Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/22/17

We all know what an unreliable narrator is, right? The more time I spend online, the more I worry about how ineffective subtlety can be. In an age where people get their news from Twitter and entertainment from reality TV, sometimes it takes a baseball bat to make a point.

I'm bringing this up because I just wrote a scene that a 10-year-old might completely misunderstand. They might think the character is crazy. But this isn't a children's book. Anyone who's read an adult book or two should get it, but I've been told that I overestimate the public too often. Personally, I think people are smarter than the publishers, studio executives and networks are giving them credit for, but Twitter and reality TV are working overtime to prove me wrong.

I was also thinking about titles for the fictional Bernardo Bertolucci film, and I wondered what he would call a film about Émile Armand. But I don't know Bertolucci at all. I've seen his movies and I've heard some gossip. That tells me nothing about what's in the man's head.

I could come up with a few titles for a movie about a French anarchist who sleeps around a lot. But it seems to me that Bertolucci might be the kind of filmmaker who uses working titles.

Studios and producers love to keep their movies secret with working titles. Back to the Future was Spaceman From Pluto at one point. Return of the Jedi was called Blue Harvest to keep people in the dark. Annie Hall was famously called Anhedonia.

Woody Allen often uses generic working titles like Woody Allen Spring Project. So I'm calling the fictional Bertolucci film Untitled Bernardo Bertolucci Production. I think it adds a little something to the overall sense of confusion that a real title would lack.


E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Directed by Steven Spielberg
© 1982 Universal Pictures


Return of the Jedi
Directed by Richard Marquand
© 1983 Lucasfilm Ltd

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/21/17

I finished chapter 9 in record time. I was pretty surprised by how quickly I punched it out. I was almost ready to pat myself on the back. Then I checked the word count. It's currently at 1,891 words. That's incredibly short for a chapter.

Obviously, a lot will change. This is only the first draft, and everything will either get longer or shorter when I get back to it. Some chapters are supposed to be longer than others, but I know from experience that the first draft will look nothing like the final print.

Chapter 10 starts with the scene that gave me the idea for the entire book. I almost started the story here, but it's better if you know the characters a little. It would be more shocking to start here, which makes publishers happy and probably helps sales, but I think there's more of an impact if you know the people involved.

It's like a jump scare in a horror movie versus something that's actually scary. Jump scares sell more tickets at the box office, but the truly scary moments are far more memorable.

This book isn't a horror story, by the way. That was just an example. I'm sure I don't have to point that out, but this is the internet, after all.


The Exorcist
Directed by William Friedkin
© 1973 Warner Brothers

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/20/17

Émile Armand was a French anarchist/pacifist who wrote magazine articles and books about communes and anarchy, mostly between 1900-1930. He was also a big fan of free love, and had some radically liberal views on human sexuality. Even today, some of his ideas would shock a lot of people, especially Americans.

The fictional Bertolucci film in my book is about Émile Armand. He seems like the kind of guy Bertolucci might make a film about. Émile Armand hated the establishment, was a raging atheist, loved the ladies and was a bit of a voyeur. Bertolucci could easily make a controversial film about him with sweeping French countrysides and plenty of wall to wall nudity.

I've made MGM the distributor. Mainly because MGM is all but destitute. I'm going to say some unflattering things about whoever produces the Bertolucci film, so I thought maybe it should be a studio that can't crush me like a grape.

I also love the great MGM musicals. I think it's sad how far that studio has fallen. They were the biggest studio in the world, putting out all the best Gene Kelly, Judy Garland and Fred Astaire movies. Now they don't produce anything without another studio helping out.

Also, and I probably shouldn't admit this, I thought their office was in Santa Monica. It turns out they were in Santa Monica for a few years, but then moved to Beverly Hills. Oh, well.



Émile Armand


Monday, June 19, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/19/17

I've dragged Bernardo Bertolucci into this. In the story, one of the characters auditions for an acting part in a movie. I could have created fictional directors and producers, but I decided to use Bertolucci because of his reputation. He's generally considered a great filmmaker and a royal pain in the butt to work with.

If I created a character, it would have been a Bertolucci type. Since the real Bertolucci is mostly a recluse, why not use him? He won't sue me, for several reasons, and I don't have to worry about personally offending him since it's highly unlikely he'll ever know this book exists, and I can almost guarantee that we'll never meet.

Something I only just considered is that he's not exactly a spring chicken. His health has been going downhill since he had a series of botched spinal surgeries. He's in a wheelchair now and rarely leaves his houses in Rome and London. If he dies while I'm writing this, I'll have to change it. Obviously, his death, whenever it occurs, will have far greater consequences than any rewrites I have to make. I know how insensitive that sounds. But he's lived a pretty full life. Whenever he leaves, I think we can all be comforted by the great films he's given us.



The Conformist
© 1970 Paramount Pictures


The Sheltering Sky
© 1990 Warner Brothers

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/18/17

I've finished another chapter. It's pretty short and mostly dialogue, so there will be some changes later.

Dialogue is both the easiest and hardest part to write. As an actress, I'm supposed to know how to read a character and say things the way they would say it. I've played characters who suffered from crippling insecurity, depression, insanity, alcoholism and a wide range of problems I've never had. If you're going to act, you have to play characters that are nothing like yourself.

Reading dialogue in another voice is easy. If I know who the character is, I can imagine how they would say it. The trick is deciding what they should say. Acting doesn't prepare you for that. You can't improvise Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams. Writing dialogue is nothing like reading it.

