Tag Archives: Movies

Writing Is an Open Door

To any who haven’t seen Frozen yet I highly recommend it. With fantastic music, beautiful animation, and a marvelous storyline, it is easily one of Disney’s greatest movies.

One of my all time favorite songs in it is “Love Is an Open Door.” I don’t know why exactly, other than the fact that it’s catchy and fun. But I guess in the last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about openness, about closing oneself off, something that is a big part of Frozen. You might have noticed, dear readers, that this has been a theme of my last few posts. I suppose it’s just something I’ve been thinking about that’s been coming up again and again in my life.

Elsa and Anna represent two completely different approaches to life. Elsa closes herself off completely for fear of hurting others or being hurt herself, but in doing so she pushes anyone who might try to be close away. Anna opens herself wide, expressing all of her feelings, letting loose her heart, but in doing so she puts herself at risk for those who might hurt her.

In relationships I’ve so often found myself doing one or the other. It’s easy to either slam the door shut or to open it too wide. I once had someone compare friendships to walking into a house. With some people we only let them sit on the porch, others come and walk through, and still others are allowed into secret dark rooms to see the dirtiest most broken parts.

But writing is also something where someone has to debate whether to open or shut a door. Do you write about personal private things that hurt, or do you simply write fun amusing stories with no depth?

In my literature class this semester I had the pleasure of reading Moby-Dick and ended up writing my end of the year research paper on it. In reading more about Herman Melville I found that his novel was in many ways a picture of his own dark and desperate struggles with life’s questions: whether there is a God and if so is he good? Can humans define their own destiny? Is there a greater purpose?

First Edition American copy of Moby Dick by Herman Melville

In reading about Melville, about how he allowed himself to open the door to the inner turmoil and capture that on a page, I found myself utterly fascinated. I’ve always prided myself on trying to remain open in my writing, but to put such dark confusing questions into a novel remained something I wasn’t sure I could ever do, or certainly not something I could publish at the very least.

Writing is much like relationships in that respect. It’s a choice whether to open the door and let depth and meaning come about, to allow deeper connection with readers, and yet risk being hurt. Or to shut that door and keep up a cool exterior of writing that has nothing to do with anything personal, merely meaningless fun.

There are writers we read who certainly do the latter. One of my literature professors had us try building a portrait of a writer we were reading, and we agreed that it was easy to understand what type of person he was just from reading his works, but other writers hide behind their works and we never really know who they are. Sometimes maybe we catch a brief glimpse of their voice, but it’s never with the same depth or meaning as others.

As a young girl I promised myself I would never write anything just for the fun of it. I use to say: not for the fortune, nor the fans, nor even the fun. And I think that continues to be my motto as I write. I never want to be like Elsa and close off that door to my readers. I don’t want to build an icy exterior to keep my readers at bay. I want to be open and honest, want to develop a relationship with them on the page just like other writers that I have loved reading. But in doing so I know I risk being hurt from criticism or rejection. But I don’t care. I want my writing to be an open door. And I shall forever try to maintain that.

Have any other writers out there struggled with this? Readers do you have any favorite books that you see a writer coming through the pages? Any Frozen lovers out there just want to discuss the movie? I’m up for that too. Any comments you have are great.

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Saving Characters like Mr. Banks

You can probably guess what this post is going to be about. Good for you.

For any who haven’t seen Saving Mr. Banks yet I highly recommend it. I thought it was an excellent movie and very much enjoyed it. And I think there’s a lot to see in the film, even beyond the immediate story.

For any who don’t know, it recounts P.L. Travers’, the author of Mary Poppins, struggle to maintain control of her story that is being transformed into a Disney movie. In the process, she recalls her childhood memories that inspired her to write the original story, including the purpose behind it.

As a writer myself, I strongly connected with Mrs. Travers (as she likes to be called in the film). Admittedly, I’ve had a much easier life than she’s had, but I still can share in that agony of surrendering your character into another person’s hands. It’s painful enough for me to give up my works as reading material even to my closest friends and family, because those characters are precious to me.To anyone out there who’s read my fictional works, you should understand just how much I’ve surrendered even just in giving a glimpse of a chapter. Even this blog, can be difficult for me to share.

Mrs. Travers tells the Disney corporation that Mary Poppins and the Banks are family to her. Of course, she means in the sense of having created them based on real people, but for me there is a strong reality of seeing my characters as more than fictional beings on a page.

