My Novel Wants To Be A Movie

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I’m enjoying developing my novel a great deal. But there are times when I wince at how much a movie wants to pop out of it like an alien xenomorph. A lot of the scenes are very visual and require you know songs for them to make the most sense. And, yet, given that I can only use song titles for IP reasons, I have to pick songs whose titles sum up what the songs are about as well as their mood.

Most of these songs, of course, are so well known that even the most clueless reader has at least vaguely heard of them. One thing I know is I really have to explain why my heroine would listen to the music she listens to. The average young person today listens to a very specific type of music that a lot of older people such as myself simply have never heard.

Luckily, however, the novel is set in the immediate past AND I’ve managed to come up with a reasonable explanation for why my heroine would listen to the type of music I need her to listen to. But the issue of how people will know in real terms how a song I want in their mind would play in the context of the scene is something that eats away at me. It would be solved very easily if I was writing a screenplay. But I don’t want to do that right now. I want to write a novel. I just am a very music-oriented person and I’ve structured the entire novel from the ground up so that pop rock music that I know a lot about is a crucial aspect of its universe.

But anyway. I going to try to flesh out my scene summary as much as I can this weekend. I’m shooting for no later than sometime in January to start writing in earnest again. I have a lot of momentum and love the characters, plot, and universe. I just have to live up to my own pretty brutal expectations. Even then, I’m a lot better storyteller than writer.

Why I’ve Walked Out Of Some Recent Movies

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I’m of the opinion that a great modern story has to ignore any sort of overt political agenda and simply entertain the audience. Given how existentially political the novel I’m writing is, this causes me a lot of consternation. But my primary goal is write an adult tentpole story. Things blow up. Shit burns down. A little sex happens. And so on.

But let’s go through some movies I’ve seen recently and why I hated them.

Booksmart
I walked out of this movie just between the time Beanie Feldstein’s character started screeching about lesbian sexual actives and when I learned what the “hero’s journey” was going to be. I had only gone to see the movie because I felt shamed by a combination of Entertainment Tonight, E! Network and the center-Left Twitter echo chamber. I knew going into the movie that I was NOT the audience, but I went anyway so I would not feel bad. Turns out, I wasn’t, in fact, the audience. I wanted a modern-day Heathers. I got a woke movie that I felt insulted me on a basic, existential level. There were plenty of ways to express the same political agenda on the sly without insulting me and people like me. I felt the acting lacking in general. I also felt the movie was a bit too cute by half. And it seemed produced by identity politics bean counters who felt rather smug that the had managed to make the girl who would otherwise be hot, not be hot.

The Joker
On the other end of the political spectrum, I bounced pretty quick with this movie, too. I hated this movie. Loathed it. It just seemed too anti-woke. It was a pretty loud dog whistle for incels who feel like they’re so smart that no one else “gets” their jokes. Ugh. Just tell me a good story. Don’t produce a movie that has as the core of its marketing campaign the fear that some crazy incel is going to murder people because of the movie. I see The Joker as just as a bad as Booksmart. Why can’t I just get a well produced movie that may have an agenda, but is, like, actually good? I mean, Network, Deliverance, Taxi Driver, The Dear Hunter, all are very powerful movies with political messages that don’t overshadow basic things like plot and character.

Hustlers
This was probably one of the better movies I’ve seen recently and I still walked out of it about 2/3rds of the way through. When it dawned on me that J.Lo’s ass cheeks were simply a ruse to get my butt in a dark theatre and that there would be no positive male characters, I bounced. But the movie itself was very strong did a great job of telling its story. I didn’t see the whole movie, so maybe this is a dumb question, but, how come there wasn’t more lesbian action in the movie? It’s implied in a whisper, but this is 2019. I think audiences can handle the two main female characters having a dimly lit naked romp in bed.

Charlie’s Angels
This movie needed to be darker and have more sex in it. Since only old farts like me care about the franchise, I think Elizabeth Banks should have done a Buffy The Vampire Slayer and made her version of this otherwise campy movie far more adult. Put a lot more John Wick and Hustlers in it. Make it a gritty — if a bit campy — action packed movie with sex-positive portrayals of female sexual agency. This whole business of having an out-of-nowhere montage of young women running around with big smiles on their faces made no sense to me. It was a real, “What the what?” moment. If she done as I suggested, a lot of middle-aged couples would have really enjoyed the movie. It might not have been the hit everyone had hoped for, but it would not have been a flop. Needed far stronger actresses, however, to pull it off. Though I really did like Kristen Stewart.

Anyway, I am extremely brutal with movies I go to see and if I walk out of it, the producers shouldn’t take it too seriously or personally. I often have a drink before I go see a movie and I bounce because I just don’t feel like the movie has any more to give. Also, I sometimes have an ah-ha experience because of the movie and I leave because I’d rather be home developing my novel.

