Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Dreamt I attended a screening in a very large outdoor amphitheater of a newly unearthed work print of an unfinished _Lord of the Rings_ movie filmed in the late ’60s… and it was AWFUL. In order to appeal to the fucking hippies, the filmmakers removed Tom Bombadil and replaced him with some fucking longhair named “John the Bard” who looked like one of the Bugaloos and who sang groovy songs no doubt intended move lotsa units of the eventual soundtrack album. Groovy. The breaking point at which everyone got up and left en masse was when our heroes reached The Prancing Pony, and among the Hobbits there, in extra special cameo roles, were Liz Taylor and Richard Burton.

Really.

 

 

 

Yesterday, I bought a new fountain pen: a Lamy Extra Fine Safari in Charcoal Grey and some fresh bottles of ink (in the classic colors of blue, black, and blue/black). Yes, much in the way that Veronica in the Archie comics will feel better about the world when she impulsively buys shoes, I feel better when I impulsively buy stationery and pens. (Worth noting: on the Archie-inspired TV show Riverdale this week, Veronica mentioned using a Mont Blanc.)

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When I got home, I broke in the pen by working on a scene in the novel I’m working on, A Choir of Exiles, on my favorite kind of paper, old accountant ledgers.

 

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Why old accountant ledgers? I wrote about that here.

Though I should say that these aren’t old accountant ledgers, anymore. I took the truly old ledgers to a print shop and had them make me a box of new tablets to the exact specs of the old sheets on which I first started writing fiction when I was a scrawny teen in the late 1970s/ early 1980s who looked like this (pretentious beard and all):

High School Pic 1

And why fountain pens? I wrote about that here.

Here’s the current pile of A Choir of Exiles sheets I’ve been writing on said ledgers with said fountain pens, next to a bottle of absinthe for scale and to show that I’m still pretentious.

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But something occurred to me this morning… I never really thanked the person who introduced me to the joys of writing with a fountain pen, as opposed to the shitty ballpoints on which I’d learned to write cursive.

Anne Lindberg was a friend from college whom I’ve not seen in 31 years. Back then, I was busting my ass to to get a degree in History and Medieval Studies, taking a heavy load of classes that were very lecture-focused. Scribbling notes in ugly ballpoint (and sometimes felt-tip) while seated in those horrible plastic desks/chair hybrids took up most of my time. While we were hanging out in Anne’s dorm room one night, she gave me a fountain pen. Now, it was one of those basically disposable Sheaffer jobs that cost (as I recall) $2.95 back then, but I thought it was one of the most miraculous things I’d ever used. I couldn’t believe how the thing just skated over the paper when I took notes while in lectures, like these notes of mine from 1985, about Early Medieval Cosmology in De consolatione philosophiae by Boethius :

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By the way, did you see how I used the original Latin title of De consolatione philosophiae instead of just saying The Consolation of Philosophy? I told you I was still pretentious!

But back on point, the fact is, Anne taught me that the physical act of writing could be a  delight, that grinding a 19 cent, piece-of-shit pen into foolscap wasn’t the only way to commit words to some kind of permanence without typing. Since then, I’ve written probably a million words in fountain pen, maybe more. And for that, I owe her thanks.

So… wherever you are… thanks, Anne! Your random act of kindness to a college friend has had a lovely effect on my life and my craft.

 

stoopy

 

 

This is Stoopy, so named for his love of visiting people while they hang out on their stoops. He is the boss of my neighborhood in Boston, and looks upon all the humans living here as if he is their patron and boss… which he is. If your door is opened, he will calmly walk in to your place and make himself comfortable, often demanding turkey and other cold cuts before leaving. He walks around using the _exact_ center of the sidewalks, and only crosses the street at crosswalks, after looking both ways. Stoopy is Zen. Stoopy master of all he surveys. Be like Stoopy.

