Author Archives: Jasper Z

On Poetry.

Status: So tired, and yet – work beckons.

In the interests of getting back to some really complicated notes on conversational implicature, I shall keep this post pretty short.

Poetry is a form of creative expression that I’m not too familiar with. While I do write poetry, I maintain that my writing is far stronger than my poetry. I am by no means a bereft person – my mind works in whole sentences, and that tends to bleed into my writing. A friend of mine, whom had read some of my poetry, tells me that my poetry reads like prose. Which of course, isn’t a bad thing – I like that. But my point is: I’m not a poetry type of person.

My general thoughts on poetry are this: I love the style and form of a poem – those who work within the constraints of form to achieve beauty are those who gain the most of my respect. I love rhyme scheme, I love meter, I love dazzling imagery, I love beautiful metaphors.

But most of all, I think one of the most interesting things about poetry is that it is able to pack so much into a few lines. In many ways, poetry sustains the imagination through the lines, building up things from the barest of details, yet leaving you satiated.

Poetry, to me, is rather much like a study in construction and architecture. A good poem considers every word and builds up the mood from the form. While in writing, my belief is that you have a lot more space to play with, and therefore can be more loose in your words (there is after all, a limit to how much a reader can take in before they give up), poetry doesn’t have that luxury. Poetry packs density like sardines into a tin – and that is one of the most admirable parts of a poem.

Of course, I do believe that poetry can come in all forms and sizes, but hey — this post is just an opinion piece, and I should end off before I get too into the idea of writing a ten thousand word poem right now.

To end off – a poem I wrote, a rather long time ago.

Cast aside once novelty wears
Beware, heart of mine. Beware!
Shut yourself behind closed doors and
Let no one in ne’ermore.

There is no prize for rotten judgement,
In fact, there is none at all.
So beware Heart, beware ‘gainst Love,
Beware the lying, silver-tongued dove.

Hide your soul, hide the joy you feel.
Shroud it behind a gauzy veil.
Give no one the key to your heart.
Do not be stung by fiery darts.

I hope you don’t get hurt like me,
And so I hope you will see.
This key is yours, as is the veil.
Choose wisely what you want to feel.

Jasper


Fanfiction and Other Thingamajigs

Status: I am not in a healthy place at all right now, and so I’m going to keep this short. I’d apologise but I’m not sorry.

Fanfiction is fun. Created by fans, for fans, fanfiction is generally kept out of the public eye, except in certain cases where they gain widespread fame. Regarded as esoteric, possibly, it is hard for people to accept fanfiction, unless you are inside the community.

Fanfiction has its own set of rules and lexical terms. Take for example “broh 20k pwp harry potter crossover”. People probably won’t understand what that means unless they’ve spent time in fandom, and understand what is going on. For people like me, and the seasoned fan, this would /probably/ be easy stuff to decipher. Interesting? Interesting.

As a writer with the hopes to publish, I would personally be slightly uncomfortable with people making fanfiction of my characters, but I would be flattered. In fact, I would allow fanfiction (just keep it classy, folks). The only thing is that I wouldn’t be able to read it, seeing as that would open up a whole host of issues regarding copyrights and other rights that take too much research for me to care about but I know is Not-Good-For-Brain.

But as a fanfiction writer myself, I would say that fanfiction is an amazing creation that has a strong community. I don’t publish fanfiction often – but I do like it. I spend a lot of time reading fanfiction, and from it I derive great pleasure.

I do believe that as a writer, I can improve a lot from writing fanfiction and establishing myself as a writer with people who would be willing to take a chance and read my work, and tell me whether it is worth reading. And to be frank, fanfiction is such a large topic we would hardly be able to cover it even if we tried. So I’m just going to stop here, making a few broad observations on fanfiction as it is, from a few perspectives. I do hope I can make better content for you all in a fortnight’s time.

Jasper.


The Marshland of Middle-land

Status: I’m doped up on medicine and I’m really tired. Oh well, here we go!

