Lo and behold, I have a new hobby. Big surprise, yes?
No.
A curse and a blessing it is to be a “renaissance” woman. (That’s a nice way of saying I have attention issues…)
But, sometimes, I manage to come up with a new interest that is both interesting and potentially useful and complementary.
Please hold your applause and welcome…SCREENWRITING…to the fold. (Don’t worry, I’m still writing books too. This is all part of my devious plan. I’ve tricked myself into using this new hobby as a procrastination technique. Don’t tell me, but I’m putting off writing, by writing. It’s genius, I know!) now, shhh

So, I’m working on a feature, a short, and a sample episode of Hannibal. But don’t take my word for it, behold my home.

The Study – Oft mistaken for a common ‘office.’

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The Kitchen – A place for cooking up plots rather than cooking with pots.

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And everywhere you need it to be, may I introduce you to The Light at the End of the Tunnel.

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Mumble, grumble, paying off my word-war debts….

 

Hi, it’s Courtney from Syncopated Synonyms once again. Today’s topic? Zombies.

As recently as last year, there were several zombie scares in the U.S. news, and, although the hysteria was quickly debunked, the CDC felt it necessary to address zombies on its website. Interestingly, said website has since morphed into an attempt to make tongue in cheek zombie “updates” useful to public health in general: CDC Zombie Preparedness.

Their website states:

Wonder why Zombies, Zombie Apocalypse, and Zombie Preparedness continue to live or walk dead on a CDC web site? As it turns out what first began as a tongue in cheek campaign to engage new audiences with preparedness messages has proven to be a very effective platform. We continue to reach and engage a wide variety of audiences on all hazards preparedness via Zombie Preparedness; and as our own director, Dr. Ali Khan, notes, “If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.” So please log on, get a kit, make a plan, and be prepared!

But zombies aren’t just useful in terms of public health preparedness; they often serve as handy-catchall symbols (who, usefully, can’t complain about being catchalls) for any social ills we writers/film makers wish to throw their way.

But I have a few bones to pick with zombie lit. (Hmm, maybe I shoulda gone with brains to pick there). First, it’s often unrealistic: something with a rotting body shouldn’t have super-strength or super-speed or super-anything (except stench). Sure, if you happen to get snuck-up on, or have the terrible luck to wander into the midst of a horde, you’re gonna die, but zombies rarely have the potential to be strong, believable adversaries.(I do have a caveat, which will be addressed later on).

Second, zombie lit tends to be churned out formulaic-ly, which is just lame considering the potential for social commentary and overall awesome.

Third (and here is where I’d like to place my focus in this post), the whole mythology of zombies is greatly misunderstood.

The zombie mythology comes, primarily, from Carribean lore–although myths about the dead have been around for as long as people, I’d guess. These zombies were really just people in catatonic states: they looked dead while they were under the thrall of some sort of voodoo master. Or, they were actually dead but were raised by a specific person for a specific person and then went away. These zombies could be undone, which is really handy.

A lot of “zombie lore” nowadays can be attributed to George Romero, whose films (including the classics Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead) have defined the zombie film genre as we know it.

I really like one of his recent films, Survival of the Dead, in which the desperate residents of a tiny island teach zombies to eat animals instead of people.

But I, alas, am far from a full-fledged expert on the subject of authentic-zombie lore. So, this rambling introduction has been leading up to a world-class passing of the buck. Check out this resource, put together by the University of Michigan, for more information:

http://www.umich.edu/~engl415/zombies/zombie.html

 

 

Once again, it’s Courtney from Syncopated Synonyms. Before you throw your rotten tomatoes in disappointment at hearing from me yet again due to this hundred-years’-word-war, I’d just like to note that I have been writing upwards of 10,000 words a week, just on a Master’s Thesis rather than a novel.

Once the semester ends your Master erm, benevolent host, will have to watch out. Because it really will be war. Again.

Anyhow, my task this week is to talk to all of you about writing the non-action bits of your novel, something otherwise known as “sequel” (where “action” bits are known as scenes). If this is a bit confusing to you, refer to Jack Bickam’s Scene & Structure, which is part of Writer’s Digest’s Elements of Fiction Writing Series.

Now, before I get into great detail about the purpose of these “sequel,” or non-action parts, I’d like to share a few quotes with you:

“Writing is both mask and unveiling.” E.B. White

“I would solve a lot of literary problems just thinking about a character in the subway, where you can’t do anything anyway.” Toni Morrison

Writing is sort of a push and pull act of creation, it’s ambiguous, and it’s often not as simple as it seems it should be. Famous authors, such as the two (some of my favorite Literary authors) I quote above struggle with many of the same things as us not-so-famous authors. One thing in particular is finding balance between “action” and “calm” in writing.

There’s something about writing–especially the writing of fiction–that really needs non-action moments, even though, for writers and readers, the excitement, glamour, or shock and awe value–whatever you want to call it–may seem to lie in the action scenes.

I get it, action is so much more fun to write.

But just like people, stories need moments of calm, of apparent solitude, so that they can make connections and plan out future action and let the reality of things really, truly set in. Now, this “calm” can take many forms. For example:

In Renaissance Drama, the “sequel” bits often took the forms of soliloquies )the monologue that happen when only one character is on stage [or at least appears to be the only person on stage]). In these moments, characters process information and regroup or proceed with their plans.

In Urban Fantasy, these are usually the rare moments when the protagonist gets to enjoy a “normal” and “everyday” occasion, like a family party, a date, a night at home away from all of the monsters and mayhem. These are also the moments when the characters either grapple with their identities or experience satisfaction in who they are and how they live. As readers, we get to see who and what these character love, not just what they hate/fight against. We also get to see the “real” character rather than the “action-hero” he or she becomes during action scenes.

As these two highly divergent examples illustrate, however, these moments are important for far more than plot purposes. They allow readers to glimpse the “essence” of the characters, they allow the writer to solidify characterization or to point to some driving motivation beneath the surface of the action-packed scenes.

These moments are somewhat uncanny in action-genres such as Urban Fantasy, Mystery/Thriller, etc., because the conventions of the genre ultimately predetermine reader expectations. We expect danger and explosions, adrenaline-filled moments of awesome. We don’t expect to see a the protagonist slip on some reading glasses and open up a worn copy of Pride and Prejudice, or talk to a supposed enemy over a civil gourmet dinner, or geek out over Monty Python after a long day battling evil. But these moments often tell us much more about the character than the action scenes do, just because they allow both the readers and the characters to figuratively step-back from the pressing immediacy of the plot and just be themselves.

At least, that’s my take. Please chime in with your ideas, as well.

It’s been fun,

Courtney