Posts Tagged ‘body language’

Body Language at IGMS

Eek! How did I not post this earlier?

My story “Body Language” is now up at OSC’s Intergalactic Medicine Show with an awesome cover illustration which you must now appreciate in all its glory.

igmscover-issue15

And here’s a teaser of the story.

Saskia leaned into the darkness above the stage, only vaguely aware of the wood rail against her hips as she retied the left headstring on her marionette. On the stage below, the Snow Queen’s head eased into balance. The marionette telegraphed its stance back up the strings to the control in Saskia’s hands. She ran the Snow Queen across the set to check the repair, barely conscious of her own body on the bridge above the stage. It was almost like being immersed in a VR suit.

One of the techies called up. “Hey, Saskia? There’s a detective here for you.”

IGMS does charge $2.50 for access to the full issue, but that gets you a lot of fiction.

Sale! Body Language to IGMS

I’m very pleased to announce the sale of my short story “Body Language” to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.  This is an important sale for me for three reasons.

  1. This is the first story I wrote after attending OSC’s Literary Boot Camp and was one of the hardest things I’ve written because I was so painfully conscious of process.  Ever word that hit the page marked a deliberate effort to use the new tools I’d been given.
  2. This is the first story I wrote to a specific market. I wanted to sell it to IGMS.  You’ll note that I wrote it four years ago.  That’s because it was rejected the first time around, but I was offered a chance to rewrite it and resubmit.  It took years for me to do that.
  3. This is the only story I have written where the main character is a puppeteer.

So when Edmund Schubert, the editor, called me to tell me that he wanted to buy it, refraining from shrieking with delight was very difficult.

Here’s a teaser of “Body Language.”

Saskia leaned into the darkness above the stage, only vaguely aware of the wood rail against her hips as she retied the left headstring on her marionette. On the stage below, the Snow Queen’s head eased into balance. The marionette telegraphed its stance back up the strings to the control in Saskia’s hands. She ran the Snow Queen across the set to check the repair, barely conscious of her own body on the bridge above the stage. It was almost like being immersed in a VR suit.

One of the techies called up. “Hey, Saskia? There’s a detective here for you.”

Scripting for non-verbal puppets

We’re having a conversation on puptcrit (Puppet Critique), which is a listserver for puppeteers, about scripting for puppet theater. One of the major problems with writing for puppet theater is that it is a very specific and different skill set from writing for live actors. I don’t write the scripts for our shows, because that’s not where my skills lie. It’s totally different from fiction.

Puppets can do things that actors can’t as well as having limitations that actors don’t.  In the course of the conversation, I talked about the importance of finding a playwright who understands, or is willing to learn, about writing for puppet theater.

Frequently, a show is largely non-verbal.  The question came up: How do you script a non-verbal show?

In response, I wrote:

Heh.

Okay, so that thing I said earlier about that I don’t write for stage?  My one play was non-verbal and was awarded an UNIMA Citation.  The reason I bring it up now is that several years ago, we did an experiment with MUM Puppet Theater and shipped them our script and puppets.  By all accounts, the show had the same impact on the audience as our original play did.

The way I did it was that I scripted the characters’ intentions AND their actions. My feeling is that body language is a non-verbal expression of what a character is thinking and feeling. So writing, “Character picks up rock” tells you what happens, but the way you pick up a rock if you’re planning on killing someone is different from if you think it’s pretty. It might be body language, but it is still language.

Since I can’t attach things to posts on puptcrit, I told everyone that I’d post it here.  Sorry non-puppet folks, for dropping you into the middle of a larger conversation.

Here is the 1993 script for “Old Man Who Made Trees Blossom.”

An example of a good listener

Did you ever watch Blue’s Clues? Steve was the best active listener, ever. Watch this video of Steve and notice the cues he’s giving off to show that he’s listening and interested.

Readercon Schedule

I’m headed to Readercon next weekend and just got my schedule.

Friday 1:30 PM. Reading (30 min.)
Mary Robinette Kowal reads “Body Language.”

Friday 4:00 PM. Talk / Discussion ( 60 min.)
Remember to Breathe: The Secrets Behind Great Public Readings.

You may be a good writer, but reading aloud is a separate skill. Learn to make your words sound as great out loud as they do on the page. Using both demonstration and audience participation, we will explore voicing, narration and pacing.

