Tag Archives: writers

The different madness of actors and writers

Actors and writers are the yin and yang of creativity. Neither are normal, nobody in the creative arts is normal; normal people get normal jobs, have normal families, and do normal things. Creative people are neurotic, they see things normal people see, but don’t think about until writers and actors remind them, then if the norm agree with what the creators see, they applaud, if they don’t agree, the reviews are bad.

Actors, like writers are introverted, but they approach creativity from a different angle. Actors need to be in the limelight, to have that klieg light shine upon them, hiding behind a character (one the writer creates), to escape who they are, be something they would like to be, at least for that play, movie, or TV show. No normal person wants to play dress up with makeup and prance around on a stage or movie set. It is said, even by many actors, that acting is unmanly, embarrassing in a way. Most actors prefer the stage because at the end of the play they hear applause. They get that immediate reaction; they like me-wait, no-they love me, I am accepted. My acting experience is limited. I remember only the panic attack before going on, and the laughter (it was intended). I remember little else. I didn’t like the feeling. It was not my element. 

The introverted writer, like the actor, hides his true self, not behind a character, but behind the words themselves. The writer is in the story somewhere, maybe everywhere, maybe here and there, behind or underneath the words; he is there lurking around. But he is far removed from the spotlight; allergic to lime, he is far from the immediacy of the audience, safe at his desk.

Both actors and writers are storytellers. The actor tells the story of his character, how he views things, by word, deed, or action. The writer tells his story using all the characters, seeing the whole, while the actor seeing primarily his role in the story. Both are drawn to ‘the word’ as actors look at the words they will speak and decide how to interpret the words, how the words will be used, revealed, spoken; the writer simply the architect builds layers of action, thought, conflict, and ideas though there is nothing really ‘simple’ about it.

 It could be said that actors take a bigger risk by being center stage, baring their soul to the audience, and while there is some truth to that, if the play or film doesn’t work they can blame the writer. Writers have nobody to blame.

 

coyotemoon_silentmurder

Here are some words to examine.

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Writers are liars

Let me be specific. While non-fiction writers and journalists sometimes make errors in research, get their facts wrong, or shade their story to suit their bias, overt or otherwise, I am talking fiction writers. They are all liars.

Their is no Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer. No Sherlock Holmes or James Bond. There was no Ahab chasing a whale (didn’t he have something better to do?) and there is no Count Dracula with a neck fetish. All lies. None of it is true.

Jane Austen lied to you, as did Mark Twain, and yes even contemporary writers like Thomas Pynchon, Gillian Flynn, Roberto Bolano, Umberto Eco, Paula Hawkins, and every other writer in the entire history of literature. Al liars.

So why do we read these insidious devils who have trampled on one of the ten commandments? I think lying is one, but I’m not sure, I don’t pay attention to most of the commandments; but if it isn’t a commandment it should be. And while we are at it, there is nothing wrong with looking at my neighbors wife. Touching is out, but looking should be okay.

We read these liars, to get back to the point, because in reading these lies we see truth. For within the lies are emotional truths we recognize as our own; the experience we see that happens with the characters we recognize as our experience, even if the action is crazy. We might not be astronauts, but the feelings they have, the experience they have we can identify with. We can empathize.

Unlike Ahab, I will not chase a whale. I get seasick. But I understand his motivation; I know why he goes on the insane hunt. I will not venture to Dracula’s castle (yes there is one) for I have heard rumors about him and know to stay away from people who avoid the sun. I also know to use garlic and carry a cross. This is what happens when you believe the lie. It becomes real, you see.

So if you want to be a writer who wants to tell the truth of the world, then start writing lies. We all do. And it works.

My lies at Amazon

 

 

 

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A book lovers dream house

room with viewA book lover by nature wants a house with a view and especially a view of water. Here we have a nice corner nook with a wooden floor (book lovers don’t go in for plush shag carpeting) with a tasteful rug, and a comfortable chair with armrests. And of course you notice two shelf bookcases filled with books. In the middle of the picture between those two cushions is an area for cheese and crackers and a glass of wine. Or, if you are like me, a dozen maple bars.

This area is one in which you read the classics. It is perfect for Homer’s Odyssey, The Last Days of Socrates by Plato, Paradise Lost, but nothing of Thoreau. You take Thoreau when you go camping.

Having immersed yourself in the classics during the week, you can read cozy mysteries here on weekends.

 

 

 

home libraryTo the right you is a picture you see a wonderful library guarded by your dog-he comes with the house-and you notice his front legs are ready to spring into action as a true guard dog would do in protecting your library. On the other hand he could be thinking you are bringing him a treat. And look at the most comfy chair to snuggle up with a book and the small side table for more wine-Riesling, for this room, red for the corner nook above. A must have spiral staircase and a ladder for checking out all the great references books like The Oxford History of the Classical World, or The Complete Sherlock Holmes, or perhaps John Fowles, but not Harold Robbins or Jackie Collins.

