Monday, October 01, 2007

Breaking Through Bloggers' Block

I've been experiencing the blog equivalent of writer's block lately: I come to, look at this blank box, think "Has anything in my life been interesting enough to write about lately?", then answer myself "Nah," and drift away. This despite the fact that I have been seeing, reading, and doing interesting things: I went home last week to Missouri, for instance -- six good days with my family, not to mention barbecue, cable TV, and a lot of sleep. I saw, in the space of a week, "Across the Universe," "The Bourne Ultimatum," Martha Graham's "Appalachian Spring," and most of the first season of "Arrested Development," all of which I loved.

("Across the Universe" especially is worth checking out -- though not for a complex plot or deep characterization, because it deals entirely in '60s archetypes. Rather you should see it for the visual richness of Julie Taymor's direction and the wonderful, wonderful Beatles music, including a gospel "Let It Be" and a slow, sweet "I Want to Hold Your Hand." This has been a great year for movie musicals, from the traditionalism of "Dreamgirls" and "High School Musical 2" to the realism of "Once" and now the magic realism of "Across the Universe" . . . Fingers crossed for an elegantly creepy "Sweeney Todd" in December.)

Oh, and also I read perhaps the best book on writing fiction I've ever read: Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card (lent to me by the excellent James). Card breaks down the different types of stories and their characterization needs; different degrees of characters and how to create them in balance with your plot; the strengths and weaknesses of first- and third-person voices; and gives lots of good advice on figuring out which kinds of characters and voices are most suited to your story. I was reading this in preparation for writing my character talk for next month's SCBWI-MO conference, and now the current plan for the talk is to open the book at random and read for half an hour, then take questions.* Highly, HIGHLY recommended.

And then -- I won back the Frog! Yes, the famous Killer Klein Croquet Frog has come home to my apartment in Brooklyn, just in time for the fall theatre season and the baseball playoffs. He is glad to be back, he says, and looking forward to "Cyrano de Bergerac" on Broadway and rooting for the Red Sox. Also, you can't get such good cockroaches in Missouri.**

So there are good things happening here, even if I'm not writing about them. Here's wishing amazing artistic experiences and small victories to all of you as well.

* Kidding. I think.
** Kidding. Thankfully.


  1. Cheryl,
    Funny, I just recommended that Orson Scott Card book to a sweet girl that I signed one of my books for last weekend. She's a budding writer. I also recommended the Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott - have you checked those out?

    Great blog - you'll get through the blog block, I'm sure!

    I'm also in SCBWI - good luck on your talk coming up!

    Kaza Kingsley
    Author of the Erec Rex series

  2. Glad to hear you liked Across the Universe...I really want to see that too!!

  3. The frog has returned to Brooklyn! You should let him blog occasionally.

  4. I do hope you will post your talk on characterization because that is what I am struggling with right now! Filling out those character questionnaires just don't make the characters feel real to me; my answers just seem arbitrary. I did have a little bit of a breakthrough reading the character descriptions of the characters on the Judy Moody website, but I'm still not there yet.

  5. A frog blog? Should a frog blog? If a frog could blog, a frog would blog that playing with a 3 year old would be infinitely more fun than any of the bugs in Missouri or New York!

    We talk a good game, but we sure can't play worth snot!

    Aunt Carol, spokesperson for the Iowa Kleins

  6. *laughs!* Its so great to just hear someone say "good things are happening here" :D

    have a great week!

    ps-I like the blog frog. Frog Blog. Blog frog...

  7. I have high hopes too (oh, please, God, please) for Sweeney Todd. <3

    Thank you for the encouraging words, Small Victories I take 'em where I can.

    I think that there are many lovely reasons to blog. Sharing the adventures of your life is always interesting. I love reading blogs written by people in different parts of the world, places where there is weather or different rhythms. Another good reason to blog is to share what you are thinking, what you have figured out in your one, unique life.

    I also blog for advice. It’s so nice to have your own group of friends that you can bounce ideas or ask for solutions about things. I recently blogged about a situation my kid was having with a bully at school and got a dozen suggestions right back.

    So blog away. Know that you are making the world a better, more interesting place.


  8. See, the thing about Julie Taymor that continues to annoy me is that she continually does awesome visiaul things, is great with the splash and sound, but consistently ignores character development and deep meanings, etc. Huge productions all around are thrown at her feet because she can make them look stunning but I've never seen something of hers that didn't make me come out humming the scenery. Everything of hers is, 'man, that was beautiful,' not, 'man, that was awesome.' I think she's past being too new to this business not to get that, and should grow a bit.

    But I still want to see the film obviously :)


  9. They have Martha Graham in Appalachian Spring on film? WOW. How come I never knew about it before! How dare they keep these things from me! I'm getting a copy.

    Glad Missouri's been good to you. You got out of here before the temps hit 90. I had to turn on the AC for a little bit today. It was weird.

    Generally I get on my blog and cuss, but I understand that's not an option for everybody.

  10. Hey Cheryl,

    I accidentally put my last name in my comment to you on your birthday post. Would you mind deleting it, ah.. for plain ol' safety reasons?

  11. By the way! How's Bram Stoker? I've been thinking about reading it.