It’s the letter S on this Short Story Saturday, which makes for a whole lotta S’s. For today’s genre, I’m going to attempt a bit of Sci-fi. It’s not my usual genre, so here’s to another writing experiment.
Today’s short film for the letter R is a cute student short called Robby that clocks in at an easy-watching four and a half minutes. The most impressive thing about it is that the animator made a worm (a worm!) absolutely adorable. Worms are nasty, slimy things, yet this lil’ guy is so charming. I think it’s the giant, googly eyes – they make anything cute.
If you have a few minutes to spare, give it a watch:
So what’s my main takeaway from this short? That I want a magical purse like Robby’s backpack! My current purse has some pretty impressive clown-car like abilities, spewing forth all manner of cosmetics and personal care items, but a girl never knows when she’s going to need a backhoe . . . or a stick of dynamite.
Like last week’s film, this one deals with the importance of determination and striving toward your goal. Robby has equipped himself with the tools he needs to dig, similar to writers learning different “rules” and techniques and styles to stuff our writing packs with helpful tools. Robby has a compass to help guide him, just like we need to map out a plan of what we want to accomplish with our writing.
I even think the progression of Robby’s tools mirrors a writer’s approach to revising a first draft. First we start by shoveling some shit around (or maybe that’s just me!). Next we kind of pick at it until we realize that ain’t getting it done. Then we bring out the big guns like drills, backhoes, and dynamite to blow whole chapters away and make massive changes. Then we’re ready for the detailed edits, the kind done with a delicate tool like a plastic spoon. Then finally, after lots of hard work, we reach our goal – the cherished completed manuscript aka top of the apple..
And the very end reminds us that no matter how hard we try, sometimes life is going to gobble us up. Oh, wait, that’s a sad, pessimistic ending. How about instead, it’s a metaphor for an agent/editor loving our manuscript and gobbling it up in one sitting? Yeah, that’s much better.
What did you think about Robby? Does his trip through the apple work as a metaphor for revising? How Resplendent is Molly with her letter R?
Oh boy! With it being Television Thursday and the dreaded letter Q, of course today’s post is about the sci-fi dramedy Quantum Leap. Although I don’t know if dramedy was an actual term when it aired in the early 90’s, it’s an apt way to describe this show’s perfect mix of laughs and serious issues. If you’re unfamiliar with Quantum Leap, the show’s opening does a perfect job of explaining the premise:
Scott Bakula was perfectly cast as time-jumping Sam Beckett. He was slightly bumbling, always earnest, and had a warmth and charm that allowed him to slip into people’s lives in order to right the wrongs. And Dean Stockwell as the Exposition Fairy, uh, I mean Al, was such a quirky, fun character who delivered his weekly info dumps in an entertaining way.
Besides Al’s antics, a lot of the humor came from Sam leaping into a new body each episode, since it never happened while that person was asleep, but at the most inconvenient time for Sam to be trying to figure out who the heck he was now inhabiting. At the end of each episode, after Sam and Al had solved the problem in his current body’s life, he would leap into another body and deliver the infamous, “Oh boy!” line.
Because of the humorous setups, it would be easy to blow Quantum Leap off as a silly little show, but there was plenty of drama since Sam only jumped into the lives of people who were in trouble in some way. And since the time jumping only occurred within the span of Sam’s life (1953 forward), there was a lot of sociological and political unrest to drive the stories. For example, there were plenty of giggles seeing Scott Bakula wobbling around in a dress and heels the first time he jumped into a woman, but the episode addressed the emotional impact of sexual harassment.
Since I’m such a sap, I often teared up at the ends of episodes as Sam finally fixed the people’s lives. It was always such a heartwarming moment, but kind of heartbreaking, too, since Sam never got to stick around and savor the happiness of the people he’d helped. As soon as he fixed the problem, he immediately leaped into the next problem. But as bad as that was for Sam, it was great for the audience. If you’ve never watched Quantum Leap, you should check it out on Netflix.
Did you watch Sam Beckett leap through time? How would you like to jump into people’s lives to fix them? How Quaint is Lily with her Q?
