Month: August 2010

Hitchhiking across the Galaxy to find your Writer’s Voice

What am I going to write about today? I have no idea.

Or rather, I had no idea until about three minutes ago, at which point I checked facebook to discover one of my friends had posted a news article stating that the UK’s television network BBC4 would be airing an adaptation of Douglas Adam’s science fiction comedy novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

So why does this warrant a mention in a blog about writing? Because it reminded me of reading the original novel, and Adam’s magnum opus The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

The question I would like to pose to you this week is this: As a writer have you ever found yourself writing in another author’s voice? Was it intentional, or purely by accident?

Years ago while in a college creative writing course I was assigned to write a comedic short story as part of my final.

During that same semester, a friend of mine loaned me his copies of the original Hitchhiker’s trilogy (I have never read the books that followed). As an avid fan of Doctor Who (at that time I was really into the Tom Baker years), I really enjoyed the Douglas Adam episodes. (If you like the Matt Smith run, go check these out). So I really got into his novels.

Hitchhiker was slowly seeping into my unconsciousness as I read the novels that semester. So that when given an assignment to write this short story I found myself writing with Mr. Adam’s voice. Even my teacher noticed it.

Got a pretty good grade on it too.

That wasn’t the only time I ended up writing in another author’s voice. After I read a Sherlock Holmes story, I end up writing certain scenes with Arthur Conan Doyle’s voice. And because I read tons of Ray Bradbury, I can come up sounding like him as well.

That works for some things, and Adam’s voice works for others, but you know what voice really works best for my stories?

My own voice.

Sometimes I think it would be a whole lot better if I could write that that author, or that scriptwriter, but in truth it really wouldn’t be. More likely it’s going to come across as a poor imitation.

I may not be the greatest writer in the world, but I’d far rather not try to imitate the greatest writers in the world. Learn from them, absolutely, but not copy them.

I wouldn’t be surprised if my writing voice has picked up mannerisms from Adams, Doyle, Bradbury, and others, but I sound like myself. Whether I’m writing a short story, novel, script, or comic book, or even my little old blogs here, it’s going to be in my own voice?

Learn the from the voices of the author’s you greatly respect, then go an find your own voice.

Okay, that was nice and short. Actually had a point to it.

Thanks for reading.

Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

Four Names of Professional Creativity

A Story – That Grew from Fallen Fruit.

It’s been a week since my last blog, and I’ve promised myself to write more often. So here’s the next one. Kinda.

If you read my previous blog, I gave an example of how stories just come from the most mundane things in life. Like fruit falling from a tree outside my office. The example was a few lines of a story that came to me from that thought (go back and read the blog “Growing the Fruit of a Story” if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

Not knowing if there was really a story in those lines and in that fruit, yesterday I began to see where it took me. What follows is a short story entitled “Falling Apples.” It could probably use two or three rewrites, but I want to show you what can result from just writing about anything.

– = –

“Falling Apples”

by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden (c) 2010

Sharon Little lay back in her bed to rest and think. Actually she didn’t want to think. She wanted to put the world away from her and not have to think about the events of the day. Today she had officially broken up with her boyfriend, and had the restraining order to prove it.

Jack had been wonderful on the first few dates they went out on. His only flaw was that he tended to drink a little too much. But then in later dates he began to expect more from her. She wasn’t ready to have sex, but he was insistent. It was okay, but nothing earth shattering like she expected it should have been. Then when he drank he all but raped her.

The hitting began when she refused his advances. Sharon wanted to believe that it was the alcohol that acting and not Jack. But in the morning he was just as mad at her, this time claiming that she had embarrassed him in front of his friends at the bar.

She put up with it for another month, but she was determined not to be one of those women that always went back to their man no matter how dangerous it was. It was after a black eye and broken tooth that Sharon went to the police.

It took another week before the courts would give her the restraining order, and she wondered if there was anything this piece of paper could really restrain. While she was leaving the courts, Jack shouted at her that she was his, and that he’d have her or no one would.
There were many lawyers and police officers that had heard him shout the threat but there wasn’t anything they could do. He’d have to break the restraining order for it to actually do any good.

Now evening had come and she was lying atop her bed. Not ready for sleep yet, but she was exhausted all the same.

As Sharon closed her eyes there was a sudden ‘thump’ on the roof of the house, directly over her bedroom. It was followed by a whisper like rumble and then a ‘thud’ just outside her window.
She jumped at the sound, but quickly relaxed knowing what it was. Just outside the house was a large old apple tree. There was good crop of bright red fruit. Every so often an apple would drop from the higher branches and strike the roof of the house and then roll down over the tapered rafters.

It was almost a relaxing sound, so familiar and safe. Almost a funny sound and she smile at it. Sharon closed her eyes once more.

A few minutes went by and another apple hit the roof and rolled down and struck front lawn with a wet thud. Most of the apples in the tree were over ripe, she had already harvested far more then she could eat. A third hit the ground seconds later, and she was certain some animal was up in the tree getting a late dinner.

