Sunday, January 31, 2016

Twist Endings - Writing Class Assignment

I debated on whether or not to post these next writing assignment submissions or not, as they've already been published on my blog once. In the end I decided to go for it, because they've all been edited for clarity, plus I have stuff I want to say about how each one went over.

One of the kinds of writing that we were supposed to do for my creative writing class was an autobiographical story. This could include a straight up true story, or it could be one that had been "Enhanced," in some way. As soon as I heard that, I knew I wanted to submit some of my "Twist Ending" stories. They are all true stories that have been significantly enhanced by a twist ending.

I picked out three of my favorite ones to submit, three that I was still pretty happy with, as a few of them, especially the early ones, I'm not that fond of any more.

All the stories went over pretty well. I got great feedback, and people loved how real they felt, right up until the ending that completely changed things. I got many specific comments on the "Excellent" dialogue, specifically how real it seemed. Well, little did they know that everything felt so real because it all is real!

I had one classmate go so far as to write that all these stories felt like real interactions that she had had with terrible customers while working at Village Inn or Hy-Vee, and that the end seemed like something she might wish would happen to all her terrible customers! Little did she know that this was EXACTLY what these stories were!

Probably the best thing that anyone wrote to describe these stories was what one of my teachers wrote on my first draft:
"The satirical take that emerges in all these 'cautionary tales' reminds me of some strange modern-day, sci-fi Willy Wonka set in a grocery store!"
I did not even think about that when I was writing these, but I read Willy Wonka countless times as a kid, and I have no doubt that the bad children's comeuppance in those books had some sort of an influence on me. Perhaps I was subliminally channelling Roald Dahl. :p

One of the best bits of usable feedback I got about this first story was the fact that I used the word "Flock," to describe the swarm of crows, when I could have used "Murder," which is what a group of crows is actually called! That was genius! I don't know why I didn't think of that myself! So I took it for my revision. :p

The main change I made to this story was in the way I formatted the ending. As I gave this to everyone cold, they all assumed that this was a fictional story, as would seem obvious with the ending. The most common critique I got was about the abrupt change in POV (Point of View) at the end. As this, for the most part, is a true story, I wrote from my perspective, in the first person; but at the end, I wrote in the third person, as this all, for the most part, was happening beyond my knowledge. Technically this is not good writing, so I tried to format the end so that the shift in POV isn't too jarring. I was unwilling to change the POV of the entire piece to third person, as would be necessary, so this was my compromise.

Twist Endings 1
"Isn't there a senior discount?" The elderly woman asked sorely, as I gave her the total. It was under twenty dollars.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," I explained, "The senior discount is on Wednesdays." I didn’t think it would be that big of an issue, the discount would have amounted to less than a dollar. 
"Well, not everyone can get here on Wednesdays!" She exclaimed angrily.
"Sorry," I apologized. "I'm not allowed to give discounts unless it's Wednesday," 
"Yeah, well, this place is sick!" She exclaimed, shoving the money towards me. "And getting sicker!" 
I really didn't know what to say to that, so I finished her transaction, and wished her a nice day. She just looked at me and scornfully laughed in my face. I decided to just ignore that and I turned to the next customer, a little girl. 
"Hello," I greeted her, as I began to ring up her items. "Did you find everything okay? 
"No she didn't!" The elderly woman exclaimed loudly, and left, laughing derisively as the little girl just looked at me, confused. 
~
As the old woman marched out of the store, the sky grew dark, and faint, raspy, “Caw!” sounds clouded the air. A massive murder of crows had filled the sky, temporarily blocking out the sun. The swarm got into formation and swooped down toward the old woman in a massive black cloud. The flock engulfed her, and as the crows disappeared over the horizon, the woman was gone. 

The next story is still pretty similar to my original story too. I didn't make too many changes beyond the formatting of the last paragraphs, and to make the action take place outside, so I would not have seen it, so I'd have no excuse but to write in the third person.

People loved this one too, and the most common feedback was how great my made up words were for the alien's dialogue. There were a couple people who did not like the words, but the positive feedback vastly outnumbered the negative.

