Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WIP Wednesday

It took me forever to decide what to post today- I didn't feel like anything was quite ready to be seen yet. I'm still not sure it is, but since I won't get my NaNo novel edits for awhile, here's another excerpt from The Other Side of Light.

Mr. Ambrose is waiting in his office when I get there. “Sit down, Lyddie,” he says.

I do. “I’m so sorry I missed our meeting this morning. I completely blanked; it wasn’t on purpose.”

“Don’t worry about it. I just wanted to discuss the choices we had been talking about last time we met.”

“Choices?” I can’t seem to figure out what he’s talking about. I really need to get more sleep.

“For college?” Mr. Ambrose says, looking at me curiously. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah, sorry. I didn’t sleep well last night.”

Mr. Ambrose stands up and goes to a filing cabinet. “I saved a few brochures that landed on my desk in the last week or so. I know you’ve already got your top choices, but I thought these might be a good match for you as well. Did you bring the one from Lassiter?”

Oh, no. This whole day is sucking and it’s only ten in the morning. I was supposed to bring the application stuff for my top school choice, Lassiter University. That was the whole point of this meeting. Then I remember something much worse – that my forgetting the application doesn’t matter anymore because I won’t be filling one out. Not for Lassiter or for any school. Because, thanks to my sister, instead of studying Latin and literature, I will become a crazy cat lady, staring at a couple of lanterns.


“What? No, sorry. I… forgot it.”

“It’s all right.” Mr. Ambrose sits at his desk again and jiggles the computer mouse to bring up the screen. “We can just look it up online.”

I can’t let this go on any longer. “Mr. Ambrose, you don’t have to do that. I -” I stop and take a deep breath. “I don’t have to worry about applying to schools anymore.”

He slowly turns to face me, his eyes wide. “Lyddie, you’re not telling me -”

“Yeah, I am. I’m sorry you did all this work just for me to come in here and tell you this, but I had to make a decision kind of fast. I’m really sorry.”

“But – but…” Mr. Ambrose looks so stunned that I feel like I’ve personally let him down. Great, now I feel worse.

“I know, I know. It’s different than we talked about, but my aunt’s been saying that we might still be able to make something work. I mean, the opportunities will definitely be less, but - ”

“The opportunities will be less? Oh, Lyddie, they won’t at all. This is – this is wonderful. I’m so, so proud of you. All of your hard work is paying off.”

I gaze at my guidance counselor in confusion. “Um… what?” Something tells me we’re not on the same page. How could he possibly be this excited about my not going to college?

“The Arleen Brown Scholarship. You got it, didn’t you? Lyddie, you have no idea just how big this is. I know that Principal Franklin will want to congratulate you personally.”

Oh, no. This is so, so, so much worse than I could ever have imagined. “No, Mr. Ambrose. It’s not that. I didn’t get the scholarship.”

He stops talking and stares at me. “What do you mean?” he says finally.

“I didn’t even apply for it. I mean, I wanted to – the form’s half filled – out on my desk, but there’s been a lot of stuff going on. And some of the stuff – or, well, most of it – is the reason that I’m, um…” God, do I have to say it? “I’m not… going to college.”

Dead silence follows my announcement. Mr. Ambrose looks so crushed that I can’t bear to make eye contact. I shift my gaze to anything else – my hands in my lap, my shoes, a tiny scrap of paper by the leg of the desk, the clock. Wow, it only took me seven minutes to drop the bomb. Soon I’ll be able to do it in under five without flinching.

“Okay…” Mr. Ambrose finally says. “You’ll forgive my reaction, Lyddie, but this is just such a shock. The last time we talked, you were nearly finished with the application process.”

Yes, well, the last time we talked, my life was a little more normal than it is now. But I can’t say this, of course. In fact, I realize, I can’t say anything about the lanterns at all. So what am I supposed to tell him? I can’t say I just decided not to go – he’d never buy that, not when my entire school career has been working toward getting accepted to my dream school. And now I’m going to cry. Fantastic.

“I just…” Do not cry. Do not cry. Do not cry. “There’s been some stuff going on at home and I think it’s better if I don’t go.”

I hate this. I hate this so much. This isn’t even my fault and yet I have to sit here and watch my teacher form the belief that I’ve become a directionless slacker overnight. This. Sucks.

Mr. Ambrose switches into guidance counselor crisis mode. “What’s going on, Lyddie?”

“Nothing,” I say, though it’s pretty obvious that I’m lying since I’m blinking so rapidly, trying to keep back my tears. “My aunt really needs my help and she asked me to stay home instead of going to school.” And that, Mr. Ambrose, is the extent of what I can tell you.

“Is your aunt sick?” he asks, concerned.

I can’t tell him the truth. These stupid, ridiculous rules. So, feeling like the worst human being on the planet, I say, “Yeah. She is.” Now I’ve not only disappointed him, I’ve lied to him, the man who made sure that I was allowed to take all the classes I for which I was actually suited my entire high school career, who convinced the school that taking college classes as a sophomore would be asset to them rather than a burden. All for nothing.

