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“The superior virtue is not to be free but to fight for freedom.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis
I know writers who would argue, “That’s just a man talking.”
Seriously, you’d spend $12 to watch a movie called The Valley of the Happy Free People?
No one has made such a movie and for good reason. Audiences don’t pay to vicariously experience being free, but rather to suffer the personal crises that open us to freedom.
Which explains why screenwriters write movies like Zorba the Greek, Casablanca, Thelma & Louise, and Good Will Hunting.
And American Beauty, Moonstruck, A Late Quartet, A River Runs Through It, Up in the Air, Out of Africa, The Artist, A Room with a View, and A Passage to India.
And Rocky, Sideways, Nebraska, The Matrix, Disgrace, Ordinary People, Of Gods and Men, On the Waterfront, The African Queen, Silver Lining Playbook, American Graffiti, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and Labor Day.
If you’re like me you don’t just watch movies, you examine them for how the writer does it. Does what? Frees the protagonist.
It happens in all the best fiction.
Every protagonist is on a trajectory toward freedom.
Let’s look at Labor Day.
Josh Brolin plays Frank, an escaped convict. Ask him about freedom. His bid for freedom will intercept the lives of a mother and son living in small town USA.
Kate Winslet is Adele, who has lost all faith in herself in the aftermath of a divorce. She’s a prisoner of the belief that she’s an utter failure. She can hardly get out of bed. Don’t ask her anything.
Henry is Adele’s adolescent son. Since Henry is not the protagonist, he is not required to behave as though he were fighting to be free. However…
Henry has to bring his poor depressed mother breakfast in bed, for goodness sake. Ask Henry if he’d like to be free of the responsibility that weighs so heavily upon him?
Labor Day is unique for depicting a trio of characters who each find freedom early in Act I.
Most stories depend upon a merciless plot to beat the hard-headed protagonist into an awareness of how to solve their problems, but in Labor Day the miracle takes ten minutes.
Five minutes into the film, Frank shows up to kick-start the story. Injured from his leap out a prison hospital window, Frank politely but firmly inserts himself into the lives of Adele and Henry. The violence and trauma you’d expect to characterize an abduction are quite unnecessary in this case.
Adele blows convention out another window by acquiescing almost immediately to this stranger’s demands. She wants nothing more than to escape her sorry life. Perhaps to end it.
(To die and be reborn—there’s a freedom trajectory!)
Frank, Adele, and Henry foresee their salvation in this strange and sudden togetherness. But wait! They haven’t arrived in Freedom Valley yet. Not only would that be utterly boring, but it ignores Kazantzakis’ aphorism:
The superior virtue is not to be free but to fight for freedom.
Kazantzakis will be happy to know that the police are closing in on Frank. The story becomes a fight to escape the forces that would annul these newfound freedoms.
Suffice to say that Adele, Henry, and Frank must remain freedom fighters into the foreseeable future. And I think that’s an accurate portrayal of the human condition.
However many jail breaks we execute, the walls of our human condition keep us under house arrest. The fight for freedom is an ongoing battle.
Which explains why The Valley of the Happy Free People strikes us as a bogus premise.
Freedom isn’t a place, it’s an attitude. Good fictional protagonists earn this perspective only after the plot has beaten the apathy right out of them. Now we realize that there are two ways to live, just as there are two ways to die.
“Free or not free—this is our choice in every moment.”
Today is the last day of the project Inktober. I have finished it with a drawing every day for 31 days! Thank you to everyone that has visited my blog to view my little sketches. November is the start of Picture Book Idea Month which is a project I have participated in every year since 2009. I will post along the way to let you know my progress. Sometimes I draw as well for the ideas I get.
Julie and I have poured everything we know about writing query letters and the process of submitting picture books into this course. We are proud to say it is a one-stop-shopping source for EVERYTHING a picture book author needs to know about submitting picture books successfully to agents and publishers.
In fact, we guarantee that every possible question about the picture book submissions process is answered in this course. How can we make that promise? Because if anyone purchases the course and finds, after going through all the material, that a question they have is NOT answered, we’ll both answer the question AND add it to the official FAQs.
And for this weekend only, we are offering an early-bird special of $50 off the retail price of the course, bringing it down from $197 to $147. (That’s actually $3 less than my professional Query Critique service… and in true “teach-a-man-to-fish” fashion, empowers picture book authors to polish their own queries with confidence forever more.) In addition, those who purchase the course before the early-bird deadline expires will receive a BONUS gift – our comprehensive list of publishers that accept un-agented picture book submissions.
This is NOT a mere ebook, but a complete soup-to-nuts resource for crafting flawless submissions to land an agent or a book contract. Those interested can take a short video tour of everything that’s in the course HERE.
(But remember – the early-bird offer expires at midnight on Monday, November 3.)
