Entries in Scott Morgan (15)
Every August, from the time I was 6 or 7 to the time I was 17, was a black time for me. The pall of what was coming in the next month slithered over my eyes and darkened the world in the sunniest month of the year. I hated school so much that to this day I remember almost nothing from the time period. Almost as if my life began at age 20, when I moved from depressed, anti-school wreck to depressed pompous-ass douche.
So of course, I am a teacher.
To lessen the dramatic effect of this, I should say, I loved college. In college I could wear sweat pants and argue with teachers. In Catholic school, I once questioned what God is and was promptly handed an EZ Pass for my trip along the road to hell. Which, I've found, runs through New York City.
The point is, I teach adults about creative writing -- character development, creative nonfiction, business writing -- and it's incredible what being a teacher actually does for you as a student of your subject. You never quite know what you don't know until you're an expert in something.
I've always felt that when students ask teachers easy questions, the teacher is not teaching the basics. When students ask hard questions, they're engaged. And it keeps me on my toes.
If I liked kids, I'd want to teach in high school. Actually, let me rephrase that ... If I like parents, I'd want to teach in high school. But since I want nothing to to with minors, I'm happy teaching writing courses at colleges.
My point for writing this? Look into teaching if you're far enough into your career. If you can offer some insight to others, you're doing great. And you just might learn something along the way.
Write for the jugular folks!
Nobody said life was fair, but riddle me this, Batman … how is it that criminal networks thrive and prosper in secret, around the world, in the shadows, and I have so much trouble selling books on the world’s largest, totally legit bookseller site?
I recently read a piece over at Cracked.com about how gangs and organized criminals are doing things like ordering hits and laundering billions by using online video games. Read it for yourself if you don’t believe me.
What I don’t get is how. I mean, I get it, but I don’t get it, you know? Criminal networks are, amazing as this might sound, against the law. But in order to be an empire, you need to be connected to a sea of other criminals who know which illegal activities to carry out at what times. Which means criminals have to communicate criminal things to other criminals without the good guys not knowing what they’re talking about.
Meanwhile, I’m screaming from the rooftops about my perfectly legal, even occasionally lauded nonfiction that’s designed to stimulate creativity and help the economy (by creating working writers) and I’m pulling in what, two bucks a sale?
So I’m going to declare myself a criminal. Don’t buy my books because they are illegal and immoral and will corrupt your children. If you buy my books, large, greasy men of questionable physiognomy and indiscriminate ethnicity will pay you a visit laden with such witty dialogic exchanges as “ow, my face.”
Seriously. You can’t buy anything of mine. I’m bad news, baby. On a global scale.
Write or the Jugular, folks.
One thing people in their twenties are good for is destroying your illusions or cozy presuppositions. Having never read Youth In Revolt, I was unaware that my mustachioed evil doppelganger, Francois, bore the same name and follicular countenance as that book's main character until a twenty-two-year-old waitress informed me.
I'd be more annoyed if I cared what she thinks. And, in truth, Francois got his name from a moment of inspired comedic brilliance by a guy named Ted Blumberg. But that's not important.
What's important is, Francois seems to be so much better at life than me. For one thing, the ladies kinda like Francois ‒‒ his sinister, plotting fingertips; his oxymoronic mustache; his way-cooler-than-mine name.
For another thing, Francois is the one who gets to come up with the fun stuff. While I'm toiling away yelling at you people to get back to work in How To Be A Whiny Beeyotch, Francois gets to take credit for the reissue of my short fiction. If you don't believe me, look at the photograph. He's totally bogarting the whole book.
Stories My Evil Twin Made Up is a collection of previously published works from Short Stack, Tryptic, and Love/Sex/Soul. If you already read those, save your money. Unless you want to read them in paperback, which you couldn't do before. If you want to reward Francois for his villainy, it'll be released on February 15, 2013.
I want to love Francois, but I don't know. Clearly, I'd be only half a man without him, but he's kind of like the annoying neighbors I once had. They'd do anything for you, then remind you how awesome they are for doing you a favor.
And, clearly, Francois would be an ideal choice to play Roderick if anyone were to make a film of my short story, "Bruce Goodlooks to the Rescue." But where does that leave me, the guy who doesn't have the lantern jaw and broad shoulders of a Bruce Goodlooks?
All I'm saying is, it's hard to know that your evil twin is having more fun you are. But I guess that's what evil twins are for. And why Francois will never write about his virtuous twin, Scott.
Write for the Jugular, folks.
Stories My Evil Twin Made Up: available February 15 in print and E-book from Oriole Publishing.
Spock is the Man. Yeah, Kirk is fun in that swashbuckley way and McCoy is just freakin' hilarious, but Spock is the Man. His cool detachment and otherworldly logic make for a fantastic character study. He is the perfect example of how reserve and quiet in a character can say so much.