This is too painful. I can’t sit here awash in guilt for another minute. “May I go?” I ask, my hand already grabbing for the strap of my backpack. “I have a test in Mrs. Klein’s.”

“Yes, go ahead,” Mr. Ambrose says, and I’m out of there like a shot.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Why I Write YA

There are times in my writing process when I wonder why I write what I write. Why do I tend toward young adult fiction when there are so many other choices? Certainly, I explore different genres within YA- mystery, comedy, drama-and set them in a myriad of different time periods. But why don’t I write adult fiction or children’s books?

The answer, I suppose, is that this is what I like to read. For those of you that don’t know, I am technically out of the “young adult” reading category, age-wise. I’ve been twenty for over two months now. But even though I do read books from the “grown-up” section of the library, and have for many years, I always gravitate back toward good ol’ YA.

There are a few reasons why I believe this happens. The first is that I still feel like I’m about fourteen. Not only do I look like I’m that age, but I’m sort of a late bloomer, I guess, in many areas of life. The most grown-up experiences I’ve had have been in the theatrical world- good and bad. This is also probably why I enjoy playing the roles I am generally cast in- the slightly awkward teen; it feels like me. I am also still in school, so I’m still going through a lot of the stuff the characters in the books are. (Drama does not disappear at the collegiate level, believe me. It just means that it can happen ALL DAY, in many different buildings, and not just within a six-hour time block.) Reason #3 is that the books are just good.

The sad thing is that it sometimes seems that the general public does not share my opinion on this. YA, they think, is lower-level reading, meant for those in-between ages who aren’t at the reading level of adult books yet. But this is definitely not the case. Just like with any other category of reading, YA has its share of not-so-great books, but it has more than its share of absolutely wonderful books. At the moment, my favorite YA authors are Libba Bray and Maureen Johnson. Both exceptionally smart, funny women and both incredibly talented authors who have chosen to grace their skills on us YA readers. Their books tell teenagers and those who are not yet teens that they don’t have to wait to be an adult to have cool/funny/thrilling moments in their lives. Their books- and all YA authors’- are empowering to kids who may otherwise think that they can’t do anything because they’re too young.

When I turned eighteen, I questioned whether I was too old to keep going into the YA section of bookstores. I asked the same question when I turned twenty. But the answer lay in the books I gravitated toward when I was sad, happy, stressed, or just wanted a good read- young adult. Are you ever too old for stories you love, stories you can relate to? The answer, I believe, is no.

As for writing YA, it’s almost the same case. I can relate to younger characters. Perhaps when I feel older than a teenager, I’ll be able to write from the perspective of characters that are over eighteen. But right now, I feel connected to my young characters and what they’re going through. In addition, should I ever publish, I want to do for my readers what the authors before me have done for me- empower, inspire, and awe.

(Speaking of YA that empowers, inspires, and awes, last night I finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and it absolutely blew me away!)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Uh Oh...


How can a ten-page script be so threatening? I have about an hour and a half before I leave for my last day of filming, so I decided to work on the Assassin script a little bit. As I've mentioned, this is a mini-series of about ten or fifteen ten-minute scripts. In screenwriting, there is generally a page per minute, and ten pages is not that long. But for some reason, I am having huge problems with this project. I have a little more than a skeleton of a plot and I guess I'm just afraid of doing it wrong and then showing it to the rest of the Enscribe crew.

Guess I should just dive in...

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Other Side of Me

Hello, everyone. Just thought I'd let you know that if you have a LiveJournal account as well (if you're crazy like me and have two blogs), you can read about the non-writing aspect of my life (which mostly consists of acting and school.) I know you ALL want to hear more of my ramblings :p But anyway, if you DO want to do so, you will need to make a LJ account, as an open-to-the-public account has caused trouble previously.

Just thought I'd mention it, as I have posted a long entry on my first day on the film set, which was super fun!

Still waiting for my NaNo edits to arrive in the mail... I bet that darned mail room is holding my packages again. This will not stand!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

But... But...

The other day, I mentioned that I would get my Peter Pan adaptation grade back by e-mail from my teacher. Last night, I got back to my room from rehearsal and my roommate said, "Our teacher e-mailed us!" I got very excited and immediately booted up my computer. I was sure that there would be a few good comments, as well as some constructive criticism that would spur me on to write the entire play and then one day it would be produced! And then published! And then-

It didn't exactly work out that way. The good news is that I got a decent grade on it, probably mostly due to the fact that, as I covered in Monday's post, I did have a good rewrite of the devil dialectic scene, and my project, in its written and presentational form, was pretty well done. But in my world, none of that matters if the storyline isn't well-recieved... and it wasn't in a way.

The comments basically stated that my teacher wasn't sure what the action of the plot was, what the body of the story is, and that if the story follows pretty much the same line as Barrie's, it's not terribly important.

