Sunday, February 1, 2015

Too-Frustrated-To-Bother-With-Titles (Updates/Rant)

Now Playing: MONORAL - Kiri (Ergo Proxy soundtrack)

I was going to use this to start up Monday's post, but it got to be too long. My complaining knows no bounds.

But I'll break it into sections, with "three" being the main reason this post got so long-winded.

1) I was a bit wrong about the homework/creative writing assignment last week. I wasn't supposed to reproduce Oculus in third person, I had to write a new narrative, then, after having two choices, I pick one to revise and remix.

So whoops. Misunderstood. Thank god I asked my professor and she was super clear with instructions at the end of class.

I'll probably pick Oculus and then rewrite in third person upon revisions because I found out not only do I not name Serena in the story, her gender is also ambiguous, and I'd rather not awkwardly shove that information into a first-person, three page story. Plus, I'm just not good with first person narratives. I can never figure out how to cut down on the I's or if the flow of information is correct. Plus POV shift? So confusing. Maybe one day I'll give it a try...

Something weird from the feedback: I had to explicitly tell my classmates Serena had albinism. I was expecting that to happen, but not for the reasons I had considered. While I did have evidence of her condition in the story, my small group said I should try to bring it more to the light, really emphasize it. They said it took them a moment to realize why Serena hesitated when she saw the white dragon, though I did eventually bring it together in the end.

And that's all totally valid advice bUT THEN they  said the reason it was so surprising was because they weren't expecting a real life condition to show up in a fantasy story. One girl said, "I guess with the dragon and the fantasy setting, I didn't think something real like that would be there," and the rest of them agreed.

And that's...that's Is it really so jarring? It wasn't fantasy overload--the dragon doesn't even talk. Serena was  hunting with a bow and arrow, and I mentioned horses and a town and some stables--no one ever questions medieval worlds in stories not taking place on Earth.  Hell, because the protagonist had white skin and violet eyes, they had to ask me if she was even human. Were they picturing an elf...? So that means most people would expect an elf over a human with albinism...? (Probably?)

2) For the third person narrative due this week, we were allowed to write a scene from a much bigger story rather than try and squeeze a complete narrative in three pages. One of my classmates actually asked if we were allowed to use pre-existing characters--like from our novels and other works--as long as the situation/writing was new, and my professor was totally cool with it.

With that in mind, I wrote down a scene between Cyrano and Luna from Vanguard's Exodus. In the novel, the trip to the binary planets takes over eight years and all the human personnel is in cryo, so those two run the ship and make sure everyone stays alive until arrival. But they also keep each other company. They talk, program a digital kitten, redesign their avatars, etc. I always wondered about their conversations while they were alone, and it's helped me with Cyrano's voice. I called it Eidolons, and even though I'm worried people will find it confusing (more on this later), I'm glad I wrote it. It feels like I know those two better.

Andddd honestly that's one of the things in this class that's semi-making it all worth it. I'm not sure how I feel about the rest of it.

I do like my classmates and I'm okay with the professor. But...we did that thing were we sat down and broke a story apart Sentence By Sentence. We analyzed the placements of commas, of all things. And I don't know. It bothered me a bit. On the one hand, I see merit with it. I do focus on diction--I know it's important. Plus it's super fun when you make ugly words turn a technically neutral exchange into something terrifying.

I know different words have varying weight and emotions, but I think I'd break out into a panic attack if I had to punch in meaning to every single minuscule thing I ever put in a 100k word novel. My professor said we only transition from novice writers to mature writers when the happy incidents are done on purpose. But that doesn't sound right. Forgive me for sounding like a literary hippy, but shouldn't this all be, I dunno, slightly organic? I do obsess over word choice and hyperdetails and the length of sentences, but I like accidents. It's stressful when stories spin out of my control, but it's also kind of cool and it's what makes the writing enjoyable. Total control doesn't sound too appealing. In fact, on Friday, my Kudzu Review adviser said to us, "most of the time, the accidents in art are more interesting than the intentions." And I agree.

But I don't know. Maybe my opinion will change in the future. As of right now, this class does't feel too great. It feels...slightly tiring?

Which leads me to...

3) I haven't disliked university and while the debt has been crazy, I realize my degree won't be totally useless. But it's like the warnings other writers gave me were wrong. The creative writing classes aren't useless, they're suffocating. And that's coming from someone who apparently managed to dodge the terrible professor, according to my peers.

Whenever my mother asks me if I'm sure about not applying to graduate school in the imminent future or not staying for another semester, my immediate reaction is to scream NO.

And this is the big rant portion of this post, but I have to get it out of my system:

I hate having to worry about how my fiction will be perceived on a superficial level on top of everything else. I worry about my voice and diction and the depth of the characters as do all other writers in workshops. But I also have to worry about stupid shit like, "Should I spell out and even explain what Artificial Intelligence is? Last couple of classes people didn't know what that was. And cryotanks--they'll know what that is right? Or why they're needed? Do they know what an A.I's avatar will be?"

Tell sci-fi readers two A.I.'s are having a conversation in a starship while the human crew is in stasis and said readers won't even blink. But I have no idea how much I have or don't have to explain in the page. I mean, for Christ's sake, I had to define what the hell a natural satellite was once. How much more awkward can it get than me pointing up to the sky and going, "uhm, a moon"?

It's fucking exhausting.

