Characters, Movies, Writing

If wishes were books …

I wish I could say I’ve completed a first draft of my next book, but the truth is I’m far from that point. Every night before I fall asleep, I listen for my characters to speak. Every day I continue reading and waiting to get back to work. Ah well, one day soon …

ppposterThis past week, I took a workshop from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association on writing middles, and I hope to get a spot in the upcoming workshop on writing beginnings and endings. That should cover a brush-up on structure, right?

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was the book used as an example in the first workshop. I can’t recall reading any of Austen’s works and don’t own any, so I downloaded a digital copy of the book, but I didn’t have time to read it before the class started. Instead, I watched the 2005 movie version. I loved the movie. (And yes, I know it wasn’t completely faithful to the book.)

Apparently, most Austen fans prefer the earlier BBC mini-series version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. I watched clips of that one, and though I’m sure it was a top-notch production and Firth acted splendidly, I prefer the more recent version with Matthew MacFadyen, maybe because he reminded me of John Cusack. And Keira Knightley, who played Lizzie, reminded me so much of my oldest granddaughter that watching the movie was a delight.

So anyway, I got introduced to Jane Austen fifty years later than most readers do. I confess reading the text was a bit daunting. Maybe my inner ear isn’t tuned to Regency. I had no trouble with the dialogue in the movie, but I’ve since learned it was slightly modernized because the director theorized people didn’t actually speak the way Austen wrote.

Wishing is where I started this and that’s where I’ll end. I wish my Nicole would speak to me with her beautiful words. I wish my Jesse would speak to me in his soft, molasses drawl. I wish the words would flow and carry me swiftly down the river to the The End.

I wish …


Movies, Opinion

Call me a Pollyanna if you must

In the past month, when I took breaks from writing I watched movies. I’m going to tell you about three of them.Two were set in Ireland, one in Australia.  Two, I’ll recommend, the other I won’t, even though it was well made. I’ll explain why, though you may not agree.

My first recommendation is Ondine, described as a romantic drama. It’s the story of Syracuse, called Circus, an Irish fisherman who discovers a mysterious woman in his fishing net and hides her away. It stars Colin Farrell who’s not hard to look at—especially with long hair. Circus is a recovering alcoholic, trying to be a good father to his daughter whose kidneys are failing. His daughter believes the woman is a selkie, a mythological character.

The selkie reference, as well as the misty, dreamlike quality of this movie, reminded me of another, The Secret of Roan Inish, which I wanted to rewatch, but my copy has disappeared.

The second move, also Irish, is The Eclipse, described as a supernatural drama. It’s the story of Michael Farr, a grieving, middle-aged widower, struggling to get on with his life as a single father. It stars Ciarán Hinds, not as “pretty” as Farrell, but handsome nonetheless. Michael teaches shop in the seaside town of Cobh, and volunteers at the local annual literary festival. There he’s assigned to assist and chauffeur a woman who writes about ghosts. Since he’s recently begun to suspect his house is haunted, he seeks her opinion.

Both these movies were quiet, drenched in atmosphere, and interesting character studies. If you like that sort, click on the links above and watch the trailers. If you’ve seen either of them, let me know what you thought.

Now, the third movie, which I decline to name. It’s based on the true story of a group of Australian men convicted as serial killers, and told from the viewpoint of the youngest of the group. Most often, serial killers act alone, so this case was unfortunately unusual.  It was well done, gruesomely, realistically, disturbingly so. I was both repulsed and mesmerized as I watched it. At one point, I had to mute the TV and yet, I didn’t stop the dvd player.

When the movie was over, I felt sick and violated. I felt as if I’d lived among those people and participated in their crimes. I felt guilty. It took me days to shake that off. The movie was well written, directed, and acted, yet it seemed an indecency to watch. I wish I never had, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forget it. For that reason I can’t recommend you watch it.

All of these movies drew me into the lives of the characters. Those are the sort of movies—and books—that I love, and that’s why I need to be careful whose life I’m drawn into. Maybe it’s my age. I’m well aware that life is messy, complicated, sometimes midnight black because I’ve lived through six decades of it. I’d rather be assured of the decency in humanity than of the depravity. I believe in hope. So give me at least a glimmer of light in those last frames or pages and I’ll remember you fondly.

Movies, Real Life

Death and The Tree of Life

Due to my awareness of a certain Florida trial, the early part of this summer has carried a depressing overtone of death. With a nod toward synchronicity, I spent a couple hours yesterday afternoon considering another death, but this time it was a beautiful and thrilling experience.

