It doesn’t end here

Not the project, not the friendships. None of it ends here.

This is my last blog post, and I can’t say I’m sad about that (sorry T). I have a love-hate relationship with blogging; on the one hand, it helps me vent and clear my thoughts. On the other hand, it’s a pain. I think I complain about blogging in each of my blog posts, so here’s to keeping the tradition alive.

As for my project, I’m really excited about its future direction. Ray and I talked at length about what the project would look like if it were a novel – I didn’t misspell novella there – and I’m really excited about the results. The novella itself, Death narrates the story of Amir, the son of a grave robber. In the novel, Death simultaneously narrates the stories of Amir and a younger Baba (his father) side-by-side, showing the progression into adulthood and the different choices each take to end up where they are at the beginning of the novel, and where they will be by the end.

As for the friendships I’ve formed through this class, they’re unforgettable. I know sometimes gateway students read these posts, and if they happen to read this, I’d like them to know that the depth with which you get to know and care for your classmates and their projects is one of my favorite things about the capstone class. You become so invested in realizing your classmates’ visions that you the class seems less like a class and more like a bi-weekly meeting between friends. And not that I’m biased, but definitely take capstone in the Fall. You’ll thank me later.

Alright, I’ve reached my word count so it seems (darn). This is goodbye, for now. Maybe I’ll come back for another blog post after I’ve finished the novel, many MANY (emphasis on MANY) years from now ;P Hopefully by then, I’ll dislike blogging a little less.

Thank you for everything, T, Ray, and the 420 F18 squad.

Until then,

Fatima

I call upon the blog gods (and zach) for inspiration on this one

Hey guys,

As you might know, I’m not fond of blogging. But, here goes nothing.

Image result for gif deep breath

I’ve decided to try and submit my final project to Hopwood. That being said, I realize it might not be possible. Thanks to all your beautiful suggestions, there is a RIDICULOUS amount of editing that somehow needs to occur between now and December 5. My inner optimist seems to think this can happen – at the expense of sleep, of course. My inner optimist is also an asshole, but it’s my last full week of college, so why not give it my all?

 

I’d like to meet with Ray one last time before I graduate, because he was the reason my novella ended up the way it did. He was so helpful in shaping my characters and plot in more realistic ways, and hopefully he can work his magic on the novella again. What still blows my mind is how Ray had all this amazing feedback without writing anything down; he just remembered it all (!?!). I can barely remember my classes without having a calendar to remind me to go to my classes.  I cannot overemphasize how helpful Ray was. In fact, I’m going to go schedule an appointment with him right now.

Update: I scheduled it.

 

Here are some of the edits I need to find time for:

  1. Developing Ayah further. This will be hard to rush, because genuine character development should come naturally, rather than seem forced due to time constraint.
  2. Providing more detail on Amo and Baba’s past.
  3. Discussing how the holy man saves Baba in more detail.

If I have extra time (HA!), I will also incorporate the following edits:

  1. Include more on Mama.
  2. Discuss the Karbala scene and its implications further.
  3. Include some war stories from when Abed was in the army.

 

That feels good, to write it all out. I’ll have some downtime at the airport later today, so I’ll plan to write for one hour. Then, tomorrow, I’ll dedicate a lot of time to writing. That means that, by tomorrow (hopefully), I’ll have a better sense of what edits I will have time for.

Hmm. That seems like a very productive plan…too productive. Maybe I’m lying to myself.

Image result for lying to myself gif

*fatima out*

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Gotcha.

But now that you’re here, I guess you have no choice but to read about my struggles so far in writing my novella for capstone. Darn!

My first struggle is that the middle of my manuscript has no plot. That’s because I had such a clear idea of what I wanted in the beginning and end of the novella. And now, I’m stuck in the middle.

Literally.

I’m too ashamed to workshop what I have so far, mainly because I think it’s so cheesy that it’s not yet worthy of your minor-in-writing eyes. I know we’ve all felt that, so feel free to mentally snap in commiseration.

Image result for snap gif poetry applause

What I realized would be helpful is if I wrote out a summary of my novella so far. That way, everyone in class will at least know what’s happening each time I bring in my 35-page draft, and I will no longer be forced into an awkward state of dishing out vague, unhelpful descriptions.

