Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I Believe

Flying to Boston last week, I watched a movie on the airplane. I liked it so much that I bought it and shared it with my family tonight. If the line, “I believe in music like some people believe in fairytales,” gives you chills, you’ll understand why I went right out and got it. If not, go rent or buy “August Rush” right now. Really. Now. Leave your computer and go. My blog will still be here when you come back, but you need to see this movie. It is firmly enshrined in my top ten movies of all time.

Having said that, this blog isn’t a movie review. And I won’t even give any spoilers if you haven’t seen it. (But really, see it!) What I want to talk about is stories. Finding them. Capturing them on paper. And sharing them with as many people as possible. In the movie, Evan hears music in everything—traffic, telephone wires blowing in the wind, chimes, basketballs bouncing. Sometimes I feel that way about stories.

People often ask authors where we come up with our ideas, and you just want to say, “Everywhere! I see stories on street corners. I hear poems in shopping malls. I find characters in airports and plotlines in overheard restaurant conversations.”

Evan wants to have his music heard by as many people as possible. I think most authors feel the same way. It’s like seeing a sunset that takes your breath away and somehow managing to catch it and put it in a bottle. You want to take it to the top of the highest hill in town and hold it over your head so everyone else can see it.

I loved how all the elements in the movie come together like the different parts of a symphony. Almost as if the movie itself is music. Have you ever felt that way about your story? It starts with a single character or maybe just a scene. That night as you start to fall asleep, the character begins talking to you. Then you realize she isn’t talking to “you” at all. She’s talking to another character. And they’re discussing a danger that could threaten their whole world. Maybe even our whole world.

While all the sane people are sound asleep, you are listening to make believe people talk in your head. Plots rise and fall, settings and time periods flow past your closed eyes. And before you know it, you’ve captured a sunset in a bottle and it’s time to get it down on paper.

Of course there are obstacles in the way of your success just like there are obstacles in the way of your characters’ success. Plot holes a mile wide will appear, but you’ll find a way around them or maybe you’ll just fly right on through and appear on the other side. Sometimes it will take a while for the words to find their way onto the paper. That’s okay. Because they’re all there in your head, and they won’t go away until you get them out.

My sunset may look much different from yours. Some people may think yours is more beautiful. But that’s totally okay. As long as there are people catching a glimpse of what I saw in my sunset, I’m good to go. I’ll hold it over my head and let whoever will come come.

I believe in fairytales like some people believe in music. Come dance with me.


At 4/01/2008 2:04 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Oh, and by the way, happy baseball season, Kerry. There may be six inches of snow from last nights storm, but as long as the boys of summer are playing, Spring is here.

At 4/01/2008 9:08 AM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

I love this, Jeff. Great analogy. It reall rang true--being in the revision process right now, it feels like I'm adding a layer to the music--maybe an oboe to this section or a french horn to that one that enhances the whole and makes it richer.

Now I gotta go see that movie.

At 4/01/2008 9:10 AM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

I agree totally about August Rush. We loved that movie and would watch it again any time. What a heart wrencher.

And yes, for me also, fairytales (and their siblings, parables and other fiction), make sense of our world. Three cheers for writers through the ages!

At 4/01/2008 9:39 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Love the blog, Jeff! I'll run out and buy the movie the minute the store opens, I swear.

Snow? You're kidding, right? Want me to send you a picture of my apple tree in bloom? It's so gorgeous drivers actually stop to stare. Yesterday a lady got out of the car to take a picture. Ah, spring.

And the DBacks won their first game. Life is so good in Arizona. Schedule your very first Farworld signing here, will you?

At 4/01/2008 10:15 AM, Blogger Marcia Mickelson said...

I just saw August Rush last week and loved the story. It really inspired me to want to write. And, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who lies awake at night making stuff up in my head. It makes me feel less strange to know others are doing it too.

At 4/01/2008 11:31 AM, Blogger Karlene said...

That was a beautiful post. It sort of reminded me of Mr. Holland's Opus, where the one girl is struggling with her instrument and he tells her to play the sunset. So lyrical and inspiring.

I haven't seen August Rush yet, but now I will.

At 4/01/2008 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I hate to be the bad guy here and rain on your posting parade, but really? August Rush? Top ten?

