Once Upon A Goat

We frequent a coffee shop that uses a goat emblem. I always call it goat coffee. In honor of my students from this week and my Dad, I’m going to write a short story for you every time I end up at the goat coffee place.

I’ll try, anyway.

 

North Wall Vines

“Brighton!”

Brighton nestled deeper into the prickly vines. Thorns and sticks scratched her face and hands. Gloves. Next time she would remember her rough gloves.

Right. Next time she had to randomly jump into the vines on the North wall to avoid The Boys she would definitely remember gloves. Maybe carrying gloves should’ve been her go-to action all along, since avoiding groups of people seemed to be her lot in life.

“Come on,” Samuel called out. “She doesn’t want to talk to us.”

Brighton listened to the six retreating footsteps. There should really be seven, Brighton observed. Someone was hiding. Probably Marius. He was always working harder than the others for her affections.

Give up now, she thought, while you still have half a day left to explore the world.

Rustling.

Brighton’s breath caught in her throat. She bit her lip to keep her mouth closed. Don’t cough, don’t cough.

The cough broke free, throwing her head forward into thorns, her hands back against the rock wall to steady her. Coughing and coughing and more coughing. Air seemed in very short supply suddenly.

Hands reached through the vines, parting them like curtains. The hands gently settled on Brighton’s shoulders and pulled her out of the green chaos into the golden hour of twilight. She couldn’t think but coughing, her body shaking, her eyes closed. A flask of water pressed to her lips. She gulped.

Heat surrounded her. She sighed. She opened her eyes to The Boys. All smiles. All aglow. All offering shy pats of encouragement and care, all ready with another flask of water, all focused on her comfort.

She took a deep, free breath. Closed her eyes.

They only want your good, she told herself. And that’s the problem, isn’t it?

“Are you alright?” Samuel asked, the chosen leader. He stood beside Marius, whose hand was still softly gripping Brighton’s shoulder. Samuel might be the speaking leader of The Boys, but Marius was definitely the bravest when it came to winning Brighton’s affections.

Brighton sighed again. She offered a smile. Smiles in return. The group relaxed again, happy to be released from any guilt. They only wanted her attention and her comfort, after all.

The slimmest boy, Peregrin, stepped forward to offer a handkerchief for Brighton’s bleeding face. The thorns had caught her harshly and left an angry stain of red across her cheeks. It isn’t queen-like, she thought, to hide from my own subjects. Especially when they simply want my company. Selfish.

“Samuel,” Brighton said. “Must you always follow me?”

He grinned.

“Only when you lead us on such good adventures.”

Brighton had to smile at this. The rest of her life would be leading them on adventures, as dictated by her tribal leaders. Queen. Warrior. Adventurer.

And yet.

“Well, let’s be off,” she said, knowing that every boy would follow her. Knowing that every single one of them longed to be chosen. Knowing that no matter who she chose, she would have their loyalty until her last breath. Knowing that no matter how many vines she hid behind, none could stop the future of a Wandering Queen, even if that queen was only thirteen years old.

She accepted the offered handkerchief for her face and strode away from the wall, Her Boys falling into step behind and around her.

 

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The Tragedy of Small-Minded Grammar Snobs

When I was 11 and carried a notebook everywhere, people wondered about me.  When I still did it at 14, people asked, “What’s with the notebook?”  And I told them I was a writer.

This should’ve freaked them out, really.  I mean, if I saw a little girl who still carried a notebook everywhere from 11-14 and said she was a writer I’d be on my guard.  Mostly because of people like this:

Behave, Geoffrey Chaucer actually did eviscerate people in his writings.  Who do you think provide the best character ideas?  Real people.

But, I always kinda thought that writing was about giving humans somewhere to escape.  I didn’t write to tell the truth–like journalists are supposed to do (hahahahaha).  I wrote because I wanted a new truth.

And I never expected that writers should be this outstanding example of good grammar.  Most of the writers I really loved as a child and even now don’t follow a lot of traditional grammar rules.

If I correct someone’s grammar, it’s not because it’s wrong.  It’s because I want what they said/wrote to be understood.  Whatever the existentialists say, every speaker/writer has an intent to their communication.  And to quote a movie from last year, “Precision of language!”  (The Giver)

So when I see things like this:

“The speech impediment of the 21st century” I die a little inside.  What does Marc Johns think “and I was like” means?  Because he should know, as an English speaker (if indeed he is) that “I was like” doesn’t mean “I said.”  It means, “this is sorta what I said but not precisely, more like the feeling I had/the idea I was communicating, whether in words, thought or body language.”