 

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Ordinarily when I write longhand, I use a Lamy Extra Fine Point fountain pen or a Shaeffer Extra Fine on old accountant ledgers. (Why old accountant ledgers? See this post: https://michaelmarano.com/category/lovecraft/) Why a fountain pen? I love the feel and flow of a fountain pen and, best of all, I love the scritching sound they make on paper. I use ballpoints all the time for note-taking and regular, everyday writing not related to writing fiction. But the sound ballpoints make on paper isn’t nearly as satisfying as a fountain pen nib’s scritching. I’m old enough to have begun my writing career on a typewriter, and to write in a way that is not associated with some kind of sound feels like a cheat. (For that matter, as a journalist, I’m of the very last generation to have worked in a newsroom with a typewriter and a teletype. All that wonderful noise and clatter helped me to focus and make deadlines. I still have a few sheets of used teletype paper in my files, on the backs of which I scribbled copy.)

Why write longhand at all? Simple. I get really fucking sick of looking at computer screens. Past a certain point, they hurt my eyes, and my hands get all achey from too much typing. Plus, it’s just a good idea to grab a pen, a tablet of paper, plop down in a coffeehouse or a library and just write, without any interfacing digital technology. I think it’s a healthy way to use different parts of your brain, so they don’t get all creaky and gummed up.

Today, though… I wrote with a Cross Medium Point. Why? Because in the novel I’m writing, A Choir of Exiles, I had to kill two sympathetic characters, and the ink had to really flow along with the mayhem. I gotta finish typing it all up before I make dinner.

Maybe I’ll play a sound file of a teletype machine going, so it’ll sound like a race with a real deadline?

 

 

I never met William Peter Blatty. Yet as someone who was not, as he was, educated by Jesuits, but was educated in History and Theology and Philosophy by people who were educated by Jesuits, I felt a certain intellectual connection to him and his work. And, as someone who has always loved a good joke, I admired the hell out of the guy who could pull a fast one over on Groucho Marx, as Blatty did when he posed as an Arab prince on Your Bet Your Life.

I hold Mr. Blatty’s thematic trilogy of The Exorcist, The Ninth Configuration, and Legion in such high esteem because of the deep humanity and humor present in those works. Admirers of these novels, and their film adaptations, need only hear the following words to break out in an uncontrollable grin: “Carp”; “Rabies”; “Lama”. (Or maybe “Fritos.”) If you’ve read his comedic book Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing, the question “Did you fuck my sister?!” will probably make you guffaw. His humor was always based on deeply human interaction. As was his horror.

It was with Mr. Blatty’s understanding of humanity, and our shared intellectual background (albeit, mine was second-hand Jesuit instruction), that I approached him to blurb my first novel, Dawn Song. I wrote him at the end of 1997. he sent me the following reply, postmarked Dec. 31…

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The generosity with which Mr. Blatty extended to me the courtesy of reading my book, and providing it with a thoughtful and very kind blurb that has graced every edition of it, demonstrated to me that the humanity present in his fiction was, in fact, the humanity present in the person. On this day of his passing, I know that I shall miss this person, knowing his humor and humanity are no longer in this world.

Inside the mind of author Michael Marano

Hey, Everyone! Just posting  for my students the topics I’ll be covering and the possible readings I’ll be assigning in my upcoming Grub Street class “The Smart Page-Turner Strikes Back!” The first class session will be on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston. The class will run at that time for ten weeks, with the final class taking place on Nov. 16, 2016. 

(If this seems like a lot of readings, keep in mind the lists below are tentative. I’m not going to assign them all!)

Grub Street is a non-profit creative writing center dedicated to nurturing writers and connecting readers with the wealth of writing talent in the Boston area. For more information on Grub Street, click here.

1. Creating Strong Imagery

How do you create effective imagery? How do you make imagery that’s…

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Hey, Everyone!

People have been asking me about the kinds of things I cover in my Grub Street class, Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers.  Well, for want of a better term, we’ll be using ideas from theater and drama critics and directors to “reverse engineer” scenes like this one below from the brilliant cult TV show FREAKS AND GEEKS, so that the same techniques can be used for your prose fiction, or even memoir. Think of it as a computer hack, only we’ll  be dissecting the teleplay and watching the episode, then we’ll take those awesome nuggets and figure out how to plug them into our novels and stories. This specific bit from FREAKS AND GEEKS is what we’ll be covering in the section on “How to Tap Real-Life Experiences.”  We’ve all been in situations kind of like what Lindsey faces below. But how do you blow that up into something dramatic and funny and packed full of meaning? How do you write about “slice of life” situations and create compelling storytelling, and not just diary entries with names changed?