Zach got me thinking more about what kind of character I want Death to be, which is awesome, because I’m not sure yet myself. Also, Sydney got me thinking about what illustration I’ll have on the cover, which is also awesome, because I’m also not sure yet. Note to self: think about these things later.

I’m going to be honest; I’m struggling to make this blog post longer. I think it’s because I always hated blogging, so I’m trying to get better at it. So I’m going to tell you about my Halloween costume.

I’m going to be Princess Jasmine, because the live-action for Aladdin is coming out this summer (which, if you haven’t seen the trailer, what are you doing still reading this?!
Go watch it-bye: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9g5knnlF7Zo).

My boyfriend is going to be Aladdin, but we’re struggling to find him a stuffed animal monkey to borrow for his costume. Every Aladdin needs an Abu, so if you have an Abu you would like to donate to me for a day, I promise I’ll take good care of it (seriously, my email is fshaidar@umich.edu, help a girl out):

Image result for funny abu aladdin

So many things to think about, so much more to write. Even though the draft was due yesterday.

Good luck everyone!

1: The Journey Begins

Both for me and Amir, the main character of my novella/novel: Dying Man’s Wish.

 

The Orontes, or “The Green River.” This is a scene-to-be in Dying Man’s Wish. I took this picture of the Asi (Orontes) River near the Beqqa Valley, in Lebanon. (Excuse the poor quality of this image; this is just a screenshot of the actual image).

 

The coming-of-age plot centers around the son of a grave robber, Amir, as he begins to gain perspective on life and death in an ancient Middle Eastern society. The setting will bring to life some of the monuments and stories native to the Middle East. In this way, I aspire to both comment on and alter history through a creative lens, the way I imagine my ancestors interacted with the monuments, or lived the stories we now tell. It’s almost like re-writing history, the way I imagine it, to create a piece of historical fiction.

The plot is narrated by Death, an opinionated, all-knowing entity whose form is left up to the imagination of the reader. Ironically, Death offers comedic relief at times, and bits of experiential wisdom at others. Mostly, though, Death is the primary raconteur of the story.

Other elements I want to incorporate into the novel/novella include social and political commentary on issues that still impact the Middle East today. In this way, I hope to discuss modern issues that are really just continuations of ancient issues, such as women’s rights and political corruption. Doing this grants me a way to discreetly, but not innocuously, “show the world its own shame,” in the words of Oscar Wilde.

But I also want to show the world its own beauty. In part, that is where the image above, along with others, come in. I will incorporate a series of images I have taken in my travels abroad to serve as various settings. More on this later 😉

Thank you for reading!

Judge me: it’s gone public

My e-portfolio: https://fshaidar.wixsite.com/fshaidar

This marks my graduation from Writing 220. Next stop: capstone (actually though, I’m a mutant and already took all my MiW courses before I was a MiW).

Reflecting on the semester and all it’s taught me, I feel that I’ve learned to appreciate writing in another genre. As I wrote in my synthetic essay, I hated the experimentation process. Being forced to write in another genre made me feel restricted. I didn’t know how to write in new genres, and I wasn’t willing to learn.

Or so I thought. I only told myself that I wasn’t willing to learn because I wasn’t comfortable. In reality, however, it is because I was willing to to learn that I feel that I grew as a writer between September and now. I take pride in having written, and while I did not enjoy the process, feel that I learned that my favorite genre should not be my go-to genre.

As a result, I want to continue to harness a dependence on other genres, and this willingness to explore. It isn’t easy considering the potential in other genres when you could be writing in your go-to genres. But, it is necessary, because ultimately, my go-to genres aren’t always going to be the most appropriate. It’s like a having an expanded tool box. I appreciate having all the tools there, in case I need them. Some tools may be more expensive than others, and more difficult to use than others, but in case I need them, I know they’re there.

And that’s how I feel about genres.

Documentaries are for dweebs

In the digital media family, the mockumentary is known as the much cooler cousin of the documentary. The mockumentary uses the conventions of a documentary to recount fictional events (rather than real ones); so, it’s often meant to be comedic.

