Precipices

I’ve got this chair.  It’s a recliner (that I “mistakenly” keep referring to as a “rocking chair…”  What?  It rocks.  It is therefor a “rocking chair.”  Don’t get all “Nope Nope!” on me about this) and it has a rather nice view of the quaint residential street out my window.  It’s possibly my favorite place to start my day off.  Great view, comfy chair… and, for whatever reason, it feels like the most “secure” form of “personal space” I have.  To say I love this chair  and where it is in my living room is an understatement.  In full disclosure (and because my Mother happens to know that this chair was pinched from the corner on move-out day this past August), it will not be making the move with me to Los Angeles when the time comes.  But for right now, it’s my favorite place in the world.

I’m sitting in it, blaring REO Speedwagon’s “Roll with the Changes” through my headphones, playing Archer on the TV, and glancing out at the fog – illuminated by the soft and rosy/golden glow of the street lamps – that completely conceals the ground just one story below me… and I’m finally able to sit back and say what I’ve worked for three years to say: I.  AM.  OFFICIALLY.  A.  FUCKING.  SCREENWRITER!

Cue: VICTORY DANCE!

For a little over a year, I’ve been working with a good friend of mine on developing and writing a pilot/series and I was finally given the OKAY to post about it.  So I jumped on that shit like a zombie dog in uh…. zombie heat?  (I’ll let you enjoy that image in your head… too scared to type it into Google…)

The weird thing about all of this is that it’s been about 3 years in the making and I’m now, finally, at the starting line.  When I started teaching myself how to write screenplay format (and subsequently devoting a great deal of self-restraint to NOT putting my own eyes out due to frustration), I used to imagine this moment as the whole “Nick Saban, you just won ANOTHER National Title with Alabama, how do you feel?” type moment.  That’s not exactly right, though.  It’s a bit more like training for a marathon.

I’ve wanted an excuse to use this meme for SO FREAKING LONG.

The beauty of it all is that this is not a destination.  It’s not a “well, now what do I do next?  Do I try and repeat everything?”  I can honestly say that getting to this moment has been what the past three years of my life have been about… which is fitting as I have this thing about sets of 3.  If this is what the last three years have been building to, I’m beyond stoked for the next few sets of 3.

But after all the excitement, it’s fitting that things are starting to pick up/go public around a day devoted to giving thanks.  There’re plenty of people in my life who inspire me and plenty of people who believe in me (even when I falter in believing in myself).  Family, friends, and even heroes (small “breaking the fourth wall” moment… Holden read my last post and tweeted me about it… no joke… SO AWESOME, YOU GUYS/GALS!)… y’all have kept me going and I’m so thankful for that.

And I’m thankful for my chair.  There’s no place I’d rather be right now than sitting in this chair – my safe place – and actually getting to take a quick breather to look back at the unbelievable amount of support and love I’ve been shown… with my Hawkeye blanket my mom made for me (that’s quickly become my “almost adult safety blanket”… don’t you judge me!).  I’m ever so grateful and I just hope…..

… I hope that you’ll laugh.  I hope you’ll cry.  I hope that you’ll be entertained.  And, in the end, I hope I can give back and give to others what you’ve all given me.  Thank you so very, very much.

From me in my chair to you in yours, thank you!

– JP

See you, Space Cowboys!

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The Living Bebop

One of the things I find incredibly enjoyable as a writer is to leave my mark on certain existing things.  I even find it fulfilling to simply imagine my own stories with characters I already love that manage to fit into the existing framework someone else’s work.  Some call it the “highest form of praise” and others call it “Copying” but I tend to think of it as being able to give something back – at least within the confines and safety of my own skull (where I wouldn’t be sued for copyright infringement) – to the characters and/or universes of somethings that I love.  If you paid me (or promised to not sue me), I would sit down and regale you with copious amounts of stories about The Doctor’s adventures, life as a Federation Marine during the Sphere Builder War, what happens to Alpha, Echo, Topher, Dewitt, et al between taking down Rossum and the Epitaphs, and I could even tell you a good story involving the ORIGINAL (1988 TV Series) Mission Impossible crew.

