Saturday, June 16, 2012

Writing Inspiration From Omnivoracious: Prompt 1

So one of my resolutions was to write more. I have realized that I am not at all inclined to follow through on plans unless I have a specific task and set deadline. For that reason, I have decided to work on the 52 Writing Prompts from Omnivoracious. This was designed to give a new prompt for each week of the year, but as you can see, I am a little behind. Therefore, I'm going to write two a week until I catch up. These are prompts to work on different genres, different character building, and different writing styles. I may suck at some of them (or all of them), but the key to writing well is to write often. That's what they say anyway. So without any more of my rambling, here is the first prompt:

Week 1: Write a haunting description of the eldritch beauty of an abandoned elf kingdom. (Inspired by The Lord of the Rings)

The elf kingdom had been abandoned for almost 400 years when Celia trampled into it. No other visitor had graced it for so long that the moss had grown up around the brick walls, encasing the kingdom in a green tomb. Celia couldn't believe her eyes when she realized where she was. The elf kingdom was known for its extravagance, but she had underestimated its beauty.

The large fountain that stood in the center of the main square still ran just as clean at it had so long ago. Celia ran her fingers through the cool water, but she drew back quickly when the water started avoiding her fingers. It must have been bewitched. Elves were known for their magical items, and it was no surprise to find such charms in their residence.

She headed through the large hall that lead into the lobby of the king's castle. The kingdom was silent, save for Celia's loud footsteps and the soft chirp of a distant bird. It was as if the entire kingdom had just stopped moving forward in time when the people left. Celia shivered thinking about how isolated this castle was, how the world had forgotten it, and how people once lived within the dark grey walls. She ran up the stairs; the faster she retrieved the treasure, the better.

The wind blew through the open holes in the ceiling, sending small leaves and twigs scurrying around Celia's feet. She stepped clumsily through the mess. Tripping over a pebble, she landed hard on the smooth granite floor. The coldness felt nice for a second, and she almost gave in to the temptation to just lay there, forgetting her objective. The kingdom had a way of fixating people on it. That's what her leader had said when Celia accepted the job. She had known that, and yet she still felt its pull very strongly.

Celia pushed herself up, grabbing the wooden banister at the top of the stairs to balance herself. She glanced left and then right, taking in the king's bedroom fully. His bed was neatly made, almost welcoming her to sleep in it at any minute. The bedding was nothing less than the finest silks, untouched by age even though no one had slept in the bed in centuries. She tore her eyes away from the comfort of the bedding to rest her eyes on what she had come for. Walking to the table on the right side of the room, Celia smiled intently.

The king's amulet lay on a blood red cushion in the center of the table. The blackness of the gem inside the ornament was almost ghostly. She held her breath as she gazed into its deep nothingness. This was the reason the elves were destroyed as a race, the reason that the kingdom lived only in memories. Celia reached her hand out to grab it, but just as her fingers grazed the silver edges, she heard a soft snap of a twig downstairs.

Turning around quickly, she poised herself ready for an attack. She breathed quietly, the wind around her rushing more air in and out of the building than her lungs would allow for her body at that moment. She watched the top of the staircase closely, but she was never greeted by another person. After ten minutes had passed, she let her guard down and turned back to the amulet. Much to her surprise and terror, it was no longer there.

In its place lay a small rolled piece of paper tied with an emerald green ribbon. Celia carefully picked it up, her heart beating heavily in her chest. She opened the paper to read a note scrawled out in what could only be the most raw form of Elvish writing she had ever seen. Her eyes scanned the words, and the message was very clear. She stumbled backwards, gasping for air. Turning around in a half daze, Celia managed to make it to the stairs. She ran down them, skipping a step or two here and there until she was at the bottom. She could see the entrance, the green walls. She could hear the wind chasing her as she ran disjointedly. The fountain ceased flowing as she passed it. Celia pushed herself through the arched entrance of the kingdom, collapsing into a thick grassy field.

As her leader strolled up to her, Celia could hear the large woman muttering under her breath, Should have known it was bewitched. Those elves are so damn tricky. Celia managed to push herself up to look at her leader in the eyes.

"What did the paper say, Agent C12?"

Without speaking, Celia handed the note to the woman. Her leader opened it, read it, and nodded sternly.

"You did well. Now get some sleep."

"But, the note... you had to have known sending me in there..."

"Yes, well, elves are mighty crafty. We had no idea. You're lucky you made it out."