I've been told that I write good dialogue. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's worth noting that I usually think the dialogue is the worst part of any book I've ever written. People sometimes tell me it's the best part. The main compliment I usually get is that the dialogue fits the character, especially foreign accents. And that's exactly where I think I've failed the most.

The good news is that I'll keep trying to do a better job. The bad news is that there are no foreign characters in this book.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/17/17

Ikea opened a store in Burbank, California a long time ago. That location was surrounded by hotels, a shopping mall and a freeway. So when they wanted to expand, they moved the store a few blocks south, opening the largest Ikea in the United States.

This is the kind of thing I'm learning while researching this book. It's not about Ikea and Ikea doesn't play any significant role, but when I mentioned it in passing, I wondered if there really was an Ikea in the neighborhood. According to Google maps, there were two next to each other. That seemed strange to me, so I looked around and read some articles about how terrible the parking was when the new store opened. It may be the largest Ikea in the country, but apparently, the parking lot can only be accessed by a single side street. On an average day, it probably won't matter. But during that opening weekend, people were really freaking out.


Memorial Day
Santa Monica Beach



All the Things She Said
tATu

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/16/17

Writing, writing and more writing. At this point, I'm concentrating on three characters, but there are more that come and go. Someone somewhere is bound to complain.

Who's the main character?

Does there have to be one?

I'm hardly an expert on writing – or much of anything, for that matter – but I know one of the cardinal rules of doing anything artistic. Someone somewhere is going to complain no matter what you do. Sometimes, that's how you know you've succeeded.

I've also introduced the members of a new, completely fictional, band. Their names are Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Beth plays keyboards, of course. I'm a little worried about those names, for obvious reasons. I don't think it's particularly clever, but they're minor characters. They're women, though I never mention their heights. They have to be called something.


Palos Verdes, California



Queen Bitch
David Bowie

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/15/17

I did a local TV commercial when I was in high school. It's not on my resume because it's stupid. And it was a long time ago.

I've used that experience for a scene in this book. Everything's different, from the ages of the people involved, to the product being advertised, but that tedious feeling of shooting a TV commercial is there. The end result might be 30 seconds of non-stop shaky cam and jump cuts, but it takes days of sitting around and waiting for a lot of people to get those 30 seconds.

Someone once asked a filmmaker who just made a movie about making movies, it might have been Robert Altman and The Player, why they didn't show what it was realistically like to make a movie. Altman, or whoever it was, answered that it would bore the hell out of the audience. From the actor's point of view, most of the time on set is downtime. Being in front of a camera is anything but glamorous. Hopefully, I've shown that effectively.






Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/14/17

The next chapter starts out with a story that's based entirely too much on a story a friend told me after an unsuccessful audition several years ago. It's kind of a funny story after time passes and you can laugh about rejection. But I have to change it because it's too close to the truth.

What's wrong with the truth? Absolutely nothing. But it's someone else's story. I don't have the right to tell it. If I want to write something autobiographical, that's ok because those are my stories. If I want to write fiction, that's ok, too. As long as those are also my stories. It's not a copyright issue. It's common courtesy.

Remember Dreamgirls, the movie and musical? Diana Ross is still upset about that. And with good reason. If she ever wants to tell her life story, everyone will accuse her of ripping off Dreamgirls.



And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going
Jennifer Holliday



I'm Coming Out
Diana Ross

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/13/17

I did some research on vibrators. That's something I don't say every day. This is far from an erotic novel, but there are a couple of scenes that might not be suitable for small children.

Vibrators, as it turns out, are a lot like songs. People who love them really love them, and everyone has their own idea about which are great and which are a total waste of time. And just like with music, there are some real snobs out there.

Something I found interesting was that every article I read had testimonials from sexual health experts about how vibrators are a healthy component to a fulfilling relationship with another person. Every article wanted to convince the reader that they're not sinful, dirty or perverted or anything to get choked up about – unless you use them the wrong way. I thought it was interesting because obviously there are a lot of people who must think vibrators are sinful, dirty and perverted. Otherwise, there would be no testimonials from sexual health experts.

The characters in this book are in Los Angeles which, it turns out, has a lot of sex shops. I would assume that most people buy their sex toys online these days, but if you like to hold things before you buy them, Los Angeles has you covered.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, I have no idea about. Prostitution is legal and there are all kinds of massage parlors and dance bars in the various red light districts, but most of that is aimed at men, if not all of it. Satisfying women doesn't seem to be big business.

Then again, China is a very repressed culture. Europeans say that Americans are uptight, which is true, but we're all raging hedonists compared to the typical Chinese. You can buy porn at some of the few places that still sell DVDs, but even the porn is censored in China. And, of course, we have HBO. That's practically porn. Except in China. It's heavily censored. Have you ever watched an episode of Game of Thrones without any sex, violence or nudity? It's kind of pointless.

Speaking of things that threaten some men and repulse some women, there's a scene in the book that's not nearly as graphic as I'm about to make it sound.

If the story takes place today, then it's only reasonable that some of the women would be as bald as Fred Flintstone's tires. But if it takes place in the late 1990s, everyone might be a little warmer on a windy day. Personal hygiene has changed a lot over the years. That's something to consider that I honestly had no idea I'd ever have to think about when I started this.

It also brings up an interesting point. When future generations watch movies with lines like “does the carpet match the drapes”, will they have any idea what that person's talking about?