On Writing and Media

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Before I get started, a short paragraph to explain my excitement.

Hatsune Miku on David Letterman? Does literally nobody care about this except me? I mean, I know that’s not true, but it’s absolutely fascinating to me how none of my Facebook friends or Twitter followers have any sort of recognition of this or why it’s important to me. Well, it’s important to me because the weird music I listen to is finally coming across seas! As none of you probably know what the heck I’m talking about, I decided I would link you some Miku songs, because let’s be honest, the YouTube clips of Miku on the Letterman show don’t do it justice. They picked a song using her English voicebank, which limits a whole bunch of choices, and there’s really no good video quality anywhere, so just…yeah. The clip will not impress you. So, I attached a long playlist of Miku songs. They are here. Do listen to one or two – Senbonzakura is a good one. I’m currently partial to Monochrome Blue Sky. Actually, the top ten are my recommendations. Just pick one in there. There’s a pretty wide variety – ballads, dance hits, basic pop, what have you.

Link to Senbonzakura/the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgM2LZBoak4&index=1&list=PLvslhIK6DTZWCvH-wQWSaPTkKCO2bG-u_&spfreload=10%20Message%3A%20Unexpected%20end%20of%20input%20(url%3A%20https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DkgM2LZBoak4%26index%3D1%26list%3DPLvslhIK6DTZWCvH-wQWSaPTkKCO2bG-u_)

One day, I want to talk more on Vocaloid, because I’m not Miku’s biggest fan and I would love to talk about the songs by other Vocaloids I like more. But that’s not for today.

What I actually wanted to talk about is POETRY, which is a new topic for me to discuss. I haven’t liked poetry until maybe a year ago, but lately, between my English classes, I’ve discovered a lot of appreciate-able poetry. And today, I was writing a scene from my book, and all of a sudden, I just spawned into a poetry fest. I figured I would share those thoughts, and talk about the weird connections I’m beginning to find between literature and media in general. I’ve divided this up into a few mini-rants.

I. Novels and Poems

This is what I did earlier, so I find it fitting to talk about it. I think that we judge books written by poets a little differently than we do books written by novelists. That’s for good reason, of course – poets are often more used to brevity, to having to choose exactly the right word and make it matter in both sound and meaning. That’s pretty hard, so kudos, poets. When a poet decides to write a novel, then, we start looking at that novel through the lens of knowing that this person will have an ear for that sort of thing. I mean, read The Great Gatsby out loud. It’s absolutely stunning. That being said, I don’t think that novelists have an excuse to be any less stunning because they AREN’T poets – especially fantasy and science fiction authors. Too often, I read a book that sounds like a mega-appealing fantasy universe, only to find the prose dry. Fantasy is a genre geared towards the old, towards mimicking the past in an often-medieval mimicking, and thus, the prose is archaic to match it. That’s interesting to me, but I don’t think sacrificing lovely combinations of words in exchange for nice dragons is really the way to go. I think that if fantasy and poetry – two fields that I don’t think always go together – joined forces a bit, something crazy magnificent could come out.

Goal #1: Write prose like a poet.

