MY JUNE GOALS FOR LIFE FULFILLMENT
1. Draw something every day
2. Learn about art
3. Read blogs and learn how to promote my own
On Saturday night I went to see the new apocalypse-bromance movie, This Is the End. The plot is pretty simple: Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel (playing themselves) head over to James Franco’s mansion for a celebrity-filled party. Then the Biblical end of days comes, complete with fires, earthquakes, and people getting sucked up to heaven. The actors (none of whom were beamed into heaven) have to figure out how to survive.
Ever since the 1999 TV show Freaks and Geeks, I’ve had a place in my heart for Seth Rogen and James Franco. I also feel special affection for Jay Baruchel because I was an extra on an episode of Undeclared (a 2001 TV series in which Baruchel starred), and at one point between takes, he smiled at me, said hello, and asked how I was doing. (Actors don’t normally do this; they usually treat extras like pieces of furniture.) So, as silly as Rogen and all his man-child friends can be, I like them.
I went into the theater less with thoughts of “this is going to be the best movie ever” and more with the feeling that I would be spending time with old friends. And that’s pretty accurate. If you don’t know who Seth Rogen and James Franco are, you probably shouldn’t see this movie. Likewise if you’ve never heard of Jonah Hill or Michael Cera. Because most of what’s fun and funny about the movie is not the crazy apocalyptic antics (although there are many of those, too, and I found myself saying “this is insane” out loud more than once) but the fact that all of this crazy shit is happening to people you “know.”
Though slow at times and silly at others, I thought the movie was entertaining and clever. By having the actors play themselves, it made everything seem more realistic. Normally, when watching a movie, you can take a step back and say, well, these are just actors. This didn’t really happen. In This Is the End, the actors are themselves, or, at least, a version of themselves. You find yourself thinking wow, this is actually Los Angeles being consumed in fire. This is actually Rhianna falling into a fiery pit. And this element of reality made the movie crazier, funnier, and, ultimately, more engaging than other apocalypse films.
“Well, you know, Seth Rogen and James Franco were on Freak and Geeks together,” I told my boyfriend in the car on the drive home, “and then Seth and Jay were in Undeclared together, so it’s like James and Jay are Seth’s two oldest friends, but they’re not friends with each other, so it’s awkward.”
“Oh really?” he asked.
“Well, I don’t really know, but I sort of got that from the movie.”
This is the End made me feel like I was getting to peek into the window of famous people’s private lives, and I liked it. Other movies delve much deeper into friendships and feelings, but because I know that Seth and Jay are real people, who really are friends in real life, it made their on-screen relationship so much more interesting.
I’ve just started reading the new novel by Jeannette Walls, The Silver Star (look for a review on Burlesque Press, coming soon!) Walls is the author of a memoir, The Glass Castle, about her experiences growing up dirt poor with bipolar parents, as well as Half-Broke Horses, a book she calls a “true-life novel” about her grandmother growing up on a ranch in Arizona. The Silver Star is her first “regular” novel, and although I was excited to read it, I was also a little nervous that it wouldn’t be as good as her first two.
The thing I loved about Walls’s first two books, besides all the crazy, wild things her family members did, was the jaunty, humorous, and matter-of-fact style in which they were written. “So, I’ve had a crazy life, people. Let me tell you what happened,” her narration seems to say. I worried that when she stopped writing about real people and real events, and started making up a story, her voice would change.
I’ve noticed that there is often a different quality between my fiction writing and the writing I do on my blog. My blog style is more casual, more humorous. I’m not trying so hard to describe things beautifully or sound “literary.” I only want to share my opinions and experiences in an entertaining way.
And now that I say that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people seem to respond favorably to my blog. Isn’t that what I want all my writing to be? Sharing opinions and experiences in an entertaining way?
“You’re so open on your blog,” my mother said to me the other day. “You tell all these intimate details about your private life, but that’s why people like it. They can relate to it.”
Let’s be honest for a second. A large number of people who read my blog are people who already know me. Is that what makes it interesting — that they are reading about someone they know? Or is it entertaining because my blog allows readers to peek through a (rather large) window into my private life? Is it the reality that makes my blog engaging? And if that’s true, what about writing fiction? Is it worth my while?
I’m about one-third of the way through The Silver Star, and I’m happy to report that I’m enjoying it as much as Walls’s other books. One could argue that I like it because I can pick out some autobiographical bits among the fiction. The characters move from California to western Virginia, and I know that as a child Walls lived in California and then West Virginia. In The Silver Star, the mother is a selfish aspiring singer, and I know that Wall’s real-life mother was a selfish aspiring artist.
But really, I’m not enjoying the book because of the bits of reality. I’m enjoying it because of the voice. Walls uses the same casual, confident, sometime humorous narration for her fictional tale that she did for her true ones. “My sister saved my life when I was just a baby,” is how The Silver Star opens. “Here’s what happened.” Even though it’s not real, she makes it sound as if it were.
There have been times when I’ve considered giving up on fiction writing. When my blog gets positive feedback, I sometimes wonder if maybe I should stick with nonfiction. But on second thought, I don’t think so. There’s a place for both fiction and nonfiction.
Take This Is the End, for example. It wasn’t funny just because the actors played themselves. It was funny because they played fictionalized versions of themselves in a fictional situation. In the same way, Jeannette Walls didn’t choose to write a straight biography of her grandmother’s life. She wrote a novelized version. She wanted to be able to embellish, make things up, create a story.
The truth is, I’m not always that interesting, and I’m not sure I have enough crazy true stories (yet) to make a memoir. So nonfiction is fine for my blog, but I need fiction to write a novel. The question is, how can I get readers to truly care about my made-up characters? I think the trick might be this: write like it really happened.
Eva Langston is an aspiring writer. Read more about her here.