Sunday, December 27, 2009

Obviously, I Watch Too Many Movies

Today's blog concerns "Jennifer's Body," the latest film willing to use Megan Fox's good looks in place of acting.

Watch words spew forth from my pretty mouth like emotionless vomit.

You probably know that the screenwriter was Diablo Cody, the chick who wrote "Juno" as well as a memoir about being a stripper. "Juno" was all right - entertaining, kind of cheesy, with a very unique female protagonist whose name alluded to the Classical world. On the other hand, "Jennifer's Body" struck me the wrong way almost immediately.

The story began with promise - interesting, entertaining, and funny. The story began in a literary fashion, beginning in medias res before quickly shifting to the earliest point in time that the movie was going to cover.

It was at the shift that I began to notice the dialogue.

The quirky, funny dialogue that characterized "Juno" so well appears to have been attempted again - and it isn't executed as well by the character who utilizes it most (*cough, cough* Fox *cough, cough*), and it feels false.

"Jennifer's Body" features a girl who becomes different, of course - I don't think I'm spoiling the movie for anyone when I say that Jennifer becomes a succubus. Yet, it seems quite clear that Jennifer is supposed to be an ordinary girl, on the pretty side, who is far more ordinary than she would like. Jennifer would like to be effortlessly gorgeous and self-assured, and not small town. Nothing about her character, however, indicates that she modifies language for the sake of whimsy.

Juno's interesting manner of speaking suited her; Jennifer's does not.

So watching this movie really makes me think about dialogue.

Dialogue, when utilized correctly, can do so much for a story. Hemingway wrote an entire story in dialogue ("Hills Like White Elephants"). Diablo Cody obviously likes writing dialogue, and has fun with it, which is great. In order to create something that other people are going to enjoy, however, a writer needs to use dialogue that suits the character. Ultimately, this means knowing your characters well enough to know exactly how that character speaks. Sometimes, this might involve doing research. And, of course, if you're too lazy to do research, then don't write about characters who will seem inauthentic without research.

To be fair, I feel like part of Cody's problem is one that many YA authors face: authentic TEEN dialogue. When you're not a teenager anymore, how do you know that your slang is up to date? Cody's solution is to create slang of her own - cheesy slang that not many teenagers would say (certainly not cheerleaders with a reputation to uphold).

Yet we've all read those YA stories that have outdated dialogue, or in which the character talks like a goody-two-shoes, and it feels like the only reason is because the author feels uncomfortable with a teenager saying "dirty" words. Teen dialogue is a legitimate problem, as is dialogue, in general.

I don't think that making up slang, clever and interesting though it may be, should be a writer's automatic response. I'm not exactly sure what I think the general response should be, however - or even if there should be a "general" response.

And no writer wants generic dialogue.

Thoughts? (I love comments!)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Julie & Julia - the Movie Version

I just watched the DVD Julie & Julia. It was okay. I had problems with the memoir, I had problems with the movie (though, as all of the reviews said, Meryl Streep did an excellent job).

One of my biggest problems with the movie, however, was the fact that Amy Adams, portraying Julie Powell, kept talking about how she "wants to be a writer." They kind of alluded to what I'm going to discuss in more detail in the movie, and I was going to let it slide, but...spoiler the end of the movie, they did one of those "words rolling across the screen like what we want you to read is uber-important but we're really just trying to wrap things up without another few days of filming" and in those words were contained "She is a writer."

Well, duh, she's a writer. Didn't she write every, or almost every, day for an entire year on that blog about cooking? Isn't that where her memoir came from, and this movie? (There were also annoying words to the effect that a movie had been made from her book. I guess it was supposed to be cute, but it actually just pissed me off.)

Basically, what I don't think the movie made clear is the difference between being a "writer" and being an "author."

A writer is someone who writes. Period. By virtue of having a blog in which I write occasionally, I am a writer (though not necessarily a very good one). All you have to do to be a writer is write. So if you want to be a writer, stop reading, focus on whatever it is you wish was already written, and make the past tense I just used a reality.

An author is someone who has written something that has been published. It is harder to be an author than it is to be a writer.

Anyone can write. Not everyone has the persistence and dedication to get published.

Some people write because they want a big book deal that's going to get them a lot of money. Julie Powell's memoir became a bestseller, and that's awesome. That doesn't happen with every book, though. It doesn't even happen to many books. The huge bestseller is a rarity, like being struck twice by lightning. Therefore, wanting to become famous and rich is not a reason to become a writer and strive to get published.

Yes, realistically, it's something most of us would enjoy, but it's not the reason to write.

In sum, while we would all like to receive positive feedback and feel like creative genius, the only reason to become a writer is because you enjoy creating and/or relating stories.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NaNo: The Final Count

A day late, but here it is...

At the end of NaNo, I had written 44,153 words.

Best NaNo yet, though I still didn't "win."

I might just sketch out where I was thinking of going, and set it away for awhile.

I have a new goal for December: losing some weight. I know this is usually a New Year's resolution, but for personal reasons, I find it imperative to do so now.

I will still be writing, but not nearly as much, particularly as I'm trying to catch up on my sleep and not get sick (everyone seems to be getting ill lately).

All of this, of course, is to provide an excuse for the fact that I probably won't be posting much for awhile.