BA Quest

Where College Students Meet Their Fate

Posts Tagged ‘Creative Writing

Bad Art and Brainstorming: The First

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Hey folks, did you come here to see another post about how life is hard as a BA holder who isn’t working in the field they wish they were? Too bad, today you are going to be subjected to Bad Art and Brainstorming.

What is that? Well the first thing you need to know is that I cannot draw. My artistic capabilities are childish at best. When I made my mother a picture of our family for her birthday, she said, “It looks like a 6 year old made this,” I was 23 at the time. I consider perspective to be a noodle scratcher, and I’ve written essays in celebration of my achievement in ‘coloring inside the lines’. When I took a drawing class in community college, I dropped out after the first week because things were already ‘heating up’.

So I figured the best way to talk about some of my new creative ideas is to draw my story concepts in MSpaint, then explain them. Without further rambling, Bad Art and Brainstorming.

A sunny day in the world of colored blocks

On facebook a month ago I started asking ‘questions of the day’ as a chance to talk to my friends about things related to story, games, and art. It was pretty fun, and we’ve had some good discussions on genre and tropes, the concepts in art that we see so often that we expect them and have named them. When I asked about mega-corps, the cyberpunk staple of companies that become so large they are effectively national powers, we got into a discussion about ways to make this trope fresh for new stories.

To tell the truth, I don’t think we got there. In the end a lot of ideas circled around the same old deal, companies that become huge and powerful are bad and meanie heads. They have poopy shoes, and they smell like bum. Etc etc.

The only place where I split away from the pack was when I thought about the path of a corp becoming a megacorp. The idea was a common one, a powerful AI. Instead of an AI meant to do anything special, it would initially be meant to handle customer service, answer calls and troubleshoot problems. This AI, lets call him Ted, would work for a company large enough to support him, like a media conglomerate. As new technology was developed, Ted would get more powerful, be given more responsibilities, until he effectively was the company. The idea of an AI in charge of a megacorp has been done, humanity loves to put an uncaring super-computer at the head of their fears. It is no surprise that Terminator is as popular as it is. The question is what happens after these AI, several of them now, control the megacorps that control the world. They make requests that come from no human, they manipulate lives for the greater good of some non-human, they may set laws that no human would care for or think of. These AI have transcended, except that isn’t quite right. They were never human beings, they were just incomplete. If you give Ted all the resources he needs to do whatever he wishes, and he has masses answering to his every whim, isn’t he effectively a god?

This first picture is looking up to a corporate headquarters as if it were ‘holy’. Now I’ve taken a college course or two (isn’t that the point of this blog?), I assume most of you have as well, you understand the mass media and corporatism. This isn’t supposed to be the usual ‘have we started to worship companies as idols’ question, it is supposed to be a step beyond. In this hypothetical, the companies have gotten away from their owners, they have become their own entities, and we are the stones they pile to build their empires.

Now this wasn’t the first embarrassing picture I ‘drew’ for this brainstorm idea, it was the second. Lets see the first.

A children's toy is attacked by wiggling green lines in the dreams of a pencil

 

This infantile work is supposed to represent a person coming up to a rock edge to see a castle below. How does this relate to the AI idea? In a world where Ted is trying to make his business as perfect as possible, it isn’t unreasonable that the gap between the rich, the average, and the poor, would be divided to extraordinary levels. As some see even today, the job of the poor in a capitalist structure is to put work into the process of shipping and manufacturing, and then reap very little of the rewards for their labor, before the state around them supports them just enough to get back to work. So why pretend that their wage is livable when you can change the way they live? Then change the way they see the world around them so that you never have to pay them in the first place. They would never have the money to purchase any of the products created, but that is a matter for the markets to adjust to. Soon you have a section of society who lives on a different scale of technology, and their world is driven into a more medieval society.

The art represents one of these ‘poor’ finally coming upon a home of the rich, which to him seems like a grand castle. It also helps that I’m no good at art, so I just drew a bouncy castle. When and if I actually write anything related to this, it would be a more muddled message; what exactly does it look like? and what of the protagonists life colors how he sees the building? Would it look more like the first image, skyscrapers against a skyline? The design and coloring (mostly in the lines) of the first picture may be how a person today would see a ‘divine’ building, while this second picture is how the poor from the setting would see it.

This idea seems more appropriate for some serial, many short stories showing the evolution of a character from a poor ‘dust dog’ to an agent of change in a world that isn’t equal. Sounds like fun.

All right, that is enough of that. Hope you enjoyed Bad Art and Brainstorming, there should be more of it in the future.

Written by MD Kid

02/23/2012 at 1:31 AM

This Big Year

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This last year was life changing for me; I got my bachelor’s degree in English, met my first great love, decided that living well would be too easy, and became a minority again. Not all of this was exciting, but it will all be important going forward.