The middle of the novel, or rather, of anything, is one of the most tedious portions of the story. Though I personally find that the middle is rather tough, but not as tough as making the perfect beginning – a thing I have chronic problems with, the middle is a pretty formidable foe that has caused many an author to toss in the towel, and give up.

Which leads me to this – what is so scary of the middle?

For me, the middle is hard because you don’t know exactly what is going on. When I write my novels, the middle is the largest portion that is unplotted, especially if I’m pantsing a novel. Yet, the middle is also the place where most of the fun stuff in my novels go, because characters grow, they fall in love, they are killed, they are reborn all in the middle. The middle is where you have the greatest liberty and freedom to do anything you wish. The only problem is figuring out what you want to do.

The middle is a daunting passage of which many people give up on because they cannot tell when it might end. In fact, the fact that the middle even exists turns off many prospective writers. “How will I even reach the end?” Some will lament.

You reach the end by writing, I reply.

There really is no other way to reach the end but by writing onwards. Press onwards, and when you reach the end then you can look back and then chart the route you have made. Sure, it may seem inelegant and indulgent – but the first draft is always inelegant, ugly, and crude. It is only when you see the tracks you have made in the middle that you know where you can improve. And so, one of the biggest ways that helps you to get through the middle is to never look at the ending.

That’s right. You just go into the novel every day, you just sit yourself down, and keep writing. Just keep writing, just keep getting your characters to move onwards, to press forth, and eventually you will reach the end. It will surprise you, that sometimes the ending might come at that point, but the important thing to note is that the ending arrived while you were not focusing on it.

I’m keeping to a commitment myself to write a few hundred words a day on this fanfiction, and though I can guess at how the ending will be, the middle looms before me. And thusly, I cast aside my thoughts of the end, and focus on the middle. I plan for the present, I work for the present, and I shall be ever more surprised when the ending comes to me. The middle is nothing to be afraid of when you put your mind to it and work through it in sustainable bites and pieces.

Every journey begins with a single step, and the middle fits with this idea. To get through the middle, you take that step, and you keep forcing one foot in front of the other till you get to the end.

It’s really that simple. Give it a shot!

Jas


Frenzied Direction

Status: I’m so so tired. Exhaustion is like a drug right now, and all I want to do is die in my seat.

Hello ladies and gents and persons of dubious quality. For me, the first day of Screnzy is just about to end in about one hour, and I’ve gotten myself no work done whatsoever. But I’m here to tell you all about my Screnzy experiences last year, and what I learnt from them.

Screnzy, as the name implies, is all about the script. Scriptwriting is something that is very different in terms of style from poetry and prose. It is about direction – it is about what we can see and what we can hear. In fact, if we were to look at Scriptwriting, the biggest adjustment one has to make in transition from prose to script is the fact that you are not in your character’s head anymore.

Nope, na-uh. Not a single bit. All your emotions, all your plans, they must now center around the actions and words of your characters. Rather than allowing us to sink directly into the character’s mind, one must give us a glimpse (but a worthy glimpse I must add) of the character’s mind. Of the character’s motivation, their tics and body behaviours, of their carriage.

But is that to say that script writing is harder? I don’t necessarily think so.

When it comes to script-writing, I find it intensely refreshing that I don’t have to worry about my writing style. To me, script is a directive play, one where I direct the story in my head in the form of a motion picture. I can see what my characters do, and I speculate on their actions about their motivations. Scenery is no problem either now – I love to write about scenery and how it interacts with the character. In script writing, I can do that. Stripped down to it’s barest bones, you are allowed to think visually rather than in word form, and this is a major plus if you are a visual thinker like me in many senses of the word.

I am a great lover of broadway. I love to watch plays which are focused on the nuances of the physical realm. Of the little shifts and movements, of the minute expressions of the face (brought to exaggeration, or minimised for effect). Were I rich, I’d probably watch plays all the time. Musicals are a particular soft spot of mine – I have always found broadway musicals to have some of the most lovely arrangements there are. And I bring this abiding love of the screen down to my writing when I attempt Screnzy, and I must add – it is far easier for me to complete a 100 page script than to complete a 50000 word novel!