Twist Endings 2 
"Keep the change," the little girl told me, as I counted out the 31 cents in change from her purchase.
"Okay..." I replied, unsure of what else to say. I wasn't used to people telling me to keep the change. I set it aside and moved on to the next customer. 
A little later I heard a loud berating voice shouting from around the corner. "$1.69 out of $2.00 is NOT two cents! Get over there and ask for your change!" 
"I don't want to," the little girl said quietly, almost in tears. "UGH!" I heard the mother exclaim angrily, and she marched off. 
A few minutes later, a much younger girl approached my counter and looked up, barely able to see over the edge. 
"My sister said to keep the change, but my mom wants it back." She said in a tiny voice. I picked up the change from where I had set it, and handed it to her. She walked back to her mother and gave her the change. 
"Not you!" The mom shouted at her, pointing at the other girl, "I wanted her to do it!" 
As the woman marched her children out of the store, she was frozen in a beam of light projected from the sky. Two green-skinned humanoids wearing blue uniforms materialized beside her. 
"Is this the intergalactic criminal known as The Abuzor?" The first humanoid asked the second. 
"Affirmative." He replied. "We've been searching for her for the last 13 parstinkles. She will be taken back to Gozox, to be put to work in the Plootonx mines, digging for Croylon Yarf." 
"What about these innocent children?" The first humanoid asked. "They had no part in their mother's heinous crimes." 
"We will take them with us." The second replied. "Queen Aultramira loves children. I'm sure she will be thrilled to adopt a few more." 
The entire group vanished, and they were never seen again.

The last story underwent the most heavy editing, and for good reason. When I first wrote it, I put it into a blog post, and I prefaced it with an explanation about the customer, how she is a regular at the Harlan Hy-Vee, how she does this kind of thing all the time, but I did not realize that this information was not clear at all in the story itself. So almost everybody was completely confused by the fact that it seemed to be three different stories about three different women, and only one of the women was punished for her behavior. Some people understood that it was the same woman, but with so much confusion, I figured I needed make it clearer.

Not all the feedback was negative though. Most people loved how dark the ending was, I got many positive comments on the dark humor of all these stories, but people really liked that this one was just a little bit darker. I even got comparisons to the Twilight Zone, not just on this one, but on all of them, which is high praise indeed. I don't think they're that good, but if someone wants to think that, I'll let them. :p

Twist Endings 3
"Woah, wait a second," the woman said as I scanned her groceries. "That toilet paper is supposed to be $3.29, and it rang up $4.99. You know what that means," she said, barely able to hold in her glee. "If the item rings up wrong, it is automatically free," she pointed to the sign hanging above the store.
I called my manager, who first went to make sure the price was wrong. "I'm sorry," she said walking back from the display holding a smaller sized package. "This is the size that's on sale. The other one is larger. Would you like to buy this one instead?" 
"No," the woman said, frowning. "I don't want either of them. The sign back there was misleading. I should get it for free." She begrudgingly paid for her groceries and left, silently mumbling to herself. 
As she fumed out of the store, a small green creature peered out from behind the ATM with a scroll of parchment and a quill of ink. It checked a box and slunk back out of sight. 
A few months later the woman was back in my line. 
"Excuse me, those batteries are marked as $2.99 on the sign over there," she said as I slid the packages of batteries I had just scanned down the counter to be bagged. I looked at the monitor; the prices on each read $2.79. 
"Well," I said with a smile, "Looks like you just got a good deal." 
"Um, no, they rang up wrong," the woman said with a scowl, "I get them for free." 
I looked at her to see if she was kidding. Surely no one was that ridiculously petty. She wasn't kidding. I called my manager who double-checked the price, got an earful from the woman, and gave her the batteries for free. 
As the woman marched victoriously from the store, the little green creature watched her silently from under a bakery display table, and marked another box on his paper. 
One night, a few months later the woman came through my line one last time. 
"Hold on," she said as I scanned several packages of bologna. "These are ringing up $1.69. The sign says that they are 3 for $5. I've done the math; they should each be ringing up $1.67. Ask your manager to go check, these are wrong." 
Once again my manager dutifully went back to check the price. While she was gone the woman started talking to those around her who were being inconvenienced. 
"Sorry about this, I'm such a pain," she said in a voice that clearly indicated that she wasn't sorry at all. "I've just got to be careful you know. Gotta always watch these prices! You never know when they're gonna get you!" 
My manager returned and said that, yes, the bologna should indeed be two cents cheaper. "Well, I guess that means they're free!" The woman said triumphantly, as though she had just won some kind of reality game show. My manager took the cost of the bologna off her order, and left her to pay. 
From his hiding spot around the corner of the pharmacy, the little green creature ticked one last box off his list, and as the woman left the store with her load of bologna, it crept after her, sneaking into her car through a rear window while she loaded her trunk. 
As the woman drove home in the dark, she had the creepiest feeling she was being watched from the back seat. She looked into the rear-view-mirror, and saw the glowing yellow eyes of a Greed Goblin staring back at her. She screamed and began swerving violently as the goblin leapt into the front seat. After a minute the swerving vehicle corrected itself, and kept on driving down the dark highway as normal. The woman was never seen again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Poetry and Things

