Sunday, January 29, 2012

Good writing advice

Writing should be a process of surprising oneself. If I had a plan, down to the last detail, of what my story will be, what would be the point of writing it? I mean, what is in it for me if I know precisely what is going to happen and what my characters are going to think and say and do? It would simply be a matter of typing.

-- Richard Gwyn, in his "Ricardo Blanco" blog

That's how I know I'm writing well: when something happens in my book that I don't expect, as I'm writing it. As in my first novel Make Nice, in which a major character came busting through a door without warning in the 4th chapter, someone whom I had not planned on or dreamed of, and who insisted on insinuating herself deeply not only in the life of the protagonist but in the themes of the book itself.

Speaking of Make Nice, which is set in 1960 and is about the Rat Pack, the local PBS station showed Ocean's 11 last night. As I was watching it I thought of a series of annotations you could make. Like the conversation between Sinatra, Martin and Davis where they joke about going into politics -- a reflection of Sinatra's strong interest in the candidacy of JFK and his poorly hidden hope that JFK would appoint him to an ambassadorship or government post. Or the running joke about the mother of Peter Lawford's character, which is also an inside joke about Peter Lawford's own domineering mother. And so on -- there is inside joke after inside joke, and probably nobody knows them all anymore.

Apropos, here's a cool page on the interiors seen in the film, including the Vegas casino-resorts which have now all been torn down and replaced by more modern ones, along with an explanation that:

Ocean's 11 preserves some important aspects of the place, like the multiple showrooms in each of the hotels. (Frank) Sinatra, Jr. was most impassioned [on the DVD commentary] when discussing how the casinos used to operate, "when they were owned by individuals, not corporations." He explained that these intimate music lounges existed to "feed live music into the casino," and give gamblers a place to eat and revive themselves for some more gambling. ...

The new corporate owners that took over in the late 1960s figured -- according to Sinatra, Jr. -- "that people should only have to walk as far as the elevator to spend their money," which is when the concept of separate buildings was jettisoned in favor of a a gargantuan hotel that could allow you to never set foot outside of it. ... Sinatra, Jr. was also very detailed about the death of quality entertainment in Vegas, explaining that the number of private lounges were reduced by new corporate owners who felt they were wasting their money with duplications of musicians throughout a casino. The disappearance of the small music lounges that were free-of-charge to gamblers did not seem to affect the flow of people coming through the doors, so the rest of the lounges were torn out, replaced by grand concert halls with high-dollar tickets that could lure in even the non-gamblers.

No comments: