10
May 17

A Breakup Story

This breakup story starts on a Thursday. The Thursday in question was perhaps, the worst Thursday of my life. Though, admittedly, the breakup was only part of that.

A Breakup Story

This past semester, I’ve been teaching an extra class. And that fifth class took place Thursdays from 6 PM to 8:50 PM. And since Thursdays are the last day of my week, they were always a little arduous.

Imagine if your Fridays required you to be a functional human for a really long time. That’s what it’s like.

Anyway, I came home carrying extra bags of library books and an umbrella. The day itself had been gross simply because it was one of the most humid days in recent memory, and I was covered in several layers of sweat that had dried throughout various times in the day.

My clothes, for the record, smelled like the cast iron skillet of onions and bell peppers that accompany your order of fajitas.

This Thursday was also the final day before my students would be turning in their formal reports. It’s always a harrowing time, simply because no matter how much time you give your students, they will wait until the last minute to ask questions. So in addition to giving tests in my two classes, I had 3 hours worth of questions in my office hours. I tweeted about it.

After office hours I grabbed nachos in the student union, because you get to eat nachos when you’re worn out. And if you work on a college campus, you get to eat like a college kid. It’s in the employee handbook.

Then I went to my class, gave a test, and let the students leave when they were finished.

And when I got home that night — that’s when the breakup happened.

I don’t feel it’s right to say all the reasons why, because some of them are Chris’s reasons, and not my story to tell. But I will say this: The breakup was probably a long time coming.

Which feels weird to type after posting about house hunting, but like, I guess forever decisions like mortgages make you take stock, and had Chris not done so, I probably never would’ve either.

All that is to say that yes, Chris is the one that brought it up. He stood at the kitchen table just minutes after I walked in the door that night. As I put something in the trashcan right next to the table, I asked him what was up, because he looked super anxious.

And that’s when he did it.

There were no major fights or blowups. There were no big red flags. There were no conversations with friends over drinks about all the problems we were having.

Because there weren’t any major problems, nor have there ever really been. Chris and I are really good friends. And we always will be, at least I hope. But we’re not meant to be together.

We’re like a reverse When Harry Met Sally.

And I think we both knew that the relationship itself had been on autopilot for a really long time. It’s kind of like we had built up enough momentum over the years and we were able to just coast for the past few years.

But coasting and momentum are no way to live.

If we hadn’t broken up when we did, I’m sure we would’ve gotten married. I’m sure we would’ve had a couple of kids. And I’m sure that we would be the couple that gets divorced when we were in our fifties because the kids had grown up and we no longer had anything in common.

I can’t say that it’s been easy, because it hasn’t. And I haven’t told many people. (If you’re getting the news of the breakup via this post, and you feel slighted, sorry, I guess. But also, I owe you nothing.)

The breakup itself hurt. I cried. But I gotta be real. The minute Chris did it, I exhaled. It was like a small weight had been lifted. Because I think we both felt that we were moving in this direction. But I’m glad Chris did it, because I don’t think I could’ve.

See, in the sober light of day, we aren’t the same as we were almost 7 years ago when we met. I was 24, a bartender, and barely capable of being a human. He was 30, fresh out of a divorce, and just going to a bar to blow off steam on a Monday night. Neither of us were looking for a relationship, but, well, life happens.

In those years we’ve been together, we’ve changed dramatically. And though we’ve pretty much grown in the same direction as friends, we aren’t in love anymore.

I think here is a good place for me to say that I’m not posting this to solicit advice. In fact, I rarely, if ever, solicit advice. I know some will say that there are natural ebbs and flows in relationships, and that Chris and I should just stick it out. But as my friend Mari said, when you know, you know. And I know we’re doing the right thing.

So, I dealt with my emotions the way I always do — on Twitter.

I am a garbage millennial, always on the social media. WRING YOUR HANDS AT MY LIFE, BOOMERS.

