Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On Dream Fights and Writing

On Dream #2. Only bits and pieces today. I remember vividly sitting in an elementary school classroom talking to my friend... about his GUN. Except when he shows it to me, it's not a standard handgun. It's gigantic, like some sort of Fisherprice "My first gun." I open the barrel and out pops a round. The round is shaped like a bullet, but it's hollow and fragile, like an empty soup can. The end is frayed open, like an explosion popped out of it.

Somehow that leads to me in a subway with a group of people I don't know. I'm some sort of camp leader, and I know that we're involved in some sort of game. Except I'm not sure what that game is, but I know it's something sinister. We walk down the subway platform, which is inexplicably filled with shipping containers. On the far side another gang appears, men much bigger than me and mine. They come straight at us, evidently ready to fight. Looking into the cracks of one of the shipping containers, I pull out a foldup table and smack their leader in the face. He goes down and his gang runs. Meanwhile we get on the train, confident we're safe now.

Then I wake up.

On Writing. A question I get asked surprisingly often is, when I write fiction, do I already have everything planned out, or do I make it up as I go along? The answer really depends on whether you're talking about the overall plot, or a specific scene in the plot. I'll answer this in a two-parter (one today, one tomorrow).

On Writing Plots. Everything I write is always based on some sort of concept I'd want to see explored. This is hardly different, I suspect, from most writers. Almost 99% of the time I'll apply that concept to the real world, thinking "what if I could do this?" For example, the book I'm working on was based on the thought I had of "what if chaos followed me everywhere I went?" And the followup question "Could I still be some kind of hero even then?" I'm really drawn to hero pieces. I like to daydream about having some fantastic power and then becoming some kind of superhero. I used to daydream in high school about saving girls I liked from some terrible monsters. @_@

Anyway, nowadays I find I have an intense interest in meta-science. That is, science that doesn't really exist. For example, in the anime Full Metal Alchemist, Alchemy is a meta-science. It has rules (you can't get anything more out of an alchemic reaction than you put into it) and a society that applies those rules. Almost universally in all my stories, there will be some kind of world meta-science that different characters then learn how to use in unique ways. I find it's a fantastic way of tying everyone together, creating interest and suspense, and the key foundation to some satisfying conflict resolutions. No one likes the deus-ex-machina approach.

So then, as an overall concept, I tend to first think of a concept, put myself in a heroic role in it, and then build a foundation of meta-science around it.

Oh right, and then I change the main character's name... because let's face it, Matt Chan is just not a good hero name.

Monday, June 23, 2008

On Zones and Deadpan Comedians

On the FriendZone. Okay, I gotta say that I just don't understand the concept of the friendzone. Actually, scratch that, I understand the concept, I just don't agree with it. My understanding is that people are absolutely dead-set against dating friends because on the chance that it doesn't work, the friendship is broken. I can understand that fear, I can even sympathize with it, but at the same time its such a pessimistic view.

Here's the part where I start uncomprehending. If the above is true, does that mean we're wholly expected to date people we don't know? Because that's where I have some serious issues. I can't fathom walking up to a girl I just met a half hour ago and asking her out on a date. Why? Because frankly, I'm just not interested. Yes, she might be hot, but let's face it, you can be hot and still be mind-numbingly dull or a flake, the list goes on. So I want to know her first, I want to know that something between us would even have a chance before going through all the turmoil. That makes sense, doesn' t it? But by the time you set that all up, she then considers you a friend and your right back at square one.

Let me put it another way. When you see a dying man on the street, do you wait for him to die and then brush off your hands and say "well, at least I didn't know him," or do you try and help the guy and give him the best chance to live BEFORE he dies? Of course you do the latter. When I go in for that sort of thing, I don't look at it like I want to cover my ass when the whole thing blows up. I want to give it the most chance to succeed, so I pick people who seem compatible. If it still blows up, yeah that sucks, but at least I knew it had a chance.