This whole blog’s purpose has been to talk about my post-degree survival. I have struggled to find work in a crap economy, buckled under the pressure of said economy, given up on ever finding economic happiness, recanted that statement, then recanted my recantment.

It is hard to remember back when I first graduated and dug around in the mud of the internet, hoping to dredge up a job. Now I have a job and a half. I have my desk job, my credentials to assure everyone that I am just as disappointed with my earnings as they are. My other work is in content writing, creating the bland paragraphs you read across any C-list website across the web. It is boring work, and somehow less boring than my desk job.

As I’ve done more content writing I’ve made small adjustments in my view of a writing career. It is, however, my desk job that has changed my viewpoints the most. You see, right now I am a simple file clerk. I get paid better than I used to when I had a job at my school, but probably not as well as I deserve. My tasks include copying papers in files, mailing papers in files, putting files in drawers, and taking files out of drawers. I repeat this for 8 hours, with a 1.5 hour commute each way. Don’t get me wrong, my coworkers are enjoyable, kind, helpful. Also, I understand that you have to start on the low rung, even if you have a degree. That just gets you in the door, and then you claw your way up, hoping to survive life in the meantime. There is one problem though, and it is a rather huge problem, I don’t want to move up here. I know and have heard of plenty of writers who have jobs on the side, I know that you don’t become a famous writer and live your life in paradise. All I’m saying is that if I had to continue doing my current job to make my living wage, I would go insane. This is no small thing, I value my sanity. I give my sanity due for getting me this far in life (though not without its hiccups, like that time my sanity told me to walk home from school at 10 at night), and I won’t sacrifice it over a paycheck.

Creative writers get filthy rich all the time right? RIGHT?!

So what can I do? I guess the only answer I’ve come up with is to have patience. Which is exactly why I intend to be jobless in about 10 days. All right, maybe patience isn’t the best word for it. See here is the situation, my filing job is a temporary job, and they keep extending my time there. That is awesome, it gives me money, all the while edging me closer to a face-to-face with Mr. Madness. This time my job is supposed to end at the start of February, and I intend to stick to that. If I cut this job off, without getting ‘fired’ for some bad reason, I should receive a new job from my temp agency at some point in the future. In the meantime, I hope to steep myself in the process of building my writer’s ‘platform’ and finishing a manuscript or two. Will this work? Not likely, I am dreadfully lucky when I actually get a job. I will probably get offered a full position within the week, I’ll let you guys know.

If I do get February off, I plan to spend it with my first great love. As I like to call her, my FGL, or my Fugul, all of which I have trademarked. We’ve been together for more than this last year, but this year has been quite an adventure in romance. Just three years ago you could have heard me spread my creed of ‘ignoring the ladies to achieve capital gains’. I still believe in that really. My romance is, nearly, exactly how I would have dreamed. No pointless flirting and engagements, we didn’t meet at a club, and I haven’t had to lay claim to a baby created over our 2 years together. I give us an A+.

She is more talented than me, which stings in a petty way. There are benefits to relating to another artist though, in particular I can talk to her. While I was sure that I would be stuck with a life of only showing my work to my mate for the purposes of getting empty pats on the back, instead I have someone who can critique like a pro. We discover more that we have in common every day, and we are different in all the right ways (there are anatomical differences that are of note, IE da boobies). One thing in particular is relatively new for me, but it has been a long way coming.

Again, rewind two years. If you asked me what my beliefs were as I headed off to school, I would have told you that I was a spiritualist. My family is technically Baptist, with a few Jehovah’s witnesses sprinkled in there. My belief in the structure of the church was already shot. I don’t care about what a pastor or priest has to say, and I knew that there was no house that you could shove god in. For me, there was likely some power out there though, and I was willing to believe in a spirit inside me. Maybe I read too much manga.

Now I can firmly call myself an atheist. An interesting turn for such a short period. It dawned on me one day that I shed everything else related to religion. I had no god, I had no church, I had no faith community, I had spirit within. I believed in this one life, and on treating everyone around me as a human being, not a representative of a future life. As my self-identification changed, so did I. This election cycle has definitely helped. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot connect myself, even passively, to a group that would impede the progress of the society around me and purposely harm innocents in the name of their collective beliefs. This is not a knock against the teachings of my previous faith, or any other. Christianity is all right in small doses, and I won’t hate on anyone who wants to go along with the mutated creature that is usually brought up when we speak of Christianity. That is, all the talk of ‘love and charity’ that gets left behind.

Good old Jezus!

The public application of Christianity is something different though, and exactly what I had to escape. I joined my fellow students to stand up to the Westboro Baptist Church, I have listened to people speak of their god defining marriage while ignoring the wishes of their fellow man, I have seen the leaders of faith blame the poor and sick for their trouble while hoarding power for themselves. As a person, Christianity is a failed experiment. As a writer, Christianity is a well crafted tragedy, the smiling cult welcoming the world’s ruin. It turns out that only 15% or so of my country is atheist, so I guess I’m a minority here.

