Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Unicorn Power

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The first line is key

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
Stephen King--The Gunslinger

Whenever I'm looking for a new book to read, I often base a purchase decision on how quickly the first page hooks me. Of course, this doesn't always work out, but generally it's been a pretty good method for finding new authors and works. Even more important than a strong first page, however, is a very strong first line. This is the author's very first chance to give you an idea of what the following story is about, and to do it in a few simple words. The first line should give you a sense of the ride on which you are about to embark. The line quoted above is perhaps the best first line of a novel that I've read. Immediately, with only twelve words, King introduces the reader to the main character, his occupation and enemy, and starts a long list of questions running through the reader's head. Who is the man in black? Why is this gunslinger following him? All questions will come to be in answered in the course of an enthralling read. Here's another example:

Nothing ever begins.
Clive Barker--Weaveworld

That's it. Three simple words, but as the story unfolds, you realize that those three words are incredibly apt in giving you a sense of the tale. Here's one more:

The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.
Donna Tartt--The Secret History

Again, a very succinct and basically vague sentence, but there is so much potential leading into the novel that follows. Why this focus on first lines, you ask? I aspire to write stories of my own. I've never been very good at it, simply because I'm terrible at creating a solid throughline. I'm good at snippets and phrases, but I find the continuation of a plot extremely difficult. That, and I'm lazy. But I often find, even for my brief dalliances in writing, that if I can start with a solid first line, it gives me jumping off points from which to write. If I can write a strong first line, it forces me to ask myself questions related to that line. It's in finding the answers to those questions that I often find my plot. Stephen King, in his "how to" book On Writing, compares the act of writing to the unearthing of a buried artifact. You don't always see the entire shape of the thing at first, but the little pieces you do see allow you to extrapolate the overall view. As I continue to write, more questions are asked, more answers found, and so on until a cohesive plot is formed.

Again, you might wonder why the focus on this particular subject. I've been thinking of trying my hand at another short story, just to get back into the process of writing, but as usual I've been having difficulty with finding a solid plot. So I started trying to come up with a good first line, something from which I could build as I go. And today, unbidden, a line popped in my head. It still feels clunky and rough, but I think it has potential to lead me into a humorous and entertaining story. Ready?

Preston became aware that his frequent ill-timed erections were somewhat of a roadblock on the path to righteousness.
Bill Chandler--Fledgling story idea

So there it is. Hopefully this line can lead me into an exploration of who Preston is, why he wants to be righteous, and, most importantly, what's up with those erections. I'll try to remember to post updates, if anything comes of this.

Monday, August 29, 2005

So great I might Royal Rainbow

I started to do this as an addendum to the hurricane post, but felt it deserved an entry all its own. I need to extend my hearty and special thanks to Crump, Babs, Diva, PLW, Keymaster, and MAV for including your humble blog host on the trip to New Braunfels this weekend. Despite the fact that I wimped out and didn't go tubing, I still had a really great time hanging out with all of you. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to let my inner Nerdlinger run wild with Crump and PLW (seriously, I have NEVER seen someone laugh so hard at the term "oral thrush"...just think what would have happened had I said "scabies") over music, games, and superheroes. I also got to indulge my obsessive TV talk with the girls, and anyone who knows me knows I'm in a state of bliss when talking about TV. I really had a lot of fun, and can't imagine a better group of people to have it with (I just wish YayCoffee, Delicious Dish, Nate, and Special-T could have made it as well). Yay for friends who don't suck!

My namesake will keel you dead

While listening to NPR and their the reports of Hurricane Katrina this morning, one thought kept running through my head: What in the hell have the Gulf states (with the exception of Texas) done to piss off God? I mean, seriously people. Florida alone has been hit by mother-effing SIX! hurricanes in just under a year! Some people are probably of the opinion that God's trying to destroy Disney World for their horrible love of (and insurance provision to) teh gay. Alabama and Mississippi are supposed to get hit, and are indeed feeling the stronger side of the storm. I'm of the opinion their involvement has something to do with their national education rankings (they are numbers 44 and 47, respectively). Of course Texas, which has so far been relatively untouched by my natural progenies, is 33 on the list, so...hold on to your pants, Galveston (or don't; could be more fun).

And then there's Louisiana. Oh Louisiana. You've grown from a former land-holding of the dirty, dirty French (which might explain the smell when you cross the state line) into a state known for its drunkeness, nudity, and occasional shifts in sexual orientation. People who have known me since college, and some who have known me a shorter time, know that I despise Lousiana. Its crappy state bird (the Eastern Brown Pelican), its crappy roads (cha-gunk cha-gunk cha-gunk), its crappy highly criminal governers, and its crappy aboveground "burials" (please make special note of the phrase "noxious fumes emitted by corpses" in that article) all serve to make Louisiana one huge, non-stop groin kick of a state. And now Katrina has come to make it even worse. Weather analysts are saying that if the city's water pumps go out and aren't reactivated quickly enough, New Orleans could turn into a toxic lake of petrochemicals and raw sewage. Road trip!

Seriously though, whatever you four states are doing...cut it out. Go to church or make a homeless guy a sandwich or something. You're harshing the buzz for the other 46 (no snide comments from you, Puerto Rico) of us. (Sorry to any readers from those four states...I kid because I half-heartedly love.)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

She'll kick YOUR ass

I like videogames. Specifically, I like videogames for the PS2 and the Xbox. I never was one of those early gamers. You know, the ones who holed themselves up for hours on end and played Doom or Quake or some other early generation computer game on a small network, all the while screaming at each other and inventing lovely new epithets to call one another. But I do love me some videogame action.

I also am a fan of the punk rock girl. I am turned to a mass of dumb flesh at the sight of a pierced and tattooed lass. Which is odd, considering I'm about the most white bread fool you're ever likely to meet. But what can I say; the punk rock girl just ignites my anarchic soul and sets my heart all aflutter. This little paragraph really has nothing to do with the rest of the post, except that the punk rock girl [femaleis rockus hardcoreix] often enjoys the videogame, so I often think of the two in conjunction. [/boondoggle]

Anyway, today I stumbled across a blog called Old Grandma Hardcore. No, you filthy beast, this is not a porn site featuring the geriatric set. It's a blog written by some unnamed guy (he apparently goes by the nome de blog CtrlAltDelete) about his 69-year-old granmother. Said granmother (the nominatave matriarch of the blog title) LOVES videogames and curses like a sailor. Two things which I whole-heartedly endorse. And apparently she is quite good at them as well. As a whole, she sounds pretty awesome. Of course, you can see for yourself on some of the videos the blogger has posted. Great stuff. Incidentally, I'm adding it to my favorites list over there on the side, so visit and read at your leisure. You'll enjoy it, I assure you.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I'm so touched.....

Apparently the fact that I'm still residing on Earth and haven't been taken up in the Rapture is proof of my friend JT's safe spot in Heaven. You'll have to read his blog to fully understand that statement.

So there you go Jason. Not only is my post proof that you've not been left below, but I'm also drumming up traffic for your site. I think you owe me five dollars.

Or some black-tar heroin; whatever's easiest.