Back At Last!

With the return of cable internet comes the return of the blog!

-Ryan

Delays?

Ah! Unfortunate, horrible delays!

I’ve moved apartments, done and re-done assignments for class, and am trying to consistently get access to internet service as my (new) apartment has none.

This may put a cramp in my blogging style for the month or so to come.

I should be back on track this week. There’ll be a double post, to make up for last week’s missing one.

All the best,
Ryan

P.S. Seen any good movies lately? No?

Seen any horrible movies lately? Let me know in the comments below.

Writing in General – Get Smart For Your Audience

A friend of mine recently introduced me to Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead”; I read the first volume, and I was immediately taken with it. Yes, it has zombies, but in the introduction, Mister Kirkman says outright that his intention was to go beyond the trappings of a “zombies and guns” series. “Walking Dead”, he argues, is about people surviving in an extreme situation, and their relationships within that context. This isn’t just lip service. The relationships are at the core of the book, and it’s fitting that the most dangerous people in such a world are those who are still alive.

He could’ve done anything with that concept – it could’ve been a comic book cross between Dawn of the Dead and The Stand, with the worst parts of both (read : droll scares, pointless side-plots, and a random appearance by the Hand of God). But it stands apart, and it’s been going for seven years now.  It’s one of the few series out that sells trade paperbacks on the same level with Sandman, Preacher, and – dare I say it – Alan Moore’s lesser works. And deservedly so.

I did indeed put Kirkman in the same category as Alan Moore – yes, Watchman, V for Vendetta, From Hell, Swamp Thing, and Promethea Alan Moore. That Alan Moore. Why?

Neither writer will dumb down their content for the audience. Instead, the audience is invited to rise to the occasion, and the writers are loved for it. There is such a thing as accessibility, yes – you can go too far over the heads of your audience – but in no way should you underestimate them. Instead, be brilliant. Do research. Give your work density, even if it’s a comic book. But above all, challenge your audience; mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. They deserve no less.

-Ryan

Bonus Entry! An article I wrote for Philly2Philly!

If you’re a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Twilight Saga (more specifically, “Team Jasper”), or you just like reading a solid human interest story, check out this article I wrote for Philly2Philly about a recent meet-and-greet with actors Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone. It’s me writing it, so you know it won’t be the standard “these famous people came to our city! They liked it! Random 8-year old is excited! A fun time was had by all!” piece of journalism.

And if you aren’t a Twilight fan or an Airbender lover, you should read it anyway. It’s a nice meditation on fan devotion.

I’d like to give a quick word of thanks to everybody I talked to – Austin from Phoenixville, Becky In Philly of Twilighters Anonymous, Raven, Terry, and Nikki and Lauren from Harrisburg – and Aileen, the photographer, who’s beyond cool.

-Ryan

Writing in General : Oh, Ho, Ho, It’s Magic (You Know)

For the past week, I’ve been pondering the place of positivity within a field like writing. It should come as no surprise that writers can be very prickly people; we are quick, we are sharp, and when focused on words, it’s difficult to keep the human part of the equation in mind. Being critical is at the heart of being a good writer. The more critical we are, the better we are.

But how true is that statement when we turn our criticism inwards? We beat ourselves up over every passage, every poor choice of words, and that begins to take its toll elsewhere. Even if the writing isn’t bad at all – even if our worst still far outstrips another’s best – we feel the consequences of our actions on our emotions, our personality, and our ego. It amounts to self-flagellation, and we’re tricking ourselves into thinking it’s constructive. Are the resultant scars the only way to prove to the world that we are worthy writers?

I don’t think so. We are creators of worlds. We have spent countless hours whittling away at our words, polishing our prose, and perfecting our paragraphs. Even the most mundane writer can impress a layperson with their expertise and perspective. We accomplish what few people dare, and fewer succeed at – bringing hundreds of pages of writing to life. Writers are mystics and shamans, but even more so. We can pull back the curtains. We can lay our days, months, and years of work bare to the world. We can explain everything – and often do – to the point of exhaustion.

The world is still amazed. Why? There is a hidden majesty to words, calling back to the days before we wrote, before we drew, when we were huddled around fires in the cold reaches of time, dreaming of no more than the next meal. We praised gods, told stories, and made tribes from nothing. Words are our most primal form of communication, and to scratch them down into these little glyphs and sigils still has an almost magical air to it – when done right.

Allow your inner voice a chance to say that, every now and then. Be reminded that anybody can put words on a page; but what you do with them is nothing short of magic.

-Ryan

Writing in General – Throwing Things Away

I read once that human nature compels us to acquire stuff; that we, as people, cannot be ourselves without having things. Some people’s things are odder than others; I, for instance, have three copies each of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums.

My explanation is simple; either I’ve come into them by accident, or – in the case of Red Dragon – I keep forgetting I already have one.

(I’m afraid that one day, years from now, I’ll walk out of a library with a discarded copy of Red Dragon, only to realize with horror that there are fifty others just like it in my living room.)

At some point, we realize that our lives, and shelves, are filled with things we can do without. I have an empty root beer bottle on the long white desk in my apartment; I think I liked the design at first, but now, it just seems like part of the desk. Today, I put it in the recycling bin.

Writers, when in the throes of their craft, tend to be very focused. So much so, in fact, that we forget what is absolutely essential to the story – and what is just an empty root beer bottle. In the case of the latter, we risk forgetting why it was included, why it remains, and worst of all; we might forget that we can get rid of it.

Don’t think of it as “murdering your darlings”. Your ideas are not your children, or prize pets. Your ideas are things you’ve acquired. Not all of them are essential. Some are more useful, and thus, more worthy than others; keep those.

But if it’s a loose sentence, a bad page, a misguided character, or a discarded project, remember that you’ve collected quite a few of them – and if you don’t need to keep it, toss it out. You’ll need that space for something else…perhaps, another copy of Red Dragon.

-Ryan

Writing in General – The Power of Silence

Never underestimate the power of silence.

Whether it’s prose, movies, or comics, a beat of silence can do a lot for storytelling. More than you’d think, even.

It can create tension. It can resolve tension. It can create emotional depth by letting the last words – or the words to come – dominate the audience’s thoughts. It can allow for visuals, rather than dialogue, to tell the story. Of everything in your storyteller’s toolbox, your best asset is and always will be nothing.

A single moment of silence in a drama can be destructive. The same amount of silence in an action movie can be calming, and in a horror movie, it could be positively terrifying. Silence is versatile. Silence will do what words can’t. It will go where words can’t go, and it will create mystery where there is none.

But for you folks that love lists, I’ll give you three general principles to follow when using silence.

1) Never underestimate your audience.
2) Never underestimate what silence will do for them.
3) Never underestimate what silence will do to them.

-Ryan