Celia didn't think it was luck. If she had had one more second in the castle, she was sure she would have been immortalized the same way that the rest of it was. In fact, she knew it. She walked herself to her barracks as the wind scooped the note out of her leader's hands.

The words echoed softly as the wind carried the parchment over the brick walls into the forgotten kingdom:

"To enter a castle frozen in time,
One must not value their safety or life,
If ancient jewels are what you treasure,
Then as a jewel you'll remain here forever."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Battle of the Mediums: Books VS Movies

As a teenager I was frequently that person who said, "The book was better." I honestly meant it, too. I wasn't trying to be an annoying hipster (the word didn't even exist back then), and I wasn't trying to assert my superior intellect over everyone. I just thought that books were better than movies. I enjoyed movies, but I never had the same experience with them as I did with books. I just couldn't connect as well. I didn't understand the medium.

As I aged I began to realize that movies have a very special way of telling a specific story. The visual cues that movies have are sometimes more powerful than the way a book could deliver the same scene. For instance, I could read an entire page about the feelings behind a glance from one stranger to another, and I would feel those feelings because I know what they are, but in a movie all it takes is a few seconds (and a couple of good actors) to see that same scene and feel those same feelings. That is my favorite part of movies.

I was lucky enough to read all of the Harry Potter books in my youth, and I just saw the last movie when it came out recently. The Harry Potter series is a fantastic read. It is intricate, fascinating, and beautiful. There is nothing about it that doesn't work well in its original medium, but it is also lends to an effective translation into film. The grandiosity of Hogwarts is interesting to read about and to imagine in my head, but seeing it on that big screen really helped my understanding of the world of Harry Potter. I am sad that some of my favorite parts were left out in the movies, but I also know that they had limited time to tell the same story and get the same reactions and emotions. I think they did it justice.

That leads me to Script Frenzy (Screnzy). I write poetry; I write novels. I do not write scripts/screen plays/comics/etc. I tend to care more about details than I do about dialogue, which is a terrible, terrible quality when you want to try your hand at screen plays (or writing about people in general). But I thought I'd try to do it anyway. The process so far has been inspiring.

Since I am in graduate school, and these next two weeks of school are finals and papers galore, I decided not to do an original idea for Screnzy. I decided instead to embark on doing an adaptation of the first book of the Hunger Games series. My reasoning behind this was that I had just read the whole series, I had just watched the Hollywood adaptation, and I was interested to see how something I loved in novel form would translate to something I could love in movie form.

So, while I have very few pages of my screen play written as of now (halfway through the month, oops), here are the things I've learned so far (vague spoiler alert, if you haven't read The Hunger Games and don't want to know small tidbits about it, please don't read this part):

  • Some aspects of books work very well for films, like the action of the games or the beauty of the Capitol. Both of which I thought were handled poorly by the Hollywood adaptation.
  • Encompassing an entire scene into a short period of time with only dialogue and visual cues is a damn difficult job! For instance, I spent a lot of time on the beginning scene with Katniss and Gale because I want to establish their relationship and get as much information to the audience as possible, but I also want it to be as true to the book and the emotions as possible.
  • Establishing relationships between characters takes a lot of work when given so little time. I think the Hollywood adaptation did a terrible job of connecting characters in the movie, and I wanted to make sure I showed those connections in mine. I have realized that getting to the essence of a book character we have learned to love is not as easy as I thought.
  • Sometimes changing scenes is necessary. People and stories have to be cut to make a smooth transition through the movie without having to give backstory every five minutes. This is something I had to learn to accept as an avid "book is better" person.
  • Writing dialogue isn't easy, and it takes a lot of practice.
So there you have it. I am now somewhere in the middle of the "books VS movies" argument. I love books; I love the way they provide so much depth and richness to the story and the characters. But I also love movies; I love the way that some scenes can tear me open with just a few words and some simple glances. Movies are the ultimate "show don't tell," in my eyes. As far as adaptations go, I will admit that some adaptations are rubbish, but I have a newfound appreciation of the work it takes to do an adaptation. I think I will spend some time soon with a few good adaptations of my favorite books, like The Time Traveler's Wife, the Lord of the Rings series, and Fight Club, to name a few.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Resolutions Update and Screnzy!

Well, hello there. It's been awhile, hasn't it? Looks like my "write more" resolution for 2012 isn't going so well. That's why I'm here, though. I'm here to update you on how the resolutions are going so far, and I also have some news about NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy. I'll start with the resolutions.

