Friday, December 14, 2007
It was snowing. Not the light powdery snow that comes early on to signal the start of winter. Not the thick heavy clumpy snow of a blizzard that thwarts the best efforts of vehicular traffic, sunk in the mire for hours. No. This was chunky compressed snow. The kind that you scrape off your sidewalk a week after the blizzard because you didn't shovel and a thousand feet have trampled it into compressed bricks of frozen water, dirt, and filth.
Concrete slabs of grey-white snow were plummeting down to Earth from god-only-knows where, crashing into and through the windows of cars, houses, and businesses, tearing limbs from even the sturdiest trees, and embedding themselves in lawns everywhere. Somewhere a terrified scream of "it's the end of the world!" was interrupted by an sudden impact. I was suddenly very glad I didn't live on the top floor.
Monday, November 12, 2007
The workshop was at The Loft literary center in Open Book (which also houses the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), more on that later). There was a church service going on in the room above us, so the first hour was very distracted by songs, music, and the creaking of the floor as people danced and swayed.
I feel like I learned a lot about how what I already do is "right." I don't mean that there is only one way to write, but rather, that I already use a lot of the techniques we discussed. We talked about four techniques that can be used to "show" a story: Sensory detail, action, thought, and dialogue.
Sensory detail is the five senses. I'd already heard a lot about this, so I was glad we didn't spend too much time on it. In all honesty, I was worried that this would be the sum of the whole class.
Action, in short, meant verb choice. Use strong verbs that have the specific meaning you want for your sentence, paragraph, story. But watch out for too many verbs in a section that needs to be shorter.
Thought is thought: describing emotions, thoughts, imaginings. It can be used to show what is going on outside of a character through that character's own interpretations. I felt like this was one of the harder techniques for me to work with. So it will be one that I try to practice more.
Dialogue: people talking. It was really interesting to discuss how conflict can be expressed through dialogue. One way to show tension through dialogue that our teacher mentioned a few times was to "have the characters on two scripts." Example: Howard and Phillip are at a bar, Howard is trying to get Phillip to help him go through his late great uncle's things. To show that Phillip doesn't want to, without saying "no," you could have Phillip talk about all the different girls in the bar. I'm still a little weak when it comes to writing dialogue, but it was a fun challenge, so it's something I will enjoy practicing.
It was a great class and a big ego boost to discover that I've been doing some of these things already. I would definitely take another class there.
As for the MCBA... on Sunday during my class they were having a Book Arts Fair. It was great to stroll around the several tables, admiring all the hand bound books, hand made papers, prints, calligraphy, poetry, and other crafts that were on display. Oh and their store! It had all sorts of great papers, books, bookbinding tools, and other curiosities. I can't believe it took me 2 years to get there!
Thursday, November 08, 2007
I thought this week would never end, and here it is: Thursday. Today is an easy day. It's almost Friday, and then it'll be the weekend. And that means
Creative Writing Course!
But I was thinking. I shouldn't expect this one class to be the magic cure-all for my writing woes. I need to have realistic expectations and goals. So what should they be? The class is titled "Show Me the Story," and purports to offer help for writers who which to apply the old adage "show don't tell" to their writing. But what do I want to take away from the class?
1. A general improvement and increase in my writing styles.
I want to be have a greater range of style in my writing. Even though this doesn't seem to be the topic of the course, I think that coming at my writing from a new direction will result in changes to how I approach writing. Did I just say "approach writing" in three different ways without clearly defining what I meant to say? No. It was twice.
2. A greater ability to describe people.
Right now I feel like I can describe places fairly well. I would really love to be able to better describe people. I wonder, though, if that is something that needs to come from being a better observer of people. It's true that I have a hard time placing names to faces. Maybe if I work on that it will also improve my ability to describe people.
3. More clearly defined emotions.
In a previous post I tried to explain how I have difficulty translating into words how certain places create certain emotions. I would love to develop my ability to show those emotions and make others feel them, or at least understand how I came to feel them.
Do those seem realistic and achievable? I think they do.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
But now my evening walk home is very dark. Darker than the mornings were.
I kinda like it.
Unlike the morning, when I'm still sleepy and my mind has only mostly pulled itself out of the dream realm of slumber, I have energy and am excited about getting home. There are also more people out and about in the evening, which makes the walk less lonely. It's the lonely walk in the dark that made the mornings scary.
