The Blog-post I Didn’t Want To Write!

But I’m a writer, and a writer’s job is to write, so write this post I shall. With a heavy heart and a lump in my stomach.

You know that feeling you get when you meet a girl, and instantly you just know your relationship is bound to be awesome? It’s the look she gives you. The way she doesn’t mind holding your hand straight away. The way her saying your name makes your name sound better. Better than it does when anyone else says it.

Throughout the relationship, you fall for her. You can’t help it. The way she talks. The way she cooks. The way she goes for a walk every weekend-morning at seven-fifteen because she wants to better herself, and you’re supportive of it all.

You show her Breaking Bad. She loves it.  She helps you rediscover your love for writing, and just how wonderful Harry Potter is. Answer: Pretty dang wonderful.

You spend two Christmases together. She loves your house and your ‘hood. She teaches you how to do laundry, and this gives you a measure of freedom you never had before. She finds she loves the Seahawks and how fun it is being a 12, too. That’s because of you.

You guys have reading time together. The two of you can sit comfortably in silence just reading for an hour and a half, and it’s not weird. It’s just what you do. You watch Jeopardy and marvel at the wonky champ who can go for eleven days, jumping all over the board as he does so.

You go to museums and check out exhibits on the civil war and D.B. Cooper. You think it’s wonderful that you’ve found someone who loves stuff like that as much as you do.

She’s there for you when your beloved canine brother of ten years can’t be with you anymore.

And then. After all that and more. Tonight happens.

The memories whose flames burn so bright with life that you can jump back into any one of them at any time… those memories are officially confirmed as memories. She tells you this is it. This Friday marks the end of the awesome. You want to save it. To argue. To fight for the beautiful girl and the beautiful something you’ve got together. But there will be none of that. She will have none of that.

With deep love for a past that made me better, and a burning hope that desires a wonderful as-yet-unseen future, I give my best to the awesome girl who went with me to so many movies, bookstores, cafes, and ball-games.

She is a good person.

 

Tell The Story You Need To Tell, Not The One You Think Readers Want To Hear

Recently, I sat at this trusty computer and thought, I’d really like to write something new. Something that will grab people’s attention. I wanted it–whatever it was–to stop them in their tracks, make them think, make them feel. Preferably, it would do all three of these things at the same time.

As I began composing the new piece, though, I ran into trouble. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, but something about this fledgling story was wrong, its words ringing hollow in my writer’s ear and looking jumbled, to my reader’s eyes.

Then, just as I was about to close out of my word processor in frustration, it hit me. The story itself–about a magical kingdom with a maniacal boy-king at its head–was a fine idea. It had potential. I knew authors who could carry it off with ease. It’s just that none of those authors were… me. It wasn’t the kind of story I tell, and because of that it all came off sounding false when I would read back what I had written.

So the question then became: I know there’s some good writing in this piece. How can I salvage it?

That answer dawned on me almost immediately.

You can still use almost all of this writing, said a voice. My inner-editor? But instead of telling the story about the magical kingdom with the maniacal boy-king, tell the story of the author who’s trying to tell the story of the magical kingdom with the maniacal boy-king. In doing that, you tell your story, one that is unique yet universal.

It would be a story within a story.

Just in case you’re wondering, no, that isn’t the basis for the next big story I’m working on. That boy-king has never existed in my head until just now. I don’t tell fantasy stories about dragons or wizards or spells, either. There’s nothing bad about them. Don’t misunderstand me. (I’m reading Harry Potter right now.) I simply choose to leave them to people whose writer’s voices feel comfortable in those environments. I, personally, like to tell stories about characters I feel have been under-served in literature. The man the world sees as disabled, for example, who’s always just seen himself as normal and wished others would follow suit. The story of the grandfather who taught his handicapped grandson to fight for anything he truly wanted in life.

“Nothing’s going to come easy to you, but if you fight for what you really want, not a soul on this Earth can deny you.”

Maybe I’d tell the story of a hard-luck baseball team who finally gets to call themselves champions. The boy who read time-travel stories every night with his father as a child, only to develop the first workable prototype for time-travel. A ghost story with a twist at its end that the reader never saw coming.

Nott hat these types of stories aren’t told, but I feel comfortable telling them myself, so why not offer my takes on them?

There is something to be said for knowing what people are reading these days, for knowing what they want to read before they do, for “writing to market”. But I find myself, more and more, advocating another path.

Tell the story you need to tell, not the one you think readers want to hear. You stand to write truer prose with much more heart behind your carefully chosen words that way.

Boyhood (A movie By Richard Linklater)

Boyhood.

I’ve been out of the theater, the experience complete, for a good five hours and change. Yet I’m still digesting all I saw, all that one of America’s greatest directors, Richard Linklater, put on the big screen to be seen in a 165-minute new American classic.

I don’t toss that word around lightly. I watched American Hustle last year. I was bold enough then, and I’m bold enough now, to say, simply and truthfully: That movie sucked. So if Boyhood wasn’t any good, I’d tell you.