That's why I'll never understand the FriendZone. It's a policy built upon the assumption of failure.

On Deadpan Comedians. So I found I needed a lot of cheering up this weekend and something that always does the job is good standup comedy. I've always been one to say that comedians (well the good ones) have got to be some of the most intelligent people on the planet in order to cater to such a huge demographic successfully. I also have a huge amount of respect for anyone who dedicates themselves to putting smiles on the faces of others. They've always inspired me to do the same, albeit with uneven success.

So luckily, it just so happened that I caught a one hour Demetri Martin special on the Comedy Channel. You may know him as one of the correspondents on the Daily Show and and absolute genius (no really, he was in his final year of Law at Yale University before he quit to do comedy). He's an absolute genius of deadpan comedy, very similar to the late Mitch Hedberg (also hilarious) and his routine put a huge smile on my face when I really needed it. Here's just a smattering of some of his best one-liners.
I think they named oranges before they named carrots. "What's that?" "It's orange... oranges." "Okay, what about that?" .... "Oh sh*t... long pointies?"
How fast does a zebra need to run before it looks grey?
If you can't tell the difference between a spoon and a ladle... then you're fat!
Now I met many chocoholics, but I ain't never seen no chocohol! We got an epidemic people, people who love chocolate and don't understand the rules of word endings.
I went whale watching once, it was very similar, to watching people on a boat get disappointed!
I mobile home with a flat tire, is a home!

You ever think its funny how finger puppets is okay, as a noun?

Hiking is just walking where its okay to pee. Sometimes old people hike by mistake.

Hot potato is a very different game when you're starving. Then its more like my potato! Burn my fingertips but I don't give a damn, its free food.

If I ever saw an amputee being hanged, I'd just... yell out letters!

On Blogs and Dream Dinners

On Blogging. Ok I told myself I'd never do this. I've never thought of myself as having the most entertaining thoughts, nor have I ever been the most generous with what good ones I have, but lately it seems like I've just had an overwhelming amount of stuff bouncing around in my head.. which quite frankly is impacting my productiveness. So there.

However, I tend to have a hard time writing without a theme. So I'm going to turn this into a dream log too, since I have the (apparently uncommon) ability to remember my previous night's dream in great detail every morning. I know some people feel weird about writing this stuff, but I figure I take no responsibility for my subconscious. So there.

On Dream # 1. I'm sitting in a giant construction bin, like one of those shipping containers except cut in half so that it almost seems like a giant roller-coaster cab. There's, I don't know, about 20 people sitting in it with me in four rows of chairs that face each other. The bin is hooked up to a cable above us, so I figure we're going for a gondola ride.

In the makeshift gondola I'm talking to a large black woman. I don't know her, not in real life anyway, but in the dream I know she's a teacher, maybe some kind of work colleague. There is no subject to our conversation, I'm only really aware that it's taking place but not of its contents. The gondola shakes and everyone files out, which is strange because it hasn't moved.

We head up the mountain on foot, except when we get to the top its now a plaza at night. All those "passengers" have vanished and now I'm standing with a girl I once knew back in High School. We walk along the strip of restaurants and I point to one and say "Does that one count?" I'm not sure what that means.

Then we're in the car. I'm not sure why we need to drive to a restaurant across the parking lot. Oh wait, we're not in the parking lot anymore. Now we're driving down my street, crossing the traffic lights. I tell her she missed the turn. She just says she'll turn at the next road. Of course, we pass it and she doesn't turn. I ask her if she's seeing anyone and she says no. Then she hugs me, except I'm in the back seat, which evidently means no one is driving the car.

Now we're in the restaurant. The tables are set up in two's, but for some reason we're not sitting at the same table. Instead, we're sitting at the same side of adjacent tables. I look across my table and at first it's empty. Then people start filing in and now I'm at a table of about 10-15 people. Some of them I know, some of them are people I haven't seen in ages, some of them are people I never even really knew or liked.

Then I wake up.