Friday, July 30, 2010

Writing in Motion: True Blood

Hey everyone,

This is Terence here from The Tomas Experience doing a guest blog post. Many people I'm close with know that I am an aspiring screenwriter and so for my guest entries I will be featuring lines or scenes from TV and film and how they relate to what we see on the screen.

There is nothing that can sink a film or TV show faster than the script. Sure there are exceptions to the rule (like the Twilight series which is more about tween girls and moms than script) but often times bad writing kills your movie (Cop Out, Evan Almighty, The Last Airbender, etc.).

Take True Blood for example. One of the best shows on TV (and one of my favorite shows ever), it mixes sex, gore, supernatural creatures, and flawless writing. Even the episodes I dislike are notable for their rich characterizations. I decided to highlight a few lines from the second season.


 
Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes): [coming in, all filthy] Good Mornin'!
Tara Thornton: Whoa! Maryann are you okay?
Maryann Forrester: I am fantastic! I slept outside last night and communed with my animal nature.
Eggs: [eying the dead bunny] No shit.
Maryann Forrester: [holds it up] This little fellow hopped by and I thought, hmm yummy! Rabbit stew.
Tara Thornton: Aww. Poor bunny.
Maryann Forrester: Feeling sorry for things is just an excuse not to celebrate your own happiness.

The best part about this dialog is that Eggs and Tara (Rutina Wesley) believed her! They eventually found out that Maryann was a crazy bitch and a maenad, and you can see the uncertainty in their words when she walks in. But due to how she spoke and acted throughout the show they just considered it typical Maryann behavior.

 
 Lafayette Reynolds: See, that just ain't mother-fuckin' fair.
Eggs (Mechad Brooks): Excuse me?
Lafayette Reynolds: First time in my god-damned life, I ain't chasin' after trouble and it just keeps walkin' through my front door. Loot at you. Damn! Ain't nothin' good can come outta somethin' so pretty.

Everything you ever needed to know about Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) can be found in those few lines of dialog. You can see he has had a troubled past, is gay, and that he's extremely sarcastic...all in a few lines! Of course his character is fully realized throughout the series and he has some of the best lines, but even on the page, the personality shines through.

From these two examples you can see a small sample size of why dialog and writing is so important. Even in short sentences characterization can be conveyed.

Well that's it for my first installment of Screen Dialog. The next one probably won't be as long but I'll continue to help you analyze how these moving images come from the page.

But before I leave, here is a bonus quote and fierce screencap lol.



"Satan in a Sunday hat. I'm telling you. Satan in a beautiful fucking Sunday hat."
-Terence

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I always wanted to be the perfect match

The other day I signed up on one of those online dating sites, Match.com.

Yea, yea, I know what you're thinking, that sounds desperate. Honestly, I was curious about what types of people try to find true love through their computers. I wondered what clever lines they would use on potential suitors and how they described themselves. The whole time that I was browsing through the site I kept thinking about the eHarmony commercials. They always have a cute couple frolicking through a park with a caption that says "dating since" and "married on" as if these people are really in love or even know each other in real life. Needless to say, I doubted the validity of online dating ever since I recognized one of the frolicking happy people on the commercial. He must be so happy he found true love on eHarmony after being an extra on 3 episodes of Sex and the City...

As I was filling out my profile, I started to think about what it would be like to meet the right person for me on this website. I was curious to see how Match.com would match up people based solely on how they described themselves in their written profiles. After filling out my preferences: tall-ish, spiritual-ish, nice-ish, I approached the section where you include a brief description of yourself in your own words and what you would like in a mate.

Apparently, Match.com gives each dater 4 examples of the types of profiles they can have:

thoughtful and easygoing
easygoing and spiritual
serious and romantic
humorous and adventurous

I thought damn, I don't fit any of those descriptions. Whatever happened to:

kind of uptight and driven
hardworking and serious
stubborn and too honest
unadventurous and not too daring

I guess those descriptions would not attract a date...

After I tried my best to outline who I am, what I like to do, and who I would like to date, I started to check out my matches. I began to feel hopeful that even though I got onto this website for a laugh, maybe I could find someone that I could spend time with. However, Match.com had something else in store for me. Just a few reality checks that would put things into perspective.