For the young kids in the audience, it may surprise you but this team worked better WITHOUT Ethan Hunt (because when his character was introduced in the movies, this team pretty much all died).  Also, Peter Graves was THE MAN (next to Steve McQueen).

There are very few things that I find influential in my life and to my writing that I DON’T wish I could get my hands on just for a brief period of time.

In the summer of 2001, I was surfing through the channels late one night while at my Dad’s house.  I’m not even going to pretend that at age 11 or 12, I didn’t have a soft spot for anime.  I will admit that around that time, I had just outgrown Dragon Ball Z  and Gundam and, being in America, I really had limited access to the wide myriad of offerings.  I managed to stumble upon a show where an androgynous child and a dog were on a scooter chasing a dude who sold magic mushrooms.  It had some wicked Jazz and took place in space and even though I was starting to shift away from “cartoons” to live action fiction, I wasn’t completely beyond giving one last anime a try.  I tuned in the next night and realized that this was going to be something I had to watch from the beginning.  Luckily enough, the series restarted a little while later and I made sure to catch every episode as the music, the mood, and the characters caught hold of my early adolescent soul and would not let go.

I need to find a way to get this as a poster.

For those who are unfamiliar (and I don’t blame or judge you), the series is entitled Cowboy Bebop.  To this day, it is one of my top 5 favorite shows… ever.  Period.  Back then, it was a a release valve.  It was an escape hatch.  It was a warm blanket on a cool, rainy day.  As a 12 year old boy – and at that specific time and in that specific location – Bebop provided one of the strongest connections to real life that I could have ever hoped for.  The simple reason was that the show – though futuristic and all Sci-fi-ey – was deeply rooted in the humanity of its characters.  How is an idealistic 12 year old really supposed to accept that the world is not predominantly “good” or “evil” and that often, things happen without rhyme or reason?  Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, bad things to bad people, good things to good people.  There’s not one thing anybody can do about how life runs its course and at the end of everything, the world is neither good nor evil… it just simply, tragically, and miraculously exists.

The story of Bebop exists in a twilight of consciousness.  Spike, the central character, is stuck between feeling as though he is dreaming or truly awake.  He’s the man who can’t die yet doesn’t know if he’s truly alive.  All of this is a metaphor, beautifully woven together with the other characters and their colored experiences and somehow, my adolescent mind was able to accept and understand it.  Now, obviously there was humor and action and fun within the series.  It even got downright campy at times (and chillingly creepy at others) and yet no one single quality overrode any other mood in the show.  It was a neutral universe with only the characters and their experiences – both good and bad – affecting their pasts, presents, and futures.  THAT registered with me.  It struck every fucking chord it could and when the final scene faded to white, tears filled my eyes and I smiled because this “cartoon” had made me make sense of Life, accept it, and make my own place in the world.  I make a point of watching the series at least once every year and am still incredibly emotionally moved when it reaches its conclusion and the fade out allows us to retrospectively think about the entire story all at once.  In a great many ways, Bebop is the reason I’m here today, writing and just (finally) LIVING.

The series’ influence over me is pervasive in everything I work on.  From simple things such as timing and sly allusions to the show, all the way to how I think about different shots, put scenes together in my head, and even putting music to different scenes, my mind always seems to spill and get Bebop everywhere when I’m trying to work — and at the very LEAST, it allows me to open up how I think about something and expand on what I really want.

It’s also one of the few projects I’m not sure I could ever bring myself to work on, if given the opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong, it would be a crowning achievement in my life if I were given the opportunity to work on a live action Bebop (and PLEASE, fans of the series, do not worry… I understand the importance of both ENDING the show with “Real Folk Blues” AND leaving said ending open to interpretation).  It is also a series that’s initial impact was so strong because the story existed within the thin sliver between fantasy and reality that Spike experienced as his life.  The power of the show lies in the twilight between dream and reality and I’m not entirely sure I would – in the role of writer/producer – be okay waking from said twilight to realize the reality of the dream and the fantasy of “reality” (which anybody working on the production end of the project would have to).  I could do it… but I’m just not sure I want to…

BUT THEN AGAIN… It can be said that the best dreams we ever have are the ones we get to live – even for a brief moment… and even if it’s coming in on a show with an androgynous kid and collie both riding a moped and chasing down a magic mushrooms dealer.  As a writer, artist, creator, etc. isn’t it our job to create the dream for others to live and sometimes even share our dreams?