My five resolutions (as listed in this post) have had some ups and downs in the last three months. Let me elaborate:

  1. Making a schedule and sticking to it: I made a schedule. It's beautiful. It's color coded, blocked out, and just downright fantastic. I love my schedule, but I don't follow it. I have a horrible problem with follow through when I plan out schedules, apparently. I'm working on that, though. I still have 9 months to figure out how to motivate myself to actually follow a schedule.
  2. Learn Spanish: This one sort of deals with the last one. I have Rosetta Stone installed. I started the first lesson. It looks great, and I am extremely excited to do it. I just haven't set aside time to be committed to doing it. My hopes are to do it this summer, but let's be honest here, I probably won't force myself to learn Spanish when I could be sleeping or swimming in my pool.
  3. Eat a well balanced diet: I, uh, may be doing really poorly on this one. I eat more fruits and vegetables these days, though. So that's a plus. On the other hand, I only do so when Emily makes it for me and forces me to eat it. So I've won some and I've lost some, I guess.
  4. Stop drinking soda: I am actually doing somewhat okay on this one. I still drink a lot of soda, and I know that I do. But I am doing well on switching to other drinks (mostly different forms of tea) instead of soda when I'm out, and I made a deal with Emily to avoid bringing in soda to the apartment (although she found a soda can in the trash that I had drank before getting home, and I definitely got in trouble... oops). Also, I still need to stop feeling like I'm losing my life force when someone offers me a Dr Pepper and I have to say no.
  5. Write more: You know how this one is going (not so hot), but that leads me into NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy!

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is a month long challenge in November where people try to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It is grueling work, but it is manageable. It only takes 1667 words a day to complete the challenge. I participated this year, but I didn't "win." I made it to approximately 30,000 words in my novel. The main goal is to practice writing every single day, and it really helped me focus on putting words down (although it apparently didn't become a habit since I continue to not write in here). My novel has a good start, but it is a piece of crap. That's the most important thing I learned from NaNoWriMo: just write, edit later.

The people who do NaNoWriMo also do something called Script Frenzy. It is also a month long challenge, this time in April, asking people to write 100 pages worth of a script/screenplay/graphic novel/etc. in 30 days. I have decided to do this. So, to work on my writing more resolution, I shall be updating as often as I possibly can about the process of learning how to write in this new medium (I have only ever written poetry and prose), and I will share the fascinating information I find.

If you want to follow my progress, click here to get to my profile. I'll be writing sometime this week covering what my screenplay is about and why I chose to do it. Til then. <3

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Skye in 2012

I love New Year's Day. I love the idea that the last year is over and can be washed away from us, and I love the idea that we have an entire near year ahead of us to make fabulous choices and go on exciting adventures during. It's promising. With that promise comes the idea of the "new year's resolution."

Some people don't really care for them or don't see the point, and most people make them and then forget about them in a couple of weeks. Others thrive for the challenge. I am obviously in the latter (what kind of post would this be if I was in the other two?). I love making about five resolutions every year, and although I rarely accomplish all of my resolutions, I know that by working toward them all I am becoming a better and more well rounded person. Like for example, I made a handful of resolutions for 2011, but the only one I remember and accomplished was "no fear." It opened my world up to let go of all the fear that held me bounded to the ground.

So since it's a new year I've made up a list of my 2012 resolutions. In no particular order, here they are for you to bask in:

1. Make a schedule and keep at it: I am horrible at time management. If you look at when this blog was started (early in 2011) and when the posts were written (one shortly after starting the blog and one last month) you'll understand that my time management skills need a little work. I always say "Hey, I'll do this" and then never get around to it. I waste a lot of time doing useless things like checking out cute cat videos on Youtube or reading articles (my current one: Racist Children's Books). My hope is that by setting down a schedule on paper and placed in an area that I look at frequently I will find more time for the things I want to do and weed out the unproductive time (although one might say that my knowledge base has grown exponentially by reading lists, and by "one" I mean me). Also, there's that pesky grad school program that will probably appreciate me spending time on homework and reading.

2. Learn Spanish: I want to learn Spanish because I think everyone should know multiple languages. I also love the language and the culture. I can get paid an added bonus for being bilingual (especially with Spanish) in my profession in my area, too. So why not?

3. Eat a well balanced diet: I have a horrible diet. I mean this in every sense. I am the opposite of a vegetarian. I love anything that isn't a fruit or vegetable, basically. And yet I maintain a very petite, thin figure. Since I was somehow born with a metabolism that could allow me to eat an elephant and not be fazed, I don't really think much about my "diet." The truth is, though, even skinny people need to be eating healthy and watching what they consume. So I've taken it upon myself to start eating fruits and vegetables and balancing out the foods I eat a la the food pyramid. This may be the hardest resolution. I am already regretting it. Good sign, right?