I know this is making me sound like a total snob. That's not what I'm trying to do. Some people just don't read fantasy or sci-fi and that's fine. I just wish our academia wasn't so restrictive. I wish I had something like the class Brandon Sanderson teaches at BYU, for people who want to write commercial fiction, who want to entertain and enjoy rather than worry about The Next American Novel. Our department is smart enough to have separate classes and professors for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Why can't they take it one step further?

And I'm not the only one complaining. Last Friday, in my meeting with the Kudzu Review, me and the rest of the fiction section got to express frustration at how limited and formulaic the creative writing classes at FSU have become. Someone actually badmouthed a couple of the professors, calling one of them a straight up asshole. I don't want to say the girl's name because I wouldn't want to get her in trouble, but she also spoke about hating another professor's workshop so much she dropped the class late. It cost her a bunch of money, but she couldn't stand it enough to stay.

When she said the professor's name, I just had to give the hugest sigh of relief. It was the same professor who sent me that odd, mean spirited acceptance email for her workshop this semester. Dodged a fucking bullet.

My adviser for the Kudzu also spoke about the fact that most creative writing departments--in any university--seem to discourage anything remotely experimental, which is why we get so many generic, unimpressive submissions. It's not the student's fault, it's what they end up churning out for the classes because what the hell else do we do? University isn't interested in genre fiction, but they're not interested in avant-garde stuff either. Fall into the literary line or get shoved off, I guess.

It's kind of heartbreaking to realize this at my last semester. Academia isn't useless--useless, I could do with. It's limiting.

4) Related to that up there--writing Pulse is really difficult. I didn't realize just how much mythology I had constructed, and getting the information on the page is becoming a bit awkward. The thing is, I know some exposition is needed, but when I'm shoving it all in, it just ends up as infodumps. But I can't leave most of it out because then people'll be like, "wtf, what's with these names? The hell is a Crusader? Why is this village afraid of this Thelonious guy? What year is this taking place in?"

Genre fiction usually allows for a bit more exposition to help with world building, but I can already hear the "nobody cares about this background" coming. And yet, if I take too much out, it'll be too much confusion.

I really wish I could work on novels for class. My world building isn't perfect, but at least it's not awkwardly shoved in at every turn when I have hundreds of pages for it.

I'm going to try and find a balance, leaning more on the cutting out of stuff. I can always expand later. Besides, between "I'm confused" and "I'm bored" I'll take the former.

My original plan had been to go ask my professor for help, but the more I work on this story, the more I question that decision  >_< I am really starting to like Breathtaker, and I'm really starting to care about this point of her life. I don't know if my professor'll make me change essential components (not just, delete this scene or alter this moment--I mean, like, don't bother with sci-fi and make it fantasy or something).

And what if she suggests not using it for workshop? She can't technically stop me, but my grade is on the line. It says on the syllabus we can talk to her about genre fiction in her office, but she strongly recommends against turning it in for grade/workshop.

I know I said I'd take the C, but I didn't spend thousands of dollars on university to graduate with mediocre grades my last semester. And I sure as shit didn't fight to take this class just to have it screw me over.


It's all speculation. Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to judge my professor before I've actually had any one-on-one conversations with her.

If it turns to shit, I'm sure I'll just come back to whine >_>

5) Okay, done with the more frustrating stuff. Gonna finish this post on something silly so it's not wholly negative.

I guess my graduation application thingy got approved because I got a message from the university telling me I should order the cap and gown now, they're rentals, gotta be returned after the ceremony, blah blah blah.

But there was this part in the email that said you don't have to go to graduation. All the diplomas get emailed out about 6 to 8 weeks after the semester end, so if you don't wanna go, you don't need to. So of course I sat there reading that line over and over again and going sighhh.

This is like the biggest First World Problem of All First World Problems, but I hate graduation ceremonies >_< They take forever, too many people ramble about the future and courage and new beginnings, and you have to watch as a million strangers walk slowllyyy across the stage till its your turn for two seconds, and no one looks good in those super puffy graduation gowns, and for some reason you have dance numbers or singing bits but who gives a shit just get it over with, and I know my name's getting mispronounced like a bitch, and I just...-_- whyyyy?

The only time I can remember having fun at a graduation ceremony was for MDC, and that's because I got there super late, as did Giselle and a couple of other people (Gaetano, Melissa, and Adolfo, if I'm not mistaken) and so we sat together and joked around the whole time. I don't think I'll be finding anyone I know for this ceremony... Hopefully I can sneak my phone with me...maybe a book. (Is that disrespectful? Yes. Yes it is).

I wouldn't even bother if it wasn't for my parents. My mom's pretty adamant about me going to the ceremony so they can take pictures and clap and whatever the hell it is parents do in those things. I've only been a spectator for one, when my mom also graduated from MDC about a year after I did, and that was okay. I'd rather watch the ceremony unfold from up in the seats than down there in the gowns.

And I'm left wondering what the hell we're going to do because my commencement ceremony from FSU is the night before MDC's, and my brother is graduating this year. The time's make this complicated. I think ideally we'll go to mine, then rush back to Miami for the other one, but oh godddd that's going to be so exhausting. I'll probably be awake for over 24 hours. Maybe I'll finish Vanguard's Exodus in the car after drowning myself in Red Bull and Monster.

I'm trying to figure it out with my parents. They hadn't even been aware of the conundrum until I accidentally came across it earlier this week.

I don't mind bailing on mine >_> so I tried to recommend that to my mom. But of course she was like, "uhhh, no, I helped pay for that diploma. I'm seeing it through to the end."


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"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.