A Writing Meme

1. Tell us about your favorite writ­ing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

When I was an undergrad (this appears to be the day for undergraduate nostalgia), I took a course called Parageography, which is “the study of imaginary places.” It was developed and taught at the University of Texas at Austin by Dr. Douglass Parker, who structured the course as partly literary–we read things like The Wizard of Oz and Orlando and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–and partly creative writing in that we were required to come up with our own, well, worlds. We made languages and maps and all kinds of things. My world was called AElit, and I wrote part of its holy book (the Teuchos) in actual AElitian. I came up with an extensive theology, etc. I even started writing a novel based in this world, and I hope some day to finish it. I go back and tinker with it now and then.

2. How many char­ac­ters do you have? Do you pre­fer males or females?

How many characters do I have in what exactly? Right now I’m writing a play with two characters and a third poised to make an appearance later on.

3. How do you come up with names, for char­ac­ters (and for places if you’re writ­ing about fic­tional places)?

If I’ve got a character fleshed out enough, the right name will come to me. I’ll cast around for a bit until something fits. Same for places. I couldn’t begin to tell you where I came up with AElit except maybe I had been looking at a bookshelf with an old encyclopaedia and thought I’d like to use an “ae.” Or maybe it was an archaeology text. For my deities in that particular world, though, I used Greek and Latin roots. Like the goddess of death is Telamenos which, if I’m remembering right, means “ending spirit.” I recall a different Classics professor being very excited by that for some weird reason.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Well, you know, I started out writing stories based on movies and television shows that I liked (which is why I went into screenwriting later), so all my early characters were borrowed. Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, etc. I guess one of the first stories I wrote that was original is one I sort of came up with while playing with my best friend. We were the Hemlock sisters and we solved mysteries. I was Elizabeth and my friend was Lauren, and we lived with our Aunt Miranda (“Aunt Randi”). Later I wrote a short Hemlock sisters story for a reading class. I still have it somewhere, I think.

5. By age, who is your youngest char­ac­ter? Old­est? How about “youngest” and “old­est” in terms of when you cre­ated them?

Good God, I don’t know. Akkad and Sekhmet are probably my youngest in terms of age; they’re just shy of 13. And Tithendion would be the oldest, since he’s basically the father of the gods. But the Hemlock sisters are oldest in terms of when they were created. And these play characters (Arthur & Dilly) are youngest, I guess.

6. Where are you most com­fort­able writ­ing? At what time of day? Com­puter or good ol’ pen and paper?

Mostly it’s important that I be alone. Not just in the room, but the whole house should be empty. And I’ve found it difficult to write where I currently live for whatever reason, so I travel a lot to write. Mid-afternoon and late at night are best for me. As for computer or pen and paper, I do both. Sometimes it depends on the story, sometimes it depends on where I am and what I have access to.

7. Do you lis­ten to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your char­ac­ters?

Music inspires me, so I get a lot of ideas from it. But that’s usually when I’m driving and listening to the radio. And there are songs that make me think of my characters. I do sometimes listen to music while writing, too, but most often I don’t.

8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?

I’m not sure what I write. Fantasy, I suppose, and sometimes mystery. I started a YA novel that I never finished. I’ve got a paranormal romance novella going at the moment. Which is funny because I’ve never read any paranormal romances. I do like to read mysteries and historical biographies and Regency romances. I used to read a lot of fantasy, too, but got bogged down by so much of it.

9. How do you get ideas for your char­ac­ters? Describe the process of cre­at­ing them.

I haven’t a clue where they come from. I usually start with a situation, I think, and populate from there.

10. What are some really weird sit­u­a­tions your char­ac­ters have been in? Every­thing from seri­ous canon scenes to meme ques­tions counts!

My fanfic characters get into way weirder situations than my original ones, but let’s assume you mean my originals. Well, Seladion and Amaurodios get kicked out of Argyros (think of angels being booted from Heaven and you have the gist), David and Andra have a past history as Greek gods, and in one of my plays two of the characters are possessed by ghosts.

11. Who is your favorite char­ac­ter to write? Least favorite?

I guess this depends on the project, but I often enjoy writing Seladion because he’s just so sly and can be so nasty. It’s fun. Akkad might be my least favorite, since he whines a bit.

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world­build­ing? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?

Oh, the AElit stuff by far. I trenched in and created something very complex there. A whole other language, in fact, and snippets of their literature (plays, prayers, inscriptions).

13. What’s your favorite cul­ture to write, fic­tional or not?

It’s funny because AElit isn’t actually my favorite culture to write, which may be why I haven’t finished it yet. I’m having fun with the film set culture in “The K-Pro.” And I also like setting things in ancient times, Greece and Rome and Egypt.

14. How do you map out loca­tions, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I have a map of AElit but there’s no digital file.

15. Mid­way ques­tion! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether pro­fes­sional or not!

I like a lot of Neil Gaiman’s work. Stephen King, too. These guys know how to tell a compelling story.

