Saturday, April 30, 2011

Short Story vs. Novel

I have many ideas for potential stories, but I have recently run into the problem of trying to decide which ideas will be short stories and which will be more novel-length stories.
This is difficult for several reasons, first is that I've never written a novel-length story before. Second is that it's difficult to figure out which ideas are even capable of being long, and which cannot be lengthened without becoming boring or redundant. Third is that it seems some ideas aren't even worthy of being long.

Here are two real examples of simple ideas I have in the works.
  1. A person finds a way to never fatigue/gains the ability to never wear out.
  2. A person begins having recurring dreams of killing someone close to them, the dreams may or may not eventually begin occurring while awake. The person must figure out how to end the visions/dreams.
They are both very simple ideas that both seriously need to be "fleshed out" in order to do anything at all with either of them. The first should be pretty easy to run with, after all the possibilities of what to do with such an ability are endless; from seeing how it affects mundane day-to-day activities, to how it helps in the event of some disaster.
The second idea I can see myself running into trouble with. It certainly sounds interesting enough to make novel-length, but I don't know if it's possible (for me) to do. It's a very specific problem, and the main character with the problem may therefore not be dealing with it all the time, so what keeps the story interesting while they aren't having the visions/dreams? Clearly this idea will take a lot more thinking out in order to make longer than a short story.
Then again, there's no shame in writing short stories. Maybe I shouldn't try to do something I'm not comfortable with simply out of fear of short stories being less popular or taken less serious.

Besides, short stories make better movies.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Two Weeks Until I'm Halfway There

There are two weeks left of my second year of college. It's suddenly dawning on me that I'm halfway through with college (assuming I manage to get out in two more years) and it's quite surreal.
A crudely-drawn picture to make the page look more interesting.
It's definitely true that as you get older, you perceive time as moving faster. I always felt that this was somewhat true since I remember summers lasting forever when I was younger than they do now, and it certainly makes sense that time seems shorter/faster the more of it you have to compare it to, but halfway through college? That just seems impossible! I remember completing my second year of high school and feeling that it took so long to get there, and feeling I had so much more time ahead of me until I graduated, but now two years is feeling more like only one.

Of course as much as I love to dwell on the past and miss high school as much as I'm sure I'll miss college looking back on it, I am quite happy for time to be moving so swiftly as well. It's comforting that before I know it I'll have a degree in my hand, and a more certain future in store for me (and of course a wife at my side). I guess I feel like most people do at my age; I'm excited to get to experience being an adult since all my life I've waited and dreamed about it, but I wish there was a way to go back to being a kid once in a while (though I'm a firm believer that you live twice: the second time being through your children).

Well I suppose I should keep this post short, as I have exams and papers due in the weeks ahead. I wish good luck to everyone out there who also has exams coming up!

And keep in mind, you only really "fail" if you never try.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Technology in Stories Today

Technology is evolving so rapidly that a story written a year ago including then-modern technology may become culturally irrelevant today. Of course this is not the only thing that changes with time and makes old stories a bit stranger to read (slang, obsolete references etc.) but technology is by far the most rapidly changing, so the question is; where does technology belong in stories today?

This idea struck me as an important topic while I was watching the movie Burlesque  (a movie in which Christina Aguilera decides that the best possible career to aspire to with her amazing singing and dancing talent is to work as a singer/dancer at some funky pseudo-gentleman's club called Burlesque) which by all accounts could have been set twenty or thirty years ago with the exact same plot and dialogue. A positive way of looking at this is that it's what people call "timeless". The only indication throughout the movie that it was set in the present day was the cars, some buildings, and a cell phone or two that were never used on-the-go, and were for some reason used exclusively for verbal communication; two things that a house phone could have easily replaced.
Could children of today identify with this? For example: at the end of the dancer's shifts they were talking about going to get pizza together, they decide they will do so and leave. That's exactly what happened. What's missing? Not a single one pulled out a cell phone and began texting her other friends. Not a single person was seen texting at all, and as any young person today knows; texting is as abundant and natural to see as walking nowadays.

Okay so that just sounds like nitpicking. Still you certainly must see my point. When do you use technology in a story to make it more authentic, and when do you ignore it in order to focus solely on the story? On the other extreme of my Burlesque example is a movie that came out in 2004 called Cellular which revolved its entire plot around the evolving technology in cell phones and how they can both help and hinder the progress of a man's rescue mission in various creative ways (a low battery becomes a desperate chase for a charger, and redialing a received call from a bad guy loudly announces his hidden position with his ringtone) . Unfortunately time has yet to tell which movie will appear more outdated; the one with no modern technology, or the one with.

It's clear that either way, technology must be considered. Even though Burlesque didn't use cell phones in any meaningful modern way, it didn't need them either. Meaning that there was never a point in it with a  problem that could have been solved by a cell phone (like a "where did they go?" thing).

So what's my stance in all this? Personally I think a good story doesn't need to consider modern advances in technology unless the technology is so incredibly common, and a problem could be so easily fixed by them that it becomes ridiculous to ignore it. What I'm saying is that if technology is to be used, it ought to be used to enhance the story. Then again everything in a story ought to be for that purpose.

If all else fails, set the story in the 1990's.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Physical Rough Draft

Recently I just finished writing a story in a college-ruled 1-subject notebook. What makes this so special is that I took up the entire notebook with the story, whereas usually my stories would only last a few hand-written pages because I've had trouble making them much longer. Now I admit that although the notebook advertises 70 pages on the front, it was a slightly used notebook in which I counted exactly 43 pages ... but still; this is a personal accomplishment nonetheless!

Something else that makes this paper-written draft special is just that: it's written on paper. The first short story I ever wrote (the one which I wrote for a class as a last-minute assignment but sparked my interest in being a writer) was a page long and typed on my parent's home computer. I haven't penned a whole rough draft of anything since before computers were a practical tool for doing so (remember way back when you'd type it out and the program would crash, causing you to loose all your unsaved data? that's the last time I wrote on paper). When the computer became a reliable way to write out a rough draft (and of course after I learned to type) I never looked back. Maybe I would hand-write the first page or so of an idea down if I was away from a computer or in class, but that was it.

So what caused me to go back to the age-old style?
Nothing special. I was bored in class and had a story stuck in my head. The only difference was that it stuck with me so much that I couldn't pull away the day after that, or the day after, etc. ... I wrote a 43 page (college-ruled) story almost entirely during class time (don't worry, as my recent test scores have proven I managed to pay attention at the same time). The reason being that I've never really been able to find much time to write when I'm at home. Even in high school I was always too distracted by homework or video games to write a single story. Somehow it turned out that I was the most inspired to write when I technically had absolutely no "free time". Even during spring break I could only be bothered to write on one of the last days despite my incredible interest in the story.

Speaking of my interest: I had more interest in this story than any story I've ever written (or thought out) and the only reason I can think of is that this story is somehow more meaningful than anything I've ever written.
This one could influence people's lives.
Without giving anything away: it's not eerie or supernatural or fantasy like most of what I've written or thought of; it's basically a love story that spans a lifetime, and it's honestly probably the best story I've ever written by far. Normally I would be nervous to say that before anyone else has read it, and because as a writer I feel I should be modest about my work and not have high-hopes, but I really believe it.

So now the next steps are to type it up, flesh out the bits I may have rushed, give it a title, and who knows ... maybe I can get it published.

The best part? I know exactly what story I'm going to write next, and I'm just as excited for that one as I am for this one.

This is me finally taking my talent and love of writing seriously.