This is only January though, so who knows what may come in the months ahead. Maybe I’ll get famous and meet you readers in the funny papers. Alternatively, I could find a constructive way to use my degree in the workplace, while continuing to learn. Most likely I’ll be complaining about my job for a long time now. Only one way to find out.

Written by MD Kid

01/11/2012 at 3:49 PM

NaNoWriMo: The Aftermath

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Well it is over, National Novel Writing Month is done. It was 30 days of grueling work, but the deed is done.

I first wrote about NaNoWriMo back on the 27th of October. When I started the exercise, I didn’t have a good memory of exactly what it took to forget the world around you every evening and just write. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy writing. I have a degree in creative writing, if there is any dedication to a cause greater than getting a laughable degree and going deep into debt for it, I can’t think of it. Oh right, there is also dying… I guess there is that.

I got this from a stock image site. I made myself sad.

When I Started

…everything was okay. I thought I knew where I was going, I had my outline and I charged ahead. My hook was tight, my character was interesting from the first page. That is when I ran into my first problem. The character had an interesting personality, but by his own nature, he was quiet and stand-offish. He didn’t have wild conversations with others, he put them down, or ignored them. So as a writer who thrives on dialog, I wrote a main character that couldn’t participate in my favorite writing mechanic. Brilliant move on my part. I was determined to stick to the character in my head though, so I stuck with it. The obvious solution eluded me.

In The Middle

As the weeks went on, things got difficult. This is what I call the ‘OH JESUS THIS OUTLINE IS NOT AS LONG AS IT NEEDED TO BE’ phase. I have tried outlines several times now, and it always ends the same. I know the start to my story, I know the characters and setting, I know the viable ending, and I know some important stuff that will happen in the middle. What happens is that you write a scene that you thought would be good, but it turns out to be three pages instead of 10 pages. You go through a dramatic moment, and it turns out that it took a page to finish, and lead a different direction than you expected. So what is there to do? You power through it, there is no time for revision, you cannot reverse the flow of time, this isn’t Prince of Persia this is NaNoWriMo dangit.

My character’s lack of dialog was drawing conversations to a close much faster than I expected. My new succinct writing style gained from school was ending everything in half the time. This wasn’t looking pretty. So some changes happened in the story, dark changes dreamed up in midnight fevers.

They were beautiful. Like a Dostoyevsky character, madness and frustration drove me to the edge, and there I found salvation. Actually, I found it in driving my character mad. His personality was slowly corrupted by the pressures of the world around him, and instead of a background madness his became real. This change is exactly what makes me love NaNoWriMo, by forcing my hand, I came up with an alteration to my original idea that was better than anything I could have originally imagined. Would I have gone there eventually? Maybe. The event is a fire that burns away impurities and leaves something at the bone, but it may not always be the delicious marrow you want.

Okay, not this 'mad'

As I pushed forward, several obstacles got in my way. Star Wars: The Old Republic, an upcoming MMO, had beta events several weekends in a row, and I gave them a try. I had nights where I did no writing at all because I played so late that I had no time before I had to get some sleep. Thanksgiving loomed as well.

The Big Finish

Finishing the story wasn’t going to be easy. I was behind by thousands of words. I was so far behind my 50k word goal that I was wondering if success was even possible. I pushed ahead anyway, writing down new daily goals. Soon I was supposed to write 3,000 words a day instead of 1,660.

My conclusion no longer made sense either. The development of my character was straying from my original plan, which now seemed shallow or even offensive. So something had to change, and fast. I turned my character’s friends against him, made his own mind a torture dungeon. As I threw more obstacles in front of him, I had my character climb to a conclusion that was way beyond the original. What started as a argument between former lovers was now a trial for an ostracized man.

This was about when I realized my horrible mistake. Every situation with my main character was stuck with him and his stunted personality. He was the one having a crisis, but he also never voiced it. I found myself yearning for the minds of other characters. Except I was in first person. That was the solution I missed back in those first days. The story should have been in a close third, and I would have had the freedom I wanted. Instead I had the troubled mind, but nothing else. It dragged me down every day.

The days got harder, and soon I hit the last few days. I had to write over 5k words each day. Each night I stayed up and fought my keyboard until it gave up words. Even if my story didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted, I would reach 50,000.

As the month ended, I stayed up late on that last night and threw up my word count on NaNoWriMo.org. I was over the 50k, 2,000 over actually. I made it.

NaNoWriMo tested me more this year than any previous year. The world around me was tougher than before, working a day to day job with hours that forced me to sleep at 10pm. My goal was greater, to write a story that had a serious edge, to write in a genre I never wrote in before. Still, the essence of NaNoWriMo, and the support of my friends, got me over the finish line again.

A Winrar Is Me!

The novel is a piece of crap, but that is a problem I’m saving until January.

Thanks for reading everybody.

Written by MD Kid

12/11/2011 at 10:13 PM