Thursday, 5 February 2009

Two Projects

Well, I am in way over my head as far as two up-coming projects are concerned.

1) For this Navs Sunday, I have to help prepare a set of questions concerning certain passages in the Bible. The purpose of the questions is to help Navigators (as in members, not the organization) learn Biblically-based methods of de-stressing. So we have a pool of about ten passages, and I'm trying to make two or three questions for each, designed to help people come to draw some sort of lesson to do with our title, "Learning to Chill 101."

The challenge here is that I've never made questions for this before. This is really how I learn best--attempt something without having any idea what I'm doing--but when you have a bunch of people hoping to learn from what you've done, it's a bit nerve-wracking. I'm not silly enough to think that I have people's eternal souls in my hands, and I'm also not silly enough to think that I have to do this alone. I'm one of five people working on this project, and we're getting together tomorrow. So the worst that could happen is that I'd look like an idiot in front of them. Well, the worst that could happen is that we all are idiots and then present our idiocy to the Navs, but I don't think that will happen. My teammates are pretty Biblically sound, I think, and I can provide whatever wild card we need (iconoclasm is something I can do).

And it's not as though I haven't gone in the deep end before. I tutored a guy from HK named Ivan for two years, spending two-three hours a week giving and grading writing assignments, explaining nuances of English, helping him toward English fluency. It was not easy, especially as I had (and have) zero training in ESL. None. Whatsoever. And, well, I don't think I was the best help he could have had, but I sure hope I made some sort of difference. Certainly I didn't go into it with fear. So why be afraid now?

And it's not as though I haven't seen these sorts of questions before. I've been in Navs for over a year now, and I'm in a Bible study group, and I've taught Sunday School, for Pete's sakes. I have done more than a few question sheets.

And it's not as though I've never written questions before. In one of my classes we have to write questions for the day's readings. I've made tests for school (and for fun, actually). Generating questions is something I do.

It's generating this sort of questions that I haven't done before. How does one lead the reader in a certain direction with one's questions while also allowing that reader to develop their own intelligent responses? Can a question be both Socratic and open? Likely not. What do we look for? What if question #2 depends on a certain answer for question #1, but we don't want question #1 to be too leading? These are my worries.

2) I am writing a story about a band. I know nothing about music. Problem? Yes?

Reasons why I have succeeded so far: the main character is filming the band, not in it, so my speaker needs no technical knowledge; I am reading a webcomic which is loosely tied to musicalness; Wikipedia; YouTube.

The latter two are by far the biggest boons. Well, the first one's a pretty big deal, too. QC comes last, I suppose.

That being said, the band is folk metal, so I can hopefully hide behind the fact that most people will know nothing about that genre. They are also a garage band, so they don't need to fit mainstream conventions of that genre. Also, one of the characters suggests that they are more "eclectic metal," so that opens up a lot of silliness. And there is no actual in-the-moment scene of their music; it's mainly in discussion or flash-back. But still. There's a problem.

The characters are growing. Oh, yes. Growing. They're becoming more real, more human, than I had anticipated, and they won't more than a single short story. They want lives. Full ones. And they want me to give them these lives. Because the story isn't about the music. The story is about art: communication, authenticity, originality, fun. It's also about life: the desire for simplicity, the desire not to think, the desire for meaning or direction, the desire to smooth out complicated interrelationships. It's also about Fort McMurray: why they are there, whether they want to be there, what they should be doing there, how they can get out. I can handle these in 14 pages, but only for one or two characters. That's all I thought I was going to do. But now the rest of the band is coming forward, growing quirks and needs and ambitions and fault lines and loves, and they want to grow lives.

I can fudge a dozen pages pulling my musical knowledge through cross-referencing Wikipedia and YouTube (search "Folk Metal" in YouTube; find a band; Wikipedia that band; link to another band; YouTube their songs; listen to a related band's songs; Wikipedia that band; link to metal subgenre--say, oriental folk metal--and find an example; YouTube that song; listen to another song by a similar bad; Wikipedia that band...). Can I fudge one-and-a-half score pages? A novel? Not likely. Not without help. Because the longer the novel, the less likely I can dodge having a music scene. I know nothing about musical performance.

Anyway readers out there play folk metal? Any pointers?

...I should go prepare those questions now...

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