But other things that have helped during this time are:

  • Bingeing 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I absolutely hated the show, thought it was poorly done, and tried too hard to be deep and serious, all while paying lip service to actual issues. But, hey! A breakup can’t be worse than having to be the overly tattooed 20-something pretending to be a high schooler for a show that will probably go down in history as one of the worst portrayals of mental illness and revenge fantasies. So, there’s that.

  • Reading Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons. I love Brittany’s blog, and her general attitude toward life. Plus, she’s relatable, so much so that I can imagine us meeting up for nachos and margaritas to gossip and just bitch about life. (Second nachos reference in this post, because I use food to deal with life.)
  • Listening to The Minimalists podcast. If you ever find yourself in a life situation where you’re going to need to pack up all your crap to make a life change in the very near future, it’s so much easier when you’re listening to Josh and Ryan answer questions about the process of downsizing and getting rid of crap. Bonus points for how soothing it is too.
  • Grading papers. I seriously went through all the papers I had to grade in 9 days. That’s a new personal record. But it’s so much easier to get work done when you don’t really want to be alone with your thoughts.
  • Talking about writing. Thankfully, I was able to attend the OWFI conference this past weekend, and just being there felt really energizing. It’s great to know that there are people in the world who are into what you’re into, and that they believe in you even when everything else is falling apart. Also, as if the universe needed to remind me that everything is a very small, closed circle, it was announced that Jay Asher, the author of the book 13 Reasons Why, will be the keynote at next year’s conference. Weird, huh?

As for future plans, I’m slowly making them.

I’m still house hunting, but for a very different type of house. Me and Rosie, the greatest dog in the universe, need a swingin’ bachelorette pad.

I also plan to put a lot of time and energy into writing. Chris didn’t prevent me from writing, but I was in a really comfortable place in our relationship, and I definitely didn’t focus on artistic growth in the way I should’ve. It’s time to stop coasting.

Fitness is going back on the radar too. I mean, it’s always on the radar because I am a woman in a First World country, and I’ve been conditioned to believe I’m garbage if I don’t obsess about fitness in a pathological way. But I’m looking forward to establishing a new workout routine.

As for dating again, I’m sure it will happen eventually. But for now, I’m going to respectfully decline all your offers to hook me up with that one single guy from your office/church/homeowner’s association/fantasy football league/biker gang. I’m really good at being single, and after 7 years of being in a relationship, I’m really looking forward to being single again.

Thanks for sharing!
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03
May 17

The 10 Stages of My Writing Process

The writing process is a mythical one. It’s a lot of emotional drudgery painstakingly scrawled on Post-Its purloined from former employers on my way out. It’s a lot half-full cups of cold coffee sloshing over the rim of the mug as I attack my keyboard with the fervor of 1000 feral cats. It’s a lot of hours spent on Twitter when I feel I deserve a break that inevitably morphed into a full-on procrastination sesh.

The Writing Process

And yeah. I guess my writing process is also about writing? Sometimes.

With the annual OWFI conference taking place in OKC this weekend, I thought I’d outline my writing process for your enjoyment.

If you’re like me, then you have that restless spring time antsy-ness and you want to dive into a project like Scrooge McDuck dives into his vault. But, again, if you’re like me, your writing process (particularly during spring time antsy-ness) won’t allow it.

You, my friend, are not alone. (If you’ve figured out how to master this weirdness and actually be productive, then I want you to know that you’re not my friend. you’re a mortal enemy and I will light your socks on fire.)

The 10 Stages of My Writing Process Click To Tweet

Anyway, without further ado, here are the 10 stages of my writing process.

001: Manic Ideation
During this phase, ALL MY IDEAS ARE MADE OF GOLD. Generally, this is when I’m scrawling like mad in a notebook, and my pen doesn’t leave the paper — that’s how manic it is. And, after I’ve filled 30 pages with these GOLDEN IDEAS, I start to think that not only am I the greatest and best writer in the world, but that I’m well on my way to the Nobel in Literature.