Friday 6:00 PM. Panel
Hunted Jaguars: Fiction In Another Land.
* Leader (Participant / Moderator) *
Paul Di Filippo, Mary Robinette Kowal (L), Shariann Lewitt, Paul Park, Lucius Shepard

Much memorable speculative fiction has been set either in the developing world or in an obviously fantasticated version of it. These stories are attractive to writers and readers for a number of different reasons. Our panelists talk about the genesis of these stories and their motivations for using such a setting.

Íslenska óperan

This weekend Rob and I went to see Abduction from The SeralgioThe Abduction from the Seraglio at the Icelandic Opera with Jochen, from work, and his wife. It was, as Rob says, a very satisfactory evening. The voices were good and they could act! The staging of this production was very good. I was able to follow the opera, despite the fact that it was in German and Icelandic, (They translated the dialogue into Icelandic) because the body language and director’s choices made the story very clear.

I also loved the set, which at first glance was an abstract mosaic, but on second look became an aerial view of the city. It emphasized the journey that Belmonte (the hero) had to make to find his beloved, Constanza.

Of course, I also have to admit that part of my enjoyment was because the tickets, which Jochen purchased, were front and center. The stage at the opera is very small, so the performers frequently came out into the house. Because we were in the middle, it was as if they were coming down to sing just for us.

Reading Aloud 10: Stage presence

This entry is part 10 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

You’ve honed your voice to be a well-modulated wonder. Now you have to get in front of people and actually read. In some readings, the author remains seated. Some, they stand. What should you do?

Well, it depends on venue, the story and your own preference. If you’re in a small venue with an intimate story, you might chose to sit to be closer to your audience. A large venue, you might want to stand. Those are choices that you should make before arriving at the venue so that you can practise in that configuration.

Back in college, I used to compete in Interpretive Reading, and while not everything is appropriate outside of competition, there are some very useful tricks which can enhance your reading.

Preparation of reading material.
My preferred reading format is a small black binder or a copy of the book/magazine in which the story appears. The nice thing about using the book/magazine is that it makes it easier for them to recognize and hopefully buy. The downside is that it’s often heavy.

cerbotext 1You may want to print your story out in a larger font, and insert the pages into the book, essentially using it as a binder.

Highlight your character’s dialogue lines with identifying colors. (Kaj in green, Grete in pink…)

Place an oversize apostrophe at places where you know you need to breathe, particuarly the places you tend to forget.

A squiggly line under the words you need to emphasize.

Bookmark the first page.

Artist’s white masking tape or rubber band the pages, which you are not reading, together so they don’t fly around.

Introduction
Write this, don’t improvise it on the spot. People have an unfortunate tendency to repeat themselves when speaking extemporaneously, besides, you’re a writer. Make it as short as possible and make sure it’s in the same general tone as your story. In other words, don’t be funny and then dive into post-apocalyptic horror. You should also memorize it and practise it until it sounds as though you are speaking off the cuff.

Keep your book closed while giving the introduction. When you finish, lift the book and open to the first page. If you’ve marked it, it will open easily. This provides a clear signpost to the audience that the story is beginning.

Focus
Pick a point on the back wall to represent each character. When you speak for that character, you look at that point on the wall. This, in addition to your voicing, gives your audience instant cues to who is speaking. This is especially handy in rapid exchanges. It also means that you get to use their “eye contact” with other characters to add another level to the performance. Your narrator gets to play the field, but should mostly stay in the middle.

Decide the area of focus for each character when practising at home. When you get to the venue, pick the specific focal spot. I use stains on the wall, a knot in the panelling, a word in a poster… you get the idea.

You can also use focus to indicate a change in scene. At a scene break, look down, take a pause, and then look back up again to a different section of the room. It’s subtle, but it will help prepare your audience to shift to the new location with you. It’s called signposting.

Body Language
Okay, don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest that you get all into heavy acting. You are reading, not doing a one-man show off-Broadway. But, subtle shifts to body language can help your audience identify character and add another level of emotion to your performance. This is one reason that I like working with a black binder, it means that I can free up one hand for gestures.

Say you’ve have an older character. Try adding a very slight stoop to your reading of his or her lines. Soften the stance of your ingenue.

Ending
Say your last line. Hold the focus for a beat. Lower your head. Close the book. When you lift your head, your audience will clap. Do not rush this, no matter how much you want to run off stage.

Bowing
You may not choose to bow, but please, if you are going to, learn to do it right. Tuck your head when you bow. The audience is thanking you and complimenting you at the same time. A bow is both the “you’re welcome” to the audience and thanks for their praise. To keep your head up, a) makes you look like a duck and b) is like fishing for a compliment. It’s like saying, “I really was good, wasn’t I?”

