November 10, 2010

Unfinished Waltz

A single step—yet a hard one to undertake—
Propelled me beyond the ocean blue; across lake,
Mountain and valley, on to the edge of the world.
Alone and lost, in the land of dreams was I hurled.

The years slipped by, quicker than water through a sieve…
Has anything changed? Such goals had I to achieve!
Yet I’m no different from the little girl of yore
My lifelong wishes so far, my future unsure.

I’ve found the key to my passions and desires
It’s lit in my heart and soul voracious fires
That always want more; no longer to be confined.
Yet my heart still longs for what I have left behind.

I work and toil and my dreams seem to draw nearer
My fingers graze their ethereal veil with fervor
I’m scared to go back now, to stray a few inches
For surely once I do, it will turn to ashes

Another impasse. Should I keep going or not?
Endless questions spring forth in a bloody onslaught
Doubts assail me and drag me to aphotic depths
Where awaits me the yoke of a thousand one deaths.

I search in vain for the support I once received
But it’s gone; from my family have I been cleaved,
And I must now fly on my own; forge my own way
And hope to find haven elsewhere somehow, some day.

The world is so vast, the horizon infinite.
My frail wings are tired; my quest I wish to forfeit
I seek to land, but push myself ever onward
Till in blissful Hesperides I am harbored.

Alessa Ellefson
November 2010

May 25, 2010

Living to a Wizarding Old Age...

After a month of dilly-dallying, I’ve finally managed to finish chapter 10 of my novel. And in it I touch on a topic I’ve always found fascinating: the old (and when I mean old, I mean old) age of people past.

The first time I was exposed to these life spans of vampiric proportion, was when reading the Bible (a children’s version, with awesome pictures), then have found that fact sprout or be wielded before me from time to time since. My question is then this: can we live to be as old as Methuselah?

So of course, I put on my cap, took out my pipe and magnifying glass, and googled it up. It’s amazing the theories that abound on the topic. Some of them are also very mathematically inclined (no, I have not verified it, I will leave that to other, more number-oriented people to do).

Some of the interpretations out there, though, seem to be strangely related (and I’m sure they are in some nth, overarching theory), which I feel is interesting to mention here:

Earth used to be different before “the Flood” (whatever that flood may be, or whenever it may have happened). It used to have a stronger magnetic field and/or some kind of water vapor veil all around (mention is made that the Bible states that before the Flood, it never rained—not being a Bible scholar, having lots of other things to do, and being inherently lazy, I haven’t verified this fact) that protected the earth from “evil rays” or whatnot (a side question: do you think a stronger magnetic field around the earth would help this water vapor sheet around the world from being created and maintained?).

Then what? Well, it would mean that earth was then much more of a paradise than it is now: lush vegetation (fossils tell of an era when the earth was sub-tropical all around), more oxygen (proof found in the bubbles of ancient trees—tree wrecks?) which thereby allows for healthier lives and maybe even longer lives (green food = healthy food + oxygen, when the atmospheric pressure’s increased, helps us heal faster.

And as for the electromagnetic field, well, I’ve already touched on it, but I also found this one passage that discussed how some experiments were made on fruit flies whereby they were kept in a chamber with double (or more?) the electromagnetic influence we’re currently being subjected to on earth, and found that their life spans were increased from 1 week to 60 days, and that they doubled their size.

Of course, this all requires more research (on my part for double-checking these facts, on scientists’ part if this is real), but what if it were all true? Then what we’d need to do is find a way to recreate those conditions, and maybe then we’d be able to recreate paradise!

--Yours, ever open-minded.

PS: I know I don't mention wizards, but aren't they supposed to live reaaaaaaaaaally long lives too?

April 5, 2010

Was that a sign . . . or not?

I’m diverging a bit from the “art and form of writing” posts I’ve been putting up lately. The theme of this post is actually something I explore in my movie and something I do wonder at quite a bit in real life and I thought I’d get your opinion on it, if you’re so willing.

But before I go any further, I suppose I should first define what I mean by “sign.” And in this instance, I mean it as an “omen,” an event that foretells the future.

I suppose this “sign” question begs to have an even greater question asked: if signs foretell what’s to come in the future, does that mean our future’s already set? But that is a question I’m afraid will always remain in debate. So let’s assume, for a moment at least, that it doesn’t matter whether our future is entirely pre-determined or whether we determine it ourselves through our actions.

My question then (to you and to the rest of the universe) is this: do signs exist? And if so, how much value should we attach to them? Or is it all just coincidence?