002: Diligent Procrastination
Generally speaking, I really wear myself out in the manic ideation stage of the writing process. I’m mentally and emotionally spent afterward, and my pen is generally out of ink. when I’m diligently procrastinating, I like to take some time to refill the well, so to speak. So I read books and binge on Netflix, with the notion that I need to replenish my inspiration stores. However, once those stores are replenished, I tend to continue my diligent procrastination on Twitter and YouTube.

003: Furtive Research
The furtive research stage is all about getting down to business. I’m ready to work! Only, those solid gold ideas from stage 001? Yeah. Not really gold. More like gold-plated. Or like, probably aluminum-plated. Because in the sober light of day, NOTHING IS EVER GOOD AND I’M A FAILURE. So I do some research. And this research is like the undergirding for the haphazard railway structure some fly-by-night monorail salesman sold me. <Simpson’s Reference That References Music Man.jpg>

004: Quixotic Outlining
Outlining is inherently quixotic because it’s when you take all those scrawled nonsense bits you thought were gold, and mix them with your research to DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM. What’s that dream? For me, it’s a novel. For you, it might be a new type of chip dip that uses Dippin’ Dots technology. (LIVE YOUR DREAM AND IF THAT’S DIPPIN’ DOTS-STYLE DIP FOR YOUR CHIPS, THEN LIVE YOU MAGICAL FIEND, LIVE.) The outlining stage is full of hope and wonder and I can conquer the world, or you know, just complete a hella big-ass project. And it’s quixotic because just like Don Quixote, you don’t see what’s really there. Like, I don’t see all the plot holes — I just see possibilities. The outline is where you tilt at them windmills, y’all.

The outlining stage is full of hope and wonder and I can conquer the world. #amwriting Click To Tweet

005: Vehement Denial
This is the part where I remind myself I’m not a writer. That master’s degree was a big ol’ lie, and my brain is actually full of instant mashed potatoes. (If you’ve read this post, then you know this is where I live.) In this stage, I realize fully that I’m Alonso Quijano, and my Rocinante of a novel idea is a terrible old horse. (One that probably kicks kids right in the teeth.)

(I’m from Oklahoma. I know an absurd amount of people who had their teeth kicked out by horses as children.)

006: Smooth Starting
Denial be damned! I get started with my novelin’. And the first scene is always so easy to write. I open a blank document and go to town. And before I know it, I have something that may, at some point, be a viable chapter. It feels really good and like maybe I’m not a failure at the only dream I’ve ever had! If only every stage could be like this…

007: Emotional Breakdown
BUT THE START IS THE ONLY SMOOTH PART BECAUSE I NEED TO SPEND LIKE 40% OF MY WRITING PROCESS JUST STRAIGHT UP CRYING I GUESS. Honestly, I’m not sure why I do this, but I’m also pretty sure that like, all writers do this? Maybe all artists do this. When you put so much time and energy into something that will never match the vision you have in your head, you’re really just setting yourself up for big ol’ crying jags.

008: REVENGE
This is where I curse everyone I’ve ever known. My writing is coming for you, and you deserve it because you may have wronged me at some time and you deserve to be taken out and metaphorically stoned in the streets. BY MY WORDS!

009: Existential Contemplation
This is the point where I acknowledge that choosing the life of a writer means I need therapy. Also, can I continue to live my life like this? DO I EVEN WANT TO? UGH WHY DOES IT EVEN MATTER IF I DO ANYTHING I’M A BODY WITHOUT ORGANS AND WHO CARES ABOUT THE SIGNS I CREATE AND WHAT I SAY THEY SIGNIFY. (Note: This isn’t so much a part of the writing process as it is a part of my everyday life.)

I acknowledge that choosing the life of a writer means I need therapy. #amwriting Click To Tweet

010: Just Writing.
So, I finally get to the stage where I do what I should’ve been doing the whole damn time. But that’s the thing about the writing process. It’s not so much about writing most of the time.

