Rough Draft vs. Working Draft

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Image Source: WikiHow

Rough Draft = Present Tense (Visualizing the story)

When I write the Rough Draft for my stories, I’ve discovered that I tend to write in the present tense in order tell myself the story.  This where I “Tell, don’t show.” When I write my rough drafts, I could almost call these “discovery” drafts because I’m discovering the story and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.  I’m trying to accurately put on paper the visuals that I see in my head and that means that I’m not worrying about the audience.  I’m trying to make sure that my plot makes sense (what’s happening in the story), the characters make sense (their motivations and why they do the things I envision), and the setting makes sense (where everything’s happening).  This is where all the notes that I’ve taken/written down about the story get put into the structure of a story (Exposition, Opening Incident, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action/Resolution) to see if they work correctly as a story.  I’m simply relating to myself what I “see” in my mind and trying to accurately form/shape it into a story.

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Image Source: CUCSA cucsa.org.uk

Working Draft = Past Tense (Dramatizing the story)

The Working Draft is sort of my shortened name for a “Work-in-Progress Draft.”  This is where I do the REAL work for the audience.  This is where characters names get finalized, this is where dialogue becomes more than a place holder and is what I believe that the characters really would say.  This is where vivid details and description comes into play, this is where I really begin to try to “Show, don’t tell.”  I try to find places to show emotions, to appeal to the five senses, and to foreshadow events crucial to the rising action and the climax.  This is where my goals as the creator meets the needs of the audience.  How can I best tell my story (that I came up with in the Rough Draft) that engages and exhilarates the audience?  What techniques or effects can I use to maximum effect?  This is where I do the “hard work” of writing.  And the cool thing is that it isn’t set in stone–if I’m happy with the draft, I can stop and move onto the editing and submission phases, but if I’m not happy, I can go back and fix what isn’t working (which I did for the ending of Silence Will Fall) or I can start all over and re-draft the whole thing again from scratch–which I plan to do for Rocket-Man.)

I believe that a lot of my trouble (& I would suspect other writers as well) comes from the fact that for stories where I don’t lay the groundwork and do the rough draft (or the outline, or any of the other myriad words for prewriting), I find that the Working Draft RARELY (if ever) matches the vision that I had in my head for the story.  And the opposite is true, I find that the more I use rough drafts and the more I use prewriting strategies, the more confident I am in the writing process and the more enjoyable the Working Draft stage becomes.

They Call Me, Mr. Lobot

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Image Source: Star Wars

Earlier this spring, just after school was out for summer, I found myself wanting a pair of bluetooth headphones.  My wired headphones (Sony) lasted quite a while, but finally went to the great headphone round-up in the sky some time ago.  I’ve found that, for some odd reason, my engagement with my writing improves when I’m listening to music.  It improves tenfold when I can shut out everything else with headphones and just become one with the music.  My uncle was HUGELY into classical music and every afternoon and evening when I came home from school, I did my homework with music playing in the background.  I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not a dancer and I don’t think that I can dance (I only move in time with the music; I’m not sure that on any planet where there’s human habitation could you even begin to call what I do dancing–probably not on any alien planet, either, but I digress).

As an adult, I’ve found that I use music sporadically–sometimes I put it on and the projects seem to go much better, smoother, and easier.  Sometimes, either I feel I don’t need it, I’m not in the mood, or (like previously) I don’t have the right equipment (i.e., no headphones) and I’m not nearly as effective as I once was in writing (& then I wonder why nothing comes/or I can’t get to come out the way I see it in my mind–go figure).  I really wanted a pair of Apple Airpods, but they were too expensive at the time and were going to take six weeks to ship, so I looked on Amazon and found a pair that I really liked and that were fairly cheap as I plan to get Airpods later in the year.