16. Do you write roman­tic rela­tion­ships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you will­ing to go in your writ­ing? 😉

I write attraction. I write sexual tension. And sometimes there’s even some actual sex, though I’m of the pan-the-camera-away type, so my readers usually only get a taste of the foreplay and the aftermath.

17. Favorite pro­tag­o­nist and why!

Of mine? “The K-Pro” has two protagonists, and I like them both because they are very real but also just slightly unreal. Being incarnations of Greek gods does that to a person, I suppose.

18. Favorite antag­o­nist and why!

Him in “Warm Bodies” maybe. There’s something weirdly malicious about him . . . It’s a short play, but I could see taking that character and doing some more with him.

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove him­self into the spot­light and why!

Alfred in “The K-Pro.” He was just going to be a funny but annoying co-star but he’s been given a bigger role than I originally planned.

20. What are your favorite char­ac­ter inter­ac­tions to write?

Banter. I’m a dialogue person (screenwriting again, and now playwriting I suppose). And I’m good at character-driven interpersonal relationships.

21. Do any of your char­ac­ters have chil­dren? How well do you write them?

Some of my characters are children. They’re definitely more difficult to write. I have to think about what I liked and did at that age and hope I don’t sound dumb.

22. Tell us about one scene between your char­ac­ters that you’ve never writ­ten or told any­one about before! Seri­ous or not.

I can only think of fanfic scenes I scrapped. Like Sherlock’s first encounter with Charles Whitcombe–I had to know in order to write the rest of that story, but I never actually wrote the mental scene I came up with. Or there was a scene with Sherlock and John in a church, and Sherlock gives John his coat because John is cold and his jacket isn’t heavy enough.

23. How long does it usu­ally take you to com­plete an entire story—from plan­ning to writ­ing to post­ing (if you post your work)?

Depends on the story. Some come fast and some have taken years (and continue to take years).

24. How will­ing are you to kill your char­ac­ters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most inter­est­ing way you’ve killed some­one?

I don’t have a problem with killing a character off, even a major one. Writers have to be fearless in that way, and be willing to go where the story demands. That said, I’m not sure I’ve had any especially interesting deaths.

25. Do any of your char­ac­ters have pets? Tell us about them.

In my unfinished YA novel, there was a cat named Nacho.

26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your char­ac­ters? Do oth­ers draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite pic­ture of him!

Oh no. I can’t draw. I’ve tried, and I dearly wish I could–I even took classes. My brain just doesn’t work that way, though; what I see comes out as words not pictures. So instead I cast my characters. For example, Dixon in “20 August” was a young Ewan McGregor.

27. Along sim­i­lar lines, do appear­ances play a big role in your sto­ries? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about design­ing your char­ac­ters.

Well, I mean, I describe my characters but I try not to belabor the point. I don’t know how it is for most people, but when I start reading a book, I almost immediately formulate mental pictures of the characters on my own, often regardless to what the author has written. So unless it’s just that important that he or she look a certain way, I touch on it and move on. Though I do like eyes. I’ll often talk about someone’s eyes.

28. Have you ever writ­ten a char­ac­ter with phys­i­cal or men­tal dis­abil­i­ties? Describe them, and if there’s noth­ing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

Oh, I’ve written people who walk with canes or something. Nothing major.

29. How often do you think about writ­ing? Ever come across some­thing IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

I think about my characters and stories a lot. While driving, when a song reminds me of them, when I see or hear or read something in the news I think I can use . . . In stores I’ll walk past clothes and think, so-and-so would wear that, or I smell cologne and think, he’d smell like that. I feel like it’s important to know these things, to know my characters intimately.

My Day as Associate Producer

When I was an undergrad, I scored an internship working for producer Lynda Obst. It was a volatile film set (I was later told by an old pro that it was one of the most difficult he’d ever been on), but I fought my way through it–odd hours, weird requests and all. Some of the other interns had money and connections; it was clear they’d been given their jobs via networking. (One of them drove a Lexus.) I was just little, lowly ol’ me, keeping my head down and doing my best.

One intern got booted. I heard a lot of different “reasons” and stories about why and what happened. In fact, I heard a lot of interesting stories about a lot of things–and experienced a few firsthand–none of which I’d repeat for fear of being sued for libel. But ask me out for a drink sometime . . .

I had a lot of bizarre tasks, including long phone calls with someone in the L.A. office while, between us, we tried to draft an afterwords to a book. I remember the topic being primarily about alpha males in the industry or something. One thing I did enjoy was reading scripts that had been submitted. Most were not great, a few were okay but nothing I’d personally be interested in going to see, and one or two were really good. As someone getting her degree in Radio-Television-Film with an emphasis in screenwriting, it was good experience.

Now one day on set, things fell apart. Actually, I think they’d probably been well on their way by the time I arrived on set for my shift. I was in the trailer checking Lynda’s e-mail while another intern (and it only occurred to me years later that this guy might’ve had a crush on me, poor thing, but I’m the kind of person to be kind of oblivious unless hit over the head with it) went to bring me some lunch. I distinctly remember it was chicken fried steak, my favorite. And I remember the associate producer storming in and being dumbfounded that I had someone bringing me my lunch. I guess maybe I’d overstepped? I don’t know. To this day I don’t entirely understand her reaction.