Reality Check #1: Much to my dismay, in order to get the true benefit of Match.com and be able to email people you see a potential in, you have to pay a fee. These hoes, excuse my French, these matchmakers expect some money in order to link people up much the same way as facebook does for free. Unfortunately, I am probably the most gullible person on the planet so I paid the fee only to realize that you can benefit from the same services and just contact people on any social networking site or some other method on your own.

Reality Check #2: Although one would think that people are not honest on these websites, I now feel that that is not the case. I now know that people are too honest:

"I just left a missions trip in a third world country. It was the most amazing experience. I enjoy volunteer work and would love to find someone in Atlanta who can expose me to more volunteer opportunities. Sadly, I acquired The Big C during my trip. I am hopeful that I will get better soon. When I'm not taking my treatment, I enjoy reading, spending time listening to music..."

The Big C?! Now what would that be, sir? Is that cancer? chlamydia? Or is it some other communicable disease that I have not heard of yet?

I thought the point of these sites was to embellish a little. To write something about yourself that is not necessarily true but will eventually attract a person you would like to date. Or to write euphemisms to describe your flaws. Perhaps this gentleman should have said:

"I love giving back to those in need. On a recent missions trip to a third world country, I gained a lot from interacting with the local people. I wish I could leave some of the things I gained back in that country where they belong..."

Reality Check #3: Dating sites are not just for people who want to go on dates. Oh no, quite the contrary. Being the literal person that I am, I assumed that someone who pays money to write about themselves on the internet would at least want the service that the site is providing. That was wishful thinking. Some of these people just want to do the following:

"hang out" "meet you baby *wink*" "make beautiful music together" "see you later on tonight"
The people that I matched up with gave these types of responses in their emails to me or on their profiles.

I ask you readers: What is the point? I have an aunt who met her boyfriend on one of these sites. They ride their bikes together over the Brooklyn Bridge. They attend plays. They spend time with each other's families. They really seem to have bonded in a short period of time because of their similar interests. It gave me faith that one simple written description of yourself and what you like could potentially lead to a mate.

Well the naive, literal, writer in me received a rude awakening courtesy of Match.com. What my aunt shared with her significant other is not just a lucky circumstance. It is unrealistic to assume that anything more than a laugh and a *smh* can be achieved from the online dating experience.

My challenge to you: fill out a free profile on one of these websites. Check out people's descriptions of themselves. Think about what you would write in your own personal description. Are you being honest with yourself? Or, are you being too honest like my match with The Big C?

I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope you have more success than I did if you partake in the adventure that is online dating. Leave a comment if you've heard a story about something crazy written on an online dating site.

Jessica Ebony

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dirty Girls can write too

Is it just me, or do authors have an obsession with other authors?

I just finished reading two books by the author
Alisa Valdes - Rodriguez.

Rather, I read the New York Times Bestseller
The Dirty Girls Social Club for the first time when I was in high school. I was one of the cool kids who decided it'd be awesome to work as a page in the children's section of our local library. My job was to stack books & other multimedia, clean up after the children's toys, and help with programs that the librarians would put on for kiddies.

Sounds really cool, right?

Spending all that time in the library, I stumbled upon the showcase of New York Times Bestsellers which I had previously avoided like the plague. I thought most of the books looked extremely boring in the past but I decided to give this one a try.
Why you ask? Wouldn't you read a bright, colorful book with women drinking cocktails and the words 'Dirty Girls' on the cover? I had to see what it was about.

The Dirty Girls Social Club and Dirty Girls on Top are about 6 women who bonded as Latina Communications majors at Boston University. The stories are written as a collection of their memoirs 5 years and then 10 years after graduation. Both books are written from the perspective of each of the 6 different women who take turns sharing their lives with the reader. These Dirty Girls or Las Sucias as they call themselves meet several times a year to catch up on each other's personal lives and share in the successes of their professional careers.

I was so impressed by Valdes - Rodriguez's ability to share the thoughts of each Latina woman throughout the book while showcasing just how diverse they all are. The fact that they graduated from the same program in school and are Latina is really all they have in common.

Meet Las Sucias:

Lauren - columnist, Cuban/Caucasian
Usnavys - non-profit organization director, Puerto Rican/Dominican
Liz - news anchor, Columbian
Rebecca - magazine owner, Spanish
Sara - housewife/talk show host, Cuban (and Jewish)
Amber - singer/songwriter, Mexican

The fact that Valdes - Rodriguez writes about writers is just the obvious connection to her own background as a novelist and journalist who has written for the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. Like Las Sucias, she attended college in Boston and shares a similar familial background with her characters Lauren and Rebecca.