The writing process: Not always about writing. #amwriting Click To Tweet

What about you? What’s your writing process? How many stages do you have? Do any of your stages just involve you crying for no good reason?

Thanks for sharing!
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25
Apr 17

Meditating with Insight Timer: 5 Things I’ve Realized About Myself

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed my updates from the free Insight Timer app. I’ve recently gotten into meditating, and I’ve been meditating with Insight Timer to help me get into the practice. Meditating with Insight Timer has been a crucial part of creating space to breathe.

Meditating with Insight Timer

I have to say that when I started, I kind of assumed that I’d be super good at it. Like, my brain would shut off and I’d concentrate on breathing and the affirmations for the day. And then, when I was finished, I’d be one hella balanced person.

So, yeah. That ain’t the case.

I've been meditating with @InsightTimer to help me get into the practice. Click To Tweet

But even so, I’m enjoying the process of meditating with Insight Timer. And in that process, I’ve learned a few things about myself and how I meditate. That’s what I’m going to share with you today.

001: My brain is noisy.

Generally, I try to shut my head up. But it’s hard. See, I’ve got 60 things on a to do list that’s constantly on my mind. And oh, I just realized I haven’t looked at my phone in 6 hours, gee I hope no one is dead. I really need to buy some lunch meat to make sandwiches. When was the last time Rosie had a bath? Do you think my plantar fasciitis will go away on its own? Did I remember to track my water for the day? Do you think my friends with kids know how bad iPads are for really young kids? I hope I don’t get audited this year. I wonder what happened to my space pen. Mad Pierrot is such a sad character. Are the eggs in the fridge still good? How does international postage work? How much have I spent on pedicures in my life? How many members of the ENHS class of 2004 are now in jail?

And on and on it goes.

When I’m awake, that’s the inside of my head. It’s like flipping through channels on a staticky cathode ray tube TV. (For younger readers, TVs used to be big squares with a tube inside.) Meditating with Insight Timer only magnifies this. The goal of meditation, or at least, the goal for my meditations is to become aware of these thoughts and let them go. I don’t think I have the brain chemistry that would ever let me completely push all thoughts away. So, I’m just trying to hit the down arrow on the volume for now. Because for real, my head is noisy, and quieting it just a bit by meditating helps a lot.

002: There is no such thing as a quiet place.

I usually meditate first thing in the morning. That means that the only people awake in the house are me and Rosie, the dog. (I guess she’s not a person. But she sure does sit on the couch like one.)  I pick a meditation I want to do from the Insight Timer app, and then I sit down and start. I usually have the coffee maker brewing while I meditate, just because I think the sound and smell really enhance my experience. Also, it’s nice to know that right after I’m done meditating, I can have a hot cup of coffee.

While I generally try to get rid of distractions, there is no such thing as a quiet place. Right now is mosquito season, and I find that in the middle of a session, there is invariably a mosquito buzzing around my head. And Rosie, though generally the best dog in the universe, has managed to align her genital licking schedule with my meditation schedule. So, while I’m trying to breathe deeply, she’s making the grossest sound you can imagine.

But whatever. I let it go.

Mostly.

Sometimes I stop mid-session to tell Rosie to knock it off.

003: Apps can make it so much easier.

I first heard about the Insight Timer app from Jackie Wolven, and I’m so glad I did. For me, it’s hard to meditate because I’m new to it, and I want some guidance. It’s kind of like how I prefer yoga class to just practicing on my own. With guided meditations for whatever you’re feeling, meditating with Insight Timer is a beginner’s best friend.

I highly recommend any of the guided morning meditations, as well as some of the sleep meditations. For me, I like to meditate at the beginning and the end of the day, so these are perfect. I’m also thinking of adding a small mid-day meditation, so if there’s a guided meditation on Insight Timer you’d recommend for that, let me know in the comments!

004: I need so much more practice.

