From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

3 Writing Lessons from Dr. House

Today I am over at the blog of the wonderful Jeff Harget with his August is Awesome blog series. Check it out to see what writing lessons we can learn from the eminent, embittered Dr. Gregory House.

Sarah Allen

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why Writing for Teens and Adults is the Same

This is a re-blog of a post I did a couple years ago. 

One piece of writing advice I hear quite often is to keep ones readers or target audience in mind. It makes sense, right? I mean, Judy Blume, Steven King and Fyodr Dostoevsky probably all have very different readerships.

Lies. At least partly. I've read and loved all three of those authors, and know lots of other people who have too. I mean, you can make generalities, but since when have generalities been good for writing?

My point is this. The only real audience you can write "to" is you. And by you I mean everybody. Let me explain. (No, there is too much. Let me sum up.) When you are honest and very specific, and write things that you enjoy and that mean something important to you, then your readers are able to grasp that important meaning through those specific details. By being specific you become universal. People can relate to grass stains and cigarette smoke and the first day of school. Those things may mean something different to different people, but they have much more meaning than if you just said happy or anxious or sad.

That is why writing for adults and teenagers is the same. The point isn't to pander or adjust to any preconceived "level." The point is to tell the most interesting story you know in the most meaningful way you know how, whether the main character is 7, 17, or 70. You can't control what any given reader is going to take away from your work, because they will all take away something different anyway. Our job is to do our best to make sure they can take away something. No matter what age they are.

When you really get down to it, we're all just human.

Sarah Allen

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sidekicks do it better

I typically find that side characters are more interesting to me than the main heroes. I'm just intrigued by their motivation, and if I try to dig into it they become more and more admirable. I mean, really, what do sidekicks get out of the gig? Not the glory, that's for certain. Maybe Batman protects Robin in some ways, but Robin would probably be much safer just not hanging around Batman in the first place. 

So that leaves basically noble motivation. They want to do what good they can. They are loyal to their hero. Loyal enough with a strong enough friendship to be content with second tier and to be honest, that seems like the harder job.

One of my favorite examples of this is Samwise Gamgee. Totally the best character in LOTR. I took a class on Tolkien, and he thought so too. Sam doesn't get the glory, the hero status, he doesn't even have to go in the first place. He goes because of his friendship with Frodo and his love of the Shire. Simple, honest, true. And really, Ron and Hermione are just so much more engaging and less annoying than Harry.

I love imaging the back story of these side characters, and this is sort of my creative writing challenge for you all today. They don't have to be "side-kicks" in the comic book sense by any means, but just a side character from a story that you think might be interesting to look into. Here are some of my favorites:

Captain Hook. 
Fairy Godmother.
Woodcutter in Red Riding Hood
Hunter in Snow White
Gepetto ( I love what Once Upon a Time has been doing with this character)

Anyway, what side character do you find interesting? If you were to write a story with that character as the protagonist, how would it go?

Sarah Allen

Friday, August 17, 2012

Movie Review: Hawking, 2004

I just have to say one thing, first off.


I mean, really:

The man could play a dead fish and I would want it as my laptop background. (Why yes, BC as Sherlock is in fact my current background, thanks for asking.)

So, what do I like about Hawking besides Benedict, who, incidentally, plays Steven Hawking to absolutely indescribable perfection? I really enjoyed getting more back story on Steven Hawking himself. Its hard to say what Hawking actually is, sort of biography/documentary but also just a short film. But it was cool to know more about Hawking's earlier years, when he got his disease, what the disease actually is, who was with him, what his science was, how miraculous his life has been given the disease. Lots of cool stuff like that.

The script was very well written. I sometimes feel like it's hard to take a historical event and portray it in film without making it feel forced or just very boring, and this one toed that line extremely well. They got a good combination of the actual story going on with the disease and scientific discovery, along with Hawking's inner emotional life, which of course Benedict pulls off in a way that makes me think we need stronger, more appropriate and descriptive adjectives in the English language. Godlike, maybe? Okay, okay, so I'm a fan girl.

Anyway, another great thing is that its all on YouTube, so you don't even have to change out of your pajamas.

Wait till the sidewalk chalk scene. How do you not fall in love with that smile?

Sarah Allen

Friday, August 10, 2012

Movie Review: Peter Pan, 1953

This week I watched Peter Pan, for the first time in a long time, and I made a discovery:

I really, really do not like Peter.

