Little Things

Eep! I haven’t blogged in a month?! Bad Liberty, BAD LIBERTY!

I’d love to tell you it was because it was some calamitous event, but sadly, it was my own blank mind. Monday would roll around, and sometime, I’d say, “Oh, crap! I forgot to blog again!!” Too much going on. Oh well. 🙂

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John Wayne as G.W. McLintock and Maureen O’Hara as Katherine McLintock

My kids LOVE to watch the John Wayne movie, McLintock. Recently, when I was listening in while cleaning (and Facebooking), I heard one of the scenes early on, when G.W. McLintock (Wayne) and Katherine (Maureen O’Hara) meet for the first time [in the movie]. Katherine spits at G.W. that she always hated the name Rebecca–the name of their daughter. And, there’s really no explanation given for this.

Which got me wondering–was the explanation for it just something left on the cutting room floor, or something more simple–something meant to illustrate character/personality?

I’d like to say it was the former, but if memory serves, Wayne produced this movie with his own company, so had a lot of control over the content. But, if you recognize the time the story is to have taken place–late 1800s or very early 1900s–it may actually say more about G.W. than about Katherine. Men at the time would’ve had a lot more power over naming of children at the time (or at least, that’s what I’m guessing.) Now, women have more power in that area, but I know many couples who discuss the name at length until they come up with something they both agree on (case in point, TMOTH and me. It took us 24 hours POST BIRTH for our daughter and 36 hours post on our son to come up with names. It wasn’t like we didn’t have some warning we were having a baby, either. We’d known since at least 6 weeks along, if not earlier, that we’d be having a baby!)

If my theory is correct–and G.W. named their daughter Rebecca in spite of Katherine–this is a great lesson for writers on a multitude of topics: backstory, characterization, how a man treats his wife, etc. G.W. didn’t care whether his wife liked the name or not, and being the cattle baron, town-owning character that he is, I doubt Katherine’s thoughts on the matter would’ve swayed him at all. Might explain why they’re estranged through most of the movie.

Can you think of other instances in movies or books where something made you wonder about the character or backstory and the writer never followed up on it? What story is it, and what’s your conclusion?

Until next time (hopefully a lot sooner than it was the LAST time!),

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Mind Ramblings

I realized last week on Monday mid-day that I didn’t do a post. And, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to talk about.

So, I stared at my computer, decided to ignore it, then for the next couple of days, felt guilty about it…

*sigh*

So here I am, not really sure what to write about still. I hate days like this.

The problem is, I have a lot to say. My opinions are wide and varied.

But, sometimes, I feel that since I’m a writer from home, and a stay-at-home mom to boot, I don’t have much to say.

And, that’s where I’m at now.

Maybe I should just talk about how much I loved “The Avengers”. That’s a trending topic. 🙂 My husband and I went to see it opening day–in 3D no less–and loved it. Especially the scene at the end of the movie credits where NO ONE SAYS A WORD.

Four words: Joss. Whedon. Is. Brilliant.

I don’t know for sure if I’d ever seen anything by Mr. Whedon prior to being coerced into seeing “Firefly” and “Serenity” last year. But, I think I’m a fan now. Between the misfits on “Serenity” and all my favorite super heroes (especially Tony Stark), I honestly can say I love his work. Yeah, I probably need to go see some of his other stuff. That’ll come. I’ll get obsessive before too much longer, and cherry-pick from his listing on IMDB.com what to borrow from the library near me.

In the meantime, if anyone has any suggested viewing selections of Whedon’s previous work, post them here. 😉

And, Oh! Did you see the “Castle” finale? I’ll be rewatching that one again over the summer… probably several times (along with the two prior to it, especially the one with Adam Baldwin.) I was thinking this morning as I got up how much a young Nathan Fillion (from Firefly era) would’ve made a great choice to play the role of Rick in my novel “Homebody”. Now, he’d actually probably be a good choice for Mark from my project “Beyond Dead”… at least then, he’d actually be able to play a real cop!

Until next time,

Writing Lessons from the Movies: "The Band Wagon"

As writers, we all know the kind of story we want to write. As well we should! If we don’t know, then what are we doing with an open Word document in front of us, trying to string words together? Having a vision for our story is important.

In the 1950s musical classic The Band Wagon, we get a great lesson about not letting go of that vision, nor allowing someone to so skew your story that it’s barely recognizable when they’re through with it.

If you’re not familiar with the movie, here’s a brief run-down. Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) is a washed-up movie actor in the twilight of his career, looking to go back to his Broadway roots and return to the stage. His friends, playwrights Lester and Lily Martin (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray), have what they feel is the perfect vehicle, and persuade him to return to New York City. Upon Tony’s arrival, they take him to meet the person who they want to direct their venture, Jeffrey Cordova (James Buchanan).

Fred Astaire & Cyd Charise “Dancing in the Dark”
Picture from Wikipedia

Cordova, however, has a very different plan for Les & Lily’s upbeat musical, turning it into a musical drama that doesn’t leave the audience with a smile on their face. The show is a flop.

As the cast is commiserating and saying their goodbyes, Tony takes things into his own hands, tells Cordova that they’re going to revamp and take things back to the original show the Martin’s had planned. When they do this, The Band Wagon becomes a hit.

You can probably tell where I’m headed with this (hey, you’re smart!) but the important lesson for us writers is this: don’t let others tinker with your story unless you’re sure about the changes they’re suggesting, if it really, truly improves things. Take everything your crit partners say and look at it thoroughly and with a cautious eye. Don’t just take their suggestions as gospel truth.

When you get notes back from critters, agents, or editors (though mostly, the critters), take things in, try to see what they’re saying, then let it steep in your brain for a while. I’ve gotten some of my best ideas when I let things sit rather than making the jump into editing immediately. I’ll start thinking about one point, mull over possible changes, then sometimes, particularly if it’s major, I’ll call up the critter or meet them for coffee and have a brainstorming session. I actually have one critter from my local writer’s group that we do this nearly every time I see him. He’ll walk me to my car and we’ll stand there and talk and brainstorm.

Some of my best ideas come while we’re talking. I make a mental note, or, lately, pull up the voice recorder on my phone and make some notes as I’m driving home.

Just remember: keep in mind the vision you’ve got for your book. Not everyone is going to be pulling for you–or even see what you can see in your book’s rough form.

My question for you: Have you ever received constructive criticism from someone where their vision for your book was polar opposite from yours? If so, how did you handle it? Did it end up being helpful?

Until next time,

P.S. My good friend and sometimes guest blogger Linda Yezak’s novel is out on Kindle! When I bought it on Thursday, it was $0.99! I don’t know if it’s still that low, but I’d urge you to go buy Give the Lady a Ride. It would make her happy. — LS