I’m speaking of the Palme d’Or winner of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the Terrence Malick film, The Tree of Life. I sat spellbound through the 138 minutes running time. During a stop at the restroom on the way out, I started to cry. A visceral reaction.

I want to see it again. I saw the movie with my youngest son, who had already seen it once with his wife. She cried too. I told him I felt stunned in a dreamlike way. That reminded me of my reaction to another movie, The New World (2005). Same guy wrote and directed both, he told me, Terrence Malick.

This is not a film for everyone. No superheroes, vampires, wizards, car chases, road trips, buddies, bridesmaids, aliens, or pirates. It’s fluid in time and plot, often without dialogue. It’s music and poetry and art and science and religion. It’s gorgeous and haunting and thought-provoking. Expect an experience rather than entertainment.

If you’re curious, watch the trailer below or go to the Official Movie Site to learn more.

Craft, Critique, Dream, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Group, Movies, Novel, Query, Revision, Writing

Scene shifting

I’m still a little dizzy after seeing the movie Inception yesterday. I tried hard to keep each thread of the story straight, but ended up in a tangle. To me, dreams within dreams within dreams … was more confusing than time travel. (Or maybe I was just too distracted by how much Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks like Heath Ledger.) And what about that ending that doesn’t end—did it topple or not? Nonetheless, I felt satisfied with the experience.

I’d like to know how they crafted the Inception storyline. I can’t imagine it was written the way it played out. I would write each dream/reality sequence  chronologically and then shift and intertwine them. But what do I know? I have never, and don’t think I could, write a story like that. Not just because it’s so complicated, but also because I don’t have the kind of writer’s mind for mystery/thrillers. My latest chapter revision is difficult enough.

At my last critique group meeting, we agreed I should rearrange the order of all the scenes in my new opening chapter. On Friday, I printed out the chapter and cut the scenes apart. It looked an impossible puzzle with all the scenes spread out on the table. My first attempt at reordering was a mess; the second was better, and on the third try it fell into place … I think. Then I used a glue stick to put the scenes back together in a new order. Now I’ll have to write new connecting narrative between these scenes.

Another suggestion from my C.P.s was that I might be trying to fit too much information in one chapter, so I’ll be considering that too. All this is good. Deep down, I felt I’d started this novel wrong. Now I’m correcting that. Next up will be a query letter revision. Fun, fun, fun … not.

Your turn: What will you be working on this week?

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Movies, Musings, Writing

The stuff I blog when I tire of relevancy

Yesterday, I watched Ponyo, an animated Japanese children’s movie. It reminded me of another movie, Spirited Away, and a quick check at Netflix told me they were both directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003. The animation in these movies is gorgeous, though some of the imagery disturbs me, as do the stories.

Fujimoto @2008, 2009 Nibariki-GNDHDDT

In the one I saw yesterday, I’m not sure I ever understood what the father of Ponyo was. Though he lives and breathes underwater, he looks human, with bizarre hair,  but he’s horrified that his daughter—born a fish—wants to become human. In the English-language version, Liam Neeson is the voice of this character, and though I’m a Neeson fan, his voice coming out of this character’s mouth only added to the weirdness.

Although both these movies mesmerized me, they seem so different from American animated children’s movies, I’m surprised our children like them. Then again, I don’t see a lot of children’s movies anymore, so maybe they’ve changed. Or maybe I should be comparing them to our folk tales of old. These two Japanese movies did remind me of the fairy tales I read as a child. The ones that frightened me.

Did I worry there might be real witches with candy houses and ovens built for children? You bet. Did it cross my mind that my father might do something like indenture me to spin straw into gold for the rest of my life? In a word, yes. Think of all the tales that feature a wicked step-mother. I did … every time my parents argued. As an adult I understand those tales reflected the harshness of the times in which they originated, but as a child that aspect flew over my head. A part of me believed these things might be possible.

Gran Mamare @2008, 2009 Nibariki-GNDHDDT

This image from Ponyo particularly spooked me. Every time I stand at ocean’s edge, I fear I am seconds away from seeing something huge—and alive—rising out of it. So, even though she was beautiful, the image of Ponyo’s mother gave me pause.

Sometimes imagination is a curse.

Tell me, did any children’s stories worry or scare you? Or were you precocious enough to go deeper, analyzing the symbolism and allegory?

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