Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dead Bodies and Confidence Boosts

I had the most amazing experience in my Creative Writing class yesterday and of course I just had to share it with all of you. In the class whenever we reach a due date for a piece our professor asks a few people to let her show their drafts to the class so they can look at it and decide what works well and what still needs work; it allows the readers to gain a greater understanding of the assignment by analyzing another piece and gives the writers a chance to receive input on their drafts and ideas for editing. Usually she will send an email out to two or three people asking them if she can use their drafts but this time she emailed the whole class asking for them from one or two people so I decided to send her one now, willingly, than risk her asking me for one later that I didn't feel good about.

The assignment drafts we were looking at that day were short stories that included code-switching and were centered around a dead body or a dismembered limb, so needless to say it had been an interesting piece to write. While critiquing the draft before mine I was mentally preparing myself for my draft to get picked apart from every angle- actually I was looking forward to it as I could think of quite a few things I wanted to change in the draft. When she pulled mine up I opted to have someone else read it rather than reading it myself because I've been sick the past week. When they had finished reading it the professor asked what everyone thought and after a few moments of nothingness, which worked my nerves a bit, a girl said "it was awesome!", which was followed by a round of agreement from the rest of the class. They went on to point out what they liked and thought worked well and to mention what I could work on to make it better. Some of the things that people brought up that they really liked were things I hadn't even given much thought to; the critique made me see my own piece in ways I hadn't before.

It was a truly amazing experience being able to have others explain to me what they got out of my piece, what worked really well, and what could use some work. It is an experience that I believe every aspiring writer should have, which is why I'm making the ability to receive constructive criticism from other students, from people who honestly want to help you make your piece the best it can be, the second reason on my list of reasons why any aspiring writer should major in creative writing.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Peers, Friends, and future Colleagues

The first of my reasons as to why you should major in writing (noting that they are not in any particular order) is that you will meet other people who share your dreams, ambitions, and fears. It is true that you will find a lot of writing major haters on Google and Yahoo Answers, and you are bound to meet a few bio-chem majors with a serious narcissism problem, but they will be far and few compared to the many people you will meet in your writing classes.

As a writing major you will always have a few people willing to read your work and give feedback, provided you are willing to return the favor, and who will actually be interested in what you've written or are working on. You will meet people with whom you can spend lunch arguing about the ending of this book or that one, who will introduce you to new authors and give you new perspective on old favorites. You will never be short of people who will happily wander Barnes and Noble with you for hours on a lazy afternoon or who will tell you they really shouldn't go because they will spend far too much money if they do.

The best thing about the people you meet as a writing major is that they share and respect your dreams of being a writer. They understand why, in a science dominated society, you could not help but choose to be a writer, despite everyone who ever told you that you shouldn't or that you would be wasting your time. They understand the feeling of finishing an amazing book and hoping that one day you might write something that left someone feeling the same way. They understand why you could not simply leave writing as a hobby and major in something supposedly more practical. Because the best thing about the people you meet as a writing major is that they all made the same difficult choice that you did; they took the plunge to follow their dreams and declare writing as their major.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Harry Potter vs Twilight

Every single day I see at least one post on Facebook about how much better Harry Potter is than Twilight and about 200 more posts hating on the Twilight series. I can only assume that a vast majority of these posts are written by people who have never in fact even read Twilight and just feel it necessary to go along with the haters because they like Harry Potter and because its what everyone else on the internet is doing. As someone who has read both series I would like to shine a bit of perspective on the matter.

First of all, the books are absolutely nothing alike. They do not even fall under the same genre: Harry Potter being high fantasy and Twilight being paranormal romance. The only reason this ridiculous comparison came about is because another author started getting a ton of publicity and Harry Potter was no longer the only series everyone knew about; rather petty if you ask me. Twilight and Stephanie Meyer becoming popular did not make Harry Potter or J.K. Rowling any less popular. Its popularity has never been in any way a threat to the Harry Potter fandom, so where all the hate from those people are coming from I cannot figure out.

