April 27, 2016

Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

Issue 12a, July 2014

Hello Again, Fellow Writers:

If you feel like you’re having a flashback when you read the title of this quarter’s blog - you are! It’s one of the major lines used by Commander Quincy Taggert (a.k.a Jason Nesmith) in the 1999 movie Galaxy Quest.  Jason Nesmith, played by Tim Allen, is an actor who learns the meaning of, “Never give up, never surrender,” when he is suddenly confronted with real life aliens, call Thermians. The Thermians believe that the cancelled television series, Galaxy Quest, is an historical document. These naive aliens need the help of Nesmith’s character, Commander Taggert, in order to deal with a dangerous enemy. The actor thinks this is just another part in a homemade movie at first, but he soon learns that it’s all too real. Instead of running and hiding, he talks his co-stars into taking the challenge and facing a brutal enemy who is a skilled warrior. They rise from their humdrum lives of unemployed actors to conquering the enemy, saving the Thermians from annihilation. The actors end up with a continuing series of Galaxy Quest when they return to Earth.

This is a fun movie within a movie, which spoofs the original Star Trek series and its’ fans, plus teaches us a lesson for writing and for life. If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it for fun. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, watch it again. Fiction, even silly, spoof science fiction, can help us through the trials of real life so we, too, never give up. As you all know, I’ve been challenged with my own quests over this last year. I’ve been knocked down, kicked around, bloodied and bruised since I lost my job in July 2013. But, thank God, I’ve never surrendered to the depression and self-pity that can so easily conquer us!

I took another beating in June when I found a job, a really good-paying job, then lost it before it started when physical challenges and an unexpected illness prevented me from completing the training. I was aggravated and depressed for a while. But focusing on my real goal, writing, has given me the strength to continue even after the unemployment in July, losing more than two years of research and writing in May and then losing another job in June. However, with a little faith and focus on our goal, we can overcome each obstacle just like the heroes of Galaxy Quest. We will eventually win the prize. If I can do it, you can do it, too!

Reading Makes Us Better Writers

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to read well-written novels and stories in our genre of choice. For one thing, it makes us better writers and gives us ideas to experiment with in our own writing. For another thing, it lets us know our competition better and gives us the opportunity to compare our work to theirs. We need to know whether we’re reaching or exceeding the writing quality of other writers in our genre. I recently finished reading the first novel in the Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer and I am seriously impressed by the way he captivates the readers’ attention with detailed descriptions without sacrificing a fast-moving plot. Whether your favorite genre is science fiction or mystery, you will enjoy how this novel unravels one mystery to reveal another. You can read my review of this book at Must Read, Must See Books and Movies, but for now I want to talk about Vandermeer’s writing style.

First of all, Annihilation is written in the first-person, limited point of view, yet this doesn’t limit Vandermeer’s scope of the strange occurrences or history of Area X. Also, none of the characters are named; we only know them only by their occupation. Our narrator is ‘the biologist’ and it is her journal which carries us through the unorthodox requirements which the Southern Reach, a top secret organization, has placed on this twelfth expedition into a ‘contaminated’ coastal region. Vandermeer captures an entire story through the observations of the biologist and the snippets she reveals about her personal life. He uses her attention to detail which creates a rich environment that pulls the reader into the strange landscape of Area X and it is this attention to detail that captivates me the most. It challenges me to step up the detail in my own writing, so let me challenge you, too.

Writing Challenge #12: Mimic the Best 2

We haven’t done this type of writing exercise for a while, so let’s try mimicking Vandermeer now. I thought we’d try mimicry again, this time using a small piece of Annihilation. Remember that mimicry is when we copy the format of the writing (verb for verb, adjective for adjective, noun for noun), but using our own words and our own story line. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I selected a paragraph from the first chapter to practice mimicry:

Far worse, though, was a low, powerful moaning at dusk. The wind off the sea and the odd interior stillness dulled our ability to gauge direction, so that the sound seemed to infiltrate the black water that soaked the cypress trees. This water was so dark we could see our faces in it and it never stirred, set like glass, reflecting the beards of gray moss that smothered the cypress trees. It you looked out through these areas, toward the ocean, all you saw was the black water, the gray of the cypress trunks and the constant, motionless rain of moss flowing down. All you heard was the low moaning. The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.

If you’re already a member of our writers’ group, Contributors’ Corner, log into you member account at Skeptical Reader, Members Only to see my attempt at this challenge. If you’re not a member, you can join at Skeptical Reader as well.

Now you try it, submit your paragraph in the body of an email to rhodesfitzwilliam@gmail.com. I’ll be uploading our experimental writing through July 20th. Your paragraph will be entered as a separate blog entry on the Members Only secure page so other members can comment on it.

Remember you must join Contributors' Corner in order to access the Members Only page. Once a member you can share your work and receive comments and suggestions from other writers. You can join at the For Writers page on Skeptical Reader. It’s well worth the $5 a month fee to join.

Members, be sure to log into our writing group to see this month’s Contributors' Corner. We’ll talk about the possibilities for working your piece into a larger one and discuss the publication possibilities. Plus members will be given an additional writing challenge.

Remember, we are in this field to get published so our whispers can be heard.

Until next quarter, live well, love fully and write with all your heart!