Sometimes I get mad that my head won’t clear. I know that isn’t productive, but I’m human. And I also know I just need more practice with meditating. For a while, I was getting really good at being present and focused on breathing in shavasana at the end of yoga. But if you don’t use it, you lose it.

So I’m working on getting better at taking a more yoga approach to my meditation practice. But I don’t think I’ll ever see a day when I feel like I don’t need more practice.

005: Breathing can feel amazing.

At the end of a stressful day when I’m so anxious that I’ve bitten all my nails off, meditating with Insight Timer has been a game changer. On those nights, I used to regularly have night terrors. Now, I meditate quietly in bed before I go to sleep. And I have to say that it’s made a huge amount of difference.

(The night terrors aren’t completely gone, but mostly so. And let’s be honest. Night terrors are probably caused by supernatural beings messing with me in my sleep and not so much my anxiety, right? I mean, probably.)

The best part of meditating is focusing on breathing, and noticing how good that breathing can make you feel. Seriously. Try it right now.

Have you ever tried meditating with Insight Timer? Click To Tweet

Do you have a favorite way to meditate? Have you ever tried meditating with Insight Timer? Any meditations you’d recommend?

Thanks for sharing!
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19
Apr 17

If It Ain’t Yours, Don’t Carry It

If it ain’t yours, don’t carry it.

Simple enough.

If it ain't yours, don't carry it.

Don’t pick it up. Don’t offer to help. Don’t open up your bag and let someone else drop it right in there.

Because if it ain’t yours to carry, you don’t need to carry it.

But what about the stuff that others can’t carry? You know — the things they’ve picked up along the way. The extras and the afflictions and the little nonconformities that make it hard for them. If you know their story, it makes it hella hard not to carry something for someone else.

Whatever it may be.

But you can’t.

You’re supposed to be here, but you’re not here to carry what’s not yours.

Pretend I’m coming at you like an angry mama who found her toddler crawling on the floor of a public restroom, and that toddler also happened to pick up several things and shove them in her mouth.

NO NO NO, I say to you.

Not yours.

Don’t pick that up. Don’t put it in your mouth. Leave it there, it’s yucky.

Because if it ain’t yours, don’t carry it.

Because if it ain't yours, don't carry it. Click To Tweet

(This is as much a reminder for me as it is for you, you know.)

(I’m sure you know.)

(If you’re here, you know.)

But what about when, you ask, brow furrowed in consternation, what about when someone leaves what’s theirs with you? Then, are you not obligated to carry it?

Hell no.

If some well meaning asshole approaches you with with what belongs to them, and drops it at your feet, that is exactly where it stays. You don’t pick that up, and you sure as hell don’t carry it. And if they look at you expectantly and wonder why you ain’t carrying it, you don’t have to explain shit, because it’s not yours.

If they come back later and ask if you’ve got it, remind them that you don’t carry it if it ain’t yours, and they can go pick it up just where they left it.

You have to take care of yourself, because sometimes the Universe is conspiring against you.

The secret is that you’ll gladly carry for some. Some truly deserve it. Those people who are inextricably linked to you by a force that pulls and magnetic coincidence — you’ll carry what belongs to them because you know they’ll carry what belongs to you.

But here’s the rub: You can’t carry theirs if you’re carrying someone else’s. And just imagine how foolish you’ll feel when you realize you’ve been schlepping what’s not yours to carry when you could’ve carried something better all along.

But that’s the thing. If it ain’t yours, don’t carry it. And if you’re going to carry it, best outline the carrier-carryee relationship upfront. And honestly, let them know your policy on carrying what’s not yours.

Oh, and make sure you uphold that policy.

Thanks for sharing!
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17
Apr 17

10 Writing Lessons I’ve Learned from The Fast and the Furious Franchise

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of all the Fast and the Furious movies. In fact, if you’re the type of person that likes to hate on these films, then this post is not for you. I’m pretty unapologetic about my love for them, and I will not entertain any detractors. Even though the movies are full of things that, according to the laws of science, are impossible, I don’t even care. These movies are 100% full-on good times.

