coffee and sitting down on my computer to check the campus map and schedule. (I also proudly told Dario today that despite his previous worries, I was not raped by a homeless guy! People really distrust dowtown...)

Thirty minutes of just browsing around the web, I ended up on my college email and saw a message sent by my professor that had a copy of the syllabus. I decided to start reading it. That elicited about two to three hours of a panic, which I sort of outlined to Silvia, Dario, and any poor bastard who took a glance at my twitter. Why the panic? Many reasons.

The main one being that we--students, of course--have to critique each other's work. Which yeah, I really should have seen it coming, and yeah, I need to learn to thicken my skin. But I am such a coward, I would rather take a three hour long calculus exam that determines my entire future than have people read my terrible writing.

Plus I have to write poetry...hiss.

There was one line from the syllabus that I didn't really understand thoroughly until class started. My professor had written that we needed to learn to read works as a writer would, not as a critic or an academic.

I very clearly went "wat" at that.

I arrived to class 20 minutes early (I'd given myself 40 minutes to find the building). There was only one other person there so I sat by the wall closest to the door, as I am prone of doing. When a girl turned up and started conversing with the guy there, it became clear the class was mixed between CRW2001 and CRW2002. The primes difference is that as 2001 students, we have assignments every week, and we must explore all three main fields: short story, poetry, and creative nonfiction. 2002 students are allowed to focus on whatever project they want, like writing a book of poetry, short stories collection, or even a novel, and they don't have to do the same assignments we do.

I HATEZ THEM ALL.
(Actually, I'm a little angry at the way I let things plan out last summer. I could have signed up for creative writing 1 during the fall, creative writing 2 during the spring, and just left philosophy for this semester. But oh well).

My professor turned out to be a lot nicer than I had expected (prepared myself up for the worst here) and carried conversations rather easily--although not with me. I'd rather not speak in that class yet for fear of embarrassing myself.

My classmates were a pleasant surprise. Granted, the whole time I couldn't help but imagine the hundreds of ways they were all going to slaughter my writing in the coming weeks, but there was range and interest. Variety. Three people in particular stood out, and I managed to learn their names. Ralph, Frank, and Angelica (spelling may vary. I only heard them, didn't see 'em written) with an honorable mention of the Mysterious Sci-Fi Norma.

Ralph was the only other guy there when I arrived at 5:20 p.m. Rather hipster-y (dark cardigan, light blue button down shirt underneath, and the thick rimmed black glasses) looking and--as I later learned--in his 30s despite looking like a 25 year old. Him and the second person to come in, Chloe, both talked about the CRW2001 class they had taken last semester and how they were glad to be able to concentrate on poetry now. He didn't grab my attention until another person spoke about him. In fact, he was very silent or soft spoken for most of the class.

Frank came in a little late and sat at the very front. He had a bit of a loud voice and it didn't really draw much of an interest for a while until he asked our professor who Ralph was. They were sitting on the same row, with a girl on the seat between them. Frank turned around when he was pointed toward Ralph and immediately praised him for a story he had written, shaking his hand in the process. I was to their left, about a row or so over, and I couldn't help but break out into a grin. So did Ralph, but he was also taken aback, way more than the observers.

I've never seen anyone go out of their way to shake a relatively unknown writer's hand just because of something they've read. I don't think Frank expects to gain anything from Ralph; it really did just look like a compliment. I stared off in awe for a little while there. I think our professor said Frank is involved with the college's literary magazine (on what position I don't know) and so ended up reading almost all stories crafted in the creative writing classes. Our professor also assured us Frank was a great writer, a title which Frank rejected, noting that saying that meant setting the bar a little too high and dooming him for failure. He was also kind enough to let us know, during our reading of a short story, that Hemingway pretty much hated commas.

Angelina came in a little bit late--later than Frank and all the ten or so students that had gotten lost due to the misleading listing of the room--and so this was more or less a grand entrance in my eyes. I'm about to get creepy: when she walked in, I noticed she stood well over 5'10 (an estimate here, but definitely in the Taller Than Most category), wearing black stiletto pumps (WAY Taller Than Most), a small yellow dress that ended about four inches above her knees, with her blond hair tied back in a bum. I think she might have also had a black blazer. Her face was small, round, and a little disproportional to the rest of her body, which is not a bad thing, in fact, I do think it made her look rather exotic. When the professor asked her to introduce herself, we found out she's in fashion design and was just taking creative writing because it was an art she wanted to explore. She spoke energetically and with an accent, but I couldn't figure out where she was from. When Angelica declared Hemingway's writing in Indian Camp sort of primal and when she spoke of her interpretations regarding the suicide of the father, I immediately knew I would be keeping a close eye on her, Ralph, and Frank. AND YEAH. I am aware that sounds odd. I promise, it's just instant-but-sure-to-wither-away admiration from the wide-eyed 17 year old.