SAVING MR. BANKS

I dealt with a lot of loneliness in my junior high days. And one of the main things that kept me going was my writing. I spent most of my free time at school scribbling down stories on pieces of notebook paper, folding them up and tucking them away to take home. To this day I have hundreds of pages just from eighth and ninth grade year. And in those times, my characters felt more like friends than simple figments of my imagination.

There was a sense to me that if my characters could go through the things they did, then I could find the strength to face each new day. I could push myself out of bed, get ready for school, head off for a few hours of lonely writing time. In many ways my characters could achieve the things I’d only dream of, and I could create their own reality that was different than mine. And it gave me hope.

I’m not the lonely little girl I was back in those days. But I still find a sense of happiness in writing, in creating new people to become acquainted with, who will not judge me when I share my darkest secrets. They never disappoint me. They never leave me. They’re always their. A constant companion to guide me through my hardest times. Real friends come and go. They break hearts, they tear open wounds. That’s not to say characters are always perfect. They have their struggles, they have their quirks, and they have their weaknesses. But there’s something indescribably special in breathing life into an empty dead piece of paper covered in ink.

And then to have others look at your characters and change them or criticize them. It’s painful. They’re like my children. Like my best friends.

“Life is full of risks,” my father said when I explained how much I sympathized with Mrs. Travers. And I guess it is. But putting out your works feels like so much more of a risk. What if people hate your beloved characters? What if your publisher changes things around and makes it seem utterly different from how you originally thought it would be? What if they end up utterly misunderstood why you have to stand on the sidelines as their only champion? There are so many things that can go wrong. And it’s so hard to understand if you have never created a character that you know and love as much as a good friend.

“Why did you have to make him so cruel? He was not a monster!” Mrs. Travers cries when she sees their portrayal of Mr. Banks. How accurately this captures the author’s unique perspective on a character, the insight they have that others don’t. A character is an author’s whole world. And seeing them ripped apart is never easy.

SAVING MR. BANKS

There are many wonderful aspects of this film that I cannot even begin to cover. But from a writer’s perspective there is much to garner from this author’s struggle to maintain control of her beloved story. Life is full of risks. For Mrs. Travers it’s possible the risk wasn’t worth it. But I think those of us who enjoy the wonderful film of Mary Poppins would disagree.

As writers we have to risk putting our characters out there (or just our works if we’re not interested in fiction). Sometimes we cannot save them from the fate of what publishers, movie makers, or readers consign them to. Nothing has been more painful than having a friend tell me they don’t like one of my characters (one they’re not supposed to hate anyways) or having someone tell me: “he’s immature, she’s too grumpy, or he just isn’t at all appealing as a person.” Because so often they’re missing the true perspective only I can give them. I’ll reply to the criticisms: “He’s never been given a proper childhood, she’s just gone through a death of her beloved, or he’s just working on developing into a better human as we all are.” But often it’s too late. They’ve made their judgements. And only for us are those characters saved.

Do any other authors out there agree with my analysis? Have you seen problems in other people’s perceptions or changes to one of your characters? As someone who has not been published I can never fully give a perspective on that, but I’d love to hear from others. To any other readers, tell me your thoughts on the movie if you’ve seen it. If not maybe tell me about a movie you have seen that’s inspired you as a writer. I always look for more!

This trailer might contain a few spoilers but I thought I’d post it anyways.

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Horror Stories for Horror Stories

Horror Stories for Horror Stories

I found this amusing and thought I’d share it. Just a cute cartoon about the reality of some books transition into movies. Hope it made you smile!

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August 24, 2013 · 3:16 PM

When a Movie is Better than a Book: My Take on Hunger Games

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As an English major, saying a movie is better than its literary counterpart is almost blasphemous, but I am going to say it nonetheless.

Movies and books are for some reason assumed to be similar by some. I have friends who complain nonstop about the issues in some movie that was an adaption of a book. And while it is true that many movies utterly ruin the story (The Lightening Thief is an example in my opinion), others do a fairly good job considering what they have to work with.

The formats are so vastly different that it is impossible to have a movie that directly replicates a book. The closest I can think of are Masterpiece Theater versions of books that have 5 or 6 hours to run because they are on television rather than on DVD. The issues with transferring aren’t hard to see. Here are a few.

1. Narration. While a first person narrated book is a wonderful thing to read, a constantly narrated movie gets boring after a while. The viewer can see most things and therefore does not need a constant voice explaining what is happening. However, for explaining some important details or giving thoughts or feelings, this transfer can cause an issue. While a character might already know something and explain it to the reader in his or her brain in a book, a movie must use a different means.

