Monday, June 1, 2015

Monday Excerpt (introduction)

Now Playing: Hiroyuki Sawano - Rittai Kidou DOA (remix)

Happy June everyone! Summer months are finally here. I hope I don't melt under the Miami heat.

A few days ago, I decided a Friday challenge wasn't enough. I want a second set of weekly posts running~

Over the years, I've noticed a bit of a trend with new authors that really bothers me--and it bothers me even more now because of two reasons 1) I'm incredibly guilty of it and 2) it was brought to the center stage of annoyance during college.

I didn't used to know why, but whenever I converse with other writers--or just read one of their blog posts or something--they always seem to mention finding inspiration from things that aren't written stories. Movies, tv shows, video games, etc, appear to be the primary reason for why people want to write books. I'm not outside of that. I've done it too--the only reason I ever wrote a science fiction novel at thirteen was because I saw the right TV show and played the right game.

This isn't technically a bad thing. People can be inspired by all kinds of things, and the fact that we can be influenced from one medium to another is a great thing. It means all art is connected.

But it bothers me because I've noticed this kind of thing comes with another sentiment. It often feels like people look down on the written medium. A good chunk of amateur writers--some who haven't even finished their first books--are sometimes a bit obsessive about imagining the day they'll get a movie adaptation, as if that's their story's Final Form.

I love films. I love tv shows and animes and cartoons. And I love video games.

But while there are things visual mediums benefit from, there's also a lot that they can't work with and can't really delve into. They're all paced differently too, and the development of characters and the way plot points and arcs are carried out all vary widely.

I've sometimes worried that people pick writing to tell their stories because "it's easier." Most people have a working knowledge of their native tongue and general spelling and grammar. It must be easy to assume access to writing material is all you need to create masterpieces.

And yeah, that's a big step. Access to a pen and paper is really all most writers can ask for, and plenty polish their prose through the simplest of tools. But that's the key point. Polishing it. Like all things, it takes practice, and writing isn't just about you putting down words on the page. Studying other writers is vital.

I think people underestimate the beauty of language, and how difficult it is to get just the right words in the right order. This became the most apparent to me in college, specifically when I took my last required classes: Film History and my last Fiction Workshop.

In the latter, we had to read a how-to book about fiction writing, and one of the first things the author mentioned was how many people try to avoid reading whilst writing their own stories. This is because they're afraid they'll end up being influenced by someone else's style or technique. I've seen this sentiment in other places--mostly in reddit's writing community--and I've had the same reaction every time: why wouldn't you want to be influenced? Isn't that how you get better?

The required reading for class backed me up on this, and I remember telling my professor how much I agreed with the sentiment.

It was a group discussion, and after a few people spoke, one of my classmates said something that I wasn't expecting to hear in an upper level workshop: she thought it odd that the author of the how-to book was putting so much emphasis on reading. After all, my classmate was a writer and she didn't read. She'd never felt her lack of reading affected the quality of her writing.

The thing to remember is that the girl who made this claim had plenty of imagination. But once we got her story for workshop, it was pretty bad in very specific ways.

I'm not saying that to be mean. No one in the class was perfect--we were all there to learn and we all sucked at writing in our own spectacular and individual ways.

But you can always, always, tell which writers read and which don't, because their prose is awkward in really particular ways. They just don't know how to utilize language properly--they've never learned how because they don't read, and they struggle to improve because of that same reason.

In film class, it was a bit different. After we saw Rashomon, my professor read from a review of the film, and in there, the critic complimented the movie before saying it was more than just a film--it was a poem. There was one guy in the class who often spoke up and just generally sounded really passionate and knowledgeable about film. I remember at that comment, he snorted and called it pretentious; he said Rashomon isn't a poem, it's a movie, so praise it all you want just don't call it a poem.

It may seem like something random to get annoyed at, but I remembered it because that's the exact same reaction I have when someone calls a book "cinematic", or says that they "could picture everything like it was a movie." When I've gotten comments like that about my writing, I do feel flattered to an extent--I understand that it's a compliment and a very sweet one at that--but I also find it odd. Because it's not a movie. Being "like a movie" is not the highest level of quality a book can achieve.

I don't want to work in the visual medium and I'm never going to. It's not much of an accomplishment to have my work feel like something it can't be and doesn't need to be.

So because of all that, I'm going to start a weekly feature where I showcase some of the best writing I've come across throughout the years. It'll be either from books I'm reading at the moment or stuff I've read in the past--and of course, I'll probably show off some of my favorite novels

Some things to point out:
  • This isn't like a quotes collection or anything, since I generally find out of context "meaningful" and "deep" quotes to be a bit silly. No lessons here. They'll just be passages that I think do what writing is supposed to do.
  • They're all going to vary in length.
  • They will be from different genres/categories
  • I'll pick the excerpts from wherever in the book--the beginning, middle, or end.
    • If it's toward the middle or end, or if it reveals something important, I'll make sure to put a spoiler alert at the top.
  • Some of them might be pretty (in)famous, some of them might not be. 
  • While there'll be a lot from my favorites, I might also quote from books I don't particularly like.
    • This is because I can admire the writing or I can feel emotion or attachment to a fragment of something without loving all of it.
  • I'm generally not going to provide context for the quotes since it's not exactly the focus of this.
    • Admittedly, a lot of these scenes are powerful because we know the characters and we know their situations, but I'll be picking them because the writing shines on its own.
  • I'm transcribing most of these quotes from the physical books I have here, so there might be typos if I read/typed too fast and didn't catch errors while rereading. 
    • I'll do my best to keep them free of mistakes!

Basically, I don't want to limit where I take the excerpts from. They all just have one criteria to meet: the prose is on point--they use the written language at its fullest to connect us to the character, situation, or idea.

I might miss a week or so if I can't find anything, but hopefully I'll keep it as consistent as possible. I might also do a silly thing where I match the Now Playing song to the mood of the excerpt (because I'm cheesy like that). 10/11/17 EDIT: Originally I added here that I'd search up illustrations from the internet and match them up with the corresponding synopsis, while linking back and giving credit to the artists. I've decided since I never asked for permission to do so, I better go ahead and remove them all. I'll continue to go through my old blog posts and remove art I didn't ask to repost. 

I'll start next week with one of my favorite little passages from the ASOIAF series :D

Don't know how long I'll keep this going. Hopefully for quite a while.
~Becky

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:07 PM

    Yayyy more posts~

    Who was the 'Didn't need to read' person again? @_@ Was it... magical yuri cat girl?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, no. It was dragon eggs girl D:

      Delete

"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.