My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Best CREEPY Dystopia (Our Poll is Live! Come vote!)

What is the best creepy dystopian book (or series)? Our latest poll is live! Come vote! 

In honor of Halloween (since we did horror just last year) I give you the creepy dystopias. Not the uplifting ones with the plucky resistance carrying anachronistic weapons into modern day battlefields, but the ones with the slow burn reveal that something deeply disturbing is going on and the longer you read, the more dystopian things get. From your nominations the eight titles with the most "seconds" have been assembled. 

I know I don't normally post on the weekends, but I'm actually taking a break because of the election coming up here in the U.S. (50% stress and brain weasels/50% anticipation of having to protest and march to make sure all the votes get counted), so I have deliberately saved up on the kinds of posts that I can do when I'm not in a writing sort of mood (admin and business type posts like this one), so I'll be catching up on all of that as a bit of jazz hands and hairography. 

Remember that this poll is about BOOKS. If you thought Neverwhere was an amazing BBC miniseries but found Gaiman's writing to be a bit of a slog, then don't vote for it.

A sad note about our polling program: I think a couple of months ago, some polling company bought up all the little free poll apps and changed their monetization model or something. Used to be there were all sorts of ways to put a poll up, and as long as you didn't post dozens of polls a month, it was free. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed like they all switched to another model overnight. They still let you put up a "free" poll, but you are limited by THE NUMBER OF RESPONSES. And if you go over it, you have to buy their premium version. Well the number is limited to something like a hundred a day. On a good day and a rowdy poll, WAW will quadruple that or more. And I'm not going to pay $20/month for something I use once every two months. I may not be their target freemium demographic (few polls/lots of responses rather than several polls/few responses), but they've forced my hand. I'm switching to Google Forums. Which sadly means that the results of the poll will not be visible to everyone until I post the results. It's also much less "pretty," has a lot of crappy formatting, and you have to use the scroll wheel to get down to get all the results.

If anyone knows a way around this, I'm totally listening.

Everyone will get three (1) vote (another downside of the new program). Use it wisely.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." If you are on mobile, you can switch to "web page view" and scroll all the way down. Sadly the new program allows no way to use a direct link. Yet another issue with it. 

Here are the titles on the poll:

  • Brave New World, A Huxley 
  • Parable of the Sower, O Butler 
  • Neverwhere, N Gaiman 
  • The Chrysalids, J Wyndham 
  • The Silo Saga, H Howey 
  • Uglies Trilogy, S Westerfield 
  • The Long Walk, R Bachman 
  • Never Let Me Go, K Ishiguro (I gave this its second "second" to nudge it onto the poll)

Friday, October 30, 2020

Top of September Facebook Compilation

A collection of the best memes and statuses from Facebook over the period of Sept 1st-Sept 15. Also, as a small reminder to everyone, at least until after the election, and probably until after Covid eases up on the throttle (and allows me to go do some of the activities that ameliorate my ADHD), I will be doing a LOT of my writing on my public Facebook profile. You're welcome to follow me there, or you can just wait here for the "greatest hits" compilation posts like this one, but until some of the current events working to shatter my attention span are a lingering memory, much of my writing comes in bite sized chunks and I just am not able to match my previous posting schedule. 

I shall return.

Hi folks, quick note from the Chris:

I've gotten a bit behind on these compilation posts, so I'm going to catch up over the next couple of days. This will serve a double purpose as I am basically all but useless on the writing front. (I can sit down and do busy work like compiling some FB posts, but my creativity is all wrapped up in the election a few days away.) I'm currently researching a new polling program. (I'll probably go with Google at this point––most of the "free" programs limit responses, and I'm not going to pay $20/month for access to something I use once every couple of months.) I'll be putting the poll up tomorrow in honor of spoopy Halloween.

Also, just as a reminder, I always take the week around an election off from blogging (I'm just a mess and my mind is DEFINITELY not on writing about writing), and this election in particular might require civil unrest to ensure the votes get counted. I'll be back as soon as I can, and hopefully that's the 5th or 6th, but there's every chance it might be the next week or longer depending on how this all goes down.

Well well well....

