The Words (movie) and Plagiarism

Ghostwriter

My husband and I watched a movie last night, The Words, on the recommendation of two people who I work with at my library.

WARNING: If you’ve never seen the movie, this blog containers spoilers.

The premise is that a writer has written a book he is told is very good but it isn’t garnering him representation or a contract.  He has to get a regular job to support himself.  On their honeymoon in Paris, his wife buys him an old bag which he later finds has a manuscript in it.  It’s a masterpiece.  He retypes it and passes it off as his own.  Then the old man shows up and tells him he knows what the young man did because it’s his story, but he doesn’t want anything.

This movie didn’t really work for me, for two reasons.

First, I’ve been in a writer’s group for a few years now.  All of us would love to make a living at our writing.  Hell, we’d love to be bestselling and rich!  But, we would continue to write whether we ever sell it or not, because that’s what we do.  We write.  We’re writers.  We want to write and share through our writing.  What is the point of selling a piece of writing if it isn’t yours?  You’re not a writer, if you do that, you’re a publisher or an agent.  We writers live to create.  Did he think that if he just published the book he’d suddenly begin writing to that caliber?  We all know that’s not going to happen.  Good writing takes time and work.  The point is not to sell, the point is to create.

Maybe it’s just me, but in his place I think a lot of writers would have rather had the adventure of trying to find the person who actually wrote it.

Second, he says that he’s not where he’s supposed to be in life.  That’s not possible.  Wherever you are is where you’re supposed to be.  Life is a journey.  You have to let go of what you thought your life would be in order to find the life that’s waiting for you.  Maybe that just sounds like a platitude but it’s what I’ve found to be true and I guess I expect other writers to have that perspective but probably many don’t.

Okay, then you’ve got the whole Dennis Quaid storyline area that just doesn’t work.  Supposedly he’s written the book that tells this whole story of the young man’s plagiarism and old man, and he’s reading part of it at an award ceremony.  A young woman shows up who seems to know what is going on.  Now, if he’d published a novel before to critical acclaim like the one described in this new book, wouldn’t people recognize it instead of just this one girl suspecting that the new book was really what was going on in his own life?  Plus, she comes in with this all knowing attitude.  How?  I don’t think so.

Some of the cinematography was beautiful.  There was one shot that I had to go back and look at again, about a third of the way into the movie, with the Fall trees, the street and the sky line fogged in the background.  I would love to have that as a picture on my wall.  The soundtrack was beautiful too.

In the end,  The idea was interesting but the plot was not well executed.  I enjoyed it for the acting and the cinematography.  3 stars from me.  I am guessing that someone wrote this as a screenplay to be a box office smash with Dennis Quaid and Jeremy Irons.  (I went and checked, it was written by the directors.  They could have used a good writer’s group to poke holes in it before they turned it into a movie.)

What do you think?  Did you see the movie?  What about plagiarism?  As a writer, what’s the point?

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Character Motivation

Heated Discussion

Heated Discussion

 

I’m told that people like the honesty in my writing but figuring out what is honest can be difficult, like trying to figure out what people mean with the words they choose and their motivations. Sometimes even they don’t know.

As humans, we are prone to ascribing motivations to people that may, or may not, be true. “Well, he said… but what he really meant was…”

Likewise, “Did he really mean what I thought he meant?”

As authors, we have the power to ascribe motivations to our characters, but we shouldn’t forget this ambiguity. Characters may not be sure of the motivation of other characters, they may ascribe motivation incorrectly and our characters may not even know their own minds.

We get to help them discover it.

And sometimes we have to step back, stop trying to figure it out, stop trying to be clever and just take things at face value.

At times like these, it can be nice to just sit down and write a story where events happen and we don’t have to ascribe meaning to them. We don’t have to try to figure them out.

People will usually try to ascribe their own meaning to the events anyway, as you may have experienced at one time or another.

Exploring and Reflecting Through Writing

OrteliusWorldMap

Last week I met with my writer’s group and they gave me some food for thought about my writing.

Because there were so few of us and we didn’t have much new to share, I read a few things I’d written in the past year and put on my Yahoo! Voices page.  One member told me that she thought, “people like your writing because you’re so honest.”  Another member mentioned that he felt I hold back in reading to the group.  He’s right, it’s much harder to read things for people face to face than what I post under the slight anonymity of a pen name.  Both comments drew me to think about the honesty in my writing.

Honest is something I certainly try to be in life.  In my writing it has to do with seeking the truth of the situation, whether it’s fiction or memoir.  I think that the more honest I am about events and my feelings, the more someone else can connect with it and use the experience.  I’ve always wanted to help people with my writing, if only to feel less alone.  I think the connection that writing and reading can bring, dispelling the illusion of our distance and loneliness, could be one of my most important contributions.  It’s all about the ripples.

I write for others, but even more so, I write for myself.  I explore ideas and situations, exorcise demons.  I particularly love end of the year writing – getting some last licks in before the year changes over.  There’s something reflective and magical about it.  It’s full of anticipation and potential energy.  We may reflect on the past year, think about where we want to go and chart a course.

I’ve definitely been thinking about the novel I want to finish.  I see it going through a lot of changes, giving it layers and depth.  I’m anticipating the day when I feel it’s ready to strike out on it’s own, to present it to people for the reading.

I’m excited about writing in the coming year.  Are you?

A personal memoir posted…

Well, I took the plunge and submitted a rather personal memoir on love, pregnancy and having faith to the Yahoo! Contributor Network.  It has been posted.  I hope it offers someone out there some consolation or encouragement.  I debated for a while on how much to say but I know, in the end, if I’m going to touch others, I need to be as honest as I can.  So, here it is… Faith, Hope and Love – http://voices.yahoo.com/faith-hope-love-10777773.html?cat=43

Painfully Honest

Well, I started off the month with the idea that I wanted to enter a short story in a contest, complete two essays to post and apply for a NYFA Artists’ Fellowship before the end of the year.  It’s the ninth of December.  I have given up on the short story.  Really, I set it aside.  I’ll come back to it at some point.  There was just no reasonable way for me to make the deadline.  Now I am focused on the NYFA application but thinking about the essays too.

I’ve shared one of the essays with my writer’s group and will continue editing that to submit.  The main thing on my mind is how much to put in and how much to leave out?  I had written it one way, then took out some information before sharing it with the group.  I struggle with this because there is some information that feels too personal to share, but it is integral to the story I am telling in the essay.  I think it would make it a stronger essay and reach more people that need it.

How honest do I need to be?  How much should I share?  How much is too much information?  Some essays that I have posted in the past have been painfully honest but I also know, from feedback, that they have touched and helped people who were truly in despair.  It’s one reason I use a pen name, to give myself a little greater level of comfort.  At this point, I am inclined to put the information back in, publish and be damned.  Will I cringe and take that bit back out before publishing?  Only time will tell.