Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Review

As 2011 is coming to a close everyone takes stock of the trials and tribulations, the victories and validations of the year and what all of these have meant to each of us.

At the start of this year I was editing my manuscript and looking to get my series published. Through the conversations of the amazing writing community, I decided it was time to build my 'author platform' starting with a blog. I had never 'blogged' before other than a few contributed articles. I was nervous about finding material, even having a topic others would be interested in reading. I wasn't sure how this was really going to turn out, how it was going to develop and most importantly to me, how this would help with publication.

I started with a few topics that seemed logical to me and started sharing my rambling thoughts out to my friends and contacts out on the inter-webs.

My first observation was that I really did have some outstanding writer friends in the twitter-verse and through the comments I saw, I really did have an interesting take on things that more than my virtual-friends were willing to have an interest in reading. I also started producing articles for a regional media outlet that started gaining significant attraction for them.

In April together with a few friends we set about investigating and spending the night at one of the country's most notorious locations, a dilapidated asylum that is now a mainstay of television shows.

Through no small feat I signed with my publisher in May and gleefully started organizing my thoughts to make sure the series would not only be coherent but also something significant when it debuted. All of my research, all of my ramblings and dreams worked out.

In the summer I went back to the beautiful Massachusetts coast where I was able to draw on more inspiration and restructure some of the later events in the series as well as catch some breathing room.

Later in the summer I stumbled upon a novel idea for my weekly articles, a look at compositions, not just the writing idea but how any story is told through a composition. Whether it's a film, a still shot, writing or even sculpture all components work and if looked at from the right perspective the techniques could work for any medium. It was also about this time that along with some friends we went out to the Qunicy Harbor and spent a night investigating a retired Cold-war Era naval destroyer.

In the fall, my fiance and I were married. After being together for more than 5 years we decided it was what we both wanted. It was the next step in our lives together and while a bit nerve-wracking at the time, it was life.

So at the end of 2011, after all that has happened in this year what was the outcome? Well, for Writing Files it was a number of guest posts and highlights on some outstanding writing friend's blogs. Highlights included  Jill Kemerer in June, Jen Talty in Sept, Samantha Combs and Donna Galanti in Oct and oh so much more. Significant thanks to all of my writerly friends, fellow word-herders to borrow a phrase. After a single year of blogging, Writing Files has had more than 9K views, 290 comments, and almost a third of all traffic is from twitter. The remaining visits are courtesy of friend's blogs like Jami Gold, Michele Shaw and Jill Kemerer. After a year of Writing Files it's hard to imagine not being part of these communities, author platform or not.

Looking back at 2011 the easiest thing to say is that life happened. There were challenges, difficulties and there were triumphs, dreams that came true and plenty of adventure to be had.    

As I look toward the new year and know how much I have changed over this past year, it is clear that life dictates change. The first big change for the new year is actually going to be saying goodbye to Writing Files.  2012 will be the launch of the first novel in my series Nightfall, the new home for this composition needs to reflect more of the character of this piece but also focus my ramblings. As any composition, the theme needs to be unified. Writing Files is becoming The Surveillance Report next post.

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

That Holiday Feeling

Ferias Ex Machina….

As Christmas is only a few days away now traditional Holiday themes are inundating all narratives on all mediums but why?

In a traditional narrative whether it is still, sculpted, cinemagraphic or literary a composition is orchestrated in such a way as to draw the viewers into the piece. There is a level of intrigue as the thrill of uncertainty keeps the rapt attention of the audience. This is not the case for many 'Holiday' narratives.

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The majority of 'Holiday' narratives are composed with layers of positive themes; selflessness, family, change of heart, unconditional love and other similar themes.

While many narratives can utilize similar themes, Holiday compositions typically feature these themes at a relative superficial level. The dramatic twists and turns that otherwise would create a thrilling piece are sedate compared to traditional narratives. These narratives often rely on the Ferias Ex Machina. 

Ferias Ex Machina or "Holiday out of the machine" is where a seemingly unsolvable/inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object particularly in a 'Holiday' composition. These are where the characters will have a revelation, change of heart, a random bystander offers help because it is the season, etc.

In a traditional narrative composition, if the Ex Machina approach is used it makes for a superficial or failed piece by modern standards. So how is it acceptable for Holiday compositions?

