Balance Your Breakfast – Writing Tips to Make Your Creativity Taste Better

Many of us, whether we are just starting out in our writing careers, or if we are published veterans, have fallen into an age-old trap: repetition. This can be an especially common problem when writing a weekly column, or, as is the case for us here at Eat Your Serial, a serial piece of writing.

So how does one escape that monotony, the regression to primary school when stories waltzed along step by step through the tried and true method, “…and then…and then…and then..?”

Our editors have a few tricks up their sleeves that can help spur your creativity

1. Read, read, read

One of the easiest ways to break the repetitive spell is to read something completely different from what you’re working on. Get out of your own head and away from your own writing for a while. If you’re writing an article on the latest gadget, pick up an old mystery novel and read twenty pages. Are you a hundred pages into your new novel about a serial killer terrorizing the streets of Los Angeles? Try reading a gardening magazine. The switch in content will give your brain a break and creativity will be come back to you later.

2. Mix and match

Take a few paragraphs, swap them around, and rework the material to fit the new order. Even if it doesn’t exactly work out like you’d hoped, you’ll force yourself to change up your writing style.

3. The gift of the gab

Another great way to figure out where the bread has gotten stale is to read it out loud. Step back from the writing, make a sandwich, watch the latest Jersey Shore disaster, and then come back and give a reading to whatever audience you can scrounge. The houseplants usually work pretty well. You’ll be amazed how many things you find when you hear it instead of see it. Or speak to yourself in the mirror – maybe you’ll be your best audience.

4. Find an editor

Still talk to your favorite English teacher? Did your roommate edit the college newspaper? Have you gotten as far as you can and now you’re submitting to us? Whatever the case may be, finding someone else to look over your work is one of the best ways to make it better.

Have any tips of your own? Let us know!

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Star Trek as Serials – TOS vs. TNG – Kirk or Picard?

When talking serials some debates just get too hot to handle. Recently, thanks to the miracle of Netflix’s instant streaming app on my XBox 360, I’ve been privy to reliving a modern classic of serials (maybe THE modern classic)—Star Trek.

Initially I began by watching the movie series with the original cast and followed that up by revisiting the series of my youth; Star Trek: The Next Generation. Invariably this jump leads to the comparison of the two captains of the series—and rightfully so—but comparisons of the captains require comparisons of the context of the shows, as well as their cast of characters.

Kirk or Picard?

Kirk vs. Picard (2/365)
The question as to whether Kirk or Picard is the better captain is justified because they are so dissimilar. Had Picard been a rehashing of Kirk-style captainship the comparison between the two men would have been impotent on arrival. Due to Kirk’s action oriented and Picard’s diplomatic oriented leadership style the comparison has a philosophical foundation that can be applied to real world political situations; when does one use the sword and when the olive branch? It is difficult to come to a conclusion that is mutually fulfilling for the parties in one camp or the other. Though for a strong argument (that leans towards the camp I am not in) can be found here as expressed by prolific comic book writer Peter David.

A Deeper Look

The series themselves were carefully crafted by Gene Roddenburry to reflect the gamut of human emotion, experience, and ethnicity. At the time of The Original Series (TOS)  inception it was quite a novelty to have a character both African-American and female on the bridge, accompanied officers that were Japanese and Russian, serving alongside  Scottish, Midwestern and Southern American and half human-half “Vulcan” with a devilish appearance.

In the 1960s having these crew members in the post-World War II , Cold War, Civil Rights embattled America the crew of the Enterprise reflected a forward movement towards peace on Earth, if not in the galaxy. While preaching about the possibility of peace the series dealt with the Cold War directly via the Klingons who were indubitably analogues for the Russians and with Civil Rights; specifically with the episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” in which the half-black-half-white people battle with the half-white-half-black people. The original cast movies, with the exception of the first, are a continuous story outlining the end of the galactic “Cold War” and the advent of peace with the Klingons. It is therefore easy to assert that Kirk’s “punch him in the face” style is reflective of his position as a wartime captain.

