Monday, May 21, 2012

Titanic - 15 Years Later

A few weeks ago, I saw Titanic 3D with my friend Farrah and her friends. It was a film that had meant a great deal to me when it first came out; I'd been a huge fan of James Cameron's work, and I'd closely followed the progress of Titanic when I'd first heard it announced. Back in 1997, I saw Titanic on opening night with a girl who was very nearly interested in me. The trailer had left me in a frenzy of anticipation, even more so than for the James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, opening that same day. I had read every article, commentary and review I could get my hands on. I loved it. Truly, madly, deeply loved that movie. Yes, it was corny. Yes, Leo-mania was annoying. Yes, they played that damn song way too many times on the radio. There were flaws, some of them glaring. And if the love story had happened on board a less-famous ship (one, say, that hadn't sunk), it would have been a fairly standard rom-com. Yeah, yeah, so what? To me, Titanic was a great movie. I stood up and cheered when James Cameron won the Oscar for best director and best picture (in your face, LA Confidential!). I bought the soundtrack. Both of them. And then I went back and saw it again. Seven more times. At each screening, I felt something that I can't quite quantify, something with tremendous meaning for me. I read a lot into that movie, and got so much out. I saw that life is full of unexpected events, and our time alive is not fixed. Each day, therefore, each hour, each minute is important. Every time I've walked out of the cinema after seeing Titanic, I've felt better about my life, and had a strong desire to live it well.
After my eighth time seeing it on the big screen, however, I'd more or less had enough. Several months later, I got the VHS copy for Christmas (in widescreen, of course), and watched it with my brother and sister. It was... different. Less affecting, somehow. And it didn't help that my siblings absolutely reveled in pointing out the film's flaws. I didn't pick up the DVDs, not even the 10th Anniversary Special Edition. Part of the reason was that the film was split onto two disks (why, James, why?). But mostly, seeing it on the small screen just couldn't compare to the experience of the cinema. The magic wasn't there. My heart had gone on. When I heard that Titanic was coming back to cinemas in 3D, I thought, "That's nice." I didn't go on opening day. Or even that week. When my friend Farrah insisted on seeing it as part of her birthday party, I wished she could have picked The Hunger Games instead. When the lights went down, I put on my polarized glasses and prepared to lose three hours of my life. The 3D did absolutely nothing for me, unfortunately; a few scenes had a bit more depth, especially those involving height, but that's it. But I didn't care about that. Five minutes in the magic was back, and I felt like I was visiting old friends. I let it all come back - everything I'd felt the previous eight times. And, because I was so familiar with the story, I had the opportunity to take in more of the smaller details. Like the look on old Rose's face when Lovett (Bill Paxton) tells her the diamond must have gone down with the ship. Or James Cameron's fingers, drawing the portrait of Rose. Or the scene where Rose points out people to Jack, and says "his little wifey's half his age and in a delicate condition. See how she's trying to hide it? Quite the scandal." This time I realized the delicate half-aged wifey was married to John Jacob Astor, played by that guy who was Victor on that soap. I cried, more than once. After the 3D screening, my friend asked me if I was having an allergy attack! Nope. I'm a sensitive guy, and those tears represented genuine emotion. I didn't cry because Jack died. I cried because of all the things Rose had done with her life, without him. It's both beautiful and tragic, just like the movie. And the ship itself.
I'm so grateful my friend Farrah insisted on Titanic that day. Nine times is a lot, but I could still see it on the big screen again. The film is timeless, as relevant now as it was when it was first released. And, for me, it is still just as powerful. Well done, James Cameron. Thank you.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Killing Characters and Fixing Mistakes

I just killed off a minor character. Then I brought him back. One of my main characters stabbed him. And then he didn't. It occurred to me that the stabbing was a possibility, so I gave it a go for a couple of sentences. It was sudden and completely unexpected, but it wasn't quite right. That, and I didn't really know what to do with it. So I took it out. I turned back time. You can do that, when you're an author. Sometimes, though, it takes a lot more than a couple of sentences for me to realize I've gone the wrong way. Once, I had to excise an entire chapter to fix a mistake. More recently, I had to chop about five chapters from a novel. And, both Evil and Epoch required a three-chapter rewrite near their ends to correct some serious gaffes (that my editors caught, not me). Mistakes happen. Even in writing! Even when you're still in the super-creative, make-it-all-up part of the process. Realizing you've made one is actually a sign that you're doing something right; you know your characters and story well enough to detect when something's wrong. It's a gut thing, for the most part. Trust your gut. Try things out. One way might look right; go for the one that feels right. The one that feels like it's part of the story. That minor character of mine gets to live. It wasn't his time to go. Not yet. I killed off a major character instead. I'm a whole chapter past that point now, and still going. It works. The story is happy. So am I.

Work: Good For Writing?

I returned to work last week, and by work I mean a day job. My writing is my other job, but that still doesn't pay the bills. This day job is a data entry temp position acquired through the Manpower agency. My job is to book ad space in newspapers, or fix problems with existing booked ads. I'm still learning, and waiting to be completely set up on their system by IT. There's a bit of stress as I try to fill my brain with all the information I need to do my job. The question for me is, will this position be good for my writing? It doesn't matter so much to my creative side whether or not a job is good or bad. More important is how I feel about it. A job can be low-paying and fairly boring, but if I am well treated I will usually be happy. If, on the other hand, I am treated like I'm less valuable than the furniture, I find it very hard not to internalize it. A bad job can motivate me to write as a means of escape, but a lack of respect from a boss or co-workers will strangle my soul and kill my creativity. I won't necessarily lose the ability to write (although that has happened from time to time), but my output will slow considerably. So far, this job has been all right. My co-workers have been great, and my writing output has increased a little bit. I won't know for sure how conducive this position will be for my creative soul until I've been there a few weeks. I'll check back in a month, and maybe go into more detail about which jobs have helped and which jobs have hurt, and why. In the meantime, I'm considering the creation of a new blog about temp work. I've had more than a little experience working for agencies, so I have plenty to say. If this is something you think you'd like to read, leave me a comment below.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Another Interview

Here's another interview of yours truly! This time, my questions came from Lost In Fiction, under the sub-category of Lost in Young Adults. You can see that interview, and my brilliant answers, by clicking here. Once more I am blessed with the kindness of bloggers. I'm so very grateful for all the help I've received!

Guess What Day It Is...?

It's May the 4th! Soooo... May the 4th be with you!