So... in conclusion: I like DST right now.
Adventures come to the adventurous, and mysterious things fall in the way of those who, with wonder and imagination, are on the watch for them; but the majority of people go past the doors that are half ajar, thinking them closed, and fail to notice the faint stirrings of the great curtain that hangs ever in the form of appearances between them and the world of causes behind.
Even simple things like doors marked "Authorized Personnel" spark my curiosity and sense of adventure. As if by opening that door I'd stumble across some sort of mystery begging for me to solve it!
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I think I'll have to assemble my Cats of Ulthar reading now! And maybe record some Algernon Blackwood!
[edit: added another bit of praise I received]
Over at www.Yog-Sothoth.com there was a thread about someone who wanted to do radio drama versions of HPL stories out in California. I jokingly suggested he should invite me out to California to work with him. Another member posted the following:
I really wish I had a portable recording device so I could have recorded it and maybe transcribed it. Oh well.
Monday, October 29, 2007
At the Masquerade there were several cult factions, each trying to bring about the end of the world by summoning their own deity. I was a cultist of Yog-Sothoth. Others were worshippers of Azathoth, slaves of Shub-Niggurath, acolytes of the King in Yellow.
I was a very popular character. Each faction required a human sacrifice to accomplish their ritual and as executioner my skills were in high demand. Thinking back on it I would have done things a little differently. I think I would have been more willing to kill people, provided that the faction employing me helped defray the cost of subduing and executing the victim and also pay me a tribute. (To accomplish things that others don't want, one must give up 'Karma' points). I know that in most cases it wouldn't have worked, because people wouldn't shell out the points, but I think it could have made things more interesting.
I think I did a pretty good job with my accent. I was consistent throughout the night (usually a challenge for me when I do accents - they tend to shift and change). It may not have been a 100%-accurate Italian accent, but it was fun and both I and the other players enjoyed it. For me it provided me a very simple way to clearly differentiate between in and out of character conversations (something I struggled with last year). For others it made me stand out more as a character. Many people complimented me on the accent and my ability to stick with it through the entire night.
In the end the results were very close:
Yog-Sothoth: 8 (should have been 9, but one of our cultists refused to pay in his last karma point to have his character's wife executed... which makes sense for the character, but dammit I wanted her to die! lol)
King in Yellow: 10
Even though we didn't impart the Ultimate Truth to the kingdom of Carcosa, I had a lot of fun. We were all impressed by each other's ability to role-play and create a fantastic story.
Once again, I missed a line in my character sheet. This year I missed a line stating:
Pollox is a wise scribe and the daughter of Castor and Aldones.
I only saw the line, "Castor: Blacksmith, husband of Aldones, father of Pollox."
So when I asked Castor where his son was (not knowing the truth)... well, naturally he took offense. It was pretty funny.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The darkness and shadows of early morning played tricks on me. I kept thinking I saw people that weren't really there crossing streets. If I had been listening to music, my hearing would not have been able to dispel the illusions, and I would have been constantly looking over my shoulder for a shadowy menace.
The newspaper man - the one who fills the newsstand - arrived at his corner just as a large woman was. In the quiet yellow light of the street lamp it looked more like the two were making a clandestine cloak-and-dagger drop-off.
Houses with less-than-well-kept yards seemed to retreat into the darkness of the overhanging trees. Their yards became barren dark patches of dead leaves. Fences turned into the last line of defense between me - the hapless pedestrian - and the evil, lurking, horrors that were once hospitable domiciles.
And it's only October. The sun will rise later and later, making my morning walks darker and darker.
If only I had a portable audio recorder. With that, headphone playing scary music, and a semi-conscious state of mind, I could scare myself incredibly and get it all on tape.
Monday, October 22, 2007
The horror in those layers came from trying to distinguish the scares created by the director of the film (i.e. "fake" scares), and threats from outside forces ("real" scares). Early in the game we attributed most of the surprises to the director, even though in a few cases we were wrong. Later in the game, everything was real whether the director had anything to do with it or not.
The other source of excellent terror was the monster of the night: the Mi-Go! It's too bad it's a few months late for the HPLHS competition which asked the question "What are the Mi-Go up to in the hills of West Virginia?"
