About Mario

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mario Piumetti is a freelance writer of science fiction, horror, screenplays, and nonfiction. He has a bachelor's degree in English from California Lutheran University and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. An avid music lover, his work is heavily influenced by rock, punk, and metal. You can contact him at mario.piumetti.writer@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Numbers

This last week, I got to page thirty-four on Eat the Rich.  Thirty-four pages doesn't seem like much.  It's definitely not a novel, more of a novelette.  It's still a notable mark, and here's why.

A novel is usually a minimum of forty thousands.  The industry standard is more like eighty to a hundred and twenty thousand words, and I'm aiming for an even hundred grand.  If I'm over or under that count, that's fine.  It's just a target to aim for.

The point is this: in the last two weeks, I've reach either twenty-five percent for the minimum forty thousand words or ten percent for the preferred hundred thousand.  Either way, that's a god chunk of the project.  If I keep at it, I know I'll get to the end of the draft.

If you're feeling like you haven't accomplished much in your own writing, remind yourself that, little by little, the numbers add up.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Truby's Plot: Self-Revelation

In the last installment of Truby's Plot, I wrote that the battle is the climax of the story.  In truth, it's only half of the climax, the physical side of it.  The other, more psychological side is self-revelation.  Self-revelation is the point in the story where the protagonist finds out what's wrong with him.  In other words, he has a revelation about himself.

There is a right and a wrong way to execute self-revelation, and it largely has to do with subtlety.  Being a physical event, the battle has to be overt.  There can't be any second guessing over whether or not it's the climactic confrontation between the hero and the opponent.  Part of the reason, I think, is because it needs to show the audience that they have in fact reached the climax of the story, but also, say, how many fistfights have you seen that are cloaked in subterfuge?  Not many, huh?

The self-revelation is the polar opposite of the battle.  It's fighting on an internal level within the protagonist and it has to be done quietly.  If the hero comes out and announces what he's learned about himself, then he sounds preachy.  You don't want to subject your audience to this.  They're not in church.  It has to be executed either visually in film or through non-dialogue prose in fiction.

Also, don't assume that all self-revelations must be positive.  Yes, there are times when a character learns that he's behaved badly and needs to change his ways, like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.  But there are times when the character either doesn't recognize his flaw, or better yet recognizes it but is unable to remedy it.

Full Metal Jacket is filled with negative self-revelations.  It's negative in Parris Island because, in spite of his training, Joker's passive nature prevents him from stopping Pyle from killing Hartman.

The self-revelation in the Vietnam half is a bit of a grey area.  On one hand, you could say that it's positive because Joker comes to understand the severity of the war and finally makes the choice to become a fighter rather than a mere reporter.  Then again, he's sacrificing his humanity from the first half.  Stanley Kubrick solidified this visually.  As Joker turns to shoot the sniper, the peace button on his vest is covered from view, leaving the audience to see "born to kill" on his helmet.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Meat Omelet

I made myself an omelet for lunch today, an it took me back to college.  I shared two creative writing classes with a friend of mine named Shirley; one semester of poetry and another for fiction.

In the poetry class, Shirley had presented a piece centering on a diner that served something called the meat-lover's omelet.  One of the girls in class giggled because she kept thinking that the poem was about sex.  You see, to nymphos, meat translates to cock.  The poem was actually about cannibalism.

Later, in fiction, Shirley wrote a story about a woman who killed her family members and turned them into life-sized dolls for a sick tea party.  I remember this because one of the characters had an internal monologue describing what it was like to slowly bleed to death in a bath tub.

Suffice to say, Shirley had one gloriously fucked up imagination.

Shirley doesn't write as much as she used to, admitting that her graduating project had damaged her writing mojo.  In fact, when I talk to a lot of the English majors beside whom I studied, most of them don't write any more.  I never figured out why.  Maybe life intervened?

So when I'm having a slow day, I try to remind myself of the college days, the stories that could be written now but just aren't.  I try to pick up the load for the others in the gang. 

Bon app├ętit.

Monday, September 24, 2012

It Might Get Loud

My favorite documentary is It Might Get Loud which shows a meeting between Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, The Edge of U2, and Jack White of The White Stripes.  The opening image of Jack White on a farm building a functional electric guitar out of garbage had me hooked.

The first time I watched It Might Get Loud was because I heard Jimmy Page was in it, and, being such a Led Zeppelin fan, I felt it was my duty to watch.  But subsequently, I kept going back and forth through the DVD for Jack White.  Though he discussed music, I think a lot of what he said can resonate for writers as well.

