A Beautiful Death

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A beautiful death –Stelios in 300

It’s an interesting way of thinking where one searches for glory, for that one thing that will complete us, fulfill us, give us meaning. That one thing differs from person to person. Some people are fulfilled by being good parents. Others yearn to be great artists. Neither are less than the another. And that one thing seems to signify an end like having riches or being married forever to your soulmate. 

A friend of mine asked me about the publishing industry because he wanted to write a book. So of course he asked the expert, me, who has yet to be published:

I told him there were basically two ways to publish your book: the traditional where an actual publisher sells the book, and self-publishing where the author sells the book, an e-book for example, through a market place like Amazon.com.

He lamented the lack of a physical book if I chose the self-publishing route.

“Don’t you want the glory?” he exclaimed.

I shrugged. “What does that mean?”

He couldn’t quite put it into words, but motioned with his clawed hands, holding an imaginary book, the finished product. 

This isn’t a criticism of him as a human or a man, but an observation by me as to the kind of person that I am. I tried to explain to him that the reward comes from the process of writing, rewriting, polishing, editing, working on it ‘till I feel I can’t offer anymore because I have no control over the outcome of what happens. That doesn’t mean I won’t do my best to write as well as I can or more. And that doesn’t mean I don’t want the world to read my books, but that want comes with the wisdom that the resulting tipping point of my books’ success is out of my hands.

And the freedom to do this, to pursue my passion is something that I’m content with, thankful everyday. There's a comfort when I write. So it’s strange to me that we seem to be only thankful during this time of year, though, I understand why. It’s the holidays.

So when my friend asked me if I want the glory, I said:

But to focus on that would take away from my ability to control what I can, not crying when my writing coach rips my work apart. I smile as I type this because I truly appreciate her wisdom and immense knowledge, while I do my best to console the little boy’s dream within me.

Merry Christmas ya’ll. Eat. Drink. Have sex. Enjoy the short time we call life.

Touch Me

Jobs vs Jobs

Jobs vs Jobs

In my post, The Killing Mood, I talk about how THE KILLING was heavy emotionally because it not only focused on the detectives hunting for the killer but also delved into the hole that murder leaves in a family. And the only way that I know how to do that is to get really intimate with the affected people dealing with their pain, memories, guilt and regrets of their last ragged encounter with the dead.

I had read reviews of jOBS, the biopic about the famed Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs. Ashton Kutcher, from all the reviews I'd seen, stated to some degree that he had done a great job imitating Jobs, but the movie itself didn't do anything to add to what fanboys already know. I think the main issue here is lack of intimacy.

Now you may say, "You haven't even seen the movie." Correctamundo, as Michaelangelo would say, the ninja turtle.

But I've seen enough biopics, even Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, to know that most don't do the subject justice because they try and fit too many things, eventually diminishing the whole person down to a book report written in bad grammar.

I am tired

I am tired

This is where movies like Fruitvale Station and Lincoln excel. Both deal with huge issues, in this case racism, from an intimate point of view of the character. I'm not sure if the fact that both characters die at the end that makes it more intimate, but since many who I've talked to about Lincoln wished there was more action makes me think that's not the case. It is called Lincoln not Let's See Some Civil War Killins.

jOBS, I think, fails in regards to intimacy. In writing, especially storytelling, there's a term called rooting, where the creator emotionally roots the characters to their readers or audience. This can be done through tragedy, an example is my prologue, through teaching someone something new, The Karate Kid, or the sacrifice of oneself, 300. I know. But I loved that movie. The inherent problem with trying to show a life story is showing the life story. We can't get a sense of who these people really are because the storyteller is moving through the events quickly to get everything in.

When any story tries to cover long periods of time, it loses touch, and as a result, loses their audience. That's why most fictional stories focus on important events and rarely dive into the life and times of so and so. It's the tenet of fiction, write about the important stuff, cut everything else.

The Sony film on Steve Jobs is being written by Aaron Sorkin, who wrote The Social Network and one of my favorites, The Newsroom. He has stated that his script will center on backstage events of three Apple product launches.

At first I was taken aback...and beaten. Then I realized that's pretty ingenious. It allows us to get real intimate with Jobs the person, and since so much of him bled into his professionalism--his crying, temper tantrums, bullying, and the like--we should get to see many facets of this master marketer. And this is what biopics try and show anyway, who the person is, at least from the storyteller's point of view.

Nothing New Under the Sun

"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun." Ever heard this?

As a storyteller, this can be a very limiting view.  Or is it?

Romeo_and_JulietWilliam Shakespeare's version of Twilight

A prominent screenwriter in Hollywood, David Freeman, gave a seminar.  There are hundreds of seminars I could have attended, but why did I go to his?  If you go to his site, he talks about techniques in writing.  No theories.  In fact, he gave so many techniques, it was like getting a trunk full of tools.  And in any one job, it’s highly unlikely you’ll use all of them, but you’ll definitely use enough to make your story emotional, something he emphasizes a lot.

He agreed with the quote above, but in a very un-limiting way.

I love going to movies, and one of the pleasures is seeing the previews.  I hate missing the previews like I hate missing the beginning of any movie.  One movie I’m anticipating is Avatar.

When I first saw it, I thought, James Cameron stole my idea!  WTF Cameron?  How’d you hack into my PC?

As I watched the preview, his premise was different.  Similar but different.

Then an image sparked in my mind.  American Indians gazing out into the sea as English ships sailed toward them.

The story of the Native American Indians against pioneering pilgrims is a familiar one.  It’s empire building.  The conflict?  The natives don't want to leave.

Look at Braveheart.  I love that movie.  It’s the same thing.

Look at the battle of Thermopile, 300.

Look at the Mongols invading China.

Look at China’s history of the seven independent states warring against each other for power.

Look at Star Wars.

Look at King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

We have tons of stories based on the idea of oppression.  Sometimes the story ends with unification, like China and the seven states.  Sometimes we have stories of independence, like William Wallace’s fight for Scotland’s freedom.  But they all stem from a single idea.

Avatar is no different.  A powerful force, in this case us in the far future, wants something, a valuable mineral.  To mine it, we have to “politically” move a native race.  Easy enough.  But wait!  The native people don’t wanna move.

And the story begins.

Freeman said there were an unlimited amount of stories that could be told using the story computer.  Look at any story that you love or connect to.  Find a variation.

Turn the hero into a heroin.

Change the race.

Change the time.

Change the setting.

Change anything.

Look at Romeo and Juliet.  Change the time to the present.  Make the male a brooding, James Dean-looking vampire.  Now you have Twilight.

The Princess and the Frog is a great example.  What do we expect to happen when the princess kisses the frog?  The frog should turn to her prince.  But Disney was like, “Hell no. Dat’s been dun.  Da princess should turn to a frog, sucka!”

OK.  I doubt Disney execs would talk like that.  But they used the story computer to churn out what seems like a great story.

The Seven Provinces is a familiar story.  It's about empire building.  It's an underdog story.  It's about a man trying to protect his family in a time of war.  It's about oppression, betrayal, tragedy.  And much more.

There may be nothing new under the sun.  But that doesn’t mean new stories can’t be told using familiar themes.