While allowing for a wider array of creative expression than a documentary would, the mockumentary is limited by how entertaining it is. The more entertaining, the larger the audience, regardless of the quality of the social commentary that the mockumentary has to offer. A funny mockumentary on bread could have more of a following than a more serious mockumentary on the opiod epidemic.

A line from the TV mockumentary, “The Office.”

But how do you write a mockumentary?

  1. Determine the discrepancy. The mockumentary, despite its unrealistic nature, is based on the discrepancy between the reality and stereotype of a given subject. The mockumentary is relatable by being rooted in reality. By determining the discrepancy, you begin to develop a sense of what it is that makes the chosen topic relatable.
  2. Characterize the comedy. What kind of humor will your mockumentary apply? Will it be sarcastic undertones, as seen in “The Gods Must be Crazy” ?
    Will it be the straight-forward, subtle humor that characterizes “The Office” ?
    (Pro Tip: click the mockumentary titles for a clip!)
    The type of comedy you choose to employ should be reflective of the audience you have in mind. If you’re trying to appeal to suburban whites, then the sarcastic, simple-mindedness with which “The Gods Must be Crazy” portrays the villagers upholds the expected stereotypes of that demographic. As a result, the movie exaggerates the misconceptions of suburban whites in order to capitalize on the comedic value of said misconceptions.

    In “The Gods Must be Crazy,” a white pilot throws a Coca Cola glass bottle out of a plane. Xi and his village begin to make use of it, after being initially confused by what it was.

     

  3. Plan the plot. Now that you have a topic and you’ve decided what kind of comedy to employ, you’ve got to come up with a story.What is the setting? Who are the characters? What is the goal? Just like any (good) TV show or movie, and mockumentary has to have a plot or purpose.
  4. Script the scenes. I chose to make this a separate point from the one above because operationalizing the plot is very different from the plot itself. Coming up with the plot is the easy part; scripting it, however, is a different story. This is where much artistic privilege and creative license can be applied: details from the facial expression of a character to the number of extras in a scene must all be considered with varying levels of dexterity. If this step were fully realized, it can (and does) take over a year to complete.

This may come as a shocker, but for experiment 3, I’ve chosen to re-work my original piece in the genre of mockumentaries. I wanted my experiment 3 to be drastically different from my previous two experiments, and given that this is a genre I didn’t know existed two weeks ago, I’d say I’ve fulfilled that requirement. However, I also chose to work in this genre because I hope to continue the theme of realistic realization that I began with experiment 2. Experiment 2 transformed my original piece of creative nonfiction into a real, tangible protest song. In experiment 3, I hope to transform my original piece into a mockumentary, in order to continue to make my piece more tangible and applicable to real life.

Just as a refresher, my original piece was a fairytale-like chapter that examined the effects of linguistic hegemony imposed by a Troll on the People. There is a word dealer in the chapter that acts to bridge these two parties; but, in reality, the world dealer lacks a sense of belonging to either party. Experiment 3 will convert the fairytale from my original piece into a mockumentary about the current opioid epidemic. I hope to examine the features of the opioid epidemic that mimic my fairytale. These features include the role of the drug dealers (as the word dealer) as well as that of power dynamics between addicts (the people) and  the systems/institutions that subjugate them (the troll). These institutions/systems of power, such as the legal or health systems, are maintained by average people, and yet, they too are complicit in this crisis.

Heroin.

The pilot episode of “Grimm,” while not a mockumentary, inspired me to look at the realism that subtly finds its way into fairytales.The crimes committed in “Grimm” are based on the fairytales by the Brothers Grimm. “Grimm” details the stories of how normal, inconspicuous people could really be monsters. I hope to elaborate on this point in my mockumentary. In terms of the conventions of the mockumentary, however, I hope to draw upon “The Gods Must be Crazy” and “The Office,” both of which employ a sense of humor I hope to emulate.

“Grimm,” the TV show about how humans can be monsters.

The mockumentary grants me access to a wider audience, as its entertainment value appeals to those who its topic might not appeal to alone. While I am still able to enter the discussion of systematic oppression, it is no longer in the realm of linguistic hegemony. However, I still believe I am entering the same, larger conversation about systematic control via dependance (i.e. on drugs or words). As a result, I will use this genre to communicate this idea to a US audience concerned about the opioid epidemic, or looking to be entertained. I will use a documentary on the opiod epidemic as a starting point, and use its content as a basis to my mockumentary.

