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The Hot Mic - It's Kind of Working - Issue #11

The Hot Mic - Mur Lafferty's Weekly Newsletter
The Hot Mic - Mur Lafferty's Weekly Newsletter
January Stats:
  • Days without drinking: 17
  • Days cycling (indoor): 11
  • Days yogaing: 13
  • Days writing: 14
  • Words on Midsolar 2, Working title “SPACE BEES”*: 15931
Despite what they say about trying to change too many habits at once (ie- don’t), January is going pretty well. I’m doing Dry January, and have kept away from delicious Christmas rum every day but Jan 1, which is a holiday, and Jan 18, which I am sure is a holiday somewhere. I’ve had a couple of down days where I didn’t do much of anything writing- or exercise-related, but I am continuing to stick with my plan, mostly. Writing and cycling in the morning, yoga and tea at night. But mostly trying to do good things for myself.
I’m taking a class by Brent Forrester on comedy screenwriting and really loving it. I’m back on my audio drama concept of DJs caught at the end of the world, and when I’m feeling stuck on my book, I turn to that to keep my brain going in writing something. Kind of like a biking day when you’re training to run a marathon: still a workout, but not the ultimate thing you’re working toward.
The kid is home for an extra week. Rises in Omicron has caused her college to decide that the first week of classes will be virtual, and since she doesn’t want to get to an airport right now, she’s going to do her first week home. I have conflicting feelings about this, because I’m selfish and a mother and want her here as much as I can get, but college is where you grow as a person without parents bugging the shit out of you, and she needs to get back to that. But now we find we’re expecting more winter weather on Friday so we will see how long she’s still here for.
I’m limited in time here so I will go over what I’m reading next time.
Happy New Year. Hope your January is going well.
  • Translations to Other Media
  • The Writing Rules
  • Roll Credits
*The first person to send me a gif of BEES Oprah incorporating space will get a signed copy of Station Eternity – also this is a working title. Don’t tell my editor because she might burst a vessel if she thinks I expect her to get SPACE BEES past Sales and Marketing.