But then the AP disappeared. She’d walked off (some said she’d quit). And Lynda came in with Mary McLaglen and whoever else was producing, all women, and I don’t know if it was that I just happened to be sitting there, but Lynda said, “You’re associate producer for today.”

Huh?

Because I had no fucking idea what that meant. What was I supposed to do exactly? I’d never watched our AP do much of anything because I’d always been too busy with whatever she’d given me to do.

I spent the rest of that day following Lynda and the other producers around. I attended rehearsals. I answered Lynda’s cell phone when she was too busy (it was usually her son calling). At one point that afternoon we all went back to the trailer and looked at tabloids and industry rags. Mary said to the others as I settled down with some magazine, “Look at her. She’s taken right to it.”

I guess. But I felt like a kid dressing up in her mother’s clothes.

The AP came back later that evening. She thanked me for covering for her, which I suppose was her way of relieving me of duty. I remember when we wrapped, she wrote me a nice note about my “can-do attitude.” I recently heard that one of the most important things to have in the industry is a willingness to step up to the plate, so I guess this was a great compliment in a way.

Lynda suggested I go to L.A., maybe work in her office there, and to this day I sometimes wish I had. But I was so close to my degree, and I couldn’t see leaving my education unfinished. Formal education, that is. My working education came from that internship, and especially from my day as understudy.

My Name in Lights

Not really, but “Warm Bodies” is now officially listed as a semi-finalist at The Valley Repertory Company‘s 3rd Annual LabWorks. Auditions are on December 4th, and it’s very weird to think about actual people acting out what I’ve written. Just so different from screenwriting, which feels a bit more removed. But I’m hugely excited anyway and hope to travel down and see the play in February. I wonder if I’ll be able to stand it? (I can’t stand watching myself on video after a performance; will watching others perform my play be any different?) I guess we’ll see . . .

What I do like about playwriting is that I tell a story and then different directors can do any number of things with it. Like we’re all having the same dream but it looks different to everyone.

Progress, or: Lack Thereof

I’m supposed to be participating in NaNoWriMo, but as things stand, I haven’t even started. I’m too busy trying to finish a play that I thought was going to be 10 minutes long but . . . Now I’m not sure. I’m on page nine and don’t see it finishing in one more. Fifteen? Twenty? No idea. I really just want to finish it, but I also don’t want to rush it . . . I think I’m just eager to have something new to submit, since “Warm Bodies” has found some love. Gotta ride that wave!

Hallowe’en

Yes, I do prefer it with the apostrophe, thank you. The apostrophe shows a letter has been removed. That is the function of apostrophes.

I like Hallowe’en, I suppose, though I find the roots of the holiday more interesting than its current incarnation. My minor was ancient and classical history, after all; I’m designed to find old things interesting. (And yet I also study pop culture . . . So I guess I find some modern things interesting, too.)

I enjoy dressing up, and I like having an excuse for it at least one day out of 365. (When I modeled in college, I had more excuses to dress up but also never got to pick my own clothes, so that didn’t really count, I don’t think.) I’d be more excited about the whole candy aspect if I were a kid, but once you’re grown up and can have candy whenever you like, that part of Hallowe’en loses its shine. We’ll take the kids trick-or-treating tonight, though, and we’ll probably eat a fair amount of the candy that is collected if only to keep the kids from having too much of it.

On the other side of the holiday, I don’t like gory things. I find psychological thrillers are more to my taste. So while I’m happy to read Stephen King–and he can be graphic, but he does also have a relatively subtle touch and doesn’t tend toward gore for its own sake–I don’t go see movies like Saw or whatever. Just not at all my thing.

And tomorrow is All Saints’ Day. I will make a gris gris, probably out of the dried rose on my desk.

NaNoWriMo

For those of you not in the know, that’s short for National Novel Writing Month. Takes place every November. I’ve participated on and off since 2003. Have even “won” three times (meaning I made the 50k word count).

Now, I write year round, as much as possible. And a lot of what I write doesn’t lend itself to so high a word count (stage plays, screenplays). But I do also write some prose, and after taking a couple years off, I’m thinking of trying NaNoWriMo again.

Of course, right now I do already have a lot of projects on my plate, but . . . What’s one more? Right? As if my family didn’t already feel like I’ve abandoned them . . .

Being a writer is hard work. Sometimes it’s fun, but not as much fun as so many people seem to think. Sometimes it’s a tough slog, trying to get where I and the characters and the story want to be. Sometimes it’s like having multiple personality disorder because you have to know all your characters as if you were them: how they’d react to something, what they’d say. (This is especially true when writing for television, but it’s true in general for all fiction.) Sometimes it’s an out and out fight with your characters or a plot twist.

Funny thing is, though, that my family is much happier when I’m writing than when I’m suffering a dry spell. Because I’m even more difficult to live with–more cranky and unpleasant–when I’m not actively “employed.” So participating in NaNoWriMo may only ensure that we all come out more content at the end of it.