As Raven said, if you want to consider script-writing a venture that you want to take seriously, please do your homework and find out terms that you must use in your script. Terms like cold open and mise en scene are going to be your bread and butter now. But if you’re like me, and you want to just dilly-dally around with a story, a game, or a movie – then just jump headfirst in. Enjoy the ride, have fun with your work. I know some of my favourite writers participate in Screnzy too (a casual shoutout to Diane Duane won’t hurt), and just imagining that I’m working with them to the same goal is reward enough for me.

Enjoy your Screnzy guys. Have fun, and don’t forget to be awesome.

Jas


Ye Of Little Opinion, fsdajkblkjzdv.

Status: Ignore my title. I’m weird.

Why hello there everyone. I had no clue I was posting this week, but apparently according to other people, well. I actually was supposed to post this ages ago. So in a horribly belated attempt to reconcile my horrible, horrible mistake, I shall write you this post while I’m exhausted after playing basketball for about 3 hours.

We’re covering controversial topics for these two weeks, and boy oh boy, I suppose I’m no stranger to them. When I debate pops up in an area, I can simply wade into the debate, swinging left, right, and centre. I can’t tell why I do it sometimes, but it just bursts out of me. Which is confusing, and largely involuntary. I know, it sounds like I need help. But no, I’m not going to seek any. So there.

In the past few years, where I’ve gotten into such debates, I’ve been opened up to many opinions, many different sides of the issues, and I believe that I’ve learnt a couple of important lessons along the way. One is to have a tough skin, of course. But since this is about putting controversial topics in the spotlight in your work, let’s get to work.

So you want to tackle a controversial topic? What do you need to do? Here are some things you should do before you put your opinion out there.

1 – Be ready for opponents to your opinion. Why? Because there will always be people who will oppose your opinion. In fact, your closest friends might hold a completely different opinion from you, and you might feel uncomfortable putting your opinion on your work. The moot point? Expect people to challenge you on your opinion, expect people to hate you for your opinion. If you aren’t ready for people to not like your work, or to alienate a portion of your potential reader base (which begets the question, why do you even deal with potential rather than hard statistics), then do not place your opinion in your work.

2 – Do your research, make sure your arguments stand. I cannot stress this enough. There are many reasons why people oppose, say, separation of church and state, or support it. If you want to make a stand, do so with pride. But make sure your reasons for it are expressed without holes that could sink your ship the moment another well-educated, well-researched person comes along. You have to know how to defend your opinions, you have to not get involved emotionally and let your emotions alter and colour your stance. Passion is one thing, but you have to rein it in when you respond.

3 – Choose your battles wisely. You can never fight all your battles. You cannot hold on so many fronts. Remember, you are one person against the world. Personally, I’m sick and tired of people crying reverse-racism and saying that they aren’t homophobes when they are. I’m tired of being Asian and being judged for it, I’m tired of things that I have to fight everyday. It’s not a glamourous business, to work on the front-lines of debates. It is exhausting, tiring, absolutely disenchanting work. It exposes so many horrible sides of people, and you might ruin a friendship or two in the process. If you need time to rest up, go get it. Choose your battles. Block people from leaving you hate. Get support, get friends to help you in your fight. Remember: Once your opinion is out there, defend it with pride. There is no turning back.

4 – Some people are not to be treated with respect. While my friend Raven believes that everyone should be treated with respect, and that you should rein in your opinions, here is what I think – my controversial opinion, if you will. Some people are just not worth your respect. A person who comes to you with hate should not be treated with tact and grace. There is no reason for a stranger to expect that from you, there is no reason for you to play the better person all the time. You are human, you can get frustrated. Your feelings matter. There is a line to be drawn when there are people who mindlessly hate on people especially with no  logical, sound reasoning whatsoever. In which case, I take vindicative pleasure in responding with anger, passion, and rage.

