Monday, May 18, 2015

Don't Choose Your Target Audience: Your Target Audience Chooses You

Like many other small children, I was taken to Disney World at a very young age. I went for the first time when I was barely over a year old--most of the trip lives on in videos my parents took while painstakingly documenting every single time I misbehaved. 
Since then I've gotten a little taller and it's only slightly less cute when I make new friends waiting in line for Splash Mountain. When I was in college, my sister and I took our first trip without our parents and realized there were whole sections of the parks we had never explored. As our week sped on faster than we would have liked, we also realized that taking a trip without small kids following us around was an entirely different experience. Our "party of two" often got ushered to the front of lines, to round out a family with an odd number. We spent mornings sleeping in and evenings riding Rock N Roller Coaster until we were dizzy. We made friends with cast members and sat in cafes, splitting cupcakes and trying new flavors of coffee.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Chapter Five: The Chapter I Haven't Titled Yet

Dezi and Reg had watched what felt like a billion hours of crappy television by the time her mother came home from work. Frannie was home to by that point, but she couldn't be bothered with the television or her sister or her sister's weird friend with the dreadlocks. She was in her room, probably doing something boring like actual homework or possibly (rather probably, in fact) watching the same crappy television on different channels.
"Thank you for not leaving the house, Desert Orchid"
"I wasn't going to be able to get away with anything when you were calling every five minutes."
"I did not call every five minutes." She had called something more like every ten.
"You know, if you didn't want me going down town you could have just not mentioned it." Reg laughed as Dezi’s mom raised her eyebrows. "It's not like I just spend my time looking for trouble." This time he outright guffawed, and Dezi kicked him from across the couch.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Researching A Novel

I don't know about you, but I love reading as much as I love writing. I love when a new project has me learning history or looking at photos of unfamiliar terrain. It's the best. Here are some tips I've discovered when researching for a large format project like a novel or full-length play:

1. Start Simple

In Starbuck McLaw, when our titular hero wants to know more about his past, he goes to the children's section to see what the basic building blocks were in Ancient Egypt. I didn't pull this idea out of nowhere: I start in the kids section, too. I like to start with a broad-strokes approach to research, especially when the topic is something about which I know very little. If I can't get to a library, I will check Amazon for kids books, or even skim wikipedia articles and take notes on topics I'd like to learn more about. This will help me lay groundwork for more in-depth research later. It also helps me understand where my knowledge is at the starting point, and know where to build up my weaker areas.

2. Visual Learning

Photography books can be a writer's best friend. If you're looking for inspiration, or need to know how Times Square looked in 1908, you're bound to get a lot of information very quickly from photographs rather than anywhere else. Sometimes when my inspiration tank feels particularly low I'll spend a day at an art museum and focus especially on areas I may not be initially drawn towards. This can either jostle something I didn't expect, or it can solidify my instinct to go in a different direction.


Don't be afraid to put the books down and write one of your own. I can get very wrapped up reading about a whole lot of things that are only tangentially related to my project. Or, I might be reading about something unrelated all together. The reason you or I are doing this research is to enhance our own writing--and the writing won't get better if we stop doing it. So take a break after you've learned something that piques your interest. Write it down somewhere--try writing how your main character would react to that information or when they first learned it. Never forget to go back to your own writing.

4. Ask the tough questions!

So okay sometimes you'll come across dubious sources. Sometimes you need to do a little digging into where ideas come from or who did/funded the research you're reading. Sometimes you have to ask questions that haven't been answered yet--and sometimes that will lead to the best writing you've done in a while. If the questions haven't been answered you can take your time exploring a whole lot of possibilities, and no one gets to say you're wrong!

5. enjoy ya life.

If researching isn't your jam, then okay. No problem. But you SHOULD know the facts about what you're writing about. So then stick to the bare minimum, to make sure you actually know what you're talking about. But of course there's always a place for alternate history, broken laws of physics, and worlds built entirely of cotton candy and lemon drops, those worlds need to have consistent rules or reasons for no rules at all. So yeah. Enjoy ya life.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Chapter Three

