All my heroes are dead. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, John Lennon, Steve Jobs and Prince. All. Dead.
But one person who is alive who I get a lot of creative courage from is Phoebe Waller-Bridge. That woman has creative ovaries of steel and so as this novel’s development begins to quicken in pace (at least for the time being) I ask myself, “What would Phoebe Waller-Bridge do? Would she go there? Yeah, of course she’d go there.”
So, whenever I come up with an issue I, myself, have about the scenario I’ve come up with, I now address it head on. I wallow in it. I say to the audience, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. But we’re going to talk about it so much that any worries you had about that possibility are eliminated.”
It’s wild how two things have really, really helped speed things up: establishment of a canon and pretty much totally flipping the script on some huge influences on this novel. A lot of problems have been fixed rather abruptly, so — for the time being –development is rushing full steam towards the end of the first act. I’m just letting my mind go down the rabbit hole of the most extreme possibilities to make a point about how fucked up the Trump Era is.
This helps the plot because it adds both drama and obstacles to the Hero and Heroine’s goals heading into towards the second act. A lot of avenues I had not really thought about have opened up and they’re organic to the concept and universe, so it’s really just a matter of free styling as I think up what would happen as part of the most obvious sequence of events.
The plot, characters and universe are getting far, far better because of this so, at a minimum, I feel cautiously optimistic that I won’t — at the very least– embarrassment myself.
Editor’s Note: I really am writing a novel. And I generally do writing like this when I’m feeling completely overwhelmed and need to release some stress. So, please, don’t get spooked by this post because I mention Alexa Chung’s name, for fuck’s sake. I’m extremely harmless. Leave me alone and let me work on my novel in peace.
The more serious I become with this novel, the less I care about anything but producing the best tale I can. I don’t care about any possible eventual interest by Hollywood (ha!), I don’t care about preening on Twitter about how many words I may have written. I just care about pushing myself to my creative limits.
One thing is for sure — I have a lot of difficulty taking myself too seriously. It’s just not in my nature not to giggle when a “normal’ person with an actual traditional career sniffs that I’m too big a loser to help in any shape, form or fashion. I’m thinking, of course, of Jodi Kantor’s recent polite but clipped 1 line email response to me. I didn’t want much of her time — maybe five minutes at the most — but she made it very, very clear that I was a complete waste of ANY of her time and good day to you good sir.
Generally, anything idea for the novel that makes me laugh — even if it’s actually rather dark or serious — I put in. So, I’ve decided to study Ms. Kantor as best I can so I can, at least in terms of her career and public persona — reproduce those two things in my female romantic lead. So, in a sense, while in real life I can’t even get her to help me in any way, in my fevered novel’s phantasm, she’s going to fall in love with the proxy-me Hero. Haha! Ms. Kantor is rather intense, to say the least. But any inspiration she’s giving me for the character I have in mind is simply how someone like her thinks about the world. I’m not really using her appearance or personal life — just her professional life and maybe her demeanor.
This novel is completely for me at this point. I’m throwing my heart, soul and nearly complete personal history into it. I know a little bit about a whole lot of things — my knowledge base is extremely wide but rather shallow. I can have a cocktail party conversation with virtually anyone about virtually anything. Or, at least, I like to think so.
Anyway, I don’t know. I’m putting as much work as I can into this novel. Only time will tell if anyone else cares.
By pretty much every metric a “normal” person would use on me, I’m a delusional weirdo currently living one of the more rural corners of a purple fly over state. That’s my reality.
So, as I proceed, keep in mind that I am well aware that I am probably just imagining things. It could all just be me jumping to huge conclusions. I’m using pretty prosaic datapoints and then weaving something out of the ordinary from them.
Anyway, I’ve been contacting a few well-known women the last few days for various reasons connected — and not connected — to the novel I’m developing. Jodi Kantor of the NYT gave me a polite one-line sentence email indicating that I wasn’t worth her time. That’s fair. I am going to exact my revenge, however, by doing everything in my power to have a character who’s professional life is greatly inspired by hers fall in love with a proxy me. Take that, successful investigative journalist!