The depth of the bow depends on the formality of the event, and the level of the ovation. Chances are, that a simple head tuck and slight incline will do you. But honey, if they stand for a reading? You bend way over at the waist and thank them for the courtesy.

Water
In competition you’d just tough it out, but in a live reading, you can have it standing by. The best places to drink are at scene breaks.

Questions?

Submissions, updated

Short Fiction

Locked In – Samuel, a man afflicted with ALS and locked inside his body, has hopes of communicating when his son brings home the BioDym 3000.

Ginger Stuyvesant and the Case of the Haunted Nursery – In 1924, a young American heiress uses her powers as a medium to solve a haunting in an English Manor house.

Waiting for Rain – In India, a winemaker has beggared himself to pay for his daughter’s wedding and can no longer pay his weather bills.

Body Language – Near-future. Saskia, a puppeteer, is called in to help solve a kidnapping because the only witness is eDawg, a toy for which she did the motion-capture work. The kidnappers demand that the ransom be sent in on eDawg, and Saskia has to manipulate the puppet while pretending to be nothing more than a toy.

Some Other Day – Josie’s father managed to rid the world of mosquitoes when she was little. The unintended consequences still affect both the adult Josie and the world.

Trip, Trap, Tripping – The three Billy Goats Gruff retold in a NY walk-up, with a single mother and her tap-dancing daughters as the goats, and the guy downstairs as the troll. (I want to do a series of these, but darn, where do I market them?)

My Friend Anna – 61 word flash involving a tapeworm, bathtub and pregnancy.

Horizontal Rain – A New York contractor discovers that his job in Iceland is being held up because the crew believes in trolls.

Birthright – Near-future flash. In a world with severe birth control regulations, a couple has to decide whether to give up their birthright in exchange for enough money to finish college.

Death Comes But Twice – Epistolary short. A Georgian-era Doctor has discovered a cure for death, but it only works for twenty-four hours.

The Promise of Chocolate – An unhappy single mother makes cupcakes for her son’s birthday. One of them contains cyanide.

Changed Itinerary – UFOlogist is abducted by aliens.

Salt of the Earth
– On a sodium-poor world, where every scrap of salt is saved, a salt merchant’s daughter is killed by a salt-overdose.

Chrysalis : The Husiths undergo Chrysalis to become an adult, but the enzymes involved in the process scramble their memories. As a culture, they are obsessed with documenting their pupaehood, which is when the serious work takes place, before becoming a playful adult. Geroth is determined to put off his Chrysalis so he can finish his mathmatical treatise. He hires a human documentarian to help him retain his memories after Chrysalis.

Novel

Journey to the East: The Legend of the Monkey King YA Novel – Two American kids find themselves caught up in the oldest legend in China as they struggle to rescue their baby sister from the Bone

In Submission – updated

Short Fiction

Waiting for Rain: In India, a winemaker has beggared himself to pay for his daughter’s wedding and can no longer pay his weather bills.

Body Language : Near-future. Saskia, a puppeteer, is called in to help solve a kidnapping because the only witness is eDawg, a toy for which she did the motion-capture work. The kidnappers demand that the ransom be sent in on eDawg, and Saskia has to manipulate the puppet while pretending to be nothing more than a toy.

Some Other Day – Josie’s father managed to rid the world of mosquitoes when she was little. The unintended consequences still affect both the adult Josie and the world.

Trip, Trap, Tripping – The three Billy Goats Gruff retold in a NY walk-up, with a single mother and her tap-dancing daughters as the goats, and the guy downstairs as the troll. (I want to do a series of these, but darn, where do I market them?)

This Little Pig – Near-future. After the Oil Wars, private vehicles are largely considered taboo, but a young boy in the Netherlands covets a 1952 MG-TD. He starts work at a pig farm/methane factory where things go horribly, horribly wrong.

My Friend Anna – 61 word flash involving a tapeworm, bathtub and pregnancy.

Horizontal Rain – A New York contractor discovers that his job in Iceland is being held up because the crew believes in trolls.

Birthright – Near-future flash. In a world with severe birth control regulations, a couple has to decide whether to give up their birthright in exchange for enough money to finish college.

Death Comes But Twice – Epistolary short. A Georgian-era Doctor has discovered a cure for death, but it only works for twenty-four hours.

