Well, today I broke through a minor case of writer’s block and wrote about four thousand words, or two chapters. It was awesome. There was a plot twist, followed by a pivotal scene where two POV characters meet for the first time. Then I left for work, and when I came back and opened up the document on Microsoft word, what do I find?
None of what I wrote was saved. Not a single word.
Sure, I’m 99% sure I had the auto-save option on, and even if I didn’t, the program would’ve asked me if I’d like to save my changes before exiting, but it’s not there. I looked everywhere and those four thousand words are nowhere to be found.
Now admittedly, worse things have happened to better people. After all, Paul Sheldon was forced to burn the only copy of his completed manuscript, and Edgar Allen Poe died of tuberculosis, probably. But I can’t help but feel like this is cruel and unfair. Sure, I could’ve just used Google Drive like a normal person, but I got a new computer that offered me a 30 day free trial with Microsoft, and I decided to give it a try. Was this a mistake? Yes. Will I continue to use Microsoft Word? Probably. I like the design.
After finding out the Writing Gods have spited me, I honestly considered going to my shed, grabbing an ax, and chopping away at the nearest tree. It’s a good way to your anger out, and get some exercise. But it was one o’clock at night, and that seemed weird.
Then I considered rewriting those lost words, but let’s just say, I was not in the mood. Those scenes took a lot of effort, and I was so happy to have them behind me. I was ready to move on with the whole story, and now I don’t even remember exactly where I left off.
In the end I decided to write a post about it, because it’s been like, five days since my last one, and I’m trying to maintain a tiny bit of consistency. It also helped me get my anger out. Kind of. A little bit. Not really.
(I’m still pissed, guys. I think I might chop that tree down for real.)
Yes, I know. I said this before. But this time I’m serious. Remember that time I got asunburn in the middle of the winterthanks to the light from my bedroom window? Well I’m already starting to use that to my advantage. Plus I’ve been vacuuming the pool on a near daily basis, and I’ll be visiting the beach next weekend. So mark my words: by the end of this summer, people are going to be mistaking me for a giant leather glove. I guarantee it.
2) Finish writing that book
I’m not going to tell you what it’s about until I finish it, but rest assured, it’s the Next Great American Novel. Or more accurately, it’s the Next Great YA Trilogy.
I know what you’re thinking: do we really need another YA trilogy?
The answer is yes. We need exactly one more.
3) Confront my inner demons
This is a hard one, but a must.
4) Watch all the TV shows and movies
There are so many good shows out there that I need to catch up on. Orange is the New Black, Veep, Game of Thrones, Curb your Enthusiasm, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mr. Robot, Doctor Who. And then there’s upcoming movies like Dunkirk, Spiderman: Homecoming, and uh, that’s kind of it. I’m excited for Stephen King’sIt, but that won’t be until September.
I don’t know if anyone’s gone out and said this definitively, but yeah: television is better than movies. A TV is like a novel and movies are short stories. And sure, short stories are cool and everything, but War and Peace would not have been the classic it is today if it were written at forty pages. This is airtight logic I’m using here, so don’t bother questioning it.
5) Go to some sort of amusement park
Did I ever tell you about my field trip in senior year of high school? The one where a hundred students in my class went to Six Flags in New Jersey, and they closed the place at eight o’clock so that it was only us and a couple other schools in the park?
Well it was awesome. We went on every single roller coaster in the park, and the lines ranged from short to nonexistent. There wasn’t even a line for Kingda Ka, and there’s always a line for Kingda Ka. The best was going on El Toro not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, not five times, but six times in a row, because there was nobody else in line.
I understand that unless I have enough money to close out the whole park, the lines are never going to be this short again. I’m going to actually have to wait, like some sort of peasant. But you know what? I’m okay with that. I just to want to go on another ride that’s high enough for me to see the curve of the earth.
6) Read more often
Not gonna lie, I have not been reading as much as I should’ve lately. I blame TV and movies, for being more immersive while also requiring less imagination. No wonder people are reading less. Look what books have to compete with! (Don’t click on that.)