I remember reading, back in the days when I was way more into anything esoteric, a book about runes. The author was mentioning how, when you keep your mind open, if you have questions, nature will give you the answers you need. And he went on to explain how one day when driving, he saw the rune Algiz painted on a wall, telling him to go forward with his plan as he would be protected against negative outcomes. And he did. And was happy.

But what about you? Have you ever decided to go on with a project of your own only after having received such a sign yourself telling you to go forward? Have you ever regretted making such a decision based on that sign? Or have they always proved to be correct and lead you on the right path?

Or do you believe these signs are but illusions stemming from wishful thinking: you truly want to take an action and will take anything you see as an approbation?

--An ever-inquiring mind.

March 2, 2010

Read, read, read...

...write, write, write.

This is the one most important advice I've ever received, and the one which every writer gives.

I'd been off from writing for over 2 months due to some studying I had to do (still have to, but I've rearranged my priorities), but the urge to continue working on my book proved too strong and, about a week ago, I took up my novel again. I stared at my chapter summaries: the one I had to work on was a brand spankin' new one, and I had no idea how to start.

None. Whatsoever.

But I didn't panic. No, what I did instead was go to my (wannabe) extensive library, picked up one of the many books I have yet to read, and started reading. Two chapters in, I knew how to start my own chapter, and I was off.

I've been working on my book pretty diligently since then, and whenever I feel myself getting mentally bogged down, I pick up the book, and continue reading.

Of course, I do believe that the style of book you read has an effect on you on the way it inspires you. For instance, I'm currently reading Joe Abercrombie's The First Law Trilogy, which is witty and bloody, has strong voices and creates a very (make that extremely believable) fantastical world (though it does leave one with the need to hiss and suck his/her own teeth/gums). This, in turn, has led me to find a new way to express one of my villains, for which I'm grateful (though I have to make sure I don't let my main character, 14-year old Olivia start thinking and acting like a torturer).

What about you, what book(s) inspire you?

February 19, 2010

Good Luck? Bad Luck?

An old farmer used a horse to till his fields. One day, the horse ran away, and when the farmer's neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?
A week later, the horse returned with a herd of wild mares, and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?"
Then, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell and broke his leg. Everyone agreed this was very bad luck. But the farmer's only reaction was, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"
A week later, the army marched into the village and drafted all the young men they could find. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg, they let him stay behind. Good luck? Bad luck?

This is an ancient Chinese story I just read in Marci Shimoff's Happy for No Reason that a friend offered me for my last birthday (thanks Taka!).

This story has reminded me that who knows whether the things that happen to us are good or bad in the long run? Things may look bad at first, but it could be so something even better can happen afterward.
So I've decided to take Marci Shimoff's advice to look only for the good in every situation (or work up to that point, anyway). So yeah... *clears throat*
Studying for the Chartered Financial Analyst exam is GREAT, and will end up helping me loads when I have all sorts of non-profit organizations under my belt and a SUPER-AWESOMELY-GREAT writing career. Wait, let me rephrase that, I HAVE a SUPER-AWESOMELY-GREAT writing career! Yeah, I like the sound of that : )

If you were to apply this concept to yourself, what one thing would you change?

February 2, 2010

The Key Is To Have Fun

Just read this post on how to write a book in a month. I know, quite a few pointers for me to follow considering I've been on my book (on and off I admit) for almost 5 years now (dang, time DOES fly by!).

The point I retained? I need to have fun while writing and editing (OK, so I added that last part), since writing (and thereby editing) is something that I love. Yes, it's true. I'm not making this one up.

And frankly, over the past 5 years (almost) of writing (2 of which have been serious-serious), I find that my best passages, the ones that flow smooth like water, are the ones which I had fun while writing.

After thinking about it (for a very short while, I have to admit--no, shorter than that), I figured it's completely logical. The brain is like a muscle, it needs daily training if we want our performance to get better and better or it atrophies. Well, just like when playing a sport, things come to me more naturally when I'm relaxed. Otherwise it's like trying to force words out of my constipated brain: I have to work really hard to get meagre results.

OK, that was gross. Change of imagery.

The point is, I need to be relaxed and for that I need to have fun while writing.

I never think at all when i write;
nobody can do two things at the same time and do them both well.
~Don Marquis, Archy's Life of Mehitabel, 1933

Now if only I could apply that concept to my financial studies as well. Sigh.

So, what works for you?

--The Writing Apprentice

PS: Fun = Easy is a fallacy.
PPS: You can find the article I read here.