A Hand in My Colon
– Bitter monologue by dying puppet.

The Promise of Chocolate – An unhappy single mother makes cupcakes for her son’s birthday. One of them contains cyanide.

Changed Itinerary – UFOlogist is abducted by aliens.

Salt of the Earth
– On a sodium-poor world, where every scrap of salt is saved, a salt merchant’s daughter is killed by a salt-overdose.

Chrysalis : The Husiths undergo Chrysalis to become an adult, but the enzymes involved in the process scramble their memories. As a culture, they are obsessed with documenting their pupaehood, which is when the serious work takes place, before becoming a playful adult. Geroth is determined to put off his Chrysalis so he can finish his mathmatical treatise. He hires a human documentarian to help him retain his memories after Chrysalis.

Novel

Journey to the East: The Legend of the Monkey King YA Novel – Two American kids find themselves caught up in the oldest legend in China as they struggle to rescue their baby sister from the Bone

In Submission

Short Fiction

Body Language : Near-future. Saskia, a puppeteer, is called in to help solve a kidnapping because the only witness is eDawg, a toy for which she did the motion-capture work. The kidnappers demand that the ransom be sent in on eDawg, and Saskia has to manipulate the puppet while pretending to be nothing more than a toy.

Some Other Day – Josie’s father managed to rid the world of mosquitoes when she was little. The unintended consequences still affect both the adult Josie and the world.

Trip, Trap, Tripping – The three Billy Goats Gruff retold in a NY walk-up, with a single mother and her tap-dancing daughters as the goats, and the guy downstairs as the troll. (I want to do a series of these, but darn, where do I market them?)

This Little Pig – Near-future. After the Oil Wars, private vehicles are largely considered taboo, but a young boy in the Netherlands covets a 1952 MG-TD. He starts work at a pig farm/methane factory where things go horribly, horribly wrong.

Coffee Sensibility
– A five part serial. Jane Austen in a Pacific NW coffee shop.

My Friend Anna – 61 word flash involving a tapeworm, bathtub and pregnancy.

Horizontal Rain – A New York contractor discovers that his job in Iceland is being held up because the crew believes in trolls.

Birthright – Near-future flash. In a world with severe birth control regulations, a couple has to decide whether to give up their birthright in exchange for enough money to finish college.

Death Comes But Twice – Epistolary short. A Georgian-era Doctor has discovered a cure for death, but it only works for twenty-four hours.

A Hand in My Colon
– Bitter monologue by dying puppet.

The Promise of Chocolate – An unhappy single mother makes cupcakes for her son’s birthday. One of them contains cyanide.

Changed Itinerary – UFOlogist is abducted by aliens.

Salt of the Earth
– On a sodium-poor world, where every scrap of salt is saved, a salt merchant’s daughter is killed by a salt-overdose.

Chrysalis : The Husiths undergo Chrysalis to become an adult, but the enzymes involved in the process scramble their memories. As a culture, they are obsessed with documenting their pupaehood, which is when the serious work takes place, before becoming a playful adult. Geroth is determined to put off his Chrysalis so he can finish his mathmatical treatise. He hires a human documentarian to help him retain his memories after Chrysalis.

Novel

Journey to the East: The Legend of the Monkey King YA Novel – Two American kids find themselves caught up in the oldest legend in China as they struggle to rescue their baby sister from the Bone Demon. (Book One in Series)

Repairing the websites

Other Hand’s site is up and running. WRW’s is up except for the forum, but I have to rebuild the database for that and it takes longer. I spent the day uploading files and writing while I waited.

Then I went to the boat and worked. I let one of my co-workers read the draft of Body Language I had in my bag. He didn’t finish it before we left for the night and asked when I would be back on board so he could finish it. I took that as a good sign.

Finished Body Language

Finally. I finished writing Body Language at 2:00 a.m. I spent every spare moment today editing it and I’ve just posted it for critique. We’ll see what folks say.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, my kids–the good ones–really focused today and finished the set. I really didn’t think it was going to happen this time. I had to give one girl a really sound talking to, but I don’t think it made a difference.

And finally, I worked on the Portland Spirit tonight. Whee.

If you want to read Body Language (8900 words), drop me an email. Here’s a teaser for you.

