Thursday, February 26, 2015

Confilct

     They say conflict is the basis of all drama.  They even say the three kinds of conflict there can be.  Those are:

1. Man vs. Man

2. Man vs. Nature

3. Man vs. Self

     I always thought they skimped in the Man vs. Society area, but I guess you could make a case that it falls under number 1 (or number 2, if we're going to let the metaphor of Nature stand in for a lot of stuff).  Anyway, I was watching the television show The Slap, which does a really excellent job of distilling conflict and making it personal and interesting, and it got me thinking about how a well written drama can create a conflict within the audience itself.  A primary way of doing this (which, again, The Slap does exceedingly well) is by making you root for someone who is not particularly likable (admittedly something of a trend in modern television writing, between your Don Drapers and your Walter Whites).  A subtle variation on this, and perhaps more difficult to manage, is knowing the guy you're rooting for is doing the wrong thing.  The Slap may be doing this, too.  At only the second episode (of its American incarnation, anyway), it's too early to tell.  But it will be fascinating to watch it unfold.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Plowing with Your Mind

     Gordon B. Hinckley, who was the fifteenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among many other things, said "You can't plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind."
     As a writer, you spend an awful lot of time in your own head, and that is a work of sorts, searching for plot and character along the winding paths of your imagination.  But it's awfully easy to get lost in there, caught up in the planning, dreaming of where you could go.  Ultimately and practically, once you've laid the groundwork in your head, a single written sentence is worth more than all the hours you spend dreaming up the mountains your going to scale.  Naturally, this applies to life outside of writing, too.  Take an entire day to think about what you could do and how you could do it and then take ten minutes to actually do something and see which accomplishes more.  Mr. Hinckley knew that, even with prayer on your side, eventually, you just have to get off your keister and get to work.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

This One Summer, These Two Awards

     A hearty congratulations to This One Summer by cousins Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki for winning both the Caldecott and Printz honors.  Their book is the first graphic novel to ever receive a Caldecott honor and the second to finish in the Printz final circle (Gene Yang's American Born Chinese won the award in 2007).  I should also note, in a shout out to my own former ALA awards committee, that This One Summer was on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, as well.
     The first time a form takes one of the top honors in a mainstream awards field, it's a watershed moment and well celebrated.  The second time it happens tends to be slightly less notable, but the very fact that it's not quite as surprising means that the form has arrived, that it's established in the view of "respectable authorities."  For the sequential art form it's been a long, hard climb, and there's still ground left to cover to be sure, but comfortably ensconced in libraries and classrooms and in the embrace of the wider world, the most grueling work has been accomplished.  It's thanks to artists like the two Tamakis, who carry the form to ever greater heights, that it's come so far.  
  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Best Fortune I Ever Got


    "The best way to have the last word is to apologize."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hammer into Anvil

     Whiplash is an excellent film with an enjoyably unusual subject matter and a criminally under-discussed performance by Miles TellerJ.K. Simmons, always a top-of-the-line actor, turns in another stand out performance, but his character is by far the flashier and it's Teller's subtle and engaging performance at the heart of the film.
     Anyway, the film appears to espouse a philosophy that's worth looking at.  Simmons notes that all his terrifying bluster as a conductor of young musicians has always been to drive them on to greatness, to force them to the brink of destruction so that they can produce the truly great art that changes the world.  Any potential artist that can't take it, he suggests, was never going to be great anyway. A gutturally satisfying outlook on the surface and no doubt true of a limited segment of potential artists in the world, it still denies the idea that there is a burgeoning artistic sensibility that is subtle and delicate and requires slow nurturing to bring it to fruition.  This is the belief that we can only be forged in the fire of the crucible, between hammer and anvil, never honed carefully to pinpoint beauty and perfection.  This feel like a blunt (maybe even dangerous) sentiment that plays to the worst of America's mythology about itself.  That does not, of course, mean that it isn't fitting for the character to say or believe.  Yet the movie does nothing to overtly balance it.  Does it have an obligation to?  Well, that's a whole different question.