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The Tea House: Guest Post by Jamie Grefe

By Jamie Grefe

tea house jamieToday is brought to you by Maxwell House’s Dark Roast coffee, a most charming and appropriate beverage for your creative adventures. Take a sip of life.

Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out more compelling ways of telling stories that please both myself and my audience in the process, of figuring out who I am in this churning river of “storytelling.”

When I reflect on stories that stir me to action, I find I’m drawn to the world of film. As a youth, I created many short movies with friends for personal enjoyment. I’ve worked in television and have had the pleasure of speaking with some talented directors. That said, I have strange tastes. I remember watching Claudio Fragasso’s Troll 2 when it appeared on Cinemax years ago. It had a magic vibe that pulled me in. There was a freedom in that film flowing from the absurd hooks and reveals, the music, the overly dramatic performances and the shoddy costumes of the goblins themselves. You could see through everything, but wanted to hold onto that farce for as long as possible. I wanted to live inside that movie. There is something about believable absurdity that lingers in my mind in a strong way and I’m trying to figure out how to make that happen on the page.

While I haven’t used a notebook and paper to plot out Troll 2, I have started to plot out my own stories and holding them up to other films that I admire. I want to be able to understand their structure more clearly, catch character decisions and hooks, then turn around and use that flavor in my stories. While crafting my book The Mondo Vixen Massacre, I enjoyed a steady diet of Russ Meyer and Jim Wynorski along with Roger Corman and Robert Rodriguez. I watched some of my favorite movies with attention to how they flowed, how they were cut, and how and why their characters spoke, and, when it came time to write, something of my own came through, too. Something oozed from the edges. Something unique and spellbinding.

When I first started writing as an adult, I didn’t want to know where I was going with a story. I have very little patience. I thought that if I just let myself go wild, it would all turn out well. That led to a series of pieces with vague and forced endings, endings that veered or stories that went straight to the slush pile. So, I began to work backward, paying more attention to how these characters thought and where I wanted their stories to end up. Was there a through-line? How did their individual stories arc? At the same time, I kept things organic, open to the possibility that these characters might want to turn left when I wanted them to turn right and that it’s okay to let them do so, but to step back and keep an eye on the end, on the goal, on the purpose of the larger story itself.

It seems to work for me even though I consider this journey a perpetual work-in-progress. Eraserhead is giving me a shot with The Mondo Vixen Massacre, which I’m thrilled about. I just pitched a “cannibalsploitation” novella to great success and my novella Mutagon II was accepted by Holy Mountain Outreach. I’ve found that, for my own purposes, when I actively tune into the world of film and relate that taste of structure, editing, and writing back into my own stories, my imagination explodes with energy and ideas emerge. Maybe it’s because I was raised on movies more than books. Maybe it’s because I think visually. I’m really not sure. I believe that we all have unique ways of grasping and being grasped by the world and, in my case, a filmic view of things turns me on, gets me going, and, more importantly, gets me writing.

My NBAS title, The Mondo Vixen Massacre, is a love letter to certain creators whose work I admire, an experiment in growth and study that took a lot of reflection, study, and dedication, despite its over-the-top violence and bizarre twists. I hope you can find paths into growing yourself as a creator and learn to grow those paths to flourish in enriching and life-enhancing ways. Thank you. Now, time for another cup of coffee.
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Jamie Grefe’s The Mondo Vixen Massacre is currently available from Eraserhead Press. He is also the author of the forthcoming Mutagon II (Holy Mountain Outreach) and TARANTULEECHEN (Conatus Publishing) with an untitled “Cannibalsploitation” novella slated for 2014. His creative output appears widely online and in print. To read more of his work, please join him on Facebook or Tumblr.

2 responses

  1. Pingback: The Tea House: On Writing « The Eyeslit-Crypt

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