Man, you know, who says you need to buy a guitar?

This was the first thing said in the film, right after White made his garbage guitar.  I went to college dreaming of being a writer.  I went to grad school solely for a degree in creative writing.  But Falkner or Steinbeck or Hemingway?  As far as I know, they never went to school for their craft.  The learned it on their own and applied their own techniques and gut instincts.  I don't regret getting my degree, but my point is that all you need to get started as a writer can be as little as the basic tools of pen and paper.

I plan to trick both of these guys [Jimmy Page and The Edge].  That's basically what I'm gonna do.  Trick them into teaching me all their tricks.

I don't know if White really did succeed in fooling Page and The Edge, but there's no denying that they're more experienced than he; Jimmy Page's career almost matched the combined years of White and The Edge.  Nevertheless, White knows that he doesn't know everything, and in order to improve his skills, he turns to those who know the craft more thoroughly.  Writers do this too.  For example, Hunter S. Thompson learned how to write by constantly rewriting F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.


Technology is a big destroyer of emotion and truth.  Opportunity doesn't do anything for creativity.  Yeah, it makes it easier, and you can get home sooner, but it doesn't make you a more creative person.  That's the disease you have to fight in any creative field.  Ease of use.

Stephen King said that creative writing cannot be taught.  I humbly disagree.  I think - and I'd like to think that White would have my back on this - writing can be taught, but creativity can't.  If you haven't got a creative bone in your body, then no gadget is going to remedy that.  Period.


People know when something's fake and they know when something's rehashed and rehearsed.  They know when you're telling the same joke between songs that you told in Poughkeepsie last night.  They can smell it.

Yes, a story needs to be thought through, even if only on a simple and rudimentary level, but that's not what White is saying here.  This is a tip for the more experienced writers who have a few credits under their belt.  If you have success, don't ruin it by recycling your work.  JK Rowling comes to mind for me.  Everyone knows her for the Harry Potter books, but over the weekend, I saw a poster at Vroman's promoting her new novel The Casual Vacancy.  When I looked it up online, I found that it was about sex and heroin addiction, totally different from Hogwarts.

Yeah, that's it.  Pick a fight with it [the guitar].  That's what you gotta do.  Pick a fight with it and win the fight.

Writing is not supposed to be easy.  There's more to it than typing words on a page just as there's more to playing the guitar than plucking strings.  If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.  At some point, however, you've got to dig in and take a bite.  You might face a story idea that sounds cool, but you're just not sure if it's going to work for a novel.  Well, then find a way to make it work, or you'll always be the guy who starts a story but never finishes one.  Stop being a pussy and start owning that shit!

Never wanted to play guitar.  Ever.  Everyone plays guitar.  What's the point?  I got really into drumming, playing along with the records.  Those rhythms got into me early.  100% only caring about music and rhythm.  I had a bedroom that was about seven by seven feet, really small.  There was so much junk I had collected.  I had two drum sets in there, a guitar amplifier and a reel-to-reel, and no bed.  I took the bed out.  I slept on a piece of foam on an angle by the door.

Just as writers need other writers to inspire them and learn from, budding authors need to immerse themselves in their craft.  They need to breathe it.  I have more books than any other item in my house.  When I'm cleaning and reorganizing, and all my books are laid out, it looks like a library came all over the place.  But that's good.  I want the library to cum.  Being surround by the books I love gives me a constant visual cue encouraging me to press forward with my own words.


Distortion.  Anger.  The punk ideal.  Guys or someone maybe who got picked on, like a lot of us did, in high school.  This is our chance to, you know, push you down now.

Happy endings?  Fuck that shit.  You only get happy endings if you pay extra at the spa.  Life is ugly and messy.  It rarely works the way you want it to, and never in the way Disney would have you believing.  Like the fight you pick with the words, you've got to harness that aggression and channel it onto the page.  Society might be squeamish about raw or even live food, but people love raw and live words.  They say to pour your heart out, and they're right.  Jack White once played Blue Veins so fiercely that his fingertips bled onto his guitar, that beautiful custom-built guitar with the harmonica mic.  Maybe you don't need to cut yourself for the words, but for God's sake, don't shy away from what you got going on inside.

Eat the Rich: Day 9

Surprise!  I've begun another novel.  I didn't announce it outright on the first day because I was worried that would jinx the whole thing, but I'm announcing it now.

The book, Eat the Rich, is about a group of young cannibalistic Hollywood celebrities.  If you want to tag it to a genre, it'd probably be horror, but I really don't know.  More importantly, I really don't care.  What I do care is that put down sixteen pages last week, and last I checked, it was on page nineteen.  That's further than I've gotten on any other book project since the spring.

