Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cringe-Worthy Writing

Life on an island, yes indeed. One storm after another this week, I believe we are on storm five of five. The last one brought gusts of seventy-five miles an hour, we look out hourly to make sure the boats are still on their moorings.

I pulled a long list of posts down because -- ta-da! -- they were part of my own manuscript, which is now with an editor. Now it looks like I haven't written a thing since last May. (sigh)


Several years ago a teacher friend sent me a stack student stories for review, the top contenders for entry in a high school student writing contest. Two stories were excellent, stories in a young person's "voice": an interesting perspective on a divorce (not the writer's parents, who had already divorced and remarried); a comedy about going on vacation with an extended family. Others were pretty good, needed editing, were too long or strayed into cliche, pretty common stuff for writers.

One of those stories recently came back around: in the first iteration, the author was clearly a young person trying to write like they were much older, perhaps a rite of passage for all writers. Every writer I've met will admit that when they were sixteen or twenty-three that they tried to write a decades-sweeping epic of love against a backdrop of war, or three generations of women held together by a protagonist with a will of iron... I have one of those manuscripts buried in a drawer and pull it out every so often and cringe. I knew nothing at all about being alive, but I sure thought I did.

This young author hadn't lived long enough to write realistically about a battle-hardened soldier in a combat zone who contemplates his life, tries to commit suicide and is brought back to reality by his best friend. The writing was pretty good, but full of gratuitous gunfire, cliches, stilted dialogue.

Recently I reviewed a video of a workshop for a film in progress that seemed quite familiar. I took a look at the filmmaker's name -- it was the same young person, now in college. The story had become screenplay and the workshop presentation featured actors too young and inexperienced to pull off the script. I suggested he find experienced actors to run his lines.

And lo! He did, I got video of the most recent workshop with a mix of actors, old and young. The protagonist had changed from a man to a woman. She was contemplating suicide was because of -- it was suggested but not stated outright -- sexual harassment and rape.

Holy Guacamole, now there was a script! I sent back comments and said get the film into production. I also asked if he had a female collaborator. He said yes, a woman in his film class had made a suggestion and he asked her to re-write parts of the script. He was starting a Kickstarter campaign...

... but I haven't heard anything else, hoping to see more...

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