The Fall Of The First Republic

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

There comes a point when you have to finally admit that the Trump is not a cause, but a symptom of deep-seated, existential problems with the United States’ political system. As such, the moment Trump’s acquitted by the Senate, the Republic has effectively fallen.

At that point, it’s simply a matter of how bad things get and for how long. This is when you have to take a deep breath and realize that there’s a real risk that MAGA will rapidly mutate and go full Nazi very, very soon. If The Kooch or Kris Kobach becomes Trump’s Veep, not Pence, this is all but assured. All Republicans have to do is get Trump past Election Day 2020 and they’re set for a generation, if not more.

They can weaponize ICE camps, round up everyone they don’t like and start the American Killing Fields. I wish this was hyperbole, but, alas, it’s not. It’ll happen in fits and starts, but it will happen. Once Trump — or his successor — starts ranting about the need for a Constitutional Convention to “pass a balanced budget amendment,” then, well, American Carnage is here for good.

There are any number of really dark scenarios you could pace out at that point. The literal end of the world. Millions dead. A Thousand Year Trump that lasts at least until global climate change shakes things up enough that the regime buckles.

I wrote all that to lay out what I believe will, in fact, happen, over the course of the next few years. But there’s one major unknown unknown — Trump’s mental state. It’s rather dark and tragic that in the short term, the only way that the Republic stands is not because we all come to our senses, but because Trump loses his so quickly — and manages to bring Pence down with him in a very quick series of events — that President Pelosi serves as a caretaker president simply for there to be a free and fair election in 2020. But that is so completely unknown — he could simply be a puddle in 20202 and still re-election — that I would not bet on it as saving us.

But it is, at least, something to think about. I just hope ICE lets me finish the novel I’m writing before they drag me out of my bed in the middle of the night.

Constructing A Believable Heroine For This Novel Is A Real Challenge

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I did not go into this trying to write the novel this has become. I was trying to write a novel with a proxy-ME in the center of it. But gradually, I realized it was far more practical to make a young woman at the center of the story. But one of the major issues I’ve had to deal with is the appearance of my heroine.

The market wants her to be a sexxy slutty assassin, while the audience, not so much. And the more I read about how the woke blue check liberals of, say, Vox, view story telling the more angry I get. It seems as though the smug liberals of Vox have completely come to see any sort of universal story as illegitimate. Or, to put it another way, a middle aged white man can’t tell the story of anyone but middle aged white men. Slay the patriarchy and all that.

I say this as someone who in the never ending hellscape of Twitter probably is a lot more liberal-progressive than the above paragraph might suggest. Also, I have to lower my expectations and be more frank with myself about how likely it is I can even sell this novel whenever that point in the process comes.

I have spent hours and hours tying to figure out what my heroine looks like and the specifics of her ethnic background. It’s crucial, at least to me, that I’m able to balance the needs of the marketplace with the expectations of the audience. It’s a lot of fun, but also a pretty tough challenge. Right now, writing this novel is like really hard job that I love.

I’m writing this for myself and to simply go through the process of writing a novel. That’s it. If anyone who doesn’t know me reads it and likes it, then that would be one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Or, put another way, you write your first novel for yourself. I can’t help how old I am. I know that would be a part of the story if it became any sort of success. And, really, the entire point of this novel is having some sort of outlet for my rage against MAGA. The plot is really just an excuse to run around an allegory about the Trump Era.

Hopefully, the story is entertaining enough just on its surface that even if people are hate-reading it, they will enjoy it.

YouTube Has A Real ‘Red Pill’ Video Problem

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

One of the biggest threats to the Republic outside of fucking MAGA is its ideological nasty little brother the “Red Pill” video that I keep getting bombarded with on YouTube. I guess some of the research I’m doing for the novel I’m developing makes YouTube think I’m a would-be incel-altRight-MAGA friendly or something. Fuck that.

I hate all that bullshit and I hate that I keep seeing these videos by Scott Adams acolytes that vaguely and barely hide their racism and misogyny in the guise of telling me the “truth” about the things the evil main stream media is trying to hide from me because of the influence of SJWs and “woke” “cancel culture.”

Ugh.

I have some very, very strong political views. A lot of my political views probably would not fair well in the eyes of “woke” blue check liberals on Twitter. But my hatred for MAGA is so absolute that I’m willing to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune from the Left simply for the sake of having someone to help me destroy MAGA as a political and social movement.

It’s somewhat amusing how passionate these Red Pill videos are about how Kathleen Kennedy is the George Soros of Hollywood out to crush Baby Yoda or whatever other fuckwit theory.