“I was like” is actually more accurate than “I said” and conveys a lot more information.  If I say, “He told me that he was late because he fell asleep, so I said, ‘Right, have fun with that,'” it’s just not as much information as;

“He told me that he was late because he fell asleep and I was like, sure, he fell asleep.  Probably started texting that slut from Math.  Seriously, he expects me to believe that?  I was like, right, well, have fun with that.”

What this Marc person claims as a speech impediment is actually a more effective method of communication than that which he snobbishly holds in esteem.  Languages, ones that are spoken today all over the world, are living, breathing things.  They change.  They have to.  Communication is constantly updating.  What do we call a picture we take of ourselves that has to be posted in a social networking setting?  How do we say that a book or story is so good at getting our emotions over-flowing that we run out of words to describe it?  What do we call the scent of rain when it stops?

More writers make up words than correct grammar usages.  I hope.  Neil Gaiman isn’t the only person to create a firestorm after coining the above word.  Language is about getting information across, even if that means we make up a better way to understand each other.

The next time someone complains about the addition of “selfie” to the dictionary, say, “Precision of language,” and walk away.  They’re obviously not that interested in communication.

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 49

A friend of mine is an English major.  She is an excellent poet.  Her influence, along with my brush with Shakespeare the other week, challenged me to try my mind at a poem.

Please don’t read this thinking I know what I’m doing.  I don’t.  I did my best to follow the instructions and example listed here.  This person knows what they are talking about.  Well, I hope they do anyway.  I wouldn’t know either way.

Here’s my first try at a sonnet.  The dark material comes naturally to me and has nothing to do with reality.

He Said

He said, “we all have secrets left to live”
Like unwrapped Christmas presents left to give
We all have dreams to shatter on ourselves
Like broken black gates leading straight to hell

He said, “I’ll tell you what you’ve been given;”
“All the color of life and its dark paints.”
Where have you hidden the burns of your sins?
In bottles of jade like the dreams of saints?

Now you run from the darkness you run and
You hide the hurt in a coat and a smile
You’re running your soul across the miles
You can’t forget you’ve been chosen for trials

I wrapped all the presents I can’t give
He said, “we all have secrets left to live”

As always, feel free to comment with suggestions, feedback or projects of your own!

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 19

I saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Saturday.

For those of us who are versed in the comic books and/or the animated series, the intensity of this film came as no surprise.  The references to the comics and series were special, funny and fitting.  The suits, acting, action, visuals, characters…pretty much EVERYTHING, made sense and was good.  Great even.

So why isn’t this movie getting good reviews?

The writing team behind this film wrote the new Star Trek movies.  All those emotional nuances and layered characters beloved by audiences (including me) are back in this totally different film.  How Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, and Jeff Pinkner were able to transfer all that writing strength into the super hero genre is beyond me.  They are geniuses.

Not surprising that the person who links them is one of my favorite people, J.J. Abrams.

Why am I talking about Spider-Man when it has absolutely NOTHING to do with my creative project this week?  Because it’s a fantastic movie.  It’s really good. But it won’t make you feel that good when you leave.  It’s not like walking out of the door after The Avengers or Thor 2 or Captain America.  The people in front of me sobbed rather loudly during the film.

But just because it’s not a totally feel-good movie doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome.  That’s my opinion.  Let me know what you think of the film when you see it.

(Also, it has Paul Giamatti in it, one of my favorite actors)

My project this week was a book called Silence Stressed.  I’m guessing at this moment that you’re double-checking the title of this blog.  Yup, same name.

Not a coincidence.

I wrote this book a few years ago.  I’m finally moving forward to self-publishing it through a company called CreateSpace.com.  The proof came in the mail this last week.  I spent the week proof-reading.  It’s all set now.  It’ll be available on Kindle soon too.

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It’s about a girl who gets caught up in a lie, a band, a drummer and a bass player.  It’s about stupidity, growing up, writing.  It’s about young people and music.  It’s about rejection, choices and moving on.

It’s not my life story, but I did write it.

Buy Silence Stressed.  🙂

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As always, feel free to comment with suggestions, ideas and projects of your own!

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 8

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This blog is not about me, which is good, because this week would’ve been the week of failure.