In addition to my Truby's Plot series and whatever else pops into my head, I'll be sure to keep you guys posted on the latest goings on with Eat the Rich.  Hopefully, it will give you an inside look at what it's like writing a novel.  If nothing else, it'll help me sort through the experience.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Truby's Plot: Battle

When asked why he wanted to focus on the Clone Wars, George Lucas said that drama is conflict, and that there's no clearer conflict than battle.  And while that might have been a CG Lucas being interviewed, the philosophy is no less true.

Another name for the battle is the climax, it's the point in the story where the tension reaches its peak.  For example, if two characters are arguing in a short story, the argument becomes so heated that it crosses the line from the verbal to the physical and one character punches the other.  The battle is absolutely vital in changing the protagonist from the kind of person he was at the beginning of the story to the kind of person he is at the end.

The battle doesn't have to be an epic clash like you'd see in The Lord of the Rings.  In fact, I've noticed that my favorite battles in fiction are fairly quiet and revolve around a few core characters.

In Full Metal Jacket, the battle in the first half of the film in Parris Island is when Pyle kills Hartman and then commits suicide because it crosses that line I just mentioned, going from verbal abuse to physical violence.  In Vietnam, this is shifted from physical violence to verbal as Joker confronts his true enemy Animal Mother and the two argue over whether they should kill the Vietnamese sniper that attacked their squad or leave her to bleed to death from her wounds.  Joker's argument for a quick death prevails.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Infamous Facebook Post

A quick bit of shameless self-promotion: I started a Facebook page for my writing a few weeks ago.  If you're on Facebook and look up "Mario Piumetti Jr.", you'll find it under pages.

For a long, long while, I was very hesitant to start a Facebook page.  I suppose I felt the same way with the Twitter page and even with this blog.  But the reality is that writers cannot expect to sit in a room and type all day.  Those days are long gone if they ever existed.

Up until now, I've keep people updated on my writing largely through my personal Facebook page.  None of my friends ever said if the frequent updates annoyed them, as though I had nothing else to talk about, but I began feeling that way, so I looked for a way to make my writing life distinct from my personal life.

I also started to realize that I was ignoring a larger audience beyond my friend's list.  I don't know exactly how many members Facebook has, but I can say it's more than five.  I don't add every single friend request that comes my way, especially if I've never before met the person sending the request.  Would you hand out your phone number to just anyone?  I didn't think so.

So just as blogger and twitter, Facebook is another plank of the platform.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

No Genre for Young Men

In case you haven't noticed, I'm losing my mind.  And if you're just turned on to the blog, stay tuned; wackiness is a-coming.

2012 doesn't feel like it's been my best year.  Yes, one of my stories did get accepted, and I'm very proud of that, but beyond that, I haven't been very productive.  At least, I don't feel like I've been very productive.  Of all the stuff I've written, 95% of it has ended up in the garbage.

They say you ought to write in those genres that you enjoy reading.  Unfortunately, I like too many genres.  From science fiction to horror to war stories to stories about people trying to find their feet in the world.  Occasionally, though very rarely, I even enjoy romance.  Let's keep that last one a secret between us, shall we?

What's really got me paralyzed lately is that I'm not even sure if I have a genre that I belong to.  There's a difference between liking something and trying to make a name for yourself in that field.  I love to cook, but I'll never become as renowned a chef as Gordon Ramsey.  I love science, but I'm no Hawking.

Recently, I looked up five novels on Wikipedia that I felt had no connection whatsoever to science fiction: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.  I wanted to see what genre they'd been put under.  Fitzgerald and Salinger were listed as simply "novel", McCarthy was classified as a thriller, Ellis wasn't given a label, and Palahniuk was described as satire.

Fitzgerald and Salinger are both dead now, but if I ever got the chance to run into McCarthy, Ellis, or Palahniuk, I'd love to know if they through their work fit into any particular genre.  Maybe the first step out of my apparent road to madness is to disregard genre entirely and let that get sorted out later; just write a book on whatever I want and then if people want to call it science fiction or romance or thriller, let them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The 9/11 Post

I was sixteen when 9/11 happened, and to my surprise, I didn't remember that day clearly until today.

7:30 AM that morning, I was in my family's kitchen scarfing down a bowl of Total because we'd just ran out of Cheerios, and Total was the cereal version of Plan B.  The World Trade Center was still there, though it looked like the smokestack of some factory on the TV.  Or maybe it looked a little dim because the lights in the kitchen were off.  Plenty of sunlight came in through the windows.  No need to waste electricity when we didn't have to.