So a year ago, (A year ago?!?! Where did the time go?!?!) I was in a creative writing class, and while in that class, I wrote a few things that I was planning to share on my blog. And then I forgot.

Speaking of that class, I ran into my teacher from that class, while walking across campus today. He actually remembered me, which is a feat unto itself, considering the size of that class, how many classes he probably teaches at the same time, and how many he has taught between then and now. He asked me if I was still writing, and told me I'd better be, because I was too good not to. So that was something...

Anyway, I had been planning to post these things for awhile now, so it wasn't just running into my teacher that made me remember to do so, but it did help me decide to do it right now. The first thing I'm going to post is something that literally makes no sense, but it seemed to go over very well in my class. It's a poem conceived by the website poetweet, a site which takes your twitter handle, and mines your tweets for rhyming lines and then pieces together a short poem out of them.

I ran poetweet over my entire twitter history multiple times and got as many rhyming lines out of it as I could. Then I mixed and matched, went back in and took some rhymes on my own, and came up with the bizarre poem that I've transcribed here. It makes no sense, but I was really happy with how it turned out, and my class really liked it too. It was so funny to me to read their feedback as they tried to decipher what I meant by it.

A few figured it our right away, the poetweet prompt had been an early writing assignment that I expanded on for this, much later, but some people really searched for something deeper, as that was what we were supposed to do. I had more than one person questioning if it was a commentary on social media, a guess prompted by the use of the word "Post" in the first line, and the fact that I titled it, "LIFE-CHANGING ANNOUNCEMENT," as if it was a sarcastic nod to people's tendency to over-exaggerate on social media.

That actually was an excellent observation though, and I wish I'd put that deep a thought into it, but even the title was just a line from a random tweet. However, the original tweet that that line came from, was exactly that! I was using it as a spoof of people's "Announcements" on social media, as it came from one of my April Fools jokes. So the people who caught that second-hand meaning that apparently bled through, should get an imaginary gold star. :)

Other guesses to the poem's meaning were that it was some kind of a strange blog post, maybe a commentary on blogging, or a weird PSA for a school (I mentioned a semester), but most people were just generally confused. Most of them said they liked the imagination and creativity though, even if they didn't understand it at all. Which is fine, I literally meant almost nothing by this poem. It was just a fun writing exercise. :p

I'll post that poem now, and I'll post my other things in separate post later.

P.S. As a side note, you'll notice that one line of the poem refers to The Pioneer Woman, (I tagged her twitter handle in a tweet once) and I was quite amused by the fact that in her critique, one of my teachers pointed out that particular line, and wrote next to it "Ha! I love Pioneer Woman!"

LIFE-CHANGING ANNOUNCEMENT 
Last semester, in this post,
It’s for a writing contest.
In the air, one guy’s a ghost.
Chris Pratt is just the best.
 
 The kiss must happen at midnight.
He can't stay there forever!
My first assignment is tonight!
Best episode ever!
 
 Giant invisible hamsters.
A miniature, time-locked explosion.
If you’re looking for legitimate recipes,
Try @thepioneerwoman
 
 There’s evidence left that they existed.
How is this even possible?
You like living. I bet you do.
It’s a serious inner struggle...
 
 The old me wants nothing to do with this,
Like, a child in the grocery store.
The new me is morbidly curious,
In the archives waiting for more!
 
 Have you seen the finale yet?
No shell? It's called a Globster.
In Ames, he meets an adorable fate.
I loved it, it’s so sad it's over.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

TIIA 11 (The Internet Is Awesome)

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I finally made a logo for this thing! It's a bit garish, but it'll have to do until I have time to make something better. Probably in about 3 to 4 years. :p

Let's begin with a video from, literally the first YouTuber I ever subscribed to, Mystery Guitar Man! He has branched out into other endeavors far beyond the awesome musical videos he used to do way back when, but every once in a while he'll do a throwback to the good old days, and that's pretty much exactly what this video is.