Then another struck the roof, then another, and another. A minute late it sounded like a hale storm hitting the house. Sitting up, she could see them falling past her window, like meteors falling toward earth.

With a sense of fear Sharon wondered what could possibly be shaking the tree so hard. She got out of bed, slipped on a pair of sandals and found the flashlight that was plugged into the kitchen outlet.

Flipping on the back porch light she slid open the glass door and stepped outside. With the beam of light ahead of her she cautiously made were way around to the side of the house. It was much darker. She could hear the rustle of the tree up ahead, and more apples hitting the ground.

Nervous to even contemplate the though, she had to speak the words, “Jack, is that you? You’re not allowed to come around here any more.”

There was no response, except that the tree shook once more and apples fell.

“Don’t make me call the cops on you.”

More apples fell.

Getting closer, Sharon raised the light upward into the tree and saw movement.

A family of raccoons was running around the branches of the tree. They were playing and eating apples. They may have also been a little drunk on the fermented fruit.

A smile came to Sharon’s lips and she let out a breath of air.

Maybe things weren’t as bad as she feared.

“Don’t eat too much,” she playfully scolded the little animals, and turned to go back inside.

As she turned, her sandal covered foot struck one of the rotting apples on the ground. It squished and her foot slid forward. The flashlight flew through the air as Sharon fell backwards.

Sharon’s head struck the corner of a brick planter, cracking her skull open.

Apples fell upon her body.

It was the next afternoon when Sharon’s ex-boyfriend Jack was arrested for her murder.
After all, there were more than a dozen witnesses to his threat.

THE END

– = –

Well, if you’ve read this far it must not be all that bad, so thank you for sticking with me.
When I wrote the original lines last week I knew this was going to be a suspense story, but knew nothing more about it. So the story was as surprising to me as I wrote it as I hope it was while you read it.

Now the suspense continues, as I have to figure out what to write for next week’s blog.
Thanks for reading and for all your support.

Growing the Fruit of A Story.

A couple of people on Twitter recently suggested I blog more often. I would, really, but I don’t know what I have to say.

So what should I write about?

I got another reject this morning.

There, I said it. Someone doesn’t want me. They don’t want my script writing, and that publisher back in New York doesn’t want my novel either. So clearly, they don’t want me.

Okay, I’ve spit out that little bit of bile. And yes, I have had that thought. I’ve had it each time I get a rejection; each time I don’t get a job I apply for.

But I do not hold on to such thought for more then a few seconds. I can’t hold on to them. They are garbage; they are disease, they are rot. An infection that if it is not cut out of the body at the very start will grow and fester and destroy you from your very heart outward.

Yes, I know you’ve had that thought as well. We all have had it. But to survive we must never let those thoughts take root (I know I switched metaphors, go with me).

Some people will submit one story, one script, one set of art samples to a comic publisher, animation house, or what have you. And when that letter arrives (letter, e-mail, phone call, heaven forbid text message) they quit and give up never to ever try again.

I know that feeling as well, and the thought that follows; “I’ve got nothing else to write. Might as well give up now.”

Well if you do then you really have given up. You’ve quit, and you’re dead.

But sometimes, even if you think you’ve given up and quit, the writer deep down inside isn’t ready to let go. New ideas are being seeded in to your subconscious all the time, and when they start to make themselves known you’re going to have be ready to nurture them, and ignore the weeds of doubt and fear that have been growing in your field up till then. (Told you that metaphor switch would work. Didn’t know it then, but do now.)

If you try too hard to write a certain type of story, that genre you like, or that one that’s popular right now, you’re probably not going to get very far. But if you just start writing with certain themes and emotions behind it, then your stories will come and they’ll keep coming.

While I began to write this blog, I looked out the window at the apricot tree, and a spark of a memory came to me. We had a bumper crop of fruit this year (and they were really tasty), but they’re all gone now. After we had harvested as many apricots as we could (I had to climb on the roof to get most of them.) There are still a lot of them that become food for birds and the squirrels. Then there are the fruit that just falls to the ground and are lost. Sometimes these fruit fall and hit the roof over my office. ‘Thud’ and then a rolling sound before it falls off and hits the ground and starts to rot.

So, just now, my memory of this falling fruit became the first line of a new story:

She way laying in bed when she heard the sound of the apple hitting the roof overhead and then rolling along the slanted shingles before falling to the grass outside. It was a gentle noise, almost funny. Then another struck the roof and rolled, followed by another. Suddenly the apples began to strike the roof like a hale storm. Sitting up she could see them falling past her window. With a sense of fear she wondered what shaking the apple tree so hard.

That’s all I’ve got right now. Just one single image of falling fruit, and I suddenly have a possible suspense story. Is there an animal in the tree shaking the apples down? If so, how big could it possibly be? Or is it something or someone else?

I don’t know yet, but a story is growing out of the seeds of those falling fruit.