I’m not a huge fan of Ms. Kennedy, but, come on guys. Your misogyny is showing.

Alien’s ‘Ripley,’ & The Struggle To Tell A Universal Story In The Age Of Trump

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I’m trying to distract myself so I can come up with a different take on specifics of the novel I’m developing, so I’m writing about whatever pops into my mind to that end.

So, Ripley. Ripley was originally written for a man. It’s a testament to how great an actress Sigourney Weaver is that her interpretation of that character is such a universally loved icon. I keep thinking of Ripley as a character build my heroine. I want a strong heroine that women like because she’s strong and complex and men like because she’s hot and they feel she would kick their ass if they crossed her.

Having said that, the issue of my heroine’s appearance has been the subject of much, much, much, much internal debate and struggle on my part. The issue is the market wants her to be a sexxy slutty assassin, while the audience — especially women — wants something far more complex. Things get even more complex when you factor in that while many vocal feminist actresses in Hollywood want strong, complex heroines, they at the same time seem to have very strict and narrow demands about what that means. The character can’t be too hot. She has to want to slay the patriarchy. She can not fit any trope that has ever been articulated by anyone at any point in the past. And, really, I sometimes think they don’t even want a man — especially a middle-aged white male like me — to write the damn story to begin with. They think only women can tell a female story and fuck you, you creepy old dude in a flyover state for wanting to try your hand at it.

My reaction to this problem is it sobers me up. I take what I’m doing far more seriously. I’m lower my expectations. I’m writing the story for myself. If it happens that someone else — anyone else — likes it, then that’s great. But there are some existential issues that I simply can’t avoid — one is I hate MAGA with a white hot rage and, well, I’m also a middle aged white man. So, in real terms, it’s unlikely that the more “woke” members of the intended audience will be all that thrilled with it given that they liked the movie Booksmart and the novel The Female Persuasion. Identity politics narrows who will be willing to give me a chance in the first place. The very people who I will need to generate buzz — blue check liberals — are the very people the most likely to scoff that someone like me could write the type of novel I want to write in the first place.

But we’ll see, I guess. The story is improving greatly right now. It will be interesting to see how embarrassing the product is when I finish the next draft and let Beta Readers look at it.

The Demise Of Universal Truth

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

It’s difficult to have a story that evokes emotions on a mass level when there’s no universal truth. If every single option you have as a storyteller is simply reduced to this or that “trope” then, well, now what. There’s a reason why they say there’s nothing new under the sun.

Yes, tropes and cliches exist and should be rightfully avoided. And, yet, there comes a point when you’re so wrapped up in smelling your own farts when it comes to pointing out tropes that you miss the entire point of telling a story in the first place. My current irritation is something evoked by a Vox article I stumbled across. It goes on at great length about how, essentially, any time a woman’s life is put in danger it’s a variation of the “fridging” trope and thus to be poo-pooed. I find this very fucking annoying as a storyteller because while, yes, it is easy to use violence towards women as a plot device to move a male character’s arc along, to simply dismiss its use altogether as lazy is a fucking dick move. It’s because violence towards women is so fucking bad that it’s an effective way to engage readers and get them interested in how everything is going to be wrapped up.

It should be use sparingly, yes. It should not be used gratuitously. It should be avoided, but not eliminated altogether. I guess the Vox article was trying to say that specifically sexual violence towards women is a lazy trope not to be used if its solely for the purpose of moving a male character through his journey…and….yet, they seemed to have a very, very broad interpretation of the “fridging” trope. So broad as to suggest using it at all is, what, being done to the benefit of the patriarchy that we keep being told is supposed to be slayed?

While I hate MAGA with a white hot rage, I think the proof is in the pudding when it comes to pop art. The average person just wants an interesting story with interesting people put in intriguing situations. If you do the hard work have character development and plot, if something bad happens to a woman then it’s not some meta-experiment in keeping women subjugated by the patriarchy on a societal level, it’s simply the story you, the artist, want to tell. As such, a lot of stories that may not pass the Bechtel Test (fuck that test, by the way) or the “slay the patriarchy” test are rather popular with both men and women. And by “popular,” I mean make money and have some sort of cultural significance.

All of this is making me much more serious when it comes to write a novel. I realize that there’s at least a 99% chance I’m going to fail on a pretty monumental level. But I started this adventure for two reasons 1) to have a creative way to rant against MAGA 2) to go through the process of trying to develop, write and sell a potential pop work of art novel.

Anyway, we’ll see. I still have a lot of work to do. But it’s fun. A lot of fun. Wish me luck.

