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Have you signed up for 750words.com yet? Or will you try doing 750 words on paper? I’ve just completed my 20th day of doing 750 words!
Here’s another creative writing prompt for your 750 words, a challenge to write 750 words each day in January to better Think Like a Writer. The next three days of Thinking Like a Writer are all connected and I’ll explain it here, then just remind you of the prompts for the next two days.
A scan is a way to show a crowd scene economically, yet in an interesting way. It involves a series of small zooms: the quarterback’s mother is taping the game with a new video camera that she borrowed money to buy; the coach’s pencil is hovering over two names, trying to decide if he’ll start the injured quarterback or his backup; the head cheerleader is trying to shake off a headache and wondering if that red pill the quarterback gave her would help or not. In a short paragraph, you get the complexities of the crowd!
As always, start with the basic sensory details list, but this time you skip around. You can do full details for the coach, the quarterback’s mother, the quarterback, and the head cheerleader if you want; or you can do partials for each, but focus on getting great “telling details.” If you’re rusty on doing sensory details–and you have to fill out your 750 words anyway–go ahead and do the full sensory details list for each. Then you’ll have a wide selection to choose from as you Think Like a Writer.
Right now I'm flailing a bit. Trying to deal with the amount of email that came in while I was away, opening wonderful birthday presents and writing proper personal notes to all who sent them. Trying to work out who the Home Sushi Kit came from.
I've got a half-written blog post that I know I won't finish today, so I'm just doing a hasty hit-and-blog right now.
If you are wondering what was happening the exact moment I turned 50, midnight on November 9th, this was. In the Allways Lounge, in New Orleans. Photo by Kyle Cassidy, who was lurking somewhere nearby, and I only knew that when he sent me the photos...
Join us on Facebook for a discussion of scenes.
Once you have a scene list, you need to decide which scenes to actually write. I’ve found it helpful to think about scenes as Zooms, or places where I want the reader to stop and spend some time noticing details.
Scenes are those sections which will embody the tone, theme, characters, action and emotion of your story. Looking at a scene list, you’ll have three choices: omit a scene, ell the scene briefly with narrative summary, or fully develop a scene.
Omit any scene in which there is no conflict or conflict that doesn’t contribute to your theme. Also leave out any scenes in which main character can’t be present for the conflict, or isn’t directly involved in the conflict. You’re looking for drama! Conflict and tension.
Summarize Scenes: Scenes which are essential to the story, but lack drama for whatever reason. These will be minor scenes which are needed for the story to make sense, the time line to work, or the story’s logic to work, yet lack drama and tension.
Fully Develop Scenes. When a scene directly features and/or impacts the main character, it’s a potential scene for full treatment. Stories live or die by the choice of scenes to use in telling the story. Each author will choose slightly different scenes and will develop them in different ways, that’s the beauty of reading fiction even if it’s a plot with which we are familiar. It’s why there can be hundreds of Cinderella stories across the world.
It’s at this crucial point, your storytelling sensibilities will come to life. What scenes will you Zoom in on where will you omit or summarize a scene? It’s your choice.
Scene. First, is the fully developed scene that we discussed in SCENE 2.
Narrative summary. For a narrative summary, you leave out many of the details and just briefly tell events. This feels like someone just giving you highlights and may not include all the elements of a scene. It’s just getting you from scene to scene, while making sure you don’t miss anything important. It’s TELLING. So, don’t use it often. But when you want to compress the time line, skip briefly over events or speed up things, use a narrative summary.
Transitions. Another section of text might be a quick transition. It may have action, dialogue, thought or emotion, but it’s purpose is to get you from point A to point B. Often it’s narrative summary, but it can be much shorter. For example, you might start a follow-up scene like this: “Later, she went. . . “Later is the transition and it’s a single word.
Narrative summary and transition are important in moving a story forward. Well-developed scenes, though, are the meat of the story and where you’ll camp. You need all of these in your tool box, but you need to know when to pull out which.
In LA. Working hard, meeting people, sorting things out, the usual. Woke up this morning to a phone call from my agent, letting me know that CORALINE had been nominated for an Oscar. It would be nice if UP won Best Picture and CORALINE took Best Animated Picture, but truthfully, I do not believe that will happen.