7) Be better with money
I have a tendency to waste money on food, and while yes, I do need food to live, there are a lot of more cost-efficient ways for me to go about this. Like I could get into the habit of cooking at home, or I could start mooching off my parents more. Whichever’s easier.
I also waste money on non-food items, like that $99 premium option for WordPress that has yet to pay off. Or those walkie talkies that I haven’t even used. (“Just use your phone!”) So I’ll try my best to stick to a budget.
8) Continue resisting the urge to shoplift every time I’m stuck in a long line.
The other day I was at a store called Leslie’s Pool Supplies, buying a pair of goggles. There was only one cashier in the store, and after ten minutes of waiting, the line had barely moved an inch. I look at the exit and see there’s no anti-theft scanners by the exit, and I think to myself: I could totally get away with stealing these goggles. After all, I don’t see any cameras, and none of the other employees are paying attention. Plus it’s just a pair of goggles, costs $8.99. It’s a victimless crime!
But I did not shoplift that day. Because as I recall, one of the ten commandments states the following:
THALL SHALL NOT STEAL GOGGLES FROM LESLIE’S POOL SUPPLIES
I’m paraphrasing of course, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it said. I’m almost positive, in fact, that those were the exact words.
I’ve had this urge before, but I never followed through, and I hope to continue not-following through for the rest of my days. Unless I decide to become a gritty antihero. In that case I’ll be stealing all the goggles I can get my hands on.
9) Get beta readers
By the end of the summer, at least, I should be getting some of these. I was hoping to have a finished book to send to people lastyear, but I’ll settle for this August. Hopefully late July.
Let’s just say, I’m a little nervous. I’ve had people critique my work before, but only short stories or individual chapters. I’ve never had a whole book — especially one as important to me as this one — be critiqued before, and I am concerned. I’ll do it, sure, but it’s going to be a very stressful process.
10) Have at least one of my preferred political candidates win an election
Excuse me if I sound bitter, but every single election I’ve paid attention to thus far has gone in the exact opposite direction I’d hoped. In 2008 I wanted McCain to win. In 2012 I wanted Romney to win. I actually started paying attention to politics around 2015 and in 2016 I rooted for Bernie. He lost. Then for Hillary, who lost.
I’ve since been paying attention to the smaller, special elections going on, like the one in Montana, where the Republican candidate assaulted a reporter the day before. I thought, “the guy committed a violent crime, on tape. Surely that’s a deal-breaker for most voters.”
But Montana has a tradition of early voting, so a good portion of the population voted before that whole shebang took place. As for the rest of them? Well, partisanship is strong. And body-slamming is pretty cool. I mean, look at this shit:
(no but seriously, that whole thing was very depressing.)
Today, there’s a special election going on in Georgia, between Jon Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R). By the time this is published, the results may be available, but as of now I’m still waiting for results, and I’m really hoping Ossoff wins. Mainly because 1. the attack ads against him have been all kinds of messed up, 2. the democrats could really use a win right now, 3. I like his policies, and 4. I’m not a fan of Karen’s.
I know this race doesn’t affect me directly, and there’s nothing I can do to change the results, but I’m including it as one of my goals anyway because it feels important. Plus, I needed to finish this list with something, and this was the only thing my brain could think up. Go Ossoff!
So what are your goals for this summer? Or are you a normal person who doesn’t have goals for arbitrary periods of time? Either way, feel free to comment below.
I have a lot of goals for my life, and I rarely get to see them accomplished because, well, they’re not very good goals. Recognizing the good ideas and the bad ideas is an important things to do, but sometimes I wonder if that’s just an excuse I use to not follow my dreams. Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that. To start off, I kind of want to …
1) Give up soda.