That being said, I did finish my creative project this week.  And it was challenging, but not in the way that I thought it would be.  I’ve wanted to explore comic book creation for a long time.  I have a lot of experience story-boarding for films, so I figured comicking (probably made up that word) would not be too different, right?

Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

Honestly, I had nothing until Thursday.  No creative ideas, no drive to do ANYTHING.  I was at the point where I was ready to admit defeat and move on with no real dignity left.

Until the weather.

Yeah,weather.

It’s been a killer this year.  And one of my best friends hates that.  He wants it to be summer almost as much as I do.  Maybe moreso.  Probably moreso.  Okay, he definitely wants it to be summer even more than I do.

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We had an EPIC text battle between Mother Nature and Jack Frost…as if they fought like Pokemon characters.

And that became my creative project for this week.  The weather + my good friend Cody = one of my favorite created projects.

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As if that wasn’t enough (haha, you thought you’d get to see it now, but I’ve still got things to say), another close friend of mine who draws…SO WELL…helped me finish the comic by adding the city in the second panel and by using his amazing calligraphic skills to finish the comic.  I’ll let ya read what Joshua wrote.

Once again, this is supposed to be 52 weeks of creative–me completing a creative project every week of 2014.  If you’d like to give me any ideas, suggestions, feedback, or let me know you’ve started your own 52 weeks, comment below!  Or visit my production page on Facebook.com/DefineFastProductions.

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 5

You thought that maybe I wasn’t posting this week.  That maybe I chickened out or got distracted or wiped out on my longboard.

Well I did wipeout on the longboard, (that’s not me though ^).  But I’m fine.  Like him, I know how to land dramatically.

This week I decided that the world, you actually, needed a bit of an introduction into the art of writing for the media.  I work for a company that creates commercials and web ads (also other things media related), and I’ve trained extensively in writing.  I guess you could call it a strength.

So I wrote a TV ad this week.

I’m really fascinated by the ads that are able to tell an entire story in such a short amount of time.  The ads that at the end you almost want to clap or cry because in those brief moments you were able to see into the human experience in a funny or touching way.  Yesterday the Superbowl brought us a Budweiser ad about a puppy who is best friends with a Clydesdale.

Some of the group around me found this ad very sweet.  I’m sure that the makers thought that this would cause sales to go up.  (I thought it had creepy subliminal messaging contrary to the song in the background.)  Why did they create this ad in the way that they did?  Well, let’s chat about that.

Fact #1:  Ads exist to cause people to spend money on the product.

Fact #2:  Ads are supposed to be geared toward the specific people who might want/need the product. Example: diaper ads are usually geared toward women between the ages of 18-35, who are pregnant, or just had a kid (or adopted).  I say usually, of course.

How do you get people to take notice of your particular product?  First you find out who wants/needs it.

If I’m a gourmet coffee company, who drinks gourmet coffee?  This isn’t the moment where you get judgy.  Generalities are just what they are–generalities.  It is accurate to say that most people under the age of 14 don’t drink coffee.  So I’m not likely to write a commercial to entice 6-year-olds to drink my company’s coffee.

I choose to market my coffee to adults between the ages of 17-35, who might be skaters, hipsters, artists, careerists and dreamers.*  Okay, now what?  What do those people like?  What do they value?  What do they relate to?  Who do they relate to?

These questions will help me as the writer determine how to craft my ad.  Because I know a lot about this “category” of people (I’m in it), it’s easier to imagine what they will or won’t like, and the images to which they will relate.  Of course, I also know that this group of people is EXTREMELY diverse.  I could write a funny story, like the Allstate commercials with Mayhem, or the Budweiser ad with the chainsaw man.  Or I could go for beauty and realism, like the Honda commercial about how today is pretty great.

There’s a lot of options.  But as long as I know my audience, I can move forward with my idea.

One of the harder parts of writing ads is the length.  There are different venues for ads now, which allows some companies to expand on the length.  Like Hulu.  Hulu ads can be 90 seconds long (or longer), which is on the long side of advertising.  I like them for that reason–they can tell more of a story.

I had trouble making my ad short enough and still conveying everything that I wanted to convey.  It’s about 90 seconds long, and I bet it could be edited shorter if it needed to be on TV or in front of a Youtube video.  If I make it this year, I’ll post the results.

Until then, here’s a mock ad that I made.

