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Thaddeus Rex’s Blog

Writing 101…

Now that I've spent 10 years as a professional songwriter, entertainer and educator, I like to think of myself as a writer. But last year I tried to write a book and realized writing is still very very difficult... Argh!!

I actually wrote it as a comic book. I finished the plot outline and sent it to my publisher (who had agreed to help me find an illustrator). Then the publisher wrote back and said they'd just decided not to do graphic novels and asked if I could re-write the story into a chapter book.  I thought to myself, "What?!? Are you CRAZY!!!"  But out loud I said, "Sure thing! No problem!!" But it was a huge problem.

When you write a comic book it's like a movie. You tell the story in pictures. The story is told in what English teachers like to call "omniscient narrator" format. That means the story is not told from any single point of view. You look in at the story, from the outside, through pictures.

But in a chapter book, the author has to put the reader inside the character's head. This can actually be a better way to develop a character. You can show a characters thoughts and feelings without creating all sorts of silly dialogue. (interestingly, this is why every Disney movie creates a silly animal as a sidekick for the main character. Disney needs a way to show you what Aladin is thinking as he looks out over the city at night. But it'd be weird and maybe creepy if he talked to himself. So they gave him a monkey (abu, I think) to talk to when he's alone. You get to see Aladdin's inner thoughts in the dialogue because the movie can't take you inside his head).

That's the same way you do it in a comic book (or graphic novel). The characters thoughts and feelings must be conveyed in the drawings and the dialogue. Occasionally the narrator can say something [Meanwhile, back at the bat cave...], but it's cheesy for the narrator to say very much.

A novel allows you to get right inside the characters head. You see the whole world thru their eyes. The author might shift perspective throughout the book. In one chapter you see the world from Harry Potter's point of view. In another you see the world thru Dumbledore's. You might even see some scenes thru the eyes of Professor Snape or Voldemort. But each scene must be told from inside one character's point of view.

This threw me for a complete loop!!  My graphic novel was finished. But to change the story into a chapter book I had to pick a point of view. Most young readers books maintain a single point of view throughout the entire story to keep it simple for the reader. But there were no characters in my story who appeared in every single scene. And the story didn't make sense if you cut some of the scenes.

So now I have a plot, no pictures and no publisher. Back to the drawing board!

You would think I'd be a master of succinct writing. After all, songwriting is all about cramming a lot of story into very few words. But when I write prose I tend to ramble all over the place. I'm very impressed with people like Seth Godin who puts up a new article on his blog every single day!  But for all I know maybe Seth has a team of 10 people sitting in Manhattan, all writing all the time and all pretending to be him.

But either way I'm impressed! I guess that's the point. Writing is hard. So I won't be able to post things for you everyday. But I hope to post things for you regularly from now on.

Hopefully I can figure out how to allow comments on here too. Can't wait to see what you have to say. If you're reading this, you must be a fan or a stalker or my mom. Whatever the reason, I hope you enjoy it and I hope to one day see the world from your point of view...

Elmo Has a Silly Belly

Had a great time at Bryant Elementary yesterday!  Man these 5th graders have got it in for little Elmo!!  They started off on a song about Elmo being worse than vandalism and that no one should have to watch that garbage on TV. We started in writing about this idea and I thought it had the potential to turn out really cool. It was an interesting metaphor, and I could see it growing into a wild song decrying the vapid nature of children's television.

But what wound up happening was the 5th graders immediately started writing Elmo into all these terrible situations. He was getting wacked by baseball bats and buried alive and other horrible things. (poor Elmo!). Obviously he's not popular in this demographic! LOL

But as we talked and continued brainstorming, the kids had an amazing realization. Our goal is to write a song that could be on the radio. And moms listen to the radio all the time with little kids in the car. If we wrote a song about poor Elmo's demise a lot of 5th graders might find it hilarious, but moms likely wouldn't. And we don't want moms changing radio stations when our song comes on!

The kids began a new line of brainstorming and took on some massive rewrites. I'm super proud of their effort. This song may not be as long as many you hear on this blog, but the kids did so much rewriting, they basically wrote two songs!

They've proven to me they have what it takes to Write Like a Rock Star!! I they keep writing, and we get to hear more soon!



Elmo has a silly belly
How does his mommy fill that
With peanut butter and jelly
He loves to lick it like a cat

I saw him at the County Fair
Riding a roller coaster
I saw him at the county fair
Sitting in a toaster