Point the First: Spock is Scary. The blustering swagger of James T. Kirk lets us all know who's in charge of the U.S.S Enterprise. But guys like Kirk? You can take out guys like that. You know he's smart, you know he's clever, and you know he'll never go down without swinging, but, really, his bravado could be easily undone.
By contrast, there is Mr. Spock, who can, despite his wispy frame, military press a 300-pound boulder without so much as a quivering upper lip. And Spock, like the chess master he is, is one of those guys that you know will always be able to outthink you. But under all that are flashes of the savage Mr. Spock, whose barely contained human half is always close to tearing through his Vulcan logic.
And a scary thought occurs -- if you hit Spock hard enough in the right area of his brain, he would lose his ability to outthink the emotional cauldron that keeps his inferiority issues and personal distaste of human frailties at bay. Like most quiet guys, Spock is menacing because he isn't rattled by anything and because he doesn't talk about what he does or doesn't know. You know that he could pull your legs off and kick what's left of your ass with them and his heart rate will never increase.
In the John Wayne way, you could see getting into a fight with Kirk and then having a beer with him after. But I dare you to find anybody you know who would actually want to fuck with Mr. Spock.
Point the Second: Spock is Sexy. For all Kirk's womanizing, the indisputable truth of Star Trek's sex appeal is that Spock is just fucking sexy. And I'm a straight guy saying that, which should tell you something. Spock's quietly intense looks and gravel-scratched baritone voice, combined with his smoky dark eyes and hunter's patience, make him what in the parlance is known as "dangerous-sexy."
And Spock has the absolute most erotic moments of the entire series. Plato's Stepchildren, despite featuring Kirk's admittedly embarrassing impression of a show horse, and despite featuring the first interracial kiss on a network show, features Spock's lyre-based rendition of the song Bitter Dregs. In this he warns young ladies to value their, uh ... wine, against young men who will drink greedily and then leave nothing.
There is the moment in Amok Time when Nurse Chapel (who's got a groove-thang for the ship's resident Vulcan) cries, heartbroken over Spock's impending nuptials to the oh-my-GOD-she's hot T'Pring. And Spock tenderly wipes her tear with his finger and says in his dusky voice, "Your face is wet ..."
But the most erotic encounter in sci-fi history occurs in The Enterprise Incident, in which Spock cozies up to the sexy female commander of a Romulan ship while Kirk sneaks about in a bad disguise to steal a cloaking device. The commander woos Spock, offers him a command (and sex), and changes from her uniform into a form-fitting dress. She asks, "Is my attire now more approriate, Mr. Spock?" To which Spock answers, "Commander, your attire is not only more appropriate, it should actually stimulate our conversation." He follows this up by softly running his hand along hers.
Point the Third: Spock's detached calm sells his menace and his sex appeal. By being calm, quiet, and stoic, Spock is never out of control. And as the Romulan commander pants expectantly at his touch, Spock stares deep into her eyes, unfazed, and ready to roll.
The lesson we learn from this is that reserve makes for a great, intense character. At times when emotions run highest -- anger and sexual arousal -- Spock never loses his cool (Amok Time's freak-out aside, because that can be attributed to an ancient evolutionary biology that overrides all thinking). And by not losing his cool, the intensity of his actions becomes far more mysterious. And, therefore, dangerous. And sexy.
Write for the Jugular, folks. But stay in control.
This is a gross oversimplification, I know, but as I see it, actors and writers are the same people. The only difference is that actors tend to need people to love them and writers tend to need people to stay the hell away from them.
But actors and writers both live and thrive in alternate realities, where voices in the head are cause for celebration and not for witchcraft trials. And, really, writers are all actors, just without the applause.
To write great characters requires empathy and an understanding of emotions. And to write great stories requires great characters. Great actors know how to project themselves onto other people by creating empathy. It's no surprise that great writers know how to do the same thing.
The ability to act or write well demands the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others and to understand the universal emotions that we all feel. Most of us don't know, for example, what it feels like to be taken hostage and held at gunpoint, but we all know how it feels to be out of control and afraid for our lives. And maybe most of us don't know what it's like to do a standup comedy routine that bombs, but we've all experienced at least one moment of utter embarrassment or discomfort while under the scrutiny of judgmental eyes.
These feelings of fear or humiliation or shame or whatever are the universals. As much as specific experiences might change, feelings and emotions are always the same. Good actors and good writers create worlds and truths and realities by recognizing that a smile and a good laugh mean the same in Swahili as they mean in English, Urdu, and Russian.
Remember -- good writing is action. It lives and breathes and feels. Good writing touches all our senses, just as good acting does. When you write well, you act. You inspire. And you connect.
Write for the Jugular, folks.