Like so many old films, this one is about to tell you a story about one Christmas in Connecticut. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Christmas time is another natural story time – there’s something about a long winter’s night that makes one long to hear a tale. And storytellers are ready to oblige!
Out of all the dozens and dozens of Christmas films out there, I keep returning to the 1945 Christmas in Connecticut. I’m not sure where I saw it first; it must have been Turner Broadcasting System, back in the 80s.
OLD FART TANGENT: What do kids do these days for random input? When I was a kid, you could depend on a potluck from old TBS – old movies I’d never heard of, but there was nothing else on during a lazy Saturday, and I’d start watching, and before I knew it, a whole movie had gone by. These days, there’s so much choice that one feels it’s very important to make the Right Choice, and so one might spend more time looking up movie reviews than actually viewing movies. Or maybe that’s just the perfectionist in me. But there were so many good movies I would have never seen if it weren’t for an afternoon of boredom.
ANYWAY. Christmas in Connecticut is a Christmas comedy whose theme is about lies that seem to make our lives easier, and how the truth sets us free. On top of that rather ponderous base is a light and fluffy confection of a story. It starts with food. The Germans blow up a boat (1945, remember?) and two stranded sailors float on a raft. Our Hero, Jeff, dreams of the feasts he’ll eat when they finally get rescued. And they do get rescued, but no feasts for Jeffy-boy – he’s got to make do with milk and maybe a raw egg for a special treat until his digestive track gets back to normal. In pursuit of solid food, he Continue reading
I promised to report back on last weekend’s craft marathon, otherwise known as Four Days of McKee—three days of the legendary Story seminar and a further day dedicated to the Love Story.
It was physically grueling. I can’t remember the last time I spent four eleven-hour days in a row sitting in a lecture theater, and it’s been more than thirty years since I had to take notes longhand. I treated myself to a new notebook and pen for the occasion.
It was mentally challenging. I had mixed feelings about Mr KcKee’s teaching style (to say he has strong opinions, robustly expressed, would be to understate the case), but no reservations about the quality of his analysis. Even though much of the material was familiar to me and I only made extended notes where I thought it necessary, I still filled more than sixty pages and went home every night with a head full of new ideas.
I could blog for the next year or more about the things that I learned, but three nuggets top my list of things to chew on, because I think they will be especially useful to me when I get on to writing Alexis’s prequel story. All three were superbly illustrated during the final session of Story—a six-hour scene-by-scene analysis of Casablanca and again during Love Story’s breakdown of The Bridges of Madison County.
Have you ever seen the columns in entertainment magazines where they show two celebrities caught at different events wearing (gasp!) the same outfit? The column writer typically opines about who wore it better and why. A quick google search showed that these columns do, in fact, exist in the digital world, opening up the floor for everyone with a keyboard and an opinion to weigh in on the matter.
We humans love our comparisons. Remember compare and contrast writing exercises in elementary school? Comparative Literature? Ever been given the advice to pitch your book by comparing it others already out in the marketplace?
Recently, I recalled a high school lit project that required us to pick a topic from a list of maybe 10, develop a thesis around it, and use the books we’d read by that point in the course to support it. I chose to write about whether classic books or movies made from classic books were better. (Spoiler alert: It was a literature class. This one came with a built-in answer, especially if you liked getting A’s as much as I did.) So, yes, using two classics, A Tale of Two Cities and Wuthering Heights – both books I loved in high school, by the way – I came to the astonishing conclusion that the books did a better job of presenting themes, metaphors, and character studies. Continue reading
This scene from Moonstruck packs a punch because we know these characters’ backstories.
In last week’s post, I nattered on about Lisa Cron’s message that backstory is the decoder ring for any story we write. This week, let’s take the discussion one step further. Let’s talk about putting some of that glorious backstory you’re creating into your current WIP.
Gasp! Egads! Not the Dreaded Backstory!
Before you go running for the exits, hear me (channeling Lisa) out. As the author of Wired for Story and Story Genius as well as a long-time writing coach and teacher, Lisa has researched lots of brain science to back up her theory that not only do we need to create our characters’ backstories for our own authorial edification, but also for reader enlightenment and, ultimately, bonding with our characters. Our brains use story to explore different aspects and possibilities of the wider world so we can learn lessons from those experiences without putting ourselves in harm’s way. (Lisa puts it much more elegantly in her books, and really, you should be reading her books!) And because our brains are incredibly efficient machines, they will use the same techniques to decipher fictional stories as they do real-life events.
Let’s think about that in the context of character for a minute. Think back to meeting someone important in your life, for example, your significant other or your best friend. Continue reading
Can you spot the monster in this picture?
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Time for a true confession on this October 31st. I’m not a big fan of Halloween. Never have been. Even as a kid, I wasn’t very motivated to go collect candy if it meant having to dress in a costume to do so. And while, like Michaeline, I do enjoy the occasional monster story, in my case stories like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and some of the really clever iterations of vampires and zombies that have come out in recent years, I’m not into the non-stop gore fests that crop up on cable TV at this time of year. Other turnoffs: crazed clowns, possessed dolls, and anthropomorphic killer cars.
For me, the best scary stories are the ones where the monsters aren’t so obvious, the ones where they hide behind very human masks, when they look like clean-cut college kids, a worried husband, or the neighbor across the street whom you’ve never met. If any of these ‘monsters’ sound familiar to you, then you, too, might be a fan of Alfred Hitchcock movies. While Psycho is more likely to get airtime at this time of year, if I had to pick my three favorite Hitchcock films, I’d say Rope, Rear Window, and Vertigo. Continue reading