Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spine poetry

Take a stack of books, and arrange them into a poem. Here is mine:

The History of Making Books

As the earth begins to end,
What have you lost?

Words under the words,
The art of fact, and one amazing thing.
Hooked on time and materials,
The night parade came passing through.

How do you see yourself under the veil?
The best of it, bird by bird,
lies on the road.
Kiss me goodnight, Pablo Neruda.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Why is the Big Bang Theory important for Novelists?

My name is Laura M and I am addicted to the Big Bang Theory, or as we seasoned viewers call it: TBBT.I have seen every episode more than once, yet I laugh at the same lines  every time. It’s a sickness. Or is it?

Some of my non=addicted friends have criticized the show as stereotypically portraying the quartet of guys as nerds, with Penny representing the token "normal” person. But it’s comedy; it’s supposed to be exaggerated. One of the elements of comedy writing is exaggeration. And Penny is not “normal”. Nobody, from Sheldon and Leonard’s moms or Will Wheaton, and even Stan Lee, gets off that show Scott-free. The characters on TBBT represent human foibles common to most of us.

Okay, at this point, if you are still reading this post, you may be asking, WTF does a silly sitcom  have to do with writing a novel? TBBT is about character, and writers take a full blown character, and mix him or her with another character or situation, place them in peril, and they react. In the case of TBBT, the reaction is funny. Comedy writers take our human frailties and spin them to make comedic magic.

This show has earned its huge success from exemplary writing. After six seasons, (and renewed for a seventh!) the characters, situations and dialogue are still fresh. Like a novel, more than one character’s story is fully developed, and the audience finds surprises throughout the journey. TV, theatre and film are collaborative efforts, and it takes actors, set designers, and directors to produce it, but the story begins (and thrives) with the writing.

In all tales, the audience needs to fall in love with at least one character a little. Even the bad guy. (Who doesn’t love a good villain? Without Beatty, Montag’s quest in Fahrenheit 451 would be beige. And who can’t love a conflicted character like Frankenstein, who is both protagonist and antagonist? When we engage in stories, we hold up a mirror, and someone we know well is one (or more) of those characters.  We watch TBBT to laugh at ourselves and our friends.

Like Sheldon, I like to sit in the same spot on my couch, and tend to gravitate to the same restaurants where I order the same things from the menu. As I write this I am munching on lunch at a local deli where the staff knows my nakme.) I don’t wear ‘bus pants’, but I am cognizant of where I sit in public; I prefer seats that can be wiped down to upholstered ones. You never know what is on the seat of anyone’s pants.

I wipe silverware down with the napkin in restaurants (trust me, I have worked in restaurants; you WANT to do this), and I over-sanitize my hands, likely eradicating any resistance to disease.  While I do not obsess over scientific formulas, I obsess over words. It can take me days before I am satisfied with a sentence or a line of poetry, (and still, it will never be right.)

Like Leonard I over think things, and often say the wrong thing at the wrong time.  Can’t let it go. I blame my dad. My father was literal, much like Leonard’s mother. He said what he thought when he thought it, because it was without malice., If my mother or one of us kids did something like pull a sixteen pound turkey out of the oven and drop it on the floor, he’d glance up from behind his newspaper, and say, “Why’d you do that?”

Some of his favorite expressions, said without malice, were , “Have you always been stupid?” and “People have the right to be stupid, but they also need to know when they are being so.”  So yeah, I have some Leonard in me.

I’m a little like Raj, too; I don't like spiders and Indian food, either. My family spent three years on the Indian subcontinent, where, “it’s so hot!”, and I never developed a taste for curry or cardamom. I do like Bollywood movies, though. (I am listening to Indian music in my headphones as I write this.)

And then there’s Howard. Hmmm. No, I’m not like Howard. I don't think there is anyone like Howard. But Bernadette loves him. And so do I.

.I worked as a snarky waitress for awhile. Also like Penny my house often looks like it was recently burglarized, and I have dated a succession of Mr. Wrongs. I’d like to say I am hot like Penny, but that was many, many moons ago. Now I’m tepid. I’m more like a less smart version of Amy Farah Fowler without the sweaters.

But this isn't about me. It's about all of us, and how each of us finds ourselves inside a fictitious character.  I will agree that on the surface each character fulfills a broad stereotype; the guys have advanced degrees and love gaming, and Penny, a junior college dropout, is a shoe obsessed dreamer. But under the layers, each of these people is unique and interesting, just as good characters (and real people) are.

That’s MY story and I’m sticking to it.

Happy Writing.