In late February, South Carolina Representative Garry Smith punished the College of Charleston for its choice of College Reads! book, which was Alison Bechdel’s tragi-comic Fun Home. Although the state’s funds did not actually fund the College Reads! Program, the state legislature chose to cut $52,000 in funding to the College. This caused quite the kerfluffle among CofC students, including myself, who began a series of protests against the legislature’s decisions. This coincided also with the appointment of Glenn McConnell as College president after a politically dubious search process. On Monday, we held another protest, as Fun Home the Musical came to Charleston. Having watched the show myself, I hope it great success and also hope that the play helps spread the message of how homophobia can destroy people’s lives.
I read the following poems at last Friday’s protests:
We all know what might be considered manly (Chuck Norris, Daniel Day Lewis, and films about war), but what exactly does it mean to be UNMANLY? Because I am so oft labeled thus, I’d like to explore exactly what that term constitutes.
Does it mean that I don’t “lift weights,” but instead attend Pilates classes? (Ok, fine, it’s Yoga…. Ok, FINE! Yoga on Wii Fit… Just leave me alone OKAY! I admit, it’s actually table tennis on Wii Fit, so just stop judging me, please!)
Maybe being unmanly means eating healthy cereal like Special K or some other granola-based barf disaster. Granted, painting my toenails and joining a ballet company… but wait, have you guys SEEN male ballerinas? They’re more fit than Rugby players. So maybe ballet IS manly? Because think about it, you spend all day with beautiful women in tights. Yet society seems to point to other adjectives when describing a male ballet dancer. It doesn’t make much sense.
Okay, maybe plucking your eyebrows still lies in the UNMANLY camp of activities, but other things that used to be considered effeminate have become more… well, manly.
What’s the big deal with being manly, anyways? I mean, so I don’t smoke cigars and wrestle bears, but why should I? I’m sure given the right occasion, I might put a grizzly in a choke-hold, but unless it’s attacking me, why would I ever attempt to do that? The quest to be manly evolved from when men went to war. I mean, all men went to war. There was no military to speak of, so when America needed to fight a war, it enlisted every man. Farmers and merchants and blacksmiths and horse riders. They took boys as young as 14, handed them a gun, and pushed them onto the battlefield.
Think on a Civil War battlefield where these men are strewn across the grass. Every grass blade sports flecks of blood, the corpses piled over each other. You can see by the position of the bodies that the battle lasted long. Three hours. But the boys kept running out, fighting. They kept fighting. And it was not as if either armies harbored disdain for each other– only months before, they had been countrymen. Yet now confronted with what they were told was the enemy, they fought. They killed.
They shot and stabbed each other and kept trying to do so simply because if not, these boys would look unmanly in front of their friends. To not fight was the coward’s way. It was each boy’s duty to fight and if he fled, he could never overcome that act of unmanliness, that betrayal of honor.
It was pointless. Wars fought for the same reason men today still choose to pile more weights onto a barbell if they’re lifting in front of their friends. There is a certain spark in some people that will encourage them to lay down their lives for a war. Others do so because they cannot do otherwise and continue to live with masculinity intact.
If you ever want to learn how to make a character become a real, fleshed-out person, audition for a play. Become a character.
A few weeks ago, I auditioned for The Crucible on the spur of the moment and learned the following day that I had been cast as Giles
Corey, a combative 87-year-old man whose wife is arrested as a witch. He storms the courts in an attempt to save her life.
Never having acted in a play before, there was much to learn. But what I really wanted to figure out was how to make a character come to life. Set in Puritan times, we could not convey the characters as modern people, yet had to be relate-able to modern people. This created an interesting conflict.
Who is Giles Corey?
In the script, he’s almost daft, certainly crazy. I was an old man, yet I was 17. How could I act older, appear older? What might I think differently, being much, much older?
But what does he care about? BECOMING a character forces you to ask more questions. Therefore, even a minor character in a story has great internal conflicts. Giles is fiercely loyal and for that reason, dies by the end of the play. Yet he is frightened by death, angered by those who permit innocents to die.
When writing a novel, use some of these same questions to help make your characters more real. If it works for actors, it works for writers too.
