Dreaming Is Free: Of Jessica Chastain, Sophia Lillis & The Thriller Series I’m Developing & Writing

by Shelt Garner

I’m being extremely delusional still when it comes to this thriller series I’m working on. But at the moment absolutely no one cares if I drop off the face of the earth, so I don’t think you’ll be grudge me a little daydreaming. Though, this being the Internet, maybe you will.

Jessica Chastain / Image: Internet

But there’s one specific character in this thriller series I’m working on that I’ve imagined looking and acting like Jessica Chastain. And now that I’ve decided to write two exogenesis novels as well, there’s another red head I imagine playing this character in my head, IT’s Sophia Lillis.

Sophia Lillis / Image: Internet

She’s a little young at the moment to play the character in the first book movie adaptation of any sort of I-win-the-lottery situation where there are movie adaptations of these four novels. But by the time things came to that point, she probably would be about the right age to play the early-20s stage of the character I think Chastain could play in later books.

Yet, again, this is all extremely delusional. I just need hope at the moment and, also, I need someone to model the character after in my mind. I like Chastain’s vibe. And I like the idea that we would kind of see her character — and all the other characters change over the course of a generation.

That’s one of the things I did not expect when I started this process about three years ago — how enormous it would become. I’m really digging deep into every aspect of my personal life — and the lives of a few other people — to flesh out this universe I’ve come up with and populate it with not just characters, but people.

Jessica Chastain & My Novel

by Shelt Garner

I’ve entered a rough patch with the latest iteration of this novel because, well, I’m at something a lost as to how to fill the huge gaping whole in my outline in the second half of the second act.

But a few things are keeping me going. One is, the stuff that I have managed to figure out is really cool. Another is, there are elements of the novel in my mind I love so much that I’m willing to push forward until I solve the problems at hand. Among these is a character that pops up at the midpoint who is inspired by Jessica Chastain.

I really live her vibe as an actor and that vibe dovetails nicely with the OTHER woman I’m drawing inspiration from. So the character is something of a muddled mix of both women.

The main problem as of right now is the character is an FBI agent and I know jack crap about what an FBI agent might do in the situation I’ve put her in. But you can’t edit a blank page as they say, so I’m giving myself a pretty short deadline to fill my outline with something, anything that I can use to write a serious first draft with.

Each time I have one of these existential reboots of the novel, it gets significantly better. But each time I’m also reminded of how much reading I need to do to make this the best possible two novels, once story it can possibly be.

If These Walls Could Talk

by Shelt Garner

I’m EXTREMELY self-conscious any time I find myself writing a female character, doubly so when I have to think up what I imagine women say when they’re alone (say, in the bathroom) and are talking about men.

It’s a situation fraught with the potential for disaster. I just can’t win. How do I know what women say in such a private situation? I’ve never been there and it would never happen even if I was there because, well, I’m a man. So, I have to use my imagination. (Duh.)

The only solution to this insecurity, as best I can tell, is to be really, really self-conscious about it and also very conservative about any assumptions I might make. I can’t have an agenda. I strictly stay within what I can maybe reverse engineer from what I know about women (what little I know) and then have in the front of my mind, “WHAT WOULD OLIVIA WILDE AND JESSICA CHESTAIN THINK OF THIS TEXT.”

That’s all I got. That’s the only way I can think of to not have women tittering on Twitter about how a doofus, clueless man AGAIN didn’t write female characters well.

Jessica Chastain & A Major Character In The #Novel I’m Developing & #Writing

by Shelt Garner

Here I am again, doing the thing I hate so much — fucking preening about who might play a character in my “WIP.” And, yet, not only does no one read this blog but in the context of what I’m writing about it’s not THAT much annoying preening.

You see, I have no idea what I’m doing with this novel. I work almost entirely in a vacuum. I just have my gut to tell me what works and what doesn’t work. In fact, that’s probably been the biggest issue when it comes to development — I sometimes have to issues of equal value in my mind and I can’t figure out which is more important.

But one thing they tell you is in the second half of the novel, after the midpoint, you need one of two things: a death or the introduction of a new character. So, for me it’s a new character.