Then went to record my part in PBS's "ARTHUR". I play me. And I also play a tiny imaginary version of me. (This is me recording my part, above. I am just wearing a black tee shirt, but it looks like I am wearing something much more interesting.)
Today, more meetings, then being interviewed for a documentary on the history of DC Comics.
Special thing: the people at Fantagraphics have put up a secret web-page to give readers of this blog a discount ($100, reduced from $125) on the Huge, Wonderful Three Volume Complete Playboy Cartoons of Gahan Wilson book they are publishing, and in addition are offering the first hundred people who sign up from here, free, a signed three-colour Gahan Wilson print, into the bargain. I wrote the introduction to one of the books, and am getting nothing back from this (in case you were wondering) but the warm feeling of getting 50 years of glorious, scary, disturbing and wonderful Gahan Wilson cartoons into the hearts and minds of the world.
Good morning. I cannot stay long as deadlines are happening.
Cat Mihos, in association with the CBLDF, has made the most beautiful print of Jim Lee's glorious pencil-art to accompany my poem "100 Words". It'll be limited to 750 numbered prints, and is lettered by Todd Klein. (Click on it in order to actually see it at readable size.) She decided that the first 24 hours it was on sale at her neverwear.net site, it would be $35, going up to $45 the following day. I linked to it on Twitter and... crashed the site. (Or possibly, crashed the shopping cart. I'm not sure. Different reports from people who couldn't get in.)
So Cat is extending the sale (at http://www.neverwear.net/store/) until the end of Monday, when she gets home from her trip out here, to apologise to people who had problems, and to allow people to get to it. You can read all about it (and see lots of Cat's candid snaps, including one of me in a 20 foot long Tom Baker style Doctor Who scarf I was sent by a reader who knits and likes Doctor Who and thought I needed one) over at http://kittysneverwear.blogspot.com
And on the subject of photos, KImberly Butler is out at the house right now to shoot photos of me, with her daughter Caitlin as a camera assistant. She is a remarkable photographer (http://www.kimberlybutler.com is her website). She's here because I am the Honorary Chair of National Library Week next year (details at this ALA website).
She's taking pictures of me to find one that could be used as a poster for National Library Week, and for press releases. Here are a few of the photos from yesterday, raw from her camera. I put up a selection at http://twitpic.com/photos/neilhimself. Here are four of my favourites. One of them is not of me.
(Strangest twitter comment this morning was from the person who told me off for surgically trimming my dog's ears. Someone who, I assume, has never encountered a German Shepherd or has any idea what their ears do. His ears are fine -- he just sticks them up when he's interested or listening. )
During the shoot Lorraine brought me tea. I got happy. Kimberly kept shooting.
Princess the cat and deformed bunnies (and a two-headed teddy). Probably will not be a National Library Week poster. (Click to see it full-size.)
Very quick one just to say I'm in the offices of a film company in London, spending two days interviewing editors, production designers, costume people and the like, for a short (ten minute) silent film I've written and will be directing in two weeks' time.
I can't tell you much more about it yet. It stars, er, a star, and another, different, star. I had the idea for it half way through the HousingWorks benefit Amanda and I did in April, and pulled out my notebook and wrote it down.
It got the green light on Friday, will be part of a series of Silent Films broadcast in the UK in December, and I have probably already said too much.
Wednesday and Thursday I'm doing events in Edinburgh (sold-out talks, with open signings afterwards).
I heard the first week's sales figures on The Graveyard Book, and they're terrific and wonderful. That's good. I'm also getting lots of emails from people who simply can't find it -- their bookshops don't have it or underordered, or eventually turn out to have one copy mysteriously filed under "fly-fishing". That's not good.
Some Barnes and Nobles seem to have it properly displayed, and up on New Releases and so on. Many don't. Borders seems a lot more problematic -- I've heard from Borders managers who got only a fraction of the copies they ordered, and who are having trouble getting re-orders filled.