In any case, it was a lot of fun to see how the final scene played out. My character, having gone from pretending to be the leader to the now survival-driven boyscout, saw the Brain Case as the only hope of escape - especially after both of his arms were clipped off at the elbow by the Mi-Go. Becky fought to the end, getting scissored in half by the giant claws. Zack similarly fought to the death.
The ending scene was great. Fade out on the cave of carnage and fade in an off-colour, grainy image of the Mi-Go adjusting something like it's leaning over you. Then the Mi-Go turns and walks away, while my character's voice screams "no! Wait! Come back!" The camera pulls back, revealing a brain cylinder, newly plugged-in, and the monster walking away down a corridor lined with similar objects.
Friday, October 19, 2007
The theme is Hasturian (my favorite!) and the title is "Last Night in Carcosa." Which I assume means the last night in Carcosa, not what happened last night.
So far, this is what I know about my character:
From Dan, the Host:
There are a lot of directions you could take Vega. At Gen Con, I gave him to a guy with a big, Erron Flynn style, feathered cap and he was the most effeminate executioner ever... but it made him really, really creepy :)"
I didn't want to play Vega as the stereotypical isolated executioner in a black hood, so I did some research. On wikipedia I found the perfect character: Giovanni Battista Bugatti. "When not carrying out his official duties, Bugatti and his wife sold painted umbrellas and other souvenirs to tourists."
So I'll take that and add in an element of sadism and depravity. A source of inspiration came from wikipedia's list of methods of execution. Although, this did lead to the discovery of a very disturbing bit of writing. Using my initial impression of Vega as a socio- or psycho-path, mixed with Bugatti, I think I will end up with an excellent character.
Borrowing a bit from last year's LARP in which a Blue Sun engineer handed out mysterious mints throughout the evening, I might bring a bag of black rocks as my "business card." Then let everyone know that my favorite method of execution is stoning or crushing by stones. (Although for sickness sake, I think sawing would make the character a bit more frightening).
Since there is the bit about Vega trying to figure out who his human sacrifice will be, perhaps I will use the stones to decide who will be my victim. If I give a stone to everyone, then the victim will be the person who does not get a stone or the person from whom I reclaim the stone I gave them. Or perhaps I will simply give stones only to those people I am considering for the sacrifice.
In the past few days I have been listening to Acting with an Accent to develop an Italian accent. So far it has been a lot of fun. However, if I don't feel that I have a good enough accent by the time of the game, I won't use it. Better to have no accent than to have a bad one that detracts from the character. I think a good Italian accent would make the character seem intriguing and friendly up front, which would allow the appetite for torture to stand out in stark contrast and have a greater impact.
As for costume:
I still need to get a mask. Any suggestions for style or specific masks?
I would like to get a couple umbrellas that I could bring with me to sell or use as props.
I need to find a pouch and rocks.
Since the wikipedia article describes Bugatti as well-dressed, I am considering wearing my suit. Although finding some fancy robes or something similar might be fun too.
In case you couldn't tell from the long post, I'm very excited about this upcoming party/game. I'll post a game recap/review after all is said and done.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I dreamt that I was standing in a hallway eating a small circular graham cracker with some sort of mallow-like fluff on top of it. Three people approached me from the opposite end of the hall. Something in the way they were dressed and carried themselves made me know them as angels. As they drew nearer, I remember one of them standing only a few feet in front of me and smiling gently.
It was then that I noticed I was standing on a circular wooden platform. I clearly recall thinking that it was very similar in color and shape to the crackers I had just been eating. Slowly the platform lifted into the air, and I knew it was by the angels' doing. They were lifting me to heaven! I was filled with an ecstatic panicking terror so intense that it woke me from the dream with a start.
I often wonder if the other passengers on the bus notice when, after briefly nodding off, my body convulses in a quick spasm as I wake up. The sudden jerk feels so violent and intense to me, and yet I have had people say they did not see it, even when I feel as if I've leapt up out of my seat.
"I waited for several seconds. The spasmodic movements ceased. [...] It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: 'Languille!' I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions – I insist advisedly on this peculiarity – but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.
Next Languille's eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves. I was not, then, dealing with the sort of vague dull look without any expression, that can be observed any day in dying people to whom one speaks: I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me. After several seconds, the eyelids closed again[...].