Many narratives span extensive time periods either within the singular narrative or within a series and inevitably draw on the 'Holiday' themes. Much like a straightforward Holiday composition, the narratives fall to the same superficial level of device yet, since it is 'Holiday' themed it is generally accepted by the audience despite the Ferias Ex Machina approach.

What do you think? Is Ferias Ex Machina a suitable device for a holiday narrative or should a piece strive to be more than a 'Holiday' composition?

Merry Christmas….

Monday, December 12, 2011

Storyboarding Timelines

In any visual composition it's necessary to have a plan of action, a concept that needs to be visualized. Taking that concept to a realized piece requires that certain elements are available for production and the primary means are creating a timeline and storyboards.

It's not possible to produce the conceptualized piece if the material, the shots that are needed to realize the piece are not available.

Recently, I was reviewing my series outline that I had conjured making notes as time passed and I found that the series while conceptualized was missing a number of elements. It was apparent that with three separate timelines and the initial story in the background to contend with, it was fast becoming unmanageable. The outline just didn't fill in the blanks that I was looking for to make sure it was cohesive and not a random series of events. The outline just wasn't working.

Taking the issue out of the strictly literary realm and applying the cinematographers law- 'Storyboard It' the creative issues evaporated.

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The visual approach to storyboarding begins with understanding the full purpose of the storyboards, the intent, who will see them and how detailed they will need to be for those purposes. What many don't realize is how relatively easy it is to create storyboards especially for narrative. These are not going to be an amazing artwork but can be as rudimentary as stick figures so long as the notes are detailed and there is a rough sketch of a scene. The primary difference between using storyboards for cinematography and using the boards for a written narrative is strictly the tools used to create the piece.

After the purpose of the storyboards is established the key scenes are selected. Any composition, any story is a culmination of specific scenes. The largest benefit of creating these boards is the ability to manipulate them physically. It becomes strikingly apparent when the storyboards are actually tacked up on the wall what scenes work, how the pacing and narrative flow work in the composition. It also becomes apparent how the actual timeline will flow.

The timeline in my case, was actually creating the separate timelines stacked in a simple excel sheet. The stories become abundantly clear with dividing points clearly denoted for a series. After the initial timeline was stretched out, the storyboards for the entirety were orchestrated filling in all of the 'missing pieces' that were sadly lacking from the overstuffed outlines.

The composition timeline behaves much like any historic timeline, there are significant events that effect the narrative either directly or indirectly and these are recorded. It's designed to give perspective on the piece.

A narrative composition is an assemblage of elements and often keeping those elements in a cohesive order can become quite unwieldy especially if there are multiple narratives that are layered together for a series. Many techniques can be utilized to organize the concept but creating a timeline with detailed storyboards is easily one of the most efficient means.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Abstracting Layers

Depth, Dimension, Layers…

As a narrative piece is composed, one of the difficulties of framing a specific point as the subject of the narrative is establishing the sense of depth in the composition.

Often a visual composition will rely on layering to add a sense of depth and even time to the piece. A narrative composition can quite frequently utilize similar techniques to bring that composition into greater focus, bring it to life.

Adding depth to a narrative is achieved through layering interaction dynamics and narrative history.

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Interaction dynamics are the implied and explored relationships within the narrative. These can be the relationships between subjects or between subjects and setting. Implied relationships are not overt reactions between subjects but the secondary inferred relationships. In a visual sense the subjects would be juxtaposed to demonstrate hidden emotions or draw tension. These are quite common in romantic narratives as two subjects awkwardly avoid interactions.

The explored relationships are overt dynamics, emotions and interactions are direct. Visually there are direct correlations between subjects or subjects and setting. These can be further layered with different levels of emotions, interactions and relationships. All of these are typically the make new friends, adversaries and love interests subject interactions.

The interaction dynamics of both implied and explored relationships add layers to the composition, provide a sense of depth to the interactions.

A visual composition can frequently capture a still moment in time, but it can also appear flat and superficial. While in a narrative it is possible to convey a linear progression of time, like a visual composition it can also appear flat and superficial.

Through narrative history it is possible to layer a composition with additional depth and dimension. The composition demonstrates a history for the subjects through details of worn settings, memories of previous events and relationships built on events not within the composition.

As any visual composition becomes more interesting with layers of interaction dynamics and narrative history so to does a narrative composition. The flat one-dimensional take on a narrative timeline or strictly overt interactions leaves a flat, superficial image. Adding layers of interactions, history and detail together brings the piece to life.

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