I go back and forth and the only conclusion I can come to is actually something Spike says: “What happens, happens.”

I’ll go on record and say that it would be an honor to ever be able to be a part of Bebop… but only if it was Bebop the way I know it… and if Bebop is not meant to be woken from, I’m completely okay with that.

See you, Space Cowboy.

PS… Proof that the music for the show is amazing, here’s the opening titles.  The song is entitled “Tank” and it is one of the most amazing jazz charts I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.

Flaming Dr. Pepper Bomb

So back to the regularly scheduled programming.

Throughout history, we see a motif of great/triumphant returns.  The Phoenix rising from the ashes, Christ rising from the dead (or… in this case, maybe he’s just the first zombie…. SORRY FOR THE BLASPHEMY!), the bank account of a literary idiot housewife who loves glitter and vampires and…… oh shit… it’s turning into another Twilight tangent…

You did this, Stephanie Meyer… YOU. DID. THIS.

And then you look to nature.  Some of the most fertile ground is that which has been charred and burned.  My old church in Cedar Falls used to have a controlled Prairie fire as part of the 5 am Easter Mass.  Everything would regrow and it would be even more beautiful.

Finally (because I could go on and on), there’s the myth of Prometheus.  He snuck fire away from the Gods and gave it to his creation: Man.  Zeus was already afraid that humans would overthrow him but even for an immortal being, that is still a really long way off if they JUST got fire.  What about it makes it so dangerous that he chained Prometheus to a rock and made an eagle rip out his liver every morning?

The noms! All of the noms! OM NOM NOM NOM

I’ll take a leap and suggest that it’s the “purifying” nature of fire.  The symbolic resurgence that follows burning.  You give a creature a way to make itself better and there will come a point when the pain of burning is seen as only temporary compared to whatever else they are going through.  Sometimes, things need to burn.  Prairies, Phoenixes, and even friendships or past histories.  Sometimes it needs to happen for us to become better people.

AND if Zeus knew ANYTHING about physics, there’s the Law of Conservation of Energy.  (Remember E=MC²?… Energy is, in a way, synonymous with “Mass” which is synonymous with matter).  Energy/Matter cannot be created nor destroyed.  The existence of said energy/matter simply changes states.  Just because something burns and turns to ashes does not mean it’s gone for good.  It doesn’t mean there won’t be something useful to come of the ashes… and if you believe mythological stories, don’t stick your nose right over the pile, lest a Phoenix shoot out and take your nose off.  (I was so close to making another Michael Jackson joke at this…)

So maybe somethings need to be allowed to burn.  Somethings need to be lit on fire.

Before you ask, this was all brought about by one of my dear friends/coworkers buying me the most unique drink I’ve had in my life.  It’s my new favorite and I’m saving it for special occasions and times when I need to be reminded that fire isn’t always that awful thing we first think of it as.

This.

I’ll leave you with a song.  Take it away, Mr. Bowie.

 

PS!  This all applies to writing too!  Don’t forget to let the worlds and people you create get a little toasty every now and then.  They’ll surprise you.

Far Beyond All Those Distant Stars

I have this nightly routine.  I come home from work, go to the bathroom upon getting home (I drink a TON of fluids at work), and then go shower before going up and working on a script or blog or essay or something all while talking to Eric and having some family time with him.  Normally, the dick jokes and bro-speak runs amok and we have ourselves a grand ol’ time escaping from our days and unwinding over facebook chat… but occasionally, we actually get to some heavy stuff.

I’m a Family Guy fan… are you surprised I found this?