Next, to all the people who accuse Stephanie Meyer of stealing ideas from J.K. Rowling: I repeat, the books are not even slightly similar. The only thing you can say that relates the two are that both have a werewolf with the last name black, though I would like to point out that in Twilight they are not even actually werewolves so people really need to let that argument go. However, since I doubt my pointing out that they have next to nothing in common will stop anyone from claiming Meyer "stole" ideas from Rowling, lets look at this from another perspective: where did J.K. Rowling get her ideas? No piece of writing is wholly original; it is simply impossible for anyone to write without being influenced by what they have read and J.K. Rowling is no exception. To me, a Lord of the Rings obsessed Tolkien fan, it is blatantly obvious that Rowling was influenced by the Lord of the Rings. Here are just a few examples:
Sauron is vanquished but survives through the ring.  
Voldemort is vanquished but survives via horcruxes
Frodo is an orphan raised by his Uncle Bilbo          
Harry is an orphan raised by his Uncle Vernon
Merry and Pippin are the comic relief troublemakers
Fred and George are the comic relief troublemakers
Gandalf is the wise guiding old wizard                    
Dumbledore is the wise guiding old wizard
Wormtongue the deceiver
Wormtail the deceiver(but you're gonna complain about Black?)
Nazgul's screams suck all life and hope out of you  
Dementors suck all life and hope out of you
Smeagol serves Frodo 
Dobby/Kreacher serve Harry
The list goes on and on. Obviously she was influenced by Tolkien, but you do not see people accusing her of stealing ideas from him. Why? Because the Harry Potter books are, at their essence, an entirely different story than Lord of the Rings and are great books for entirely different reasons. Personally I love finding all the similarities between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings; as another person who is greatly inspired by Tolkien seeing what Rowling did with that inspiration gives me hope that I too may one day write something great. So why is it that everyone feels the need to hate on Stephanie for writing her own story? So what if she happened to have been inspired by Harry Potter (I do not know whether or not she was. Honestly I don't see any similarities between the two, but that is not the point.) If she was then all the more reason to respect her; she was inspired by your favorite books.

Now before anyone tries to say that I must be another obsessed Twilight fan and thats why I feel this way, I am not. I read the books and I enjoyed the books, but I by no means think they are the most amazing books I have ever read. I also read and enjoyed the Harry Potter books, and I absolutely loved them. I personally prefer Lord of the Rings to either of them, but you don't see me getting upset that Rowling is getting more attention than Tolkien. She wrote amazing books and deserves everything she has been given. Stephanie Meyer, however, deserves a great deal more respect than she has been granted since her books went viral, whether you like her books or not. I am sure everyone has read at least one book that they wished they had never picked up, but they do not go out and post such hateful words as people have posted about Meyer. If you prefer Harry Potter then cool; if you prefer Twilight then power to you. But I do not understand why there needs to be so much competition and hate between the two fan bases. Both are good stories in their own right and I enjoyed each of them for different reasons, and so far the world has not come crashing down. So if you are worried that by being a Harry Potter fan that doesn't despise Twilight and Stephanie Meyer you might bring about the apocalypse, I assure you, you're safe. And for those of you who have gone along with the viral hatred of Twilight without ever having picked up one of the books, you should at least read them so you have reasoning to dislike them besides "that meme on Facebook told me to."

Friday, February 3, 2012

I finally posted a story? It can't be..

Oh but it is! I finally finished my first short story and put it up on the blog. You will find the link on the right under My Short Stories. I welcome feedback and hope you will leave comments on it and all future stories I post.
With this story I realized that the most difficult part about this project is not going to be writing the stories, rather its going to be knowing when to call it finished. I had originally planned out posting "The Valedictorian" up about a week ago, but I had my Creative Writing Professor read it and she gave me some feedback and ideas as to how to improve it. I spent the last week editing touching it up I am sure that I could spend another month editing and changing things trying to make it perfect, but that would defeat the whole purpose of this project. The point of this project was to force myself to write more often and to work on coming up with new stories. If I tried to perfect the first story I wrote I would miss out on all the other stories I could have spent the time on. That is not to say that I won't come back to some of these stories and try to make them better later on, but for the time I think my time would be best spent writing out the numerous stories bouncing around my head.
On another note, we had our first workshop session in class on Thursday and, after I have had time to make a few changes based on the feedback I got from the workshop, I will be posting one of the pieces I wrote for class along with the guidelines for the assignment for anyone looking for something new to write.