Many thoughts today, so I’ll just spill ’em. First, I watched two movies over the weekend–“Becoming Jane” and “Martian Child.” Both I would highly recommend, and they both happen to be about writers, though neither character is anything like the writers I know. (For one thing, they have way too much free time.)
“Becoming Jane,” of course, is the story of Jane Austen, who died at 42 after having produced books that are still selling today. Lovely film, if a bit bittersweet.
“Martian Child” is the story of a widowed novelist (John Cusack, whom I’ve always thought adorable), who decided to adopt a special needs child who thinks he’s from Mars. I wouldn’t say this movie is for children, as it’s geared completely toward adults and it’s not a comedy, though it has many charming moments.
The crux of this film–the climax or bleakest moment or whatever you’d like to call it–is especially powerful and gave me an epiphany for my own story-in-progress. Good writing here.
There’s another scene that I found poignant. John’s editor, who has been hounding him for the first draft of his next book in a science fiction series (who hands in a first draft? I’d sooner chop off my arms), has this big party with lots of big wigs and asks him to ceremoniously hand over the draft. He gives her a manuscript, but it’s not the book she’s expecting–instead, it’s a tender character story called “Martian Child.” She is furious and says, “Why can’t you be who we expect you to be?” And this brings him an epiphany –an insight into this boy he’s been trying to reach.
I had a taste of that myself today–I got an email from a reader who said she only read half of “Doesn’t She Look Natural” because it wasn’t like my other books.
Well, okay. The Fairlawn books are character novels; the other books she mentioned were high concept plot-driven stories. Two different animals, and it’s completely okay to prefer one over the other.
But I kept hearing Anjelica Houston (who plays John Cusack’s editor) shouting, “Why can’t you be who we expect you to be?”
I have to write the stories God gives me. Like ’em or loathe ’em, it’s okay. But please allow me the freedom to write outside any particular box. Some stories I write for believers, some I write for the world at large. Some are high-concept, some are about ordinary people doing ordinary things . . . with a twist. Some I haven’t even begun to define yet.
Like the Martian child, you see, I’ve learned that life inside a box is not nearly as rewarding as life on the outside.