Getting these notes upset me on a few levels. On the grade-grubbing level, I wanted more points out of ten. On the shallow level, I wanted to impress a teacher I admire. On the skill level, I wanted to be seen as a good writer. And on the make-excuses level, I wanted to e-mail her back and say things like, "But... I didn't explain my whole plot well during my presentation! It's so much more than that! But... you only saw one scene from the entire play! I have more! I have them right here! Read them!"

I didn't do this last thing, of course. My grade is what it is. My presentation, in all its okay-ness, filled with my nervous babbling, was what it was. I can't change any of that. I do believe that my story is important, that it's a different look into the Peter Pan story we all know. But it's a fault of mine that I didn't get that across in my presentation. I had ten minutes and I didn't use them as well as I could have. Making excuses will do nothing. However, I plan to write this play. It may never be produced or published or even read, but I want to write this play for myself because I am interested in the story. It's true that I want my teacher to think I'm an awesome writer, but even while I'm composing this play, I can't harp on that, because then I worry too much about what I'm doing to actually do it! And I want to do it. Getting those disconcerting notes just made me want to do it more. And I plan to.

On a separate note, I discovered an essay contest on a board at school yesterday. You either write about your all-time favorite book and how reading it changed your life, or write about e-books and the future of bound books and literature. Both of these topics are excellent ones that I feel passionate about, but I think I may write on the latter. I have neither the time nor the money to do this (I'm on location for the film from noon to midnight pretty much every day this weekend, starting right after my Shakespeare midterm today, and the entry fee is $25. And I am poor college kid) but I really do want to write these essays. Perhaps I'll bring the topics with me to the set, since I'll be sitting around for awhile. If I win, I get $500 and that would be kind of awesome.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WIP Wednesday!

Today is my very first WIP (Work-in-Progress) Wednesday! And aren't you lucky, I have a super-long excerpt from The Other Side of Light. As I said, constructive criticism is welcome. Hope you enjoy!

My phone rings and I grab it from my bedside table.


“Lyddie!” It’s Michelle. “Please, please, please tell me you’re free tonight.”

I sigh. “Michelle, I told you. I have to help out my aunt.”

“Every single night? Come on, Lyddie. You can get out of the house for one night.”

I put down my book and sit up. “No, I really can’t.” I wish I could just tell my friends why I’m stuck in my house 24/7. At least then they might feel bad for me and come over more often. I’m beginning to feel like an involuntary hermit.

“Lyddie, please. You have to come!”

“I don’t even know where you want me to go, Michelle.”

“Spring Fling!” She says it like she expects me to be excited.

“Are you telling me,” I say slowly. “That you want me to tell my aunt that I can’t help her because I have to go to a dance?”

“Oh, come on! I thought you said your aunt was cool. Are you telling me she won’t let you go for one night?”

That’s exactly what I’m telling her, but I know she’s not going to let it go. Unfortunately, Aunt Kelly is not going to let me go. “Michelle…” I begin, but she cuts me off.

“No,” she says, half – joking, half – serious. “I will not take no for an answer. I will come over there myself and tell your aunt to -”

I don’t hear the rest of her sentence because just then, I see Julie pass my door on the way to her own room and I get an idea. “Hang on,” I say into the phone, then put it down on my bed.

Julie’s door is open a crack and through the space, I can see my sister laid out on top of her covers, an arm thrown over her eyes like some damsel in distress. What Jake did to her was totally screwed up, but I hope I never get so attached to a guy that I get affected like this. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything to her…

It’s worth a shot, though, I decide. If she says no, I won’t push it. But if she says yes, then maybe I can have finally some fun. I knock lightly on the door.


I push the door open and go inside, a little surprised at what I find. Julie’s not the neatest person, but the made bed seems to be the only effort toward tidiness she’s made for a few days, and when I see the blanket crumpled on the floor, I know the bed is only made because she hasn’t had the will to pull the covers down.

“Hi,” I say quietly; the darkness and disorder in the room seem to demand a low volume. Julie doesn’t answer and I immediately make up my mind that I’m not going to ask her about the dance. As much as I disapproved of her relationship with Jake, I hate that he deserted her when she was so devoted. Now is the time for me to be Julie’s sister in the best way possible. I sit down on the end of the bed by her feet.

“How are you?” I ask, hoping the question won’t cause her to burst into tears.

To my relief, she doesn’t. She doesn’t even move. “I’m…” She trails off. Even two words are too much effort for her, and now I want to cry. Julie annoys me sometimes, but she’s still my sister. No one is allowed to be mean to her but me, and Jake has hurt her in the worst way possible.

“Julie,” I say, trying to be comforting. “I know you’re upset about -” Oh. Probably shouldn’t mention her idiot of an ex-fiancĂ©. “-everything, and I just want you to know that I’m here if you want to, you know, talk or… whatever.” This is not going well. “I mean, anytime you want to. Ever. About this. Not that you can’t about other stuff, but…” Why do these words, meant to be so earnest, sound forced and fake? And they don’t seem to be making Julie feel any better. She’s closed her eyes and I wonder if she’s stopped listening. “Julie?”

