#TwitterFiction – Short and Simple

Today was the first time that I heard about an actual event dedicated to storytelling via Twitter. That is not to say it’s the first time that I experienced the phenomenon.

To me, telling a story using Twitter can mean two things:

Firstly, you have your accounts set up to literally tell a series of stories in short sentences. One which immediately occurs to me is the EGOs Issue 0 Tweets. A quick background: EGOs is a recently started comic series published by Image, a company that specialises in more alternative and ‘out-there’ comics. A week or so prior to #2 being released, the writers of EGOs created a series of tweets which essentially told a ‘prequel’ to #1 via a few hundred tweets spaced 2 minutes apart. Reading back now, you will probably not realise fully the tone that experiencing #0 live held. It was definitely humbling, as a writer, to step back from the story and realise that they were essentially creating tiny pieces of cliff-hanging drama in tiny little sentences. There were a few times when 140 characters were just not enough to convey the imagery, and the writers used an image instead, but overall the slow-moving pace was actually incredible to experience.

Another way in which Twitter can be used to tell stories, and one touched upon by the first article that I linked to, would be the parody accounts who pretend to be the characters’ twitter accounts, and tweet accordingly. Many of these don’t last very long, because they were created on a one-joke basis, but many persist to create a kind of everyday, non-linear narrative of an entire individual.

Both of these are very interesting, because they use the tight restrictions of the medium – 140 characters are barely enough to gripe about grandparents, let alone tell an entire story! – to their advantage, and create a whole story using the constructed understanding that most Twitters users have about how tweets work.

And then there’s @horse_ebooks, which turned out to be part of an elaborate art exhibit.

Alex.

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We’re Painted Red To Fit Right In

[Radioactive – Imagine Dragons]

This will be my review of Catching Fire, the second installment of The Hunger Games film series. Needless to say, this will be rife with spoilers, both plot- and theme-wise.

When I saw the first movie, the aptly titled The Hunger Games, I had just finished reading the entire trilogy within a week, so everything was fresh in my mind. It also meant that I was caught up in the whirlwind of comparing everything to the book, while still reliving the great feeling that I got from reading a dramatic and action-packed series.

Today, I saw the movie having not really come in contact with the fictional world at all for at least a year. I’ve had one night when I came across a trailer, and realizing that I forgot what that trailer was about, I went and had a small peek through the corresponding chapter of the book. But, for the most part, I was coming at the movie with a fresh eye. I mean, obviously I remember the major plot points and deaths, but I’d forgotten a lot of the small things.

Most importantly, I’d forgotten about the themes which Suzanne Collins was probably going for. So, instead of the usual review of a film on its visual and storytelling merits (which I will still do, albeit in a cursory manner), I’ll also talk a bit about the film’s success in drawing out the themes of the series. Note that I’ll be writing with the assumption that you know about the series, and so I’ll be minimally explaining the world.

First of all, I have to say, the film was extremely long. I didn’t exactly keep time, but it took what felt like at least 20 minutes before the ball drops – that Katniss has to go back into the arena. I suppose, though, that that particular ball wasn’t exactly dropping out of the blue, but say for argument’s sake that someone was going in without a single clue, and without having seen the previous film, nor the trailers, they would definitely be wondering if this film was going to go anywhere before they’re treated to the meat of the story. But, I guess that was to be expected, considering that Catching Fire is the transitory middle book/film, which was instrumental in moving the characters and their motives from the passive and oppressed Districts of the first book to the full-on, world-upending rebellion in the third. There is a lot of ground to cover for this – a lot of character development which had to happen to get the viewers up to emotional speed. I can’t remember well, but I’m sure they cut down on a lot of content, yet still had me leaving the theater with a sore bum from sitting for so long.

In Catching Fire, the results of Katniss’ actions in the first film became apparent. What she half intended to be a method or survival and half intended to be a middle-finger to the Capitol (more precisely, to President Snow), was interpreted as an act of rebellion, and encouraged everyone else to do so, too. The film was rather clear in portraying Katniss as a girl who was still stuck in the unwanted role in a publicity game that had become her life the moment she volunteered as Tribute. All she wanted to do in District 11 was to make people feel better, but it directly resulted in the execution of an old man. Katniss said it best when she cried that she didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt, but the fact was, someone did get hurt because of her. Her actions, her body, her life, was no longer her own. This is a theme that will continue even stronger in the next film(s). The film’s end alluded to this, but perhaps in a muffled manner – on the plane, or whatever it is, Katniss wakes up to see that Haymitch, Finnick (who at that point she wasn’t sure whether to trust) and Plutarch (who she definitely didn’t trust) were in cahoots. She was mortified that Haymitch betrayed her, only to be told that they’d all planned ABOUT her, WITHOUT her. This was somewhat overshadowed by the first realization that Katniss had also just lost Peeta, and then the secondary news that District 12 has been destroyed.