Me and all my movie-afficionado friends agree on two things about August Rush. The story of the musician who found the music inside of him has a magical, almost fairy tale or even fantastical appeal. That was a lot of fun. And it certinaly had the potential to be a great movie because of it. The sad part was that August's musical quest was the minor storyline.

The climax, sadly, was not the August Rush finding-the-music-inside-him story, but rather the runification with family, in particular his unwed parents. The relationship between August's mother and father (not with August since he wasn't born, but between the two parent characters) was failingly under-developed. Their inital meeting was short, poorly done, and filled with hard-to-follow, unengaging dialogue when compared to other brilliant girl-meet-boy dialogue of say, a Meet Joe Black opening scene.

The short shrift given to the development of the parent's initial relatsionship in this story (less than three minutes on-screen) really begs the question of how the director artistically choose the reunification of these parents as the dramatic high point of the movie without first making their break up more painful for the movie goer. It's way out of balance. If you're going to make reunification the climax, then you had better make breaking them up heartbreaking. Not simply a matter of socio-economic incompatability. After three minutes of a one night stand you care very little about this couple--to say nothing of the moral implications of promoting that sort of encounter in what really is a morally broken story (not the story of Autgust, but the story of his parents).

The minor story of August's inate sense of music was very cool. But there was a major disconnect between that story and the story that framed the entire movie---that of family runification.

I give the movie one really big thumb up for the August Rush Musical Adventure Story and one major thumb in the eye for failure to combine these two stories in a drammatic, balanced storyline that could have been a top ten selection, but failed miserably to bring the two together in any meanignful, stirring way.

Call me the rain maker. Sorry about the parade.

David G. Woolley

At 4/01/2008 3:00 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Spoiler Alert: Don not read if you haven’t seen the movie.

If the movie is actually about the parents finding each other—and their son—I would agree with you. But look at how much time was given to that storyline. I believe that is a secondary storyline at best, and probably the third story line. Based on the amount of time it was given, I think the primary storyline is music and the part it played/plays in each of the characters lives. I say this because the whole movie is directed as a great big symphony with each of the primary characters introduced as single notes. We meet the man and woman and then we are whisked away and taken to the boy and his music. In fact we learn about the music even before we meet the couple. That being the case, the reunion must be equally as brief. It is the moment before the final note disappears and the players walk off the stage. The symphony at the end of the movie is the completion of this storyline.

I believe the secondary storyline is the boy’s search for his family. That is the driving force behind his discovering his music. It is the language he speaks and he hopes his parents speak that language as well. We spend the most time with the music, and the second most time watching the boy. The connection at the end of the movie when all three see each other is all we need to know to complete that storyline.

Of course everyone has their own tastes. But for me, August Rush was the epitome of the movie making adage, “Enter the scene late and leave it early.” The viewer will fill in the rest on their own.

Saying this movie was about parents finding each other and their son is like saying the Book of Mormon is about a war between two groups of people.

No worries though, I actually like rainy parades. It's much easier to get a good seat. :)

At 4/01/2008 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right. The directors.writers spent very little time with the relationship of the parents. And that's where the balance problem arises. If you artistically choose the climax to be August's final symphony, the finding of his music and the end of his musical quest then the balance and proportion given to each story line was appropriate, proportional and pretty much perfect. And as a side note the story would have rocked (no musical pun intended) and may have made a lot more personal top ten lists than it did by box office inferences.

The directors/writers didn't go that route. They choose, instead, to make family reunification the climax without giving it nearly the attention it deserved. We go nearly 90 minutes building this entertaining, adventureous, find-the-music-inside-you story and then the climax is family reunifcation? It was unbalanced. It was disproportional. And the success (or failure) of the climax depended more on previously held sympathies toward family ties rather than any subtly prepared for climax.

You can beat the come late leave early drum all you want, but the problems of this movie had little to do with entering the story in the middle of the scene and getting out while its still hot. The movie lacked serious balance. The proporation was all whacked up. The actual time and artistic effort given to developing the story line that led to what was supposed to be the drammatic end point were missing from the movie. I think a lot of movie goers (at least a lot of the ones I talked to) were left a little empty. They thought they were on a musical quest and instead, the got the department of family services with a terrific musical score.

David G. Woolley

At 7/04/2008 1:36 AM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Just saw the movie, Jeff (months later . . .) and while it's not in my top 10, I tend to agree with you instead of David. :)


Post a Comment

<< Home