“You can go.”

“What?” Julie didn’t open her eyes when she spoke and I can’t help thinking that I imagined the words.

“To the dance. I heard you talking on the phone. You should go. It’ll be fun.”

“No, Julie -” While it’s true that I came to her with the idea of asking her, there’s no way I can do that now, seeing how she’s feeling. “It’s fine. I don’t even like dances.” I pause. “I don’t even have anything to wear.”

To my surprise, Julie gets up, albeit slowly, like she aches all over. She walks the few steps to her closet, reaches inside, and pulls out a pink sleeveless shirt with and empire waist and lines of clear sequins running down the skirt-like bottom half. She holds it out to me. “Here.”

“Julie, no, seriously. I’m not going to go.”

My sister shoves her shirt into my hands. “Go. Then at least one of us will be having fun.”

I look down at the top I’ve been given. It’s a little girly for my taste, but I can’t exactly give it back – I’m afraid of what even the smallest rejection might do to her. So I just say, “Thanks,” and smile. Julie attempts to return it and then flops back onto her bed. She looks absolutely exhausted and though I can see that our short conversation has tired her out, I’m too concerned to leave. She tilts her head to look at me.

“Lyddie, go to the dance. Have fun. Don’t worry about me. I’m… fine.”

I don’t move. “I think I should stay.”

“No. Go.” Now there’s a hint of annoyance in Julie’s voice.

“It’s all right. I’ll stick around. We can have a girls’ night!” I bounce on the bed a little, trying to sound excited, even though we haven’t had an evening of sisterly togetherness in years.

“I don’t want a girls’ night,” she says, sounding even more irritated. “I want you to go to the stupid dance and have fun. Now go get changed and leave me alone.”

Now I’m aggravated. I’m trying to show some concern for my only sister in her time of need and she’s pushing me away. Can’t she see what I’m trying to do?

“Fine,” I snap. “Go ahead and wallow.” I head for the door, but before I leave the room completely, I turn back to her. “And just so you know, Jake was not as much of a catch as you thought he was. I can’t believe you were actually going to marry him.”

It comes out a lot nastier than I meant it to and I see Julie’s lower lip begin to tremble. I should apologize, but I’m still annoyed, so after hovering in the doorway for a second, I go back to my own room, tossing Julie’s shirt onto my bed. It lands beside my phone, and suddenly I remember that I left Michelle on the other end of the line. I snatch it up.

“Hey, sorry.”

“God, where did you go? I’ve been waiting here for like an hour.”

“Don’t exaggerate.”

“I’m not,” she says. “I gave myself a complete pedicure while I was waiting for you.”

“Good for you.”

“Geez, what’s your problem?”

I sigh. I can’t have someone else mad at me tonight. “Sorry. I just had a fight with Julie. But, hey, she said she’d stay home for me – I can go to the dance.”

“Awesome! What are you wearing?”

“Uh… well, she gave me this pink shirt,” I say, staring at the sequins reflecting the light. “I guess I’ll wear that. I don’t really have anything else dance-y.”

“Pink?” Michelle asks incredulously. “You?” Then she giggles. “Trying to get Aaron’s attention?”

“Shut up,” I say. “No. That’s not it at all. I’m just… wearing it.”

“Mm-hmm. Okay. Well, Trevor and I are heading over around seven. Do you want us to swing by your house?”

“No, it’s fine. I’ll get there.”

“Okay. I’ll see you in a little while then. Go make yourself pretty for your boy.”

I instantly begin to protest. “He is not my -” But she’s already hung up, so I put down the phone and reach for Julie’s shirt. It is really not me, but what I told Michelle is true – I do not own anything that could be worn to a dance. I don’t even know what to wear under this.

Fifteen minutes later finds me in front of the mirror wearing black capris and the sparkly pink shirt. I don’t really think I’m dressed right, but it’s the best I can do. I’ve never cared about not having proper dance clothes before, but despite my protesting to Michelle’s teasing, I wouldn’t mind it if Aaron noticed me. He didn’t seem think I was gross or anything when he stopped by the other day, and since this shirt is like a freaking disco ball, there just might be a chance he could look my way.

This thought causes me to attack my small collection of make-up, which proves to be even less varied than I had thought. I have no lip gloss, no blush, and a collection of eye shadow that’s probably left over from my and Julie’s dress – up days. I do the best I can with my limited options and inexperienced hands, and in the end, I don’t look completely hopeless.

I check the time. I have half an hour to get to the school, which is within walking distance of my house. Digging to the back of my closet, I come up with a pair of heels – my shoes for an honors convocation a few years ago and the lowest heel I could get away with. I slip them on, hoping my feet aren’t completely torn up by the end of the night; the shoes aren’t really broken in, as honors convocations rarely involve anything beyond sitting, standing, and eating cookies.

I stuff my cell phone and student i.d. into a tiny, frilly purse given to me by someone who obviously didn’t know me very well. It’s that or a backpack, and somehow I think the latter will attract the wrong kind of attention.

