Reg Gets Even

I’ve seen this movie before. Dozens of times. It’s your typical rock ‘n’ roll biopic we saw in such movies as “Ray”, “The Doors”, “A Star is Born”, and “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Hollywood has the template down so well, this is how an Elvis biopic might go:
Scene 1. Elvis is driving a truck in Tupelo.
Scene 2. Elvis is recording in Sun Records Studio.
Scene 3. Elvis signs with Col. Tom Parker.
Scene 4. Elvis sings and dances in the movie, “Jailhouse Rock”.
Scene 5. Elvis gets drafted.
Scene 6. Elvis meets his future bride, fourteen-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, while stationed in Germany.
Scene 7. Elvis gets out of the Army.
Scene 8. Elvis makes movies.
Scene 9. Elvis is unhappy at Graceland.
Scene 10. Elvis makes a comeback.
Along the way, there’ll be a scene with Elvis’ addiction to pills. There’ll also be a scene where Elvis talks about his spirituality. Throughout the movie, there will be song after song by Elvis. So many songs the viewer won’t be able to distinguish one from the other. Why so many? The director doesn’t want to miss your favorite.

This is basic biopic 101, and “Rocketman” follows this template. “Rocketman” is the story of how Reg Dwight became Elton John. In scene after scene, we see how his father mistreated him; how Mom didn’t take him seriously; how his employer, Dick James, wasn’t encouraging; how his manager, John Reid, abused him. Even Bernie Taupin, his songwriting partner and friend, ends up being unkind to poor Dwight. When the two go to California and Elton John triumphs at the Troubadour, Bernie takes off with a beautiful woman at the after-the-show party, abandoning Dwight to be alone with himself. Only his Granny treated him with any kind of respect.

“Rocketman” is Reg Dwight’s revenge. After all, this is his project. He was an executive producer on the film.

Along the way through these adventures, Elton John breaks out in song as a kind of song-and-dance man you’d expect from George M. Cohan. In quite a few scenes, so many songs are thrown at the viewer. So many pies that the director is hoping one will stick. Better to have selected five or six songs and used them to give meaning to the story. Then they would be memorable. Instead we are given a jukebox.

In the early seventies, seven of Elton John’s first nine studio albums were unbelievably brilliant. I won’t tell you which didn’t measure up. He could do any musical style from rock ‘n’ roll to blues to country to pop. The songs made you want to listen to them over and over again. Of all the musical artists I’ve listened to over the years, he was one of the few that blew me away from the get-go. When he started performing in a chicken suit, it made me sad.

If you’re in the hankering for some Elton John, put on his music. VH1 did a documentary of “Yellow Brick Road” as a part of his Classic Albums series. Great stuff. As for “Rocketman”, it saddens me the way that the chicken suit saddened me. Elton John is one of the great musicians of the twentieth century and he deserves .better than “Rocketman”. So I guess you might say I give this one two thumbs down. When all is said and done, it’s a mess. A real mess.

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Near 500 words: The What-if Principle

What if you are stuck starting a story? Or what if the dreaded writer’s block has attacked you in mid-sentence? You are siting in front of your computer and there’s that monster of a blank screen. As the Ghostbusters used to sing, “Who you gonna call?”

Well, I have a simple solution to those dilemmas. It’s worked for me hundreds of times. it’s called the What-if Principle.

When you can’t think of what to put on paper, write the words “What if.” Then think add a phrase to that. Like “What if the boat sank” or “What if Mr. Darcy told Elizabeth Bennet that he was gay” or “What if your character got hit by a bus” or “What if I wrote a funeral from the corpse’s point of view.”

Once you have written down that What-if phrase, then ask Why. And keep doing that for as long as it takes for you to start writing a scene. Here’s an example of the process:

1.What if my character, Joe, doesn’t get out of bed on Monday morning.
Why? His girlfriend DeeDee dumped him the night before.

2.What if DeeDee hears Joe didn’t show up for work and she calls him.
Why? She’s having second thoughts about dumping Joe.

3.What if Joe doesn’t answer the phone.
Why? He finally drags himself out of bed and takes a shower.

4.What if Joe’s sister, Marsha, shows up at Joe’s house.
Why? She is worried about Joe because he was dumped.

5.What if DeeDee drives to Joe’s house and leaves angry.
Why? DeeDee doesn’t know Joe has a sister. She see’s Marsha’s car and thinks he has a new girlfriend.

By the fifth or sixth What-if, there’s at least enough to provide momentum for the next few scenes.

Try it and see if it works for you. I know it does for me.