The idea that Katniss was no longer her own property seemed to have been a hit-and-miss in both movies, so far. The first movie, whether through time constraints or oversight, heavily omitted any explanation or clarification that the Games was a televised show. That, despite the grim and gory situation placed before her, Katniss was ultimately a contestant on screen, waiting for those watching her to love her and help her. In this movie, it became somewhat more detailed that everything she did, or had to do, was for the camera – that she was a symbol, not just a person. I think that Effie’s lines helped, always reminding Katniss that she had to smile, that she had to be in love, and that she had to convince people that it was all real. Katniss had a personal motive to pretend the love-story was real, but I think the film missed her intelligence in working everything out without having it spelled out to her, too.

And Peeta, let’s not forget that sweet boy who Katniss didn’t deserve. I suppose it’s too early for the film to really delve into it, but it is true that Katniss doesn’t deserve, nor in fact, want, Peeta. Katniss’ heart never went to him the way it went to Gale, but the fact was, Katniss needed Peeta, and ultimately (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT) that trumps her heart. Perhaps it’s a comment that in war, what we want isn’t what we should have. Katniss ends up with someone who she needed – a boy who loved and cared for her, even when he (ANOTHER MAJOR SPOILER) lost his grasp on any other reality. You may say that Katniss settled, but that’s not the point – Katniss, at the end of Mockingjay, needed to settle into something safe. Gale would never provide that, but Peeta could, in abundance. Again, this is something which I expect them to delve into in the following two-part installments, but it was nice to see them lightly touch on the topic in this installment.

The idea of rebellion is an obvious theme in the films, yet the execution of such rebellion in different characters reached different levels of success. Putting side the overt riots in the Districts, I want to concentrate on the actions of two Capitol characters, Effie and Cinna.

Effie’s transformation from a self-centered publicity agent to a person who genuinely cared about Katniss and Peeta wasn’t aimed to be subtle. Elizabeth Banks did an excellent job during the reaping scene for the Quarter Quell – one has to realize that her character was in the midst of emotional turmoil; grieving, raging yet terrified (not for herself) at the same time, all while on camera – and in subsequent scenes. The way that she portrayed Effie really shone the character’s determination to let Katniss and Peeta know that she felt the indignation of the situation as strongly as they did, in her own little ways. Putting aside makeup, lighting, and camera angles (areas about which I’m not yet knowledgeable enough to comment), the writing of her character was simple, and the delivery succinct.

Cinna, on the other hand, disappointed me. The book Cinna was a crafty, intelligent and kind designer, whose pride and skill in his work outshone the tyranny of the reason for his creations. Katniss resisted and hated him at the start, only to be taught that Cinna did not do his job because he wanted to doll up the lambs for slaughter, but rather do anything he could to give them a fighting chance. Cinna wasn’t just some Capitol lapdog with a makeup brush in his hand – he was an artist who had his own ideas, his own feelings about the life that was being led around him. The Mockingjay wedding dress was the epitome of his artistry, his swan-song (if I may) of his thoughts. It was supposed to be an elegant, subtle and wildly dangerous message that Cinna sent in the best way he could. It was supposed to be a metaphor, for as the dress burned a bright beacon for the rebellion, so too did the dying embers signify the last remaining moments of Cinna’s life; as the snow white dress melted away, surely Cinna resigned himself to a painful doom. But the pain of that moment, when the camera fell on Cinna for his bow, was lost to me.

