Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Author Conundrum - Titles

I do like that word: conundrum. I also like circumbendibus and egregious and a whole lot of other words my editor thinks I shouldn't use because readers are put off by them. It's sad, really, that Americans have such resentment toward their own language that they'd like to pare it down to dumbass email shorthand devoid of both precision and nuance. EFFDAT! Slap me for being a fossil, but, I repeat, EFFDAT.

The richness of our language is one of the few riches in which we can all partake...for free. (Maybe if we were charged per syllable for word usage, we'd appreciate language more. Maybe cost would give language the same kind of cachet sports cars and designer clothing/accessories/perfume have. But what a crock of unadulterated shit that would be, ain'a?)

Anyway, back to my first author conundrum. Titles, believe it or not, can cause us great angst. We know our books will never stand the test of time--hell, will barely last a handful of years, if that, in people's minds--but we still agonize over titles.

Here's what I mean. Say you're a writer (maybe you are) and a great title comes into your mind before the actual book is written. So, do you write the story around it or just write the story and change the title if you must? Another scenario: What if you love a title because it's tres appropriate, not to mention clever, but, because of its length, it will only appear in a small font on the book's cover...and will squeeze your name into smallness, too? Or what do you do if you think readers won't "get it"? Do you opt for short, generic and cutsie?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Two great movies in one week!

I'm not always here to hype books. Honest. Right now I'm between books. I have a whole batch of edits coming up, and I have a work in progress. So I've needed a break. One of the ways I take a break is by reading. Another is by watching movies.

I'm what my mother would have called a "fuss-budget" when it comes to movies. I'm very particular. To get lost in a movie, I need good acting based on a good script interpreted through good direction. I love drama, comedy, horror, long as it comforms to my criteria. Most of the films on my favorites list date back some years. Even decades. Many people haven't heard of them. It isn't often I come across one I find truly captivating, in every sense, and want to see again and again.

This past week, I came upon two. Now mind you, my S.O. and I are too cheap to go to theaters. We wait for stuff to show up on PPV. I'm willing to shell out $3.99 to watch something that's caught my interest via trailers and reviews. Usually, I end up more or less liking it. Sometimes, I end up feeling disappointed. Rarely, I end up frothing with enthusiasm. This week I "frothed" over my PPV choice as well as a made-for-tv movie.

The! Not a brilliant film--not a Midnight Cowboy or Taxi Driver--but utterly enchanting. I won't go into the atmospheric score, setting, cinematography; I won't effuse over Edward Norton's acting. I adored them all. But I was particularly caught up by the deft shading of expert trickery with genuine, incomprehensible magic and the resulting guessing game that was never resolved. I think I watched the movie three times in a row (thank goodness for those All Day Tickets!) Made me wonder when and how and why the natural--in this case, manifested as adroit illusion--crosses over into the supernatural.

Then, tonight, we happened upon Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride on the Oxygen network. Kudos to them for taking on this story! No beautiful people, no standard romance, no predictable plot with well defined moral parameters. The movie (and the novel, I suspect, although I haven't yet read it) had no hero and no heroine. How utterly refreshing! Again, appearance constantly warred with reality. This examination of "normal" human nature subjected to a bizarre "extreme" of human nature, and the resulting alchemical transformations, was absorbing.

If you can, try to see these two cinematic delights. I'm still kind of reeling (no pun) from both of them.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Why I could never be a reviewer...

At one of the several blogs and loops I regularly visit, there's been a discussion of a certain self-published author and the Amazon reviewer who recently savaged one of her books. Since I have a hopelessly inquiring mind (which translates, I guess, into being nosy), I of course checked out both the review and an excerpt from said book, in addition to comments posted at Amazon from other readers.

My conclusion: I could never be a reviewer of self-published or small-press commercial fiction. So many writers in these venues have such desperately high hopes yet such dismally poor skills. If I had to critique a truly junky book by a starry-eyed wannabe with virtually no realistic conception of her talent level, I'd be stymied. I'm by nature very analytical and very outspoken. I'm also a real stickler for both proper and imaginative use of the language as well as a certain degree of historical accuracy, character development, plot consistency, etc.

BUT...I can't stand the thought of hurting someone, especially over something that means so very much to that someone. Writing fiction requires an enormous intellectual and emotional investment. When an author falls short, I do indeed cringe...sometimes while I'm laughing. But I do it in private. Why a reviewer who approaches every book in a locked-and-loaded mode would even bother with some wren of a writer is beyond me. For God's sake, leave the little guys and their dreams (or delusions) alone; instead, go after successful, big-name authors who've turned to churning out crap and are ripping off readers in a MUCH bigger way. Those are the scribblers we need to be warned about.

Then again, some writers--not many, but some--embrace negative attention because they feel it stimulates sales. This does happen. A dogshit book that generates, for whatever reason, a lot of buzz can provoke readers into forking out money just to see what the stink is all about. A boost to one's income can be a great reliever of angst.

So, after reading the latest back-and-forth over poor E.'s ineptly written medieval romance, I know I'll ever want to undermine any aspirant's self-confidence or self-esteem...whether it pads her wallet or not.