Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Craft Macaroni and Cheese

As I approach the end of my undergrad career, I've had a lot of time to think back over the past few years. First, let me say I am theater major--I live to analyze the human condition. No seriously, it's what I've been trained to do. After many weeks of self reflection, I have come to the following conclusion: acting or costume design (my concentration) offers on the surface something that seems to be "easy" but when cracked open is as complicated and as nuanced as a business degree.

I mean how hard is it to come up with clothing for people to wear?

How hard is it to write a book--you all remember how that one went? Right, I think I've made my point.

The point being these things seem simple, but as we dig into them we find so many complexities. In costuming there is color, texture, fabric, silhouette, period, interpretation. And within each of those even more subsections and theories. How does colors affect mood? I can't remember the number of times I've sat through a lesson on color theory or perhaps worse the psychology of color. Green makes people look sick, red is rage or romance, blue sad.... Then they cross over, for example if you choose a twill fabric suddenly your silhouette is affected. You have to be aware of these bits in order to put together awesome costumes.

Similarly, you need to learn the craft of writing in order to be a better writer.

Could I have entered the theater world without a college degree--sure, but that doesn't mean I can ignore this pesky little thing called craft.

When I first sat down to take a writing class, I thought I was hot stuff. This writing thing, it was soooo simple. You sit and type stuff out on a page--right cause that's difficult. Now, do not mistake me, I had been a fanfiction writer for a number of years. I'd sort of paid attention to character development, but mostly I thought I didn't need any of that. I knew it all because I had been an avid reader as a child and well still am as an adult.

My first writing class pointed out my severe lack of knowledge in my own discipline.

Plot, character development, dialog, point of view, and theme. At first glance each seems relatively simple. Plot--please that's what happens--DUH. Character development--uh characters aren't stagnant, hheeelllllooo! But well built plots are not just plucked from thin air. They come from well developed characters who have a point of view, who also speak....uh-oh. Now we're running into all kinds of connections.

I've taken about four writing classes. One through my University, and three through a local writing center. I've learned to develop a thick skin, especially when editors are looking at your work. I've learned how to read like a writer--yah there's a difference between reading and reading like a writer. But more importantly, I've learned about the art of writing.

Where to begin stories. How to talk about what is missing without saying...uhhh this sucks. I can now politely tell you why that specific point in your story is not working for me. I've learned sooo much about narration and point of view. My first class taught me how my story was not a first person story, but others have honed my tight third. The list is endless, but the one thing remains constant: my writing gets better the more I learn.

Craft is there for a reason, so reach out for it with both hands. Accept some of it and break other bits. I mean Suzanne Collins totally threw the "no flashbacks until chapter three" out the window, and look how she did.

So now to include the rest of the title in this post, an understanding of craft, can help you add a little macaroni to your writing. Ohh double meanings of words they are great for creating cheesy-ness.

Okay I'm done. Oh wait no there's a question: How do you take your craft? --Er--How do you learn your craft?

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