In which I’m as Furious as a Bee

Okay, you know how I’m writing a book, right?

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.)

Goals for Summer 2017

Intros are stupid. Lets get down to business:

1) Get a quality tan.

Yes, I know. I said this before. But this time I’m serious. Remember that time I got a sunburn in the middle of the winter thanks 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’s It, 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.

Image result for view from drop of doom great adventure

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 last year, 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:

 wrestling aamir khan dangal body slam mahavir singh phogat GIF

(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. 

Things I Kind of Want to Do, but Not Really

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?

  • Heroin.
  • Meth
  • Crystal meth.
  • Bungee jumping without a cord.
  • Watching TV.
  • 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.

So why won’t I?

Because every time I write something political, I always end up regretting part of it. Like that time I compared the 2016 election to a black guy being falsely charged with rape. Yes, I actually did that. Sure, I called myself out for it ahead of time, but I feel like someone definitely should’ve commented on that post and said, “hey, Matt. Knock it off.”

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.

In Which My Procrastination Reaches Worrying New Heights

Image result for spongebob essay the

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. You see, I decided to buckle down on serious writing a few months ago, so I promised myself I wouldn’t blog about anything until I finished a complete manuscript. The bright side: I wrote sixty-four thousand words thus far. The not-so-bright side: I hit a wall. A big, ugly, brick wall that I have not been able to chisel my way through.

(Is that an overused metaphor? I feel like it is.)

So I came back to the same mistake I always make: I switched to another project.

I’ve found that the hardest part of a novel is not the beginning, or the end, or even the middle. The hardest part is that area before the climax, where everything has to be set up just right. Beginnings, meanwhile, are nice and easy. That’s the part where the readers have no idea what to expect, so you could just throw shit at them and they won’t even mind as long as it’s interesting.

To be fair to myself, at least this time the project I switched to was the sequel, instead of some unrelated story about identical twins selling gum, or about a group of kids who go back in time and are chased by evil time-travelling mercenaries with flimsy motives.

Anyway, here are some things I’ve been doing so far this summer, in my pursuit of not writing:

  • I signed up for the premium option on WordPress. It may be a waste of money, or it may not, but hey, I can get a full refund within the next twenty-nine days. So here’s hoping I don’t forget.
  • I switched the theme of this blog again. What does everyone think? I like it, but there’s no way to put in a side-bar. If someone wants to read an old post of mine, how will they find it? I’ll try and figure that out. 
  • I’m back at McDonald’s again, mainly working the late nights. I’ve been doing a lot of 7 PM to 3 AM shifts, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, after seven  o’clock is where you get the most freedom at the job; you could snag all the fries you want and no one will care. But on the other hand, I do hate going to bed past three and waking up around noon every day. But on my third, grossly deformed hand: the seven to three shift goes by much faster than any other shift, because there’s so much to do and less people to do it. That sounds like a negative but it’s not. The more there is to do, the faster time flies.
  • I started watching American Gods, which has been amazing so far. I remember hearing that the show would go on for five seasons and I thought, “how could they stretch out one book for that long?” but it turns out I’m a fool for questioning the writers, because they’ve done a terrific job. 10/10, would watch again.
  • I also got into It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which is kind of like Seinfeld, in that it follows a group of self-centered assholes who never learn from their mistakes. It’s hysterical, but Danny DeVito hasn’t even shown up yet. Where is he? I was told he’d be here.

Anyway, hello again, and thank you to those who’ve stuck around all these years. You’re the best. I know I haven’t been the most consistent blogger, but I do hope to get back into the swing of things here. At the very least, I hope you enjoy it while it lasts.

More Than I Can Chew: A Look Back

Image result for gum cartoon

For those who don’t know, two years ago I started writing an interactive blog story about two identical twins, one of whom had made a business out of selling gum to his fellow high school students. When one of his gum-selling employees decides to go rogue, a series of insane, potentially life-ruining events go down. No one is the same.

At the end of each chapter, there’d be poll that would allow the reader to decide which direction they wanted the story to go in. It was a good writing exercise: to write a cohesive story while staying true to the characters, despite having little to no control over the plot.

It had been a long time since I’d so much as thought about More Than I Can Chew, and what reading it over, a few things surprised me. So I decided to write a post about my thoughts on the project, almost two years after it ended, partly for nostalgic purposes but mostly for shameless self-promotion.

Click here if you want to read it!!!

1) Kathy is still cool.

I’m going to be honest: I had no intention of writing an older sister into the story for the first three chapters. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me until I realized that Wyatt was only 15, and he’d need someone to drive him around for this story to work. So I created Kathy, who was technically a plot device, but ended up being the heart of the story. (Or at least, I thought she was the heart of the story. Remember when she took the blame for something Wyatt did, even though she didn’t have to? That was sweet.)

