This week on Wednesday, I didn't post anything because I was busy writing a story! Yay!!
Ahhh...it felt so good to just sit in front of my computer and write, write, write!
I hate that Hurricane Isaac was devastating to so many people in south Louisiana, but for some reason my family and I didn't lose power. This means that I basically had three days off from work to stay at home and do what I love most- write!
While I was trying to develop a main character for my hurricane story I started thinking about how similar writing is to acting.
I love watching The Actors Studio where actors discuss how they develop characters and then portray these characters in film and theater. Watching that show is teaching me a lot about writing. I'm learning that the various processes actors use to get in character are similar to the methods writers use to develop their characters.
When I'm writing about a character, I pretty much become that person. If I get to a part in the story where the character is crying, I'm usually crying (or at least a little teary-eyed), and when I get to an action-packed part of the story where the main character is frantic, well, let's just say that anyone who happens to pass me while I'm writing probably thinks I'm either having a seizure and need medical attention or ...just a little weird.
So, writing and acting seem very similar arts and it makes me wonder about what it is that attracts actors to acting and writers to writing?
Is it that we just like the art of story telling?
If so, why does the process of story telling make us so happy?
Everyone has an "off day" during which a series of unfortunate events seem to follow them like a shadow.
And some of us have "off months", "off years", "off decades", perhaps even entire lives of "off-ness"...
Last night I'd convinced myself that I must be one of those people who is destined to an "off life".
Clearly, I can be a bit of a drama queen when I'm down in the dumps.
My dreariness still greeted me this morning and stayed with me until I took a moment to review yesterday's series of unfortunate events.
I'd left for the day job thinking I'd be about five minutes late getting there.
Well, after three hours of being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic I was only halfway to my destination, running out of gas and one of the tires was low...so I decided to nix going to the day job and simply pull into Whole Foods where I'd hang out for a bit.
<Whole Foods, BTW, is such a great place to go when you need to shop whilst calming your nerves.
It's not like other Grocery Stores. The people who shop and work at Whole Foods actually seem friendly - even normal! And the entire store smells like lavender. I just love it... >
The whole reason I got stuck in the worse part of the bumper to bumper traffic was because I'd seen a traffic jam on my usual route and after being stuck in the creepy-crawl for 20 minutes, decided to seek out an alternative route that I thought no one else would use.
Boy was I wrong.
Apparently, everyone and their second cousin had sought out the one alternative route that everyone assumed no one else would think to use.
So this morning, I started comparing yesterday's traffic jam to my life.
Like most INFP's, I hate following crowds.
That feeling of being one of the masses, a cow in the massive herd of cattle, makes me absolutely nauseous.
It's not that I think I'm better or even worse than anyone around me, I just like being different.
So, here I sit, wanting to be creative and different yet I spend 8 to 10 hours of my everyday sitting as a drone in an office where I file paperwork like the hundreds of other drones in the same office.
Most days, it takes a lot of willpower to not crumple into the fetal position as I stare out of the window overlooking my fake wooden desk and wish I was outside filming or writing something of importance.
When I start to feel like a part of the herd, my initial reaction is to panic and flee the scene in any way I can.
That's what I did in the traffic jam yesterday.
I found a different street and just took it- but it turned out to be even worse than the first street I'd been on.
Well, it's the same with my day job.
When an idea for a story grabs me by the throat, instead of being able to write the story, I'm stuck at my day job, answering phone calls about things I have no interest in. This makes me horribly sad because all I want to do is write and then it makes me panicky.
I scour Craig's List for other jobs, finding nothing but misspelled ads for "pretty ladies", and decide to forget Craig's List and create my own business. So I make a website for the first business venture that pops into my head, and I start sketching out a fear-induced business plan for something that I only half-believe in but feel I must do in order to escape the beige office I've gotten myself stuck in.
In retrospect, that's kind of crazy.
Instead of panicking and taking every wrong street possible, maybe I need to calm down and come up with a solid solution to how I can get out of this "traffic jam" of unfulfilling day jobs and do what I love to do.
When you love to write but you need to pay your bills (and unfortunately you didn't come into the world with a trust fund), what do you do?
Napoleon Dynamite is probably one of the most absolutely ridiculous yet beloved fictional characters from the big screen.
As we are introduced to sixteen year old Napoleon, the first thing we notice is that he hasn’t quite mastered the skill of breathing with his mouth closed. Eventually, we also realize that Napoleon suffers from an embarrassingly overactive imagination, looks like he has a bad perm and…well, he has a pet llama named Tina. Need we say more?
Even so, he’s just awesome! I think what we love about Napoleon is that he is 100% genuine (even when he’s obviously lying by making up stories about ligers).
If he wants to dance, he dances; if he feels the need to run away from a situation, he runs like a maniac.
This weird kid is unafraid when it comes to being who he is and that is what makes him attractive.
Instead of scrolling through that eight bazillion paged list of things we wish we could change about who we are, we ought to take a lesson from a sweaty, blond-haired kid who looks like he had a bad perm – we’ve got to rock the brilliantly nerdy/diva-like/shy or hilariously random people we are!