So last started out as any night… we spent some time talking about our days and lives and then starting actually writing together.  It was over a joke line in a script I’m working on that was spoken by a character who is modeled a bit after Eric.  So basically, women jokes, period jokes, and a pretty epic Black Friday joke that got reworked and reworked until it fit perfectly.  It’s been a goal of mine to actually write a movie with him for this precise reason: it’s fun for both of us.  Anyway, we got through that and kept talking about different parts of the script and doing our usual thing… and then it changed and got all introspective.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about why I enjoy writing and adapting a new story to a preexisting franchise and with preexisting characters.  Sometimes, the hardest stuff for me to look at and deal with in my own life is somehow made easier – at least for me – when viewed as metaphor.  Well, I’ve got this story right now – this script – that is really little more than fan-fiction in screenplay form… and I’m okay with that.  Different parts of this story have really helped me grapple with a great many things I’d rather just curl up under my bed with blankets and comic books than actually deal with.  It’s been fun.  It’s been difficult.  I’ve laughed and I’ve cried a bit and it’s this giant … well… thing… that I happen to love (almost as much as puppies dressed like the Doctor)…

I can’t remember if I’ve busted this out before or not but it is quite amazing/adorable.

But see this is the big thing about writing and tv and movies… at least the good stuff… They’re things we enjoy.  They give us an escape from our lives that often, we need.  The best of them are able to offer us that escape but also extend a hand and give us the chance to have a companion with us on a journey that speaks to our own lives, if we let it.  Batman Begins is all about conquering fear and learning to put yourself back together/finding the inner strength to make yourself more than what you are in any given moment.  Inception is about making a movie – or the creative process in general.  Alien is about giving birth – okay okay no it’s not… but I had to make the joke anyway.  Those are just movies… flip on the TV and you can find anything anywhere that speaks to your soul if you want to let it – even at 4am when the ghost of Billy Mays is still screaming at you about OxiClean and quite literally shaking your soul with his “enthusiastic shouting…”

The interwebz are an absolute fucking GOLDMINE today.

In the end, all of our entertainment is created from something.  Ideas are spun out from experience and reaction into complete worlds and stories full of vivid characters, archetypes and archetype shattering, action, love, humor, and the occasional doobie-induced car chase (here’s looking at you, Pineapple Express).  Entertainment is the greatest chance you’ll have to both escape from things and to address the same things head on without fear or anxiety.  They also give us that chance to look at something we’re proud of or happy about and say “holy shitballs that was fucking awesome.”  Or just getting to see something that makes you say “holy shitballs that was fucking awesome.”

This is one of the best parts of Avengers… if you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve had over 2 months. Sorry kids. Can’t not use this gif any longer.

There’s little I can do about things like Twilight.  I can’t really say there’s any deeper meaning to them… clearly, he’s over 100 and she’s 16… I don’t believe Madame Meyer was thinking math when she made the central love story slightly… statutory.  But next time you want to sit in the back of a dark theater for a few hours… or you hop onto the sofa with a bowl of chips and salsa and get ready to watch the Breaking Bad premiere, don’t just zone out and escape.  At its best, entertainment is a lens for us to view our humanity.

I’d explain the title of this but … this video does it so well…

Far, far beyond all those distant stars…

See ya, Space Cowboy.

 

Original Gangsta (…ok ok… “Gangsta = Nerd”)

Being the social animal that I am, I was at this thing that occurs at people’s houses… I believe the foreign land of Iowa City refers to those as… uh… PARTAYS or something.  So I was at this party with some creative and, quite honestly, fucking brilliant people a few nights back.  The subject of writing came up in the whole “New people meet each other” interview type segment when I was introduced as a writer and this ridiculously awesome girl listened and then hit me with a complete doozey of a question when I had said my dream jobs are mostly involved with continuations of existing franchises.

“So no offense because I’m actually curious but how do you maintain some aspect of yourself in that?  What do you say to the people who will say you don’t do anything original?”

KRYPTONITE IN QUESTION FORM!!!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Now, social rules while at these events allow for some think time before a response, especially if you have a drink in your hand and a dashing smile… and I was ever so grateful for that.  There’s an answer but holy crap!  Girl, I just met you and you’re throwing DOWN!  (Excuse me while I hide the semi I’m now working on… it’s not because you’re a girl but more because you challenged me and are AWESOME!).  So I took a swig, smiled, exhaled, and started talking.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Cumberbatch.