(I've also heard from a few people who have misbound versions, missing or repeating a "signature" of pages it was misprinted, on pages 248-217 the pages are backwards (which is why I listed the numbers backwards) upside down, and cut off, tragically everything bad that could happen to a book in printing as one correspondent sighs,andpages 217-248 are missing and in their place are pages 249-280 printed twice. I am hoping that this is just a fluke in the time-space continuum, but perhaps people should be advised to double check to make sure those pages are there as another points out.So check your books and if it's misprinted, then return it to the bookshop for a correct copy. (If you got a signed copy that's misprinted, I'll do what I can to make sure you get a signed one to replace it.)
What is needed is will and determination. The first step is to talk openly about dementia because it’s a fact, well enshrined in folklore, that if we are to kill the demon then first we have to say its name.
Once we have recognised the demon, without secrecy or shame, we can find its weaknesses.
Regrettably one of the best swords for killing demons like this is made of gold - lots of gold.
These days we call it funding. I believe the D-day battle on Alzheimer’s will be engaged shortly and a lot of things I’ve heard from experts, not always formally, strengthen that belief.
It’s a physical disease, not some mystic curse; therefore it will fall to a physical cure. There’s time to kill the demon before it grows.
Maddy and I are off to Brazil in a few minutes. Well, we're off to New York where we change planes. But basically, we're off to Brazil together. She has the disarming smile. I have the unlikely facial hair. We're like Green Arrow and Speedy, only without the boxing glove arrows, the costumes, the similarity of gender and... okay, not really a good analogy, but what the hell, we're hitting the road. Or we will if the car turns up.
It turned up. We're now in JFK in the airline lounge. Soon we will get on a plane that will take us to São Paulo. I have bought Maddy every possible magazine a 13 year old girl could want, not to mention a bunch of books. I will carry on writing stories in longhand on the plane. Or sleeping. I could sleep.
Cartoonist extraordinaire Jim Smith (Ren & Stimpy, Samurai Jack, The Ripping Friends) will be performing a “farewell concert” with the band Freehead on Saturday, March 31, from 4pm until whenever at Safari Sam’s (5214 W. Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA). The concert is for a good cause: to raise money for Freehead band member Richie Hass who is currently fighting multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that affects plasma cells. Lots of other bands are also performing that evening, and Jim Smith notes on his blog that he will “draw and sign anything that holds still long enough.”
The Beat is reporting King Features Syndicate Comics editor Jay Kennedy passed away in a drowning accident while on vacation in Costa Rica. Jay was a friend and one of the good guys at Hearst. Jay also wrote The Underground and New Wave Price Guide in 1982.
A quick follow-up to my earlier post about the pixilation shorts of Chuck Menville and Len Janson: another one of their shorts is also posted on YouTube—Stop, Look and Listen. This film was nominated for an Oscar for Live-Action Short.
Tomorrow, April 26th, at 8pm is the opening of the art show “Music of Hickee Mountain” at Red Bird Studios (135 Avenue Van Horne, Montreal, QC). Many of the cartoonists and comic artists who comprise the Hickee collective also work in the animation industry at studios like LucasArts and Laika. The exhibiting nartists are Graham Annable, Scott Campbell, Razmig Marlian, Nathan Stapley, Joe White, Vamberto Maduro and Paul Brown. More artwork and detais at the Hickee blog.
David Mackenzie has gotten his hands on the hotly anticipated dvd set Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection, slated for release on May 15. This is big news as it’s the first time a set of Tex Avery’s MGM shorts have been released onto dvd. I was particularly anxious to hear how the set had turned out because…well…come on, it’s Droopy. David reports that there’s both good and bad news. He has a complete report on his blog but here’s the summary:
THE GOOD:Droopy’s Good Deed and Daredevil Droopy are both UNEDITED. Both shorts had politically-incorrect gags edited on an earlier laserdisc release. Also, some of the transfers, like the Ed Benedict-designed Dixieland Droopy, apparently look really nice color-wise. (More screenshots from the set are at the Classic Cartoons blog.)
THE BAD: Four out of the 24 cartoons on the set, or 16% of the shorts, are “DVNR disasters” according to David. He writes, “The affected shorts (termed “episodes” on the DVD, for some reason) are so badly eroded that the mangled lines are almost constant, not just in selected areas like on the Looney Tunes discs. Basically, if a character starts running, or the camera pans, you’ll see the artefacts. It’s pretty severe, severe enough to be spotted while fast forwarding.” Just look at the atrocious example below from Daredevil Droopy where both strings holding up Droopy’s swinging bar are completely gone.
