Unexpected Writing Exercises

I’m seriously, seriously trying to get back into blogging regularly. My mind’s been in about sixty different directions over the last couple of months, so it’s been hard. To give you an idea: Pottermania, Portkey (during LeakyCon), Portkey (after LeakyCon), Deathly Hallows Campaign and general HPA staffer stuff, finding an apartment, signing a lease, moving…Dublin Irish Festival and Columbus Feis and upped rehearsal time that comes with those things, Post-Potter Depression, unpacking, trying to get through my TBR pile, writers group, writers group hiatus, diet, revisions, vlogging…identity crises because of Pottermore, then getting over the identity crises…going to funerals and weddings…planning the 20th Anniversary Homecoming alumni band stuff for my high school marching band…starting an agent search…finally finished unpacking, but still trying to buy stuff for the apartment…trying to keep in touch with friends and family…all while trying not to lose my mind. Oh. And now I kinda want a tumblr.

Yeah, it’s been a weird summer.

So, please bear with me while I try to get back into the swing of blogging.

My calendar says it’s Writing Tuesday. Oh, Writing Tuesday. As I’m taking a small break from serious writing (post-revisions) in favor of researching agents to send my novel to, I had to think for a minute about what to talk about. And then it came to me. Granted, if you watch any of the videos I do on “In the Cardboard Box” (my vlogging project with Emmy), you’ve heard about this a good three times. Deal. I’m better at talking about things through writing, as opposed to the awkward rambling I do on vlogs.

Have you ever done a round robin story? Where you write the first few lines, then pass it on to the next person to add the next lines? Sometimes it’s played by covering the earlier bits of the story up, so you literally end up with one really bizarre story that makes absolutely no sense? I remember we used to do this at the writing camp I went to for a few years when I was younger (yes, I went to a writing camp…it was a day camp and was AMAZING). I think we may have done it in Girl Scouts on a few occasions. It’s one of those things that’s just really entertaining. But we did it at the writing camp because it’s also a great exercise of thinking on your feet. It’s basically the writer’s version of improv.

When I was in high school, I got introduced to RPGs. Not the WoW kind, but the forum kind. The kind that’s a lot like a round robin, because you have your character or characters and you tell the story from their point-of-view, picking up wherever the last person to post left off. I used to be really involved in a Harry Potter RPG over on Darkmark.com, but it died after a few years (I believe Darkmark has a new RPG now, but I don’t participate in that one). At first, I kind of got over it–I was probably a little RPG burnt out–but after a year or two, I really missed the whole thing. Bizarre and wonderful friendships sprout from things like that and I missed chatting and plotting with the friends I’d made on RPDM (granted, it was more chatting than plotting, particularly in my case). I also missed writing the character I’d created. I tried to join other RPGs, but I never stayed very long because it wasn’t the same. And I never resurrected my character from RPDM, even though she continued to live in the back of my mind, because it felt wrong to put her into a different place, among different people, with a different story.

Until about three months ago.

Three or so months ago is when I got introduced to a very non-traditional RPG. It was almost more of an experiment. It didn’t utilize forums. It utilized blog posts in the form of news articles that you could comment on, and Facebook. Called Magic is Might, it was set during the final Harry Potter book…but it looked at everything else that was going on away from the main story we’ve all read half a dozen times. And, even more interestingly, the timing of it was played out to coincide with the release of Deathly Hallows Part 2. The characters in the RPG would be fighting the Battle of Hogwarts at the same time as the characters on screen, essentially.

I was fascinated. I decided to resurrect my old character and have her play. She started commenting on the news posts and (I shouldn’t have been surprised as I was, considering how welcoming a community the Potterheads usually are) she was immediately welcomed into the story. After a few weeks, I created a second, more evil character. Good and evil. Yin and yang. Innocent and a royal pain in the ass. It was fun. Our characters debated, while the players behind them had heartfelt, nerdy conversations out-of-character. And then the movie came out and the Final Battle wrapped up on Facebook, and we mourned.

And once we were done mourning, we created something new, so we could all keep going. We called it Magic Is Might Continues, because that was all our creativity would allow, and we picked up where the story had left off. We decided to figure out what happened after the Battle. What happened in those 19 years between the end of the last chapter in Deathly Hallows and the beginning of the Epilogue?

We’ve been going for a couple of months now. The friendships have grown tighter, but likewise the plots of grown…more confusing. We’re plotting up a storm for our characters. Emails are exchanged all the time and the “evil” characters are being bitter losers and the “good” characters are getting into relationships with each other. And there’s drama and Romeo & Juliet and duels with werewolves and arguments and all kinds of insanity.

BUT (and here’s where I get to the Writing Tuesday stuff), it’s been such a GREAT writing exercise for me. Other than the great friends I’ve made, I’ve also been forced to get used to writing some uncomfortable or emotional or intense scenes. I’ve had to delve into the head of my “evil” character to see what makes her tick that way. I’ve had to break my “good” character about fifty times, just to fix her again. In the more adventurous scenes, I’ve had to pick up the action from the previous poster and carry it forward. It makes me think more about character and action and what someone would say in various situations or debates. I’ve had to argue the negative side of arguments through my “evil” character.

Moral of the story: It’s really amazing, the places you can get practice writing.

Love of the Week: Fall TV Season

I have a somewhat pathetic addiction to television. I almost always have it on, even in the background, and I religiously follow a number of shows. Which means this week, I’m going to be in TV heaven as almost ALL of my shows come back (some start next week). It’s going to be interesting, though. Having just moved in with two of my friends, we’re trying to figure out how to balance the TV/DVR schedules, so none of us miss the shows we NEED to see. But it sounds like it’s all going to work out fine, between a DVR and me having a DVD recorder…so. My love of the week for this week is the fall TV season!

