Monday, December 3, 2012

Knowing Is Half The Battle

I live on the West Coast. More specifically, the Oregon Coast. My town was a popular film location in the 1980s, and one of those films was a kid's movie called "The Goonies." Now, I didn't grow up on the coast, but this movie had an impact on me. I watched it constantly when I was a kid, and when it came time to look at colleges, Oregon was one of the states I looked at, and I only did it because of that movie. (I ended up moving here by sheer happenstance, but that's a story for another time.)

Awhile back, I put the movie on to see all the things and locations I was now intimately familiar with, seeing as I now live in "The Goondocks." Rewatching the movie as an adult, I was horrified that my parents let me watch it over and over. It's full of crude jokes and language they wouldn't have wanted me using and all sorts of things I'd never want a child exposed to at the age at which I watched it.

But the thing is, I never noticed them.

It wasn't until I watched the movie again as an adult that I heard all the inappropriate language and so on. It was like watching an entirely different film. Not only do they make a 30-mile drive into a quick bike ride, I finally got the little in-jokes and pop-culture references they made. It was really like watching something I'd never seen before, even though I knew the story.

I know we've all had experiences like that. You read a book and see something you've never seen before, even though you've read the book a hundred times. You finally get a phrase that you never understood before, even though you've read that line over and over. Perception is limited, and the things you notice or don't vary from person to person. 

It's amazing what stays in your brain, and from what source. Example: here in the United States we had a cartoon called "Duck Tales." It was all about Scrooge McDuck and Donald Duck's nephews and their various adventures. I learned what a "status symbol" was from Scrooge McDuck. They had a whole episode about it, and that's the only one I remember. GI Joe always had some kind of moral to their episodes, and at the end of it before the credits they'd always have a little public service announcement-type clip about it.

He-Man, She-Ra, Thundercats…all those cartoons had some kind of message in them. Most of them were forgettable, but some, like Scrooge McDuck and the status symbols, stayed.

The same is true for everything you write. Your book will be someone's favorite book. Go ahead, roll your eyes, but it's true. Someone will read your work over and over and over again. I can't remember at the moment who said it or where I might have read it (I think it was a writer's workshop, but I'm not sure), but someone once said something to the effect of, "what you believe will end up in your writing, so find out what that is."

Words have a great deal more power than writers think about sometimes. Truth be told, we can't think about how much power they have or we'd never write anything. You can't let fear of how your work will be read and interpreted stop you from writing whatever story you have to tell. Like the movie I watched as a kid, some things will get through, others won't. Some things you intend to have an impact won't, while completely random things you never intended to have meaning will have a vast one.

So write your story and don't get caught up in what it might mean to and for other people. They're going to take meaning from it or not without any help from you, and that meaning might not be the one you intended. So what? Don't be offended if people don't "get" your work. You're not responsible for what they get out of your story.

You're just responsible for actually writing it. So get on that.

I second what Skye said in her blog post about NaNoWriMo, though. If you've just finished NaNoWriMo, DO NOT SUBMIT THAT WORK TO AN AGENT IMMEDIATELY. Agents far and wide are ducking for cover at the moment, because they know an influx of half-finished, poorly-written, unedited crap is incoming. Don't add to that. Put that novel in a drawer and sit on it for at least three months, if not more. Then drag it out, polish it up and see if it shines.

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. (Say it with me! "GEEEE-EYE JOEEEEEE!")

1 comment:

  1. I just took my son to see a movie and thought he didn't like it because most of the jokes and stuff were for adults. I thought of it as an adult movie parading as a kid's movie.

    But when his dad got home he told him how much he liked it. It was about video games and he saw characters he knew, etc. The older jokes didn't even register to him.

    After that and reading this I want to go back and rewatch all those movies from when I was a kid and see what I missed.



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