Suffice it to say that she and I got along superbly the entire night but she had a point.  It’s not that I don’t have original stuff because I have a whole cache of it.  It’s not that one is easier than the other (though most initial reactions will be “it is SO MUCH EASIER to just adapt stuff or write the next story for a pre-existing franchise”) or anything.  For me, it’s “How can I get this central germ of an idea across in the most entertaining/marketable and quality manner?”  Sometimes, if it’s “Hey, this telemarketing job SUCKS and I’m rather displeased with the institution I attend for my education,” then that’s going to turn into an original “don’t fuck with smart kids” revenge story.  If it’s a more complex idea or one rooted deeper in my own life or emotional spectrum… well… especially if it is a more difficult conflict or feeling for people to deal with, it is often better to root the story with characters that exist already and people are already familiar with.  Not saying that’s a “good idea” for a writer just starting out with no cred… you can’t really just walk up to Joss Whedon and say “I have your next Avengers movie” and expect ANYTHING to come of it other than giving the guy a laugh.  BUT IF YOU HAVE TO TELL A STORY, why not just get the practice of adapting to pre-existing style, voice, character, etc?

So my answer…

“There are already so many quality characters and stories out there for which to frame entire backstories/histories in… why not use one as a vehicle to tell an original story?  The Dark Knight franchise is not the first Batman trilogy but it IS one of the cornerstones of the franchise.  So that plus the fact that it forces me to adapt to many different styles of writing and story telling thus making me a more versatile writer… hopefully.  And I’m the ultimate fanboy so why not write for the characters I love and who have inspired me?”

I’m not saying it’s the best thing in the world to do when you don’t have any credit and nobody will take it seriously but in the end, it is creating and I find it fun.  So why not?  This isn’t my high school cross country team or the School of Music where “…because it’s fun…” is tantamount to laziness and failure.  If you’ve got a story to tell, tell it.  Think of it as a Ferrari with the keys in it and a long, inviting road ahead of you.  At the worst, you call it “fan fiction” and never show anybody.  It’s like painting a cat to look like Pikachu.  It’s not but it kinda is but it’s not but it kinda is……………. and it’s fun and cute…. and yes, I have the picture.

AND THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE NOT WRITERS… don’t you even dare tell me you haven’t stared out the window and day dreamed about being in your favorite show or movie and having some story take place around you that never actually happened in said show or movie.  You know you do it :P.  So maybe write it down on a napkin or in your iPhone or something next time or maybe just go to a party, have a bacardi and lemonade, and tell someone who is eager to meet you and learn about you.

Easy come, easy go…

Whaddya Got?

Yeah, yeah.  I tried to cheat this week a bit and post something earlier in the week to see if I could get out of the habit of EVERY THURSDAY IS A NEW POST!  It did not work (obviously).  Plus, the last one was a bit…. esoteric, lofty, and tried to be more than it really was.

I’m this angsty writer-dude-guy-person-old fart type person.  I’ve got a chip on my shoulder the size of Saturn and a general disposition that leans heavily toward sarcasm and douchiness (and was once told I was too sarcastic to be a teacher… by an Ed. Professor).  I’m also the type of person to kick, scream, piss, moan, complain, and be petulant/stubborn but ultimately, I’ll break and do whatever I’m bitching about as long as it makes me a better person/writer/friend/etc.  If not, I’m likely to skip out entirely and not care… but if there’s ANYTHING I can get out of, I’ll eventually come around and play the game… A la Patrick Ianni playing the game last night against Sporting KC.  Video below.

In having one of our many “Bro/Nerd/Heartfelt conversations” that we have seemingly every day, Eric and I came around to the topic of what would have happened if I went to UNI rather than Iowa.  Obviously, I’m happy with my choice to embrace writing and screenwriting and OBVIOUSLY I wouldn’t have come to that realization without going through the insane amount of majors, spending 3 years as Music Ed, etc etc “IT WUZ FATED” type stuff.  UNI offers a music program and education program that is a bit more centered to how I wanted to study Music Education (NOT A BASH TO IOWA’S PROGRAM AT ALL… [Though I’m already mentally counting the people in Iowa’s program who will get all upset at me and take it that way anyway… oh well… can’t please ’em all])… but the big thing is that I am truly HAPPY as a writer.  I love what I do.  I love that the potential to get paid to do this is out there.  I love entertaining and making people smile, laugh, think, cry (*cough* Mom *cough* love you!).  Eric’s point was that UNI’s writing program is all about the creativity and my weaker areas are in the actual construction of the story (Eg… The Completed Work as Machine with Gears/Parts to Manipulate) and the actual craft of writing… and that I don’t need people to fawn over creativity… I need people to kick my ass about my lack of commas and help me shape my literary voice (subsequently affecting and shaping the voices of all of my characters which then impact the story and directions it could go thus resulting in a different reaction from the audience…….. yeah I could go on forever on this).  I have that at Iowa.