I didn't have my driver's license then.  I was a late bloomer with driver's ed. didn't learn until senior year; this was junior year.  My mom drove my to school.  I was at La Canada High School near Pasadena.

9/11 was on a Tuesday, just like today, so I had all my classes on the schedule.  The first was computer science.  I remember that because the school's psychology teacher, Mr. Williams, came in at some point of junior year to promote his personal management class for the seniors next year, a course on how to cook and watch our finances and basically take care of ourselves when we went off to college; the class was cancelled before it began due to an apparent lack of interest from the students.

We had a long project in computer science tracking the stock market and recording the data on Microsoft Excel, but few of us actually did the work that day.  Most of the time, we hit the "refresh" button on Yahoo! to get new updates on what was going on in New York.

After computer science was SSR - sustained silent reader - which meant another half hour of searching headlines.  Second period was geology with a bespectacled aviation enthusiast named Traeger.  We'd been in class for about fifteen minutes when the principal came on the PA system to tell everyone that the school was being evacuated.  He didn't actually use the word "evacuate".  Instead, he said that officials in LA county thought it would be best if the schools closed early and the students went home.  In truth, La Canada High was down the street from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and after what happened at the Pentagon, nearly every government building was deemed a potential target.  If a plane crashed and missed the lab, a couple of thousand high school students could be hit instead.

Most of my classmates cheered because, hey, school's out.  I didn't.  Hearing about people suffering didn't seem like a joyous occasion.  But I got my stuff and went to the front of the school where pick-ups were done.  I didn't have a cell phone.  I was behind technologically much like the situation with the driver's license.  The school let me use a phone in the main office and I called my mom to get me.  The front of the school was crowded with cars, so I walked part of the way, stopping in front of the house of a kid I went to grade school with.  It was an easy landmark for my mom and I to meet.

There was a tree on the curb by the house and I sat down in the shade waiting.  It was weird how quiet it was.  There wasn't anything flying over JPL, no helicopters or jets ready to shoot down anything from an incoming plane to a sparrow.  Mostly, I just kept my eyes open for my mom's car.  She came soon, and we went pick up a couple of things at the local pharmacy.  Bush was on the radio telling us not to "make no mistake" and that "we (not the royal we, for you British readers; the we of a nation) will hunt down and kill these evil-doers."  Even today, "evil-doers" sticks in my head.  It sounded like something from a cartoon or a comic book, and made the day feel even more surreal.

My mom and I went home after the pharmacy.  We kept the TV off.  She didn't want to know any more about what was happening.  I don't blame her.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Truby's Plot: Plans

So far in this analysis of Full Metal Jacket, we've touched on the film's story in relation to three of the seven basic steps for plot that John Truby outlined in The Anatomy of Story.  We've covered weakness and need, desire, and the opponent.  The next basic element is the plan.

Once your hero knows what he wants (his desire) and knows what challenges he's up against (his opponent), he needs to formulate a plan that will help him to get the desire.

This plan can be highly detailed.  In Alan Moore's graphic novel Watchmen, the character Ozymandias explains his plan in full towards the end of the story, even pointing out this plot element when he says, "Dan, I'm not a Republic serial villain.  Do you seriously think I'd explain my masterstroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting the outcome?"  You also find intricately developed plans in robbery tales like Ocean's Eleven or The Thomas Crown Affair.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is a very vague plan.  In Full Metal Jacket, Joker's plan is very vague.  In fact, broadly speaking, he doesn't have one other than to follow the orders given to him by the chain of command.  He's a low-ranking Marine, a private in the first half and a corporal in the second.  This isn't bad storytelling at all, but acceptance of reality.  If Joker were a general instead, then he'd have room to plan because he would have the authority to do so.

Throughout Full Metal Jacket, Joker's only plan, mingled with his desire, is to survive.  I think subconsciously, he trusts Hartman's tough curriculum in boot camp because he knows the whole point of boot camp is to prepare trainees for combat.  If he goes through the paces, he should come out okay, and he does; he makes it through to the end of training.  What differentiates Joker's plan in the second half is that he now has those skills to get him through the ordeal of the Battle of Hue.

Psychologically, I don't think Joker has any plan at all for his mental survival.  In boot camp, he's broken down and reassembled as a Marine.  Then, in Hue, he's giving priority to his physical survival over his mental survival because there's no point in trying to get your psyche to cope if your body's dead.