Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Now That's a Photo Op

File this under "What were they thinking?" or "Accidental Google Images results that make me want to stab my eyes out."

While doing some sort of elephantish search for my editor, I came across this playground slide:

How does something like that get designed? The people engineering these things have to be pretty smart, right? What was the conversation like at the office that day?

"Hey, Mortimer, how's the elephant project coming along?"

"Fantastic, Claude! Just finishing up."

"You were able to make the trunk wide enough for the slide?"

"No, I had a better idea. Look, the kids will go on a journey through the elephant's colon!"


Here's the most surprising thing--there's more than one playground with an elephant butt slide.

I do love elephants, but do I love them enough to go through one of these slides? 

Actually, now that I think about it, if I came across one of these I probably wouldn't be able to resist climbing in. Of course I'd first have to hand someone my camera to snap a picture of my glorious exit. 

So where are these slides, does anyone know? Think of the lovely author photos these would make. 

For more horrific playground equipment, see this Huffington Post article and this one from Acid Cow.

And while we're on the subject, what the hell is wrong with this monkey? 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sue Sylvester: The New Snidely Whiplash

Strong beginnings are important, but if that's all your story has, it'll fall apart like a zombie on a hot day. And no one wants to see that.

Like many Glee fans, I wish the writing quality would return to that of its first season. The list of annoyances is long, but if I had to pick what bothers me most, it would have to be what's happened to Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester. It's painful to witness the downward suck-spiral of my favorite character and the waste of Jane Lynch's talent.

Sue was funnier when she wasn't completely evil. Despite her many flaws, we saw that she had a heart somewhere under that track suit. She was tough on Becky, a student with Down Syndrome, but made her part of the Cheerios squad. Later in that episode, we saw Sue reading Little Red Riding Hood to her own mentally-challenged sister. You could tell she'd read it a thousand times, but she was perfectly happy to do it. Would the Sue we know now do this? No, she'd probably tear the book to pieces and push her sister down the stairs. Or she'd give a staff member a kick to the face for not bringing her an energy drink.

The character that Jane Lynch (a brilliant comedic actress) signed on to play was a cleverly written complex character--she said some mean things, but we laughed, and we loved her. There's nothing to love anymore, and she no longer seems like a real person. Why isn't she in jail? She punched a judge in the face at regionals (or was it sectionals? Seems like they're always getting ready for sectionals), and nothing came of that. She's physically aggressive with students.

I know it's fiction, but part of being a good writer of fiction is keeping our characters from turning into caricatures. (I wrote more about one-dimensional villains in "Lessons from Austin Powers.") It's easy to write someone who's all evil, all the time. It's harder to write a flawed character your readers will love. Snidely Whiplash is easy; Hannibal Lecter is hard.

Not that the Glee writers are concerned with consistency (plot lines that have been dropped from one week to the next could be a whole series of posts), but what's going to happen with Sue's character now? I'm almost afraid to ask this, but how ridiculously bad can she get? I can't see any way out of this direction her character has gone, other than a new plot line that reveals a brain tumor to explain her erratic behavior. Or like Tom & Lorenzo suggested in their post, "A Night Of Neglect," she'll hold the school hostage and go down in a hail of police bullets.

Hey, that's not a bad idea. That makes room for yet another new character on the show. Maybe a not-so-evil twin to take Sue's place?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Edit Letter Fun: Are You a Butcher Or a Coddler?

I've been spending a lot of time in the revision cave lately, but have crawled out for a while in an attempt to blog more often. Plus it's dark and there are spiders in there.

Last week I went to Austin with critique buddies Christina Mandelski and M.G. King for the Texas Library Association Conference, which was all kinds of awesome. It's so much fun to see what books are coming out later this year, and I caught up with some writing friends I don't get to see often enough.

During a conversation with one of those writer friends, I discovered that we were both working on editor-requested revisions, but her attitude was...what's the word? Healthier? Sane? Not completely twisted?

Here's a dramatization of the conversation. (We weren't dressed as bunnies, but bears in bunny costumes make adorable stand-ins.)

I hope I'm not quite as bad as Lavender Bunny, but I do feel a little stabbing pain in the heart when I hit "delete" over a scene that might not be working.

That's normal, right? (Right?) We spend a lot of time with these words, so it hurts to toss them out. They look so sad out there, all alone in the rain, faces pressed against the window...

But, we have to be practical too, and think about what's good for the story. Maybe it's a nice scene, but it's not moving the story along or it's taking the reader out of the action. Editors are good at spotting those things that we overlook because we're too close to the story and the cuddly words.

So which writer are you--the butcher who sees the cutting as part of the job, or the coddler who wants to cling to your words?

And those of you who've been through it before, share any tips you have for getting through the edits! Don't forget to put on your bunny costume first. It's the best way to deliver difficult news.