Sci-Fi Norma doesn't get much of a description here because she didn't go to the class. According to the professor she signed up for that slot (under some other course name because she'd already taken creative writing 1 and 2) yet hadn't shown up. Ralph asked about her sort of indirectly, saying something like, "where's the girl who wrote that sci-fi story?" It was vague, our professor knew immediately, and when he mentioned her name I wrote it down, just in case.

Class started rather normally. As I said, my professor turned out to be rather nice and funny. Because I had already gone through and worried about the syllabus, I managed to keep calm while he gave us an overview of the class.

After about an hour of discussing the structure of the class and the differences between the two levels, he sat us out on a circle and said, "You're going to think I'm the biggest cliche ever because I have a Hemingway story."

As stated before, it was Indian Camp, which he read out loud for all of us, analyzing it and allowing for little inputs to spring here and there.

And this is kind of where I got mentally hit by a train.

(continued tomorrow!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Life: A Constant To-Do List.

First few days back from Winter Break have been fine (although I don't think I did so well in a few examinations). I got to start American Literature 2 today, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that out of the eight students there, five are English majors, one is a biomedical major thinking of switching to an English path who also has an interest in writing, another is a criminologist major who also English loves classes, and the last girl is the only taking the class as some sort of requirement. So 8/9 (me included!) actually want to be there. This is more than a little surprising, it's really never happen before. (Is that surprisng? It should be. My English literature class was split in half, those who wanted to be there, and those who were forced for convenience or requirement, and I think in Astronomy, only I and two other people looked forward to the episodes of Cosmos).

I should probably type quickly because chances are I'm going to get kicked out of the school's cafeteria. I'm still at the college campus because I refuse to take the three hour long, one transfer in between bus ride for home. I already have to do that tomorrow since I'm heading downtown (or as a friend helpfully put it: rape capital) for my creative writing class.

Which I am really nervous about.

Wait, shit. This place is really desolated.
I'm moving.

Okay, back now. (Why did I do that? I stabbed the flow of this post). I've manage to secure a nice little bench underneath a tree, but I'll probably be off in a little while to find the library, if anything to plug in my laptop when it runs out of battery. Granted, I bought along a journal and Neuromancer to keep me busy if electronic devices die, but this is my main source of entertainment and communication. The longer it lasts, the quicker the hours fly by.

I got a couple dozen things to do this week, involving scholarships and graduating and seeing if FSU would be kind enough to let me switch from the summer semester to the fall one (probably won't) without yet giving anyone my final decision  Reminders of these important errands take up the form of little bulletin notes everywhere, whether it's on virtual sticky notes on my computer, or spread out throughout my little pink journal. (I'm just kidding. My parents would never get me that. It's actually a gigantic pink journal that probably weighs three pounds. My mom was getting really sick and tired of seeing me go through writing materials every month or so).

But at least I've gotten back to writing again.

If school has done one anything for me as a writer, it's that it gives me a lot of time to plan and very little time to write, allowing for inspiration to be constantly fueled by the stress and fear of forgetting all these thoughts. I imagine sentences and scenes while walking in the hallways, then rush to class or lunch to get it all on the computer before I have to pull my attention away.

I've found writing for Ataraxia has definitely gotten easier, despite the fact that I still don't know how it ends nor understand some of the character's motives. Writing Caesar's progress is a little nerve racking--I don't know if I'm being too slow or too quick in his developing powers--and I am really not one for twist endings. The beginning of the novel is so bland and so obvious, anyone reading it would figure out quickly that half of the things Caesar knows right now are blatant lies.

But finishing Ataraxia is on top of my to do list. I keep pulling back and stopping for long periods of time. I hate my prose, I hate how bland it is, I hate how I can't find a voice, and I hate how all the dialogue sounds the same.

At least Creative Writing 1 starts tomorrow.

That class should help. Hopefully. I'll write about it when/if I survive it tomorrow.
~Becky

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Years!

Now playing: Wolfmother - Vagabond and White Unicorn

This post isn't going to have much. I just felt like writing something to see the date change in my little blog. That and I guess to say what my new years resolutions are.

I actually almost never make one of these because I know I'm going to forget about them. But I guess, since I'm seventeen and in my last year of high school, my new years resolutions are:

  • Write the first drafts of at least 3 books or rewrite a novel at least 4 times.
  • Go to university without second questioning myself too much.
  • Shoot and edit an End Of The Year video (preferably to one of the songs that are playing right now)
  • Read War and Peace, Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, Les Misérables,, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and Emma.
  • Meet at least one internet friend in person (which, at this rate, is between Jojo and Carp. Whoever gets freaked out the least)
  • Publish at least one short story
  • Enter into a writing/publishing contest.
  • Do really awesomely well in my first semester of college.
  • Get an actual realsies true money-earning job.
And that's it! Seems like good enough outline, although I am giving myself pardon to fail half of those. I have to get at least five of them done before the year runs out.

Happy 2013 everyone!
~Becky
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.