…and if that’s really hard, then I guess we'll just have to create a character who reflects the person we are on the inside and write stories about him/her because when people read the stories and fall in love with the main character it’ll be nice to know that they’re actually falling in love with you : )
So Napoleon Dynamite is one of my favorite “geeky” characters, who’s yours?
Earlier today I was listening to the Smash Soundtrack and when I heard Katherine McPhee sing “Beautiful”, for the first time in my life, I actually understood the lyrics.
While Christina Aguilera is gifted with a gorgeous voice, I can’t lie and say I understand even 10% of what she’s singing when she belts out her lyrics with that awesome Whitney Houston-ish range. So, with the help of Katherine McPhee’s version of “Beautiful” I finally realized how touching that song’s lyrics are.
For example, these lines struck me:
No Matter What We Do
No Matter What We Say
We’re The Song Inside The Tune
Full of Beautiful Mistakes…
What I take away from the lyrics above is that everything about our existence is beautiful. There may be certain things about ourselves that we don’t like, perhaps a personality flaw that we seem to have been born with, or a past experience that hangs over our head and tarnishes the way we react to certain situations, or maybe we don’t like the way we look… in any case, while it’s true that we do have flaws our potential often far outweighs any (imagined or real) deficiency.
Flaws can, not only be corrected but, teach us to be even better than we would have been had we lacked them in the first place. Was that a confusing sentence? Lol! An example of what I mean is this… let’s say a sixteen year old guy named Barry has a tendency to stutter. Barry’s stuttering embarrasses him and he hates it, sometimes he gets so frustrated with himself that it leads to depression. But, eventually Barry realizes that there may be a way for him to work through his tendency to stutter and after a couple of years (as well as a lot of hard work), he not only overcomes stuttering, but because of his focused attention to the how-to’s of public-speaking, etc… Barry ends up becoming an impressive speaker, more polished than most of his peers.
It’s not that he’s more “beautiful” after mastering speech, than he was before.
He was beautiful the whole time, but what he did with his potential, the way he took what he considered “a flaw” about some aspect of himself and molded it into something new, is what added to his beauty.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by our own imperfections, so overwhelmed that we lose sight of our own potential. But the potential is there, and though we may not realize it, we’re bursting at the seams with it!
Life is about exploring the world around us as well as the world that makes us who we are, self-discovery. We have to find that unique thing inside of us, the gift that can be used to inspire others. Each one of us is gifted in a different way. Some people were born listners who give the best advice you’ve ever heard, others were born to write, some know how to get the most Fiona Apple-ish type of person to crack a smile, the list goes on and on…you have it, I have it, maybe we don’t know what our gift is yet…but discovering it is part of what makes life a beautiful adventure.
When female writers create male characters...
Yesterday, I came across a blog post that was created to answer the question: I’m a female writer and I want to make sure my male characters come across as believable. How do I do this?
The blogger decided to answer this question by detailing how different men and women are in the way they think.
The post asserted that the differences between men and women should lead writers to:
What do you think about that summation of a male character?
- Portray male characters as only saying what they mean (in contrast to female characters who can be written as having hidden agendas in their speech).
- Write male characters as more brief and to the point in their dialogue, with considerably less emotional sharing.
- Male characters should be written as more egotistical/brazen than female characters.
- Male characters should be written as more turned on by visual stimuli than female characters, in terms of sexuality.
Personally, it made me cringe.
First of all, according to 90% of what’s on that list, apparently I’m a man.
Which is odd, because I’m pretty sure I’m a woman and I never knew that being straightforward and expecting the same of others had anything to do with whether one is female or male….and since when do the majority of females shy away from brazenly making fools of themselves for the sake of an ego boost?
The traits listed above aren’t specific to men, they’re specific to certain human personality types that have been created by two things: DNA and personal experience.
So, my issue with what the author of this post wrote is that when a female writer is attempting to create a realistic male character, she would do better to focus more on the character’s backstory (where he comes from, his culture and the environment that he grew up in) than on simply attempting to mimic stereotypical personality traits typically associated with male genitalia.
So, what makes male and female characters differ?
To sum it up, not a whole stinking lot.
When we’re creating a character, the character’s backstory is what’s most important.
The backstory affects the character’s view of life and other people, as well as the way they talk, walk, and react to various situations.
While gender might play a small role in shaping a person's reaction to a particular situation (for example, how I react to a Hallmark commercial during a certain time of month), the individual’s upbringing and background carry much greater weight in affecting who a person is at their core. When you think about it, our upbringing is what affects our view of gender and of ourselves in relation to gender roles.
So, instead of second-guessing myself as I write my male character’s dialogue by stopping every few minutes to wonder: “Would a guy actually say this?” what I’m going to start pausing to ask myself is, “What happened in this guy’s past to make him say something like this?”
I really hope I live to see the day when humanity finally gets over the race verses race and male verses female stuff and starts seeing what we all have in common.
We’re all humans, period.