As I head downstairs, I crane my neck to see if I can sneak a peek at Julie, just to make sure she’s okay. But her door is shut tight and there’s not even a strip of light at the bottom. I should tell her I’m sorry before I go. I should, but I’m still annoyed at her, and I’m probably not staying at the dance for long anyway. We can have a heart – to – heart later. And so I go downstairs and slip out the door and into the night. At last – freedom.

Monday, March 22, 2010

When I Least Expected It... Success!

In two areas!

This morning, my Children's Theatre teacher gave us back our Peter Pan adaptation projects. I really wanted it, but she's doing so much in addition to her teaching that I didn't know if we'd ever get them back. But this morning, we finally did! She said she is going to send us our grades through e-mail but that she had written some comments on the papers we had given her. I had handed in a nice, covered copy and flipped through it... no comments. I was rather upset. But then I thought to check the copy that was just stapled, which I had given to the second judge. Lo and behold- comments! Only two, but they were both great. She really like the vocabulary I chose for George and Mary Darling, both, particularly the lines, "Your sister is the very embodiment of sloth," and "The verdure of England is hardly my chief concern at the moment." I was happy to see this comment because, as I stated before, I like to give characters their own ways of speaking.
The second comment was the one that made me happiest- at the end of the rewrite of that terrible scene that gave me so much trouble, she wrote, "What a great rewrite!" and underlined it four times. Hooray!!!

A non-writing success surprise: after eight months of being without a real production to act in, I was cast in a student film yesterday! I am soooo excited, especially since it's something completely different from anything I've ever done before (a slasher film, in which I play a violently raised, murderous teenager.) I'm not exactly sure what this film will entail besides four days of filming- I haven't gotten the script or the shooting schedule yet. But I can't wait to get started!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Things I'm Excited About

(A segment inspired by my friend Angela's blog, though I'm not doing exactly the same thing.)

1) Last night, I wrote a lot of The Other Side of Light (and by a lot, I mean around 2,750 words). I love that I love this story right now, and I need to take advantage of it before the "I have no idea what comes next" wave hits. So I was typing away until nearly two in the morning. I knew I had to get up at seven to film, but I couldn't stop writing. I love that.

2) I was so excited about the stuff that I wrote last night (as well as Hannah's encouraging comment on last night's entry- thanks, Hannah! (: ) that I wanted to share it right away. I know from experience, however, that what seems great at two in the morning through blurry contact lenses might not look so great in the light of day. So I didn't post it, and in the morning, I nervously opened the document and read over what I had composed early this morning. And... I still liked it. A lot. I changed a few things here and there, and there are a few important details I need to work out, but I still like what I did. I want to share it with all of you, but I think I'll save it for WIP Wednesday!

3) During the filming of the short today (which I wrote), my friend made a passing comment about how he loved my word choice in the piece. He was mostly referring to the directions I had written more than the lines, but it was still nice to hear this. I choose every word carefully, which is why I am so specific in memorizing others' words as an actor.

4) Sort of writing related is how much we filmed today. Ten hours' worth: the short and a teaser trailer for the mini-series. I was only in front of the camera for the former, but I was still crewing the latter, and WOW am I exhausted. But also very, very happy. (It is also easier to not feel guilty about spending all this time on these films lately because my mom LOVED our last one. When we were filming the one she loved, she was not a huge fan of Enscribe, for a few reasons. But, without any promoting from me, she found our latest project and let me know how much she loved it. It was gratifying and just plain awesome to have someone whose opinion I respect come to me and say she loved something I put a lot of work into.)

5) Though I'm NOT excited to get back to school and all the projects that are due the day I get back, I can't wait to get my NaNo novel revisions back. I'm nervous as well- I know there are a lot of improvements to be made- but I think my editing buddy will be open about what she likes as much as what she doesn't like, and I'm eager to hear both sides. I've been itching to get back to that story, but have held myself back to allow my mind to be fresh when I get the edits back. I can't wait to see that yellow parcel slip in my mailbox!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Collaboration is GOOD!

Today I had a writing session with Enscribe partner, Stuart. He asked me to write a series of shorts (or, as we're calling them for this project, episodes) based around a broad plot involving a male assassin and an "intriguing female character". While I enjoy writing from plots others give me, I was having a lot of trouble with this one, as action-based plots (meaning fights, etc.) are things I rarely-scratch that, never- write on. He, on the other hand, has written a fair amount of action, so I asked for some assistance.

The two-hour session was actually quite successful. We established some of the finer parts of the conflict, which is another bit I was having trouble with, as well as working out the relationship between the two main characters, Jack and Alexis. It was cool to get his take on the latter- the exchange of ideas was rapid and we got a lot out of both of our takes on the characters. We're going to shoot these episodes over the summer. I'll most likely be directing the first one, since I'm playng Alexis and she doesn't show up until episode two, and she's only in about three minutes of that one. So I guess the next month and a half of school will be pretty busy, what with school work and writing at least 10 episodes of this plot!