The best part about The Dirty Girls books, besides the sprinkling of Spanish (
te lo juro, I had to look up a few phrases throughout both books) and the dabble of sex that Valdes - Rodriguez adds into the memoir, is that the characters' journalistic endeavors are weaved into the book itself!

The first novel transitions from one Sucia's thoughts to the other after displaying excerpts from Lauren's column My Life. Cleverly, each excerpt relates in some way to what the women are recalling in their memoirs. The second novel, Dirty Girls on Top, includes some of Usnavys' blogs which give sexual advice to white men from a 'voluptuous' Latina woman's perspective. I must admit I had my reservations about reading the second book based on the title alone but it is a must read. It is even better than the first book.

I learned a lot from reading these books. The women talk about their different ethnicities and what it is like to be young Latina women in mainly literary businesses. They reflect on their interactions with Latino men. They also talk about the friendship that has developed between Las Sucias over the years.

I found that I could really relate to being a double minority in a male dominated field. Moreso, I could relate to their doubts and uncertainties that everyone faces during their adult lives.

I appreciated how even though Valdes - Rodriguez wrote chic lit stories that some would compare to a Candace Bushnell novel, these books are really about women who started off as writers in some sense. And their memoirs helped me to see that although the process might be painful to go through, writing everything down can be a very good start to pursuing a writer's dreams.

As I sip on my Pink Poetry Odwalla drink, I wonder how I am always drawn to things that are literary in nature. Like many writers, I guess you could say I have a fascination with other writers too.

If you would like to read one of Valdes - Rodriguez's dirty writing - obsessed books, check out her website: www.alisavaldesrodriguez.com.

Feel free to leave a comment, especially if you've read a writer obsessed with another writer's work lately.

Jessica Ebony

Monday, July 26, 2010

In matters of taste, there is no dispute

In an attempt to improve my writing skills, I decided to attend a free writing workshop at the Atlanta Public Library today.

I heard somewhere (in an interview with the Degrassi actor turned rapper Drake, actually) that Denzel Washington still takes acting classes to perfect his already perfect craft. Drake said he was inspired by Denzel's recognizing that he can't become complacent and still be competitive in his industry.

Although I do not currently have a writing career, I plan to in the near distant future. What better way to start it off than with some much-needed well-guided instruction from a pro?

Author's Corner: A Writer and Publisher's Workshop is a series of classes taught by James Taylor who is a librarian in Fulton County and hosts a television show where he interviews famous authors. Taylor has met with countless authors in his time, including Terry McMillan, Nicholas Sparks, and E. Lynn Harris with whom he considered to be a friend before he passed away recently. The main focus of Taylor's instruction this evening was to give writers hoping to publish their work some advice and to explain the difference between traditional publishing vs. self publishing.


Here are a few valuable points from this class:

1. The book The Literary Marketplace 2010 is an essential guide to both types of publishing. In it, you can find the names of all of the publishers in the U.S.; listings for literary agents who can help writers get a publishing deal; instruction on writing a query letter (like a cover letter for a job, but for written works); and a list of contests/awards/fellowships that writers can apply for to gain recognition and make some money in the process.

2. There is a Catch 22 when it comes to publishing:
- someone wants to read your work, so you need your work to be published
- in order to get your work published, you need an agent to market it to publishers
- you need the agent to consider your work, however, they won't unless its published
(I wondered if this was the same double blind scenario that Joseph Heller had to face with his own work)

3. Traditional publishing is for people with a lot of money (borrowed or their own) who pay a publisher to take care of all of their distribution for them. Then depending upon the connections that this publisher has, the writer can become very successful with getting their book out to the world. Whereas, self publishing requires less money but you have to make all of the decisions yourself including where the book is distributed to. Also, the writer must sometimes pay extra to have the content copyright protected, to get an ISBN #, and even to add color onto the cover art!

After learning this information, I must admit, I was very overwhelmed. Then Taylor mentioned something that turned it all around...he asked us all one simple question:

What do you want to accomplish by publishing your work?

Taylor explained that for some people, it is enough to publish a collection of poems or short stories and distribute them to loved ones or around their immediate community. For others, they want the recognition of being an accomplished writer with thousands of adoring fans. He said that the choice of which type of publishing to use should be based on what we would like to get from the experience.