I feel that my problem was with the editing of this scene. The acting, the script and the camera was spot on, but the editing (or, I suppose, direction) drew attention away from the significance of the moment. Similarly, the sound editing drew significance away from a tragic irony later on in the film, upon Mags’ death. Not a few minutes before, Finnick said that the sound of the cannons was like music to his ears, because it meant one less person out there to kill him. But as the poison fog was rolling in, and Mags leaped into her death to save the others, the sound of her death cannon was drowned out by the music score and all the noise happening on screen. Then, with all the commotion happening later, one never really had the time to properly digest how horrifyingly ironic it was for Finnick to hear the cannon sound upon his mentor’s death. If anything, Finnick seemed more affected by the Jabberjay aftermath (which was a good subtle setup for later), telling Katniss almost indifferently that Mags was going to die, anyway. Perhaps I interpreted the scene wrongly, but his actions in caring about his elderly mentor should have suggested some more weight in his words when he dismissed Mags’ death.

(I want to take a separate moment to mention how great Mags was, especially in that short footage of her volunteering as tribute. When Finnick showed the smallest of weaknesses hugging Mags, she pointed fervently at the camera, reminding him that they were back under scrutiny – but more importantly, that his relief that Annie was saved was a danger to both himself and Annie. They’re the little things which I was grateful the writers had painstakingly put in.)

My take away of this review is that Catching Fire was rather temperamental when it came to its success in the portrayal of the themes. Where it triumphed in showing personal rebellion in Effie, it missed the mark with Cinna. Where it took note of the small tragedies and details of Finnick’s love for Annie, it neglected to do the same for his love for Mags.

Finally, and this is probably more nitpicking than anything: I hope for a better, more rounded portrayal of Prim and Gale for movies 3 and 4. Gale’s tendency for action and war was shown but not elaborated upon in this film, and the efforts to mature Prim to (EXTREME SPOILER ALERT) set her up to volunteer for and die as a medic in the final moments of the saga resulted in an overly aloof and distant girl. Obviously, this film was more of a focus on the gathering forces for a revolution, so little side-character developments aren’t of importance, but it would have been nice to see Prim act a little reckless as a foreshadowing of her seemingly forgetting Katniss’ first sacrifice.

(If you can’t tell, I’ve always viewed Prim as a supreme idiot by the time of her death. I mean, it was a beautiful stroke of irony on Collins’ part, but it made me so frustrated.)

When I have the time, I’m going to go back and re-read the books again. I think it would give me fresh perspectives on both the films and the books, and then maybe I can do a re-write of this review if I deem it necessary (which I know it never is, because no one reads these).

Alex.

Wishing, Wanting, Yours For The Taking

[Check Yes Juliet – We The Kings]

So I just saw an ad on TV for Alexandra Adornetto’s Halo and I have to clarify that, as negative as the following post might sound, I do have the utmost respect for her.

BUT DUDE! She went to school with me – she’s younger than me! And she’s already published a successful trilogy, and working on her second trilogy. She has her own Wikipedia entry – which to me at the moment is the epitome of success… – and she was in the newspaper quite a lot.

Am I jealous? Yes, yes I very much am. The ability to say “I got published when I was young” got taken by someone else – the attempts I’ve made in creative writing competitions had failed – so what have I to boast now?

Ah this is petty. She worked hard to get herself published, not to mention that she has intrinsic skills. I’ve read excerpts from her first trilogy; the writing style isn’t my cup of tea, but the fact that she has a distinctive writing style and that her stories capture publishers’ interest, it is really a commendation to her skills.

I think I’ll calm down now, and go about my life as I have done before. Things like these give me a boost in my sudden need to mark my name in the world, but they’re short lived nitro boosts. I need to work on upgrading my cart so that it maintains a strong acceleration and speed.

Ha, who knows, I might write the next “Harry Potter”. If only my imagination can be so epic…and that I can be bothered to research as deeply has Rowling had.

Alex.

I Give The Final Blow

[It Ends Tonight – The All American Rejects]

AH! Finally, Chapter 6 is up.

You can read it from the Writing Project tab up there ^^^^^ or alternatively click this link.

This chapter is more plot than anything special or fancy but at least the action is advancing.

I really need to stop introducing characters that I’ll “do more with later on”.

Alright, have fun!

Alex.

P.S. If you haven’t already, or if you have forgotten, the links to the first five chapters are all under the Writing Project page.

Soy un perdedor, I’m A Loser Baby, So Why Don’t You Kill Me?

[Loser – Glee Cast Cover, original by Beck]

I finished all my essays today, and I thought it shouldn’t hurt to share my Creative Fiction here – if the Uni asks, I can prove this is mine.

So yeah, here it is, very very Dexter-inspired.