Longboard Gevalia Commercial Draft 2

*Just because an ad is geared toward a certain audience doesn’t mean that it won’t appeal to people outside that audience.  The special thing about the Superbowl Budweiser ad this year is that it seems to appeal to a much wider audience than they usually go for.  Keep this in mind when you write your own ad.

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 1

This was a very weird way to start my 52 weeks.  Firstly, I have an eye-infection that brought me a lot of pain the last few days.  Had to go to a doctor and everything.  That was very unexpected.  Never had one of those before.

Don’t start copying me, ya’ll.  It’s not as fun as I’m sure I made it sound.

Secondly, I picked a creative project that I have never done before.  The goal was to write and illustrate a children’s picture book.  This required the conceptualizing and drawing of over 19 pictures, partially colored.

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At the end of all this madness, I realized that designing a complete children’s PRINTABLE book was beyond my ability and software ability at the moment.  So I settled for a sorta comic-book, internet-illustrated story approach.  Some people may have a lot of experience with photoshop for this kind of thing, but I didn’t.  I didn’t even know how to import a picture into a separate project file.

But I finished the story and the pictures and the importing and combining and cleaning up and…well, I finished my first week of 52 creative projects.  And I guess it’s time to lay some ground rules:

1.  Must finish by 12am on Sunday of the week.

2.  Must accept a CHALLENGING project, not something like “draw one picture of a dude.”

3.  Must post by the following Monday.

4.  May work with others on any project.

5.  May work in area of expertise, as long as the project still offers a degree of complexity.

And here is my finished project of Week 1:  (View as a gallery.  The single-file version won’t upload at a high enough level.)

Inspired by and dedicated to my cousin, Sarah.  Thank you for Markus.

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What Not to Post?

I keep reading this stuff about what to post or not post online.  Made me kinda jumpy.  I feel like little demon elves are peeking over my shoulder while I type, making sure I don’t talk about my emotions or post pictures of food or rave about a significant other or rant about an annoying friend/coworker/random person that somehow deserves to be derided.

Good.  Grief.

Let me get this straight, you don’t want people to post pictures of things they eat because you find it annoying?  Psst.  I got this.  Read closely:

Stop following them.

Nope.  Just stop it.

If I’m ever annoying or decide to blather incessantly about my love life (oh my goodness my Sony FS100 is the most gorgeous thing in the world.  Totally gives me all the footage I need and never complains about the cold or being carried all over and….), feel free to stop reading.  I won’t take it personally.  (I may make a quiet phone call in a dark alley to a man I met in a different dark alley, who may or may not know 8 different ways to scare you so bad without even touching you that you confess every sin you’ve ever committed and few of your neighbor’s sins just in case…)

I’m just a little tired of all these people telling us Social Media users what we should and shouldn’t say.  Especially since they only transmit the message over…Social Media.  Guys, we’re all entitled to our opinions.  And my opinion is that your opinion needs to not mess with my opinion.

And for the demon elves out there…I dare you to unfollow me.  If you’re not yet convinced, here’s a picture of what I ate for lunch:

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(I promise I didn’t eat the iPad.)

POV or Point Of View Part 2

Welcome to part 2.  I blogged about POV here, a few weeks ago.  Point of view is complicated.  Aside from the POV within the story–which I mentioned in part 1–there’s the POV of the author of the story, script, whatever.  For the purpose of this post, let’s stick with books and feature films.  I can speak with the most knowledge about those and it will be less confusing.

You can tell a lot about the author from his or her story.

First off, the education of the author is usually obvious by the subject matter and/or the vocabulary.  If I read a book and I can’t go a full page without learning a new word, I know that the writer is very educated, either because they read a lot or they had a lot of school.  If the book or movie is about a bunch of college professors sitting around talking, the writer is probably well-acquainted with college professors.  And if they aren’t, the book or movie will suffer.

I often think that education and little-known words can be a weakness.  It’s not the words you know, it’s the way you use the words you know.  Here’s some of the best book writers that I know of: Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, John Green, Timothy Zahn, Sarah Dessen, Jasper Fforde and Jane Austen.  Some of them speak at a higher level, most of them just know how to use words.

Secondly, you can tell what is important to the author, or what she is passionate about, or what is bothering her, or what she wants to change about the world.  How?  Ever notice that every single movie (aside from the Batman franchise, but even that is arguable) that Christopher Nolan has made is inherently about the same thing?

Reality.  What is reality.  What do we want from reality?  Is reality something we get to choose or does it already exist?  Does the audience ever really know what’s real in most of his films?

