I love Adam West. I can't think of any entertainer who's brought me more pure joy, from Batman to Family Guy and all things in between.
One of those things in-between was a 1991 TV show pilot called Lookwell, which I never heard of until I saw it on Cracked.com. In a nutshell, West plays a delusional former cop show star who thinks he can still solve crimes. Only a pilot episode was shot and for some incredibly stupid reason, the show was not picked up. How it wasn't, I can understand, because the creators (Robert Smigel and Conan O'Brien) wrote the best episode of comic TV outside of Police Squad. The one and only episode is on YouTube, click to watch it.
As a writer guy I can offer this show as an example of pitch-perfect writing. It's silly and sharp and stunning. The only comparison is a recurring skit that Mitchell and Webb created for their sketch comedy show, and which was entitled The Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar, about two homeless men who believe they're part of a vast Sherlockian adventure. It's also insanely brilliant, you just have to watch the whole series for the skits to come up.
Anyway, my point is, Adam West is The Man and nothing but The Man. Maybe I'm just in a mood to thank those who bring me happiness, which he has done. No one plays 'WTF???' anywhere near as well, and I doubt anyone ever will. And it's wonderful to sometimes just be entertained. So thank you, Mr. West.
(PS, yes, I'm aware that Conan O'Brien and Robert Smigel had a big hand in Lookwell, but face it -- brilliant writing aside, it wouldn't work with anyone else in the role. Such a shame it was never a show.)
One of the hallmarks of my journalism career has been the utter safety from which I've done my job. I'm a good writer, but as journalists go, I'm a joke, really. About as much of a real journalist as a tee-ball coach is a major leaguer.
When I hear about journalists who die in the line of duty, something in me always dies with them a little too. In America, we pay a lot of respect to civil servants and military personnel who sacrifice their lives for a cause they believe in, and rightly so. But we so often overlook the journalists who inform us. The ones who are right beside the civil servants and military personnel when the shit storm swirls.
In America, we have come to vilify journalists. They're seen as a nuisance, as invaders of privacy, as pushy, rabid dogs. We don't see them as defenders of the very first amendment to the Bill of Rights. We don't see them as heroes who risk and sacrifice their lives for something they believe makes the world a better place.
The news of the beheading of James Wright Foley is troubling for a lot of reasons, a main one being that Foley was someone who got caught up in someone else's cause and killed because he represented something sinister to that cause. If a group of radicals believes this man, because of his profession, is dangerous enough to kill, what does that say about how powerful and precious the ideals he is laying on the line really are?
Roughly 70 journalists are killed in the line of duty annually over the past few years. Roughly the same as the number of American military combatants who've died in Iraq since 2009. So please -- a little respect all around for those who serve their country, no matter how they serve it, in the most dangerous parts of the world.
Condolences to Foley's family and those of other fallen journalists. And safe passage to the real journalists out there in the world. Get home safe.
I recently gave a talk on dialogue for the Writer's Guild of Texas (which meets just north of Dallas, in Richardson), and it was a most delightful evening. Good group of people, very engaged, very sincere, very professional, and very eager to learn. If you're a writer in the area, check them out.
As for the talk, I won't rehash, but I will offer a couple points that I made in my presentation. First, dialogue is functional. In any format, TV script, novel, stage play, whatever, if the dialogue does not inform us about the story, plot, or character in some way, it has no point being in the story. Generally speaking, if you can say it without dialogue, say it without dialogue.
Generally speaking, of course. That's not an absolute. This is creative writing, remember? There are no absolutes (except this one).
Second, dialogue is all about who's listening to it. Writers get so concentrated on the speaker of dialogue, they sometimes forget who the person listening is. Someone who says something in a story is saying it to someone else. Who's the speaker's audience? What's the purpose of the talking? and does the person listening already know the info the speaker is giving? Because if the listener already knows, there's no point in the speaker saying anything.
If the listener (also known as the person receiving information, or "the learner") is the reader, then it's not a place for dialogue and quotation marks. that's a job for storytelling.
The rest of the talk? Well, you kinda had to be there. If you were, awesome. If not, too bad, you missed a good night.
Write for the jusgular, folks.
It’s been a while since I’ve blog hopped, but thanks to my good friend Kelly Belmonte, who once graciously allowed me space on her very excellent writing blog, All Nine Muses, to talk about my favorite poem (it’s ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling), and she, in turn, graced my site with her thoughts on The Muse.
Kelly has asked me to answer these questions four and pass them around to a few other writing friends. In the coming days/weeks, my other good friends, Julie Frayn and Ben Ditmars, will answer these questions as well.
If you don’t know Kelly, get to. A stellar poet with a gentle humor and a genuine honesty, she is one of the handful of online colleagues I have yet to meet, but very much hope to. Read her take on these questions here.
Likewise, if you don’t know Julie or Ben, you’re missing out.
Julie is one of the best pure writers I’ve read in a long time. A master of characterization and storytelling that will not keep her in the indie arena long, once the right person gets his lucky eyes on her novels. She’s the coolest Canadian export since hockey. Visit her here.
Ben, though still in his twenties, has the soul of a wise old poet and sage. I’m not typically a poetry fan, but Ben’s work routinely gets me to say “Damn, that kid can write!” Exclamation points and all. Visit him here.
In any event, get to know these people, and take a gander at my thoughts on the writing process. Thanks for asking, Kelly. Happy writing to all, and to all, Write for the Jugular.
1. What am I working on?
I’m working on a new short works collection. Takes time to build up a set of short pieces to make a book (I don’t end up liking everything I write and sometimes I get into a story and realize it’s either a stupid idea or a great idea I have no idea how to really accomplish). The centerpiece so far is an 8,500-word short with no title (yet) that I can’t describe without tainting you toward what it’s really about. It’s not an easy read in spots, but it tells what I think is an important story overall.
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Hard to say. I never identified myself as having a genre, per se. Maybe what used to (and still may) be termed “little/literary?” That’s the closest thing to a genre I could get, I suppose. The kind of writing you’d find in old-school lit mags. I don’t write for plot so much as concept, which I hope isn’t as pretentious as it sounds. Rather than build a plot in the story, I tend to tell vignettes that paint an overall picture of a theme or idea. What separates my work from other works in the genre? Well, to be honest with you, the fact that I’m the one doing it is its major standout feature. It’s my perspective I’m telling, not anyone else’s, but then, that’s what separates everyone’s work from everyone else’s.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Sick compulsion. Urge to convince the world I’m right. Masochistic impulse to make myself uncomfortable and espouse points of view I don’t always agree with. To say things that have never been said before. To know I connected with people. To know that I don’t have to say something directly for people to understand what I’m driving at. To remind people they’re not alone.
4. How does my writing process work?
Long periods of wondering what to talk about, followed by medium bursts of intense work, followed by the glee that I could keep writing this piece forever, followed by the sudden realization that I’ve said everything I need to say in a few thousand words and don’t have a novel. In between projects, there’s a lot of start/stop. I come up with ideas that I discard all the time. I start working and think, “I don’t want to tell this to the world.” I only put something out when I feel it has something to actually say. Often, I look back over something I’ve written and find I either hate something I originally thought was good or like what I originally thought was mediocre. Whatever I write, I try to write Gestalt ‒‒ tell as little as possible and let the reader complete the picture. I chop out a lot of what I write because I want the readers to be part of the storytelling. They own the story when they take part in it.