Watch!

 

That’s a pretty amazing scene, right? Full of a whole spectrum of emotions. It feels over-the-top, but it also feels real. When we’ll be looking at this TV script, we’ll be looking at the ways in which writer Michael White managed to concentrate Real Life into a brilliant fictional scene, and brainstorming ways to do the same things for your prose storytelling.

 

For a break-down of all the stuff we’ll be covering, check out the syllabus here!

To enroll, click here.

 E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information.

 

Hope the New Year is treating you all well!

 

 

 

 

Hey everybody! I’d like to announce my new class, Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers. It’s a 10-week class that will meet Monday Mornings from 10:30 to 1:30 at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston starting January 12, 2015. Here’s the official class description:

Some of today’s best writing in terms of theme, character, dialogue, and plot is being done by playwrights, screenwriters, and teleplay writers. In this class, a nationally syndicated film critic and multi-award-winning novelist will show students how to use the tools of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights and Oscar-winning screenwriters for their prose fiction stories and novels. Topics covered will include ways to rewrite real-life incidents into tight and compelling drama, how to streamline exposition so it doesn’t stop your narrative dead, how to crystallize character-defining moments into a scene, and how to use the context of specific settings to amp drama. Classes will consist of analysis of plays, teleplays, and scripts as well as some prose source materials, group watching of films and TV episodes, and in-class workshopping of students’ short fiction and novel excerpts with special emphasis on how the tools of screen and stage writers can be applied to these works. All genres and kinds of fiction writers are welcome.  

So, how will that breakdown? Here’s a tentative syllabus of the topics I’ll be covering and the materials we’ll be looking at.

1. Tapping Real Life

So, there’s this thing that happened… and you really want to write about it in a dramatic way. How do you take a “slice of life” that everybody can relate to, and still make it interesting and compelling? How do you avoid the dreaded, “Yeah, so?”

Materials Emmy winners Judd Apatow and Michael White’s teleplays for the high school comedy/drama Freaks and Geeks  and parts of renowned theater director Peter Brook’s essay “The Open Door.”

2. Awesome Exposition and Action

So, there’s all this stuff… background information… that the reader needs to know about in order for the plot to move forward. But to give that information to the reader, you can wind up stopping the plot dead in its tracks. Which can be close-the-book boring. We’ll look at ways to give the audience/readers the information they need while still making your narrative interesting and full of dramatic punch.

Materials Oscar-winner Paul Haggis’s screenplay for the James Bond movie Casino Royale,  with some comparison to Ian Fleming’s original novel. David Koepp’s screenplay for Jurassic Park with some comparison to Michael Crichton’s original novel.

3. Point of View and Emotional Development

OK… point of view is vitally important to telling a story. So’s character development. How does your main character’s emotional arc affect how you use POV?

Materials BAFTA winners Joel and Ethan Coen’s screenplay for True Grit, with some comparison to Charles Portis’ original novel .

4. The Scope of Time and Space and Hitting Emotional Beats

Let’s say you got a story that takes place over a long period of time, over a lot of geographic space. How do you keep a solid emotional core to something that takes place, well… all over the place, and for a long period of time? How do you pace out the emotional beats to keep that story going strong?

Materials James Vanderbilt’s WGA-nominated screenplay for the David Fincher movie Zodiac.

5. Creating Tension, Apprehension and Dissension

Ever find yourself amazed at how some playwrights can just have a few people in a room, and the emotional results are like a UFC Cage Match? We’ll breakdown how they do that.

Materials Nobel-winner Harold Pinter’s play, The Homecoming and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jason Miller’s play, That Championship Season.

6. Adding Dramatic Layers of Meaning to Your Dialogue

Wait! Did that person really just say that? Wait! Did that really mean what I think it meant? We’ll look at ways to load your scenes with different meanings and different emotional notes.

Materials John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer-winning stage play (and screenplay for) Doubt.

7. Using Place and Time to Define Drama

Drama and conflict and personal growth can’t exist in a vacuum. We’ll look at the specific ways the time and place of your story can and maybe should define its emotional impact and arc.