My “are you fucking kidding me?!” face. Side note: This was 4 years ago… I look like SUCH A LITTLE KID!

Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t think I’m God’s Gift to writing or creativity or whatever… far far far FARRRRR from that… and also don’t get me wrong, Professor-man (from a few posts ago… this one: https://marginalchickenscratch.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/vocal-writing-or-how-my-voice-told-a-professor-to-fuck-off/) is still a gigantic douche and a pretty awful person in general (and I got very little from his course that wasn’t… oh fuck it, I’m about to prove that point wrong….. just keep reading… ugh…).  The thing is, the place I am (both English Program and point in life) is this big, hulking, wall that says “YOU KNOW NOTHING!  YOU WILL LEARN!” and then forces a metric shit ton of busy work all up on you.  Sometimes, it’s the busy work that actually teaches you things but other times, the greatest gift all the irritating things in school or frustrations in life give you is drive and ambition.  Even Professor-man’s class had me up researching, reading, and exposing myself to things simply because he pissed me off and I wanted more.

It may honestly just be me (look up character traits of Aries men… you’ll find a picture of me and an arrow that says “This crazy fucker right here”) but having a chip on my shoulder about school, having a chip on my shoulder about needing to “prove myself” in a professional sphere I’m still very much on the outside of (Hello, LA?  It’s this place called Iowa calling… you’ve never heard of Iowa but it’s a BIG FAN!) that keeps me going.  In the early stages of actually producing creative work (whether music or art or writing or whatever else), it’s that drive to prove something that gives some of the best works an edge.  Do I think my work’s the best?  PSH NAWWWWW so far from it.  But there’s a definitive edge to the pieces I’d select as MY best and it’s because of that drive and desire to get to a point where I can turn around and say “LOOK AT ME NOW, BITCHEZ!  COME AT ME!”

Call back to the ORIGINAL Power Rangers… because I’m a BAMF like that.

And herein lies the one thing that I struggle with more than everything else.  Confidence is not my problem.  Swagger is not an issue.  And when I WANT to, I have PLENTY of game.  The issue is the fact that I don’t think I’ll ever have a moment in my life where I get that feeling of I’ve arrived.  If I’m ever blessed enough or deemed good enough to actually “break in” and “make it,” it’ll A. be on the good graces of others and B. be merely a jumping off point.

:D… dark humor…

Life’s full of jumping off points.  Not so much on the conclusions until you get old or get shot.  I’d venture to say that while my generation definitely has the whole head in the clouds thing going on, we’ve also got a bit of an edge to us that breaks us in and helps us say and do what we feel needs to be said and done.  So raise a glass to the edge.  Never lose it and always be cognizant of complacency or entitlement.

And for those of you who don’t understand the title… here ya go.

See ya, Space Cowboy!

Vocal Writing or “How My Voice Told a Professor to Fuck Off”

“…Some callin’ me a sinner, some callin’ me a winner…” – Janelle Monae, “Tightrope”

This… this is a “clever way of venting and coming out superior” post about writing/being an English Major.  Buckle up.  If it all works out, this is basically my version of the third act of Cabin in the Woods.

Yup.

So with all that said, let’s get this party started.

I don’t pretend to have a photographic memory… but there are a few instances where I can remember text perfectly as it appeared (it’s particularly good for some really sweet text messages I’ve received in my life).  This is not a story about a sweet text message.  Instead, this is a note written to me by one of my professors from the fall semester on one of my favorite papers I’ve ever written.

“I find your writing off putting because of your overbearing attempt at seeming more intelligent than you really are coupled with how you embrace a very quirky/odd voice with tendencies to be dismissive toward complex statements and ideas by stating them in the simplest possible form and then moving on to focus on some other menial concept or awkward nuance of the text.”