I feel like a good indicator of how bad my acne is gonna be tomorrow is by the amount of soda I’ve drank (drunk? drunken?) in the past twenty-four hours. If I stay clear and stick to water? Dolphin-smooth skin, motherfuckers. If I cave and end up chugging a two liter bottle of Dr. Pepper? Well rest in peace skin, it was nice knowing you.
Plus, soda messes up your teeth, it leads to diabetes, alzheimer’s, and cancer. I think it’s safe to say that I would be a lot better off if I gave up soda.
So why I am not going to?
Because soda tastes like, really good. Okay? It’s bubbly, it soothes the stomach. It makes you burp, and if you hold in the burp it’ll go out your nose, and you’ll feel the CO2 from the soda travel through your sinuses. Not sure if this is good for you or not, but it feels cool.
Also, I must address this whole “soda is bad for your health” complaint with a follow up question. You know what else is bad for your health?
Bungee jumping without a cord.
Sitting down for too long.
Standing up for too long.
Sleeping too much.
Sleeping too little.
Doing one handed pushups without ever switching to your other hand, because then all the muscle will be in one of your arms, which will cause you to constantly lean towards that arm as you walk, which leads to scoliosis, followed by paralysis and then death.
Compared to all this, soda doesn’t seem too bad. Besides, by the time I get diabetes, which I am, genetically speaking, bound to get anyway, those hardworking scientists will have already found a cure. So I should be fine.
2) Start a political blog.
I don’t know how it happened, but I am now one of those people who always wants to talk about politics. I have a lot of rants going on in the back of my head right now that I want to shout out into the void, and it would be cool to have a place where I could say them unabashedly, and hey, maybe someone will even people me to write this shit. I mean, I’m completely unqualified, but that hasn’t stopped anyone before.
Oh well. I think I’ll only get political on this blog if it’s really important to me and I feel like no one else is talking about it. Or to unabashedly support Tammy Duckworth for president. (Hey, DNC chairpeople, you reading this? Do you want to get veterans to vote democrat? Because Tammy is your way to do that. She lost both her legs fighting for our country, while Trump weaseled out of Vietnam thanks to a stubbed toe. Think about the campaign ads you can make from that! They write themselves.)
3) Become an editor.
I’m talking about becoming the person who reads manuscripts and approves or disapproves them for a publishing company. (Is that called an editor? I’m gonna look into this more.) The way I see it, I’m literally being paid to read books for a living, which at the moment sounds like my ideal job.
So why won’t I?
To be honest, I may actually try to do this. I just got to look into it a little more, because I assume getting this job is a lot more difficult than I’m making it out to be. Plus, a lot of the manuscripts are going to be terrible. Though I suppose I could just stop reading if that’s the case. But what if there’s too many good ones, and I can’t accept all of them? And what if I end up rejecting the next Harry Potter and have to live with that lost opportunity for the rest of my life?
I suppose that’s a risk I’d have to take.
Now I’m sure if I were to think extra hard, I could come up with a fourth option to put on this post, but hey, good things come in threes. A post with four bullet points would be unbalanced and therefore, irresponsible. I suppose I could add a fifth point but I’m not exactly Einstein over here.
So if you know anything about becoming an editor, let me know. And if you want to pay me money to write about politics, let me know as well. And if you know of an alternative to soda that’s still bubbly and delicious, I would also be interested.
People like to bash on the YA genre, and for good reason. I mean, have you read Twilight? I haven’t, but I heard it’s awful.
There’s been a lot of criticisms of the genre that I agree with — the overemphasis on love triangles, the dark and brooding love interests, the Chosen One prophesies — but there are a couple common complaints that I can’t help but feel aren’t actually bad ideas. Such as:
1) The Bad/Absentee Parents Trope
“Why can’t we have good, normal, loving parents for once?” people say. “Parents who aren’t dead or abusive or mysteriously disappeared?”
To which I respond: “Now how is that interesting?”