Tomorrow we're going to shoot a trailer for the above project and a short that I wrote awhile ago, about a brother and sister on a killing spree (although the audience doesn't know what they've been doing until a reveal at the very end.) It'll be easy to shoot, especially since we're setting it my kitchen, which is a little bigger than the one we usually use. It'll be a really fun day- great crew, hopefully a good script, and as a bonus, it's supposed to be nice out, so shooting outside won't be something to dread (the last time we filmed outside, it was about 28 degrees and we also almost got arrested for trespassing.)

But this is a writing blog, so I will talk no more of my acting ventures.

I said yesterday that I hoped to put up some excerpts from a work in progress, and I'm going to live up to that promise. I have also decided to make it a weekly thing. A lot of people do "WIP Wednesdays", and I think I might jump on that bandwagon. It'll be really hard for me, mostly due to lack of confidence in my creations. However, I am hoping to have recieved my NaNo novel revisions in the mail when I return to school, and so I will at least be working on something consistently. I also hope that perhaps by forcing myself to post something every week, I will get braver. Constructive criticism is welcome! And without further ado, here is this week's WIP excerpt, from The Other Side of Light.

Aunt Kelly leads me into the front room and asks me to sit. Before she takes a place next to me, she walks the few steps to the table that holds the lamps and adjusts the height of the flame. Then she sits down and looks at me seriously.

“Lyddie. Your sister is getting married.”

“I know. It’s awful, right? She’s known the guy for three seconds and suddenly they’re ready to tie the knot.”

Aunt Kelly sighs. “I do agree that it seems a little fast. But she does seem happy, and I think Julie is the type who can marry young.” Her gaze becomes sharper. “Do you know what this means?”

I’m a little put off by her stare. “What what means?”

“That your sister is getting married.”

I’m confused. “It means that… she’ll be married.”


“Okay…” I am so not getting where this conversation is going besides in circles. “Is there some reason she shouldn’t be? I mean, besides the ten thousand obvious reasons?”

Aunt Kelly hesitates. “Well, no, Julie is free to make her own decisions, but unfortunately, she did not take everyone into account when she made this decision.”

“Like who?”

She looks at me steadily. “You.”

What? “Me? What does her marriage have to do with me?”

“Well…” Why does she look so nervous? “In our family, as you know, there is a duty that falls to one woman. Because it is so demanding, that woman does not work or get married.” She looks at me as if she’s hoping I’ve caught on. I have, in a way. I know she’s talking about the Lantern Keeper. But I still have no idea what that has to do with -

Then it dawns on me, slowly but surely. “Oh, no.” I shake my head. “No way. That’s so unfair!”
“I’m afraid that’s how it works, Lyddie. Julie has too many distractions now, in addition to her being a little flighty in the first place. The honor now transfers to the next woman in line.”

“Stop. Wait. No.” I am not just going to let this be thrust upon me. “So just because Julie decides she’s in love, I have to take over her pre-destined job? What about any plans I’ve already made? College? A job? Marriage of my own? I just have to let all of those things go because Julie’s got other plans?”

“I wish it could be otherwise, but that’s -”

“Then make it otherwise! You’re the reigning keeper-person-- can’t you change the rules?”

“No,” Aunt Kelly says. “I can’t. I’m sorry.”

“But this is my future we’re talking about here. Don’t you see what a big deal this is for me? All those college applications I’ve been filling out are completely pointless because I can’t go to a university anymore.”

“You could do a correspondence course,” Aunt Kelly offers, but I’m hardly listening anymore.
“What am I supposed to tell people now? ‘Oh, no, I’m not going to college anymore. I’ve decided to spend the rest of my life holed up in my house as a double-major in lantern keeping and boredom’?”

And with that, I turn on my heel and run out of the room.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's In a Name? That Which We Call a Rose By Any Other Name...

(Yes, my Shakespeare class is proving helpful, LOL.)

Names are something I've always loved. Not even solely for writing- I just love names. And choosing names for characters in my stories/scripts can sometimes be an arduous process, as they not only need to match the character's personality, but they need to roll of the tongue, especially in a script. This includes their last name, and sometimes, on the rare occassion I bring up their middle name, that, too. It becomes more complicated if a character is married and for some reason I bring up their maiden name or they get married in the middle of the story (which I think I may have only done once. I write mostly YA, so marriage is not really a theme in my stories.) If they have siblings, their names must also sound good together.

Lately I've been getting lucky with names- my characters are just naming themselves! This is almost as interesting as carefully choosing names for them, as the names they pick are not ones that I would normally go for. For example, Pauline. Not a huge fan of the name, but Pauline wanted to be Pauline and so, she is. Same with Eliza and her friend Jonah. I never thought those two names would appear in my writing, but they're there with top billing in Q/Quarantined.

