Introduction to Ep.02: How to (And Why We) Make Art
It’s a question I’ve certainly wondered, but having spent a semester studying it, it seems to make sense that we finally ask our peers.
This podcast features: Derek Hobson, Jeffrey Kieviet, Paul Mendez, William “Average Bill” Madden, and Casey Moriarty.
I’m Shipping Up to Boston by Dropkick Murphys
The Ballad of Heisenberg by Los Cuates de Sinaloa
Scenic World by Beirut
Fun fact, I took the mid-section of I’m Shipping Up to Boston and then cut the intro to it afterwards. Now I’m no Bill, but I don’t think most people can hear the difference.
Post PS Analysis (Part 1)
We recorded this one a while back, but I took the reins of moderating because I genuinely wanted to know. I want to improve as a storyteller and I wanted to know how my fellow artists (which I’ll use synonymously with Screwheads) made their art.
I think Jeff’s biblical interpretations are some of the best writing we have and I like how it’s all intertwined but each story stands on its own two feet. What I like is that each character has their own agenda and that makes their “crossover” all the more compelling because I know where each has been, but they’re humble enough characters to not discuss it with each other. Jeff gives us insight that the others don’t share with each other and it makes for good comedy and great storytelling.
Casey’s longstanding Jon Hammster saga has been a delight Monday after Monday. It’s not simply the premise, but the writing is superb. It’s genuinely hysterical! And when I read books like Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys or Dave Barry’s Insane City, I think it’s crazy that I have laughed more times at Jon Hammster than either of those other novels and the plot is far easier to follow despite the absurd premise.
Hell, even though Bill wrote his short story after the recording, I’d read one of his previous short stories and they’re good. He inherently understands story structure, where a story should begin, what you need to know, and what makes a compelling conclusion. I’m hoping he’ll post his space odyssey (which I believe was titled The Longest Four Years), but even his one satirizing a D&D larper was so well-orchestrated. I didn’t know what was happening in the beginning but I wasn’t frustrated, I was compelled to learn more. It was vague enough to entice me further.
Paul meanwhile dedicates much of his posts to personal thoughts and while I’ve enjoyed his short stories (in the real world), even his quote/unquote reviews have given me some insight. Yes, we can all sit around and pretend to praise the art direction and acting talent, but none of that really matters when you’re watching the film. It’s not simply story, it’s what you walk away feeling. When Paul “reviews” a movie, it’s under the assumption you’ve seen it, so he doesn’t need to waste words with summaries or specific scenes, he talks about how it impacted him and that’s what I enjoy reading.
I’ve always admired Pierce’s reviews as well, and to be quite frank, many have sold me on whether or not to see a film (see Dredd), but his short stories on Aleph to Zydeco and the ones posted on the site are true delights – nuggets of stories leaving your weekday a bit more fulfilled. In many ways, they’re like my morning coffee. He has an understanding for the proper length of a short story, so I know I can read it while waiting to order my drink or briefly on one of my breaks and I’ll still be thinking about it later.
Poditive Screwcast Analysis (Part 2)
All this is not simply to praise, but to expand. How do these screwheads make compelling stories? I’m slowly catching on.
When I look at my own repertoire of short stories, my favorite is Cain & Abortion and that story was intended to be much shorter, but I needed to run through the details as quickly as humanly possible to get to the message, and it worked to the story’s betterment. The last paragraph (maybe two) was the point of the story, but I ran through several thousand words to get to that point. “Trim the fat” comes to mind and “Brevity is the soul of wit” and RedLetterMedia’s interpretation, “Don’t waste my time.”
I have been writing wrong. No, there is no “right” way, but there is a wrong way and I have been doing it.
I was reading Anansi Boys and Frankenstein concurrently on my vacation last week (at the time of writing this) and I enjoyed both, but they are entirely different beasts. I thought to myself, Anasi Boys could be a Frankenstein in a third or fourth draft, but… that wasn’t the point of Anansi Boys. I have been trying to emulate a Frankenstein, but that’s an edited novel.
My problem has been writing, stopping, rewriting, stopping, rewriting, etc. and I know there are thousands of authors who say that’s one type of writer… in fact I think it was Hemingway that said that, but I really think he meant that they’re a writer for writing’s sake – they are not authors.
If I’m writing, rewriting, rewriting, etc. then my problem is not that it’s not good enough, it’s that I don’t have a destination. When I think of the short stories I’ve written and really look back on with reverence, I think of Cain & Abortion, The Red Door, The Trial and Error or even the open and shut chapters of From A to Zombie (see Chapter 9 troubles and Chapter 15); the other thing I noticed from these is that they’re inspired from other forms of stories.
The Red Door (which won’t be published for a bit) was inspired by Oculus (which won’t be published for a bit). I wrote The Red Door after watching that film because I saw how they created a story and wanted to emulate that. The Trial and Error was inspired by Kafka’s The Trial, The Old Man was inspired by Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Even now, I’m working on a short story that was inspired by Anansi Boys. That’s the point! Great art doesn’t need to be criticized, it’s inspirational. That’s why I want a book shelf or a great painting hanging from my walls or listen to a great album.
It’s why I don’t believe you need to “experience” things, but you can’t do nothing. In Ahab’s Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund claims that women travel long distances during sewing as they need something to occupy their mind; they travel in their imaginations since they couldn’t be seafarers. That’s the point. You don’t need to travel, you need to explore! and you can do that in a book, in a film, in a painting.
What I’m saying is actually something that Bill once said to me, “If you hated something that much, why don’t you do it, but better,” in other words, “Show them how it’s done.” Because, yes, I can hate on a film or even gush about a book, but who cares. If the art is good, I’ll be inspired to make my own; if it’s bad, I’ll be motivated to do it right.
Like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I spend too much time in my head asking myself, “Why did I do this?” “Why do I do that?” And it’s not unnecessary, but it’s important to be present. It’s important that the epiphany I reach is the message of the story.
The story I’ve constructed working after reading Anansi Boys is simple. I wrote the outline by hand on one piece of paper – not even a 9 X 11. The outline is easy. I have 3 acts and I know the plot points. The story is written. Now, as I write it, I’m scurrying along to get the fully fleshed story out. Once it’s completed, I’m going to go back and edit and you know what, maybe then I’ll see that a supporting character should be given a little more development, or maybe I’ll want to make water a recurring theme, but I’m not going to head into a story with symbols and themes. I’m going to enter a story by wanting to tell a story. I’m going to write that story and then I’ll go back and edit later if I see fit.
Honestly, the one I’m writing may never make it to the site, I think it might be publishable, but I suppose that’s the perk of having posts ready six months in advance, I can work on it while I continue to practice on the site.
And Jeff, you might be happy to know, that I’m concurrently writing Scatterbrain. Not the comic, the book, but the book will be my outline. And who knows, if I can make some success with that, maybe I can kickstart a comic book, but the point is, I need to write the story before it ever becomes anything. I’ll add some layers once it’s finished.
This was a good podcast; a great podcast for me. I’ve done some real good thinkin’.