10 Writing Lessons I've Learned from The Fast and the Furious Franchise

As a writer, I’m interested in how the movies pull that off. It’s one thing to write a bad ass action movie. It’s quite another to have it turn into the juggernaut that the Fast and the Furious films have become.

But how do the films achieve this? That’s a very good question, and I’m not sure I can answer it completely. Obviously, it took several years, a very complicated timeline, and several new and amazing characters to get there. So, while I can’t tell you how the writers got there, I can tell you what I’ve learned in watching these movies.

So settle in and pop a Corona, because I’ve got the 10 writing lessons I’ve learned from the Fast and the Furious franchise.

(Fair warning: This post is hella long, but it’s because I have hella feelings about these movies, and have learned hella things about writing.)

001: Improbability + Sincerity = Good Times

I never took physics in school, but I know the difference between things that can happen and things that can’t. That having been said, I don’t necessarily care whether or not things can happen. Some of my favorite stories take place in spaceships, and those stories never tackle how the characters’ bodies would degrade from living in that atmosphere, or how traveling at the speed of light all the time would affect the aging process. I LITERALLY DON’T CARE THOUGH. That’s the thing. If you’re telling a good story, it doesn’t matter whether or not it could actually happen. And, if the writer has done their job, they’ve set up the rules of the story world well enough that these little details shouldn’t matter.

If you're telling a good story, it doesn't matter whether or not it could actually happen. Click To Tweet

So, I have to believe that in the story world of Dominic Toretto and his crew of unruly criminals-turned-secret agents, things like jumping from cars in high-speed chases or government law enforcement agencies asking crews of thieves to help them out to catch real bad guys are totally possible. And I believe this because the story delivers all these things with the sort of sincerity that you don’t usually get from action movies. It’s not that most action movies don’t try, it’s just that they can’t achieve it. If you don’t get what I’m saying, then you need to watch any of Jean Claude Van Damme’s movies from the early 1990s, and you’ll totally see what I’m saying.

002: One-liners don’t have to be terrible and cheesy.

Alright. One of the big problems I have with comic book movies is the comic book-style one-liners. If Spider-Man is hanging from a web, I DO NOT LIKE IT WHEN HE SAYS SOMEWHERE IN THE DIALOG THAT HE’S JUST HANGING OUT. I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT. So, for a number of years, I thought I just hated one-liners. However, thanks to the Fast and the Furious movies, I’ve realized I don’t. And if I’m being real, we have Tyrese to thank on that.

Tyrese plays Roman Pearce, a pretty badass dude that also serves as the comic relief of the movies. Not only is his timing perfect, but he plays off the other characters so well that there is never a point where his one-liners feel forced and cheesy. Could he say “just hanging out” in a scenario where for one reason or another he’s trussed up by the big bad villain? Yes, yes he could. And I would want to murder Peter Parker even more because Tyrese would do it so well and make Spidey look like an even bigger chode.

003: Character interaction is everything.

I would argue that the main reason people have fallen in love with the Fast and the Furious movies is the characters. Sure, there are plenty of badass men-of-few-words style tough guys, but at the end of the day, they’re family. (If you don’t know, one of the most common phrases spoken by Dominic Toretto is “I ain’t got friends. I got family.”) So, as a family, there is a fair amount of ribbing and general fun.

And let’s be real. As a part of the audience, you gotta wonder how in the world a movie full of actors, rappers, a former professional wrestler, some MMA fighters, and a Jason Statham (he belongs in his own category) would get along well enough to pull it off. And it’s such a damn delight to see all these people interacting and making it work. And the reason it works is because the characters interact in very real, emotional, and often hilarious ways. Without those interactions, the movies don’t hold the magic necessary to enchant large audiences.

004: Diversity is stupid easy to achieve.

