Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Michael Clayton and writing, writing, writing

Hi again.

Nearly two weeks since my last post. I started a blog about two years ago detailing the pathetic state of my life--I won't provide the link--and wrote six or seven posts before quitting. I told exactly one person about it, and she read faithfully and even wrote me to request more posts after I stopped. I explained that writing a blog felt like actually writing (you know, real writing) and it was too easy to blog and not do any real work. I stopped. The blog is probably still out there, but I haven't seen it since my last posting. I lost interest, mainly.

I seem to have slipped into the same pattern. Not that I've lost interest, just...I have other things to do. But that won't stop me this time.

I saw "Michael Clayton" over the weekend. It was a Friday night, but I was still surprised at how full the theater was--I hadn't been expecting that many people. (I really was not expecting someone to come in about 3/4 through the movie and ask to take the seat next to me. I lied, saying "My friend is coming right back." Truthfully, I had laid all my stuff neatly on the seat next to me and didn't want to pull it all into my lap. Courtesy would dictate that I give up the coatholder to the ticket-bearing patron...but I can't imagine this man had bought a ticket.)

"Michael Clayton" is a really good movie. Go see it. This post will be full of spoilers, so if you plan to see it, stop reading now, go to the theater, and come back here when you're ready.

I'll wait.

Now then. The opening scenes quickly and efficiently show us that Michael is not doing very well. He's gambling, he's lost his shirt (and all shirts to come, he's so in debt) to a bad business investment, and there's a certain look in his eyes and on his face that says, "Not tonight. Do not mess with me tonight." He gets called to "fix" a situation in Westchester involving a wealthy man and a hit-and-run, and gives the man the same kind of advice I'd give him: find an attorney, plead guilty. Huh, we think. That's not pulling any strings; that's not fancy. I was expecting movie magic. Then he drives away (and the wealthy man is super-mad).

Meanwhile, there are negotiations going on through the night at his law firm. There's a woman about to melt down in a bathroom stall. Interesting.

Michael stops driving when he sees some horses on a hill, parks his car, and walks up to them. He's staring deep into their eyes ad communing, and as he's having his man-and-nature moment, BAM! his car explodes. Huh.

Supertitle: "Four days earlier."

It's a contrivance. It's a gimmick. But it works. The rest of the movie, we're thinking, "How does he get to this point?"

Forgive me for a little indulgence, but...I did the same thing in my book. I have a "Prologue" where my main character, Jennifer, is haggard and bitter and wandering through a big discount store (not Wal-Mart, whose labor practices I abhor, but a generic big-lot kind of store) looking for pills to kill herself. She sees a man, follows him, and runs into Henry, who will change her life. Cut to chapter one, and Henry starts to tell his story. We're still kind of in present tense, and Jennifer doesn't want to hear his story; she wants to get back to the discount place and get her pills. But he won't let her go and so she start to relive her own story, starting almost seven years ago.

Not quite the same as Michael Clayton, but close. It's a contrivance. It's a gimmick. I want people to say, "How does she get to this point?"

Does it work?

I will let you, dear reader, decide. (The book is available now on Amazon. Did I mention that?)

Meanwhile, I have been reading many different blogs on writing. There are hundreds, I think, maybe thousands; everyone from big-time successful television writers to the "I'm struggling and detailing the process for you" people have been writing blogs. (I fall more into the latter category, so far.) They're fascinating, they're often funny, they're educational.

For my fiction-writing folk, I am posting a link to a list of "amateur manuscript" no-nos. It's a blog by someone named E.E. Knight of the "Vampire Earth" book series. I hope you find it as enlightening as I did. It's interesting to progress as a I read his list I remembered moments when I figured out what he's written down, saw it in my own writing, saw it in others', actually called it out. And one or two made me very nervous. But ah well.

More later--soon.

I'm also posting these random photos, taken by me on various vacations. Just to liven up my text-heavy blog.

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