The Next Generation (TNG) was launched on the momentum of TOS film series and reflects the real world events of the fall of the Soviet Union. The cast is reflective of a true peacetime mission. The TNG cast truly set out to find new life and in doing so, found one of its own. Picard is a thinker while, as David points out, Kirk is a doer. The cast is larger and is more focused on exploring humanity than the original show is on exploring the man. It has often been argued that the Kirk-McCoy-Spock dynamic is reflective of the ego, superego, and id and, largely, I believe that this assertion holds water. The dynamic of Captain, First/Science Officer, and Chief Physician in TOS really represents the burning questions revolving around how a man makes his decisions—with especial regard to Kirk balking regulation for the greater good. TOS is more about character interaction and race relations, policy and philosophy, and above all character growth. While development did occur with TOS the pathways are remarkably broader in TNG.

In TOS Spock is Science Officer and XO—his half human side is subdued in favor of his logical and cool, calculated Vulcan heritage; barring the occasional seeping of human emotion Spock towed the line as the classic Greek stoic. The complexity of Spock is broken in different directions for TNG for further exploration. Data is logical yet strives to be and understand humans—the stoic who wishes to be emotional. Warf is a battle brilliant tactician, steeped in the culture of his heritage but tempered with the culture of his rearing (a Klingon raised by humans). Riker is a brilliant tactician as well but is a markedly different XO (NUMBER ONE!) in his jovial, gregarious, and lighthearted style—he may be the embodiment and spirit of Spock’s humorous observations. All these characters in TNG along with the rest of the crew provide for dynamics of exploration of the facets of mankind and humanity and not just the mind of the man.

The battles held in TNG are more about guile than bravado—though there is a time for both—and the quandaries are the manifestation of interpersonal vs. intrapersonal. Therein lies the rub of the Picard vs. Kirk, Kirk vs. Picard debate.

Now some of you may prefer Captain Janeway or Commander Sisko…and someone out there may ever prefer Captain Archer for some reason…so have at it!

 

Which is your favorite Trek serial? Who’s your favorite captain or character? Why?

 

What is Your Favorite Serial?

Whether we realize it or not, we’ve been exposed to serials all our lives. One of my favorite serials is Scott Adam’s Dilbert comic strip; this is probably because I feel like Dilbert sometimes in my day to day. Serials come in any form really, be it on TV, in cartoon form, video games, or movie trilogies.

 

As a kid, I used to be well informed on my Mom’s favorite soap opera, All My Children, and I’m sure some of the story lines  from when I was a kid are still unresolved. It’s a shame, as Brandon mentioned in his “A Toast to Soaps” blog post, that All My Children is getting canceled. My Mom just got a dvr so she wouldn’t miss an episode, too. How’s that for irony in your favorite serial?

 

WWE LogoTo answer my own question, my favorite serial is the same serial that has consumed the majority of my life – World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Wrestling has been around since the early 1900s and the WWE promotion has been around since the 1960s. RAW is currently WWE’s flagship show and it’s been airing live every Monday night (with some exceptions) since January 11, 1993. As of July 11, 2011, there have been 945 episodes of RAW and it is shown in over 50 countries (obviously not all live).

 

What makes my serial so special? Let’s start with the fact that the talent performs in front of a live audience approximately 300 days a year (both domestically and abroad).  Sure wrestling is scripted, but WWE’s talent engages in physicality that is equal to, if not greater than, professional athletes. Sometimes the performances are borderline insanity; for example, one wrestler may leap off a 15 foot ladder onto another wrestler on top of a table (you can’t fake physics!). The in ring action is only half the fun, though, as the storylines are why wrestling is often called the male soap opera (I guess my Mom can watch WWE after All My Children is canceled!). These story lines are dramatic, humorous, and occasionally are real (or partially real), tossing the scripted storyline to the side.

 

One of the most controversial real storylines involved the 1997 Montreal Screw Job when Bret Hart went into a match being told it would end in a “no contest” only to have his real life boss, Vince McMahon, fix the match so Shawn Michaels would win. 1997 was the last time Bret Hart would be seen on air with the WWE until last year when his legitimate anger finally subsided. I’m sure the truck loads of money Vince probably paid him to come back didn’t hurt either.

 

I could ramble on forever about the WWE but in short, my serial is one of the longest running serials that showcases live wrestling, acting (some good, some bad), and emotion (some fake, some real). So, what’s your favorite serial?