When Harry Potter was battling dementors in The Order of Phoenix, not once did I think to myself, “Man, I really wish his parents were here to sort this all out for him.” Not once throughout Eleanor and Park did I think, “this would be so much more exciting if Eleanor’s stepdad was not an abusive, misogynist jerk.” And yes, I am simplifying the argument for the sake of comedy, but hear me out:
I don’t want to read about normal parents, especially in a fantasy/sci-fi novel. I mean, have you met most parents? They nag. They worry. When I tell them I’m going out in the middle of the night to investigate the nearby haunted house where that one girl was found murdered by a mysterious unnamed entity, they’re never okay with it. Whenever I read a story with normal parents, I always find those scenes — you know, the scenes where’s there’s that inevitable conflict between the parents’ concerns and what the main character knows is right — to be such a drag on the story. I just want to skip over it and get to the good stuff.
And there’s a reason this trope is so popular to begin with. Teenagers don’t like their parents. Sure, they love them, but only because they have to, and they certainly don’t want to spend more time with them than absolutely necessary. (Note: cases may vary.) And whether wrongly or not, by the time a kid gets into their teen years, they start to see their parents more as obstacles to get around, rather than the larger-than-life role models they used to be. When I was a young, angsty fifteen year old, (as opposed to the strong, knowledgeable eighteen year old I am now), I identified with stories where the parents were antagonists, because that’s how I saw myself.
“Sup girl,” said Devin Devinsky, sitting on his totally bitchin’ leather motorcycle. “Wanna make out?” Lisa felt a flutter in her chest. Was this love?
I used to hate this trope, but then it happened to me in real life, so now I’m more forgiving. The heart wants what it wants, people, and sometimes it wants a douchey guy on a motorcycle.
The key, in my humble-as-fuck opinion, is that the Insta-Love has to be forbidden in some way or another. Like if one of them is engaged to someone else, of if it’s an LGBT relationship in a non-LGBT+ friendly environment, or why not both?
Lisa was engaged to that douchey guy on the motorcycle when she met Ruth, a douchey girl on a motorcycle. “Sup,” said Ruth.
Lisa felt a flutter in her chest. Was this love? But … she had never felt that way about a girl before, and yet this was stronger and more passionate than anything she had felt for her fiance. But her wedding was next month! Did I mention this takes place in the 1950s? Plus she had a bomb strapped to her chest that would explode if she left Devin, so that’s another source of conflict right there.
I’d read this story. Presumably it ends with Lisa and Ruth shooting their way out of a courthouse and stabbing Devin Devinsky with the American flag, like this. (Just replace Mel Gibson with Lisa and Homer with Ruth, and it’ll be a perfect representation of how I imagine this story to end.)
3) School is Seemingly Nonexistent.
I feel like every time there’s a YA book set during the school year, people complain that none of the main characters ever have to study or deal with homework. This complaint has never resonated with me, for a few reasons:
First off, this complaint always seems to be made by straight A students, students who take AP classes and actually open the textbooks to study. And good for them and all, but this does not represent the majority of students, or at least those in the U.S. public school system. You know how many times I studied in high school for more than twenty minutes, outside of finals? Literally not once, and I was one of the good students. I was taking the hard classes. The normal students taking the normal classes always seemed to have free time, and they never seemed to be doing any work outside of school. And when I think back to my high school years, I rarely think about all the assignments I had to do, because those aren’t interesting. One of the big rules of writing is to skip the boring stuff, and Rosey Evergreen’s trigonometry homework is included in that category.
And secondly, if my love interest died in a car accident, or if I discovered I was the chosen one in a world that I never knew existed, I would immediately stop caring about high school. Compared to fighting the Dark Lord, or stopping a vampire from killing all your friends, or any of the other crazy plots from so many YA novels, high school does not matter.
(But seriously, stay in school, kids.)
And that’s all for me. I could only think of three things, because my noggin’s been a bit wobbly as of late. If you agree, feel free to comment below, and if you disagree: get lost, you filthy commie!
My last post like this was all the way back in 2015, and it’s funny because I still haven’t read most of those books. But this year will be different, I say, for the fourth year in a row.