1.) Understand the many facets of your character
Even if your character does something horrendous, perhaps he or she does it for a good reason. Even “evil” characters have qausi-good intentions at times. At one point during the play, I lunged at another man, screaming, “I’ll cut your throat, Putman! I’ll kill you yet!” While seemingly a deadly promise, consider that I scream this line at the man who just damned me to die. It’s understandable.
In your story, make sure to understand everything your character does and make sure it’s “in character.” Even if you don’t reveal these reasons in your story, you need to know them to keep your character consistent.
2.) Know your relationships
If you’re character is a cruel guy, maybe he’s not cruel to everyone. Nice people are not nice to everyone. Know how each character feels for the others. Are they jealous or respectful or resentful? Especially if characters are relation, figure out their family dynamic. Again, there’s no need to overtly explain this, but it’s safe to know how each character might react.
3.) Know what your character owns
This may sound weird, but it’s important to know what a character owns. His clothes. His possessions. Does he have a wallet or a money clip? Does he wear bowler caps or cowboy hats? What do these things say about him?
Know what sort of car he or she drives. Know how your character might decorate his or her bedroom/apartment. Know whether or not your character owns pets. Again, you don’t need to describe all of this, but know it.
One great trick I learned is to pick a single object of great importance to your character. Make the character own the possession. Whatever it is, this is distinctly this character’s possession. In The Crucible, Giles walks with a cane. The cane became a very important part of my character. I could use it in so many different ways to help show my emotion.
I might shake it at someone because I’m angry. I might rub the top nervously. I might spin it in my hands.
All of these visual cues can be translated into a story to represent what your character is feeling. After a number of times, the reader will understands that, “Giles stroked the cane, spinning it in his fingers” means “Giles was nervous.”
These are all the pieces of advice I have at the moment, but take them into consideration to help your characters breathe. We justfinished the first weekend of performances. The last 3 start on this Friday. I have learned so much from acting in this play and will definitely blog about it later on in the week, because the people I’ve met are amazing. It has taught me a lot about character development and a lot about people.
Obviously, it’s my favorite time of the year because I lose my superiority of being the “writer” type among my friends. During the month of November, everyone is a writer.
The best thing to do, obviously, is dissuade every young person from writing. Because, honestly, there are too many writers and books, already, right? Why can’t we just take some time off from writing books? There are already too many to read. We can resume in thirty or forty years.
For the next thirty days, I challenge you to discourage your friends to write! No, seriously! Whether they have a blog or are working on a novel or even if they were poets… discourage them from making any literary progress at all. You too should stop writing. Just stop.
No… just stop writing. There are probably so many books already published that yours won’t even matter. It won’t make a dent in anyone’s life. It will sit anonymously, lonely on a shelf in some rundown used book store. It will sell out of print and not be re-printed. Haven’t we exhausted the explanation of the human spirit by now? I mean, really? Haven’t we?
If you are an aspiring writer, I implore you with a full heart to stop trying. Put down your pen, close your laptop, burn your journals, shred your poems, forget your stories.
Why don’t you go do something more productive? Where will writing get you?
You could catch up on Season 15 of South Park instead. You could weave a basket: aren’t baskets better than books? And believe me, you will have an easier time selling a basket than a book.
Well, there is an off-chance you’ll write something semi-good. And sure, it won’t change the world, but it might change one person. It might speak to just one little human being. What you write about, how you write, they might be affected by that. They might finally be able to verbalize their feelings through your immaculate paragraphs.
But you should probably not even try. It might not get you anywhere. Sure, you CAN change the world, but what’s the point, right?
If you’re reading this right now, you can probably use the internet. But it’s a complicated place.
1.) If it were not for stupid people, we would have lost interest in the internet a long time ago.
2.) Here, it’s okay to muse about what it might be like if Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter and Spock from Star Trek staged a tryst through the wardrobe in Narnia. And it’s okay to post it on a website where other like-minded people will blog about it.
And if you ask me if I think this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard about on the internet… may I redirect you to the Tea Party’s homepage: http://www.teapartypatriots.org/
3.) The only difference between Facebook and a pornography website is that no one blogs complaints when a pornography site suddenly changes its layout. I’m not sure why.
4.) On the internet, cats are hilarious.
5.) Everything is either true or utterly ridiculous! Or moderately believable…
6.) The internet is like your best friend who presents you with almost too much information as once, but never bothers to answer what you have asked.