I mean it when I say, “Check it out.” The next film you see or novel or read, examine it for the escape story it most probably is.
And if you’re writing a story, see if your protagonist isn’t escaping from some kind of prison. Of the different kind of escapes possible, one of them is the key to writing fiction that gives readers their money’s worth.
I’d love to hear your thoughts once you’ve read the post. You can comment here below, or on the Write to Done site.
Here is my catch up post! A 3 in 1 We are getting down to the wire now, only a few days left of Inktober. I will miss it, but I will have PiBoIdMo to keep me occupied. What is it? It is Picture Book Idea Month. Every day, for 30 days, participants come up with an idea for a picture book story. It is a wonderful, creative project that I have participated in every year since 2009. More details at Tara Lazar’s blog!
As a writer you spend months writing the first draft of your manuscript.You type the last word and part one of the process has been completed. That is a huge accomplishment in itself, but it’s not over yet.
Now you have something to work with: something to edit and polish. Will it change? Will the story hold up to scrutiny and to the feedback of editors, readers and critiques? Time will tell.
This is the best part of writing. The polishing and detailing of the work. The excitement grows. The anticipation of an agent. The rejections of some agents who like to live in their own comfort zone and play the odds to put money in their pockets OR the acceptance of your manuscript by an agent who sees a new writer emerging from the throngs of formatted prose and safe subject matter.
Writing is not for the faint-hearted. It is all about persistence. It is all about great characters and a fast-moving story. But primarily it is all about the prose.
We as writers need feedback. We hunger for it. We need it to grow. If we didn’t write anything then there would be nothing for the critics to extol their criticisms as non-writers. They are the ones who buy books. Let’s not forget that.
Micron brush pen black, graphite pencil, and Micron Pigma 05 pen black
Buzz, buzz, buzz…
Micron brush pen black, graphite pencil, and Micron Pigma 05 pen black
Still playing catch up! Sorry for the delay in posting these. Only two more to go and I will be finally caught up. I am hoping to finish inking 27 tonight and posting in the morning. Happy Monday and thanks for visiting!
Many of my fans, especially the younger ones, are interested in my process of doing my art. Today I would like to show you how I created the #inktober Scarecrow painting that is for sale in my shop at Big Cartel.
First, I took the original sketch and using my light table, I traced it onto #150 lb watercolor paper. I taped it as securely as possible as I didn’t want either paper to slip! I traced this very lightly as I didn’t want the pencil to show through too much on the completed painting. I only did the the main frame, as this is just a guide for the paint. When it was traced to my liking, I placed the traced sheet on a board. I secured it to the board using painters tape all around the edges. Using a brush and water I really soaked the paper. This makes it so it stays nice and tight for the painting later.
I let this dry about a half hour to an hour. Once it was dry, I was ready to paint. Hooray! That’s my favorite part. I tried to use very little water, as I wanted nice bold colors for my scarecrow. Also, too much water could cause a disaster of it running. Note: If I had too much water, I would take a tissue and gently soak up some of it. Luckily, this didn’t happen this time.
Once my scarecrow was painted to my liking, it was time to let it sit and dry. I waited about 2 hours just to make sure. I took the sheet off of the board and placed it back on the light table over top of the sketch again. I lined it up perfectly and made sure to tape it securely again so the papers wouldn’t slip.
Hi everyone! I have looked a long time for a place that I could sell my original art. I finally found a venue that I liked. Big Cartel lets the artist sell on their site and all money from the sale goes to the artist. This is much better than my other shops where I only receive a small portion of the sale. Please visit and check back as I will be adding more originals. The first two up are “Cats of Many Colors” and a watercolor I did from the Inktober Day 21 sketch, “Scarecrow”. To visit my shop at Big Cartel, please click here.
Thank you for your interest in my art, I greatly appreciate it!
I’ve fallen behind on posting for Inktober! I have been drawing and inking, just not posting Sorry about that! Life happens and I have been way busy. Here are #21, 22, and 23.
#21 is a tribute to the albino white tailed deer that was shot by a 12 yo in Michigan. I was very sad to hear about it so I drew a sketch in its honor.
#22 is a tribute to one of my favorite artists, John Lennon. It was just a doodle I started and then thought it was cool enough to ink and put on the blog. I really enjoyed creating it. I hope to do more like this in the near future.
#23 is a tribute to Jimi Hendrix. I would like to watercolor this one. Again, this one was really enjoyable to research and create, so I think I will do more rock artists in the future. I love music (my minor is Popular Music) , so it is great to combine two of my loves.
All drawings were sketched with a Papermate sharpwriter 02 pencil, a Micron brush pen in black, and a Micron Pigma 05 black pen.
Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned tomorrow for the next three to catch me all up!