1) The Winds of Winter, by George R. R. Martin.
That’s right, I’m calling it. This book will be published this year. I know I said this last year and the the year before that, but I mean it this time. I mean, he has to finish it eventually, right?
2) Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
I pick this book because it’s short, it’s supposed to be great, as well as an easy read. That’s what I love about YA books: they’re all quick to read, even when they’re bad. Plus, Emma Watson was in the movie adaptation, and come to think of it, I haven’t seen her act in anything since Harry Potter, so I hope to watch it after finishing this.
3) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathon Safran Foer
I remember seeing the trailer to this movie and thinking, “I don’t know what this is about, but I like it.” I never got to see to see the movie, but I heard the reviews for both it and the book were very divisive. It was either the most beautiful, heartwarming novel you’ve ever read, or a three hundred page piece of trash that belongs in the depths of hell.
I will get to decide which it is.
4) The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Fun fact, I actually read the first fifty pages or so, and found it fascinating. Sure, the main character was kind of a jerk to his friend, but I assume he’ll grow out of that. Plus I really want to learn more about the history of the middle east. The gist of what I know is this: Afghanistan got fucked over real bad in the 1970s, and I’m pretty sure the Russians were responsible, because the Russians are sort of awful like that. Although I’m sure the U.S. was also at fault in one way or another, because at one point in the novel Henry Kissinger was mentioned, and that guy’s famous for being a bit of a war criminal. Either way, I doubt this book has a happy ending.
5) The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
I also read about 80 pages into this book, and I loved every moment of it. Although I do find it kind of arrogant of the author to just ignore the rules of punctuation. “Pff, I don’t need commas or quotation marks,” I can imagine him thinking. “My story is just that powerful.“
6) Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King
I know, I know. It’s been over three years and I still haven’t read this book. However, I recently started getting back into King’s Dark Tower series, after putting it aside for a long time, so I think I’m ready to go back into his work.
7) The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith
It’s a romance novel about two lesbians in the fifties, which was recommended to me by Engie from Musings from Neville’s Navel. While I wasn’t a fan of The Maze Runner, I do tend to love most of the books she recommends me. Like A Game of Thrones, or Between the World and Me, or The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Or V for Vendetta.
So intend to get around to reading this book, and the pages will be soaked with my heart-shaped tears.
8) Life, the Universe, and Everything, by Douglas Adams
This is the third book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, and if it’s half as funny as the first two, I will be in for a good time.
Seriously, though. You know how rare it is for me to laugh out loud when reading a book? Usually I just smile, or exhale out of my nose, but Adams sends me into fits. And then I find myself thinking about scenes from the books months afterwards and I crack up again, and then I have to explain to people why I just started laughing for seemingly no reason.
9) I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson.
I remember seeing the Will Smith movie adaptation for this, and thinking, “meh, seven out of ten.” But apparently the book is completely different? Also, the book is currently sitting on a shelf in my basement, and no one knows how it got there, which adds quite a bit to its mystique.
10) Maggie Stiefvater’s new book, whatever it is.
Stiefvater’s become one of those authors whose books I would immediately buy the moment they were released. Other authors include John Green, Markus Zusak, George R. R. Martin, and Suzanne Collins. If any of them publish a new book this year, I guarantee I’ll be buying it, no matter what the circumstances.
So what are you planning to read this year? And if you’ve read any of the novels above, feel free to share your (non-spoilery) thoughts. Oh, and Happy New Year!
I get that a lot of bad things happened in 2016, but this whole “Fuck 2016,” meme is getting old. (It’s been old since at least November, I think.) And really, does anyone believe 2017 is going to be any better? If you consider Trump getting elected to be horrible, do you really think you’re going to hate a Trump presidency any less? And with the baby boomer generation dying off, celebrity deaths are only going to become increasingly common. It’s sad, but so is life, so get used to it.