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Image Source: Apple

So I bought a pair of Senso Active Bluetooth Headphones (pictured below).  However, I didn’t realize that the bluetooth earphones were as big as they were.  When I put them in and then looked at myself in the mirror (with my bald head), I discovered a distressing fact: I looked like Lobot from Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back.  For this reason, I’ve not really worn them for any length of time until today.  Today I discovered just how much that I’ve missed the music and how much music plays a role in my writing/creativity.  All those years of listening to classical music during the school year and doing my homework and all those years of jumping around to WJTT Power 94 in the summer has really “wired” (or perhaps “re-wired” my brain) as I seem to enjoy a boost to creativity to my writing when I’m listening to music and it is a palpable increase.  Even as I write these words, looking for all the world like Lobot, music is coursing through my ears into my brain and the words are flying out of my mind and on to the computer screen.  My bloody fingers can’t even keep up; if it wasn’t for auto-correct, then this post would be filled with typos.

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Image Source: Amazon.com

The point I’m trying to make is that even though I look foolish, the boost in creativity (& hopefully productivity) is well worth it.  So call me, Mr. Lobot.

Mass Effect Andromeda: The Little Shuttle that Could

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Image Source: Forbes

So, Mass Effect Andromeda (ME:A) has gotten its hooks in me again.  After a month long hiatus, I’ve pretty much binged the game over the weekend to the exclusion of all else.  The game is pretty much my kind of Sci-Fi, space ships, combat, and an intriguing storyline that traverses multiple star systems in the Andromeda Galaxy.   It is also a rather large game, with one major story arc and many, many side quests.  Each of the “major” worlds that you discover has a mission or two that involves the main quest and then a ridiculous amount of the side quests to fill out that world.  And even when you’re done, more side quests tend to populate on that world, so while you can “finish” the world, it is not uncommon to spend quite a bit of time on each world.

Now, while I appreciate long games, I’m starting to feel that many games are simply padding their runtime with useless side quests and other story elements just to 1) artificially inflate their length (gamers these days supposedly value a longer game rather than a shorter game) and 2) to make sure that you play only their game for long periods of time (hence you don’t trade the game back in thereby decreasing the “used game” market).  “Games as a ‘Service'” is an idea that is slowly gaining hold in the gaming community with more and more publishers trying to extend the life of their games to accomplish the two goals and the idea of paid DLC.  My concern is that this is coming at the expense of storytelling.

For instance, there was a mission that I just completed on ME:A that had me chasing a woman with a highly contagious disease and I needed to try to stop her before she reached a populated center.  However, in her delusion she had stolen a shuttle and left the station.  Yet, in a shuttle, she was able to traverse several different solar systems (quite far away from the space station) and was able to crash land the shuttle on a populated world.  Her little shuttle served the plot rather than the story.  There was no way, based on the fiction that the game had set up, that the shuttle she was in should have been able to fly as far as it did and cover as many systems that it did.  I could tell this was done for game extension and nothing else.  Even the ending of the mission was also off–I won’t spoil it–but the resolution did not match what the exposition was set up as when the mission was first presented to me.

This is a problem that I see continuing to happen as games get bigger.  Instead of stories that make sense, we will get stories that exist to simply fill out the story and make the world bigger and the game longer.  Instead of tightly crafted games, many games will become more diluted and and will have to rely on more and more visual aspects and less story aspects.  I wonder what impact this will have on gaming in the future as more and more games focus on length and breadth rather than story?

“Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain”

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Image Source: Vintages, Antiques, and Collectibles

“Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain” is an old baseball “rallying cry” that has been shortened into this nice, pithy saying.  If you want the full details on this saying, there is a great synopsis of it on billjamesonline.com.  My uncle used to say this to me, not often, but every now and again.  According to Bill James, there are two interpretations of this saying: 1) Lack of pitching depth on the Braves’ roster, so praying for rain to help you get back to your most consistent and valued pitchers, or 2) praying for rain so that you wouldn’t have to face these two reliably dominant pitchers.  My uncle most definitely used it in the 2nd sense: Go out with your best!

Sci-Fi and Fantasy are my favorite genres–be it books, games, movies, television, comics, what have you.  Generally speaking, I’m going to gravitate to those genres before everything else.  So it makes sense that I’d concentrate my writing efforts on those genres as well.  I love the sense of adventure and wonder that Sci-Fi and Fantasy allows me to have in a mundane world of bills, intolerance, rudeness, and a general lack of concern for one’s fellow man.  Now to be sure, you can find those things–and more–inside the wrappers of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but at its best you can find true wonder and adventure as warriors fight mythic beasts, starship captains struggle to keep their ships and crews safe, and young boys and girls grow up to be powerful warriors against the struggle of tyranny.