On The Issue Of ‘Fridging’ In Modern Storytelling

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I try to be empathetic to the liberal-progressive agenda. I really, really, do. But when “woke” people come after some pretty basic elements of storytelling I get really, really mad. I have been aware of the “fridging” trope for some time, but I was unaware that essentially now ANY use of anything related to it is “canceled” in woke culture.

Or maybe only women can use it now? Is that it? No matter how great the story is, if women are put in danger for any reason for the sake of a plot it’s “fridging” and looked down upon? Fuck that. What makes it all the worse is how broad and convoluted the arguments against using the threat of violence against women as a storytelling technique are. I mean, really, people. Has anyone looked out the window? The real world is a harsh, brutal place. There are elements of my story should mitigate the “fridging” accusation for a least some of the woke media observers on Twitter who would harp and bitch about the story in the extremely unlikely event this story is actually a success in any way.

The only thing I can do is be extremely aware of that criticism going forward. That’s all I got. I’m not changing my story to fit anyone’s “woke” political agenda. This story is meant to be a great story that *I* enjoy. I just don’t want to embarrass myself.

There comes a point when you just have to accept that you can’t please everyone — especially woke media observers — and simply embrace the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I guess Star Trek, that is a utopia and barely has any conflict, is the only thing we should be shown from now on or something.

‘Star Wars’ In Trouble & How I Would Fix It Going Forward

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I have a theory about Star Wars that goes like this — the moment Lando Calrissian was not a woman, the entire thing was doomed. The reason is — if that character’s gender was flipped, instantly Luke would have had a romantic interest and a major flaw in the whole saga would have been fixed. But, whoops!

So, really, this is what I would do.

I would let Episode 9 come out. Then I would take a long, hard look at the state of the franchise. I would blow the whole thing up. Burn it to the ground. Then boil it down to what the fan base loves about it and use that as the foundation of a new cycle.

Some suggestions.

A young male protagonist.
A strong-willed female romantic lead.
A rake.
Cool robots and aliens.
A task (NOT Death Star related)
Lots of call backs to the original universe.


To top it all off, I would stop being greedy and “woke.” Make the movie far more serious — in a sense — and think about storytelling not selling toys or a not-so-subtle liberal-progressive message. Just tell a damn good story and if you get to subtly tell a story that gets your political agenda across, all the better.

The issue is the “base” of Star Wars is center-Right and the management of Disney is center-Left and very, very greedy. I think there’s even some sort of media theory about this situation. I would, if I was in charge of Disney, accept that the base is center-Right and embrace it while also “dog whistling,” if you will more woke people. It’s not impossible, people.

No one listens to me.




Why I Think The ‘Charlie’s Angels’ Reboot Flopped

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Now, I went into Elizabeth Banks’ reboot of Charlie’s Angels pumped. I love the concept and thought it might be interesting. I lasted until just about the inciting incident then walked out. This says a lot more about me than it does the movie, however. But given how everyone is talking about what a flop the movie was and why, I thought I would put my 2 cents in.

The star of the movie was Kristen Stewart. But I found her extremely miscast. She tried to come off as a dumb-dumb, but it was off putting because we all know she’s not and she’s not that good an actress. I would cast her as a more dominate role. Lean into native strength as an actor and person. Don’t try to ignore that who she actually is. I am aware of the difficulties they had finding the other two actresses and it showed. The movie definitely needed better actresses. But given what it was meant to be — a feminist action-adventure romp — I’m willing to grade it on a curve.

But the moment when I knew I was outtie was the montage of young girls running around for no apparent reason. It made no sense. I guess it was meant to set the tone of the film, but it was at that moment that I realized this was NOT the movie for me. I felt the movie suffered from creeping Bookstmart-itis in the sense that it was so wrapped up in smelling the farts of its message that it was to the detriment of the overall story.

In passing, I would note that one problem with franchises like Charlie’s Angels is it has what I call the Scooby Doo Paradox. This is when your audience is adults who remember something fondly so you think what they want is an over-the-top comedy, when the story might actually be best served by playing it a bit more serious because the conceit is actually really strong and timeless. So, might have made this latest reboot of Charlie’s Angels a little bit more John Wick than it was. That would have been cool. And, remember, Hustlers is how you slip in a feminist message into your story in a way that gets people’s asses in the theatres. Hustlers was a well written movie with just enough T&A (especially J.Lo’s ass) that men went into it not realizing the movie is actually extremely girl-power in its message. Something similar could have been done with Charlie’s Angels.

Make the audience not bi-curious girls in high school, but maybe couples in their late 20s. Have a just enough sex in it to get the guys going — I really liked Kristen Stewart’s flirty butt cheek flash — but if you were more honest about what this story really was then I think you could have a much, much better movie on a number of different levels. If you poured Hustlers and John Wick into Charlie’s Angels, it would have been a hit.