We’re at that time where bloggers are listing their favorite ____s of the year, and I keep seeing posts where people refuse to give an explanation for their choices. For example, I’ll see a post like, “My Five Favorite Books I’ve Read this Year!” and it’ll go:
Book I’ve never heard of.
Book I’ve never heard of.
Book I’ve never heard of.
Book I’ve never heard of.
Book I’ve never heard of.
This list means nothing to me unless you can tell me what the books are about, or at the very least, explain why you liked it. Otherwise, this post is a giant waste of time, and you should be ashamed.
I hate how my interest in politics has slowly turned me into a bitter, resentful person, so much so that I even find myself hating Bernie Sanders, who I used to love. Like, I hear in the news that Bernie’s going to “fight back,” against a Trump presidency, and I hear him saying stuff like, “the revolution is stronger than ever.” And I’m like, “fuck off, Bernie. You’ve accomplished nothing. Go back to naming post offices in your tiny little state of Vermont.” I admit this isn’t fair, but I’m so burnt out that I have no interest in being fair until at least 2018.
(Oh who I am I kidding? I’m not burnt out at all, and I will always love Bernie. May his days be long upon this earth.)
Also, why the hell does my candidate never win? In 2008 I wanted McCain to win, in 2012 I wanted Romney to win, (although by that point I was gradually starting to transition into the kale-eating* liberal I am today, so I wasn’t too upset), and in 2016 I wanted Bernie and when he lost I started rooting for Hillary, who cramped up just five yards from the finish line. That 0 for 4. Now what are the odds of that? I did the math and it’s one in sixteen, or 6.3%, which is outrageous. Is this punishment for that time I accidentally ran over a raccoon? I think it is.
* Just want to clarify that I’ve never actually eaten kale in my life.
I hate when people use the word “indescribable” to describe something. It’s the ultimate cop-out for writers who are too lazy to put together a decent description. Especially bloggers. Oh, your delicious sandwich had a taste that was indescribable, you say? Well I can’t even begin to describe how angry that sentence made me. Now excuse me while I unfollow your blog and never think of you again.
(As you can tell, I’m in a bitter mood.)
Why does time fly when you’re having fun? That seems like the least convenient time for such a phenomenon to occur. Why can’t it speed up during car rides? Or when I’m at the dentist? Now that I think of it, why does it speed up at all? Time should just stay consistent, alright?
Why the hell does Dunkin Donuts keep putting cheese on my bacon egg croissants? I always ask for no cheese, and while the cashier always gets it right, (“no cheese” always shows up on the receipt), the guy making it rarely does. As someone who works in fast food, I must ask, why is Dunkin Donuts in particular so bad at this? Is my order so uncommon that is throws them off? Or do they just not like me because I seem like the type of person who’d bash them on my blog? The world may never know.
I’m gonna call bullshit on the idea that if McDonalds’ had to pay their employees fifteen bucks an hour, they’d just replace most of their workers with robots. If they could do that, they’d have done it a long time ago. Twenty years from now, this might be a legitimate concern, and even then, I doubt it; people would boycott the store, the robots would be malfunctioning constantly, and all it takes is one murderous robot rampage to stop the whole thing in its tracks. Trust me, this isn’t going to be an issue.
Speaking of McDonalds’, creepy guys everywhere should know that the girl at the drive-thru window does not want to give you her phone number. Just take your food, say thank you, and drive away like a normal person.
I loved The Catcher in the Rye, but I find it unnerving when people praise Holden as a rebel; as someone who calls people out on their “phoniness.” This was what I was told about Holden, and after reading the book, I found myself wondering just how the hell anyone got that impression. For one thing, Holden’s an idiot, (that stuck out to me from page one) and his criticisms of other people are almost always shallow and hypocritical. Holden is whiny, stupid and spoiled, but the beauty of the book is that you empathize with him regardless of his many, many flaws. If you read the book and think, “Wow, that Holden kid is a real hero,” then there is something seriously wrong with you.
