Tag Archives: writing

A post for Kate Winslet’s 40th

Life begins at – and has already been significant for….

Within a week, two of my favourite actresses turn 40. I am choosing to write this on the birthday of the younger of the two, as that is the person I know best and have followed for the longest.

I think I’ve known Kate Winslet for her whole career, and she has been important to me for much of that time. Anyone who’s read this blog before, or even glanced at the tag cloud on the right, will see that Kate is someone who has taken up much screen time – on my computers, on my television sets, of my cinema going. I have seen all her films, often at the cinema and within days of its release; and I own and have rewatched many of them. Click on the cloud to see my analyses of these. It will keep growing.

Yet it is more than reviews and articles that she has inspired in me.

The power of those we don’t know, those that are public and we have an idea of and yet none at all of their real selves, is a theme that drives much of my work. It is true of queens who died centuries before I was born, princesses who died during my lifetime, and superhuman princesses that are invented, but yet feel like real people.

With an actor, there is who they are really, their persona, and the roles they play. There is what they say in the media, and what the media says of them. We glean ideas about them from those roles, those interviews, the analyses of the dresses they wear and the causes they choose. But perhaps like Sarah Douglas said of her role as the black shiny clad Ursa in Superman, the slits in the costume that seem to show the bare skin of the wearer are highly calculated false portals. “You think you see me in places you don’t.”

This theme of revelation of self and of celebrity is pertinent right now. I’ve already said so much about Kate on here, and will continue to view her films (two new ones coming out next month!), but I wanted to speak a little about what she means to me, or rather, what function she has served in my life. It is true of other actors, but her especially.

We don’t need to know our muse, or them to know who we are, and who we think they are doesn’t have to be true. That’s not to say I don’t want to meet Kate – she might be the living famous person I’d most like to – but that a sort of relationship can be created without an exchange, at least, on my side.

I’ve found Kate’s c2000 roles her most powerful and enduring. As a person that I’d like to be with, I’d choose Maddie from Quills, though I’d like to take her far from Charenton, and also Hester from Enigma. I also warmed to Sabine in A Little Chaos.

At this time, I am also doing a Sarah Douglas costume, starting to show some well planned slits as I make my writing known to the world, because I’m launching my book. Although my creation is separate from Kate Winslet, there is something of and someone like her in my novel (which I plan to also make into a film). It is a story about false bottoms of drawers, of consciousness of the layers of ourselves and what we show, and what we keep to ourselves – and how it is easier to explore and reveal ourselves through personas, even publically, than me as me, to those I know well.

It is about the power of an actor’s persona, one which (like Kate’s) often feels very real, very ordinary (and yet not at all ordinary), and a particular role – one that I invented – to be part of our lives; and for stories to have life changing power, not just a couple of hours of entertainment and escape, but to make you face what you couldn’t bear to see.

Thus today, which is not my birthday, is also for me a time of anniversary and celebration – not yet of a life, like Kate’s, which is full of public recognition; mine has thus far been of preparation.

I would like to thank Kate for the inspiration, joy and challenge she has brought to me and so many others who may not know you but whose lives you have certainly touched.

Marion Cotillard will get her own post when I have seen her latest film, Macbeth – hopefully, any day.

http://parallel-spirals.webs.com/

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Eloquent Expression – fiction dialogue for the congruent

As I writer, I am fed up with hearing – when you write dialogue, make sure nobody says what they mean. And I think – does this mean that all characters, by definition, are inarticulate and not self aware? Surely their journey during the story should be towards greater awareness and the ability to say what’s on their hearts? Some people are taciturn and oblique; some are loquacious and elaborate. The writing world seems to favour the former. But can’t we create characters who are at different stages of the speech spectrum? In film, it means the actor’s facial expressions leave us guessing what a character’s thinking – and sometimes, viewers can guess wrong.

I wondered if characters who were skilled at self expression would make for interesting drama – for there always needs to be something that’s not working for a story to be worth telling. Are they too sorted for the necessary growing and tension?

In life, we strive to be greater at self awareness, at speaking our hearts, at building better relationships with ourselves and others – especially our intimate others. In fiction, characters go on journey too and can be incredibly informing about real life. So why this discrepancy? Why are we encouraged to keep our characters (and our audience) in emotional nappies?

Carol Rogers, the psychotherapist behind person centred counselling, speaks of congruence as one of his three core conditions needed for a therapeutic relationship. It reminds me of school maths and triangles fitting over each other – but I think that’s the point – that what you’re feeling inside fits with what you present to others.

Also – who’s to say no one ever makes speeches or uses mellifluous language in dialogue? We are diverse, and yet the writing world would have everyone have a particular mode of expression – pithy, tangential, limited vocabulary.

I was delighted by the recent film Her in which characters (one human, one virtual) do share their emotions freely. Samantha, the operating system, begins by being open and insightful; as she evolves to ever grater levels, she gets even more adept at it. There is plenty of tension, and yet both Samantha and Theodore always speak their hearts. At last – a drama for the emotionally mature! So thank you to Spike Jonze for penning one and for Joachim Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson and Amy Adams for being part of something which demonstrates that self development and being congruent does make for good drama.

