Friday, March 06, 2009

Update on Novel: Emotion and Culture

I'm finally cutting loose in my novel. I really had to allow myself to be brave and transparent and emotional in Wind Follower. Sometimes I'd write a scene and get very ashamed because it was such an intimate scene. But that seems to be my talent in writing: writing a story that is very intimate. (I just have to watch my pacing.)

It's hard to do this because deep-felt emotional pain isn't what some folks want in their fantasy. I keep telling myself, "You're going to get slammed for this." So I don't enter fully into the story. Or at least I haven't been.

But now I feel it. I'm breaking through, breaking away from stiff-upper-lipped ness and baring all the emotions. In this case I want to really show the unraveling of my main character, and to show him veering off. Not into madness but into a kind of self-willedness. He's right, of course. And that's what I like: a character who is totally right by standards of divine law and yet who simply doesn't know how to handle the battle he's fighting against the bad guys. I like these characters because -- honestly, I'm being very vain and honest here-- I've been in situations where I KNOW I am right...but where my anger at the stupid folks who can't see the light just produces absolutely nutty behavior on my party. I am way nasty when I'm right, and waaay nastier when the person I'm dealing with is cruel or smug. And this is the kind of situation where my main character in Constant Tower finds himself. He loses his way. And yet, I don't think readers will dislike him. He is so plainly right in his cause against genocide...and so utterly immature in how he deals with the situation.

Weirdly, I was watching a channel last night that I usually don't watch -- hubby was at a life modeling class and I was waiting for him to return, plus I was way too pooped to get up and turn the channel. And of COURSE, two interviews on two shows totally spoke to my situation. In one the British screenwriter of Slumdog Millionaire (which I hope to see now that I have some money coming) says (paraphrased) "When I got the book Q&A on which the movie would be based, it was a collection of stories. I couldn't figure out how to make it a novel because a novel is like a train on a track roaring along. So I went to India to understand India...and realized that India is over the top. The colors are over the top, the movies are over the top. And here was I a stiff-upper-lip repressed Britisher trying to write this novel. I realized the story had to be over the top. So I just let loose."

Ah! How I grinned with joy, then! Because, as you all know, that's been my trouble with my writing. I want to be over the top. But sometimes I'm pretty repressed.

So then after this they interview the producer of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. He's east Indian. A very nice guy. And in the course of the interview, he's asked, "Why do Bollywood movies do so badly in Hollywood and vice versa?" He said, "Indian movies have dancing, etc." Basically, he said they were over-the-top. And American movies have a different ethic, feel, emotional standard, norm, more, craft. You know what I mean (what he means) all those creative cultural words. Then he said (again, am paraphrasing.) "A movie like Slumdog Millionaire would never make it in India, but that he was trying to do movies that fit into hollywood, fit into india, and also fit into a new multiculti world cinema kind of thing."

That made me smile. The new multiculti ethic of film-making is something we artists are aiming for. The western repressed standard must give way. Soon, at least in some quarters...emotion will reign.


Anonymous said...

I love this post! One question: Am I really going to be seeing the Legend of Chun Li soon? I love Street Fighter.


Carole McDonnell said...

I think it's coming out soon. Did you manage to see "Let the Right One in"? or "Frozen River"? All those flicks I couldn't see cause it was so cold outside and I was seriously cashless. I'm dancing, btw! In a month, hopefully all our debt -- which we've had for so many years-- will be wiped out. YAY!!!! What to do with all that stress-free life? -C

Anonymous said...

Oh boy! Cograts on being debt free! I will be joining the club in the next..oh, few thousand years, lol.

Carole McDonnell said...

Erica! Woman! We have to commit to speaking positive now. Even if you can say God may surprise me and get rid of the debt faster than I know it. Or, the Lord will provide. This debt will be gone soon. Train yourself early to know how to speak and affirm God's help all the time. I'm working on that, like a smoker who's become a non-smoker, I'm gonna be a pill about it. I'll nag everyone about the effect of their affirmations. ;-)

Anonymous said...

This really resonates, for a few reasons. I'm feeling the call to get back in the studio, but the only kind of work that would be compelling enough to get me there would have to involve autism in some way. Talk about opening a giant can of worms! So different than what I used to do, and much more vulnerable and raw. I don't have any artistic experience navigating that sort of anger and hurt and hope. I forsee lots of potential pitfalls, but what can I do but try?

The other thing is, I'm half Mennonite and half Indian - my dad was a Brahmin-caste Punjabi. So I COMPLETELY IDENTIFY with being pulled in two directions culturally. Ha!

Carole McDonnell said...

Hi Rene:

I say, "open the can of worms!" Or else, wouldn't your art and your life feel incomplete? Or at the very best, wouldn't it feel unhealing and somehow lacking?

As for the two directions, I say it's possible to bring them together in a totally organic way. We live in a multiethnic world now in the west and homogeneity has to give way in certain things. Even if we're pulled in one direction in one aspect and another direction in another, we should try to show that. Because there are people out there who it will speak to.

The more personal one becomes the more complicated a work of art becomes. It's like: oh my gosh, what I really want to make is art that speaks to Punjabi, Mennonite, mothers of kids with autism. Yay! That'll resonate!!! ;-) But who knows? There'll be some folks who will say it's too specialized and contained in a private little world. . . but there'll be some who will love it.

When I wrote Wind Follower, I was thinking, "okay, it has to be a high fantasy novel about my love for Christ but my hatred for western Christianity and western imperialism. IT also must show how much I believe that paganism and folklore are quite close to the gospel but it mustn't praise them. And let me toss in my pro-life stance and my need to do interracial marriages into the mix as well. Honestly, the shame involved in writing that novel was overwhelming. But I ploughed through. Many people have loved it. A couple have HATED it. And others couldn't get through it. But the critics praised it.

Artists are put on the world to help open the windows of folks' souls and emotions. And truly, if I saw a painting of a ethnic-looking racially-mixed autistic kid, I'd buy it. Because one doesn't see that around much.

good luck and God bless with the studios work.

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