July 21, 2013

Writing Tip: There Are No Absolutes

I recently went to the Southeastern Writers Conference (that's a picture at left of St. Simon's Island, where the conference was held - inspiring, right?). It was a fabulous experience which I'll write about in more detail later.
To me, there's nothing better than being in the company of other writers - the camaraderie, the enthusiasm, the support, the laughs, the advice...and if I learn just one thing at a conference I consider it a success. Mostly I learn a lot at the conferences I attend but there was one where I felt I didn't learn anything. And at that one I met a wonderful writer who has turned into a great friend - Randy Richardson, so that made the experience worthwhile.
At the Southeastern Writers Conference I learned  that even the workshops that weren't focused on my genre, fiction, were informative and instructive - writing techniques transfer from genre to genre.
One of the workshop leaders at the conference had some rules. One was, don't use first person perspective. He doesn't like it, he doesn't read it, he doesn't think other people do. "Just don't do it," he said.
Well, I guess he won't be reading my books.
I say, write however you are comfortable. Personally, I like reading books written in first person - I like the intimacy of it. I also like writing in first person. I've written in third, and maybe my next book will be written that way, but maybe not. I believe your story guides you in the telling.
There are lots of writing rules. Just take a look at any writing website or any of the writing books on your shelf:

  • Write what you know
  • Don't use a prologue
  • Don't start your story with a dream
and on and on...
And many of them make sense. But there are books that have broken every rule and are still successful.
My advice is: write beautifully. Hone your craft. Follow the rules if they feel right, break them if you must, but  if you do, do it beautifully.

More on this topic from Writer Unboxed, one of my favorite writing websites: Rules and Tools by Dave King.

July 16, 2013

Movie Review: The Way, Way Back **

This movie's mistitled - it should be called The Way, Way Bad.
Don't we all love coming-of-age stories? There's always a dorky main character, an older super-sweet pretty girl and a villain, and somehow the kid comes into his own, often winning the girl. This film's not quite as clich├ęd as that but it's damn close.
The villain, improbably played by Steve Carell, is just too mean. I know that's the definition of a villain, but this time he's too mean to be believable, at least for me. I pretty much hate him (poor Steve) from the opening scene where he's driving the family to his beach house and as Duncan's mom and sister sleep, Trent (Carell) asks how Duncan would rate himself on a scale of one to ten (I'm not spoiling anything - this is in the trailer) and Duncan says a six and Trent says, "No, you're a three."
Really...how could you not hate that guy? There's nothing redeeming about Trent but somehow he's Duncan's mother's boyfriend, and the rest of the story is how Duncan finds his own way and Trent gets his
Ho hum. The story had potential - it just didn't take advantage of it.
There's a cringe-worthy scene where Duncan is working at a water park and he's told to break up a crowd of kids who are watching some hip hop kids dance. Yeah, right, this nerdy little kid's going to do that. But of course he does it - the dancers don't even get mad - and then they get him to dance and that ingratiates him to them and to all the other kids in the water park. Thank god life isn't that stupidly easy.
Alison Janney as the crazy neighbor is a little over the top, Sam Rockwell is great and Maya Rudolph is Maya Rudolph. But I hated Steve Carell in this role and Toni Collette's performance as his girlfriend wasn't convincing. She seemed too smart to be so stupid. Liam James as Duncan is sweet and likable.
All in all, the best I can give this film is two stars, which means I didn't walk out, and I have to say I did like the ending. Just not enough to recommend the film.

July 7, 2013

Movie Review: Before Midnight **

Since I wasn't crazy about the first two films in this series (Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) you might wonder why I went to see Before Midnight. Well, the critics seem to particularly love this one so, off I went. 
Should have stayed home. 
I love the idea of meeting these characters back in 1995 then revisiting them in 2004 and now, but unfortunately the concept is much better than the reality.
If there was any magic between these two characters (and there was - a tad - way back in the first movie), they left it on that subway, or maybe on the cutting room floor. Now they've been together for ten years or so and have twin girls and all they do is talk about nothing and then argue about it.
Delpy's Celine is whiny and insecure and annoying. Bad combo platter. Her main goal in life seems to be picking fights with Ethan Hawke's Jesse who is tolerant and supportive, but apparently not enough for her. She's a bitch.
There's nothing riveting about their conversation or their fights or this story. If you like watching a couple's relationship fall apart, if you like hoping it will happen soon so you can get the hell out of the theater, you'll want to see this film. If you take a pass, you won't miss anything.
But if they make another one in the series I'll probably go see it. Maybe that'll be the one I like.