-James Branch Cabell
A book, once it is printed and published, becomes individual. It is by its publication as decisively severed from its author as in parturition a child is cut off from its parent. The book "means" thereafter, perforce, -- both grammatically and actually, -- whatever meaning this or that reader gets out of it.
You have to have a darkness…for the dawn to come.
Harrison Ford was really on to something here. It’s a principal that every good story follows. It’s what makes us cry or laugh or shout encouragement for our favorite characters.
Nothing means anything without a counterbalance. What is good without evil, or dark without light. How can we say that something is heavy when if there is no comparison?
In the same way, without ebbs and flows, stories are as flat as a lake. And no one ever plans a vacation to the lake when an ocean is close at hand.Like symphonies, stories must have loud sections in which all the strings and brass and percussion instruments are wailing together in order for us to appreciate the solo performances or the silences between notes. For without silences, even music can become nothing more than ceaseless noise.
So think of Harrison Ford and Star Wars and your other favorites stories, myths, and movies when writing your next story. Remember that in order for a reader to share pain with a character, they must first experience joy.
Every reader finds himself. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.
So, I’ve started a few new challenges for myself, one being to watch movies outside of my comfort zone. Now, I consider myself a writer, but as movies and books both tell stories (and since I’ve learned much about writing from screenwriting books, though I never plan to write a screenplay), I figure that analyzing movies is a good way to pass the time. Wading through all the modern blockbuster sludge is not something I wish to do, so I’ve decided to follow the guidance of those who actually know movies.
Steven Jay Schneider compiled a book titled, ‘1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die’. There is also a list that you can check off the movies as you watch them. I had already seen 76 of the movies on the list when I started. Mostly recent stuff, but a few classics , several of the documentaries, and many of the animated films. Since then, I’ve watched three more films off the list:
- The Lives of Others
- 12 Years a Slave
- Being John Malcovich
The Lives of Others was the first German movies I’ve ever watched. And it was glorious. I know that it was based on real life events, but it gave me a real 1984 vibe, what with the oppressive goverment looking inside everyone’s homes.
12 Years a Slave left me feeling angry. Justice needed to be served and the end credits told me it never was. This is not a movie that you watch for entertainment, but to remember.
Being John Malcovich was… strange. It would be hard to describe the plot, but the whole movie just made me feel uncomfortable from the beginning. I think a big part of it is that there isn’t a single likable character in the story. Not one.
Back to work again. That means waking early, long bus rides, and teaching students in preparation for university in Texas. I have a pretty lax schedule this semester, with several hours each afternoon during which I can scurry off to a coffee shop and write.
So, I’m working on my next book, my fourth book, and brainstorming the fifth. Three agents still have the third manuscript, pondering it, or possibly letting it fester in their inboxes. I’m of the mind, that even if all three reject me, that at least they will have already requested a full manuscript. Which means I’ll mention that in the next query letter, so hopefully they will request again. Don’t know why I’m so optimistic. Like I said, I’m working on my fourth book, having never been published. But I learn more through every edit and every year of struggling.
Also studying Korean on those long bus rides back and forth to work each day. I’ve finally gotten over being motion sick, so it’s a good slot of time where I’m not otherwise distracted or busy.
So my life right now can be divided into four categories: Work. Write. Spend time with the wife. Study Korean. And the gym. So five categories. Forgot about that one. Wish I hadn’t remembered it. Now I know what I need to do tonight.
Basic, but the basic rules are the most important and usually the ones people forget first. This youtube user has a series of videos along these lines, so click on through if you’re interested in seeing more like this.
2014 was a good year. Finished my third book. Survived a fourth year at my job. Moved into a bigger, better apartment with my lovely wife (“Yes, I typed ‘lovely’, honey. Now stop looking over my shoulder. Please.”). Even got in the best shape of my life after six months of hard training. Next week I’ll be traveling to England for two weeks to visit family, then on to the States before returning to Korea. In the meantime, I’m waiting for a few agents to get back to me about my book, but really hoping that one of them in particular takes me on.
For the first time as the clock struck 12 and I sang Auld Lang Syne while a Korean awards show droned on in the background and my wife and I toasted mediocre champagne, I could honestly say that I had no regrets about the past year. All of my resolutions were met, even exceeded. And since I’m on a roll, might as well keep up the momentum. So, here are my 2015 resolutions, in no particular order except the one that formed as they tumbled out of my mediocre-champagne-addled mind:
- Find an agent who worships me. Failing that, one who loves me. Failing that, one who likes my writing. Failing that, an agent who’s willing to give me a chance. Failing even that, one who just feels sorry for me.
- Find a publisher?
- Finish my next book. I feel good about it. Also, I’d like to finish the second book in the series that I have agents looking at, but I’ll only work on that if I get a contract for the first one. So, to summarize, complete another book (or two) this year.
- Get in even better shape. I’m one of those everyone-hates-me-cause-I-can’t-gain-weight kind of people that everyone hates. This year I increased my weight from 65kg to 70kg. I’ve never weighed this much in my life. This year, I’d like to bump that up to 73kg. I would say 75kg, but I want to be realistic. 73kg is doable.
- Read more. Finishing 24 books this year should be doable. So two a month.
- Make my wife’s life better, happier, and easier. She deserves it. (“No! Of course I didn’t say that you made me type it! What kind of husband would do that?”). No, but serious, she deserves it. Seriously. No, I’m completely serious. I want her life to be brighter, because she brings so much happiness to my life. Let’s be happy, honey. Together.
- Study Korean more. I’m still very much a beginner. It would be nice to be at lower intermediate by the end of the year.
2015 is going to be more kick-ass than last year. And 2014 was pretty 최고 already. I’ll have to be sure to find better champagne for next New Years Eve, though. This year’s sucked.