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?




Monday, June 12, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/12/17

The Gates was a controversial art instillation by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in Central Park for two weeks in 2005. They put thousands of nylon torii gates along walking paths throughout the park.

In typical New York fashion, everyone either loved it or hated it. Millions of people visited the piece while local news and talk show hosts ridiculed it.

I've seen real torii gates in Japan. Nylon fabric hanging on posts is not nearly as impressive. But I wouldn't have objected had I lived there. It was only for two weeks. If it was permanent, I could understand people going nuts.


The Gates
Central Park, New York
By Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/11/17

During a camping trip, one of the characters is the stranger in a strange land. She's a city girl with no experience in camping or spending much time in the great outdoors.

Fortunately for me, I have some experience with camping. I've never gone camping in the Santa Susana Mountains, and would never in a million years have the adventure they're having in the hills, but I know how to pitch a tent and start a fire. I'm never going to go on one of those reality TV survival shows where they're naked in the wilderness, but I can safely spend the night outdoors without freezing or getting eaten by bears.

This camping trip is very different from anything we used to do when we went up to Land O'Lakes or St. Croix.


Matilda Joslyn Gage

Friday, June 9, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/9/17

I've opened chapter 6 with what sounds like foreshadowing of some big moment to come later. But what the reader might assume is going to happen isn't. I certainly don't want it to, and I think I have some say in the matter.

It's false foreshadowing, I suppose, but it's not a plot twist or a red herring. I'm not saying that what isn't going to happen is going to happen. I'm simply doing nothing to stop people who like to jump to conclusions. Is that cruel? I don't know. But this isn't a mystery. There's no reason to look for any clues.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/8/17

I haven't settled on a time period yet, but one of the characters seems to be into late '90s music. I could see it happening then, but I'd have to change a few things first.



I Don't Want To Wait
Paula Cole



Sunny Came Home
Shawn Colvin



Stupid
Sarah McLachlan

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/7/17

The beach scene is finished. It took a while. And with it, so is chapter 5. For now.

I know I'm going to go back to chapter 5 sooner or later. For one thing, it's four times longer than any of the other chapters. I'm a firm believer that a chapter should be however long it is. They shouldn't all be the same size. But when you have one that's four times longer than the others, it really stands out. If that's what the story needs, so be it. But it's not in this case.

Let's take Harmony On Spring Hill as an example. Mostly because I have the information in front of me. The shortest chapter is 3,736 words. The longest is 8,181. They're clearly not all the same. But that was never intentional.

Then there's Weekends In China. The average chapter is 5,500 words. The shortest is 4,100. The longest is 6,690. They're all relatively the same length. But that was not intentional either.

It's too soon to say how this one will work out in the end.


From Here to Eternity
Directed by Fred Zinnemann
© 1953 Columbia Pictures


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/6/17

Another day, another beach. Or the same beach. I really need to narrow it down. I'm still working on it.

Beaches are great places for atmosphere, but my problem, or at least one of my problems, is that I can focus too much on the atmosphere. In this scene, it really doesn't matter. The smell of the salt air, the sound of waves crashing against rocks or how the sand feels between their toes has nothing to do with anything. They're at the beach for a specific reason, so I need to concentrate on that.


La Jolla Avenue
West Hollywood


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/4/17 – Tel Aviv Edition

I wanted some of the characters to go to the beach, but which beach? Los Angeles has more than one. They live in the San Fernando Valley, which is close to none of them.

I'm familiar with Santa Monica, but I want an empty beach, almost deserted. Santa Monica and Venice are anything but deserted. Farther south you have Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach. That's a nice, long stretch of sand, but the exact opposite of isolated.

In the opposite direction is a long stretch of beaches just south of the Santa Monica Mountains. That's where the surfers and movie stars go, but Point Dume and Malibu Lagoon look pretty good. I'm currently leaning toward Point Dume.

Even if you've never been to California, you know what Point Dume looks like.


Planet of the Apes
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
© 1968 20th Century Fox


Malibu Lagoon

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/3/17 – Tel Aviv Edition

I'm doing a little writing in Tel Aviv, but not as much as I would at home. There are too many other things to do here. I can't say if this environment is affecting what or how I write. I doubt it. The story takes place in Los Angeles, which is nothing like Tel Aviv – other than the beaches.

I wrote a saucy little oral sex scene yesterday. It contrasts last week's rape scene nicely. One is a horrible act of violence and cowardice. The other is a consensual little slap and tickle. They work well together, I think. But there's a 50/50 chance I'll cut out the rape scene. I'll give the oral sex scene 3 to 1 odds.

And then I wrote my first lesbian sex scene. I don't know what's going on around here.

This isn't an erotic novel by any stretch of the imagination. It has to have sex. That's just the way it goes. But it doesn't have to have any graphic scenes.

The lesbian aspect is fascinating to me because I don't know the first thing about being a lesbian. It's like asking me what it's like to be a midget. I have no idea. I can make all kinds of assumptions. I suppose some things are just common sense. But I really don't know.

If I start writing a lesbian midget scene, I swear I'm taking a vacation.


The Children's Hour
Directed by William Wyler
© 1961 United Artists


Casablanca
Directed by Michael Curtiz
© 1942 Warner Brothers

Friday, June 2, 2017

Shavuot

I've experienced my first Shavuot in Israel, or anywhere else. I still don't know what it's about.

Shavuot is one of the big pilgrimage festivals, when people were supposed to go to the Temple. Since the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, and rebuilding it would start World War III, no one is expected to go anymore. But it's still a major holiday.

From what I can tell, Shavuot is about God giving Israel the torah on Mount Sinai. Part of my confusion is because everyone I spoke to had their own interpretation of the holiday. Every other holiday seems to have a long list of laws and rules that they're supposed to follow, while Shavuot is more traditional than scriptural. Most of the day, like a lot of holidays, is about eating and praying.

A unique tradition on Shavuot is to stay awake all night reading the torah. That makes sense, since the holiday is about the torah, but the reason for staying awake all night depends on whom you ask. Some say it's because the Israelis were up all night partying before Moses came down from Mount Sinai. Some say it's because sunrises were especially beautiful at the Temple. The Temple was long gone when I went there, but I know how great all that old Jerusalem stone looks at sunset. The Old City glows gold and orange when the sun goes down. Direct sunlight at sunrise is blocked by the Mount of Olives. At least it is in this century.

Whatever the reason, it's nice to see people out and about after midnight. Jerusalem usually shuts down pretty early. If you like to eat late, Tel Aviv is a better choice.