2) A lot of the writing needed work.

There was a bit more telling than there should’ve been, and too many adverbs. I kind of want to go back to those posts and just revise everything, but I won’t. Because the past is the past, and it should stay that way. (Could I sell it as an ebook?)

3) Adrien wasn’t particularly likable in the beginning, was he?

He kept going on about how much he hated his brother, and I was like, “Damn, Adrien. Wyatt barely thinks about you at all. Move on. Get your own hobby.”

Adrien’s unlikeability can be boiled down to two problems:

  1. He was a big ol’ Mopey Gus in the beginning.
  2. He didn’t really do anything, at first. He just went to the bathroom, then got captured. I think Past Me realized this, because Past Me started giving him as much agency as the circumstances would allow, and I think it helped a lot.

4) Things went by a lot faster than I remembered.

So they were both in school, then Adrien gets kidnapped, now Wyatt and Kathy are driving to a park to pick him up. Now Adrien’s in the ER, Wyatt’s smashing furniture, and now Kathy’s managing to drive home, to the hospital, to the furniture store, and back home in record time. The whole story would’ve been about sixty pages long in book form, which is crazy considering just how much went down.

I’m not sure if this was a problem for anyone else, or if it only felt this way because I was reading it in on my phone, but things definitely felt like they were going by way too fast. Maybe that’s just my old age speaking. *shrugs*

5) The ending wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

It was a little abrupt, but not gonna lie, I think I’d be okay with this ending if I were just an unknowing reader. However, I’m a fan of ambiguous endings and most people aren’t, so I understand why some people may have been frustrated, and asking me questions like, “What happened to Diesel?” or “Was the money really counterfeit?” and “Is anyone going to jail? I feel someone should be thrown in jail.”

To which, I finally answer those questions, for those of you who are still around.

  1. Diesel was lying about his name the whole time. When he met Wyatt outside that hockey game back in ninth grade, he told him his name was Diesel because he wanted to see if Wyatt was dumb enough to believe it. Wyatt was. For several weeks prior to the start of this story, Diesel was quietly scheming his way to get the $10,000.
    • You may remember how, at the end, the characters decided to blame everything on Diesel? Well, the police were never able to find a Diesel, because no one in that high school had that name.
      • Basically, Diesel got away with everything.
  2. The money was not counterfeit. That was just Diesel being a criminal mastermind. It worked.
  3. Chances are, Fiona and Conner are going to have to do some community service. Fiona’s probably getting expelled, what with the whole, “organizing a kidnapping on school grounds” thing. I think James might be going to jail, because in order for Adrien not to get in trouble for almost killing him, he’d have to press charges on him for assault, and maybe kidnapping. The American legal system’s tricky, y’all.

All in all, I’m glad I wrote it; I just wish I had finished it within a reasonable amount of time. But hey, that’s my biggest flaw as a writer. I can’t finish. Even when I have the ending planned out, I end up losing interest and moving on to another project. Which, yeah, is a bad idea.

So I’ll end this post with some advice to all those beginner writers out there: finish your damn manuscripts. I don’t care how bad your first draft is, or if you just came up with a better story and you want to write that instead. Get it doneor you will be a failure, and you will die sad and alone in a tiny house in New Hampshire while everyone you ever loved will have nothing but contempt for you. Or your writing just won’t improve. Whichever’s worse.

Something that Happened Years Ago That I Need to Get Off My Chest

Okay, so this is something that I never really talk about, because no one ever believes me when I tell them. I’m starting to doubt if everything went down exactly as I remember it, but I know that something definitely happened and I can’t quite explain what it was. Even all these years later, I still think about it at night when I’m lying in bed. I keep trying to make sense of it all; to find a rational, scientific explanation for what happened to me, and every single time I fail.

I don’t remember how old I was when this happened. It could’ve been anywhere from five to eight. It’s strange how I remember that night so well but I can never quite place it within a specific year of my life. Memory is weird like that.

Up until I was twelve or so, my family didn’t have an upstairs bathroom. If I ever needed to go in the middle of the night, I’d have to walk downstairs, through the dark, empty kitchen and into the dark, empty living room. 

There was a glass door in the living room I’d always have to walk by, that lead out to the side of the house. Usually the curtains were covering it but sometimes they weren’t, and because I always turned the lights on with every room I walked into, I could never see if anyone was outside, peering in through the glass door. All I could see was the reflection.

Those walks to the bathroom in the middle of the night were some of the most nerve-wracking moments of my childhood. I rarely heard noises, but I always had this feeling that someone was downstairs with me, like someone would be hiding behind the couch in the living room, or someone would be waiting outside the bathroom door when I came out.