Dezi was in school again. She moved through the day slowly, plodding through the halls from class to class. She hated the hallways, but didn’t mind sitting in classes, because there at least she could watch the videos she had taken over the weekend silently on her phone. In fact, in her computer class she could do whatever she wanted because she was sitting at her designated laptop with nothing to do. Sure, there was the class assignment, but it was a design project and she was designing a site about “paranormal sightings and their rationalizations” and that meant she could upload the videos and get them on the web. Not only did it mean she COULD, it also meant that’s exactly what she was doing. Double whammy. Five minutes after the bell had rung, the teacher had already explained the assignment for the day and most of the class had settled into website design, when Dezi’s friend Reggie sat down next to her.
“Reginald. You’re late again.” The teacher, Mr. Satri stated rather sternly from behind his newspaper.
“How did he see me?” Reggie whispered to Dezi.
“I didn’t need to see you, Reginald. I heard the door.” Mr. Satri folded the paper down. “Do you have a pass?”
“It was the last class I was in, sir, it ran over again!” Dezi knew for a fact that Reg’s last class was study hall. Unluckily for him, so did Mr. Satri.
“We will discuss this after class, Reginald. Get to work.” He unfolded his paper back up to its full height. “Immediately.” Reg logged in to the computer system no quicker than he normally would.
“What the hell is up his butt today?”
“Probably the fact that you’ve been late almost every class for the last two weeks.” Dezi whispered back. “And that you told him you’d like to design a website that tells you where the best boob scenes are in popular movies.”
“Hey, now. That probably would get more traffic than most of the site designs people are working on in this class. Hell, it probably would have gotten more traffic than most sites on the internet.” Dezi couldn’t help but laugh. Reg was probably right.
“I didn’t hear from you all weekend, Dez, where were you?” He pulled up the site he was working on instead of the boob scheme—a history of trains in America—but didn’t start working on it in favor of staring across the room at a short girl with long, brown, braided hair.
“Well first I had to go to Fran’s recital on Friday night.” Her sister played the cello in the state youth orchestra. She was very good. “And then on Saturday I was doing homework so I turned my phone off.”
“Great, that leaves all of Sunday where you were ignoring me.” Reg gave up staring at the girl and turned back to Dezi instead.
“Sunday? Sunday I was...” she considered for a moment coming up with some lie; there was a fifty percent chance that Reg would laugh at her if she told him the truth. “Sunday, I was at the town square. The guy I’ve been following—”
“—you know that makes you a stalker, right?” Reg stated, offhanded, while staring at the screen.
“No! You know the guy I’m talking about! With the hat and the jacket and the weird wrappings.”
“Right. the burn victim you think is a mummy.”
“Shut up. Do you want to know what happened, or just want to make cheap jokes?”
“Fine. Proceed.”
“Well, if you really want to know what happened, then just watch the video.” She pulled up the footage from her phone on the computer and hit play. Reg sat in silence. “So? See what I’m talking about when I say weird things—”
“—that was one hell of a flash mob.”
“That’s what some other people at the square said, too, but I don’t think it was a flash mob!”
"Well, then, Miss Strange. If it wasn't a flash mob, what was it?"
"That's what I've been trying to figure out. I fell asleep watching this video but I still can't figure out how whoever was doing this... did it. The best I can figure is that there are some microchips or some remote control things or something. I don't think these—" She pointed at the zombies, "—are real. But this guy—"
"The burn victim?" Reg was already uninterested.
"This guy with the inexplicable wrappings, yes, him. He doesn't seem to have anything trickerly about him."
"Trickerly. You're going crazy, it's officially official."
"No, you know what I mean. HE looks like a real person, as opposed to something being controlled or something that should be controlled. He looks like he's in control of himself."
"You are useless to me sometimes."
"You are useless to me most of the time."
"That's wonderful. Thanks for your support."
"I support you! I just don't care."
"That's frank."
"No. That's Reg! Ba-da-ch"
"I hate you."
"I love you, too." They sat in silence for a few moments, Dezi slightly begrudging at Reg, who displayed a complete lack of caring for his friend's newest breakthrough in a life long conquest for the truth. Reg was just angry that he had to research the history of trains instead of boob scenes in films. Until finally—
"Alright. Tell me more about this guy in the town square."
"Really. You want to hear about the guy, or are you just being nice to make up for being rude?"
"Come on. you know I don't care about being rude. I'll be rude all day. I'm bored and I want to hear this story."
Dezi sighed, and then continued the story.
She described the scene, how she had been downtown getting doughnuts because it was Sunday and Sundays are doughnuts day. And she explained how she had been looking for the man in the hat all day and by the time she was getting doughnuts she had almost forgotten about looking for him. In fact part of the reason she was buying the doughnuts in the first place was to help her forget about the lack of weird things going on around her.
"And then. Then there was a commotion in the town square and I stopped to try and see what was up because you know how there have been those weird..."
"...mentions of the abandoned factory online because you've been putting them there?"
"No! other people have been putting them there, too!"
"Shut up and listen, do you want to hear this story?"
"No I just wanted to hear about the doughnuts and your struggle to choose between Chocolate and strawberry with sprinkles when we all know every time you're going to pick strawberry with sprinkles."
"I'm not telling any more."
"Please! It was just getting good!"
"I can't tell if you're being serious."
"I am! I promise I am."
"Fine. Fine. So anyhow. There was a commotion and I stopped and saw this one guy in a jacket and a hat and all wrapped up like a burn victim, and there was this crowd of like... thirty zombies—"
"—people in stage makeup—"
"ZOMBIES there were like thirty zombies and they were all moving closer to the guy in the jacket.
And I pulled out my phone so I could catch it on video because not only was this the biggest group of zombies I had ever seen, but also they were all moving at the same time, in the same direction, and it looked like “Thriller” or something. So the guy in the hat climbed on the dry good store roof and grabbed the flag pole and started swinging it around, but it looked like he had some kind of training because he never swung once without taking out at least one bad guy, or blocking a blow.
Anyways he's fighting away, hitting zombie after zombie, and then he hits one of the zombies in the center of the crowd and suddenly the rest of them fall over all at once. Like he'd hit the boss and the little minions just followed in his defeat. It was the weirdest thing I had ever seen. And then, of course, like she does every time I'm out of the house for more than ten seconds, my mother called and the video stopped recording because my phone is old as shit. So that was the end of that."
"And what did your mom want?"
"Desert Orchid. Reginald. Both of you, to the detention room now you haven't stopped talking once this period." Mr. Satri had apparently been trying to get their attention but the two had been so enthralled in their story and making fun of each other that they hadn't noticed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Character Sketch: Steven Allredo