Materials Emmy-winners Matthew Weiner & Robin Veith’s teleplay for the Mad Men episode, “THE WHEEL” and either Greg Mottola’s Independent Spirit Award-nominated script for Adventureland or Alfred Sole and Rosemary Ritvo’s screenplay for Alice, Sweet Alice.

8. Putting Crystallizing Emotional Moments in a Scene

Sometimes, a dramatic moment can occur in a story that rips open a character so you can look deep inside to see what makes them tick. We’ll dissect a few of those scenes, to see how they can work in prose.

Materials Jenny Lumet’s screenplay for Rachel Getting Married  and Tony-winner Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

9. Adding Details to Make a Story Pop

The effect of little things can be huge in a story. We’ll look at ways to choose the right things to get the most dramatic bang.

Materials Brian Helgeland’s Oscar-nominated screenplay for Mystic River, with some comparison to Dennis Lehane’s original novel.

10. Mining Simple Conflict into Complex Drama

Sometimes, a really simple situation can be a really deep and profound exploration of the human condition. We’ll look at ways to use simple situations and conflicts to load stories with heavy emotional punch.

Materials  J.P. Miller’s teleplay Rabbit Trap and Paddy Chayefsky’s teleplay Marty .

To enroll, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3ctj92f  E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information. Please note that scholarships are available for greatly reduced tuition. For more information on scholarships, please refer to the Grub Street page here. Deadline to apply for Scholarships is noon on DECEMBER 4, 2014.

SLUMMIN' IN SOMERVILLE

 

Slummin’ in Somerville–Comedy
Wednesday, 9:30 AM CBS
“The Whirlwind Wednesday”

Wackiness ensues when Mike, kind of behind on the new novel he has under contract and trying to get back into condition for circus training after an injury, has to deal with Jim, his kooky new neighbor (Paul Sand), an aspiring songwriter who belts out love songs every night dedicated to his girlfriend Gladys… whom he’s only “met” over the phone after she dialed Jim’s phone as a wrong number! Tony Randall guest stars as Jim’s agent, and Doris Day has a cameo as the voice of Gladys.

Paul Sand Guest Stars with Mike Marano in SLUMMIN' IN SOMERVILLE

Paul Sand Guest Stars with Mike Marano in SLUMMIN’ IN SOMERVILLE

Hey, Everyone!!

Just wanted to let you all know about my NEW class at Grub Street, “How to not STINK! A Look at Bad Storytelling and What Writers Should Do and Not Do”

It will meet for 6 Wednesdays from 10:30am-1:30pm at Grub Street headquarters, (162 Boylston Street, 5th Floor Boston, MA 02116) starting on April 3rd.

Here’s the official Grub Street Description from their website: http://tinyurl.com/crswkzu

The most important thing a writer can do to become a good writer is to avoid being a bad writer. In this multi-week, multi-media class taught by an award-winning novelist and nationally syndicated film critic, students will autopsy a string of really bad examples of storytelling so we can all figure out why they’re bad and how not to be bad ourselves in the same ways. Strategies will be developed in class to make rotten books and films no longer rotten, or at the very least a little less rotten, so that students will develop a toolkit for writing fiction and other narratives that are … y’know … actually good. Students must be prepared to read some really bad fiction and watch some really bad movies. Class time will also be spent on in-class exercises fixing bad narratives, and on the development of a practical toolkit for actual good prose writing that will address issues such as world-building, character development, the right ways to apply background research to a story, and the application of sound logic to plotting. There will be workshopping of students’ fiction, emphasizing the application of good storytelling techniques from the toolkit we’ll be developing. For students with prior workshop experience.

Here are some of the topics we’ll tentatively cover:

*How to avoid clichéd characters.

*The importance of clear character motivation.

*How to structure plots that are logical.

*How to create conflict that’s meaningful, and not just an excuse to get your plot rolling.

*How to avoid bad imagery and mood.

*How to avoid terrible exposition.

*How to not cheat your readers with bad endings and resolutions.

*Does your protagonist really BELONG in your story?

*How to not use product placements in the place of real world building.

*How to not let your really awesome and fun research get in the way of your storytelling.

To sign up, click here:   http://tinyurl.com/crswkzu

If you have any questions, feel free to ask below!