Here are some of my favorite names I've used over the years (mostly girls', as they tend to be my main characters):

-Marianne (script)
-Ruthie Halpert (Remembrance. I'd wanted to use the last name for years before I finally found a first name- and a character- that fit it.)
-Noah Halpert (Remembrance- Ruthie's little brother)
-Claire (script)
-Caleb (script)
-Adam (script)
-Amy (script- Adam's sister. It was not until the script was completed that I realised their names together were nearly the name of a currently famous actress [who also happens to be one of my favorites].)
-Lyddie Palmer (The Other Side of Light)
-Julie Palmer (The Other Side of Light, Lyddie's sister)
-Thomas Callum Flynn (Caroline. Yes, I had to put his full name, a) because it sounds so good and b) because I am in love with him.)
-Caroline Eberlee (title character, though the title will not always be her name.)
-Alexis Holt (script)
-Jack Brennan (same script. He dates Alexis.)
-Claire Medina (different Claire, different script.)
-Lexa Harris (last year's failed NaNo novel)
-Drew Donovan (same thing. Lexa's friend- and love interest.)

And those are just the main characters! What are some of your favorite names?

(I'm trying to get up the nerve to post something from a WIP tomorrow... I admire those who have the courage to post them more regularly.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Making Distinctions

As I was working on the Peter Pan project I have mentioned before, there was one question that we had to answer as part of our final presentation: What makes your writing disctinctive?

In the case of the project, the question was inquiring specifically about our style of writing for that particular story, not even our playwrighting style overall. But it got me thinking- what makes my writing different from other people's? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps something.

I tend to be a "copier" in nearly everything I do. Though I do think it partially comes from a lack of confidence, it's is also sometimes a homage to something wonderful or even an unconcious thing (the latter is something I have to be quite careful about, actually. I have a really good memory and will sometimes form this wonderful "original" idea, writewritewrite... and then realise it's the exact premise of a novel I read when I was in elementary school. Oops.) But looking back at my writing over the years, even my early writing, there are a few things that stand out to me as being very "me":

-Dialogue. I've been told I have an ear for dialogue, and though I take that with a grain of salt (because I've also been told by a few others that some of it is unrealistic), it is something I pride myself on. I love to hear the differences in people's syntax and regionalisms; this may come from the fact that I planned to minor in linguistics and read a lot on the subject in high school, but some of it is just general interest. I could write a lot more on this subject alone (I'm the nerd who, just yesterday, was reading theses on the Lancaster County, PA syntax- and I'm from there!), but suffice it to say, dialogue is something I pay attention to. I like to give each character their own voice and I try to pay close attention to making anything they say fit with the period of the story, as well as their own personality.

-Character development. This is actually not something that I, myself, notice in my own writing, but what has been told to my by some people I've worked with, writing-wise. Even though I can't see it (maybe because it's my own creation and I can't step outside of it), I am glad to know that, even in a short film script, viewers feel like they know a character after just ten pages.

-Sarcasm. Writing is the perfect way for me to unleash my inner cynic. I recently saw a Facebook fanpage entitled, "You think I'm a nice person? You should hear what goes on in my head." While this is a very extreme version of what I'm saying, I do allow my most sarcastic, and sometimes cynical, voice to flow into my characters, especially one in particular that I'm writing right now. Even looking back at writing I did very early on (like elemntary and middle school), the sarcasm is definitely there. I never realized just how sardonic most of my characters are until recently, when I wrote two protagonists (in different stories) whom the sarcastic voice just did not fit. Both of them are far too earnest of people, one because it's just not her and the other because she has had very little contact with people who would think of speak like that, so she just don't know how. It was actually a relief to find that I could write someone more straightforward, to know that I wasn't stuck in one voice.

-Grammar/Conventions. Yes, I know this blog (and my writing in general) is not perfect, but I like to think I've got pretty good grammar. Though I pride myself on it, I also sometimes find myself jealous of those writers who can just write, knowing that they will find their errors later and edit them. I just can't do that- I try to get it right from the first. Of course, this never happens, but I still try :p One of my friends just writes, not worrying about whether "cat" should actually be capitalized or not, what should be four sentences flowing into one because she's so into what she's writing that she forgets to put periods in. I wish I had this sort of freedom (although, having edited some of her pieces, I will say that this style makes me crazy!)

That's about all I got. Fellow writers, what are things that make your writing distinctive?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Writing My Own Opportunities

This blog is about my writing... which means this blog, at the moment, is about one of the only things that is keeping me sane at the moment.

See, when I'm not being a student at college, my life is mostly focused on being an actor. Besides the fact that I'm studying acting at school, a good chunk of my free time is spent looking for auditions, preparing for auditions, going on auditions... and then waiting. The waiting doesn't really bother me because I know that's how it works most of the time. But usually, something comes of that waiting, namely a job. And lately... it's just not happening.

This very frustrating to me because when I was in high school (a mere year and a half ago), I was always in a show. Most of the time I was in two at once. I was by no means the lead in most of them, but even a chorus role made me happy because I loved being at rehearsal. When I wasn't at rehearsal, I was at auditions. During performances, I sat at the dark edges of the wings and did my homework by the lights of the stage, quickly stuffing it away when it was time for my entrance.