I hate when children are used as props to further someone’s agenda, whatever that agenda may be. Like this photo:
Now, I am very much in favor of having more diverse books for kids to read, but there is no way in hell that picture is in any way authentic. You just know for a fact that an adult handed the kid that paper and told him to smile for the camera. Hell, I doubt that’s even the kid’s handwriting.
I’m not sure why this bothers me as much it does. I guess it just feels … cheap? Unfair to the kid? Manipulative? I don’t know, but I’m still OUTRAGED.
Why do people try to talk all authoritatively over things they don’t know anything about? In high school I took a college-level course in Environmental Studies, and while that hardly makes me an expert on the subject, whenever someone tries to lecture me on how climate change isn’t actually that big of a deal, it becomes immediately and startlingly obvious how uninformed they are. (“But we just had a really cold winter!”)
The same is true for the conflicts going on in the middle east. I don’t really understand what’s going on over there, and I can guarantee you that 95% of Americans don’t either. But that doesn’t stop some people from becoming sudden experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict whenever the topic arises. Unless you actually know what you’re talking about, don’t pretend that you do. Instead you might learn something.
What’s up with old people and drinking from the hose? (Bear with me on this one.)
As a kid, I’d often hear adults complain about how spoiled and pampered my generation is, and bragging about how, “when I was a kid, we drank water from the hose!” And I’d be like, “Cool. Would you like a medal, sir?”
Because there is literally nothing impressive at all about drinking from a hose. As someone who did often drink water out of a hose during my childhood summers, I must say that it tasted no different than regular tap water. Albeit, a bit grassier. Did I think I was cool for doing this? No. Will I be bragging to my kids one day for it? Possibly. Either way, this whole thing is stupid, and now I’m thirsty.
I hate grass. It’s the most useless plant. Flowers look pretty and smell nice, trees provide shade and comfort, but what does grass do? It just sits there, like a total bum. Go away, grass, no one wants you.
I support Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the national anthem, but I have one question that has yet to be answered.
Let’s say that America listens to his message, and we collectively take initiatives to stop systematic racism and police brutality and bam! Everything is fixed. My question is: how would he know? It’s going to take at least a couple months for the statistics to come back to show that his protest was successful, which I could imagine being a bit embarrassing for him when he finds out. “So for the last month or so, I’ve been kneeling for no reason? Damn. And my knee is so sore now.”
(This has got to be the dumbest perspective anyone’s ever taken on this topic. Whatever, I’m tired, and I because of my relative obscurity, I can afford to say stupid things.)
I’ve watched a lot of TV shows in my life, and every once in a while one of them comes along and makes everything else look like trash. One such show was season 2 of The Leftovers, which managed to be better than its first season in every conceivable way.
A quick summary: The Leftovers is a show that’s about dealing with ambiguous loss. On October 14th, 2011, 2% of the world’s population — with no correlation whatsoever between them — just vanished into thin air at the same time. No one knows why it happened, who is responsible, or what even happened to the people that vanished. Where did they go? Are they ever coming back? Will this happen again? The writers have no intention of answering these questions and personally I hope they never do.
This may not seem like your type of show, but if you’ve ever dealt with the loss of a family member, a friend, anyone you cared about. If you’ve ever dealt with depression, or if you’ve ever just been sad about something at all at any point in your life, you will connect with this show on some level.
In my case, I connected a little too deeply, and I was pretty much an emotional wreck after every episode. It changed the way I thought about my own writing, and it also redefined my perspective on life itself.
(To be fair, my perspective on life changes about once every week .)
For this post I’m just gonna be focusing on the writing portion, as I bequeath to you some of tips I took from this show:
Don’t be afraid to shake things up.
The show’s first season took place in a small town in upstate New York. It was a stand-in for the rest of the world. “Anytown, USA,” it might as well have been called. We followed the characters there for eight or nine months, getting to know and understand them as they got into various hijinks and tomfoolery.
