From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What writers can learn from Lon Chaney and silent film

Tonight my roommates and I went to the 1923 silent film adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, staring Lon Chaney as Quasimodo. I thought it might be interesting to see what the silent film genre and its actors have to teach me about my own work, and here is what I came up with:
Lon Chaney was extremely dedicated to his work. He spent lots of time and effort working with makeup and finding ways to contort his own face and body, without regard to pain, and it is for good reason he is called 'the man with 1,000 faces.' Chaney clambered up, down and around Notre Dame wearing a nearly 50 pound hump and harness that kept his body twisted and contorted. That’s what I call dedication. Now, writing and art don't generally involve facial and bodily contortion, (if it does, you may want to reevaluate your writing process), but emotionally and mentally, it can sometimes be torture. When that happens, remember Lon Chaney, and just be glad you're not gallivanting around Paris with a 50 pound hump on your back.
Another thing Chaney demonstrates is this: The best monsters and horror characters are also somehow sympathetic. Chaney's Quasimodo obviously and poignantly craved affection; that is something every human can understand. We all fear the grotesque and unlovable within ourselves. If as an artist you are going for more than just blood and guts, you can look to Lon Chaney for an example.
One last thing I think we can learn from the silent film genre in general is what I guess I could call significant expression. I'm sure we're all familiar with the over-the-top style of acting in silent films, and we don't need to go that far. But I think that what we can take away from this is that every glance, movement, and action has an obvious meaning and deep significance. If everything your characters did, said, or expressed meant something important to the reader, how much richer would those characters be? Again, I'm not saying we need to be didactic or unnatural, but taking away the parts that don't mean much to your characters takes away the parts that won't mean much to your reader.
Anyway, there's my Halloween artsy experience. Hope all of you had a fantastic Halloween, and now that it’s over, happy NaNoWriMo!
Write on!
Sarah Allen

Creative Writing Marketing

No matter if your writing the next best thing in the English language, without good marketing strategies, no one will know. I'm just beginning to find my way in the marketing world, and look forward to better, more advanced suggestions, but here are the basics of what I've found so far.


This is a great site for just plain old publishing your work. It is a searchable listing of thousands of places for you to be published. Find hundreds of publications that are looking for the kind of thing you write, and keep submitting until


This is an obvious one, but a very good one. Craigslist provides a listing of local writing opportunities, and you never know what gems of experience you'll find. Keep track of what writing opportunities are happening in your own town, and help build your local following. This is one to check regularly.


This is also an obvious one, but a very good way of spreading news to hundreds of people at once. This is an incredibly useful supplement to your blog. Keep your followers aware of publication dates, readings, signings, etc.


You want people to find your book. This site is about people finding the next thing on their reading list. Its a perfect match.


This is one I'm still trying to figure out. Obviously its for video, not text, but it is also one of the most popular sites in the world right now, and any creative ways of marketing your writing using this site will, I'm sure, be of great help. Perhaps video of readings, home-made book trailers, interviews, etc.


This is in the same vein as YouTube, in that its for photos, not text. But again, its a hugely popular site, so any way of marketing through photo on this site has the potential of reaching tons of people. Here's another site similar to Flickr that can be used similarly: deviantART

Gaming Sites

Ok, so this one is a little weird, but there are lots of people on gaming sites that could potentially be turned in to readers if you can reach them. Besides, its fun! Just don't let gaming get in the way of writing. Here are a few big sites: Zynga, Neopets.

Social Networking sites

One of most necessary and useful online marketing tools. Here's a short list of the top ones:

Random Interest

Look for local or national groups that may not have to do with writing specifically, but still are applicable to you. Make friends with people who love dogs, theater, medicine, or whatever it is your interested in, and you will have expanded and diversified your readership.

So there's the basics of what I know about reaching people and finding new opportunities. I hope these ideas are things you can use.
Sarah Allen

p.s. Here's a list of the top sites in the world, and any of them that you can use to market your creative writing will definitely help: Alexa

Creative Writing Notebook

There's a reason my first post is about writing notebooks:

How can you write if you don't have something to write with and something to write on?

I have carried around some form of notebook since I was in 8th grade, and it has been one my best weapons against writers block.

My notebooks are a sort of creativity dumping ground. I write down story ideas, little details, something neat that I saw, a cool phrase I overheard, or even just how bored I am sitting in class. I like to use the back of the notebook for titles, and those have become my favorite thing to jot down. Even if you never end up using anything from your notebook directly, its a great way to get the spark you need when you're completely blank.

I sometimes use creative writing notebook for businessy things as well. I jot down random ideas I have about marketing my writing, or a new outlet I hear about, or a new idea I hear about how I can make money with writing. Then I usually transfer this kind of information to a more organized list later. But for those random times when you hear about a neat opportunity, its always good to have a consistent, convenient way of recording it.

The notebook idea is useful to more then just writers. Wouldn't it be useful for an artist to always carry around a sketchbook? I can even see how it might be helpful for an actor to carry around a notebook to write down the small, significant details they observe in people going about their daily life to use later in their work. And it doesn't have to be an expensive, heavy, leather-bound thing either. Your kids old notebook from second grade works just as well, or even a few 3x5 cards you carry in your pocket. Or if your one Whatever works for you.

Just remember to always have it with you. At work, school, shopping, by your bed, wherever you go. When that sudden spark of inspiration comes, you'll be glad you did.

Sarah Allen
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