Steven Allredo, though he is frequently referred to as a shadow or a shrouded splotch of darkness.


Younger than he seems, but older than he looks.


Evil Genius? Does it count as an occupation if you're doing it without getting paid? Steven is also an assistant in the laboratories at the Other School.

Physical Description:

Steven in extremely pale--partially because he spends too much time in the dark, partially because he's underfed. He has a messy mop of hair on his head and he wears glasses too big for his face.

Personality traits:

Steven is incredibly intelligent and he doesn't let you forget it. He is very devoted to his experiments, and his "plan". He doesn't get along well with others, and tends to spend his time alone in his lab.


Steven is incredibly intelligent so he started college very young. He was not bullied, he was not left behind, he was not specifically mocked. Steven is a scientist and he starts his experiments in the pursuit of knowledge. Once he realizes he can create life, however, he was determined to build an army and take over the world. That's as far as he planned.
He was specifically challenged to bring the mummy in the basement of the Private School's library back to life. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Writing When you Can't Even Think

Saturday night I got a voice message from the artistic director at the theatre company where I work. He asked me to call him immediately, and when I did he had news that I couldn't have imagined for myself. A body had been found in the men's bathroom, and it turned out to be one of our cast members.

I had left the building less than three hours earlier. The cast member, whose name was Chris, had been there when I left. It's a few days later and we still don't know what happened--the police performed an autopsy and could not determine a cause of death. His family lives in Illinois, so friends in the area are taking over making arrangements for his service, but that's all we know so far.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Chapter One: Starbuck McLaw

Chapter One: Zombies are very "in" this season.
Technology has always been an important part of moving forward with our lives--and in some cases, (like the case of Starbuck McLaw), it keeps us moving forward far longer than we may like. Seventy years ago, in the middle of the 20th century, the information age was just peeking around the corner. Technology was developing, new discoveries were being made, and suddenly we were on the moon. Everyone stopped what they were doing when we went to the moon--gathered around their tiny television sets and watched as we took one very small (or very large, depending on your perspective) step, changing the landscape of our only natural satellite forever. Today the moon is in our pockets if we want it--the whole solar system and our high score on space tetris are all in there, too.
Rarely are we impressed by something so meager as a factory that manufactured the batteries that the spacemen used in their flashlights in case of power loss. However, that’s exactly what East Hollystock, New Jersey hangs its hat on. East Hollystock is a funny place, because first of all, it is in West New Jersey. It's called East Hollystock because it is further East than West Hollystock, which is almost Pennsylvania. Some GPSes will tell you that you are, in fact, in Pennsylvania, but anyone who has been to both places knows there is a distinct difference, and that even if you’re only barely in New Jersey, you are still definitely not in Pennsylvania, but you will wish you were.
In the 1950s, like most of North-West New Jersey, East Hollystock had a factory that built batteries that went on to travel into space. According to the townspeople of the time, that meant they may as well be housing NASA and sending rockets even further than the moon. Because they were so futuristic and forward-thinking, their water tower needed to reflect this truth. The town became "The Crossroads of Tomorrow" as opposed to "The Crossroads of America" which it had considered itself before the factory. A painter who had made it big and was returning to town just for the occasion painted the new logo. The clean, crisp shape of the atom, a rocket ship and an outline of Saturn took the place of the old, loopy letters that had started to fade and chip away. Years later, the rocket ship got defaced, of course, and the atom shortly thereafter. Eventually, someone painted boobs above the whole affair.
But before that, East Hollystock was at a crossroads between tomorrow and what I guess was another tomorrow, because the motto was just "crossroads of tomorrow" instead of "the crossroad between tomorrow and…" anything else. The defaced pictures were painted over again, and by the time this story begins, they were in pristine condition, which makes them the only thing in East Hollystock that could make such a claim. The factory was in disrepair and overgrown. Its unsightly state of made it the perfect hiding place for shadowy figures to set up entirely unorthodox laboratories. The factory made a nice place for all sorts of shadowy activities, as it had been abandoned when the crossroads of tomorrow stopped leading anywhere interesting.
This is how it came to be that on a fine, spring day, when there was little sun peeking from between the numerous clouds in the sky, and the factory was full of the most unsightly of creatures, the people in East Hollystock did not know anything was going wrong.