4. Stop drinking soda: This is a separate resolution from my diet one because this is something that I will have to actively work on even when I'm not focused on my food intake. I love Dr Pepper. I drink a lot of it when it is around me. For this reason, I am going to slowly wean myself off of it. This makes me so sad, but it is horrible for me to drink so much of it. So I'm hoping to get to a place of moderation. Everything is good in moderation, right?

5. Write more: The whole time management thing should help with this resolution. I want to write more. I want to write in here more. I want to work on my novel more. I want to write letters and emails. I just want to get my creative writing juices going. To be a writer, I must write. So that is what I will do. Now that I've written this, I am going to be held to it. Come January 2013, I don't want to look back on the 2012 year of blogging and see a measly handful of posts. Keep me motivated, readers. :)

So there you have it. My five resolutions. I was going to add something in about exercising and getting in shape (I can't climb two flights of stairs without feeling and sounding like I just ran a marathon), but I decided that I'll just do that on the side. I don't want to commit to physical exercise. I'm lazy, so very lazy.

Did you make any resolutions? If so, what were they and what inspired it? If you hate resolutions or think they are a waste of time, tell me why! I'd love to hear other perspectives on this annual "new me in the new year" tradition. And regardless of your resolution stance, I wish all of you a happy and successful new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

When Are Words "Just Words?"

Are words ever “just words?” This idea has perplexed me for a while. On one hand, I believe that words are extremely powerful and should be used appropriately to avoid hurting others, but on the other hand I have this urge to believe that words have no actual meaning, given the fact that society determines what a word means. So, which is it, or is it both? And what does this mean?

I was having a conversation with a Hispanic friend about a local store here called Food City. I had never been to this store before, and so I had no idea that the store was Hispanic based. A lot of their signs are in both English and Spanish, and they have a lot of great items there that I hadn’t expected to find. It was a general surprise. So, there I was discussing going to Food City with my Hispanic friend, and he made the comment “Really? Kinda beanerish.” I was taken aback and informed him that I thought the use of the word “beaner” was offensive. I asked him not to use to it, and the rest of our conversation went like this (edited a little bit for clarity and professionalism):

Friend: “You are Caucasian, you taking offense to a derogatory Hispanic slang term is kinda like me getting pissed off at a Midol commercial for claiming that it fixes your personality defects.”

Me: “I don’t have to be Hispanic to be offended. I am not African-American, but the word ‘nigger’ is offensive to me.”

Friend: “But it doesn’t apply to you. How am I supposed to understand…the plight of women without ever being one? It just doesn’t apply.”

Me: “It’s called empathy.”

Friend: “I'm not saying you can't [care]. I'm just saying that it is absurd. It's the intent behind something that is more important, anything less just counts as censorship to me.”

Me: “I disagree. Language is rooted in perceptions and impressions.”

After that, we realized neither of us was giving in and we moved on to a new topic. But the concept stayed with me, and it was discussed in some of my graduate courses briefly during that period. Now I’m trying to work it all out for myself.

When I first had this conversation with my friend, I was infuriated with him. As a feminist I try to stand up for marginalized groups every day, and most everyday activism, for me, comes down to language. When I hear someone say “that’s gay” or use offensive words or phrases to perpetuate stereotypes for any group, I speak up about it. I honestly believe that given the negative connotations of these words, it is detrimental to the groups for these words to be allowed use.

The idea that “words are just words” is not lost on me, though. I have seen countless examples of people using words to “take them back” and in the process makes the words lose their meaning. The word “witch” has a historical background as really offensive (being called a witch usually ended in death), but now a good portion of society uses the word freely with no real negative distinction or definition. I guess where my problem lies is that some people are still offended by that word, even though it has been appropriated.

I come to a place where I feel like maybe words are both meaningless and extremely powerful at the same time, just based on context. For instance, I wouldn’t be upset if a close friend of mine called me a bitch as a joke or to put me in place when I did something that warranted the comment, but I would be very offended if someone I wasn’t familiar with called me a bitch for any reason.

I guess what I’m saying is that I think that words have power when given power. For my Hispanic friend, he didn’t think that the word “beaner” was offensive for me because in his mind he couldn’t see why I would give it power without past experiences dealing with it, and for me, I couldn’t see how he could dismiss the word as not offensive for me when it has historically been used as a derogatory word. So, it all comes down to perception. Words are “just words” that when used in the right context can be helpful or hurtful.