Nolan is captured by this idea of real vs made-up and it comes out in each of his stories.  Inception, which is about the dreamworld.  Memento, which is about how a guy with memory loss sees the world.  The Prestige, which is about magicians who can create a reality for the audience (and other reasons that are spoilers so I won’t mention them).  And even The Dark Knight, which is about choosing to let people decide the reality that they want.

Let’s get another example that isn’t Nolan, eh?  Let’s talk about J.J. Abrams.  Abrams is best known at the moment for Star Trek: Into Darkness.  It’s fantastic, drop what you’re doing and go see it.

Hello, nice to see you again.  It was awesome, wasn’t it?  Good.  Abrams is the man behind Mission Impossible 3, Super 8, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness.  At the heart of these movies, and even including Armageddon, which he wrote and Michael Bay directed, is the idea of family.  The family you create, the family you have, and the family you want.  In MI3, Ethan Hunt wants to settle down and get married, which changes the way he works.  In Super 8, the relationship between father and son is strained because the mom is dead.  The son looks to friends and a girl to be his family.  In Star Trek, Kirk’s family is non-existent, until he joins Starfleet and acquires his ship and a father figure.  In Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk’s crew, and the crew of another major character, are mentioned as being family.  And what the characters would do for their families is a major plot point later on.

Thirdly and lastly, you can tell the audience that the writer is aiming to please.  This doesn’t mean that other audiences can’t enjoy the work.  It’s just the aim.

For example, Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games trilogy for boys.  Stop right there and don’t hate me.  I know she wrote this trilogy primarily for boys because it is extremely and graphically violent, preoccupied with action over emotion, lacks excessive description, the main character is not concerned with girly things, but hunts and fights, and the ending is less than happy.  But there’s a love triangle, you say.  Whatever.  Just because it’s written primarily for a male audience doesn’t mean that the audience is all males.

Here’s a fun example: Stephenie Meyer.  We all know what she wrote, right?  It’s only 4 books and 5 movies.  Think vampires.  Yup, she wrote the Twilight books.  Now, I didn’t read these books.  Not interested.  But I saw 4 of the movies.  From a filmmaking perspective, the movies were well-made.  Anyway.  These books were written with primarily a female audience in mind.  I bet you already knew that.  Why?  Because they contain overly emotional relationships, complications to the plot that are relationship driven, a drawn-out love triangle with 2 seemingly perfect men, anticlimactic scenes, an imperfect and girly main character (someone to relate to), a very neatly bound and happy ending.

It’s funny, until the movies came out, the only people I knew who had read these books were guys.

Ha.

Good grief this is the longest post ever.  If you made it this far, congratulations!  You are now in possession of my POV on writer’s POVs and how you can identify them.  You can tell a writer’s education, passion, and audience from his or her writing.  And many, many other things.  Watch out for them as you read.

This list probably says a lot about me…

Introversion and Art

Some people draw energy from being around other people.  And some people draw energy from being by themselves.

These people don’t hate people.  No, they just hate to be forced into parties and large groups and social events on a regular basis.  It drains the life out of them.

Let’s repeat that, please.  Attending big social events regularly drains ALL LIFE from people the public calls INTROVERTS.

Some artists…maybe a lot of artists…are introverts.  Why?  They spend a lot of time thinking and creating art from their thoughts, while alone.  Writers and film editors tend to be introverts.  Actors, dancers, painters….Lots of people.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because it seems like in Western culture that there’s some kind of misconception that introverts are a tiny part of the populace.  Like they are some kind of rare blood disorder or albino bat.  Ya’ll, introverts run half the world.  They’re not new or extraordinary or unique or unusual.

Don’t freak out when you meet one or when someone tells you they don’t like parties.  Don’t force them to hang out with people more often, because they won’t like it or forget it.

But mainly…Please keep asking him or her to hang out.  Please keep him or her in mind when you need someone to talk to or help you move.  Hold on to your introverted friend–it’s easy to be ignored when you dislike large groups.

Introverts aren’t special.  I repeat, introverts aren’t this magical brand of human being.  They are just human.  Just as lovable or unlovable as an extrovert.  They just need a different schedule sometimes.

I know this is a weird post.  I know I normally write about movies and technology and Kansas City.  I just found this subject very important this past week, since I am an extremely introverted person.  I didn’t know how introverted until the last few weeks.

We exist.  Be aware.