Now… I will save the best part of that quote for a bit later because it makes everything into a compliment (if you really know me)… That said though… here’s my response:

I’ll admit that I have a casual style that might bend some of the rules of Strunk and White from time to time but never in such a way as to make my papers “offensive” or “unworthy” of being submitted in a college class (or published somewhere).  That said, I write like I blog: conversational with a dash of my quirky personality/pacing/phrasing.  Anyway, so yes, I had written yet ANOTHER paper on Alien (go figure… me… writing about Alien... NEVARRRRRR) and that was the response.  It can be assumed that my “off-putting paper” received a C- and no added respect from said professor.

It was then voted best in the class by my peers and the two graduate student TA/Graders who recommended it be put up for a reading.  Yes, I had a SHIT.  EATING.  GRIN.  on my face when Professor-man was forced to tally the “votes” (almost unanimous… I voted for one that was a thing of beauty [and still should have won…maybe…] and I think two or three other people voted for it too) after having handed down that blisteringly douchey comment and grade.  Well… shit eating grin/HULKING OUT… so essentially, this:

I love everything about this woman. She is fantastic.

Now naturally, I understand that too much of a conversational style is a tad inappropriate for academia… to quote the Operative in Serenity, “I am not a moron.”  I also know the importance of maintaining an individuality and personal identity in one’s writing.  Your voice is what makes your stuff readable.  If I write something that is solely lodged in the elements of style and devoid of any personality/flair… well… I’d have something similar to some of Professor-man’s writings.  So at the end of the day, I’d rather present my informative works as both readable AND enjoyable.  Clearly, Professor-man and I disagreed.  No poor grade is going to make me completely overhaul my entire style (that said… I did wind up doing two drafts of each successive paper: a normal one and a “bland” one.  I turned in the bland ones but never got above a B on them… go figure, you argue with a professor or disagree with their points of objective interpretation and they screw you… because, ya know, COLEDG IZ FARE!).

Now after all that rant – oh fuck!  I totally forgot the BEST part of that story… the last lines of his bitchy, red-penned, vitriol inked note made EVERYTHING worth it (including the my overall grade from this asshole):

“It is inappropriate to turn in a paper that comes off as if it was written by Joss Whedon or Quinten Tarantino.  C-.  I expect better from you if you are to continue in this course.”

Ok first off, those two guys… yeah… they are a BILLION TIMES BETTER than me and if I can even come CLOSE to how those two men write and create, I’ll have a damned good life.  Second off, last I checked, they both make WAY more than some tenured English Professor.  Third-uh… hmm… Third-ly (because the third of anything has to have a little twist to it), if you are going to tear me a new one, don’t close it out with a compliment saying I am similar to people I admire, respect, and hold certain stylistic similarities with.  Let’s be real, I’d rather write Pulp Fiction or Cabin in the Woods than a “successful” (by Professor-man’s standards, at least) analysis of the “Masculine as the Feminine” in Alien… oh… and his name is spelled “Q-u-e-n-t-I-n,” not “e-n…” jackass.

If I could have said this to Professor-man that day... I totally would have... or rather, to his TA's to tell him.

So voice.  It is apparently a problem in academia to have “too much of one” and yet every single person and their mother will tell you to have more of it when you are in high school and your basic, gen-ed writing/speaking courses in college.  Then you get to the actual “meat and potatoes” courses and it’s all “agree with me and write without personality…” or some shit.  Well, from here on out, fuck academic writing.  I have (unfortunately) resolved myself to writing strictly rubric-style papers that directly answer the questions succinctly, have a larger vocabulary woven into them (rather than just plucking words from a thesaurus as that is PAINFULLY OBVIOUS), and not disagreeing with my professors.  I’ll let you know it worked when I graduate.

So anyway, you get interested in writing.  Say you write poetry or screenplays or just journal or whatever… write that shit as if you have an audience for it, even if you don’t!  There’s no reason not to.  There’s no reason not to aim to entertain while you inform.  How many of you readers/followers (and no looking back at older posts… you cheaters) have a solid image of what I look like and how I actually act and talk just from reading one of these posts?

Tall, geeky, and used to be a telemarketer. That's me for y'all...