DVNR, or digital noise reduction, has ruined countless classic animated shorts over the past couple decades. I wrote extensively about the technology in this article from 1998 which explains how the “restoration” process works and the effects its careless use can have on animation. During the course of research on that article, the common line I heard from telecine specialists was that it’s not the technology’s fault but rather the fault of the operators who set the machine’s levels too high. If that’s the case, then there’s got to be a hell of a lot of incompetent telecine operators in Hollywood because a huge (and growing) amount of classic animation has been rendered unwatchable by DVNR processing. The bottom line is most eloquently stated by David Mackenzie who writes on his blog, “Restoration, after all, is pointless if it ends up making the shorts look worse instead.”
It was decided early on that it would be a 21st-century festival, and that would make it different from the other animation festivals out there. They’re all based, in my view, on a premise that grew up around the time of the first animation festival, which was in Annecy, France, in 1960. That premise is really based on theatrical screenings of animated shorts and features and around the idea of animators as auteurs — real postwar European arthouse cinema with art with a capital “A.” The Cold War was a big influence back then, and there was this idea of animation as the universal language. So a big theme was man’s inhumanity to man, and you saw lots of what I call the “naked bald man film,” with arctic wind on the soundtrack. Most festivals are still pushing the idea of the single artist. But we’re trying to make a major departure from that kind of thinking. I’ve always taken the view that there’s a larger historical and cultural context to art, and the context now is totally different. Now we have the Web and video games; the computer revolution has finally happened. And I think that at a lot of festivals, Internet animation is a poor relation. But we’ve gone out of our way to see that they get the same status as traditional animators.
Horton Hears A Who is a 1992 Russian animated short directed by Alexei Karayev, who also directed another Dr. Seuss adaptation that we’d linked to earlier called Welcome (1986). The English translation of the piece, producd at Pilot Studio, was done by Niffiwan who writes more about the film on his excellent Russian animation blog Animatsiya in English.
Haven’t had a moment to watch the film yet, although the man-elephant design of the title character is a bit off-putting at first glance. Niffiwan writes, “The art took me a little time to get used to, but I soon realized that it is really quite beautiful…It shows the exaggerated, overly-saturated, slightly unreal world of the creatures which must seem like gods to the people on the dust speck.” He also offers a thought about how this Russian version compares to the recent trailer for Blue Sky’s Horton:
I think that Pilot Studio’s version changes the surface layer by using an utterly different art style (among other things), but keeps the heart and soul of the story completely intact. The Blue Sky adaptation looks like it will do the opposite; keep the pretty crust and toss the insides.
There’s a lot more reaction appearing online to David Michaelis’ new book Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography. In the Wall Street Journal, Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson gives the book a positive review, saying that Michaelis has written a “a perceptive and compelling account of Schulz’s life” that “finally introduces Charles Schulz to us all.”
Editor & Publisher has an excellent piece highlighting many of the revelations in the book and the family’s objections to them.
Charles Schulz’s son, Monte, who we’ve already pointed out isn’t pleased with the book, posted a comment on our previous Cartoon Brew post further detailing his objections. Here’s his comment in full:
The point of objection to this biography of my father is how much is simply untruthful, and deliberately so. There are many factual errors throughout the book; there are people who are give authority to speak about our family who have no insight to do so; and there are so many elements of my father’s life that David deliberately left out of the book, that it really is impossible for anyone outside of our family, or Dad’s circle of friends, to come to any genuine conclusions. I can tell you absolutely that he was not a depressed, melancholy person, nor was he unaffectionate and absent as a parent. Honestly, the quote I’ve really wanted to give the press, after reading both the early of the manuscript and the final book, is this: “The book is stupid, and David Michaelis is an idiot.” That said, I had a six year on-going conversation with him about this book, and like David quite a lot. But I was shocked to see the book that emerged, because it veered so drastically away from what he told us he intended to write. Which is why we’ve been so militant in our response. Incidentally, the material David edited out of the book is even more outrageous. The fact is, after reading the book, I decided I’d learned more about David Michaelis than I did about my dad. I found that interesting.”