8.) You can become “internet-famous,” which isn’t really famous, but close enough. Like when your uncle appeared on the news in an interview considering his triumph at the chitlin cooking competition.
9.) They sell anything over the internet. Seriously. Even beards. Really. And you can buy tamales $15 dollars for 12, but with a $30 dollars shipping/handling fee tacked on. Luckily though, they offer overnight shipping. Once, someone sold “the meaning of life” on Ebay. Sold for $10.50.
Steve Jobs, no doubt, was a celebrity. The tech genius who innovated Apple’s products into what he hailed as “revolutionary,” died on October 5, 2011. My reaction was, what? Steve Jobs is dead? Unless someone is fairly old, we never expect them to die… but the shock stopped there. I felt strange and regretful that I didn’t feel any worse.
Is it WRONG not to really care? It’s not that… I don’t care that he’s dead. But… should I feel personally sorrowful about it or merely sympathetic toward others?
What about all the poor American children that might not get to experience his next innovation in IPods? What about his family and co-workers? Shouldn’t I feel a lot worse about his death? I mean, Jobs is a pretty big deal.
But I think it’s generally normal to not feel anything about the death of a celebrity. These people, we’ve never met them before. They’re an enigma to us, unknown and somehow all-powerful. So when we hear about their deaths, we feel the same way we do when our friends report that their hamster has passed away. Of course we sympathize and feel badly for our friend, but… it was not our hamster.
I don’t even own any Apple products. In fact, Mac users tend to be overly pompous because of their shiny little toys. I only know Steve Jobs’ face and voice, but I wasn’t close to him. We weren’t pen pals or cousins. Sometimes, though, we
The worst case of this someone-died-but-I-didn’t-really-know-them was the death of Michael Jackson. This is when you might hate me, so hold on.
It’s just… I really enjoy Michael Jackson’s music and he had some killer dance moves, but I didn’t know the guy. I was not emotionally invested in Michael Jackson, so when he died, sure, I felt sorry for his family, but… I was not broken. Others, however, were very broken. Jackson became a huge comeback among teens who were not alive during his prime. Because after someone is dead, their sainthood is established. Their circle of friends suddenly explodes.
Everyone starts claiming how close they were to a dead celebrity, how much they adored him or her. Look at how many magazines treated Amy Winehouse’s death. Before she died, she was easily a go-to girl for gossip columns. Just look at that crazy bad hair day or look at that cellulite-slumped bikini. The media pokes fun and bashes celebrities until… Amy Winehouse becomes suddenly a revolutionary artist. In death, every person’s infamy becomes their fame.
What I’m really saying is… I hope the Jobs family is consoled in these times. But I’m not going to console some teenager, because look, you’ll still be able to use your little IPhone. Apple will still be around, for sure. This isn’t a blog lamenting his death, because I didn’t know him. Those who loved him, they will lament his death. He was a technical giant, yes, and for that, he should be remembered.
Why do you think so many people attach themselves emotionally to celebrities they don’t really know?
How cool would that be? Bored and ready to watch a movie, so just project a screen on the wall of on the bus seat in front of you. And enjoy. And also, it could make skype convos that much more awkward to do in public! This way, you could have a drive-in theater anywhere.
So, wait… do Apple products play music? They should definitely do that, because it’d be awesome. Of course they don’t yet, but soon……
3.) Time Machine
Do I really have to explain this? Apple claims to make revolutionary products, but not one single device by them gives people the ability to travel back and forth in time. Maybe Steve Jobs thinks that if he releases the time machine to the public, they will go back in time to invent the IPod, so then Steve Job must also have an IPhone to kill that person at birth, except then a paradox will occur. NO…. NO……. BLACK HOLE…….. WE’RE BREAKING THE LAWS OF SPACE-TIME THEORY!!!!!!!! TIME MACHINES IN IPHONES…. BAD IDEA!
4.) Copy and Paste
Seriously, that seems pretty simple, right?
5.) An UNbreakable screen!
While I have never owned an IPhone and thus never had this problem, I see this incredibly often. Stupid teenagers break their IPhone screens all the time. Why not make phones that have UNBREAKABLE screens. Like, make them of cement. No, of STEEL! That would definitely be a smart upgrade.
Using Facebook nowadays, I feel like an old woman dipping her toes into social-networking waters. Calling out to my son to ask how to comment and how to look at Aunt Judy’s new album of her new cat. In my me-as-old-woman fantasy, it’s a Siamese cat, and I get to use a Mac Book Air, but have no clue how to.
Since joining Facebook in 2006, I have survived through dozens of website design changes. The newest change literally puts a live-action news feed in the top-right corner of your already existing news feed. Soon, it will release the “Timeline” feature which will confuse me further. But why must Facebook make changes? Why are people up in arms about this? Simply, read on.
When I first joined, Facebook looked like this:
Now, it looks like this:
Soon, it will look like this:
So, what’s up with the changes? Well, a site like Facebook can’t afford to not evolve. With Google + as a new viable competitor, Facebook must……. oh, who am I kidding? Google + doesn’t stand a chance.
Sure, it will gain new users after the “change,” but really the change might help us. Now, I no longer have to spend hours of the day checking each person’s status to see what comments were left. Now, Facebook does that for me. So, do you need to stalk your ex or find out where the nearest party is? Well, it now requires absolutely no work.
Facebook repeatedly puts us all on the same level of clueless confusion. Once our parents and grandparents joined Facebook, our generation laughed at their ineptitude. But now we find ourselves… scrambling for answers.
No, Facebook! You’ve taken away our savvy, our only source of pride. Now we’re on the same level as our grandparents. We are old ladies using the internet for the first time.
Well, at least they haven’t figured out Google + yet.
So, maybe, this is a conspiracy to knock us down a level. I’m watching you, Zuckerburg. I’m watching…
Sometimes, just because you have a degree in English doesn’t give you the right to be persnickety. (If you were not such an inarticulate plebeian, you’d know what that means.)
“Oh, what books do I like to read? Well, I’m glad you asked, but probably have not HEARD about any of them. I have very obscure literary tastes: no Pulitzer prize winners or Short-listeners for the PEN/Faulkner awards. CERTAINLY nothing on a bestseller lists, because those books have such drab plots.
Actually, I only read books that haven’t been published yet. No, it’s fine that you want to read “normal” books along with the rest of the plebians.
Oh, The New Yorker gave it a good review? Well, if you want to conform to what the NEW YORKER thinks, fine go ahead, read to your heart’s content. I’ll just try to find authors you’ve never heard of and then laugh at the absurdity of your reading choices.”
Just to be clear, I hate these people. There’s a reason certain books are read widely or win awards. Just because you dislike a book doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold merit. In fact, any book that can make you feel something- that’s good literature. Even books that merely piss you off.
I feel the same way about music. I just don’t listen to bands if in order to buy their new albums I need to know some secret password which I can only find scrawled on the door of an Ohio truck stop bathroom. But I think music and books are good as long as they make you feel something. That even means Ke$ha who only inspires me to dance and party; note, though, that she does inspire me to do SOMETHING.
A story that inspires nothing, not even frustration… that’s quite a bland story.
The truth is, reading has been an elitist activity, done only by intellectuals. I’m not impressed that you like to read War and Peace over the summer instead of some fun book. Because guess what? I spent the summer reading Nick Hornsby and The Hunger Games triology. I know, as a writer I’m supposed to be a literary snob. I am supposed to like highbrow fiction only, constantly study the syntax of MASTERS.
But you write a book that people will enjoy, and just because scholars say that a book is classic, I shan’t read it unless it excites me. Unless I like the story and relate to the characters. Now, some classics are certainly classics for a reason, but understand, other classics are classics because they’re intensely difficult to understand. Scholars and English majors love authors that only they can relate to, because it gives them a sense of superiority.
I’m looking at YOU James Joyce.
Some books, I know, are even referred to as “guilty pleasures” or as “trashy.” But anything you enjoy has some merit, doesn’t it? I openly admit that I obsessively watch shows like Misfits, Skins, Glee, and True Blood. I even watching THE GLEE PROJECT! While I have been told these are “trashy” shows, they allow me to indulge in something separate from my life. And that… seems to matter.
What I’m saying is, I will not criticize what you read, because all writers are not snobs. Read whatever you’d like. And if anyone casts a downward glance at your