Sunday, February 26, 2017
La La Land
When I say this is one of the best movies ever, it just means I’m not ready to let go of Casablanca. Oddly, both have the same theme.
For the purists in the crowd I hear it’s not a romance, i.e. possessing a happily-ever-odesafter. Yet both movies are the most romantic odes you’ll ever see.
La La Land is the perfect title.
Los Angeles: 4
La La, crazy, fantastic (as in fantasy), destroyer of dreams, you ain’t going to get what you want, baby: 4
Creative types from all over the world descend on LA hoping to land it big. Their chances are slim. They end up serving tables, not a bad living. They end up falling in love and herein lies the conflict at the base of both movies. In Casablanca, this love doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. And where our hero and heroine can’t go, we can. In fact, a book follow up showed Rick and Ilsa getting together (As Time Goes By written by Michael Walsh, 1999 published by Warner Brothers).
In La La Land, our hero and heroine of tremendous talent confront the problems between choosing each other and the success the talents God gave them deserve.
We writers often talk about the interior struggle. What’s in the hearts of our heroes and heroines? Rick and Ilsa & Mia and Sebastian very much love each other and they always will. Very much is an understatement. Their hearts rend at the same time two smiles appears. This conflict fills us as readers, watchers with a twisted joy. Humans have a rich fantasy life and who’s to say if their innermost dreams can’t come true.
For romance writers: See this damn movie or don’t talk to me anymore. And then talk to me of true love.
Trailer for La La Land, 2017
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Good by half
This is about writing, it always is, but first an observation that will lead into the subject.
I’m in Church this morning and the priest is talking about all the hatred we have seen since the election. He mentioned violence but that doesn’t tip his hand. There are always at least two sides to the story. You can protest an administration (negative) or stand up for someone’s diminished rights (positive). Alternatively, you could want change and hopefully for the better. We all want change for the better, assuming the status quo needs tweaking.
Yesterday, James Scott Bell spoke at our RWASD meeting. He sold a skinny book about writing your book from the middle (Write Your Novel From the Middle). Skinny, because the beginning and ending were missing, LOL. I thoroughly enjoyed his insights and bought the book.
He said in the middle of a three act structure should lie a look in the mirror moment (not necessarily literally) in which the main character reflects on who he is. He knows if he doesn’t change in some way he will die, either physically or by losing everything he values. This can send the journey and the character in a negative or positive direction. This reflection need not have a statement of resolve, but the reader should see that the character either is considering— consciously or subconsciously— change. Stay tuned. Perhaps he’ll make it.
Primarily, Professor Bell didn’t use romance examples. He didn’t just present comedies. However, I say writing is writing, that in every novel tragedy strikes in one form or another. It is best to know the three act structure as presented by Aristotle, thoroughly. The clown can fall on his ass in a comedy and who will kiss his boo-boo? Could Professor Bell tailor his examples to the audience he’s speaking to? Sure, if he has the time, but I say a liberal arts education or in this case, an education, which compares and contrasts genres and types of writing, is more valuable because it opens your eyes. It may give you new tools or a fresh take. I see that all story writing is the same. The protagonist is on an internal and/or external journey in which he and/or his environment changes.
Some of my colleagues said that everybody already knew this technique. I didn’t, but then I thought through my novels. All of them had a mirror moment. Some colleagues I talked to had a complete revelation from his lecture. They were going back to the drawing board to do something…Like take a mirror moment out of act 1, for instance.
All this reminded me of a psychology lecture on human proficiency.
Your character is:
1. An unconscious incompetent,
2. Conscious incompetent,
3. Conscious competent,
4. Unconscious competent (the best). A good example of this would a basketball superstar. You’d really have to pin him down for him to lay out all the steps (of the mind and body) he’d have to go through to make that 3 point play. Or, consider Tom Brady leading his team back against impossible odds. How’d he do it? He’s an unconscious (super) competent.
I would add that if the unconscious competent paused to reflect he would recall the steps he took automatically and know them as the building blocks of success.
Whether you are on the top of your game as a writer or someone struggling to become better it is always good to step outside your comfort zone.
Ed Sheeran, in Shape of You, 2016, chooses a mirror moment for both the hero and the heroine. Will both want more than just enjoying each other’s body? The hero hopes for more but we don’t know if they will become a couple. The heroine wants sex, but we don’t know if she’ll change under a man’s love.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
How to fall in love
My wife and I were rummaging around the TV’s thousands of channels and discovered Hallmark on Demand. Direct TV collected 28 of them on this channel. I’m sure if wanted to find the hundreds upon hundreds of other Hallmarks I could. Nonetheless, most of the 28 seemed interesting, so we tried one.
How To Fall In Love, 2012 Hallmark. “An awkward accountant (Eric Mabius) receives dating tips from his high school crush (Brooke D’Orsay).
We’ve talked about nerds, geeks, dorks etc. before. Here the kid in high school was not attractive but became a good-looking man who retained his awkwardness. He was scarred by high school and nearly gave up on dating, until his crush, who needed work, came along to teach him. She perceived him as a challenge but, through fine acting and good writing, she began to realize they were a match and the same for him.
Yes, the writer used tropes, i.e. the ugly duckling becoming a swan, the heart of gold, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that. The characters have to be relatable. It would be more daring if the writer kept him “ugly” physically, but, in romance, the reader usually wants fantasy.
There was a cute scene in which the hero takes another woman out into the countryside to show off his photography hobbie. All she could do was complain about her shoes getting ruined. This and other red flags built until they both realized they weren’t a couple.
Sometimes the dialogue helps sterling, as well. Louis Jordan, Is You is or is You ain’t my Baby, 1944.