Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Movie Review: Twelve Years a Slave

I had high hopes for this movie. Twelve Years a Slave is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a prosperous, free black man in upstate New York in the mid 1800s. His comfortable life is turned upside down when he is kidnapped and sold as a slave and ends up in Louisiana.

The first thing that struck me about this movie was that the soundtrack was jarring. While that may have been the intention, it was often too loud and downright annoying. I usually don't pay much attention to the soundtrack. It's supposed to enhance the storytelling, not get in the way of it. I felt like shouting "Shut the **** up" as I struggled to focus on the story.

Twelve Years a Slave is an unremitting tale of injustice, cruelty, and evil.  Period. Exclamation point. It's a good tale to tuck in your brain. It explains the existence of racism in 2013. Nevertheless, I thought the story lacked real tension. Even explicit physical abuse, betrayal, and hatred can become tedious if there is not a strong story line and complex characters to carry it. I thought all the characters needed to be deeper, more thoroughly revealed. You can't be a cutout character in a plantation environment. Evil has many faces. Suffering has many faces. And they all scream for the complexity of an explanation that can reveal understanding.

I wanted something more--less about the outer reality of a slave's world and more about the interior reality of their thoughts and feelings and passions. And, oh, by the way, dropping Brad Pitt into a 10-minute segment did not amp the storytelling.

I wanted someone to explain to me why a black man in the mid-1850s thought he was safe and untouchable. I wanted to know why two white men went to all the trouble to carefully kidnap him and take him off to Louisiana. Why not just clobber him over the head and drag him off? What was the careful game all about? Why this particular black man?

Many will say they liked this film. I say dig me deeper. You don't need to make me count lash strokes and watch a slave's back being turned into bloody ground beef. Get me to the soul story. Help me to understand Solomon. There were many opportunities in this film, but those opportunities were reduced to a quick shorthand. There are two scenes in the movie that aroused my interest: the moment Solomon lost it and beat up his cruel overseer and the moment he thought about escaping. Sigh. No wonder that it took him 12 years to escape. Mercifully, that's where Brad Pitt comes in.

My husband, my movie barometer, yawned and fidgeted throughout the entire performance and threatened to go sit in the parking lot.

3 comments:

  1. I am dying to see 12 Years a Slave. I heard it is a shoe-in for Best Picture and Best Director. I will definitely see the film when it comes into my local cinema. Patiently waiting for it to get out of its extended limited release ... which feels like forever.

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    1. I look forward to hearing your reaction to this movie!

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