Tell Parents Go to Hell

A movie based on the most beloved children's book opens this weekend. I remember reading Maurice Sendak's book Where the Wilde Things Are.  I was taking a short break at work and saw this picture: maurice-sendak-wild-things-little-bear-gay-nigh-kitchen-art-author-illustrator

In an interview, Sendak was asked what he'd say to parents about the movie being too scary for kids.  His response?

"I would tell them to go to hell. That's a question I will not tolerate."

I love that.  Not that I want people to go to hell.  Nor do I believe in a hell, but one that we create for ourselves.  That's a topic for another post.

I'm tired of parents, or people, telling an author, film maker, or storyteller what their story should or shouldn't include.  First of all, it's not those people's story to tell.  Second of all, authors usually don't know where their inspiration come from.  What they do know is they have to be loyal,honest, to the stories that are given to them.  Any conformity the author makes, outside of story structure, can destroy the story itself.

J.K. Rowling has been bombarded with upset parents and church groups for writing her Harry Potter novels.  Her books have been on many banned book lists.  A sign that an author has made it. Her response has been the same when questioned about her dark material.  She's told them not to read her books.  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn written by Mark Twain has been banned.  And that has been considered a great American novel.

If a parent, or anyone, who finds a movie, book, TV show, anything offensive, then ignore it.  Time is too precious to focus on what you don't like.  Focus on what you do.

Even when a story comes to a writer, and it goes against traditional story structure, then the writer should go with their intuition.  Take the hit book to movie Slumdog Millionaire.  It uses flashbacks to tell most of the story.  I can't tell you how many books, teachers, and professional writers state flashbacks are a big no no.  It simply takes the threat of death away.  But it worked.  It worked so well that tension was still a driving force in those flashbacks.  That's because other's died.  But still, it worked!

Follow your passions.  Follow your intuition.  Great thinkers and leaders do.

Go With Your Gut

About a month ago I got a rejection letter from a big time New York agent.  I'd met him at the San Francisco Writer's Conference.  He's been in publishing for years and is an author himself.  On theagent panel,writers had the opportunity to ask them questions on the industry.  If you're a writer, listen to it.  It has valuable information. There was a question asked about prologues, and that agent said he hated them.  Other's liked them, so it shows you how subjective this industry can be.

One of the most vivid images that came to me before 7th Province:  Nightfall came to being was the prologue.  I didn't even know it would be a prologue.  The thing it did was set up the whole story and character arc, grounded the hero, and it allowed the reader to care for him.  From that scene the 7th Province world exploded.  As it happened, it was the first scene that I wrote.

Man, I remembered being extremely excited.  To this day it's my favorite scene.

So when the agent expressed his hatred of prologues, I was stunned.  I was going to submit my manuscript to him.  What was I going to do?

The most grossest thing ever.  Yes, I used 'most' and 'grossest' in the same sentence.  I got rid of my prologue.

"What the hell are you doing?" my gut said.

"I'm succumbing to what others think about me," I said.

I pitched my book to the agent.  He seemed to like it and asked for my first fitty pages (fifty for those who didn't get it).  Victory!  I spent the next four weeks revising my book with no prologue and sent it off.  Four weeks later, I received the rejection letter.

For the most part, he liked it.  Then he said the one thing that kills any story.  He didn't care about the hero.  If a reader doesn't care about the hero, the main character, then there's nothing at stake.  Why continue reading?

Go with your gut.  In life going with your gut, your heart, can be the most important thing you can do.  If you can't trust your own heart, how can you expect others to?  I've always trusted my vision in the story.  I've always taken others advise with a grain of salt, rewrote when I saw fit.  But when it came to my prologue, my favorite scene, I slammed the door in its face.

Never again.

However, the only time I wouldn't trust my gut is if my emotions resided outside of being content or happy.  If someone bumped me on the street, and I got pissed off, I'm not going to follow my impulse to beat up the guy.  That's my ego getting in my way.  If I was happy and content, my impulse would probably be to excuse myself, and we'd go on our merry way.