Hear My Whispers In The Dark

These things tend follow a pattern, a routine that I sit through on auto-pilot, like the period of time between the wake-up alarm and the key in the ignition. Almost every aspect of my Ritual is done on auto-pilot, though I have to admit I do take pleasure in some parts.

I’ve often wondered – and I’m wondering again now, watching her show the first signs of consciousness – why I always wait for them to wake up. I suppose that the only variation I get in my Ritual is the conversation, which is why I let them wake up, just so I can talk to them. One can say that I am lonely, but I don’t like being around people enough for that to apply. I simply like to be stimulated by conversation.

“Where am I?” This is always the first question. I can’t blame her for the lack of originality; one moment she was about to get into her car – a normal, safe place in her life – and the next she wakes up in mine. The sense of displacement…I know that feeling. Except unlike for her, my experience won’t be ending within the next hour, but continue every day, no matter where I go. Everyone I see looks like me, but the things I do on a daily basis exist only in the most horrifying corners of their conscience.

I am that monster that slinks into people’s thoughts at night, the one who whispers ideas from the darkness.

The next part is interesting. I think I can tell what kind of conversation I will have just by what they do next. The kind that struggle, well, they’re bound to be the aggressive kind. Stupidly in denial, they would (try to) tear at their plastic wrap-trap, fighting against what they already know until the last strained breath.

I really like the ones who silently see what is happening to them, and then resign themselves to cry.  They say they deserve it, because they’re guilty of one thing or another. I don’t really care about what they did;  but I do like hearing their stories. If someone like me can have friends, I would call them my friends.

She says nothing, even though I know she’s fully coherent. I feel a small swell of satisfaction that I’d managed to find the better kind.

I dim the lights, like a cinema before the movie starts. I like going to the cinemas, and when the lights dim I’d know I am in for a treat. Maybe that’s why I dim the lights for her, and for the ones like her. Without the light, I get to see a great show without any light to distract me.

“Do you know why you’re here?” I ask. There isn’t actually a reason, apart from my own personal needs, but I like to know what she’ll say.

She still doesn’t answer, but she’s looking straight up at me. She’s fat – I wouldn’t pick her otherwise – so I try not to look at her body bulging under the layers of plastic wrapping. She’s not beautiful either, but under the dimmed light, and with her damp hair loosely framing her face, I can bear to look at her. She’ll look a lot better against the dark crimson of her own blood.

“Alright then, do you know who I am?” She moves her head side-to-side as far as the tape allows. She still doesn’t speak, but I can tell she is starting to abandon her initial shock.

I turn up the light again, drowning her imperfections. I move around the surrounding shadows, readying my equipment. The clanging of the blood collection tub that I toss unceremoniously near her head stirs some urgency into her.

“What is that? What’s it for?” she asks, starting to shift in her restraints. Once that shifting starts, it usually never stops, until I stop it.

“It’s to collect your blood. I find that having to mop it up is very hard work.” I pick up a pair of rusting scissors and a big, black garbage bag from the bench-top. Cutting a large hole into the bottom of the bag. I slip it over my head, and rip the plastic at the sleeves. I wrap the torn plastic around my arms, securing it with rubber-bands, making myself a disposable shirt with sleeves. Over this shirt, I put on my stained apron. During all this, she is quiet, but fully aware of every move I make; her breathing stops every time I make an exceptionally loud sound.

“Why are you going to kill me?” she asks the moment I appear in her field of vision.

“Well,  there isn’t a section at the butcher’s for my liking, so I basically have to go out into the farm, or what you would call your neighbourhood, and kill one for myself.” I lean closer to her distastefully ugly face, “I’m just being a smart-arse. Yeah, I’m going to eat you.”

Her eyes grow big, as her face expands to accommodate for the sudden surplus of fear. The monster has swaggered into the light, announcing itself. But the thing that is really making her writhe harder in her bonds is the realization that the monster had always been there, just beyond the pool of light.

“Will it hurt?”

Of all the before-meal conversations I’ve had (that I remember, anyway), this is the first time that someone has accepted their fate so quickly.

“Will it hurt? Is that all you’re going to ask? I’m going to be eating you! Bleed you out, cut you up, and skin you! You’ll be made into stew, roast, stir-fry…come on!” I slam a fist down onto her torso, immediately regretting bruising her flesh. “Beg for your life! Don’t you want to get out? For fuck’s sake, woman!” She stares into my eyes, a glow burning in her eyes from the reflection of the light.

