I like to think I’m too smart to be manipulated. I have a Master’s Degree. I’m an avid reader and writer. Critical and creative thinking is my business. Then I attend one of those Hollywood productions (of the better variety, like Life of Pi), and despite my knowledge of all those structural techniques I still find myself being moved, with the simple use of music and cinematography. What?! No. Not me.
When I watch movies, I tend to watch independents. Sometimes I’ll watch the Hollywood independents, if it looks like they’re only going to modestly apply structuralism. I like to think I’m savvy. I don’t want to feel like I’m a monkey watching for bananas, which Hollywood has turned into a science. If you don’t know how structuralism has put your brain on repeat for the last five decades, hit me up on the comments below and I’ll explain. This post is for Hollywood’s newest charity: Save the Rich!
Let’s say you’re in the office and you’re telling a story about someone. First you talk about what the person did. Maybe it’s something juicy, like a secret infidelity with a prison inmate, or maybe it’s something subtle, like they moved away from home. Then you go on to tell about something more recent, like, “Just the other day she was caught using her work phone to talk to this guy in prison.” This is the offbeat writing technique of the first person peripheral.
My father was am immigrant from Mexico. My mother a full blood Kiowa/Cherokee from Oklahoma. They worked the peanut and cotton fields when my sisters and I were young. I remember ducking the large rolling water sprayers in the fields; I remember the heat coming from the dirt onto my bare feet; and I remember living in abandoned farm houses in the Oklahoma fields. Let me tell you about cold nights. No, better yet, let me tell you about the warmth you can have from the thin layer of a blanket.
The fangs of a snake might seem to overpower the fangs of a spider, and on the surface it can appear as though the match is uneven. But we can’t forget the impulsiveness of the snake and the patience of the spider. And we must remember a black widow sits nicely on the tongue of a viper. Its patience is beyond the fast acting poison in its bite.
“There’s not much culture in this writing,” I’ve heard students say when critiquing student work or reading the novel of a Native author. Or they’ll say, “It looks like the main character is having an identity crisis,” and it can sound dismissive, but there’s something we have to understand about most Natives: We move deep into the center of culture and back to the periphery like an ocean in symbiosis with the moon.
One of my favorite lines in The Crow is when Eric (Brandon Lee) has T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly) duct taped to the drivers seat of his car, as its filled with explosives and aimed at a pier leading toward a harbor. T-Bird can’t believe Eric has come back to life as The Crow and as he struggles through whimpers he says, “Abashed the devil stood and felt how awful goodness is.”
Revision is a little punk b#?ch! There I am toiling away on the second draft, almost to the end of the novel and starting to think about characters in the novel (mentally preparing for the “sweeps” portion of my revision process), and then I come to realize my main character is an asshole.
We writers area equal parts ego and vulnerable. The cliché is to develop a “tough skin” over the years and be able to take criticism. But we all think we’re geniuses, and we are. Brilliant beasts who are magical at hiding our softest parts behind a shield of “I already know” and “You just don’t understand the work.”
“I gotta keep my Capricorn mind straight,” said the planet of Saturn to the writer writing this post. Okay, so that first sentence had a weird third person shift–almost like a third person shift to a different third person gear, but the first third person perspective was oddly different from the latter, which was equally bizarre but uniquely awkward. See what I mean? I do need to keep this Capricorn mind straight. Saturn was right.