For the most part, it seems my Willy-nilly Wednesdays have turned into an excuse to talk about the Rish family dogs. So why change that today? I bet you’re now thinking that P stands for pooch. Well, you’d have the first three letters right. Because today I have to confess a secret. A dark secret that brings me shame. You see, my sweet Freya, my beloved four-legged child… is a poo eater. That’s right, she eats poop. Doodoo. Kaka. Whatever you want to call it, she loves the stuff.
It’s especially distressing because in the long line of smart dogs my family has owned, she’s definitely the smartest (yes, I know all parents/dog owners think this). Besides all the standard commands, she does a bunch of fun tricks like ‘take a bow’ and ‘say your prayers’ although the truly impressive part is how fast she learns them. She also does things like breaking into locked food cupboards even though she lacks opposable thumbs. So why, oh why, can’t I stop this spectacularly disgusting habit?
It started when she was ‘a teen’, and I immediately ran to my best friend Google to find out why my precious baby would do something so nasty and how to stop it. I discovered the official term is coprophagia (OMG, there’s an actual word for it *gags a little*) and that there are a variety of reasons for it both medical and behavioral. I took her to the vet, and he ruled out any medical issues and offered a few behavioral things to try. None of them worked. So now I have to live with the fact that my dog thinks doodie is a delicacy. We actually call them her chocolate cigars because she carries them around for a while with the ends sticking out of her mouth before she chows down.
Because she is so smart and because I start screaming like a banshee every time I see her pick up a log, she knows she’s not supposed to do it. So now she’s like a junkie after her fix. She skulks around the yard, looking for a pile that didn’t get picked up; and when she finds one, she glances around to make sure no one’s watching, snags the treasured turd, and races away with an expression we call her patented poop face. My sister snapped this picture of the expression mid-snack. It would be kind of adorable if you didn’t know she was dining on dookie.
But like any mom, I love my baby no matter what . . . I just don’t let her kiss my face after she’s been outside.
Have any of your dogs ever enjoyed partaking in chocolate cigars? Did any methods work for you in breaking the foul habit? How Playful (or Poopy-faced) does Freya look with her letter P?
The writing tip for this week involves olfactory imagery, which is imagery dealing with scent. Smells, feelings, and memories are closely entangled because the area of the brain that processes smells is the same area that deals with emotions and memories. This makes olfactory imagery a powerful tool for writers, since we can use it as a shortcut to connect with readers’ emotions.
We all have scents that trigger certain memories. Two examples for me are the smell of OFF bug spray, which always reminds me of a camping trip I took to Canada while in the Girl Scouts; and the smell of vinegar, which reminds me of dyeing Easter eggs at my grandmother’s house. Each reader will have their own specific scent memories, but there are also some that seem mostly universal such as freshly cut grass, baking cakes, and sunscreen. The most powerful scents are those that trigger emotions and memories from childhood, so those are the ones to really tap into when describing a scene.
We’ve all heard the writing advice to employ all five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) when describing things, since it adds life to your writing by helping the reader fully experience the world you’ve created. I’ve even heard the suggestion to assign a different color highlighter to each sense and go through your manuscript marking each as it appears so you can visually see where the holes are for the various senses. This strategy appeals to the OCD organizer part of me, but I also think it runs the risk of being ‘productive’ procrastination. Most writers rely on sight and hearing to describe things, so it’s probably safe to assume you need to add more smell, taste and touch to your writing. Even worse, seeing those gaps in bold colors might tempt you to fill them in ways that are forced rather than organic, something like:
Tina and her new foster child sat in the Waffle House not saying a word as the rain drummed a staccato beat on the roof. The glare from the fluorescent lights highlighted the bruises on his cheek. The comforting smell of butter and pancakes worked their magic, and he started telling her about the last fight with his dad. Her fingers itched to hold his hands in support, but she knew that would frighten him, so ran them along the smooth, cold surface of the plastic booth. Her stomach was growling so she leaned forward to lick a spot of sweet maple syrup off the table.
Of course this is an extreme example, but trying to fit in every sense in every scene can end up being a distraction to the actual story. And you can also end up having your characters do really strange things to cover a sense, especially taste.
So while it is important to use all five senses in your writing, especially smell because of its powerful association with feelings and memories, make sure you use a balanced hand when doing so. Don’t ruin the meal by dumping in a container of spices when a dash would do.
What scents trigger memories for you? Do you do anything specific to make sure you cover all five senses in your writing? How Outstanding is Bailey with her letter O?