A writer’s words are used like flensing knives, after all. Precise, sharp, deadly. To hit in all the right places. Where it will hurt the most.

5 – I cannot stress it enough. Once it is out there, it is out there. Always be 100% ready to deal with the support/criticism/hate that your opinion will garner. If you have any doubts whatsoever about your opinion, do not hit that post button.

And that’s about it.

Regards,
Jas


Assignations and Assassinations. Hate assignments? You’re not alone.

Status: Seeing as I don’t know when I might have time again to get to work, I’ll be getting onto this first. If I have time, I’ll come back to edit it again. If not, we’ll just deal with this as it is.

Dear Reader,

Assignments and writing as your heart desires. One so confined, the other defined by the limits of your imagination. One where you have to play the to the tune of a tutor and teacher, the other almost a waltz through the page. One where you are worried about the grades, and the other worried about what you can bring, and whether you can impress others (and most importantly, yourself). It really is kind of hard to look at assignments and at the freedom of writing without immediately dismissing the former.

But sometimes, you have to take a stand. And my stand?

I toss the assignments out onto a trash heap, and immolate them in a flash of fire.

If you can’t tell, I hate writing for assignments.

As I have mentioned many times and will probably mention again and again, unlike my esteemed colleagues on the Silver Pens blog, I reside within the continent of Asia – which is also known as the continent of schooling powerhouses. Students in many countries in Asia (Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and China come to mind almost instantly) are subjected to intense drilling. And by intense I mean intense. It isn’t rare for a student of my age to complain of waking up at six in the morning and subsequently staying in school till six or seven.

((Just as a personal example, I run a schedule of waking up at five-thirty in the morning and don’t begin the journey home till four or five at the earliest. By the time I reach home, it is already late, and I rush a dinner before drowning myself in paperwork and studies. Worse still are the days where I only leave school at six. I effectively devote more than twelve hours of my day to school.))

And with my personal experience with how people are taught English in my country’s education system? It is one that has largely failed.

When one engages in essays that are narrative in nature, that requires you to learn through experience and a feel (or flair) for words, the grading system that is used cannot be rigid and inflexible. Creativity cannot be taught as easily as mechanics, and this is one of the largest reasons why I am critical of the Asian-model of schooling. With a policy that emphasises mechanics and accords little leeway for creative interpretation, writing as a whole within our system has failed. Many of my peers, and younger students, have become afraid to write what they want, and automatically censor themselves. Worse still, they throw themselves at articles, idioms, and dry  books that ‘guarantee’ that with a ‘method’, one will score an A.

I have nothing but disdain for that. Because that is not learning how to write, that is merely learning how to circumvent a system that is unfortunately, highly mechanised, and thusly unable to foster a creative spirit within students.

While I of course, do believe strongly in absorbing content through reading widely and deeply, I still however hold deep reservations with regards to forms of writing that require creativity as a criteria for evaluation. A cursory check on the goals of the Ministry that oversees education would reveal that overseers are concerned with ‘how can we do better’, with little to no debate by what we mean by ‘creative writing’. And this is what I feel about education as a whole – that the Ministry is not concerned with creativity, but rather with mechanics.

Logic, form, arguments can all be taught. In fact, language itself can be osmosed if one reads regularly and engages in consistent and intelligent conversation with others. Achieving mastery of a language and its various technicalities is simple – it is the creativity that comes along with it that is the defining characteristic which separates a good writer from a great one. And great thinkers are sadly lacking within our society, whose alarmist tendencies and policies tend to stifle creative expression, commonly seeing it as an avenue that can encourage dissent. How sad, isn’t it.

My main problem with assignments? It’s that it replaces the determination to be creative and instead confines us – replacing our self-determined goals with the threshold of marks.

