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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

How I Plan to Answer the Common Author Questions


"How do you become an author?"

You become a writer when you first start trying. You become an author when you get published. When your words are on pages and those pages are between two pieces of cardboard, then you become an author. Authors evolve from writers. Writers are the Pokemon who fight the battles, one at a time. And if they keep working, they get to become authors. At first, they just press the A button over and over. Attack, attack, attack. And that's fine. Because as you go on, you learn new things from the other Pokemon--tackle, quick attack, scary face, hydro pump, dodge, sand gust, psychic, sleep, surf. New ways to execute for the same purpose -- beat that Pokemon. And if you beat enough of them, eventually someone can make you legendary. But there are no legendary Pokemon that didn't start in Pallet Town.

"Where do you get your ideas?"

This is the like the "The Aristocrats" of questions. Each author should develop their own answer meant only to amuse other writers. One that fits their style and tone, but still sort of answers the question. Here's my attempt:

There is a land scattered with roasted mushrooms.Take three of these, but not the blue one. The blue one contains only thoughts without z's and while this may be acceptable to some, as z is an underused letter, you will be distraught when the ebras stampede on your head. Using a spatula encased in gold lame, gently sever the mushroom head from its root. Preserve it within a glass case with three parts ammonia and one part lemon juice. This mixture must be refreshed every twelve seconds, keeping the ambient temperature to 109 degrees, which may make the flight back from Zanzibar a wee bit difficult (not to say that you must go to Zanzibar to fetch these mushrooms, but one may ideally make the trip for additional tourism purposes). Take these mushrooms to a man in New York dressed as Moon Knight. Is he the real Moon Knight? Maybe, but you are not there to find out. The one subtle difference, one you must mot mistake, is that he will have an AOL disc on his belt. After he recites all the Sorting Hat poems from the Harry Potter books, you must repeat all the Oompa Loompa poems from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. This is your code word exchange. Should you get one wrong, or if he doesn't like your intonation, he will take you Bertha, a very corpulent woman who enjoys inflicting pain on poor intonators and your grisly fate will be that of a Leisure Suit Larry game over. If you manage to avoid this outcome, the Moon Knight-impersonator/cosplayer (you're not sure which, because you're not aware of any conventions around the area -- you just came back from Zanzibar after all) will take you back to a tattoo parlor. The main patron will look suspiciously like Bertha, but do not be alarmed. This person actually has a daisy tattoo on her butt. I'm not sure if it's the flower or the duck, so you have to confirm. She takes these mushrooms and grinds them into a fine blue powder. Sniff, but do not inhale. What you will not smell is a lovely addition to any cereal milk. Pour it on your piano, making sure it covers all the keys, then play any theme song from Cartoon Network ca. 1999. At this point, a Zulu warrior should be in your house, the kind with the bone through the nose and red headdress. Accompany him onto a pirate ship while singing one of those Irish drinking songs, like, for ALL the way. One hundred bottles of beer on the wall is acceptable, but you may need to increase the number of bottles. Extra points for drinking those bottles as you sing. I recommend drinking rum and cokes without the rum. Assumably the demographics for this ride should be suitable enough to reach the island of misfit biscuits. These biscuits are being nibbled on by cute little mice in a maze. One of them is about to give birth and it's your job to help her through the laboring process. Don't forget the balloons and boiling water. She would like it recorded too. Not the mouse, of course, but the mother. After the pups are birthed (what do you call mouse babies? Mouselings? Mouselettes? Mousingtons?) you must give them all names, then release the doves. Follow one of these doves--the one going westmost--to a cavern. Bring some Greek yogurt with you. The Greek yogurt is to dump on your head when you do the dance of a thousand and seven veils, which shall be accomplished on a crack across an old ravine. Old Troll River they call it. And if you're lucky you may see one of the trolls. Do not give it your jacket. It will ask you for it, but resist. Not even if it uses that cute hillbilly accent. Now take the bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese with you, which is spaghetti with cut-up bits of bologna in it, and leave it in front of the orangutan. At this point you should notice that a series of Times Square mascots have begun marching to The Simpsons theme song. One of them is dressed either as Ben Hur if he were Donkey Kong or a kind of Mega Man-ish robot filming a documentary on the national epidemic of sewer rats.Take Donkey Kong/Ben Hur/documentarian Mega Man into the battle royale arena where you have to fight him to the death using a lawn chair and a 1950's black and white advertisement for coffee in which the woman is unnecessarily criticized or blamed for the quality of the beverage which her self-esteem hinges on. If you can keep alive or hydrated by the time curfew is called, there will be several programs left on the ground. Inside one is an advertisement for jet packs. Ignore the remarks about fascism and totalitarianism within the copy. Take the jetpack to the Iowan field used in Field of Dreams (I assume it's still there) and strap it on. Make sure all valves and flaps are closed and fuel lines are clear (you know, basic maintenance), then look up at the sky and shout three times "Dicks out for Harambe!" I'm betting you feel terribly silly now, but hold tight. This is by design. Try jumping up and down, it might work. But by this time it should become clear that this is not a jet pack but a set of scuba tanks filled with gasoline. Even though you must not travel to an ocean (any ocean will do) please note that the above step must be taken or you will instead receive intuition about a chess match between Mr. Forbes and Mr. Holland. Now that you are in the air, please take this opportunity to play your Chumbawamba CD. At this velocity, you should notice the altered pitch and rhythm of Track 9. This is actually a secret code which you should write down immediately. The code itself is in binary and was written by a Japanese Tokyo University student, so take it to a Japanese computer. Make sure not to get a single 0 or 1 wrong, or, well, we all know what would happen, wouldn't we? In the code directly, there is a calculation every three or four steps (I forget which) which will translate to a map of a lagoon headquarters where the elite scientists, philosophers, and thinkers are holed up, working on developing the great secrets of the world. There are several consultants milling about, some in the break room, some brushing the dragon's teeth. Find one that looks like Bill Cosby. Use the mobile app to make an appointment and be sure to have your cell phone ready in case you need to receive a text regarding a change of time.