For a writer who has no gimmicks (Kardashian charm) to launch my own fan base (like a reality tv show, sex scandal, or sports career), a combination of both publishing styles seems like it may be a good fit. Apparently, there are several self-publishers that will allow you to pay a fee so that writers can receive around 100 copies of their work. Then if the self-publisher is affiliated with a larger book selling company, an interested reader can order the book from that company. If enough copies are sold and there is interest in the content, a literary agent may be more inclined to represent the work. Then a writer can gain a better publishing deal. Here are the self-publishers that Taylor highlighted:

Xlibris
www.xlibris.com/publishing $399 for eAdvantage Publishing Package

Lulu
www.lulu.com $599 for Novella Publishing Package

iUniverse
www.iuniverse.com $599 for Select Publishing Package, affiliated with Barnes & Noble

BookSurge/CreateSpace
www.createspace.com $758 for Total Design Freedom Standard, affiliated with Amazon.com

Disclaimer: These companies will get your work out there but there is no guarantee as to how many readers will gain access to it.

Overall, the main point that Taylor tried to impress upon our class of budding writers was that De gustibus non est disputandum. This latin phrase means "In matters of taste, there is no dispute." He is saying that a literary agent or publisher or reader could love your work or they could hate it. The writer just needs to couple their talents with perseverance and if they are lucky they may have the kind of success that they have hoped for.

I will save some of the other pearls of wisdom I learned from this writing workshop for another blog. I hope this information was helpful to anyone interested in getting their work out there to the masses. I plan to attend a few more workshops in the coming weeks so I will let you all know how they go!

For any of you budding writers out there, check out your local library's events calendar. You may be pleasantly surprised to find classes in your area that can help you to advance your own writing careers.

If you know of any self-publishers or books that are helpful for writers trying to publish their work, please post them in the comments!

Jessica Ebony

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Scatter Brained Writer

My name is Jessica Ebony and I am a writer...well - sort of...

I have not written a blog post since I stopped using Diaryland.com circa 2004. Those were the good old days, pre-facebook/myspace/twitter, when my friends and I would talk about what happened at school or write poetry or just say complete nonsense and see who cared to read it afterwards. If anyone were to find my Diaryland site, and if you know me, I'm sure you would laugh your ass off.

I think the last thing of substance that I wrote was a poem about finding love in the starlight...

Anywho, I like to think of myself as a writer because I love all things literary in nature, even though I have just now started reading books again. I love films, tv shows, and plays which all come from some written form. I have also dabbled into the world of comic strip writing. I find all of these 'literary works' fascinating. I love the way you can become lost in a storyline. I love how even though you may not seemingly have anything in common with a character, you can somehow relate to what they're going through if the writing is good enough.

So for the past 2 years I have written many stories...well - sort of...

I wrote one about a Semester at Sea adventure, one about a family navigating their way through suburban life, and one about a college student who tackles the daily struggle of being the only one like her in her classes.

There's a few things in common about these stories and the others I have penned in my ethnic designed notebook I purchased from the Museum of Natural History that makes me feel like a real writer:

1. All of the stories have something to do with my life.

2. They required a certain amount of research which I probably enjoyed more than writing the dialogue.

3. They are all unfinished.

The problem is that I have so many ideas, I feel like I can't finish them all. Most people have told me to just write down everything and I have tried. But then I get an idea when I'm in the middle of another idea! I know that part of this is attributed to impatience. The other part is that I honestly don't know how my thoughts will be received.

What I've decided to do is share a snippet of my ideas on this blog. Not too much, but just enough so that I can get these thoughts that I want to write out into the universe. Hopefully you readers (man it would be nice to have readers) will enjoy them. Maybe, some of you will even be able to relate to the uncertainty that comes with trying something new. If nothing else, I hope my ramblings will be entertaining to you in some form or fashion.

Here I go, off into the world of blogging. I promise not to write poems about starlight as I did 6 years ago in my last blog. What I will do is share opinions of things that I am reading, events that I attend, and other happenings in my life. All of which gravitate around the fact that I aspire to be a writer one day.

Feel free to comment, I welcome all thoughts and opinions. I hope this blog will be a good form of expression for me and my writings and maybe I'll even learn something from what my readers say.

Thanks for stopping by and listening...well - sort of.

Jessica Ebony