My point is that look around you at the most inconsequential things and you might well find the little acorn that can grown into a mighty oak of story.

But don’t let those falling fruit begin to rot inside you, because as I said they will if you don’t do something with them. If you give up, then everything rots.

So don’t let the rot start, don’t let the weeds have time to grow. No matter how you feel after getting that rejection; it’s not the end of the world. People don’t hate you. You’ve got a field full of more fruit ready to be harvested and turned into the greatest stories in the world.

What are you waiting for? Start harvesting, and don’t let it rot!

As to those rejection letters; Turn them into mulch to feed your fruit and keep writing. Just like I did here.

There, happy now. I wrote another blog. I had no idea what I was going to start writing when I began this. Now I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

What’s next?

Thanks for reading.

Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

San Diego Comic Con – A Blog, Finally

San Diego Comic Con Internation

I’ve let over a week slip by before actually beginning this blog about San Diego Comic Con. Sorry about that, guys. Of course, now I actually have to think about something to write about.

First off, I only attended 2 Panel/Events for the entire three days I was there. The big one was for Ray Bradbury. My fiancée and I haven’t missed him for the last 15 years. It would have felt wrong if we had skipped.
The other panel was the Boom! Studios panel on IRREDEMABLE/INCORRUPTABLE. It was great to hear about Peter Kraus and how his comic artist career began and continued. It lets me know that it’s not too late for me either, and if his wife can put up with it, I am certain my fiancée can as well. (Actually, she’s told me as much. Thank God.)
And even more importantly (avoiding being hit by fiancée), am glad to know that writer Mark Waid and I have something major in common. Both of us have a terrible time coming up with names for our characters. It means I’m not lost.

I did miss one other panel I intended to be at. The WGA Animation Writer’s Caucus panel on Feature Animation. My Fiancée said that a young girl asked the most intelligent of questions. (Did anyone blog about that?) I missed it because I had to get over from the train station. When I finally got there the room was full and no one else was let in. I waited in the hall for half an hour.
As any of you who follow my Twitter (@kevinpsb00) know, I trained it down to San Diego each and back home again. It was a nice relaxing way to get down and comic home each night. It also cost lest then one night at a hotel during con season.

Also, I completely avoided Hall H at all cost, and that was before anyone thought to use pens as a weapon to save seats. As much as I love Hollywood, it’s far more important for me to meet with people that watch a bunch of promos.

So exactly what did I do for the three days of Con and not attending any panels, you might ask? Actually, I know you’re not going to ask… moving on.

This was my year for networking and meeting people, or at least as many people as I could. Know I could have done better. And if there is anyone out there that I missed, drop me line. I still have several follow up e-mails to send off.

Had a great time meetings people at different publishing companies, and got introduced to new editors. Some of which have already allowed me to pitch to their books. We can only pray that more show an interest, and that I get hired.

Had a good evening at the WGA’s Reception with my fellow animation writers.

After the Reception I got to see how much comics and entertainment have changed social standings for people. There was a guy in a very bad cosplay out but he had sexy girls hanging off him as he got out of a limo. I don’t know what was gone over there, but know that only a few years ago those same girls would have shunned him.

I didn’t need no fancy cosplay costume to get the girls. I have the most wonderful fiancée who is as much a nerd as I am. And I’m glad she has been with me at Con for so many years.
(No we are not going to have our wedding in costume. Don’t even dare show up in your Stormtrooper uniform.)

Did anyone spot my little animated Name Tag I had on? Let me know. Good thing I had it on because the text on the Con badge was so small no one could read it (when I got home Thursday night I printed up larger text of my name and stuck it on there. They also got my Twitter name wrong). Everyone who said something about my animated Name Tag got one of my handouts, which I was giving to publishers and editors. One side of the card was my bio and contact information; the other side is a pitch for a comic book/animated series I’d like to do. I may post it soon, but can’t promise it right now. I’ll let you know.

Walking the convention floor killed my legs and feet by the end of each day, so I was glad to relax on the train home each night.

The crowds on the floor did seem a little larger then in the past. At times even Thursday felt like a Saturday. But I only had one bad experience with the crowds. I was hoping to meet with someone at Warner Bros. But for reason, and no one ever could explain it, the crowds were so packed around the large booth that it was impossible to get in and be able to make contact let alone have a business conversation. It wasn’t even that busy for the Big Bang Theory gang and the Evil Will Weaton.

All and all, this was really a good convention.

Oh and if you noticed a continuous thread here, that my fiancée is always there. Well she is. And one of these day’s I’m going to stop calling her fiancée, and make her my wife. But I gotta have a job first, so how about one of you wonder comic book publishers or animation production companies hire me. Much appreciated, she’s been very patient with you.

Thanks for reading.
(Oh, and I have no idea why I chose to go humorous route for this blog. It’s not like me. Really.)
(Anyone need a comedic writer, who’s not so certain he’s a comedic writer?)

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