Get the ol’ AQI high enough (around 300+ish) and suddenly everyone braving the outdoors magically comprehends that the mask goes over your nose and that they won’t suffocate from having it on.

Imagine that.

Sweet Pea, the U.S. political attention span is not SO short that I don't remember the 33 Benghazi hearings to produce a 600 page report because "a politician's choice led to the death of four Americans, and I want some answers."

So if you're blowing off an audio recording of Trump literally saying he knew how bad it was before two hundred THOUSAND Americans died (up to 80% of whom every epidemiologist on Earth says didn't have to die if we'd worn masks, stayed home, flattened the curve, and invested in tests and contact tracing––all which could have been encouraged [rather than discouraged] without causing panic), you've told me everything I need to know about your (lack of) priorities, your (lack of) integrity, and your (lack of) character.

You don't need to say another word, Pumpkin. In a very Maya Angelou sense, you just told me who you are.

To any moderates still rationalizing their votes as purely economically motivated:

Please understand that when you boil down your complicated "economic anxiety" or stock-market-performance rationalizations for supporting someone you admit is doing legislative harm according to a guiding principle of bigotry, you have not exculpated yourself from that bigotry. You have not washed your hands. You have not set yourself apart from the party and the party's leader to whom you are giving power. You are not better than. 

No, all you have basically said is this:

"I can be paid off to look the other way while 'certain' people are hurt and killed, and that price is lower than you might think."

My respect for Trump voters is so low at this point that my respect for people who STILL HAVE RESPECT for Trump voters takes a pretty decent hit.

You WILL be governed.

And like it or not (I don't), you WILL be governed by one of two candidates and their administration. The idea that you have a third option is fanciful. 

And the decision as to which will govern you will be ENTIRELY made by people who show up and take part in the choice between those two. Entirely. 

If you don't show up, if you don't take part in that decision...it will still be made. 

For you.

By those who did.

If this "loser" thing damages Trump in some sort of real way, we should of course be grateful that anything could, but also never forget that literally no amount of racism, misogyny, transantagonism, or xenophobia could do what calling vets losers did.

Just a selfie that lots of folks liked. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Best CREEPY Dystopia (LAST CHANCE to Nominate or Second)

What is the best "something is very wrong here" Dystopia book (or series)?

Last chance to nominate or second a nomination that is there!

[Please remember that I am doing an easy week here on the blog that will be followed by some time off. (Hopefully a few days, but it might be longer.) This is all because of an incredibly contentious election here in the U.S., the high probability of civil unrest and possibly even street violence, and the certainty of a stressful few days. I'm resting up for the former and will take some time off after the later. If we're lucky it won't be ongoing civil unrest, and I'll be back to listicles about craft by the 5th or 6th.]

I'm taking tomorrow off instead of Thursday because that's the night my clients at my other job want me to do a sleep over to Nanny Up at baby o'clock in the morning, so you have until THURSDAY, and then I'm putting this poll together.

So for any of you who have ever said "How can this poll not have SOANDSO?!?", now is your very last chance. Get it on the poll and get it some seconds. Or forever hold your cliché.

Remember, I don't do that endless quarterfinals shit anymore.  At most, I will do ONE round of semifinals. So the 8-20 with the most seconds get on the poll. And if those "seconds" are technically thirds, fourths, or fifths, then that's what I'm doing. So get over there and second anything you want to see on the page.

Please pop over to the original page (very important) to leave a nomination or a second. (I need them all in one place. Plus that is where you can check out the rules if you're confused about why I want some dystopias but not others.

Remember, go to the original page or it won't count. Not a comment here. Not a comment on the Facebook post. Not Tumblr. THE ORIGINAL PAGE.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Screenplay or Novel? (Mailbox)

Should it be a screenplay or a novel?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox." I will use your first name ONLY, unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. Even if the name of the game is easy, peasy, so quick it's sleazy.] 

K asks:

How do you know when what you’re writing should be a screenplay or a novel?

My reply:

Before I get into this question, full disclosure: I spent about 40 hours last week, over on NWAW, writing a post about voting, and then my nanny gig kicked in, so I deliberately looked through the hopper for the easiest question I could find, so I could set up this week to be just a little easier so I can recover from that. If anyone dropped a question when I put out the call (after my old computer died), I'm still going to hit those hard....and I'm still in need of MORE.