If I’m going to go out, then like Spahn and Sain, I want to go out leaving everything on the field and giving it my best and trying find a way to do so at a consistently high level.  Just as Spahn and Sain were masters at their craft, so too I strive to be a master at mine.

That’s why I continue to both read, watch, play, and write things that are Sci-Fi and Fantasy related.

For the sheer wonder of it all.

No Spoilers, Please!

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Image Source: Larkable.com

Wow. Just wow (but not in a good way).  So the first part of the two part storyline for the Season Finale of Doctor Who released over the weekend and it contained three MASSIVE revelations (i.e., spoilers to the story).  Do you know that I was “spoiled” on 2 of the 3 spoilers by people on YouTube?

Now, you know me, when I “review” something on this blog, I go out of my way to give “impressions” rather than actual “specifics” in order not to ruin the experience for others.  I HATE spoilers, unless I go looking for them.  What makes the spoilers for Doctor Who so  onerous is that I didn’t want to be spoiled.  I avoided looking at the “Coming Next Week” portion of the show (this is the first season I’ve actively avoided it), just so that I would have no clue as to what was coming next.

I’m trying to figure out the reasons (rhetorical) why someone would choose to be a part of the “spoiler” culture.  I understand that there are a group of people who get enjoyment for ruining things for others–but that’s not the sense that I get from the YouTuber who put the “spoiler” in the “thumbnail” for her video.  I had no choice to get spoiled because she put a spoiler not inside her video, but on the outside wrapping (as it were) to get people to click on it and watch her video (no, I do not subscribe to this person’s videos, but YouTube so “helpfully” put her video in my “recommended” feed, not recognizing that her thumbnail gave me way more of the story than I wanted).

I don’t think there was any malice in her video, but a kind of unthinking blindness to the fact that while you may know and want to discuss the story (before it is released), others just want to watch the story and then discuss afterwards.  I don’t want to paint her as just an unthinking fan (she did put the spoiler) in the thumbnail image for the video, so there was some forethought in the matter, but I think it was more of “isn’t this so cool,” rather than “I know more than you,” type of thought.

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Image Source: Radio Times

Either way, however, knowing ahead of time really blunted my enjoyment of this week’s episode (made worse that it wasn’t me who went looking for it).  I knew who the villain was and was able to make the deduction of what was going on about twenty seconds too early and figured out two of the three big reveals too early.  Not sure how I’m going to dodge the season finale’s spoilers, but starting next Thursday I may have to go on media blackout.  It’s pretty bad that it has come to this just to avoid knowing what’s going to happen in a story.

People always talk about the advantages of social media, but they never mention the disadvantages.  I remember when social media (or The Web 2.0 as pundits called back in 2010) was supposed to revolutionize the web.  Well, if this is the revolution, then I want to revolt against the revolution.

Hope I’m not Overdoing It

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Image Source: Pinterst (Calvin and Hobbes, Created by Bill Watterson)

Every since I was a lowly undergraduate, cruising the English Department offices at U.T. Knoxville (& later U.T. Chattanooga) and seeing all those wonderful English related comics strips taped to professors doors, I’ve thought to myself that I’ve always wanted to something like that “when I grew up.”

I’ve never been one for customizing my “workspace” as the colleagues who I worked with at the public library can attest and I’m rarely at my workspace to begin with if I can help it.  However, you could always find one or two comic strips (like the one I found above by Bill Watterson) adorning my workspace in some capacity–either on the desk itself or in a drawer or stuck unobtrusively to a wall.

Now that I’ve completed a year at MTSU, I’ve begun to do the same with the small cabinet  that I was assigned in the Graduate Teaching Assistants office.  However, for some reason, I also find that I want to add copies of the first pages of my published work.  I hope I’m not trying to “show off” or “impress” the other G.T.A.s (nothing good comes of me trying to show off–I’ve learned that  through HARD experience).

