A Tale of Two Gothams

Another reason it’s good to read the classics: you can get inspiration for the last movie in a mega-successful series, like The Dark Knight Rises. Apparently A Tale of Two Cities was a big inspiration for the script in terms of structure and emotion. Christopher Nolan says:

“What Dickens does in that book in terms of having all his characters come together in one unified story with all these thematic elements and all this great emotionalism and drama, it was exactly the tone we were looking for.”

So even though Madame Defarge might not make an appearance, it’s cool to see Hollywood take inspiration from Dickens.

Making This Fun: Nora Ephron

Writer and director Nora Ephron passed away yesterday, which is quite a loss for the film and literary industry. Her When Harry Met Sally is one of the best romantic comedies ever. Much like YA, romantic comedies don’t get a lot of credit, but a well written one can truly touch on what so many of us experience on a daily basis.

One part of her obituary in the New York Times struck me in particular. About working with Ephron, Meryl Streep said:

“Nora just looked at every situation and cocked her head and thought, ‘Hmmmm, how can I make this more fun?'”

I wish more people looked at their job and coworkers and had that same thought. Although writing is often seen as a solitary activity, I think there’s a huge element of community to it. I’m going to try to instill this philosophy into my writing life.

(image: IMDB)

Best Friends Forever

Harry likes best friends with personality and lives of their own.

Mindy Kaling is one of those people I’d like to be friends with. Not just because she’s famous, but because she’s awesome and I think we’d have a great time together. (Online shopping adventures! Fun games of “judge the TV moms!”) Yet another thing that makes me love Mindy is this article about women who only exist in movies. Basically, it’s every pet peeve about female characters in film: the gorgeous actress whose single flaw is that she’s klutzy; the career woman who’s too busy for love; the woman who works in an art gallery.

One item that caught my eye in particular:

The Sassy Best Friend

You know that really hilarious and horny best friend who is always asking about your relationship and has nothing really going on in her own life? She always wants to meet you in coffee shops or wants to go to Bloomingdale’s to sample perfumes? She runs a chic dildo store in the West Village? Nope? O.K., that’s this person.

The sassy best friend is certainly not limited to the world of romantic comedies. This can be a problem in most fiction, YA novels included. I read one YA novel a few months ago that was great, but I felt like the main character’s best friend was never allowed outside that role. She seemed to exist entirely to be a best friend. While it’s certainly okay to have minor characters, it’s good to remember that these characters are also complete people outside of your main character’s journey. Maybe we don’t get to see most of their outside world, but there should be the suggestion that the friend has something else going on.

Of course, if Mindy Kaling wants to meet for coffee or go to Bloomingdale’s to sample perfumes, I’m up for it.

(H/T AC Gaughen)(image: Harry Potter Wiki)

The Rules of Storytelling According to Pixar

Yesterday I caught the beginning of Finding Nemo. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times now and I always tear up at the beginning. “No, this time will be different,” I tell myself. “I know what’s coming.” But damnit, every time Marlin holds that little fish egg my lip starts quivering. Sometimes I think Pixar is out to make adults weep as much as possible.

Even if their goal isn’t to steal the tears of every living adult and child, Pixar does know how to tell a good story. So even if you’re not a screenwriter, you should probably check out this list of storytelling rules by Pixar artist Emma Coats. A few that I really liked:

“#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.”

To me, these are all about pushing yourself as a writer. In early drafts, I tend to give my characters easy outs or not insert enough tension to really fuel the story. You want to make things hard for your characters because a) life is hard and b) drama is compelling. And if you can think of an easy way out for your characters, the audience has probably already thought of that as well, which isn’t compelling for them.

Make sure to check out the whole list. It’s a fantastic resource for writers of all levels.

(Also, who’s excited for Brave?!)

(via 109)(image: Pixar Wiki)

Links Galore

A few more links to get you through the day:

Voice Across the Country

Voice is essential to writers, so I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s interested in regional dialects. An accent can say so much about someone’s background and environment, and you can use accents to reinforce or break down stereotypes. From now until July 15, you can watch American Tongues, a documentary about dialects in the US, on the PBS website. (Note: some strong/offensive language is included.)

The film first premiered in 1988, and I’d be really curious to see how dialects have changed since then due to a greater prevalence of television and the internet.

If you want to get super nerdy about it (who doesn’t?!), you can check out this interactive map of regional dialects in the US.

Much Ado About Joss Whedon

Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired its first episode when I was in 7th grade. I was shy and insecure and didn’t quite know how to grow up. Buffy, with its quips and demonic high school drama, helped me maneuver into young adulthood. As a result, Joss Whedon has a very special place in my heart. Then I find out he did a version of Much Ado About Nothing and I want to scream “Stop making me love you, Joss!” From the press release:

“Filmed in just 12 days entirely on location in exotic Santa Monica, the film features a stellar cast of beloved (or soon to be beloved) actors — some of them veterans of Shakespearean theater, some completely new to the form. But all dedicated to the idea that this story bears retelling, that this dialogue is as fresh and intoxicating as any being written, and that the joy of working on a passion project surrounded by dear friends, admired colleagues and an atmosphere of unabashed rapture far outweighs their hilariously miniature paychecks.”

Whedon meets the Bard? So awesome! And he cast includes Whedon-verse veterans like Alexis Denisof and Nathan Fillion. It looks like the film is set to release this year, but not a lot of details about where/when exactly. But with Whedon’s recent Avengers success, I’m hoping this might get a wider release and appeal to teen viewers. Shakespeare is way cool, guys.

If you want even more on Whedon, check out this interview.

(The picture: me getting to meet Joss Whedon a few years ago. I think I said “Thanks so much for making awesome stuff and doing this presentation,” and managed to stay fairly calm. But inside it was like “YOU GOT ME THROUGH MIDDLE SCHOOL, I LOVE YOU.”)


More Matter, Plus Art

First there was a podcast of David Tennant in Twelfth Night; now his Hamlet is available to watch online? What an awesome week for Shakespeare (and fans of the Tenth Doctor)!

You can also check out this video on the making of this version of Hamlet. English teachers, take note.

Side note: the scene with Hamlet holding Yorick’s skull is probably one of the best-known images in theater, so it’s easy to forget what’s going on in the scene. I took a Shakespeare class in grad school, and our professor reminded us that Hamlet is holding the skull of probably the only person who ever really cared about him. The skull isn’t just a prop–it’s what’s left of the head of someone he loved. That scene suddenly became so sad for me! Shakespeare knew what he was doing, guys.

(image: The Guardian)