[Note: Stuff in brackets will disappear in a couple of weeks. There is another reason for taking it easy this week, and I'm going to remind everyone that this blog will be going on a little bit of a break in just a few days. Not to put too fine a cliché on it, but here in the United States, we are heading into the most important election of my lifetime (at least so far), and possibly quite a bit of civil unrest in the fallout. That is not hyperbole, nor would it be to suggest that the fate of our (admittedly flawed) democracy is at stake. Our president has basically announced his intentions to stage a coup (and if you think that's "overblown verbiage," you should tell me what you would call it if all the votes are not counted by the sitting president who said openly they may not accept the election results.) There is every chance that the U.S. left (and maybe even some fed-up moderates) will have to march, protest, even riot to ensure that our votes are counted. So literally I am resting up in anticipation of an extra bad time. And while I have a "the week of an election" clause in my update schedule to account for the other kind of writing I do, general distraction, and just not being in the mood for listicles about grammar, I may be caught up in civil action for longer. I will wrap this week up, take some kind of a break, but then get back here as soon as I can. Hopefully it's a blowout against Trump, and I'll be back by the 5th or 6th. Might be a full week. Might be two. I'll keep people posted if it goes on longer, but it will likely not be a big ol' mystery what bee is in my bonnet.]

K, I'm going to assume that the first answer––the only answer that should matter––is a dead-heat tie between the two choices, but juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust in case that's not so, let me point at it as we drive by on our way to a couple of paragraphs about the conventions of different genres. 

You should write whatever you WANT to be writing. If you want to be writing a novel, don't let anyone tell you, "hey this should be drama/screenwriting, my good K." And if you want to write a screenplay, fuck the haters who say "K, sweetie, pumpkin, lambikins, oh love....I do believe what you have here should be a novel." The libraries of the world are filled with brilliant examples of one genre or another that maybe should have been something else but weren't. And frankly, the creativity required when a writer goes their own way is often the pièce de résistance that makes a work memorable.

If anyone tells you otherwise, yeet their haterade-sipping asses straight into the sun, K.

Okay, but let's assume you're right on the razor's edge of the fence. You absolutely don't have a personal preference. And as far as you can tell, your soul pulls in equal directions towards fiction or drama. 

I'm going to tell you the party line and I'm going to base it in no small part on playwriting and the conventions of the "drama genre" which tend to push into screenwriting even though screenwriters have more "tricks" they can use in film, and then I'm going to give you a little bit of homespun wisdom that I've learned from watching no small number of writers tackle (or attempt to tackle and fail spectacularly) this exact genre crossing over the years. 

I also want to make a disclaimer before I get into this. Screenwriting is its whole own thing. I know how to approach the writing end, which is why I'm talking a lot about playwriting and drama. I don't know much about cinematography, editing, or visuals. Many of the elements (like plot, conflict, resolution, structure, dialogue) overlap, but not all, and there is a limit to what I can say knowledgeably about screenwriting.

The party line has to do with the conventions of genre. For obvious reasons, plays (or film) will be extremely heavy on dialogue, and most of the plot revelations come out through people talking to each other, and in many ways the story "tells itself." Scenes are often longer (short scenes tend to be logistical nightmares), and almost all of your action takes place in only a handful of locations––simple locations usually in the case of theater. Movies can obviously be shot in exotic settings, but that tends to blow their budget. Some of the best plays, in their entirety, literally have ONE set. People just come and go over time. (All My Sons is two hours and change in the Keller's backyard.) And even in movies where the characters are "on the move," there are often simple outside establishing shots that lead to a scene inside a room or a tent or whatever. I mean of course you can't really do a car chase in a play..... You have a little more leeway for short action sequences than in a screenplay as you can do cuts and shots and such. Drama (on stage or screen) is a visual medium and leaves far less to the audience's imagination, but generally this is not in the hands of the writer who sticks with dialogue and some very sparse stage direction. Drama tends to be about moments and is very RIGHT NOW to the audience. You also really want to keep that shit economical. Audiences who will stay tuned in on anything but Hamlet, Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, or Titanic for more than two or three hours are rare. 