Nanowrimo time and suggestions for success

Ever want to write a novel? Next month is an excellent chance to give it a try. November is Novel Writing Month, better known to one and all as nanowrimo. The great thing about nanowrimo is that you won’t be alone. Thousands will be doing it. And for the experienced, there something extra. Nanowrimo gives you have permission to write in a genre you don’t normally write, So why not join in? Here’s the link where you can sign up.

And now that you have signed up, I have some suggestions to make your experience a successful one. You see, I’ve participated six times. Twice I managed to end up with a story from each of two of the novels: Baseball and “The Funeral“. And one of them still needs editing before it can be published. So here are my suggestions:

1.Preparing in October. Let your loved ones know you won’t be available during your novel-writing time. Find a convenient spot where you can write during November. Figure what tools you will need: pens, pencils, computer, software, dictionary, thesaurus, etc. Then have them available November 1. Come up with an idea of what you want to write. Who the characters might be. What situations they are in. You don’t have to plot out your story but have enough to hit the ground running on November 1.

2.Remember the novel you are writing is a first draft. All first drafts are crap. Don’t spend any time trying to pretty up this one until December.

3.Don’t use software you are unfamiliar with. You’ll either end up learning software-ology during your writing time. Or you’ll give up frustrated. Not because your novel isn’t going well but because the software is out to get you.

4.Don’t wait till your writing time to figure out what you’re going to write about for the day. Spend a few minutes the night before, deciding that, or when you finish your day’s writing. Then you can hit the ground running instead of loosing some of your writing time planning.

5.Your writing time is for writing, not research. Mark where you need to research, then move on. You can either do the research later that day or after the novel is completed.

6.Treat yourself along the way. When you have reached your first week’s word goal, do something nice for yourself. You’ve done good and you deserve a pat on the back.

So let’s raise a glass to all those who go on the journey. It’s going to be one heck of an adventure.

 

Near 500 words: Living Room Stories: Combat

Writers are asked again and again, “Where do you get your ideas?” Many of mine begin from observations I have in my living room. This story was inspired by a wasp behind the curtains in my living room.

Tray had just sat down when he saw the wasp. He swallowed, leaving his mouth dry.

The wasp bounced behind a sheer, white curtain, unable to escape through the opening between the curtain and its partner. Then it dropped out of sight behind the red couch.

Tray’s eyes studied the spot where the wasp had made its retreat, a lone guerilla lost in the jungle that was Tray’s living room. If Tray had been a warrior, he would’ve jumped up out of his chair, picked up a broom and whacked that beastie out of the ball park. Tray was not a warrior. He was allergic to wasp stings.

The wasp rose from behind the couch in front of the curtains. It had managed to find its way through the curtain parting.

Tray sat, frozen to his chair. His eyes followed the wasp’s movement.

The insect lit on the top of the back of the couch, and it glared at Tray. It was ready for hand-to-hand combat.

Try held his breath and hoped. What he was hoping for, there was no telling. Maybe the wasp would fly into something so hard, it would fall and die.

An itch came upon Tray ever so slightly. And the itch wasn’t just any place. It was on his bottom. Over the next little while, it grew until it became intense. It was the kind of itch that makes each minute seem like an eternity.

The wasp rose into the air and flew back and forth across the room from couch to door to wall to door..

From the  left to the right, from the right to the left, Tray’s eyes followed the wasp, making its maneuvers.

A shot of adrenaline rushed through Tray’s body. Out of desperation, he willed his body to move. Ignoring his fear, ignoring his itch, he stood up and rushed to the front door.

The wasp was on his tail.

Tray grabbed the door knob and turned and jerked. The door gave. It opened.

Tray fell to the floor. He felt the wasp fly just above his body. His eyes watched as the wasp escaped its prison and fly to the freedom outside. A second wasp passed the insect through the door and over to the red couch.

The Fairy Tale Blues

Rapunzel has her hair,
Cinderella has her shoes,
Goldilocks has her bears,
And I’ve got the Fairy Tale Blues.

My name is Prince Charming,
But you can call me Prince.
My teeth are pearly white,,
And I know how to dance.

I can do the Quickstep,
My Cha Cha is so fine,
I’m Mister Twist and Tango,
I can Minuet on a dime.

I kissed Sleeping Beauty.
She said, “I’m taking a nap.”
Snow White ate an apple.
It was me who took the rap.

They say I stole the beans
Jack got for his silly cow.
I took it on the chin
When Jack hit me, and how.

I crashed Kind Cole’s party.
Dumpty’s gone to pieces.
The Kingdom’s overrun.
I’m blamed for all the meeses.

All this means but one thing.
Of this I am assured.
Time to get out of Dodge.
I’ve given them my word.

I’m off on vacation.
Permanently so.
I shall never return.
Where I go I do not know.

Maybe greener pastures
Will be waiting down the line.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Kansas will be just fine.