Next we have a video from The Men Who Do Nothing, formerly from the YouTube Channel, Mr. Epic Man, of "How Animals Eat Their Food" fame. This is literally one of the dumbest videos ever, but that's what makes it so incredibly, stupidly funny.



Todrick Hall just did an amazing mashup of just about every Taylor Swift song you could think of. It's awesome.



ELO, a band you probably haven't heard of since the 70's, is releasing their first album since 2001, and the second since 1986! So it's probably a rather big deal for some people who have been around a lot longer than I have. Regardless, I love their music, and the first single from the new album sounds amazing.



I kind of hate to admit this, but Justin Bieber has been making some amazing music recently. >Choke!< I can't beliebe I just said that! I mean, it seems like he's been turning his life around recently, so is it okay to like him? Can I at least like his music? What if I like his music more when other people cover it? Because that's one of the best things about his recent string of great music, the fact that people even more talented than him will cover it. Like Pentatonix.



Speaking of covers, here's another one. This one is another(!) mashup of songs by Taylor Swift, covered by Peter and Evynne Hollens. These people are some of the most talented people on YouTube. I can't get over how awesome they are.



And speaking of amazing talent, (and acapella) Mike Tompkins can make a commissioned ad, and turn it into a work of art!



Let's end this with a video from Christopher Ballinger and his family. A parody of Mackleore's Downtown. You might know Chris better as the brother of Colleen Ballinger, AKA Miranda Sings, but he is very talented in his own right, and his kids are awesome.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Rotoscopers Roundup 2

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Well since the last time I did this, I have been so busy writing for the Rotoscopers, that I have another huge list of articles to share. These ones are from where I left off to the end of 2015.

Review of Gravity Falls: The Stanchurian Candidate.

Review of The Muppets: Bear Left Then Bear Write.

Review of Gravity Falls: The Last Mabelcorn.

Review of The Muppets: Pig Out.

Review of the DVD: He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown.

Review of Star Wars Rebels: The Lost Commanders.

Review of Gravity Falls: Roadside Attraction.

Announcement of ABC's full season order of The Muppets.

Review of The Muppets: Walk the Swine.

Announcement of The Muppets co-creator Bob Kushell leaving the show.

Review of The Muppets: The Ex-Factor.

Review of Star Wars Rebels: Always Two There Are.

Review of The Muppets: Pig's in a Blackout.

Review of Gravity Falls: Dipper and Mabel vs. The Future.

Announcement that Gravity Falls will end at the close of Season 2.

Review of The Muppets: Too Hot To Handler.

Review of Gravity Falls: Weirdmageddon Part 1.

Announcement of the series finale air date of Gravity Falls.

In the first post, from the first 9-10 months, I had 22 articles, and in this one I have 18! That's a lot of writing for just a few months!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2014/2015 Photos! When were they from? Nobody knows!

I am finally getting around to editing my photos from over a year ago. I have just been so off my game when it comes to photos lately. I have not taken my camera to enough places, and when I did get pictures, I ended up leaving them on my computer for months. School takes up way too much time... :p

Inevitably this results in posts like this one, and the many that will follow, full of pictures from well over a year ago. Hopefully I will not be letting this happen again.

The one upside to this negligence is that it's fun to go back in time for a few hours. Sorting through old pictures is like looking through memories, except usually clearer than the ones in your head. :)


The following pictures are in no particular order, due to the fact that I haven't the foggiest when exactly I took them. :p


One day while I was walking between classes I came upon an outdoor concert practice session.
It was really cool to see that. Only on a college campus. :)


I think those were early 2015.


These were taken at Alayna's graduation. Mid 2014.
She was opening her present from me.

Did she like it? :p

I got her some props for future videos. :)



Ariana loved the decorations at Alayna's party.


Cakesniffers!



This was an interesting drive home from Ames.
This thing was driving alongside/around me for like 20 minutes.



Someone loves cherries. :)



I think this was not too long after I'd gotten my iPod Touch. THAT was awhile ago. I believe that Alayna took these herself while we were on a hayride.



This was one day around the end of 2014/ beginning of 2015.
Campus was taken over by Canada geese!



This was sometime well before Big Hero 6, but we had to get a picture. :)

That's all the pictures for now. More coming soon! From Colorado to Chicago, I have a ton of catching up to do!