And I am sure you notice the window facing the armchair. If you don’t like the view you can place a High-definition TV there in order to watch Masterpiece Theatre, then read Thackeray, Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and Kurt Vonnegut.

 

 

closet book nookAnd here we have a wonderful Nook. This can be your office. I think the room is too feminine and the horse and rider must go along with the wallpaper. This room is a fixer-upper.

But it has great potential with perhaps the most comfortable place to read in the house. It is also a place where you are more liable to fall asleep so you want more light reading here. Or books you don’t want any visitors to know that you read. You know who I mean, Harold Robbins-but Tom Robbins is perfect; not Jackie Collins, but Willkie Collins is okay.

It is also a cozy place to settle in with your significant other and read erotica together. If no ‘other’ is available, this is a good spot for your cat to settle onto your lap and purr as you read the play script of Cats. And you can serenade your pet with songs from the play.

I suggest doing that last bit when no company is in the house, otherwise you are likely to end up in therapy.

 

Here we have a unique chair. The cushion looks comfy, but your elbows may have to rest on the tops of books as they are taller than the chairs side. I recommend paperbacks on the top so that problem is eliminated. The type of books are cop thrillers, suspense, horror-Dean Koontz and Stephen King-and fast summer types of reads.

book chair

 

 

 

 

 

And now to bed.

 

bookbed

 

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Ah writer! Ah Poverty! Oh crap!

I don’t know the 2015 statistics, but in 2006 the Book Expo of America claimed that 93% of all books sold less than 1,000 copies per book and that one of ten first time authors did not get a second book published. Now I know why the homeless population is growing. The growing homeless are not druggies, nor alcoholics, nor depressed mental health people, but writers. It all makes sense. 

Then there is Amazon and e-books. I read on a Kindle forum this past April-and I can’t verify the number-but Amazon has 3.5 million e-books on their site. I have published three and will have six by the end of November, so I am clearly a minnow in an ocean of digital books. 

I don’t write for money or success; the odds clearly against me and the vast homeless majority of writers, but I gladly accept donations at Amazon where my less than 1,000 sold copies of wonderful e-novels are waiting for you.

I write to offset my depression. Writing fiction with e-novels that take place in 1911, 1922, and 1927 take me out of this world and into another time and place and I love the research, the putting together of a sentence, of a paragraph, of a scene between characters; it puts my mind in a better place. For some reason my short stories  tend to be horror stories, not the bloody kind, not the monster kind, but the Twilight Zone kind, though once in a while something gruesome does happen.

I have no idea why my short fiction is on the dark side, but it does exorcise demons, airs out my nightmares, and allows me a better nights sleep, so I don’t fight it. I think writing is therapy for most fiction authors, something many authors have hinted at, if not outright confessed.

So, if you are a writer like me, a minnow in the ocean, do not be discouraged by lack of success in book sales. I get monthly royalties and have received good reviews and while both lift my sprits a bit, it is the act of writing that makes my spirit soar and I hope writing does the same for you.

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The Last Tycoon’s great advice for fiction writers and screenwriters

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel “The Last Tycoon” could have been his greatest had he not died after 60,000 words, but it does have one scene between Hollywood mogul, Monroe Stahr (based on Irving Thalberg, the boy genius of MGM) and a novelist and would be screenwriter named Boxley. Here is the scene from the novel that worked so beautifully in the movie directed by Elia Kazan with Robert DeNiro as Stahr.

Stahr is talking.

“Suppose you’re in your office. You’ve been fighting duels or writing all day and you’re too tired to fight or write any more. You’re sitting there staring— dull, like we all get sometimes. A pretty stenographer that you’ve seen before comes into the room and you watch her— idly. She doesn’t see you though you’re very close to her. She takes off her gloves, opens her purse and dumps it out on a table -” Stahr stood up, tossing his key-ring on his desk. “She has two dimes and a nickel— and a cardboard match box. She leaves the nickel on the desk, puts the two dimes back into her purse and takes her black gloves to the stove, opens it and puts them inside. There is one match in the match box and she starts to light it kneeling by the stove.

You notice that there’s a stiff wind blowing in the window— but just then your telephone rings. The girl picks it up, says hello— listens— and says deliberately into the phone ’I’ve never owned a pair of black gloves in my life.’ She hangs up, kneels by the stove again, and just as she lights the match you glance around very suddenly and see that there’s another man in the office, watching every move the girl makes -” Stahr paused. He picked up his keys and put them in his pocket.

“Go on,” said Boxley smiling. “What happens?”

“I don’t know,” said Stahr. “I was just making pictures.”

Boxley felt he was being put in the wrong. “It’s just melodrama,” he said.

