It’s good to be a writer. Because somebody may one day write about you.
There are two excellent films now out that have writer-protagonists. The first is Ruby Sparks, a “little” film (Hollywood speak for a movies that doesn’t star someone named Cruise, Streep, Pitt, Jolie, Tatum or Hemsworth) about a writer whose imagination gets positively realized… sparks ensue (no pun intended; cliche leveraged). Well worth the time for the writing and acting alone, especially Paul Dano as the young writer. (An irony here — maybe just a coincidence, if any reading audience could tell the difference it’s you guys — Dano starred in another “little” movie with a big name, Robert Deniro, who plays his failed novelist father.)
But that’s not the movie of the day. This weekend was the debut of another writer’s movie, The Words, starring Bradley Cooper and, in an Oscar-buzz role, Jeremy Irons. I’ll go so far as to say this: you have to see it. Because it’s about us.
No spoilers here, the plot is outed in the trailer (which you can watch on the linked site above): a frustrated writer who begins to doubt both his talent and his future comes across a long-lost manuscript. He reads it, it speaks to him — it blows him away — and in a fit of wine-fueled poor judgment, begins to type it out, word for word on his laptop right under his own name.
Guess which plot point that is.
What happens next is, well, inevitable. The book hits. Cooper is the next Franzen. All of his dreams come true, all of his problems are solved. He even succeeds, for a while, at fooling himself into a state of suspended amnesia as he allows the truth to fade from his fame-glutted awareness. Oh, the on-the-nose theme of it all.
And then the anticipated other shoe drops — hello dramatic tension. The real writer (Irons) shows up, and he’s… upset. The party is over as the karma train pulls out of the bookstore.
But there’s more going on here, a thread not alluded to in the trailer. I won’t tell you, see if you can figure it out early. It’s brilliant, and for this reason: it substantiates all my ranting and railing about the need for concept in our stories. In this case, the concept — this particular twist — is what makes this movie work, elevating it above the one-note (although a sweet one) and obvious-from-square-one dramatic sequence of the fraudlent-author story, which nonetheless works as a vicarious experience — that being one of the six essences of story physics — especially for us writers.
In fact — here’s another reason you should see it — the film is a clinic on story structure.
See if you can find the major milestones (first plot point, a killer first pinch point, mid-point, second plot point), and notice how the four contextual parts of the story visibly align with their defined missions.
In fact, come back here and tell us what you think in that regard.
Another reason, perhaps a better one, is that the film is a love letter to writers, a sonnet on writing itself.
If you’ve ever tried to tell a non-writer about your love affair with words and stories, about the bliss of losing yourself in your characters and their delicious doings, then get ready to feel the love. It”ll touch you, remind you of why we do this.
And one more reason to see it: Olivia Wilde confirms that she is one of the five most beautiful women on planet Earth, and that she can bring a character to complex life despite the fact.
A personal update…
This week I signed a contract with Turner Publishing for the release of my new novel, Deadly Faux. It’s the next undercover assignment for my hero from Bait and Switch (2004), Wolfgang Schmitt (original title: Schmitt Happens, but, like William Goldman said, in writing we have to kill our darlings…) , the chin with the attitude and the go-to guy for the Feds when they need someone seduced and trapped under the radar.
The book will be released in mid-to-later 2013 from Writers Digest Books. And just as cool, at least for me… Turner is also re-releasing my four thrillers originally published by Penguin: Darkness Bound, Pressure Points, Serpent’s Dance and Bait and Switch (my latest novel, Whisper of the Seventh Thunder, remains available from Sons of Liberty press). All four of the earlier books and the new novel will appear as trade paperbacks and ebooks sold on all the regular channels.
Also, my new writing book — “Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling,” which takes the model from my current writing book (“Story Engineering“, see the new Amazon review just posted, literally as I was writing this post) to a deeper, more cause-and-effect level. Release date is June 18, 2013… it’s on Amazon now for pre-sale with a placeholder cover design (not to worry).
Thanks for all the support from so many.
Do you suspect your story is broken?
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