I won’t say that this series is the most diverse film franchise to date. There are no LGBT characters, and the only disability I recall being portrayed was Jessie in the first film, who had ADD. (He was later shot.) However, I will say that this film series brings together a lot of different ethnicities, and does it in a way that never pays lip service to diversity, which tends to be an issue when Hollywood execs say “let’s get some brown folks in a movie!”

And not only are there are a lot of ethnicities represented, but they are represented doing a wide array of things. Ludacris is a computery tech guy! Michelle Rodriguez is a badass who, much like Eowyn, is no man! Gal Gadot can handle anything with a motor or a trigger! Sung Kang is a chameleon who can do whatever is needed and he eats lots of snacks! Don Omar and Tego Calderon just get work done and win all the dollars in Monte Carlo!

It’s also worth stating here that the ethnicities never come into play in a forced way. Like, Letty never has an unnecessary monolog about her abuela to let you, as the audience, know that she’s Mexican. I really appreciate that.

005: If you keep the audience happy, they won’t do the math.

If you’ve seen Fast & Furious 6, then you know that the climax of the film involves cars chasing a plane down the runway. The cars, using harpoon-like cables, hold the plane down and prevent it from taking off. They do this for like 11 minutes. I don’t know where in the world this 11-minute runway is, but I don’t even care. And I don’t care because I am having a good time. It’s like I said back in 001. It’s that sincerity that makes the improbability okay. And even more, if I’m enjoying it, I won’t do the math. In fact, I think Chris and I had seen the sixth movie like 3 times before we even noticed that this plane was taking hella long to take off.

And just like in the gif above, do you think I care that it’s pretty impossible for a car to jump from skyscraper to skyscraper? Nope. Not at all. In fact, I’m planning on trying it in Downtown OKC later this year.

006: When in doubt, add a red head.

Adding a red head works great in stories, but it’s also just good life advice. I have a red headed boyfriend and a red headed dog, and I can say that they’ve definitely enriched my existence. I like to think that’s why the filmmakers decided to add Kristofer Hivju to the the eighth film.

And side note: When we went to see The Fate of the Furious, a worker at the theater came up to me to ask if Chris was my boyfriend, because in her words, he looks just like that new bad guy in the new Fast and the Furious movie. Chris has also been told he looks just like Zach Galifianakis and the country music singer, Zac Brown. If you ask me, he looks like boyfriend material. #Heyo

007: You can write yourself out of any corner.

If you’ve seen the Fast and the Furious movies, then you know that there is no corner that can’t be written out of. Characters can come back from the dead. The story’s timeline can be completely changed to allow for a dead character to be in two more movies. The most touching tribute can be put into a movie to acknowledge the death of one of the actors, even when there are plans for the story to move forward.

Writers can basically imagineer everything, and you can imagineer your way out of any corner you’ve written yourself into. Because if we’re being real, Tokyo Drift should’ve been the corner to end all corners. But I’ll be damned if they didn’t come at us with Fast & Furious, which is the fourth film. (Screw you, article adjectives!) And like pretty much every other Fast and the Furious think piece published since 2015, I’m going to agree that the fourth film was the renaissance the film franchise needed to bring us the delights of the later films. So, if you find yourself written into a corner, think about these movies. Can you add a character? Can you change the story timeline? Are the bad guys suddenly on your side? Seriously. Watch the movies. It works.

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008: Characters will grow in the direction you make them.

In 2001, we were given a Dominic Toretto who was a bad guy. In the original movie, Dom and his crew are thieves. They highjack semi trucks so they can steal DVD players. (For the younger readers, those used to cost actual money, and you couldn’t just stream movies.) In fact, Dom has a super dark past that involves him brutally beating a man nearly to death with a wrench.