“Not necessarily,” said Stahr. “In any case nobody has moved violently or talked cheap dialogue or had any facial expression at all. There was only one bad line, and a writer like you could improve it. But you were interested.”

“What was the nickle for?” asked Boxley evasively.

“I don’t know,” said Stahr. Suddenly he laughed, “Oh yes— the nickle was for the movies.”

The two invisible attendants seemed to release Boxley. He relaxed, leaned back in his chair and laughed. “What in hell do you pay me for?” he demanded. “I don’t understand the damn stuff.”

“You will,” said Stahr grinning. “Or you wouldn’t have asked about the nickel.” F. Scott Fitzgerald (2015-05-14). The Last Tycoon (p. 39).  . Kindle Edition.

What Stahr is saying works for both the screenwriter and the novelist. That being, show, don’t tell; action speaks louder than words. Why did she lie about the gloves? Why did she burn them” Who is the other guy in the room?

Whether you are watching a movie or reading a book, you will continue to watch or read to see what happens next. Don’t explain everything, that is boring. Reveals should be slow and tantalizing.

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Denial of Death through the eye of the artist

Academic Ernest Becker won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for his landmark non-fiction book “The Denial of Death.” Ironically he could not deny death as he died at age 49, two months before he won the Pulitzer. Becker was an anthropologist whose work influenced social psychology among other things. “Denial of Death” was also the book that Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) insisted Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) should read in the Oscar winner “Annie Hall.” Being a Woody Allen fan I had to buy the book.

I was thumbing through the book the other day, something I do with long ago read books, when I came across a passage about artists, and since writers are artists, I found something of great insight.

I quote from the book: “There is something in his life experience that makes him take in the world as a problem; as a result he has to make personal sense out of it. . . Existence becomes a problem that needs an ideal answer, but when you no longer accept the collective solution to the problem of existence, then you must fashion your own.”

As a writer and a card carrying INFJ (author) according to the Keirsey-Bates temperament sorter, I understand exactly what Becker is saying.  I have always tried to make sense of the world and existence. As a seeker (again an INFJ trait) I have explored religion, atheism, creationism, and the big bang theory (including the TV show) and everywhere I turned, everything I studied, I invariably ended up amused.

I do not see a true answer, so like the second part of the quote I have tried to fashion my own answer. Since I have been amused and bemused with observations on society, people, culture, religion, politics (the biggest joke) and everything in between, my two e-novels tend to show the looniness of what is going on. I have not done so with contempt, nor sarcasm, nor smugness, but a lovingly bemused look at life and people. I think it says something about myself that my favorite painting is Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” I do not know if the screamer in the painting is making an existential scream of horror and despair, but my scream would be an existential laughing scream of a bedlam loony.

My characters are not loony, however, except for one, but he was a true life loony of some kind. The actions of my characters don’t always make sense, though they don’t know it at the time. But they continue to work things out, often muddling through, sometimes getting answers, sometimes not. They, like myself, are working on fashioning answers.

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Why a writers mind can be a cruel thing

There are many nights I go to bed looking forward to sleeping in, enjoying the warm snuggling blankets in the morning, the cool of the pillow, just letting my mind relax. No place to go, nothing to do, but sleep. On these days, however,  the writers mind plays cruel tricks. And I hate it. Leave me alone I say. No use.

What happens is that an idea for a blog runs through my mind. Sentences and metaphors flow through the small creative part of my brain, over and over, and I can’t turn off the tap, can’t stop the flow. It also happens with short story ideas, or an idea for a novel, or a chapter. This is how I came up with the idea for the end of my e-novel “Loonies in Hollywood.”

The writers mind does not rest. Oh, it might take a break, hiding in the cobwebs waiting for an unsuspecting idea to fly into the web, then to pounce on it and shout its present to you, which for me is always when I awaken-and not when I am ready, damn it.

But what are you going to do. I try to resist, to forget, to turn off the thoughts, but in the end it wins out. I get up reluctantly, turn on the beastly computer and get to work. And doing this without breakfast, without my Chinese tea, without giving in to the mewing cat who demands to be petted. The cat is not my muse, she can wait.

I have no muse anyway. A muse is sweet, encouraging, inspiring; she teases, tickles, aids and abets. I should be so lucky. What I have is a decrepit part of my mind where evil lurks, waiting to strike me when I least expect it; an evil that laughs at me like Satan would if I signed away my soul. Wait a minute. I already did that and he never laughed. Did he laugh when Faust gave in? I can’t remember.

This is what a blog should be about, what social media should be about. Forget writing advice, forget promoting our books, or whatever we have to promote. It should be about sharing our insanity, to see if others are as crazy as we are.

I have to stop as my cat wants her treat. She looks at me with Satanic eyes. Even her mewing is sinister.

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