When I was finished I’d have to walk all the way back, turning the lights off behind me as I went. I’d try to keep calm but once I reached the staircase I’d always break into a sprint, and I wouldn’t feel safe again until I was back in my bedroom with the door closed shut.

The walk got easier during the Christmas season, because that was when the decorations were always up. We had a Christmas Tree covered in lights in the living room with stockings set up around the fireplace. We had this weird toy with a foot-tall plastic Santa Clause, whose head moved around when you pressed the button on his leg. I think he was supposed to talk, too, but he never did.

It was the night before Christmas Eve when I woke up again, needing to pee. I turned on the lights as I went downstairs and walked into the bathroom in the living room. The curtains to the side door were closed this time, so I didn’t have to worry about anyone looking in. 

The bathroom had a fan that turned on automatically with the lights, making it so it you couldn’t hear anything going on outside. That’s the only good explanation I can think of for why I didn’t notice any noise. If it wasn’t for the fan I probably would’ve locked myself in that bathroom for rest of the night.

Instead I walked out of it, as usual, and I immediately noticed a few things were off. It seemed colder than it had been just a minute ago, and the curtains to the side door were no longer drawn. They’d been shoved to the side, away from the handle, and in the reflection of the door I saw something moving around in the kitchen. I saw the light of the refrigerator turn on and heard the sound of glass clinking, and when I looked in closer I saw a man in a large red suit.

I thought I’d be excited to see something like this. I’d been one of those kids that loved the Christmas season and whole-heartedly believed in Santa, but seeing his back as he rummaged through the fridge sent nothing but doubts down my spine. I think it’s because, for all my willingness to believe in him and for all the arguments I’d gotten in with classmates over his existence, deep down I knew that Santa Clause wasn’t supposed to be real. At the very least, you weren’t supposed to see him. 

I watched as he took some orange juice out of the fridge and chugged it straight from the carton. He gasped for air when he was finished and wiped his mouth, and when he walked over to the trash to toss it out he glanced at the side door and stopped in his tracks, and I realized right there that he had seen me through the reflection. It was the longest moment of my life. He stared at me through the door and I stared at him. He lifted his finger to his mouth and smiled.

He continued searching through the fridge and eating our food. As I watched I realized he wasn’t as old as Santa Clause was supposed to be. From his face he seemed younger than my parents, now that I think of it, and his eyebrows didn’t match his beard or his hair.

After a couple minutes he walked into the hallway, out of view. I heard a door close, and footsteps going downstairs into the basement. 

I ran back to my room. I wanted to wake my parents and tell them what happened, but I didn’t know what I’d say. I didn’t think they’d believe me. And most of all, I didn’t know what to think of the man who’d just rummaged through our kitchen. I kept going back and forth from ‘he’s Santa, he’d never harm anyone,’ to ‘he’s an intruder dressed up as Santa and he’s going to rob us and kill us in our sleep.’

I don’t remember sleeping that night. I remember sitting up in my bed and listening to the noises from downstairs. Occasional bumps and mutters, the creak of the side door sliding open and closed, and at one point I heard the sound of slow, heavy footsteps making its way up the stairs to the upper floor. The steps grew closer and closer, until I saw the shadow of the man from the light under my door.

For a moment, I heard nothing but the man’s breathing. Then he started yanking the door handle. Violently, up and down. I kept expecting the door to swing open at any moment, but it never did. He just kept shaking the handle. I sat perfectly still, terrified to move or to make a sound, and it’s at this point that I should clarify that none of this happened, and I’m just messing with all of you. I know that if I were to come across this post, the first thing I’d do is scroll down to the last paragraph to make sure this wasn’t a joke story, so I’m just going to continue from here as if these last two sentences were never written: after who knows how long, the handle stopped shaking and the shadow disappeared, and I listened through bated breath as the footsteps shrunk in volume and the man descended down the stairs. I heard the side door open and close again, and the house was silent for the rest of the night.

Nothing was missing the next day. Even the orange juice carton was back in its place. The curtains were drawn again, and everything in the basement was exactly how it had been the day before. I told myself the whole thing was just a dream, because I didn’t know how else to deal with what I saw. The whole memory’s been tearing at me ever since, and I’m glad I have an outlet here for me to get this off my chest. If anyone has any similar experiences, or they can think of an explanation for what happened here that would put my mind at ease, please comment below.

Storytelling Tips Learned from The Leftovers

Image result for the leftover living reminders

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:

TV-Cap: ASH VS EVIL DEAD at Comic-Con, THE LEFTOVERS Season 2 Trailer, & More

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.