Title: Ten Thankful Turkeys | Author: Angela Muse | Illustrator: Ewa Podleś | Publication Date: October 4, 2014 | Publisher: 4EYESBOOKS | Pages: 32 | Recommended Ages: 2 to 8 Summary: This colorful autumn tale follows ten turkeys as they get ready for an important celebration. This story teaches about gratitude. There are also fun turkey facts in the back of the book.
Kindle version available for only 99 cents from Amazon on October 24 & 25, 2014. Grab your copy now!!
Angela Muse was born in California to a military family. This meant that she got used to being the “new kid” in school every couple of years. It was hard trying to make new friends, but Angela discovered she had a knack for writing. In high school Angela began writing poetry and song lyrics. Expressing herself through writing seemed very natural. After becoming a Mom in 2003, Angela continued her storytelling to her own children. In 2009 she wrote and published her first rhyming children’s book aimed at toddlers. Since then she has released several more children’s picture books and released books in her first young adult romance series, The Alpha Girls, in 2013/2014. Her husband, Ben Muse writes suspense/thriller books that can also be found on Amazon.
Prize: One winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest closes: November 23, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the Angela Muse and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway
The most interesting thing about southern Spain is the architecture. It tells the story of the Visigoths. The Romans. The Moors and the Catholics. It’s all here in every city expressed in tiles, scrolls, gold, statues and buildings. The most incredible mosques; some with Catholic cathedrals inside them. Others as stand alone expressions to their Catholic faith in Sevilla. Roman remains in gardens and a beautiful bastion in Granada- The Alhambra. Water, peace, protection and vestiges of power and wealth.
For an opening line I think it works. What do you think?
See what coming? Exactly!
The reader is going keep reading to find out, and isn’t that the overarching purpose of the first sentence—to compel the reader to read the second sentence. Etc.
I was going to write a blog piece on “openings.” By examining the first paragraphs of my upcoming book, The Writer in Love, I would assess the effectiveness of my beginning, see if it…
Established a Central Question
Made a promise
Set a trajectory
But that opening line got hold of me and wouldn’t let go. It wanted this blog post all to itself.
I sure didn’t see that coming.
Then it hit me—that line echoed far beyond Page One. So innocently tossed onto the page many months ago, it infected the entire manuscript, becoming a major motif throughout the book.
The cheetah is the first and most obvious thing I didn’t see coming. It approached me from behind and grabbed my hand in its mouth and wouldn’t let to. True story. I didn’t see it coming was the perfect way to establish an essential fact of fiction:
Protagonists never see it coming.
Drama depends on it.
Protagonists don’t see what coming? That which will destroy them. For their own good! It’s amazing how many times we can hear the poets and the mystics say something like this…
“Our body is a ship that sails on deep blue waters. What is our goal? To be shipwrecked!”
And still we complain, “I didn’t see it coming.”
Neither do writers see it coming.
We get in over our heads, trust me. We get excited about creating the kinds of payoffs that give readers their money’s worth. We find ourselves writing about characters whose only way out of Act II is to surrender to the storm, and by that I mean forsake who they’ve always thought they were.
I didn’t see that I was laying a trap for myself by trying to write in depth about such sacred story mechanics. I was in way over my head. I was drowning, myself. I almost quit. I didn’t see that coming, either.
I wrote a scene in which I drown. (That was fun.) I didn’t see that coming, either.
I never expected to take almost two years to write The Writer in Love.
To be honest, I never anticipated becoming a writer. I was going to be a mapmaker.
I never thought I’d have children until I tended my grandfather on his deathbed.
Nor did I imagine my children having children!
I didn’t foresee my website vanishing a few weeks ago. I thought I’d lost everything. I was resigned to starting over, but most of it is resurrected, and with a new design. Look, I’m blogging again!
The cool thing about blogging is you can start with a line like, I didn’t see it coming, and see where it goes. Because we don’t write to explain, we write to find out.
We might equally say that we live to find out.
I’ve found out a lot while writing The Writer in Love. And it all started with this opening scene:
I didn’t hear it coming.
It hadn’t finished devouring the bait when my Bolex ran out of film, so I retreated but slowly, walking away through the elephant grass when it surprised me from behind by clamping down on my hand hard enough to hold me but not break the skin. The growl in its guts, I could feel the vibration in my arm if you can imagine that. And then in my own belly. It’s a funny thing when your life stops suddenly dead in its tracks, it’s not funny at all because there you are for the first time without a future. As for the past, well, it’s your fault—myfault!—I had been carrying the bloody bait in that hand. Of course, the cat could smell it. I could see that now.
For those new to my posts, here is a link to the project I am doing called Inktober. Basically it is to create a drawing with ink every day for the month of October. This little character has shown up in many of my drawings, especially the ones that include my little adventurous mouse.
I seem to be locked out of my hotmail account, which I’ve used in the past for corresponding through the site. If you’re having trouble getting in touch, or you haven’t received a reply, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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