Then someone obviously using a burner account on Instagram contacted me out of the blue tonight. Given that 99.99999999% of the time anyone who contacts me out of the blue on Instagram is either a troll or absolutely, completely insane, I blocked the account without even thinking about it. No point in wasting my time by engaging the person, whomever they may be.
But the event lingered in my mind. I have an extremely over-active imagination and I started to muse that it might be someone famous who wanted to talk to me, but just not via their official account. The rest of this bit of the post is more about me weighing what famous woman thinks about when contacting someone like me than any notion that that is at all what was going on.
I guess if you were a famous woman intrigued by a weirdo like me and you wanted to contact me you would check out my Instagram and then maybe setup a burner account simply to chat for a moment? Why they wouldn’t be willing say hey with their real account eludes me. But I don’t think that’s what happened. It was probably just my usual insane people trying to bother me. Shrug.
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.
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’d 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.
I walk out of movies a lot now that I have been seriously developing and writing a novel. But I saw Knives Out last night and loved it. In fact, the third act was a real “ah-ha” moment for me in regards to the novel I’m writing. I spent the entire drive home talking to myself about the “big black void” that you want to hide from the reader for as long as possible after it happens.
In other words, I now know the exact sequence of events that pretty much the basis of the whole novel’s plot. Now that I know that, I can spend a lot of time dropping clues to the reader leading up to that event and then spend the rest of the novel slowly explaining to them what happened. It’s a major step forward in the plot. Though I have to admit the novel is going to be a lot more Knives Out and a lot less Gone Girl for no other reason than I simply am not as twisted and dark as Gillian Flynn is. I’m just too nice. But I still have a time to make things darker than I am naturally inclined to do, I guess.
One thing is clear — this novel is going to fast paced and very easy to film if it ever became that popular. I’m a visual person and love movies and it’s just difficult for me not to essentially write a novel that’s very cinematic in nature from the ground up. In that sense, I am very much like Michael Crichton in the sense that I think he wrote his novel’s with the assumption they would be filmed.
On a side note, I really, really like Daniel Craig. He’s the gold standard for who I imagine my Hero being in my mind. But there are a lot of problems with that relative to who the character is. My Hero is too much like me in ( some respects) for there to be a 1-to-1 correlation. But I am trying to make my female romantic lead a lot like a combination of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Alexa Chung. Sorta. She’s definitely sort of in that spectrum of brunette British woman.
But anyway, I still have a huge amount of work to do. But I am definitely pushing myself to my creative limits in development, if nothing else. This novel is becoming more and more a reflection of my own personal history and personality.
I saw Zoey Deutch in Zombieland 2 the other day and was really impressed with her acting chops. A star is born, if you will. But let’s speculate on her possible career track.
The person she current most resembles is Isla Fisher. Fisher stole every scene she was in when she appeared in The Wedding Crashers and that pretty much has been the basis of her career to date. But, really, Fisher hasn’t done much since that movie. She’s appeared in the occasional romcom now and then, but she’s apparently been more busy being Mrs. Sacha Baron Cohen than having any serious movie career. So, in a sense, that’s definitely a possibly for Deutch. She could land her a powerful Hollywood man, pop out some kids and otherwise coast.
I’d like to think she might aim higher. In fact, to cement her career, I would recommend a Wedding Crashers type movie. That would be ideal for Deutch. Something a bit raunchy that would give take her to the next level. Ideally, she would befriend Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the two would do a film together with Waller-Bridge writing the screenplay. While I know the more “woke” amongst us poo-poo the manic pixie dream girl trope, if Deutch could wease her way into the next Charlie Kaufman joint, she could really light the screen on fire. I think they’re talk of a new Back To The Future movie, maybe she could shoe-horn herself into that movie given her mother’s connection to the franchise. Or maybe Ghostbusters 3?
Anyway, if she REALLY wanted to aim high, she might look for a YA franchise in development to helm. She might go the Jennifer Lawrence route if she managed to pull that off. Hollywood can be so dumb when casting talented young actresses. Too often they want to them to simply be one-dimensional romantic support for some young up-and-coming actor, or even worse, the love interest for some dusty old dude. I guess a lot what happens next with her career depends on luck and her agent.
Who knows. We’ll probably be a fascist dystopia before too long, anyway.