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My Bad Girls Series 1 fan fiction has arrived!

I posted it yesterday on Zetaboard’s Nikki and Helen forum. I’ve also started and contributed to other posts on this site, I love the insights on there.

Under the first instalment, I explain how weird it was to write other people’s characters and that it’s not my usual style. We’ve been debating the style of Bad Girl’s writing, and whether it’s too short and misses things, or whether its subtly is part of its quality. Personally, I think the former.

It wouldn’t let me put them all in one file as it’s too long (22,000 words). Here’s the links:

http://s4.zetaboards.com/Nikki_and_Helen/topic/10047551/1/#new eps 1+2

http://s4.zetaboards.com/Nikki_and_Helen/topic/10047561/1/#new 3-5

http://s4.zetaboards.com/Nikki_and_Helen/topic/10047562/1/#new 6-8

http://s4.zetaboards.com/Nikki_and_Helen/topic/10047563/1/#new 9-10

If you’ve got any more specific feedback (make criticism constructive please) I’d love to hear it

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Filed under television, writing

Why I’m disillusioned with the publishing world

Although many publishers and agents claim to want to champion the work of writers (I am sure genuinely)…

We are told that 98% of agents reject submissions, and without one most big publishers will not look at your work.

Yet the publishser takes a bigger cut than the author, who gets only 8-10% of book sales, meaning that for 100,000 copies, (and all those years of soul inspired work), you’ll get minimum wage. (Agents take their commission out of the author’s royalties).

This is making me ask: why go that route?

I was against e-publishing and pro bookshops, but it occurs to me that it’s book chains who are damaging the book trade. They can discount too far and they stock only what they consider will sell. I know from being a former bookseller that where once the shop staff had the power to order their own stock, this is moving more to head office level. Range is sacrificed to large numbers of sure sellers.

This does not help the independent bookshops who cannot command the same discounts. It also affects small publishers.

And this affects what is written, or allowed to be publicly expressed.

Agents and publishers tell you you need an agent because it gives the agents work and saves the publisher doing it. They tell you there’s no kudos in self publishing, calling it “vanity” to degrade it. Self publishing and e-publishing tell you you don’t need agents; they will remind you of the tiny cut you get, the rights and control you may lose, and how hard it is to be published.

But if 80-90% of submissions are on the slush pile of what agents consider no good, what do those writers do with our talent and hard work?

I think some writers feel that agents are intimidating: there’s a huge disparity of perceived power. You the writer must do exactly as they say and if they deign to chose you, you must remember what gold dust of a chance you’ve been given and be submissive. There’s the feeling that agents are handlers, in every sense of the word.

Some agents want to know if you submit elsewhere. Considering the odds against being chosen and that agents take months to reply – “of course” is the answer! Would I be expected to say if I had applied to other jobs? If I need a job then I will diligently apply for them until I am offered what I want. If I wish to date, I will put a profile on as many sites as a I wish and chat with as many individuals as I wish. It’s only when things became serious (ie an offer is made) that exclusivity and openness cuts in.

Yes, we can only have one agent (though many people have several hats and lots of agents can’t represent acting, scriptwriting, and literature). And we need to get it right. This is a mini marriage, the person that looks after our babies. Which parent would allow a nanny more power and say over their child than themselves? Would they not feel the right to ask questions and withdraw an application if they felt unhappy?

We should never be in any unequal relationship, feeling we are so lucky to have a chance that we have no rights and say.

Agents and publishers need authors to exist. But we can write without them. Just as employers need to market themselves to new employees, so agents need to let writers know why they should submit to them. Yes we as writers need to know what an agent seeks and we need to do our own wooing. But who dates, feeling it’s all about their profile and they should have no choosing power of their own? It’s equally about being sold to, not just selling yourself – and remember the phrase – the highest bidder? That is not just in monetary terms, but care and empathy.

The culture of the agent (publisher/director/producer etc) having all the cards needs to change. With the internet, self publishing of all kinds (including music and video) is very easy and prominent, and understandably so.

It needs to be mutual from the start. And those who do not get chosen, rather than feeling crushed, should find other outlets. No one should be even thinking they have the right to destroy the career and confidence of another. Of course “you are no good” means “I think you are no good”. It is always a subjective statement, but hearing it once or twice can be enough to cause even suicidal feelings.

How many of us struggle to see the worth in a much lauded established piece of work? How many of us, as editors or producers,  would’ve passed over something that’s famous?

And how many famous people were constantly passed over?

The crushers need to be more aware and take responsibility for that. Of course, some who hear harsh words end up doing well and then publicly repeat these statements of woe, to the discomfort of those who said them.

(And in case you’re wondering, no-one’s said that to me, not that I would believe them anyway).

Here’s a review of a book that literary agents say they admire. You’ll see I don’t agree

http://www.bookstove.com/Drama/Enduring-Love-A-Review.273477

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Filed under literature, society