That's step one.

"Have you always wanted to be a writer?"

I'm not really sure I ever had a choice. I've been making little books out of my dad's computer paper since I was five. Little storybooks with Snoopy or Garfield or Roger Rabbit. And at some point, it wasn't so much if I could, but if I would. There was no significant event between the two -- no graduating into a new belt or getting a medal. Just a good idea. A good idea and a void to put it in. And if no one else was going to fill that void, I would have to.


"How do you deal with writer’s block?"

Sinking into despair always worked for me. Actually, I try not to believe in writer's block. When we talk about writer's block we're really talking about writer's delay or writer's despair. And everyone gets it, the "my stuff isn't any good" blues. Stephen King gets it. Neil Gaiman gets it. (Please don't tell me if they don't, I don't want to know.)

Writer's block is not a shortage of ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Executing those ideas is the hard part. That's what writers get paid for. There are dozens of ways to tell A Christmas Carol, but finding a good way is hard. That's the trenches. That's where the writers are, putting word after word. Building the story one Lego piece at a time to make something that resonates and satisfies. You can get the character from point A to B fine. It's making that journey interesting (while following sense and logic) that's hard. Rational yet emotional. Controlling the flow of stimulus and consequence/response. Scene and sequel. Character and setting. All while not being boring. That is the hard part.

"Would you like a movie made of your books?"

Why? Do you know people?

I can't believe there are people like Alan Moore and Roald Dahl who didn't want movies made of their books. I guess they had enough F-U money to say no. But the world of books still feels like a subdomain under the world of movies. Books are written by the morlocks and if you're lucky, one of the angels above ground may pick one to raise into their world. And the angels will know your name and they will look at pictures of you from time to time. But you can never be one of them. Writers are shunned on the red carpet, scripts are passed around like a back alley whore. Visions are shared by 164 different people, most working with computer graphics.

As for me, I don't see how I could say no. Even if they did screw it up Mary Poppins style, at least people would know my name.

"What are you working on right now?"

What am I not working on?
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