Dreaming in Tennessee

Anecdotes, general musings, and registered work from a wannabe.

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Location: Nashville, Tennessee, United States

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire II

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire, Part Deux
Pants on Fire: The Ending
Pants on Fire Ends
My Pants Are on Fire Again
My Pants Are Still Burning
(Wow, I don't care how you word it, sequel titles sound like shit. Or am I just randy?)

Oh, well, on to the real blog:

Note: This is not the standard disclaimer. While I am not yet a paid writer, this is good advice. If you don't take it, ok. (shrugs) I'm not your Mommy. & if you do take the advice & still produce crap, don't blame me. You put the ink to paper.

I just said on Saturday that I wouldn't be giving out any screenwriting advice on here. Yet, here I am, barely 24 hours later, pounding out writing advice to anyone who'll listen. Sure, it's general writing advice, but come on. I don't comment on "general" writing blogs, so this advice is directed towards the screenwriting side of the scribosphere & you should all know it.

On Saturday, after that post, I read John Donald Carlucci's blog about a problem with his RomCom. He's writing it, pretty much, based on a true-life event & it's not working. He asked for advice from those who have been there & I put my ha'penny in.

When it comes to poetry or short-stories (cannot say for sure on screenplays as I haven't tried it yet, but I assume so), I never write well about a subject that is too close, timewise, or taken directly from my life. Unless I change something about it. (I'm ging to use my previous poetry posts on here as examples; you might want to read them if you're actully going to read about them. The 1st is under the post "Will They Ever Learn?" and the others are under "The Rat's Star." If you've read the other posts, you know I am a coding idot & have no idea how to create links to different parts of a page.)


"Terrorists: Beware" - This was written just after I read about the second wave of attacks in London last Thursday. The message is stated too obviously to be moving & my multiple slaps to your face only numbs the experience. Note: I will rewrite this after I have gained a bit of emotional distance. & I have a feeling it will work better as an iambic pentameter, but, man, I suck at rhyming.


"barely breathing" - This was originally written exactly as it happened, right after it happened. Here it is, for your reading horror:

That's Life, Death, Me

The seaside is very calming
When looked at and listened to
Inside of a quiet car.
My father, the macho, vulnerable
Man that he is, is driving
On the beautiful ocean road.
My mother is sitting in the
Passenger seat, squeezing his hand.
Behind her, my younger sister
sits singing to the radio,
Briefly forgetting what is to come.

I guess that's life.

We're there.
Here we are.
All peaceful.
Just seeing my grandfather at the morgue.

We tread in through the glass door.
Glass is always so fragile.
What could be better than a warm
Greeting by a nice, tall lady.
She should really dye her hair again.
The roots are showing.
Yes, of course, everyone is going to see
The body.
A separate viewing room is always

We parade into the small,
Dark viewing room.
Peering through the thick glass,
We see my dead grandfather.
Too bad he wasn't yet emblamed.
The cold, bluish haze before me
Did nothing. To the disturbance. To me.

Guess that's death.

Weeping is an awful sound.
I turn to my living family.
Seeing tear-strained faces
Openly uncontrolled
Is even worse.
My father is a blur of tears.
My mother is a blur of tears.
My sisters are a blur of tears.
I turn back to the glass mirror.
I am nothing.

That's me.

Surprising, no? (& creepy, too, yes?) The two seem to have nothing in common. Yet, a year later, I reread the original & started to write this poem.

in my dreams

in my dreams,
i walk to your gravesite.
i stand there, waiting,
wishing, hoping, to feel
something, but i cannot.
i know you are not there.

I changed it, allowing myself to imagine what it would've been like if I had been there. But that change wasn't enough. I could not make myself go on. Stumped, I reread what I had just written & realized it sounded like a love poem. No, I thought, it would sound better as a love poem. Here is the 3rd version.

wherever you are

i walked to your gravesite tonight.
i saw the pale-face moon
as he darted behind a sunken cloud
to get away from my scowl.
he had no right to be there.

i stood for the longest time,
covered by the shadows of the night.
knowing you couldn't see me. or feel me.
knowing it was just a hole where your ashes
resided. knowing you weren't really there.

so i stood.

and wondered why.
why i was staring down at a grey marker,
scratched with oh, so endearing words.
why your ashes were imprisoned in stone,
when they could have been cast into the wind
to whisper forever among the chorusing birds
and comforting willow trees.
telling them of our secrets.
telling them of the time when we lay
in your parents' bed and you held
me so tightly i could barely breathe,
and, as i pressed my body next to yours,
you carefully caressed my cheek with your chin.

but soon i felt the steady teardrops
of rain, bringing me back from my safe memories.
and i knew it was my turn, this time,
to leave.

so i came back here.
to our sky-blue room.
kneeling beside our bed,
encased with sheets crying out
for a wash and knowing it's not coming.
talking to you now,
wherever you are.

i just want you to know that i miss

i miss you.

The nature of the relationship, the exact circumstances (my grandpa was buried, not cremated), & the outcome are all "lies." Yet, these changes allow me to express my true feelings of loss more completely than the "absolute truth" ever could have. Note: Even if you don't like the final version, you must admit it is better that the 1st. Must, I say!


"He Is" - The final version is actually the only version. While in college, I gave it to an evangelical friend of mine studying to be a foreign missionary &, when she looked up with tears, I decided never to change it. Then how does this conform to my advice? I'm an atheiest/agnostic, as I was when I wrote it. (I've gone back and forth, coming to the conclusion that I don't really care.) This poem came from a poetry class where the assignment was to write after reading another peom in our books. Every time I tried to write a poem from one that had moved me, I couldn't. The experience was too fresh for me. & I felt like even an "homage" was not better than the original, so why do it? Then I read Sexton's poem, felt mostly "of course, that's how I would feel" & asked myself what here friend would have written back. That's the heart of the poem, the friend's POV, not mine.


"denial" - There was only one rewrite on this one, but the final is very much like the original. The POV is mine. It is from a "love" relationship. They were both friends of mine. They did get married. I wrote it only 6 months after the wedding. The difference? I never went. I was invited, yes, but woke up too late & missed it. (It was at 2 pm. My normal wake-up time was around 7 am at that point in my life. The night before I had been drinking with friends, got back in the very early morning, and somehow forgot to set my alarm. - hmmm) Anyway, here is the 1st version.

i laughed

i laughed.

i laughed when i saw
how crazy you two
were acting, how you
shoved the first piece
of the cake
into each other's
light-filled faces.
how you chased
one another around
the room pretending
you didn't want
to be near each other.

i smiled.

i smiled when i saw
you dancing the waltz
together. the dance you
had decided you
would take lessons
for this occasion,
when you know you
have two left feet.
and when you kissed
so gently and stared
deep, deep
into each other's eyes
knowing you were
within reach of forever.

i cried.

i cried when i came home
and saw a faded
picture of us, holding
hands and smiling
because we were

i cried.

I think you can tell it was still too close. Luckily, I wrote this one too for a poetry class & I happened to get a great teacher, with some awesome notes.

If you can write your own true-life event already (without sacrificing "emotional truth" for "absolute truth"), more power to you. If you can't, change something. POV, circumstances, outcome, actual reltionship, characteristics of the pro/antagonist, etc. . . It doesn't matter. Just change something.

& if that doesn't work, change something else.


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