Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dance Battle Writing Lessons

Today was a holiday here, Culture Day. I went to a marching band show, but I got so caught up in the music, I only took two pics. Oh well.

On Saturday night, I went to a dance battle. When I walked in, the doorman was Vegeta from Dragonball Z, the barman was Crillon, and the MC was a breakdancing Pikachu (Pokemon).

As usual, my write brain was in full swing. And as I watched the dancers square off and rock da house, I thought of ways that we, as writers, can learn from them.

1. No matter how good you are, you might go out in the first round

The battle was one on one elimination style, with the audience judging. As with any audience judged contest, it's personal. The fact Dancer 1 does not make it past the first round, doesn't mean that they're a bad dancer. It just means that the audience happened to like Dancer 2's moves better.

When you're sending queries or synopses to agents, and piling up the rejections, it may feel like you're just not good enough. Maybe. Maybe you do need to work on your submission. But maybe, that agent just likes Dancer 2's moves.

Which is why...

2. You need to bring your A-game

In one battle, the better dancer was defeated. I saw this guy move before and after the battle. Guy 2 didn't hold a candle to him. But when Guy 2 got up on stage, he brought the stuff. And Guy 1 didn't.

The competition is tough and the industry is selective. You are not going to advance if you don't play your best cards.

But still...

3. You can't be a one-trick pony

In the first battle, Dancer 1 was a B-boy (breakdancer), and Dancer 2 was not. Now, breakdancing is always impressive (unless you really suck), but you can't expect that you can spend a minute and a half spinning on your back. That's not a dance, that's an overturned turtle.

Your book can't just have one thing going for it. An excellent plot doesn't mean you can completely sacrifice your characters, and your setting, and your dialogue, etc.

And remember...

4. Almost doesn't count

A couple of times, dancers (especially B-boys) went for a move and missed. In a freestyle contest, you really don't have a choice but to go all out. But when you miss, you don't score any points with the audience. In fact you might lose points.

If there's something you're not strong at, you have two choices. First, you can avoid it. If you're not good at creating worlds, then you don't write Science Fiction or Fantasy. But when you're not good at something unavoidable, or it's something you really want to do, you need to work at it. Put in your hours on the practice floor, before you bring it to the stage half-baked.

And no matter what...

5. Be ready for anything

When the dancers went up on stage, they didn't know what track the DJ was going to spin. They'd only hear a few bars before they had to start moving. And if the song was something they weren't really familiar with, they couldn't just throw in the towel.

The publishing industry is pretty unpredictable. Sometimes it's really, really slow. But sometimes it's super fast. Sometimes, you as an author, have X responsibilities, sometimes you have Z responsibilities. You never can tell. All you can do is to be prepared, and be professional.

And above all...

6. It's the 'tude, Dude

The entire reason I was at this dance off is because I recently joined a hip hop dance class that my town hires Y to teach. So Y and T (the other teacher) invited the whole class to the dance off. Y is a pretty good dancer, and he's just the sweetest thing, but he's not one for the battles. See, he's two sweet. I mean, there are certain fields that you're supposed to have "I'm a bada$$" written across your forehead: WWF wrestling, running a gang, singing or dancing reggae or hip hop. And there's absolutely nothing bada$$ about Y.

This kinda translates into confidence, and you can't dance hip hop if you're not "the best." I mean have you ever heard a rapper use a lyric like, "I'm no 2, and I'm cool with that?"

Writing is also all about attitude.You have to know you're a writer, because there are a lot of people around you that won't get it. They won't appreciate how much time you spend with your imaginary friends. Or they may not think you're a writer because they can't find you on a bookshelf. Yet.

To top that off, the writing community is awesome, but a large part of writing is solitary- well, just you and a cast of imaginary people. You have to know that what you're writing is good enough. You have to know that this plot will work, that this character will be loved (or hated), that what you're working on will mean something to someone. At the end of the day (and the beginning) YOU have to believe in you.

Hope you enjoyed these, and take something from them. :)

1 comment:

Marsha Sigman said...

You are like the queen of analogies! This is awesome and I love it. And I have been wanting to join a hip hop class for so long! If I wait much longer, I'll be too old and break a hip or I wish you lived near me!