I really like the vibe Jessica Chastain puts out in her roles. So, I’ve modeled an important character that comes into the plot in the second half after her. Or, actually, she’s actually inspired by a woman I knew once who was Perfect. In fact, she was so perfect that she was completely unrelatable to anyone else. She was simply so close to The Ideal Woman that it was off putting to everyone else around her.

What’s worse, she was completely oblivious to this and was STILL unhappy with her life.

Anyway. She was beautiful, smart and funny. And very married.

I just decided to mix her up with Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty and ta-da! Character!

I haven’t gotten to her part of the story, yet. But I am looking forward to writing that character. She’s going to give my Hero hell.

Slay The Patriarchy! Of #MeToo, Olivia Wilde, Booksmart, Jessica Chastain & The #Novel I’m Developing & Writing

by Shelt Garner

You know, I try. I try to be as empathetic as possible to a wide range of people. But, alas, I *AM* a middle-aged white male. As such, I know that even though I’m going way, way, WAY out of my way to use the #MeToo movement as a major element in the novel I’m developing and writing, it’s probably a lost cause.

While I’m a big fan of both Olivia Wilde and Jessica Chastain and am trying to develop female characters they won’t hate, I know that in reality, all their complaining about how bad male writers are when constructing female characters isn’t completely in good faith. What they’re really saying is THEY want to write female characters. Men can suck it.

For instant — Ms. Wilde’s movie Booksmart. I was shamed into seeing it by Twitter liberals and absolutely fucking hated it with a white hot rage — and still do. I freely admit I was definitely NOT the audience and, as such, there are plenty of people (mostly bicurious teen girls in southern California) who probably see it as their generation’s fucking Citizen Kane. The reason why it evoked such hatred from me is Ms. Wilde seemed so determined to browbeat me, personally, as a member of the patriarchy that she was willing to alienate me out of the theatre. (Which she did.)

Some of my anger comes from how deep I continue to be in developing my novel. I really want to prove a point to both Ms. Wilde and Ms. Chastain that with a lot of work a man, can, in fact, not only write a novel with the strong female characters they demand, but also tell a great story that, like, entertains people without being preachy?

I have thought up a very interesting plot point in my novel that deals with the #MeToo movement in a very empathetic and compelling fashion. I guess I’m just a little annoyed that Twitter liberals will — should the occasion arise — not even give me a chance to prove that point because I’m a man. (And before you tell me to get my head out of my ass, let me say I AM a delusional jerk with a good heart. I have very strong opinions and some of them don’t fit the media narrative. Deal with it.)

But I really like what I’ve come up with. It’s going to require stepping outside my comfort zone by reading a number of books, but, in the end, I’m going to be very proud with the end product.

Too bad my gender won’t let anyone else agree.

The Struggle Is Real: Constructing A Complex, Believable Female Romantic Lead For My Novel

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner

With the complaints of outspoken Hollywood feminists like Olivia Wilde and Jessica Chastain ringing in my mind, I find myself trying to construct a romantic partner for my Hero who is strong enough and complex enough that I feel she will be noticed by women who may read the novel.

I’m getting kind of desperate. I know what her name is and what she looks like. But figuring out her personality is proving to be really, really tough. In my desperation, I am turning to someone who has enough of a public footprint that I can use her as inspiration. (Who? Not tellin.) I only do this because, what else am I going to do? I know the woman’s musical tastes and her age, so that goes a long ways towards using her as the foundation of the character, at least in that side of her life.

One element of the character — her professionalism and career drive — is proving to be the hardest to construct because I would need to hang out with the woman who is inspiring that side of her and, well, I’m just a middle-aged loser in a fly over state. So, I’m going to have to some reverse engineering. For this side of her life, I’m really studying Jodi Kantor. She’s a little older than I need the character to be, however, so it’s not an exact fit. But I think if I look at the social media footprint of women like her on Twitter, then that will help a lot.

One thing that’s proving to be a real pain to figure out is, of all things, how my two romantic leads deal with Thanksgiving. Ugh. So difficult. But every problem is an opportunity in disguise.