And it isn’t good. It’s great, a sure best picture contender.

Everyone who watches Boyhood will experience it. And everyone who has an experience will have a slightly different experience than everyone else has, because we all go into the film with our own previous life experience as our guides, and it is those memories, and our memories of the time period covered (2002-2013) that ground Boyhood for each moviegoer.

I am a big brother. Have been since I was four years old. In 2002, my littlest brother, James, was about to turn 7, the same age as the great Ellar Coltrane’s Mason, and my little sister, the beautiful Ms. Katie, was about to turn 10, the same age as Mason’s sister Samantha (played with tenderness, skill, wit, and heart by the director’s daughter). In them, I saw my siblings. In the people around them, I saw myself.

Boyhood gets so much right. The advice given to both Mason and Samantha about life itself reminds me of the same advice I doled out, given to me years before. The brother-sister relationship. Even the video games these kids (okay, let’s be fair, the video games that Mason plays) are perfectly rendered here, so that you say, Yes, that is exactly what it was like!

Linklater’s best directing Oscar awaits him in February. If Boyhood doesn’t win best editing, then I don’t know what best editing means. If Arquette isn’t nominated for best actress, I would be utterly shocked. And if Boyhood isn’t in the running for best picture, then I want to know: What was the point of increasing the number of eligible movies from five to ten? Not only should this movie be nominated, if there is any justice in the academy’s vote, it should also win.

That means, just this once, Mr. Weinstein, let someone else come to the party. Back off promoting the rest of your films the way you’ve backed off promoting Snowpiercer (anyone who knows movies hopefully sees what I just wrote as a subtle dig). Admit that you’ve been bested, sir, because I’m telling you right now–you have!

Boyhood stars Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater. Run time: 165 min.

Visiting The Dentist… The Results

I was asked, by a dedicated follower, to move the post scheduled for this slot and, in a sense, “finish” the post I began yesterday. “You can’t just tell us you’re going to the dentist, and then not recount the experience,” she argued. She’s right.

First, let me take the drama out of it for you. I’m fine. No issues found. No cavities, no future fillings (as it is, my mouth is Fillings Central already, so not going under the drill again is good news, because if I had to, it would most likely mean one had fallen out).

Now, on to the experience itself.

Nine minutes before my scheduled appointment, my dad and I got in the car and he drove me to the dentist’s office (For those who don’t know me well enough to know this, my palsy plus eyesight that has never been great together mean I can’t drive; come on, Google, I’m rooting for you and your self-driving car; I’d be all over that!). I had told him the night before of the impending dentist visit and its hour, but he must have forgotten. He does that sometimes. *Grin.* Don’t we all?

When I arrived (just a few minutes late, thank you very much), I was ushered back as usual and quickly found that all my at-home dental work has paid dividends. The hygienist liked what she saw.

As she cleaned, we spoke.She’s soon to be a grandmother. I told her of my brother’s recent high school graduation. We listened to a baby in the waiting room cry. Hard.

The doctor doesn’t see babies (“I did see a one-year-old once,” he told us). The town crier belonged to the lady being seen in the cubicle next to me. I said to my soon-to-be-a-grandmother teeth-cleaner, “I bet the best part of becoming a grandma is being able to give the kid back when it starts crying, yes?” She smiled and agreed.

The doctor came in to see me. We caught up. A once-every-six-months “congratulations to both of us on still being alive”. He will be going to Florida for Christmas “and seeing the Harry Potter thing they’ve got down there”. Not sure that’s an exact quote, but it’s close enough to warrant the marks.  I told him my girlfriend would love to see that, and the doctor, the hygienist. and I began to talk about quidditch, which got me to thinking, I’d much rather watch the Quidditch World Cup than the actual World Cup.

Sorry, soccer fans.

But I digress.

In the end, I’ve discovered that even an uneventful trip to the tooth-doctor deserves a write-up now and then. As I said yesterday, see you in six months, doc. Christmas will be here sooner than you think, everybody!

 

 

 

Write What You Know

Today, I wanted to confront the most overused writerly idea and expression of all overused writerly ideas or expressions. That, as the title indicates, would be write what you know.

It’s the simple assignment many teachers give their charges when they’re first exposed to the joy of writing. “Tell me about your vacations,” they’ll say at the beginning of a school yeaer. “What did you do? Write it all down for me.”

That is writing what you know.

But to carry that idea into creative writing doesn’t always work. It can, but it doesn’t always. For example, there’s no way J.K. Rowling is personally acquainted with a boy wizard who plays quidditch. She made that all up. She didn’t know it before it became something, fashioned out of the building materials present only in her imagination, and set down in paper and ink to stand for all time.

Every novel is going to have autobiographical elements. Even Potter. Rowling has said Hermione Granger is a representation of her. Every writer will write what they know, to an extent. But a lesson all writers must learn is when to break away from the autobiography of it all and add in the right mix of fictional elements.