And then the first episode of season 2 comes along and the focus of the show moves thousands of miles away to the town of Jarden, Texas. The opening episode focuses on a set of characters we’ve never met before. You don’t see a single familiar face until you’re forty-five minutes in. Jarring as all hell, but it worked.
But it wasn’t just the setting that changed: the tone changed, the lighting changed, even the opening credits changed drastically in a way that I can’t remember seeing before. Here’s the opening to the first season:
And now here’s the second one:
Changing so much about the show was a pretty ballsy move, I think we can all agree, and yet it paid off better than anyone could’ve expected, with a show currently being praised by critics and viewers alike as one of the best on TV.
Not everything has to be explained.
In one episode we watch a character have a friendly conversation with her new neighbor, one that ends with no apparent conflict between them. The very next scene we watch as she casually walks up to the neighbor’s house, picks up a rock, and throws it straight through the neighbor’s window.
The show never outright explains why she decided to suddenly vandalize her neighbors’ house, but the audience is left to figure it out for themselves, even though there’s more than one possible conclusion for the audience to draw. The show trusts the viewers to figure shit out on their own and allows them to interpret things in different ways, and so should you.
Some things probably should be explained.
The guy who wrote The Leftovers is Damon Lindelof, who also wrote the show Lost. As a result, he has a bit of a reputation for setting up mysteries without actually resolving them in a satisfactory way. So when he decided to write another show centering around a mystery that he has admitted from the beginning would never be explained, he got an understandable amount of flak from pissed off Lost fans.
And yet, the second season of the show introduced several mysteries at once, including one really juicy one. A mystery so juicy it might as well have been a porterhouse steak. For weeks and weeks I scrolled through dozens (hundreds?) of different theories regarding it, and not only were a: none of them were right, but b: the mystery was handled in such a jaw-dropping, game-changing way that I couldn’t even sleep afterwards. And I love to sleep.
The lesson here is that you can keep things ambiguous if you want, but you need to have a good grasp on what should be answered and what doesn’t have to be. The Leftovers is a show that’s very premise is an unanswered question, but it remains satisfying because when it comes to big reveals, it never drops the ball.
Tell a joke for once.
While I can fanboy about this show for ages, and could probably write a novel-length essay analyzing it scene to scene, I must admit that at one point, I was thinking about quitting the show.
Around halfway through the first season, I was getting wary. The show was so dark. All the characters seemed to be digging themselves deeper and deeper into their own misery. The show at that point was utterly humorless. Humorless and hopeless, it seemed; the two worst things a story could be.
But luckily the writers seemed to figure this out, because they started to inject some much-needed humor into the characters. And then they gave the characters hope within all the sadness, and it was raw and beautiful and cathartic and no I am not crying right now, I just have something in my eye, so shut up.
Make every moment count.
You could tell a story’s well-done if you can’t think of a single thing you’d cut. This wasn’t case for the first four or five episodes, (which is why it’s the weakest part of the show), but re-watching the season 2 premiere, it’s amazing to see just how important every single moment turned out to be. Every odd detail, every facial expression. They even managed to turn a stupid knock knock joke into hardcore foreshadowing. (Yes. Hardcore.)
Not all dystopian stories have to involve an evil government that needs to be overthrown.
I remember seeing a review for The Leftovers describing the series as a dystopia, and I remember thinking, “Hm, I guess it is kind of dystopian.” After all, it was about an alternate version of the world, where mysterious cults are rising up all over the U.S., and the government has no problem with killing them off if need be.
When I usually think of Dystopian stories, I think of V for Vendetta, or The Hunger Games: where the world is terrible, but at least the readers know who’s to blame. But in The Leftovers, the world can’t be fixed by blowing up buildings, or shooting people with an arrow. The world’s broken because each and every person in it is broken. It’s a dark premise, but I think it’s much more compelling than most of the dystopian books and movies I’m so used to seeing.
I’m going to be honest, guys. This was less about writing tips, and more about how much I love this show. Watch it. It’s lit.