Some writers, myself included, write because we want to. We don’t commonly write serious posts like these, or publish gloomy editorials every other week. I can be informative at times, but sometimes I write for a laugh, sometimes I write things that I feel like writing. Sometimes, I write because I want to surprise a friend with a gift, and sometimes I write because I want to share my view of the world with others. These are goals I set myself, these are goals that I’m willing to work for and to apply myself to, these are goals that are flexible and have no set criteria.

While assignments have a set number of rules and have their merits, such as for a teacher to check in on a student’s grasp of content and therefore troubleshoot what is there needed to cover once more, or for students to gain an extra perspective on how their writing could improve, but certain areas of writing simply cannot do with such a mechanical and inflexible grading system. And though I note that certain persons will not be suited for narrative and creative writing because of the level of their writing, I will however reserve my opinion that writing and the concept of creative writing and how it factors into grading and assignments must be overhauled.

Assignments? I loathe them with a passion. Give me creativity to write, and I will show you the world.

Jas


Inspiration, a finicky little thing.

Status: I’m nursing a cold, complaining about it a lot, and also missing friends dearly. I feel like once I get better, I should get out more often.

Dear reader, we’re covering inspiration this week. Inspiration is a finicky thing, which can either spur you to work with great enthusiasm, or it can leave you completely cold, with words pouring out of you at the rate of molasses. Inspiration is like luck’s cousin twice removed. Both however, notoriously hard to pin.

Inspiration is a great way to start your story. The best stories, for me that is, are those that come with that blast of ‘aha!’. Inspiration can come in the form of an idea, or in the form of a movie. Or it may present itself in a character that must tell an idea, or it may simply be a line. In each case, it is essential for me to strike while the iron is hot. If it is a long story, it is important to define the boundaries of the idea and write it down, and write things about that story that will keep me interested in it. What twist, what revelation will make me want to keep going? If it is a short story, I better form the tone of the story, note it down, and write the first hundred words. And if it is a character, I ask the character what he/she/ze wants me to speak about.

In many ways, inspiration is seizing the moment as it comes, and building from there. Inspiration burns out quickly, and it never stays around long. To say that it does is to me, kind of foolish. Story ideas drift away quickly, and it is important that you make a note for it. Capture that feeling of it. Opportunity presents, you should hit it and pin it down so that even if you are still writing something else, you have it down in writing as it is. Captive till it dies or till you turn your regard upon it.

I am not a firm believer of working when I’m inspired. When I write, it is always tough work, and I never wait around for the words to present themselves. I go out and hunt them down and drag them kicking and screaming onto the page. Once in a while, a project stalls completely, and I put it aside. But never have I waited for the ‘right moment’, as it were. However, there are small things I do, to get the words flowing. But that’s not really inspiration, isn’t it. It’s motivation.

Inspiration. The first spark, the nascent potential. Where do you find it? For me, it comes to me at the strangest times. I find it best when I’m actively quiet, taming my thoughts and actively not occupying my mind with distractions. It comes to me when I see a picture, or when someone presents me with an idea. It comes to me when I see a word, or I read an article about an issue that I feel strongly about.

But the thing is, inspiration strikes me most when I’m on fire for something. Inspiration hits me when I’m emotional. When I think about something and I think ‘That would be a great idea.’. That’s inspiration. Sometimes, that idea comes strong and hard hitting, with a chilling beauty and irony. Those normally go to my short story series, The Silent Scythe. And other times, they’re absolutely random and whimsical. I don’t know when they strike, but it might be a sentence. It might be a concept. I keep a small notebook that I jot them down in. Because from there, that small seed may birth forth a story that is worth telling.

So, what gets you working? What makes you inspired? For me, it is to read widely, and to think creatively. Thinking is a skill you have to refine. Not everyone thinks creatively, in fact it is hard to cultivate. I surround myself with art, I constantly examine stories and debate with people on them. I tinker around with drawing and photography because they’re avenues for creativity when the words don’t come to me. Helping myself create constantly is a great tool to find inspiration, in the best of ways.

What other things besides writing do you do to be creative? And how do your ideas come to you? Look to that.

With random regards,
Jas.