And yet, now we know him as a family man who would do anything for the people he loves. He’s a pardoned criminal who functionally saved the world from several drug dealers, a mercenary, a hacker, a warlord, and a Jason Statham. (It’s worth noting that Jason Statham evolves into a good guy in the eighth movie. Basically, friendship and goodness can all be built by driving fast cars and working together.) And the only way that we believe this is because we see the slow evolution of Dominic Toretto. We see the goodness that the other characters bring out of him. We see why he does what he does, and realize that there is no one in the world who is all good or all bad. These characters are products of their choices and their relationships, and that’s what ultimately shapes who and what they are. It’s the sort of nuance that the Star Wars prequels would kill for.

009: There IS a such thing as too many butts.

I bet you were wondering when I would address the scantily clad, faceless women who attend the street races, though they have very little to actually do with the races. Yeah. It’s problematic. It’s an unnecessary nod to the original film, a very niche movie made for people who were into street racing. I’ve never been to a street race, but considering the street racers in Oklahoma City like to drag through Bethany, the most conservative and elderly part of OKC, I can’t imagine that these booty shorts-wearing ladies actually exist.

So why do the movies continue to show these moments? I have a feeling it’s because people like me aren’t the intended audience for the Fast and the Furious. So, while I’m sure the filmmakers are aware of objections to these scenes, ultimately, I think they don’t care. So that’s a writing lesson in and of itself. As your audience expands beyond your original target, you have to be aware, as a writer, of how specific elements of your work will be perceived by the new members of your audience. And sometimes, that means taking out unnecessary butt shots.

It’s also worth noting that Michelle Rodriguez’s character, Letty, is a badass who doesn’t take shit from any man. She’s seen as an equal throughout the movie. So is Gisele. And Elena. And hell. We’ve only had Ramsey for two films, but she gives Tej and Roman as much shit as they give her, and she invented the god’s eye software macguffin from the seventh movie! And, hell. Even Charlize Theron as Cipher is like the pinnacle of hacker villains.

(For more on women in the Fast and the Furious movies, check out this post from the Ringer.)

So, while the movies give us these very capable, multiethnic women, there are still those moments that remind you, as a woman, that even if you’ve achieved some semblance of equality in your role, there is still work to be done. And I’m not saying this to shame anyone who likes to dress it hot pants. That’s a perfectly legitimate choice. The issue is more of agency. When those street race women in booty shorts are portrayed as fully formed people and not objects, that’s when it will be okay. Close-up shots of butt cheeks hanging out of hot pants definitely don’t portray or respect the agency of those women.

(And, like, I could write a dissertation on how crappy the movies are to mothers. But pretty much everyone else has already written about the treatment of Mia Toretto, and they’ve written way smarter things than I ever will. And I like to think that Helen Mirren as Jason Statham’s mom in the last film is penance for the bad treatment of Mia. And yet, don’t even get me started on what happens to Elena in the eighth movie.)

010: Just keep adding character ingredients to your story soup.

I don’t think anyone, after seeing the first Fast and the Furious movie in 2001 could predict the success this franchise would have. So, we have to look at what happened over those past 16 years to determine why the later films have so much box office success in comparison to the first one. And I have to believe it’s because of the addition of characters along the way.

I’m not saying that all the characters the Fast and the Furious introduced were great. I mean, the only character that anyone liked from Tokyo Drift was Han Seoul-Oh, and his death in that movie created the alternate timeline. But if you look at the evolution of Dom’s family, you can definitely tell that the addition of characters, and the evolution of those characters, is what keeps people coming back.

 

So, there you have it. Those are the 10 writing lessons I’ve learned from the Fast and the Furious movies. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be busy writing a short film about Tej and Roman muttering stuff under their breath about Tego and Rico while Tego and Rico simultaneously mutter under their breath in Spanish about Tej and Roman, while they all stare each other down. THIS IS THE SHORT FILM WE DESERVE, and I’m adding it to the list of fan fiction I want to read.

The Fast and the Furious: 10 Writing Lessons I've Learned from Dom and the Gang #F8 Click To Tweet

Any lessons I left out? Let me know in the comments!

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