Frankly, he is obnoxious. He is everything I dislike in the stereotypical teenage boy. Cocky, self-serving, thinks everyone is made for him to boss around, and completely ignores Wendy and treats her like an object, to the point of nearly coming across as sexist, although that may just be the fifties. He treats everyone else as naive and stupid because they haven't had the same experiences and don't have the same skill set (slash flying) that he does. I really have no idea what Wendy sees in him, or why Tinkerbell even sticks around, let alone get's jealous. Also, does anyone find his joy in tormenting Captain Hook out of all proportion at the end the slightest bit sadistic?

Ok, so there's my rant against Peter. Given all that I am clearly on the side of Captain Hook. And Mr. Darling, too, actually, and I'm not sure I appreciate how condescending and "perfect" the rest of the family comes across, when he's trying the best he can and just has a little temper problem. That's normal, isn't it?

But back to Captain Hook. Seriously, he makes up for Peter. One of the greatest comedic antagonists ever. The stuff with him and Smee and the boat and running away from the crocodile made me laugh out loud. Hans Conried did a fabulous job on the voice acting. The animation was great too; Hook is like a head taller than everyone else, including the other pirates, and he walks like it, sort of sweeping and hunch-shouldered.

Also, the choir and orchestration in Peter Pan is so beautiful and so fabulously fifties it totally has this nostalgic feel to it. When I hear other music from the fifties I often think, "Hey, that sounds like Peter Pan."

Anyway, Peter Pan is a classic and deserves it, but more for the villain and side characters than for Peter himself. I'm not surprised so many Peter Pan spin-off works have Hook as more of the good guy.

Sarah Allen

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I shouldn't have, but I did.

I took my little sister to the mall the other day to get a Build-a-Bear and then she asked to go into the Disney store. I already had Pooh Bear and Mickey, but I saw Kermit and Sully and I just couldn't help myself. I'm in the middle of job hunting and really shouldn't be making frivolous purchases, but sometimes a girl needs friends. Especially in the middle of job hunting.

So yeah, that is one thing I do when I'm in minimal-writing-limbo period.

The other thing I do is watch a lot of TED and VSauce.

Did you know that in a perfect world, mirrors reflect every color, but in our less-than-perfect world, they are the slightest bit green?

Did you know that one year after either winning the lottery or losing function of their legs, the lottery winners and paraplegics reported equal levels of happiness with their lives?

Did you know that yawning is contagious because of emotional empathy, as well as a herd instinct from our earlier years, and that autistic kids and other socioemotional handicapped people exhibit much less contagious yawning?

Did you know that when Toy Story was first pitched to Tom Hanks, he said "You don't want me to sing, do you?" Not surprising, given that the successful children's films of the time were Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast.

Basically I've been spending a lot of time having my mind blown. And applying for jobs. But also having my mind blown.

What blows your mind?

Sarah Allen

Monday, August 6, 2012

Moving on to the Next Project is...Hard.

Being done with a major project is a new thing for me. I've written lots of short stories, started more novels than I care to count, but actually finishing one that I want to put out into the world isn't something I have experienced until now. 

I've basically done what I can do on The Keeper. I've edited, given it to readers, edited again, more readers, edited some more. It's ready for the submission stage now, and I've even sent off a couple query letters. Now that I'm starting down the submission path for this novel, the next step is to start the next big project. I understand that, the point is to keep creating. Can't put all my eggs in one basket; who knows what's going to happen with The Keeper, right? I know all this, but I'm having a much more difficult time moving on than I expected.

There are three reasons I think I'm having trouble:

First, I still don't feel complete with The Keeper. It's not published yet, not a Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times bestseller yet, so I can't help the feeling that I still have more to do. But really all I can do is query, and sitting around refreshing my email isn't helping me make progress or making things go any faster.

Second, life has just been crazy. Family changes, work and money stress, friends moving, just lots of things making life very unstable. You know all this, I've talked about it plenty. There are some big things coming up that I'm not going to talk about yet that hopefully mean I'm going to feel much more stable, so that's good, but I'm also not big on excuses, and feel upset at myself for not making good writing progress no matter the work/family/friend/money/life situation.

Third and lastly, and this one I find interesting, I just can't seem to decide where to commit myself next. I've got several ideas floating around. I've got the first chapter of a YA novel, some stories I'd love to build up into a collection, a screenplay idea. All the projects interest me, and I want to do them all eventually, but I can't decide what to do first. Also, this indecision combined with the feeling of instability is totally making me feel like I'm not in a position to commit to anything yet anyway. Again the frustration with myself: in about a month or two I will feel more stable, but I shouldn't be waiting for that or using anything as an excuse either.

So basically I'm in this position of wanting to move on and not quite knowing how to do it. Do I just wait it out, give myself a break, or try and force it through? If a break, what do I do in the meantime?

Sarah Allen
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