“Why would I beg? There’s no way of getting out,” she shifts slightly, and then closes her eyes, breathing out like she’s waiting for her attractive masseur to start on her. Through her closed eyelids, I can still feel the embers of that glow.

“Yes, yes it will hurt. I will cut your carotid artery, and let you bleed out. This table can be tilted sideways, and your blood will flow through these little channels on the table here, and into this tub. Through all this, you cannot move. I am good at this; I’ll make sure to draw out the bleeding for as long as possible. The only consolation I can give you,” I completely turn off the light, and wait until the friendly darkness has settled heavily before continuing, “is that at the end, you’ll be able to see ‘the light’ that you so believe in.”

In the darkness, just below me, I hear her breathing, slowly and deliberately.  I synchronise my breathing with hers, pushing out my rare anger and pulling in a lungful of my old friend. The smoothness of my Ritual comes back to me.

When the lights go back on, she is different, her eyes are just another part of her flesh. I don’t want to talk to her, and I definitely don’t want to look at her. I’m simply hungry, and this is a step I have to take before I can satiate that hunger. I move to my bench. The familiar layout of my equipment brings the buzz back into my arms. I tug out two latex gloves, put them on, and pick up my scalpel. Moving back towards the table, I survey over the mass before me, making a final decision, and cut into the carotid artery by the side of the neck. A pool of dark red forms almost immediately, its clean integrity smeared by squirming. I slip the scalpel in my apron pocket, and move to the crank by the table. A few turns of the handle, and the pool of red slide down past her left shoulder and start rolling steadily into the tub.

I tear off my right glove, and turn on some music. Every piece of equipment that is in this room has its use in different steps of my Ritual, and my speakers have served me well. Chris Martin’s voice drowns out the growing whimpers from the table. Grabbing a chair, I dim the lights to the weakest rays, sit by the table, and wait.

Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you.

Alex.

First Drop Of Rain

My Writing Project (which you can access right next to the 411 and home along the top-ish if the page) has had a huge drought, and finally after God knows how long, I’ve written and put up Chapter 5.

Am I satisfied with it? Not really. A lot of the stylistic features I tried to put in didn’t quite show up, but I have no idea how to edit it.

Did I see the ending of the chapter coming? Yes and no. There was always going to be a huge revelation. I just didn’t plan to put it in so early, or even that revelation for that matter. I won’t spoil it.

If you read my earlier chapters and forgot what it was about, then I suppose you’ll just have to read them again. I WOULD do a “previously on Untitled Writing Project” but nah.

I have a feeling Chapter 6 won’t take long. It’s almost like Chapters 3 and 4 coming out so quickly after one another.

I pretty much expect just Cheryl to read it, ha, but everyone else is welcome too.

Alex.

Rules For Writing Fiction

I’d put this off and I don’t know why. On Friday in Creative Writing I’d gotten this sheet, and I thought I’d share what’s on it.

It was quite interesting to me. In short, it is some “rules” for writing fiction.

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in this writing.

– Ernest Hemingway.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules For Writing Fiction:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Writer to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Now, I don’t personally agree with point 4 completely – I know that Edgar Allen Poe had once said that every word in a story must be necessary to be there, and each word must build up to the climax of the story, but in order to describe something, you should take a small amount of time out to describe it. Of course, meaningless physical description is pointless – I’d once read a fanfic where the writer would painstakingly describe every piece of clothing a character decides to wear, the brand, the color, how they folded their sleeves even – but to some degree, a description of places and setting in accordance with the story, both for emotive, symbolic or dynamic purposes, are useful.

I like how point 8 negates Hemingway a little. Not completely, just a little. I suppose you can always imply from point 8 that “as much as possible” isn’t “everything”, but just as much as it is necessary.

I think I’ve fucked up point 5 many, many times – flashbacks from a start point doesn’t count. I’m guilty of starting many an epic long story from the beginning of beginning. Still, I’d like to think I’m building up artistic flair in my writing.

Yes Cheryl, I will work on the writing project.

But apart from that, I really sincerely believe in points 1 – 3, and point 6 sounds like a lot of fun. Point 7 is probably something I will have to slowly develop, because I haven’t really thought about it.

I shall try my hardest to create a good ice-berg. One day it’ll be large enough to sink the Titanic again.

Alex.