Doing what makes me scared

By far the greatest challenge I’m having/going to have with my repurposing project is working with a genre that I’m not familiar with. Reading short stories and writing them are very different things; I love reading them, but now I’ve challenged myself to writing one and it’s a whole new ball game.

Does anyone have some advice for a short story amateur?

My original idea was interesting to me: I was going to take a small idea from an essay I wrote last year about what my collection of books means about me and turn it into a short story. But after thinking it over some more and talking about it with my group members, I realized I may be starting with too abstract a concept.

So now I’m switching gears!

I’m going to keep the idea of the short story because frankly it scares me and I want to learn how to write creatively. The original source will now be an argument I wrote for the pros of digital communication – how we’re all relying much more heavily on text messaging and social media to communicate and how this might not be a terrible thing. I wrote about how text messaging is merely a supplement to verbal communication, not a replacement, and that we’re all more than capable of talking to each other like the good old days.

Right now the idea is that my short story will be a Brave New World-esque situation and a theme regarding how we’re allowing technological communication play too big a role.

Cell phone screen reading "74 new text messages have arrived."
Sometimes way too big a role. [Image from Flikr user Noel Hidalgo]

While I realize this is still a bit of an abstract idea, I feel like it’s more readily transferable into a short story, which makes me feel better about it.

Time to buckle down and get creative. Wish me luck.

I’m not a fiction writer

The cool, collected academic narrative is my forte. I can produce a five-page paper on the biological competition between invasive Asian carp and native species of fish in the Great Lakes without breaking a sweat. But when I’m asked to write creatively without a specific prompt or concrete guidelines, my mind goes as blank as the paper in front of me.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the words “fiction” and “horror” appear seemingly by their own volition at the top of my repurposing proposal. The truth is that the idea of writing a chapter in my own imagined horror novella excites me, but I have no idea how to begin. So I turned to the master of horror himself for help.

“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of bad writing.”

So writes the notorious Stephen King in his book on creating works of fiction/prose. I found a lot of truth in this sentence. It’s easy to settle into the comfort of writing academically because you really aren’t putting very much of yourself on the page; when it’s evaluated, it is only the writing being critiqued, not you. But writing creatively, as King describes, requires all of you, one hundred percent, and you can’t half-ass it because you’re afraid it will be bad (because then it will be bad).

I found that replacing all the aforementioned hypothetical “you’s” with “I’s” and “me’s” yields a pretty decent pep-talk for embarking on a project such as the one I’ve taken on.

King intended this book,  On Writing, to be not so much an overarching, presumptuous mandate that every prospective writer must blindly follow (there are already plenty of those already, he writes), but rather more akin to the subtitle he chose for the book; “A Memoir of the Craft”. That is exactly what he accomplished. The book is saturated with the anectdotes and experiences that he himself has had with writing, or simply those that in retrospect were fundamental to his development as a writer. With this book, he deconstructs the fairytale of Stephen King the Bestseller, revealing the every day person underneath that writes because he loves to, and struggles with it sometimes – just like anyone else.

I gathered a lot of valuable insight from reading On Writing, and it has been a tremendous help to the development of my project, which I plan to shape in the image of his writing style. Here is on of my favorite chunks of the book that I hope can help you, too:

“I’m not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I’m not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor (please God you have one). This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s not the moral Olympics, and it’s not church. But it’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else.

Wash the car, maybe.”

Someone get me a Staples button, cause that was easy (AKA: Repurposing Reflection)

Sorry if I offend anyone by saying this, but I don’t think I could honestly care any less about the feminist movement. I know that probably sounds bad and that I might have made some enemies just now, but I’m kind of over women complaining all the time about stereotypes in the media and how it influences us to be skinny and sexy 24/7. I’m not just over it because I hear it all the time or see countless posts on Facebook about gender equality; I’m over it because more likely than not, women neglect the fact that men are faced with just as many stereotypes.

This preface might seem pointless, but trust me, it isn’t. I’ve done a lot of research and written some papers and conducted a content analysis study all about this idea of hegemonic masculinity and its acceptance or rejection in mainstream media. So going into this repurposing assignment, I thought it only natural to transform one of these pieces.

When we got into our groups I was leaning toward one piece quite heavily, so I think that for me, talking with my group members just confirmed what I already knew I wanted to do. Even when I explained the two potential paths, they all mentioned how much more excited I was for my first idea and told me to go for it.

Without further ado— for this repurposing assignment I am taking an essay that I wrote my freshman year in Communication Studies 101 about the masculinities represented in Modern Family and transforming it into a GQ Magazine article. Seeing as the original essay was written for a college class, it takes on a more academic tone as I argue that there are more masculinities represented in Modern Family than simply that of a hegemonic male.

Each of the men in "Modern Family" (including Luke and Manny) bring a different type of masculinity to the table.
Each of the men in “Modern Family” (including Luke and Manny) bring a different type of masculinity to the table.

The goal of the original assignment was to watch a television show analytically and apply concepts that we learned focusing on representations of women, African Americans, citizenship, or masculinity. Obviously, I chose masculinity and I analyzed the characteristics of the predominant males in the show. The research on this essay wasn’t very excessive; I just drew from the lectures and some readings, so most of the paper was just a content analysis.

While I wrote the original essay for my professor and GSI, in repurposing it, I want to write it for a male audience. We learned a little bit about how not a lot of men are taught these other types of masculinity, and so they feel that they need to just fit one standard mold. I really just want to help the guys out and make this piece the most meaningful by showing men that there are more ways to be manly than one.

In terms of a venue, writing it as a GQ article not only creates the audience that I want, but also the style of writing. It’s actually one of my dreams to write for a magazine someday, so I thought I would take advantage of this opportunity and combine my love for magazine editorial writing to make the repurposed piece less formal and more conversational.

I would talk about my other option for this assignment, but it would just be a massive waste of your time to make you keep reading. I knew from the day that Shelley assigned this to us that I wanted to repurpose my “Multiple Masculinities in Modern Family” paper, and I am honestly looking forward to giving this piece a new home.

Repurposing Project Comments

When considering the Repurposing Project, I can definitely say that it is a very interesting task.  Unfortunately, at this point, that is one of the only things I can confidently say about it.  When I handed in my Guerrilla Marketing research paper over a year ago, I thought that I would be finished with it for good.  I never really pondered a way to refocus all my previous research.  I am not saying that I am necessarily having a very hard time coming up with a way to repurpose, but it is definitely not as easy as I had hoped.  I decided to convert my argumentative research paper into a magazine article.  My magazine article is meant to explain guerrilla marketing to to businesses (both small and large), as well as offer them a guide to executing this creative advertising technique.

I think, so far, I have done a good job of converting my research paper into a magazine format.  My research paper served to define guerrilla marketing, and some of its more specific techniques, and explain why it has several advantages over typical types of advertising.  My magazine article is meant to go beyond this by providing a guide to this marketing strategy, and that is where I am struggling.  The research I have already done for this project is quite similar to what I had done for the research paper.  I think that I need to try to expand on my research in some way so that my guide could actually be helpful to readers.  I want my guide to be as accurate and useful as possible, and hopefully I am able to make a breakthrough in my research soon.