January 18, 2010

Define Your Story In One Line

After much trial and error (stress on the much), I have found that the best way for me to nail down any story I'm working on is to come up with one sentence that describe the over-arching idea of my book/play/movie/whatever.

Yes, I strongly suggest figuring this logline (as screenwriters and other movie peeps call it) before you sart writing your first draft (of course, to help you do this you'll probably have concocted a bunch of ideas or done some research already).

Why do I feel that way? Because it forces my over-imaginative (active?) mind to FOCUS (or, as the French would say, Fohk-Us. Sorry, inside joke. It's... never mind). This is definitely a crucial word for me as I have found that without this backbone, I have a tendency to wonder all over the place. Which makes for very boring, unnecessary (doesn't one imply the other?) @$#% that I later need to cut.

Pile of my previous drafts (not including the current one nor, yes I know, the one that's probably coming after).

Ah, if only I'd known this at the very beginning, I'd have been able to skip drafts 1-6, at least (yes, currently working ondraft 14--hey, I'm learning!).

Note: yes, I do recycle.

And no, I don't feel having this one-liner at the beginning is in any way constraining. I mean, it keeps me focused on the topic I want to explore, yes, but that's it. Apart from that, I can let my imagination run wild, and often times it actually helps me be even MORE creative as I find other ways to string my scenes together.

Finally, it's not because I already have a logline (or a plotline) of what I want to happen that it can't change here and there (though making changes can be quite complicated as then you have to go back all over the place to make sure it all holds together still).

Here's a great post if you want to read more about the One Sentence Stress Test.

--The Writing Apprentice

January 5, 2010

To Cut or Not To Cut

I'm keeping this one short and sweet. I know, shocker.

But here's what I read in one of the Writer's Digest articles:

"Scenes don’t have to be highly dramatic in order to perform valuable work. Yet it’s important that you examine them one by one, satisfying yourself that each will deepen your readers’ connection to the story and urge them to turn the page.

Failing that test, scenes need to be cut—or reworked until they pass."

So I guess after this draft's done, I'll have to go through everything again. At least once more. Hmmm, maybe I should instead go find another article on how to let go...

Ah, what's a parent to do?

--The Writing Apprentice

Pointers When Writing A Movie Script

June 5, 2010. Oops, I meant January. Wow, what a way to start the year...

Well, it's been a short while (OK, OK, I won't lie, a LONG while) since I've last written anything interesting on this blog (or anything at all), but I've been busy. Very Busy.

Still, I have a WHOLE bunch of things to do this year on my resolutions list, most of which involves writing. Yep, nothing to surprising there. And of course, one of those writing projects is my movie script.

So here are some pointers I got off the Screenwriting Goldmine, but which I still feel would be good to keep in mind for Any Kind of Story:

1. Make the audience care about the protagonist(s). Which means that, even if (s)he is an a$$hole/(enter other expletive) or does reprehensible things, (s)he needs to have at least 1 redeeming quality that makes us still like her/him. If we don't care about the hero(ine), we won't care about the story.

2. Make sure you are writing a genre. This has more to do with marketing. More valid, I think (but don't necessarily quote me on this since I have yet to be published and sell a movie script), in the movie industry, where marketing involves HUGE figures (subject to budget constraints, of course)!

3. Happy Ending. Capitalized. Turns out that the happier the audience = bigger word of mouth = bigger box office figure. And movie producers (or anyone involved in the movie industry) likes $. Who doesn't, really? Now I understand why Hollywood's known for cornyness :)

4. Love your hero(ine): give them great barriers to overcome, tough choices to make. They will shine all the more because of them.

5. Love your villain(s) too. Ties in with no. 4.

6. Get your story right before you write a word of dialogue. So write out a prose statement of your story and have it analyzed (by yourself and some brutally honest friends) to see what works and what doesn't. Don't worry, this is a REALLY good step to undertake, and will (generally) help you write your story faster afterwards.

7. Pick out the first paragraph of your treatment and ponder it. That's right, PONDER. Until you know the scene in and out, and can visualize it better than any of your favorite scenes of your favorite movies.

8. Sit your a$$ down and WRITE. Don't worry about typos or format or other such secondary things now. Just get your story down, let it flow out of your gray cells, through your fingers and onto the screen/paper.

9. Repeat steps 7 and 8.

NOTE: Please be aware that true writing IS rewriting, which means that though you have a finished draft, there's probably more work to be done -- you gotta love the editing!

On that note, I've gotta go back to my own editing.

Good day!
--The Writing Apprentice