Body Language
Mary Robinette Kowal

     Saskia knelt inside the giant man-eating plant checking the repair to the puppet’s control bar. The puppet stank. She never noticed the months of sweat impregnating the foam and fabric when she was performing, but the odor was overwhelming now.
     She could hear the muffled murmur of conversation. The techies probably wanted to know when she would clear the stage. One of them said her name, sounding like he had forgotten she was in the puppet. Saskia ignored him and opened the jaw to test it.
     As the giant puppet moved, he yelped. Saskia grinned. There were days when she loved her job. Then the techie said, “Saskia? There’s a detective here to talk to you.”
     Saskia almost dropped the puppet. Detective? As she clambered out of the puppet, she started running through the list of friends and family who might be in trouble, but came up blank.
     The techie stood next to a stocky man, maybe Indian, maybe South American; she’d never been good at guessing. The man wore AI interface glasses, which meant he had an Artificial Intelligence as an invisible partner. His crisp suit made Saskia acutely aware that she still wore the sweat-stained bike clothes she performed in. Her hair was probably a snarled rat’s nest.

Current Fiction Efforts

I just wrote this up for a writer’s website, and thought you all might be interested in seeing what stories I have in the works.

Shorts In Submission

Some Other DayInterzone: Josie’s father managed to rid the world of mosquitoes when she was little. The unintended consequences still affect both the adult Josie and the world.

Trip, Trap, TrippingQuantum Muse: The three Billy Goats Gruff retold in a NY walk-up, with a single mother and her tap-dancing daughters as the goats, and the guy downstairs as the troll. (I want to do a series of these, but darn, where do I market them?)

This Little PigAsimov’s: Near-future. After the Oil Wars, private vehicles are largely considered taboo, but a young boy in the Netherlands covets a 1952 MG-TD. He starts work at a pig farm/methane factory where things go horribly, horribly wrong.

Coffee SensibilityStory House: A five part serial. Jane Austen in a Pacific NW coffee shop.

My Friend AnnaVestal Review: 63 word flash involving a tapeworm, bathtub and pregnancy.

Portrait of AriStrange Horizons: While pulling an all-nighter, an art major realizes that his girlfriend has been altering his memory to hide the fact that she is not human.

Horizontal RainLady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet: A New York contractor discovers that his job in Iceland is being held up because the crew believes in trolls.

BirthrightTalebones: Near-future flash. In a world with severe birth control regulations, a couple has to decide whether to give up their birthright in exchange for enough money to finish college.

Death Comes But TwiceGlimmertrain: Epistolary short. A Georgian-era Doctor has discovered a cure for death, but it only works for twenty-four hours.

A Hand in My ColonFull Unit Hookup: Bitter monologue by dying puppet.

The Promise of ChocolateAtoise: An unhappy single mother makes cupcakes for her son’s birthday. One of them contains cyanide.

Changed ItineraryApex Digest: UFOlogist is abducted by aliens.

Salt of the EarthWOTF: On a sodium-poor world, where every scrap of salt is saved, a salt merchant’s daughter is killed by a salt-overdose.

Awaiting Revision

Journey to the East: The Legend of the Monkey King YA Novel – Two American kids find themselves caught up in the oldest legend in China as they struggle to rescue their baby sister from the Bone Demon. (Book One in Series)

Virus Attached SF murder/mystery – Scott Huang and his AI partner Metta are trying to solve a murder, when Metta’s chasis (containing her memory) is stolen. She is rebooted from her last back-up, which occurred six hours previously. She and Huang must find her original version before the perpetrator can use it to hack into the police department and erase all evidence of his crime.

Works in Progress

Body Language : Near-future. Lena, a puppeteer, is called in to help solve a kidnapping because the only witness is eDawg, a toy for which she did the motion-capture work. The kidnappers demand that the ransom be sent in on eDawg, and Lena has to manipulate the puppet while pretending to be nothing more than a toy.

Waiting for Rain: In India, a farmer has beggared himself to pay for his daughter’s wedding and can no longer pay his weather bills.

Shades of Milk and Honey: Regency Romance, with fantasy. Magic is a woman’s art, like painting or music. Jane uses it to prove that Mr. Dunkirk is wooing her and her sister at the same time.

Good Housekeeping: Novel. Contemporary Fantasy. The Faerie Queen sent a human changeling, Grace, back to try to keep the old ways alive in the world. Grace uses the internet to manage a network of Goodwives who let brownies, elves and other housefolk live in their homes. But the Unseelie Court has decided to drive out all of the housefolk to diminish the Faerie Queen’s power. Grace has to try to save the Housefolk while adjusting to life as a human.