Hot Mic Logo, green mic on black background,
Hot Mic Logo, green mic on black background,
Learning From Translation to Other Media
When we think of our favorite media being turned into something else (ie, that a book will become a show or movie), a lot of us internalize that we want exactly what happened in the original medium to occur again, just in a new medium.
I’ve been guilty of this (although I maintain that the movies about that Lady in Scotland’s* boy wizard books cut important plot stuff in favor of super-lengthy creature fights.) What we forget when a piece of art is depicted in a new medium, ie, movie to novel, tv show to comic book, graphic novel to stage musical/play, that the new medium has strengths and limitations that the original doesn’t have. And they should use their strengths. But when translation happens, people can get miffed about changes.
Don’t get me wrong. Hollywood can and does butcher some of our favorite stories. (eg. World War Z and most movies based on Ursula K. Le Guin’s books, to name a few.)
Being a novelist, I sometimes don’t immediately get how other mediums tell stories. When I first heard Splendor and Misery by clipping., I liked some of the songs, but thought that some of them were hard to listen to, or even understand. But I realized that this is not just an album, it’s a story told through songs, so when the end of “The Breach” ends with horrific clanging and sirens, that’s the slave from the song breaking free and taking over the ship. Another song, the static-heavy “Interlude 02”, is a code transmitted through space. If you listen closely you can hear the voice say, “charlie…foxtrot…"etc.
Are they songs the kind to be on the radio or win a Grammy or inspire a sing-along? No.
Are they essential parts of a larger story? Oh yes.
It’s no secret I love the Garages for making great music about Blaseball, the thing that got me through year 1 of the pandemic. One of their songs, "Won’t Strike Out,” written and performed by Autumn, retells a legendary showdown in the game between Polkadot Patterson (Canada Moist Talkers) and Chorby Short (Yellowstone Magic). Here’s the chorus:
they won’t strike out they won’t strike out
a frog facing a star on the pitcher’s mound (x8)
Yup- the chorus is sung eight times before the next verse.
Weird Blaseball context: Chorby (fan canon has them as a frog) had blood type “O No” which meant they couldn’t be struck out until the pitcher threw a ball. Star pitchers like Patterson don’t throw a lot of balls, letting Chorby chill in the batters box for 112 foul balls before Patterson threw a ball, and then was finally able to easily strike the frog out.
Most Blaseball games take about 25-30 minutes, while this one at-bat took over nine minutes to play out. I missed it, but those who saw it said frankly it was pretty boring, even though it makes a great story.
I don’t mind repetition in songs, and I do like this song, but even I got a little tired of the chorus. WHY so many repetitions? It felt like bad songwriting–sorry, Garages, but it was all me, not you–but it took me longer than I like to admit to realize that this isn’t just a song telling what happened with lyrics, the lengthy chorus is a recreation of the experience, complete with the rough translation of 112 foul balls in music form. Applause, Autumn and the Garages. I shouldn’t have doubted.
Lastly, we’ll look at a graphic novel translation to a musical, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. I saw the musical before I read the graphic novel, which made it easier to catch the one panel that inspired possibly the most famous song from the show, “Ring of Keys”. The song describes in aching, confused detail how ten-year-old Alison felt when she saw an “old school butch” for the first time and felt an unexpected and shocking sense of kinship.
Your swagger and your bearing
and the just right clothes you’re wearing
Your short hair and your dungarees
And your lace up boots.
And your keys oh
Your ring of keys.
The panel from the comic just has a delivery woman getting something signed. In Bechdel’s art, you barely notice she’s wearing a ring of keys on her belt, half blocked by the counter. Little Alison in the background is completely entranced.
Image from Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel - presented under Fair Use.
Image from Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel - presented under Fair Use.
They took a tiny detail like this and make it beautifully represent a young girl’s recognition of her sexuality. See the longer breakdown of this scene by Variety, complete with interviews of the writer and composer.
Books can describe battles in more detail, but video and sound design can present it in more heart-pounding glory. Plays, even high concept big budget productions, are forced to accept finite options on scene blocking, lighting, and sound to capture the audience’s attention, while film can use multiple camera angles to tell a story. At the same time, film can only shoot from one POV at a time, but a novelist can tell the exact same scene from a POV character (ahem) that the film viewer may not have noticed, with an internal monologue to fill in what the audience just gets to guess at in video. And music often tweaks our emotions even more deftly than books or video.
There are plenty of media translations that don’t use the strength of their medium to give a new look at an old favorite, but I’m discovering there are more than I was aware of. I am hoping that I can start working in other media now that I’m recognizing what they can contribute to a retelling of a favorite story.
*I am not a fan of the Lady in Scotland because of the harm she does to the transgender community.
The Writing Rules
Remember that book on how to snag a man? I wonder how many women that worked for. The problem was, acting that way around men wasn’t me. So I figured even if it did work to get me a boyfriend, I would be presenting someone that wasn’t me, which wasn’t fair to either of us.
I scoffed at the dating Rules, but when it comes to commonly known writing rules, I sometimes comfortably internalize some that make absolutely no sense.
Must write in order, from outline. Mustn’t use song lyrics from the same band in more than one book. Mustn’t have a narrator in my script. Mustn’t have a prologue.
As I tell people all the time, if the rule doesn’t work for you, don’t follow it. The only thing you HAVE to do as a writer is write a thing and submit/publish a thing. (We could debate whether someone writing stories and never intending on submitting them is a writer, but I don’t want to do that right now.) Therefore, if my story hangs together at the end, why not write out of order? I don’t have anyone reading it right now, and if scene 54 is clearer in my mind than scene 5, then I should write 54.
Why the hell not use lyrics from the same band in two different books? If a line speaks to me, then I should use it, no matter what came before. Who in the world will notice?
And as for narrators and prologues being on the no-no list, would Arrested Development have been the same without Ron Howard?** And how many bestsellers have prologues? A Song of Ice and Fire uses prologues in each book to introduce new characters and then kills them to foreshadow one of the deadly antagonists in the book. Like anything else, these devices can be used poorly, but the key thing here, and in all of these examples, you have to trust yourself as a writer. If you want to include these, then do it.
I know I’m talking from an area of pro writer privilege, where I feel somewhat comfortable trusting that if I throw myself off the cliff, I can build the wings on the way down. I just have to remember that I can trust myself.
If you’re saying, “yeah but I don’t trust myself because I’m too new,” consider this: you should be trying everything you can think of to see if it’s fun, flows naturally, and just see if it works. You may find something that works for you; but you won’t know till you try. The best part about the newbie part of your career is you can experiment fearlessly. There’s nothing to lose! So don’t put limitations on yourself Just Because They Say. What if it works for you?
(What if it works for me?)
So yeah, my audio drama I’m working on has a narrator. And I’m trusting myself.
**Other excellent narrator examples include Ana Gasteyer’s Sugar and Booze holiday audio drama and the TV Show Central Park, where the two narrators disagree on whether a narrator should meddle in the story since he’s omniscient. (fun fact, these two are played by Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells, the two stars of the original Broadway musical Book of Mormon.)
“Way Too Close” - Central Park TV Show | Apple TV+
“Way Too Close” - Central Park TV Show | Apple TV+
2021 Award Eligibility Post - The Murverse Mothership
Twitch Schedule for January:
  • M- AMA 2:00-3:30
  • T- 3:00-4:00 I Should Be Writing
  • W- 4:00-5:30 - Gaming
  • Th- 3:00-4:00 I Should Be Writing
Roll Credits
You can support me on PatreonJemi, or just buy me a Ko-fi. That helps support my many creative projects.
If you can’t support via financial ways, you can help by telling a friend about my work, or leaving a review of my podcasts or books, or forwarding this newsletter!
Just want to catch the podcasts? For I Should Be Writing, you can subscribe on iTune or take this RSS feed and plug it into your preferred player. Ditch Diggers is on hiatus but you can find back episodes here: iTunesRSS, and Spreaker.
Or just search I Should Be Writing, Ditch Diggers, or Mur Lafferty on any podcast site.
Podcast credits: ISBW production by Summer Brooks, ISBW theme song by John Anealio, DD theme song by Devo Spice, art by Numbers Ninja, site design by Clockpunk Studio and hosted by Libsyn.
This newsletter is BY-NC-ND 3.5 Creative Commons licensed.
See you next week time!
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The Hot Mic - Mur Lafferty's Weekly Newsletter
The Hot Mic - Mur Lafferty's Weekly Newsletter @mightymur

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Mur Lafferty 8311 Brier Creek Parkway Ste 105274 Raleigh, NC 27617