Sunday, November 15, 2009

are we all just stereotypes?

So I went to a writing workshop over the weekend. Great session, but I noticed something: even though I'd never previously met my fellow classmates, I felt like I'd seen most of them around before. And then I wondered, Are they all thinking the same thing about me? Do I fall into a category of people who tend to take writing classes? On further introspection, I realized, Well, yeah. I guess I probably do! I'm not telling which category, since it doesn't matter, because one thing I've learned from all those classes? Every "type" is inclusive, housing a range of talent. No way to know, until you hear a sample of their work, whose writing has the most potential.

Anyway, please, no one get mad, since this is meant to be all in fun, but here are what I like to think of as the Writing Class Archetypes:

1. The Crazy Lady--If you don't pick her out right away by her random, seemingly self-inflicted haircut, you'll know her when she speaks up, often, in an extremely loud voice. The things she says will meander off topic, and she'll try to monopolize class time with her voice, often trying to hijack the instructor's lesson with her own agenda.

2. The Perfectionist--Always on time to class, her hair is perfect, her outfit is spotless, and her body is probably just this side of anorexic. She often has a journalism background and takes extremely detailed notes.

3. The Disillusioned Attorney--Male or female, this person sometimes shows up to class in a suit, but even if s/he had time to go home and change before class, you'll know them by their conservative hairstyle, expensive shoes, and quality watch. Their work samples tend to feature characters who are attorneys, as well.

4. The Ingenue--This girl is only sixteen or seventeen. She may still have pimples, but she's been writing full-length novels since she was twelve. The rest of the class is secretly jealous. No one talks to her at break.

5. The Bored Housewife--With a diamond on her finger and a luxury SUV in the parking lot, this woman usually sits in the front row. Pretty quickly, the rest of the class gets fed up with her always being the one who volunteers to go first or answer the instructor's questions.

6. Eager Gay Guy--Handsome, eloquent, and well-dressed, he's the life of the party and the teacher's pet. The rest of the class either wants to sit next to him and be his best friend or ignore him because he's getting too much attention.

7. Jr. Career Girl--She's single, still in her 20s, climbing the corporate ladder, taking a writing class to broaden her horizons/enrich herself. Her stories include lots of sex but she often skips class. Unless she has a crush on one of her classmates.

8. Elder States(wo)man--Every class seems to have at least one senior citizen. Friendly folks who'll chat with you in line for coffee on break, they're usually intent on writing a memoir.

9. Looks the Part--Both sexes wear black-frame glasses, quasi-bohemian clothing, a messenger bag, and a deliberate haircut/color. Males of the species may sport a soul patch, while females tend to have their noses pierced.

10. The Outdoorsman--From his full beard down to his Teva sandals, all this guy's clothes were probably purchased at REI or A16. He might have a slight sunburn since he just got back from a Sierra trek. Between classes, he goes rock climbing and hang gliding. Nature is featured so prominently in his stories, it's pretty much a character.

11. The Beautiful Overweight Girl with Gorgeous Long Hair--Quiet and sweet, she usually sits in the back of the room. Tends to write fantasy.

12. Transient Artist in Residence--For this person, writing is only the latest in a long string of artistic endeavors. At some point in the quarter, s/he will probably pass out flyers for their latest watercolor exhibit or their band's next show. Instead of having a novel/story/article completed (even if it's a prerequisite for the class), this person will "have one in their head," which is why they felt the need to take the course.

And then there are the people who defy categorization, or who straddle more than one stereotype. But like I said--it doesn't matter which category we fall into, since ultimately, it all comes down to the pages.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

past vs. present tense

I think I stress over this way too much. Of course, could be a make or break issue in terms of editorial taste, hence the stress.

Benefits of past tense:

1. Friendliness in feel, whereas present can seem aloof.

2. Closeness to narrator. For some reason, stories told in past seem more intimate. Present tense can make a story sound detached.

3. Tradition... [cue song from Fiddler on the Roof]. Tradition!

Benefits of present tense:

1. Immediacy of story--no one knows how things are going to turn out because it hasn't yet happened.

2. Detachment from painful material. Like, are the emotions too raw? Too hurtful to deal with? Present can be an emotional filter of sorts.

3. Seriousness of tone. Some people think serious subjects should only be dealt with in a more literary voice. Present tense is not "airy" or "light."

Still haven't completely made up my mind. I was writing the new story in present, but I'm thinking about switching over since the theme's so edgy. Yes, this kind of contradicts what I've argued above, but the main character does something in the story a lot of people will find unsympathetic, so I want to make her as close and likable to the reader as possible. That way, maybe the reader won't be too quick to judge her actions.