2. Time. A book is something we spend a good deal of time over. Most people will read a book for several days (I confess I am a book addict and tend to devour in a matter of hours, but many enjoy savoring). A movie is limited in its time. A viewer cannot simply walk out of the theater because they are tired, or have dinner to get to, or need to do something else, and expect to come back to the exact same spot in the movie. Nor can an audience be expected to sit through 6-8 hours worth of film. The transfer of book time to movie time is tricky and involves cutting some elements.

3. Action. Hollywood often needs more action in the movies than the author might have provided. Slower dialogue scenes are acceptable in books, but in movies they tend to be a little long. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to add some elements of action. Readers are disappointed, though, when scenes are cut for time and others are added to keep viewers interested. A good example is in The Chronicles of Narnia when battle scenes were added. The books were fun, but when put on screen they needed a little extra pizzazz (feel free to debate this issue with me, I can see both sides).

4. Emotional depth. It’s interesting to see how emotion transfers onto a screen. Sometimes a movie seems less emotional than a book. Othertimes it’s the opposite. I think that just depends. Seeing a picture of the story before you can be very meaningful, but hearing a characters thoughts can also be very powerful. This can cause some problems between book and movie depending (partly going back to narration).

5. Characters. Picking an actor is rarely easy. While well known names boost the movie’s potential, sometimes known actors just don’t quite fit the part. It’s hard to match a character perfectly: in physical appearance, personality, age, etc. One of my Harry Potter obsessed roommates has complained that Alan Rickman is too old to be play Snape by the books standards (he would be 31 in the first movie, but Rickman was 55 when the first film came out). It is hard to fit everything a writer was looking for when they were first creating their marvelous protagonists, antagonists, and extras.

These are merely a few of the issues going on in conversion from text to theater. I admire those who do this work, because I know the transfer takes a good deal of vision and perseverance to put the whole thing together. I cannot imagine making a book into a movie, even if I have complained I could do a better job.

I bring this all up because I (as I so blasphemously declared earlier) have found some books that I simply think make better movies. My best example of this is The Hunger Games.

I didn’t read the books until last year, the same week that the first movie came out. While I did enjoy the books for their story, I struggled with writing that I found to be less than satisfactory. I’ve never been a fan of writing in present tense, and that, along with Collin’s less skilled writing made it hard for me to follow in written form.

On screen, however, I didn’t have to deal with bad writing. I could enjoy the story (the best part of the suspense filled books) and see a picture of the marvelous Panem world. I also appreciated being able to see more than just Katniss’s perspective, getting to see some of Gale and Prim. The films seemed well done to me and I appreciated the interesting, fast-paced story.

I may have readers who strongly disagree with me. I look forward to hearing your opinions. With Catching Fire coming out this fall, it’s going to be interesting to see how the writers and director handle this next challenge. I am excited and looking forward to seeing it, hopefully at the midnight release.

Do you have movies you prefer over books? What was your least favorite adaption of book to movie? What was your favorite?

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Alex Rider: Spying Marketing Strategies

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As an adolescent one of my favorite book series were the Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz. I discovered them by first watching the movie and after falling in love with the story, decided to pursue the written version as well.

For those who don’t know, Alex Rider is an action packed spy novel based on the story of a reluctant fourteen year old British agent. The books were suspenseful and interesting, never failing to keep me involved. I was hooked on them and followed them all the way to the end of the series.

Looking back at the books it is interesting to consider how the marketing of them affected me. The movie was what first got my attention. This method of marketing does seem to be rather effective. The making of a book into a movie is not only a sign that the book was a success, but a reason for those who haven’t already read it to do so before (or in my case after) they view the film.

Other factors behind it may have been the covers with intense looking backgrounds and a simple symbol on the front to represent the adventure. Once within the book the fast paced plotline kept me going much as it had in the movie.

As the last book, Scorpia Rising, came closer to release there was a good deal of advertising that went into it. Though I didn’t need such hype over the book (because I had eagerly been awaiting it for more than a year) the methods used were interesting when considering how marketing affects a book.

One particularly interesting method was the use of book trailers posted online. Those were the first video trailers I had ever seen for a book, and while somewhat cheesy and simplistically animated, they were very effective in drawing me in at the time.

Marketing is a fascinating part of the literary world. Book trailers have been particularly popular in the last few years. They are a good way to interest readers to pursue a book due to their compelling nature. They provide a visual and often tease at plot elements to come. As an Alex Rider fan I remember sitting on the edge of my chair as I watched the first of the three trailers. The mysterious music, the small hinting plot developments, the dramatic phrase: “one bullet. One life”.

How has marketing affected you as a reader? What do you think of book trailers? These aspects of writing never fail to interest me. I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

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