What do pimps, butterflies, and social change have in common?

From Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” to Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” (from his album “To Pimp a Butterfly”), the protest song has continued to severe as a way to broadcast social change through music.

The album cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly.”

 

A protest song not only encourages social change, but does so by expressing disapproval of a real, current issues. Where there is a need for social change, there is need for protest. And because of that, there is a sense of relevancy that naturally embodies the word “protest.”

In my opinion, the beauty of a protest is this relevancy.

Similarly, protest songs are popularized in response to current inequalities; they are important because they are now. But, what immortalizes them is the persistence of these inequalities. Take “Strange Fruit,” for example: it’s about lynching in the South. Is lynching still a thing? Not really. Is the song still relevant? Definitely. Why? Because racism is still a thing.

So, protest songs seem to persist. 

 

The cover of Billie Holiday’s song, “Strange Fruit.”

 

We live in an America led Donald Trump, or as Trevor Noah endearingly titled him, the Mango in Chief (which, fittingly enough, is a blog now: http://www.mangoinchief.com/p/blog-page.html). We study on a campus where protests are a weekly occurrence, and students like Dana Greene feel the need to kneel. The exigency for domestic social change has never been so restless, so, given the status quo, it seems natural to gravitate towards the genre of protest songs.

For Experiment 1, I chose the genre of dialogue; but when dialogue fails, inevitably, protests result. So, for Experiment 2, I’ve chosen to rework my original piece in the genre of protest songs. My original piece is a chapter from a creative nonfiction novella that I’m writing(ish). The chapter details the effects of colonialism on the language, and thus, knowledge of the colonized people. The people are colonized by “The Troll,” and as such, the chapter is written in a fairytale-like style. This contrasts the fairytale, a stereotypically juvenile story, with the gravity of the subject it communicates.

But, why the protest song? With all this talk about protests, you’d think I was confrontational. But I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination. I’ll apologize to a chair if I stub my toe against it (even though it’s obviously the chair’s fault). So, given that I’m not a confrontational person, why did I choose to work in the genre of protest songs, a genre that is confronational by definition?

Because the colonized characters of my piece are not confrontational, and yet, they should be. They should realize their oppression, and rise against the Troll. I want them to. The fears of the characters are based off the fears of people in my life; their realities seem too real, and so naturally, I want them to succeed. I want to reenact the piece as though it were relevant now, because it is. I see the protest song as a depiction of the confrontation that should ensue in my piece, and hope to reenact this confrontation as I picture it occurring in real life.

Another reason I wanted to try my hand at writing a protest song is because of of this genre’s poetic nature. I love writing poetry, but poetry seems too comfortable a genre for me. In this way, I can combine the creative elements that lyricists and poets alike employ, while still challenging myself with an unfamiliar genre: the protest song.

My kind of protest.

 

It’s important to recognize, though, that a protest song is more than its lyrics. To write an effective protest song is to integrate music with lyrics. The percussion in Lamar’s “Alright” adds a sense of urgency reflective of martial and rap music alike. It is this energy and urgency that I would like to emulate in my protest song – a call to arms, if you will.

Music engenders in us a generalized arousal, or emotion, that the lyrics help guide and direct (shoutout to Allie for explaining that one to me). The urgency that I feel hearing Lamar’s percussion is directed at the targets he describes in his purposeful lyrics. As a result, the interplay of music and lyrics grants the author some control over the audience’s cognition.

Keeping that in mind, I recognize that my primary audience is native English speakers, that may not be aware of the global hegemony of the English language over knowledge. Most people aren’t willing to listen to a speech on how they’re part of a system of oppression; a song, however, is a different story. White people listen to Lamar all the time, and realistically, its not usually because they want to understand the systematic racism that black people face, but rather, because Lamar’s music sounds good. As a result, the medium of music expands the audience of a piece.

Lyrics from Lamar’s “Alright.”

So, here goes nothing. I’m don’t like confrontation, and I will write a protest song. I want my characters to succeed like I want the people in my life to succeed. This can be real, and I’m going to prove that, to myself if no one else. Because we can always contrast oppression with freedom, pimps with butterflies, but the potency of the protest song lies in potential.