Some of the shows I follow and am VERY excited to return:

Castle– I always watch it right after dance class, usually while getting some much-needed writing or some other project done. It came back tonight. And, boy, did it deliver. I was looking forward to tonight’s premiere, because the finale left us in a Lost-style cliffhanger that was driving me ABSOLUTELY NUTS since May. Thank you, Castle. I thought I’d gotten past all that when Lost ended.

Biggest Loser– I’m big on Biggest Loser…and I haven’t always been quite THIS into it. But a couple of years ago, when I was first starting the liquid diet I was on, I started my diet right around the same time that Biggest Loser came back. And that helped me through, losing weight with the contestants. Now I still love it just as much…it’s a helpful reminder to keep the weight OFF. And I love the drama. Ya know.

Glee– I’m a Gleek. I admit it. And I have the hots for Darren Criss, who’s signed on as a series regular this year. I shall be in heaven. (Really, I’m not super-emotionally-invested in Glee, I just think it’s fun. And, you know. Darren Criss. HE is enough to watch Glee FOREVER.)

NCIS– This is a new thing for me. I’ve never actually watched a season of NCIS AS IT AIRS. I got into the show sometime last year, when USA was running one of their many NCIS marathons. My friend/roommate Tracy talks about it all the time and told me I HAD to watch it, so I gave in and gave it a chance one weekend. And I was hooked. Then this summer, I stocked up on all the seasons on DVD and caught up in chronological order. Then Tracy and I got our third roommate (Kathleen) addicted too. I’m excited to watch it as it airs for the first time.

Grey’s Anatomy– I’ve been really into this show since about season two. It’s going to be strange this season, though, because for the last two years, I’ve watched each new episode with my mom after bell choir rehearsal. Now I don’t live with my parents anymore. Fortunately, my roommate Kathleen is into the show as well, so I’ll have at least one person to watch it with.

Private Practice– I think this actually comes back next week, but regardless. I’m not quite as invested in this one as I am in Grey’s, but I still enjoy it.

Sister Wives– Yeah, I know. BUT LISTEN. This show isn’t like all the other nutty-huge-family shows TLC has (which I REFUSE TO WATCH, by the way…on principle that Kate was a freaking nutjob and I find the Duggars to be preachy and obnoxious). This show actually shows a completely different lifestyle…a completely different style of huge family. This isn’t just a couple of people who have overdone the having-kids thing. This is a very non-traditional family composed of several parents raising many kids. And it’s absolutely fascinating. (That, and the marriage equality advocate in me can’t stand the fact that polygamy is such a “thing.” I’m interested to see how the Brown family’s lawsuit of Utah goes.)

Storm Chasers– I don’t even know the rationale behind this one. I’m terrified of thunder storms and tornadoes and the like. But this show always has me riveted, regardless of the fact that about 95% of the cast is downright annoying.

So, there we go. The shows I’m excited to see return to the airwaves. What shows are you most excited for?

Ten Years Ago…

I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and I was just walking into science class. It was a third/fourth period block for BESS 1 (Biology and Earth Science Studies, the science class most of the freshmen were taking), and the first thing that caught my eye was the television. It was on, which was strange in and of itself, but on top of that it was tuned to CNN. Although I had only been a high school student for a couple of weeks, I had learned that the classroom televisions were rarely tuned to anything outside of the school announcement channel and the channel that showed the WKHS News on Fridays. On this particular day, though, the entire class was staring at CNN.

Only minutes before, the first plane had struck the World Trade Center.

Our teacher came in and started class, but she left the TV on. At that time, everyone was just interested to see what would happen. Everyone was assuming it was a tragic accident. There was only one kid in our class that thought otherwise. Every few seconds he would say that it was terrorists. But as this kid had a tendency to think that everything and anything was due to terrorists, no one really gave him a second thought.

I was still sitting in BESS 1 when we watched the second plane hit. After that, the rest of whatever we were learning fell into the background. We were all too mesmerized by what was happening on the television.

The rest of the day is something of a blur to me. I remember no one was talking in the hallways between classes, because everyone was in too much shock. I remember that every single television in the school was showing CNN. I remember that it was during lunch that Osama Bin Laden’s video hit the airwaves, and that everyone was crowded around the four TVs in the middle of the cafeteria. I remember that during my history class at the end of the day, the original lecture was forgotten in favor of talking about terms we would be hearing a lot in the coming weeks, including “Taliban.” Oddly, I also remember that it was that day when I rode the bus home from high school for the first time, because all after-school activities got cancelled, so there was no marching band practice.

That day and the days surrounding it were an emotional roller coaster. My father was in Germany on a business trip and we couldn’t get in contact with him for days. My cousin was in Virginia and his job meant he was sometimes at the Pentagon. Until we found out that he hadn’t been there that day, we were worried about him. The following Friday was a home football game, and our marching band re-worked pre-game to pay tribute to what had happened.

It was a day and a week that I’ll probably never forget, regardless of how many years pass. I don’t think any of us that experienced that day will ever forget it. I’ve heard that each generation has a “where were you when…” moment, that one significant day or event or moment that lives in that generation’s memory forever. September 11, 2001 was our generation’s “where were you when…” moment. It’s the day that our children and our grandchildren will ask us about. It’s the day that future generations will study in history class and write reports about and do projects on. I won’t lie that it will be surreal, some day in the future, when my son or daughter asks me where I was when those planes struck the World Trade Center.

And I’ll tell them…I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and I was just walking into science class…