What do you all think about that? Do you think that asking for offensive words to not be used is a form of censorship or a way to work toward ending prejudice? Was my reaction warranted even though I’m not Hispanic? Sound off in the comments!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Reason We Are Afraid at Night

Hello blog world. I know we barely know each other at this point, but I’d like to talk to you about something that I’ve been thinking about.

All of my roommates left town to do various things in other places, and I was left to run the house. The only living things nearby were my cat, my guinea pigs, my roommate’s suckerfish, and my dying tulips. With all this quiet my mind started to race. I began to create elaborate nightmarish scenes in my head. Every creak was someone tip-toeing through the dark; every bang was someone breaking in. Paranoia may have got the best of me, but I seem to find that this happens in basically any situation where I am alone and in the dark. I know this is not unique to me, either. Many of my female friends have noted the same responses. So, I’d like to talk about what I think this means for me as a female and what it means for us as a whole.

Is the fact that I’m afraid to be alone at night something that is just a part of who I am, or has this fear been instilled in me by society?

One side of the discussion says that, yes, it is just a result of who I am. I am a small girl; there’s no denying that. You see me, and your first thought is this girl couldn’t withstand even a mild gust of wind, let alone any sort of attack or physical situation that she may get herself into. So, it is possible that a lot of my fear stems from this obvious size situation. I am fearful because I can’t face what might be out there.

But then there’s the other side of the discussion that says a large portion of my fear is a result of society telling me that it is not only acceptable, but it’s expected for females to be fearful for their lives. This can be seen in the discourse around rape. When public organizations and groups, like universities, try to be more conscious about the outstanding rape statistics, they often implement programs to protect females from would-be attackers at night when they are alone. The types of programs implemented on my own undergraduate campus included escorts and the “blue light system.” Both of these are great buffers to the rape prevention discussion, but they fail to enact any true change in numbers. When looking at the statistics, 43% of attacks occur between 6 pm and midnight, but roughly 80-86% of all sexual assaults/rapes are committed by someone the survivor knows. Both measures, the escorts and the blue lights, are trying to prevent stranger rapes, but seeing as females are far more likely to be raped by someone they are acquainted with, both measures are missing their mark in the bigger picture.

I don’t want you to think I am trying to discount primary prevention of rape through these types of programs. Many females feel safer knowing that they have access to the police with just one button at the blue lights, and they also feel safer knowing they have police escorts to walk them home. That is great; feeling safe is an essential part of living. But this rhetoric about making females feel safer is in itself eliciting fear. To feel safer, we must first feel unsafe. As a whole, society tells females that we are constantly at risk of becoming victims. If this weren’t true, females wouldn’t be afraid to go out after dark alone and wouldn’t carry pepper spray to evade would-be attackers. Don’t get me wrong, not all females are afraid and a lot of females are fully capable of handling themselves in a sticky situation, but that’s exactly why we must fight this fear campaign that is being thrust on us. It is unreasonable for females to accept that we just should be afraid because we are females.

The best way to prevent sexual assaults/rapes is to educate people. By spreading information that is at most only partly true, the facts are being missed. As a society, we can’t target females and tell them they need to protect themselves from rapists. We need to be educating all people about the statistics (like 1 in 4 college aged females will be raped; 52% of rapists are white) so we can dispel the myths about rape. We also need to be focusing more of our efforts on preventing males from becoming rapists, rather than preventing females from being raped. There are some programs started, like Men Can Stop Rape, that are working exclusively on this.

As a female, I don’t want to go to a party and be afraid to drink because I’m not sure if that cute guy standing in the corner flirting with me is going to hold me down in the middle of the night and rape me since he thinks my lack of a “no” is essentially a “yes,” even though I am intoxicated and can’t give consent. I don’t want to be afraid at all; hence one of my resolutions this year is “no fear.” This seemed easy when I forced myself to apply to positions that I would have never applied to before, and it seemed easy when I made conversations with strangers in public places. It isn’t so easy, though, when combating society’s insistent need to tell me to be afraid of being a female.

I find myself afraid when I’m in the dark alone, but every time I feel that fear, I make sure I acknowledge what that fear stems from. In understanding why I feel the way I do I can begin to move to a happier and fearless life where I can walk wherever I want whenever I want. I can also begin to alert other females to this fear campaign against us and teach men how to be proactive in not making us fearful in the first place.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this in the comments. Also, most of the links are location specific, but a simple Google search can tell you more about your specific campus, state, country, etc.