In the Zone

Last week, I attended the 2008 Rod Serling Conference at Ithaca College, where Serling taught from 1967-1975. I scored a pass because The Wife was a judge in their scriptwriting competition. I saw a lot and learned a lot that I didn’t know. The best part was a session where the speaker presented video clips of small- and large-group lessons given by Serling himself at various workshops. Here’s one such clip, thanks to the piracy joy of YouTube.

The keynote speech at the conference was given by the past dean of the Park School of Communication who had access to unedited clips from this series, filmed on a soundstage at I.C. after a moment, so the story goes, where they finally realized the need to capture Serling’s teaching on camera. The man who was “the head of the class” in that last clip said a few words, as well.

I’ll post a few more clips later. There’s something about them, but to say they’re “inspirational” doesn’t seem quite right. There isn’t too much that any writer hasn’t heard a thousand times over (Serling himself would probably say that). But maybe it’s the sense of universality and timelessness in these forty year-old clips.

In any case, I’m still reeling.

Drowning in RSS

So, I’ve been writing so much that I’ve let gobs and gobs of intarwub stuff pile up in my Google Reader. I’ve tried to quit “starring” anything, at least until I got caught up. Yeah, right. I just piled shit into Google Bookmarks.

Anyway, here’s a random sampling of stuff I’ve accumulated, mostly writing related.

1
From Dar Kush (Steven Barnes) on reading.

The point is that your output will be one step down from your input. You can’t read comic books and write classics. Sorry. Here’s a joke I always tell students: ‘If you want to write comic books, read pulp fiction. If you want to write pulp fiction, read popular fiction. If you want to write popular fiction, read bestsellers. If you want to write bestsellers, read classics. And if you want to write classics..? Choose your grandparents very carefully.’

2
Steve Perry on writers workshops (part one of two)

Damon [Knight]’s personal taste is not the same as an intrinsic flaw in the piece, and you have to be able to tell the difference, else you wind up producing stories that please the workshoppers but don’t sell …

Here’s part two.

3
Another POV on critique groups from Bev Vincent.

4
Sarah Monette talks about Five Things I Know About Worldbuilding

5
Paul Jessup writes about The Newbie Writer Cycle.

Jay Lake follows up with The Early Career Writer cycle

6
There is NO….number 6.

7
From Warren’s Bad Signal mail a few weeks ago…

But I did note that apparently the Gene Hunt role in the
ill-advised American remake of LIFE ON MARS is going to
good old Colm Meaney. And god knows Meaney’s made some
crap to pay the mortgage, but he tends to elevate a thing —
or at least let some light into it — just by showing up. So I
might give the remake a look after all, even though it’s
almost guaranteed to be a train wreck…

And there you have it. Vital bits of information that, only by the grace of God, I’ve managed to survive without blogging about until today.

Solo Action

I can relate to this.

“And maybe it’s our drive to be alone — not all the time, certainly, but enough to read and dream and reset our mental energies in order to deal with People again — that at least partly impels the drive to write. Reading and writing become the bridge crossing us from our carefully guarded alone-zone into the world, into the human condition itself. We contain multitudes, and those multitudes contain us.”

The sad irony of course is that I’m in a cafe doing this, instead of in the home office with the door closed. I can’t help it, I either need to be completely isolated or be surrounded by people who aren’t entitled to one iota of my time and attention.

I’m not so sure the solitude has to do with my particular drive to write. My drive comes from the struggle to take ideas from my head, some that’ve been there for years, and spit them out in a form others might appreciate. I’ve been doing the spitting part for years, anyway–why not construct something from it?

I Can Buy This

Pretty, Fizzy Paradise: For Want of a Hero…

But the thing is. Anti-heroes don’t mean anything without a heroic presence to offset them. There needs to be a voice of conventional, approachable, relatable morality to make the counterbalance and contrast mean something. There needs to be a hero.

Again, thinking back to the one story anyone’s bought so far (I won’t link it, because it’s depressing that I’m the only reason the link pops up on my Technorati watch list anymore) which features an anti-hero of sorts, there is another character who provides that conventional, approachable, relatable morality.

This is also the reason, I believe, that a current project I’m working on is flailing right now. The main character is an anti-hero surrounded by scum. And I’m running–actually, the main character is running–into this wall…

An anti-hero doesn’t have to make the tough decisions, to choose their heart’s desire over an innocent child’s life, for example. Anti-heroes CAN’T make those tough decisions because once they’re faced with them, they can’t be anti-heroes anymore.

So, it’s clear what needs to be done, but how? In any case…

“The one about the regenerating assassin…”*

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*(This is a project title; I haven’t even been able to think up a working title yet.)