II. Novels and Movies

Here’s my quarrel with books that become movies. Too often, the appeal of a really good book is that its characters are fleshed out in a way that makes them jump out of the page. They speak to us, their thoughts helping to form our thoughts, their opinions meant to sway us or turn us away. And in movies, that’s lost a little bit. We have to rely solely on acting, on visuals, and on clever dialogue. I will be the first to admit that sometimes, a movie’s dialogue is stunning, and it makes up for the lost inner monologue we lose. Then there’s the cinematography! Cinematography is one of the most interesting concepts to me, because it’s meant to show the same thing in a visual as a well-placed metaphor. Making a movie, you need to combine story-telling and art, and I think that’s spectacular. But, as we know very well, not a lot of movies get our praise as being “as good as” the book or even better than the book. The movie adaptation of The Hunger Games, in my opinion, was so strong because of the way the creators treated the viewer as the viewers of the 74th Hunger Games. The information you get from Katniss’ thoughts in the book was placed in Caesar Flickerman monologues, and the effect was that, as a viewer, you were watching something incredibly similar to what a viewer in the universe was watching. Now, in the book, the reader is dumped into the inner layer – in the Hunger Games themselves – and you have no idea what is going on outside of the arena. What the movie did so well was to keep this idea of pulling the reader into the universe, but it didn’t attempt to follow Katniss’ fear of being in the arena; it compensated by taking on a new angle. That’s why movies are especially clever, and that’s what I would like to take into my novels. The viewpoint, the dialogue, and the arrangement of the characters in space are much of what we get in a movie, and I don’t think a novelist should be much out of touch with that. A few well-placed details to give the reader a sense of SPACE is something I find in common with really good books. Then there’s the dialogue, which can make or break a book just like it can make or break a movie. The difference? As a screen-writer, you hand actors a script, and they provide the emotion. As a novelist, you hand readers a script and coax them towards the proper emotion. That balance is SO important to pushing the story further.

Goal #2: Direct space like a movie.

Goal #3: Make readers add emotion.

III. Novels and Video Games

I’m not talking the Hannah Montana game, either. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll talk about RPG’s, but I think this is true of any good game. What is so breath-taking and obsessive about video games is how deeply involved and complex they become. Old RPG’s made entirely out of a pre-set group of pixels had much of the same appeal as some of the more gorgeous, fully voice-acted games of today. Compare Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy XIII, for example. People like XIII – it has gorgeous gameplay the whole way through. But people still are attached to IV and VII and the classics, because the story was strong, the characters were personable and unique, and the gameplay was special. There’s a certain challenge in video games that you can’t capture in a movie or a book. A lot of times, it’s just to finish the storyline, but most games have those extra-mile completion benefits. That’s why you have people who devise perfect strategies, who have found every single treasure chests, who race to see what the fastest time possible really is. I think part of the appeal of the challenge is that the realm and the story are so complex. In a novel, that’s a little hard to do, because you have to also focus on character arcs and describing what people do. Unlike in a video game, the player/reader doesn’t get to choose the weapon or how a battle plays out. That’s all up to the novelist, but I think we as novelists are charged with creating a way of bringing those systems and creativity in.

Goal #4: Design a world to be explored.

IV. Novels and Anime

Note: This paragraph does go for manga, too, but I don’t read it, so I’m not focusing on it.

I saved this one for last, because it’s the one with which I have the least experience. I’m not an anime expert, and I’m not obsessed either. I’m not afraid to admire it though, for a few reasons. First – like a movie, the art of making an anime is gorgeous, but unlike a movie, an anime is all about the individual brush-strokes. Second, and more importantly – even the most serious, though-provoking anime series are not afraid to use color. I think in a lot of movies we end up rooted to the ground, staying straight in browns, greens, blacks, whites, and grays. That’s why James Cameron’s “Avatar,” to me, got so much acclaim – it had a wildly colorful world that appealed to the imagination. That’s the power of a good anime, to me. It’s still a story, and a good one – it still has the story and the characters, and sometimes I think anime tells the best stories in television. But there’s something that an anime that normal TV doesn’t have enough of, and that’s imagination.

Goal #5: Add some color, add some life.

SUMMARY! I am in the process of re-writing my book, as I’ve probably advertised a few times. I’ve been dabbling in all of the above fields as I do so, and I think it really has evolved how I think about writing. So, kind of to summarize, I want my writing to not just draw from the books of those who have come before, but from other sources of media as well. From this thought exploration/rant, here are my five tenants of writing:

1. Write prose like a poet.

2. Direct space like a movie.

3. Have readers add emotion.

4. Design a world to be explored.

5. Add some color, add some life.

Thanks for reading this far, everyone! If you have any thoughts for me on writing or your thoughts on the relationships between media forms for me, don’t hesitate to let me know. Also, do listen to the music, even if it doesn’t seem like your thing. Especially if you know me personally enough to know my weird musical tastes and judge me a little bit.

Until next time,

ELS

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