Hell, a couple of you can probably tell that this post is being written while I’m listening to my AC/DC discography as I’m in my “mood of ass kicking.”  Call it a personal goal of whenever I write anything but I like to have all that information (what I look like, what I sound like, what mood I’m in, etc) be at least inferable (made up word… we’ll get to that in a moment) in everything I write.  To be frank (actually, I’m Justin but… yeah yeah it was an AWFUL joke… moving on), I write for YOU guys – my audience.  My journal is for myself and that’s very obvious when you’re reading that (note: most of you NEVER WILL read that) but everything else is meant to not only have an audience, but illicit a certain feeling or mood.

So how do you get to do that?  How does one get to develop his/her “voice” into as close to a “personality” as he/she possibly can?  Well, I’m still working on that.  It’s not something you ever really actually finish.  BUT I can tell you how to get on the right track.  First, know how to write CORRECTLY.  I’ll admit my comma usage is atrocious and I’m KING of all things that are not succinct (and I’m also a fan of ambiguous language/wording) but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to write.  If you’re really gung-ho about this, you have GOT to know the basics.  The basics means both at least a basic understanding of communication, the development of both spoken and written language AS A FORM OF COMMUNICATION, modern trends in said communication, and THE FUCKING RULES OF WRITING.  By that, I mean… well… this:

We all fucking hate this book. WE. ALL. FUCKING. HATE. THIS. BOOK.

Make sure you at least have a hand-hold on the beginnings and evolution of your craft as well as keeping yourself current and modern.  It helps beyond anything else you could possibly imagine as it serves as a foundation for everything that comes after it.

So now that you’re all experts on the evolution, structure, and usage of the English language, what next?  Well… what do you like?  Figure that out.  Then consume as much of it as you possibly can.  As much as I write (and I write at least 3000 words a day, regardless of whether or not I delete 2999 of those words tomorrow), I read even more.  Everything from blogs to books, scripts to song lyrics (and… ugh… I fucking hate poetry but I still read a Silverstine poem a day… and then some as several of my friends are awesome poets and I read their stuff… and the stuff that influences them) is consumed as part of my “morning routine.”  Hell, one of my favorite reads is… well… any Joss Whedon script I can get my spindly and eager fingers on.  Figure out what you like to read/consume and read/consume it… but ACTIVELY consume it.  If you like comedy, know the “Rules of Comedy” (yes there are rules to it) and what makes things funny.  If you like deep and serious thoughts/memorable quotes, look at the structure around said quotable material.  Never stop asking “Why?  Why do you like it?  What about it makes it stand out?  Ask yourself these things and make sure you know what you like… por ejemplo… Spiderman knows EXACTLY what he likes:

He knows what he likes...

Finally, how do you speak?  Not the whole “give a speech” shebang… how do you actually speak?  What’s your pacing, conversational vocabulary, stylistic molding of your sentences?  I can tell you that I speak quickly and energetically, I use a relatively verbose vocabulary but not so much that one cannot use context clues if he/she does not know a word, and I prefer things in threes.  That works for me.  I also have a propensity for making up a form of a word by tacking a suffix on the end rather than using a suitable synonym because it’s quirky and it’s how I think.  Know these things about yourself… and also know how the voice in your head talks.  That last one is a HUGE part of my voice (at least right now).  I think in run on sentences sometimes or in these wide sweeping tangential flows… so sometimes it’s just better to add that in as part of my written word.  I can also tell you that I speak and think differently as dictated to me by common sense and per each individual situation.  Nothing is worse than dropping “holy fucking amazeballs that rocks!” at a professional mixer with stodgy people.  Pay attention to your surroundings and yourself and ALWAYS have an intended audience.

So that all might get you a C- but at the end of the day… my peers respected the shit out of it and were actually able to get something out of my writing… and at the end of the day, I didn’t write that paper for Professor-man because fuck him… he’s a douche and has neither a sense of humor nor an actual personality.  I wrote that for everyone else in that class.

Just like I write this blog for you, my loyal troupe of followers.  You guys rock and if you were able to bear with me to the end of this very “instructional/autofellating” post, you rock even more.  And for that, I will leave you with a little (.gif)t…

See ya, Space Cowboy.

(PS… if you were wondering, this was over 2000 words and definitely counts toward my daily total).

 

OK really now… here’s a real present: