Ready to run away from home–but to where?!

At the height of the dadburn summer heat, around 3:30 this afternoon, hubby and I came back from doing some errands and he flopped down on the bed to watch some TV. I went in there after him to tell him something or another, and stepped on a wet spot in the carpet. Icy cold wet spot.

“Did you spill your iced tea?”

He blinked. “I haven’t spilled anything.”

I looked suspiciously at the dog. But this was really, really cold. Just about that time, PLOP. An icy cold drip, right on top of my head. O’course, I looked up. Splash! The spectacles caught that one.

“The ceiling . . . it’s got a leak,” I said incoherently.

“Don’t tell me that,” he said in a tone of warning.

Yes, indeed, a pipe connected to the central air conditioning unit in the attic had sprung a leak. He went up there, studied it, then came back down and went to the Home Depot to get stuff to repair it. He didn’t get back up there until a half-hour ago. His efforts to repair it made him REALLY hot and failed as well; now the water’s coming faster and is going on the board that the A/C unit sits on. So we’ve called a repairperson. Eeek!

Earlier today, as soon as I discovered the leak, I heard the garage door going up. I went and pressed the button to make it go down. Walked to the kitchen. Went back toward the area where the leak is and noticed the garage door is up again. Pressed the button. Within a few minutes I was yelling at my mom to not raise the door again. She said she hadn’t touched it. SO . . . I stood there and in a minute, the dang door started going UP by itself. Then back down. Then part way up . . . it was going up and down by itself.

Yelled for hubby. He said deal with it. We climbed up the ladder and unplugged the “possessed” door. According to the man at the Home Depot, one of our remotes was going crazy because the spring on the button broke. So we took the batteries out of all our remotes. Sheesh!

I think the repairman is here. He’s actually a friend of ours who works as a handyman. He can make the leak stop, but the root cause . . . that’s tougher. Bleah!!

To fan or not to fan (the flames)

The other day, a writer sent me a link to her fan fiction website. I looked at the stuff, then thought, “Why is this writer spinning her wheels and wasting her talent doing this?” It was mostly erotica, frankly, and really wasn’t true to the vibe of the original characters. I have no idea why anyone would want to write or read this kind of stuff, but then I never did get “into” the alt.sex newsgroups (even though I did read some of the stuff my friend George “Hossie” Willard wrote for one group . . . he sent an excerpt to me along with some other work when I requested it all, and his was actually kind of engaging, although gross in a way). I realize there are new “category romance” lines starting up that are billed as “humorous erotica,” and I suppose there must be an audience for this or Kensington wouldn’t be buying the stuff, but really . . . don’t adult book stores serve the need for this? Perhaps there’s such a demand because . . . nope, I have no idea.

But back to fan fiction in general. Someone *else* sent me a link to Robin Hobb’s self-titled “rant” against fan fiction, telling me that Robin was “unreasonable.” However, I thought Robin was RIGHT ON. Did y’all READ this??? It makes SENSE!

HOBB HITS IT ON (and IN) THE HEAD, FOLKS!!

(If she’s a he, just flip the polarity of all my pronouns referencing her. I don’t know this author, although I’ve read two of her/his books and enjoyed them.)

She writes, in part, that “all the characters in my stories are a product of my experience combined with my imagination.”

TRUE!! And no one else has the identical experiences (even if they were standing right NEXT to you during the same experiences–my cousin had a completely different idea of what happened one night years ago when I got a birthday “surprise”), let alone the same mind/imagination as you have. So ultimately it is false to try to put yourself into the “skin” of those characters. It’s tough enough for an actor/actress to put himself or herself into the skin of a person whose bio-pic he/she is starring in. It’s worse to be the writer who takes over from another writer. It *can* be possible when we’re talking about an experienced author, but when the newbies try it . . . usually it’s a failure.

You *can* take the basic concept of a character, change the name, change the circumstances, and get a start for your own character. Let’s say that you love the old Mary Tyler Moore sitcom. Well, okay, start with Mary, Rhoda, Phyllis, and Sue Ann, but don’t CALL them by those names. Then change the setting to Florida, put them at HOME instead of at WORK, and you have . . . “The Golden Girls.” (Note that here, Betty White changed from being Sue Ann to being the scatterbrain, more like Georgette, and Rue McClanahan took on the Sue Ann role. Many other changes occurred.) But *how* did the characters change so much? They changed because YOU are not the person who created the MTM program. Your experiences were different. You’re bringing a whole different potato salad to the picnic. And that’s OKAY. That’s what’s supposed to happen!

Hobb continues: “Anyone who read fan fiction about Harry Potter, for instance, would have an entirely different idea of what those stories are about than if he had simply read J.K. Rowling’s books.”

I’ve got to agree. Even if you’re not reading the “slash” fiction, which is heavily sexually oriented material, you get the feeling that the character is just wearing a banner reading “Harry,” rather than the character actually being the same Harry. They usually don’t sound anything like the original in dialogue, for one thing. I dunno . . . perhaps what I’ve been sent is the worst of the crop. What I don’t “get” is why they don’t change the names, change the settings, and then just write a story about “Herbie” and his experiences at the magic academy learning to play “Gemsnatch.” It’d be a lot more fun that way. (There wouldn’t be a built-in audience . . . aha!)

But here’s what Hobb says that’s REALLY important for fanfic writers to read. She echoes MY take on it, almost word for word:

[The claim being made is:] “Fan fiction is a good way for people to learn to be writers.”
No. It isn’t. If this is true, then karaoke is the path to become a singer, coloring books produce great artists, and all great chefs have a shelf of cake mixes. Fan fiction is a good way to avoid learning how to be a writer. Fan fiction allows the writer to pretend to be creating a story, while using someone else’s world, characters, and plot.

She’s right on!

Even when I was in elementary school and I really WANTED to write more Narnia stories or more Bobbsey Twins stories, I never could DO that. Not successfully, and not even half-heartedly. I used to try, as a child, because adults said (and I agreed) that I couldn’t create meaningful characters and a world, and so forth. So I tried to write an incident in Narnia with Lucy and Edmund.

But I could NOT make the characters act the way that the author intended. They were all wrong. I couldn’t even do the Bobbsey Twins, which is saying a lot, because they certainly weren’t the complex characters that Lewis’s are.

No, I couldn’t just “grab the characters and carry on.” I had to advance psychologically far enough to where I could capture my own characters and “create” them; some would/might say I was accessing the archetypes from the collective subconscious, or that I was assimilating what I’d observed over the years as a people-watcher. What it took was years. I found that the process worked MUCH better for me after being a stage actress through junior high and high school, creating a character with a few guidelines from the playwright (and conjectures from the dialogue) and notes from the director and suggestions from other actors . . . I finally came to understand how to create a character.

I couldn’t figure out how to use others’ characters, seeing as how they came from the depths of OTHERS’ souls, and since the purpose of my writing was not solely to entertain but to speak mind-to-mind, I didn’t think I could take on the guise of another’s soul. It didn’t work for me . . . others may be lazier or think of themselves more boldly. Maybe they can “plug in” more easily. I’ve never been a follower. I’ve never been able to “conform,” even if I could figure out what everyone else was so fired up about.

If you want to learn to write fiction, you might as well learn it all at once. You will learn to do the setting, the dialogue, the transitions, all of it, at the same time that you’re learning to make up the characters and the action. If you really feel that you need to practice by using someone else’s work as a pattern, do this: open your favorite novel and start typing it into a file. You will get a few pages done before you realize that there are certain cadences this author uses and particular ways that he or she gets information across. It may be very eye-opening. Now delete that text and start your own book.

The kernel of it all is here, when Hobb sums up her case.

The first step to becoming a writer is to have your own idea. Not to take someone else’s idea, put a dent in it, and claim it as your own. You will learn more from writing one story of your own, no matter how bad it is, than the most polished Inuyasha fan fiction that you write. Taking that first wavering step out into the unknown territory of your own imagination is what it is all about.
Fan fiction is to writing what a cake mix is to gourmet cooking. Fan fiction is an Elvis impersonator who thinks he is original. Fan fiction is Paint-By-Number art.
What is wrong with telling your own stories?

*applause* Give her a standing ovation.

“Years from now, when you talk about this . . . and you will . . . be kind.”
–“Tea and Sympathy,” Deborah Kerr’s character summing up the play

Interesting development

I queried a popular agent today by e-mail and got back a request for a partial, synopsis, and bio or resume. The down side is that the response came from an assistant who said she was attaching their “release” that they had to have on file before the agent could look at my work–to please fax the release to them and then e-mail them the material. But there was no attachment to that message. I fired back a reply asking that they re-send the release. The auto-responder took over, saying that the assistant has gone away to have a happy Glorious Fourth and will be back on the fifth. Waaah!!

I suppose I could contact the agent at *her* e-mail address again and explain that the assistant didn’t send me the release. Or I could just wait until the fifth. How much diff, etc.

But anyway, the Universe knows I need to do something about this synopsis. I may post it here for comment. And the bio . . . what is THAT? “Shalanna Collins has two heads, one of which constantly argues with the other. . . .” I do have a resume, but it’s for applying for jobs as a software engineer or software test engineer and talks about my experience working with real-time image processing systems and later with the software on telephone switches. That isn’t what they want to see. But I wonder what it is that they want to see?

I really don’t know what that’s all about. This is an agent with the Trident Media Group, and all is OK according to the Predators and Editors (yes, they do misspell Predators on the site, but I can’t bring myself to, ever) site. In fact, several “famous” authors are clients of the agency. So it’s not out of line, I suppose. Just don’t know where to start.

Jumping the shark? Try “hot peppers” (as in jumprope)

For fun, I did one of the memes on the TV Tuesday site, one about the shows on Nick-at-Night. (It’s actually “Nite” on their promos, but the site host apparently couldn’t condone the misspelling, either.) I accidentally tuned in to Nick-at-Nite (ouch) tonight in time for the one tolerable episode of “Moonlighting” that I’ve ever seen–the one where they satirize “Taming of the Shrew.” It was funniest at the beginning, but it was really cute all the way through. Should have TiVoed it, but had NO idea that episode existed, let alone that it would be on. That would be a cute video for school children who are reading the play in school (if they ever do–I’m not sure that one gets wide exposure. Usually in Plano, in eighth grade you get “Merchant of Venice,” then in ninth “Romeo and Juliet,” in tenth “Macbeth,” in eleventh “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in senior year (AP English) “Hamlet” and possibly “Henry IV, Pt. I.”)

Here are their questions.

1. Of the many shows that run on Nick-at-Night, what is the one that you would most enjoy sitting down and watching a marathon of?

“Bewitched,” hands down. I’ve actually got most episodes on tape. That includes the black-and-white ones. I far prefer the first Darrin, Dick York, although word is that Elizabeth Montgomery liked Dick Sargent (he is SO homely! Aaack!) best. They remade a number of the plots in the later color episodes, and it’s fun to see them back-to-back. I am just a major fan. The movie with that ridiculous Will Farrell (sigh) and Nicole Kidman (what?? She is NOTHING like Liz-as-Samantha) is going to stink, I can tell from seeing those promos. They’ve changed the entire story, for one, and for another, I loved those original actors. They were a large part of the show’s appeal. I don’t think I will be pleased with the film, if I ever see it. I really don’t want to. Did it need to be made? Heck, no. That era (the era in which the sitcom could be funniest) has passed.

I would have made DIFFERENT changes for the film. I always wondered why they didn’t make Darrin a rationalist/scientist who didn’t want to believe in witchcraft and who had to hide her from all his scientist friends who’d have wanted to study her. . . . (Because making him an Episcopalian minister, for example, would have been controversial, since the witch in the “Bewitched” sense is a magical critter and NOT a religion or something that you can choose–it’s a bloodline, like being part Choctaw or having inherited musical talent from the Irish side of the family, as presented in “Bewitched.” Still, it’d have made Darrin’s objections more fun. I always thought he was a major fool to continue p*ssing off his m-i-l who had turned him into a turnip, a jackass, et al. I would be extremely nice to such a woman, because I like my current species!)

Um, did that answer the question?

2. What classic show from yesterday has not made it to Nick-at-Nite yet, but you’d like to see it there?

Oh . . . I think some of the shows they used to run long ago would be fun. “Dobie Gillis” was always a big favorite of mine as a child (we used to watch the re-runs on Superstation KTVT and on the UHF stations). Also the “Patty Duke Show” (identical cousins . . . two of a kind!) and the Honeymooners. How about the Bob Cummings show? Jack Benny? He had a television program complete with Dennis Day, Irish tenor, and Rochester. Oh, and I miss Donna Reed. As you can see, I’m not a major fan of most late-era shows. . . .

3. Have repeats on Nick-at-Night given you a new appreciation of an older show? Which one?

Aaah, I already liked most of them. “Fresh Prince” is not as bad as I expected it to be–I caught one by accident while waiting for “Three’s Company” to start. I found that I don’t despise “Happy Days” quite so much as I used to when it was first-run (my best friend was crazy about it and the nostalgia craze was in full bloom when we were in eighth or ninth grade.) I *still* hate “Full House,” “Charles In Charge,” whatever that Tony Danza thing is (“Who’s the Boss”?), etc. The “Cosby” shows are so implausible that I really don’t enjoy re-watching them, either. “Coach” wasn’t so bad, but they may not ever have run it.

4. What show that is currently on the air do you think our kids will be watching in 20 years on Nick-at-Nite?

Nothing. All of them stink. I suppose “Drew Carey” could still be syndicated.

5. What is one show that Nick-at-Nite currently runs that you question [whether] the classic label applies to?

MOST of them from the 1980s! I don’t think “Facts of Life”-type shows have aged well AT ALL. Murphy Brown for sure has NOT. Yuck!!!!

~ BONUS ~ Are there some shows that don’t repeat well in later years because they rely on topical humor? (For example, a lot of the Murphy Brown jokes rely on a knowledge of current events when they were produced) Do you sometimes find yourself getting the jokes that younger generations don’t? Do you think this topical humor helps or hurts shows from having a long life in repeats?

Topical stuff really hurts shows. Even “All In the Family” seems really dated and not very good (yes, I’m serious; it doesn’t seem all that Great and Momentous now, not the way it seemed to viewers in my childhood.) More recent shows are even worse, because they use slang that was silly at the time and refer to fads or politicians or whatever. A lot of the stuff referring to Nixon, Clinton, et al, is NOT funny *and possibly not even comprehensible* even five or ten years after it happened. The timeless shows are “Dick Van Dyke,” “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Bob Newhart” (and to some extent his other show, “Newhart,” which has the best ending episode ever dreamed of in TV), “Lucy,” “Bewitched,” “Mister Ed,” “The Munsters,” and “I Dream of Jeannie” (even though it does have a lot of space program stuff, it’s nostalgia-filtered stuff and is interesting to the generations after who have not seen the excitement over astronauts the way we oldies did).

All of the shows I mention here have a timeless quality. ALTHOUGH we do see the kitschy old-timey clothing and sets as a plus (and of historical interest!), and we occasionally have to wince at the sexist attitudes that sometimes turn up, the appeal is that these shows speak of the universal human condition and deal with plots that could happen in some form today. And they are *not* just a sequence of “witty” one-liners and putdowns. That’s my problem with many newer productions: they seem constructed around a series of Henny Youngman-esque one-liners and putdowns from one character to another, rather than around the issue that they are supposed to be dealing with. No good.

Why don’t they bring back “I’ve Got a Secret” and “What’s My Line”? Those were good game shows. Oh, that’s right–there isn’t anyone who could sit on the panel and make reasoned guesses. Except me! I’m available!

Collaborative Art Journal Scans–links

I think I’ve mentioned that I’m doing a collaborative art journal with two friends of mine who are into rubber stamp art. I finally finished the artwork I did to put into the journal, and that’s good, because I am supposed to pass it along to St. Flossie tomorrow. See some of the scribbles at these convoluted URLs (cleverly hidden behind these phrases for your clicking pleasure):

Mama Cooks Good Stuff, Dreamer and Cat, World Peace Ambassadors I.

Yes, I know I should have colored them all in with colored pencils or something, but I’ve been so busy. My aunt has been in the hospital (but her internal bleeding has stopped and they’re threatening to send her home Wednesday), so we’ve been traveling up there to help out (60 miles north of here), and I’ve had other obligations, blah blah blah. Be happy that I even got pictures made at all. I didn’t know I was going to be so nervous about doing some kind of art in a shared journal!