It’s Movie Monday, and even though it has nothing to do with the letter N, I wanted to start off by mentioning my movie High Heels and Hoodoo had its first sneak peek screening on Saturday. Since it was the first time actual strangers saw it, my brother and I were very nervous, but the screening went incredibly well. The audience reaction was great, and lots of people came up to us later to tell us how much they liked it. So we can now release the breath we’ve been holding since we finished the edit. Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive!
And now back to our regularly scheduled N post. Today’s Netflix find is the movie The Nines. Here’s the official description:
It’s another week of temporarily posting my 15 Minute Tweet Tales on Sunday rather than the usual Tuesday because of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. And for anyone who read my pathetic attempt at an M post yesterday, I wanted to let you know my movie screening went really well! We got a great reaction from the crowd – we’ll have a post about it over at the movie blog early in the week.
It’s Short Story Saturday, and since the letter is M that means the genre is Mystery for a story stuffed full of M words. But first off, I have to apologize for this weak effort. I thought about just posting a giant “M.I.A” for today’s post along with the picture of Molly and her M. You see, today is the sneak peek screening of my new movie (extra points for my distraction being an M word?), and I’ve been in high anxiety mode preparing for it. And since my ol’ friend procrastination was firmly in control during March, I didn’t get any posts written ahead of time. However, I decided I could muster up a micro-mystery instead of completely missing the boat, so here it is in all its “glory.”
A Mangled Mystery
Today’s short film for the letter L is The Last Knit, and it not only lacks dialog, it doesn’t have much of a score either. It uses effective sound design and basic animation to tell a deceptively simple story. This is another one where I think much of what people take from it will be informed by their own lives. It’s about six and a half minutes, so if you have some time, give it a watch:
For me, this is partly a film about the dangers that occur when any activity turns into an obsession or addiction. I’m the type of person who has to do everything perfectly when I do it. For example, I hardly ever clean because I can’t just straighten up the magazines and whip around the feather duster. I have to haul out the toothbrushes and cotton swabs to scour every crevice and buy colored folders and filing cabinets to organize the magazines by date and usefulness of the articles. It’s just easier and less stressful to let things stay messy. So I can really relate to this woman who turns a simple thing like knitting into a dangerous obsession.
I also think it is a metaphor for writing (or any artistic endeavor). If we are serious about our writing, we have to be extremely focused, just like the woman. And when things get tough, we have to be creative about finding ways to persevere like she does with using her hair when the yarn runs out. I also think it’s a good illustration of how we have to put some of ourselves into our work.
However, as important as it is to be focused and believe in our dreams, we have to be careful about finding the right balance so we don’t fall off the cliff’s edge where determination turns into something destructive. Our writing is vital to us, but so are other things in our lives. And it’s important to put parts of ourselves in our writing, but not so much that our very souls are crushed when someone says something less than glowing about it.
And as the lady learns at the end, we also have to know when to cut our losses. We hear those stories about bestsellers like A Wrinkle In Time, Gone With the Wind, and Carrie being rejected multiple times, and they give us hope. Encourage us not to give up. And this is a very good thing. But sometimes it’s just not in the cards for a particular book. If you’ve learned as much as you can about the craft of writing and rewritten it many times to make it the best book it can be and you still can’t find the right home for it, then it might be the right thing to put it in a drawer and start a new project. This doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your dream, it just means that wasn’t the right book to get you there.
So while being hopeful, dreaming big, and staying focused on our craft, we also need to make sure we have our eyes open wide enough to see the edge of the cliff before we tumble over into the abyss.
What did you think about The Last Knit? I’ve seen lots of different interpretations about it on the web, so what did it say to you? How Lovely is Lily with her letter L?
Babblings of a Boob Tube Junkie
I’m a writer and filmmaker exploring the magic of stories. I’ve always loved to read and watch television and movies, and now I'm creating my own stories via YA novels, short stories, screenplays, and even short films. I’m also an animal lover with a menagerie of pets; and, yes, I’m one of those people who puts party hats on their dogs and makes them “cakes” for their birthdays.
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My Short Films
If a cat predicted your death, how would it change your life?
A greedy party girl is so determined to get what she wants that she employs the dangerous magic of a Gullah root doctor.
Blogging from A to Z Challenge