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Image Source: Greensoul

Yet, I feel the need to customize my space, and to say, “hey, I’m a creative writer and this is what I do.” Perhaps, it is because at this level, creative writing is somewhat frowned upon.  There’s this idea that you’re not a true academic, that you’re not truly one of us, if you’re not writing papers for conferences, for (academic) publication, and for scholarly pursuits.  Perhaps, customizing my workspace is my need to say, “no, my creative writing is just as hard and matters just as much as your academic writing, maybe more so, because I’m doing both . . . your academic writing and my creative writing.”  I just hope that I’m not overdoing it and setting myself up for a fall.  It would be awesome to be able to put clips from both cartoon strips and my own published writing on my very own office door one day.

A Few Thoughts on Time Travel (in general) and the Star Trek Universe (in specific)

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Image Source: Topgentlemen.com

Time Travel is a favorite concept of Sci-Fi writers as it allows us to explore the possibilities of “What If . . .” and to mull about changes in the time line that did not occur vs. the reality that we see around us.  Popular culture is replete with television shows, movies, and other media that delve into the notion of what might happen if you could go back and change time (in effect, mulligan a decision or choice) to see what effect it would have on the timeline (if any).

I guess the reason that I’m thinking about this is two-fold: 1) Star Trek Enterprise has quite a few instances of Time Travel (in fact, most of the show’s 3rd Season is built around the idea) and 2) as a PhD student, I’m supposed to pick two areas of concentration.  As Creative Writing was off the table, I chose Composition and Rhetoric and Popular Culture.  There was a Call For Papers (CFPs) on the topic of Time Travel and how it affects/manifests itself in popular culture.  I didn’t get a chance to write a paper for it during the last semester (too busy trying to stay afloat!), but now I’d like to write at least a rough draft of some of the things that I’ve noticed in recent Sci-Fi shows/movies/media that I’ve watched recently (Doctor Who, Star Trek Enterprise, Dark Matter, and Mass Effect Andromeda to name a few) about how time travel is used (what effects does it have on the characters’ lives), and what pop. culture currently thinks about it.

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Image Source: Cellcli.com

One thing that I’ve notice that popular culture seems to use time travel for is the idea of Erasure, or righting a wrong and then resetting the timeline (so as to start again–from scratch as it were).  Now, the movie Back to the Future used a “literal” erasure from the timeline itself–and that’s not what I’m talking about.  This erasure is more of a “mulligan,” a do-over, a way to say hey, no that’s not the outcome I desired, let’s start again and try for a better outcome.

I think writers like this technique because it allows them to go into some wildly divergent territory with characters, but it doesn’t mean that they have to commit to changes to the characters (as the characters can be “reset” back to their pre-time travel/time incursion selves or entities).  It means that writers (and actors and directors) can stretch themselves creatively without destroying the likability of the characters.  In other words, characters can act and grow in ways contrary to their original characterization and then be reset.  I think audiences don’t find the this element of time travel as appealing because many times it seems like a “cheat” (much like the “and it was all a dream” cliche’).  Audiences want to characters change and interact in new and novel ways to conflict, but they (we) are fickle . . . change too much and we might lose what we like about a character.

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Image Source: Den of Geek

Star Trek (in general) and Star Trek Enterprise (in specific) seems to be a perfect test-bed for the idea of erasure.  While many of the elements and changes to the characters have “stuck,” most have not and most of the characterizations that have not stuck, or been “erased” through time travel are more radical characterizations/plot lines.  While I won’t know for sure until I finish STE, I’ve noticed that, unlike Doctor Who, for instance where there are often “cusp” events that are fixed and where time is more malleable (“Timey-Whimey, Wibbly-Wobbly”), events in ST’s universe, specifically STE tends to be more recursive (circular, or fractal–like the beginning image above.)

While this is a deeper dive than I normally do in a blog post, I wanted to just get a few thoughts down on the nature of time travel (esp. recent developments in media) down on paper.  I’ve done another post on time travel, Where You End is Not Where You Begin: Time Travel in Movies, and I will probably combine these two posts before the summer is over and develop this idea into a longer academic paper over next school year.  I don’t think that I can use this as my dissertation (I think that has to be Rhetoric or Composition based), but it is an interesting paper idea–and more importantly, seems to be something that I can be VERY LONG-WINDED about! 🙂