Last year was a little slower than usual, but I chalked it up to the fact that I was in a new town. I went crazy for one showless semester and then I got the biggest show of my life so far- a wonderful Equity show where I played a fun, constantly-crying character in a little-known but fantastic play. The small cast was the best I've ever worked with, and the same goes for the crew.

This particular show has been on my mind a lot lately, for two major reasons. A) In two days, it will be the anniversary of its closing after an extremely successful run and B) I have been showless for eight months. EIGHT MONTHS.

I wish I could say it's because I've been lazy or busy. I have been loaded down with schoolwork and stuff, but I've been auditioning constantly... and gotten nothing. I had an audition at the beginning of last month where I knew the pianist, who kept me updated on what was going on behind the scenes. For two weeks I heard nothing but "You're in the top two" "The director loved you", etc. etc. Wonderful, encouraging things... and then I didn't even get a callback.

My acting teachers have assured me that this is all "fine" and normal. And maybe it is... but I can't help but feel restless to the point where I will do anything for a show.

So how does this relate to my writing? Well, as I've mentioned before, I'm part of a film crew. I became involved with them when we were all in eighth grade. Now we're nineteen and twenty and still working together. While I started out playing bit parts in their short films, I'm now their go-to actress (the rest of the crew are boys) and writer. I've written two feature films for them- one that we shot in the summer and fall of senior year and another that we're doing this summer. I've been cranking out shorts for us to do in between feature shooting and the aforementioned Stuart (director, writer, actor, and friend) has asked me to write a series of shorts that follow the same storyline, something I've never tried before.

This is all wonderful for my writing. Writing shorts, especially, has given me a freedom I've never experienced. I'm mostly a novel/feature-length screenplay writer, and working a plot, or part of a plot, so that it fits into a certain timeslot is a new challenge for me, and a really fun one at that! So far this semester, I've written about a brother and sister on a killing spree, a long-lost romance rekindled in a coffee shop in the wee hours of the morning, an odd and comical encounter at a funeral, and the return of a prodigal sister. This is stuff I'd probably never get to touch in a novel, and maybe not even a screenplay.

As good as it is for my writing, it's just as beneficial for my acting. As I said, this is all stuff I would probably not normally write about. It's also stuff I wouldn't usually act in. I'm generally cast as the sweet (sometimes overly-emotional) teenager (case in point- in my school's musical theatre club, I just got cast as Leisl in Sixteen Going on Seventeen.) I adore playing these characters because they're very close to me and I love them. But I won't be able to play them forever. While I'll probably always look young for my age, I won't always look sixteen (even though I'm beginning to sense that I'll always feel sixteen inside.) Writing these crazy parts is an interesting process because, as the only girl on the film crew, I know that most likely, I'll be the one playing the female parts. I could take the easy way out and only write the sweet girl characters. I could, but that wouldn't challenge me as a writer or as an actor. My teachers are school are working to stretch my range (one of them loves to cast me in roles for class where I scream and rant a lot), and I want to figure out how to do that myself.

So I'm going to continue to audition- you bet I'm going to continue- but I'm not content to sit around and wait. I'm going to keep writing and acting and practicing and maybe one day, it will all work out.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Writing Buddies

I have mentioned before that I rarely show my writing to anybody, but there are two people to whom I regularly show my compositions, and those are my two friends Katie and Stuart. These two friends have been very important to my writing process.

Katie and I began writing together when we were fifteen. We had been friends for two years already, but in our tenth grade honors English class, we were given an assignment to write something based on the story of the Fischer King. Out of our possible options, we chose a news program. We began writing and didn't stop, even after the project was turned in and graded.
Four and a half years later, we have a feature-length screenplay that's crazy and quite funny.

How has Katie helped me? Well, I'm usually pretty serious in my writing process, as I suspect she is, but with Crosse's Time, we both threw away our restraints and would spend hours IMing each other ideas, which we would immediately incorportated into the story. It was like improvisational writing. She's supported my craziest ideas, and I like to think I've done the same.

Stuart and I began to work together, writing-wise, in about eleventh grade, perhaps sooner. I know he proof-read a play I wrote and I read a lot of his poetry. As the years went by, we began to exchange more and more writing, and soon those collaborations turned into movie collaborations. We write scripts both together and separately and then act in them for our film company, Enscribe Studios.

How has Stuart helped me? By being blatantly yet gently honest- he tells me what works and what doesn't and he also helps me with the guy's point of view. When I was writing the period film Requited (which we're filming this summer), I was trying to figure out how I wanted it to end- happily-ever-after or not so much. I ended up deciding on the latter and at one point in the writing process, needed a guy's point of view on it. We had some very interesting discussions as to what an audience of guys and girls alike would accept. Some of the stuff I presented didn't work for him and a few ideas he had didn't work for me. It's been cool to have the different perspective.

I very much value my writing buddies and hopefully we'll keep up the work we've been doing well into the future :)