It was at that point that I called out again and, once more, without any spasm, slowly, the eyelids lifted and undeniably living eyes fixed themselves on mine with perhaps even more penetration than the first time. Then there was a further closing of the eyelids, but now less complete. I attempted the effect of a third call; there was no further movement – and the eyes took on the glazed look which they have in the dead."Is it Lovecraftian horror at its finest? No. It's a scientific documentation of observations of a decapitated head after execution by guillotine. It's simply terrible. Awful. It makes me think maybe we should get rid of capital punishment. I feel like there is really only a very slight difference between the cool-headed scientist exploring quick and "painless" deaths, and the sick machinations of a murderous psycho- or socio-path.
Friday, October 12, 2007
But a car approaches with a lady out the window. Does she want directions?
Her Southern accented voice is high-pitched for a woman her size.
"You look like you're on your way to work. Would like something to read?"
She leans further out the window, offering me a pamphlet.
"Well that's O.K.," she says, emphasizing each syllable. "You have yourself a good day, then."
Then they drive away with their pamphlet,
And I wonder what it was.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Before I tell you why I'm up here... on the roof... in the cold with the wind trying angrily to push me off the edge, let me tell you how I ended up with such a silly prompt. In an effort to write more regularly, I've taken to ingesting large quantities of fiber to help me get the literary shit out. That's right, that's what I think of my writing. Well, the only way to get better is to shit more. So I figured the roof is a great place to start a little pile.
I have a well-practiced and much-rehearsed answer that I tell to everyone else, even my closest friends and relatives: the stairs at the back of the building, then the ladder in the alcove up through the dark tunnel to the horizontal door.
But there, six stories overhead, amidst the shadows and darkness in the recesses of the vaulted ceiling, I saw what I can now only describe vaguely as a portal. A black, sinister, opening that appeared, at such a distance, to be little larger than a sheet of paper. With no morning tasks yet to occupy me, I climbed the narrow spiral staircase to the serials collection filled with a growing curiosity.
The sixth floor lines the walls of the library, opening in the middle to gaze down dizzily at the floor of the reading room and the intervening mezzanine levels filled with books and journals aged from new-born publications to withered and wizened elder monographs. The perspective never suited me, throwing distance and depth into chaotic disarray. I have never done well with heights, it is no secret.
As my eyes adjusted to the dim light that seemed to reach up meekly from the lamps on the floor so far below, I noticed that same shadow among shadows. The darker rectangle now appearing distinct and unique and separate from the other amorphous shapes in the artificial twilight, now disappearing into the depths of the inky blackness with its brethren shades, caught and held my attention. I know not what thoughts passed through my mind, but soon found myself shambling, one foot then the other, toward that mysterious aperture.
I remember climbing on the marble ledge, ornate and sculpted, so that I could stand beneath that odd unnatural window. This memory sticks with me because in my dazed climb, my shoe slipped off my foot and silently fell to the stone so many feet below me. My mind fell with my shoe, tumbling end over end, watching the tomes and volumes fly upwards past me until with a sudden, sharp, impact, my functions returned to me.
And that is when I found myself on the roof of the library, watching the cars and pedestrians pass by briskly in the cold Autumn air. No horizontal door. No dark ladder in a recessed alcove at the top of poorly lit stairs. No believable adventure did I have, but rather the illusions of the mad, the insane... the sleeping.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
But I was thinking: how do they do it? The "good" writers. Even the unpublished and those writing just as a hobby. What I want to know is how they take a feeling and translate it onto the page.
When I come in from taking out the trash and shut the back door of our fourplex, there is an inexplicable wave of fear that rushes over me. I want to put down in words on a page the way the fear builds as I step inside, grows as I lean against the door to shut it, and piques as I turn away from the door and take the few panicked paces back to our apartment.
I just don't think I could do it justice. Or that someone reading it would think "...and he's scared, why?" That the feelings just wouldn't translate, or that I'd use the wrong words.
Or is it confidence that I lack? Hm...
Thursday, April 19, 2007
But then about a month later, the folks at PBwiki notified me that all ads were removed from educational wikis. I didn't mind the ads so much before, but now that they're gone that's even better!
I got started using wikis in my Reference and Online Information class. My professor used it to help organize assignments and lesson plans. She told me how she also used it to organize papers and projects she was working on. I thought that was such a neat idea, I used it on my next paper! Needless to say, I got an "A"!
So, thanks for the free goodies, pbwiki