When your book’s hero goes by the monacre “Nightfire” and can spark flames using the flint in the heel of her shoe, “Arsonist’s Lullaby” becomes a must-have on the writing playlist.
Then again, all of Hozier’s work is writing-appropriate. Try “Nina Cried Power” if you need an uplifting cry later before penning your pledge to the resistance.
I get into TED Talk ruts when I’m procrastinating, and one of my favorites to hear over and over again is Amanda Palmer’s discussion on the art of asking. It’s about putting yourself out there, shamelessly and fearlessly exploring your creativity, and allowing others to join you.
A lot of her talk has to do with letting rather than requiring people to contribute monetarily to the arts — music in particular — and that’s a hard one to apply to writing when I see authors of both bestselling and unknown books plea with their followers to stop bootlegging their work. But the meat of her presentation is that when you open your arms and let people enjoy and sometimes participate in the act of creativity, chances are they’ll say yes.
It took me a while to be comfortable starting a creative writing blog. I used to write about media issues and journalism, feminism and racism, professional life and personal achievements. That seemed safe because I was often just expounding my opinion, and (as Weezer says) if you don’t like it, you can shove it. But putting creative writing pieces online for anyone and everyone to come across was dangerous, because if people didn’t like it, it wasn’t necessarily because they were wrong: It was, in my mind at least, because the work I had published was bad.
A year and a half later, I’m realizing that’s not the case. This reader-writer community doesn’t go out of its way to shit on something by an unknown, unpublished writer. Instead, every time I get pinged because someone liked a post I put up on Convincing the Muse, I want to put just a few more words on the page. It’s encouraging, and it’s community.
Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder, treason and plot.
The first time I heard that little poem was in the film V for Vendetta (I read the graphic novel later, don’t worry). That’s why today felt like a good time to share this piece of the film’s score by Dario Marianelli:
To borrow from Stephon on Saturday Night Live, this track has everything: plenty of build up, a locomotive tempo, a sense of urgency. That’s probably why I use it often when writing confession scenes that turn into action sequences.
Also, in the spirit of tomorrow’s U.S. elections, let me leave you with this V for Vendetta reminder:
“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Government should be afraid of their people.”
Remember, remember, to vote in November.
Followers of this blog know my writing kink is telling tired stories from fresh perspectives. That’s probably why I loved Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House, which looks at the lives of five adult siblings who spent a summer surrounded by ghosts and evil spirits. Each character gets an episode to show their experiences how it affected their adulthood, and the way their perspectives link together in the end is a triumph in miniseries screenwriting.
Which is why I hope they never make a second season, though unlike “limited series Maniac,” they haven’t confirmed HoHH is a one-and-done show. I recently read the fourth Millennium series book, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, and wish the author had never picked up a pen on continuing Stieg Larsson’s trilogy. I love Lisbeth Salander as much as the next closet goth-punk badass who doesn’t know how to code let alone hack, but deciding to continue her story in the way this new author did cheapened her.
Maybe that’s why I’m so averse to writing books that require a sequel — or reading books like that, even. It’s like going to a menu tasting and loving the first thing you eat: I’m in the camp of people who look at the chef and say “what else do you have?” rather than “more of that exact same thing, please.”
Florence Welch and her band (+ the Machine) have always been part of my life soundtrack, from using “What Kind of Man” to get through a breakup — OK, a couple of breakups — to listening to “Drumming Song” and “Kiss from a Fist” on repeat the whole way from Columbia, Mo., to Champaign-Urbana, Ill.
Her newest album, High as Hope, is no different. Although “Hunger” is currently the radio track of choice, the final song, “No Choir,” is the one that stood out to me most because of its opening. She immediately starts off by bluntly singing:
“And it’s hard to write about being happy / because the older I get / I find that happiness is an extremely uneventful subject…”
It’s an interesting statement and reflects another piece of writing advice I’ve always taken to heart. Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for creative writing in the preface to Bagombo Snuffbox include “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” There’s very little room for placid happiness if terrible things keep happening.
Something to keep in mind while continuing on to Day 2 of this year’s NaNoWriMo.
I’ve fallen head-over-high-heels for Pru, my newest protagonist with complicated identity issues. Is she a public relations agent? A superhero, now that she’s had to take over for her deceased boss? Really, she just wants to figure out who she is, rather than continue to try to be who everyone around her has always told her she is, but that could be difficult with an overbearing mother intent on seeing her daughter grow up to be her.
That’s why hearing Run the Jewels’ “Oh Mama” — albeit behind a montage of “Rick and Morty” clips — inspired a new scene of Pru slapping on her late client’s vigilante gear while still fuming over an argument she’s just had with her mother.
When I was a kid, my aunt sent me a collection of 1920s and 1950s fashion paper dolls. Instead of cutting them out and playing with them, I kept the books in tact so I could look through the fashions and fantasize about one day getting to bring back some of the styles. I hadn’t quite reached my current moto-leggings-and-heeled-combat-boots phase of my adult style sense yet, so a taffeta evening gown seemed perfectly on-brand for 9-year-old me.
One of the styles in the 1950s book was one I recognized from movies like “Auntie Mame” and shows like “I Love Lucy” and “Dick van Dyke” — a hostess coat over cigarette pants. It always looked so sophisticated and elegant, and yet in those two shows, it only seemed like women wore them around the house.
Rosalind Russell in “Auntie Mame,” 1958
Mary Tyler Moore in “The Dick van Dyke Show,” 1961-1966
In working on “Nobody’s Hero,” I realized Pru is going to have to go from wearing a ballgown at a gala to sporting her vigilante armor. While the blue evening gown in Wonder Woman allowed for Diana to walk around with a sword sheathed down her back, it’s mostly Hollywood Magic that makes it possible for her to suddenly appear in her sleeveless, short-skirted armor.
Well, Pru’s armor isn’t exactly like that. Think Catwoman meets actual functionality. Again — I’m in a moto-legging phase these days.
And here’s where those paper doll books, old TV and movies, and my writing come together. Instead of the forest green evening gown I originally planned for Pru to don, the long sleeves concealing bruises and cuts she’s gotten from her nights out (I’ve also been watching “Sharp Objects” recently), she’s going to go avant-garde with her armored leggings acting as the base of a long coat-dress.
Oh, I can’t wait to write the scene where she finds her 6-foot-5 techie hunched over her high-tech pants with a bedazzler to make sure she’s up to couture code.