Fiction tends to be a less constrained genre. You have a lot of exposition in text, plot developments that come into the story through non-dialogue, short scenes, shifting locations. Dialogue, when it happens, tends to bracket the really IMPORTANT exchanges. All the action, as well as the settings themselves, must be described and not taken for granted. There is a narrator of some kind (even if it's omniscient and third-person) who is TELLING the story. You can go into characters' heads much more casually (you don't need everyone else to freeze and a spotlight to come up for a major soliloquy or have some weird voice over if you're on film). Fiction can be more distant and less immediate than drama. And you have much greater latitude for long works. It is massively unlikely you will ever see a Tad Williams quadrilogy as a stage production.

Here's the thing though, K. None of THOSE things can't be worked around by a clever writer. Really. You are probably already thinking of things like voice-overs or a book that was super heavy on the pedestrian dialogue. Or you're essentially imagining the "special effects." And lots of film spend gobs on sets or locals. All true. So here's a bit of homegrown advice, something I've learned from half a lifetime of watching people try to cross genres either for serious or just to try their hand at it. 

And this applies whether you're talking about screenwriting OR playwriting.

Are you willing to give up control to a director?

That's it. That's the ball game. Do you want to micromanage your writing or are you willing to give up creative control once your part is over?

If every single bit of dialogue has a stage direction (the stuff in italics) slipped in about how it's said, you should probably be writing fiction. If you have incredibly ornate descriptions of action, you should be writing fiction. Describe the setting in exquisite detail? Fiction. These are decisions a director will make, and they're not going to be thrilled to be pinioned by a writer. They create settings, block scenes, decide how lines should be delivered, and how to achieve effects. If you can't let go of all but the most significant stage directions ("pursued by a bear" or "Ari shoots Kate with a sniper rifle"), you probably want to stick with fiction. A director may even override your written stage direction, and you have no control over it. It's even possible (more likely with screenwriting than playwriting) that they'll edit out something you think is important––vital even––including whole scenes.

Conversely, if you are uninterested in taking on those descriptions of action, you might be better off playwriting. If you don't really care what the setting looks like, who is where in a moment, or who might get up and move to grab a glass of water. If you find yourself less concerned with the way lines are delivered and trust that someone will figure out how to deliver them powerfully, are okay being overridden, and if generally, you don't mind being the first step in a creative collaboration where you pass on your work to someone who might make any number of changes that you can't overrule, you are probably more suited to writing drama.

A really good literary argument that should maybe be its own post someday could be made for the fact that the director is a play's "narrator," who does all the work ahead of time so that the story tells itself, and in fiction there already IS a narrator who is telling the story. So if you are willing to give up your narrator, go with drama. If you are not, fiction. 

But I'm going to loop around to the beginning for this one because if you're not on the fence, you should do what you goddamn want to. It's your art.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Best CREEPY Dystopia (book or series)? Nominations and Seconds Needed.

What is the best Creepy Dystopia (book or series)? 

(Not "fight the power, RAWR!" Katniss/Tris but actually the more spooky ones [in honor of Halloween] where you very slowly realize something is terribly, horribly wrong.)

I don't normally post on Thursdays, but I ditched our usual update schedule, and spent the last three days working on an article over at NOT Writing About Writing on why leftists should abandon purity politics and go ahead and vote for Biden. So I figure I kind of owe you one over here.

Have you ever found yourself wondering why your favorite book is not on one of my polls? ("How can you have this category and not have X?? It's brilliant!") Weeeelllllllllll, it's probably because you didn't nominate it. Or you didn't get your pal to throw you a second. All of my polls are based 100% on reader nominations and votes. Only once in a while do I even invoke executive privilege and throw a book on there myself. Usually it's all you folks.

We've got a lot of great suggestions already, but for a really robust poll, we could use a few more. Please click over to the original page (very important) and drop your nomination. You can also find the rules there and any answers to questions about genre or what to do if you are having trouble leaving a comment in Blogger for whatever reason––plus how to bring attention to a great book that you think should be recognized and more people should read it, but maybe isn't what you would call "the best."

Remember, go to the original page or it might not count. Not a comment here. Not FB. Not G+. Not Tumblr. A comment on the original page.