Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fiction, She Wrote

by Christine Wells

Do you enjoy reading or watching television shows and movies about writers? Recently, I realized just how often novelists are portrayed in fictional works--which probably isn't surprising, given that writers often are told to 'write what you know'.

On the other hand, how likely is it that a writer, traditionally an observer, not a participant in life, should be interesting enough to feature as a protagonist in a story?

After all, very few writers really do hare off on adventures in between books or spend more of our time solving murders than sitting at our computers. (OK, don't shoot me but I find the premise of Castle so improbable that I can't watch it, not even for Nathan Fillion!)

However, along with a willing suspension of disbelief, here are a few of my favourites:

Joan Wilder, played by the amazing Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile. Which of us doesn't want to actually live out the romance novels we write? I'd like to be able to cast those movies myself:) Hmm, wonder if Richard Armitage has a full schedule at the moment? *G*

Elizabeth Peters' Jacqueline Kirby, who attends an historical romance writers convention and solves a murder. Yes, we all know what a lethal atmosphere those romance writers' conventions are! Plenty of potential for murder, there.

Most of the time, I identify more with Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining, or maybe another Stephen King writer protagonist, Paul Sheldon in Misery. The act of writing can be pure torture!

While many of these portrayals range from the wildly improbable to the ridiculous, there are many writers who led and lead fascinating lives, and their existences are worthy of books and movies in themselves.

Oscar Wilde, George Sand, Shakespeare, Keats and Virginia Wolf have all been written about and featured in movies. So perhaps my skepticism about Joan Wilder's adventures isn't so very warranted after all.

What about you? Do you have a favourite fictional author?

What about true stories about real authors? Is there author whose life story has captured your imagination?


Fedora said...

How interesting, Christine! I can't say that I've often read about writers as characters! It has happened occasionally--I think the new "updates" to Jane Austen and so on are very compelling reads :)

On the other hand, I do really like learning about real-life authors :) That's what blogs and such are for ;)

Susan Sey said...

Good morning, Christine! I have to vote for Joan Wilder/Kathleen Turner. I'll never forget her typing the end & weeping to her cat about how wonderful it was. And the Central American bandits who loved her work? Isn't that the dream right there? :-)

Donna MacMeans said...

I like Jack Nicholson's portrayal of a romance author in "As Good as It Gets," or my favorite (which of course I can't remember the title at the moment) about a writer whose books actually impact the life an accountant. That book appeals to me on two levels (grin).

Or the book about the writer that dies and the editor decides to finish their book -- how hard could it be LOL.

Fun post! I wonder if there the temptation to make a main character an author on the misconception that they have the freedom - due to the lack of a boss - to reluctantly participate in adventure. How come these writers never have deadlines?

Claudia Dain said...

Christine...I'm sorry...what did you say? Did you actually admit that you DON'T WATCH CASTLE?!?

I'm sorry, but I don't think we can be friends anymore.

I loved Diane Keaton's portrayal of a playwright in Something's Got To Give. The scenes of her banging away at her computer, to stop every now and then to sob riotously...hysterical!

Trish Milburn said...

However improbable, I have to say I'm a big Castle fan. I just love Nathan Fillion.

Stranger Than Fiction was an interesting movie too.

Margay Leah Justice said...

I don't know if I have a favorite fictional author (though I did love the movie Romancing the Stone - it just cracked me up), but I am fascinated by the lives of real life authors like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott, especially since I grew up just a town over from where she lived.

Margay Leah Justice said...

Oh, and the Brontes also fascinate me.

Anonymous said...

It's ironic that you posted this. Lately I find myself searching movies to watch which features writers as the protagonist and/or movies about writers lives. Very interesting.

jo robertson said...

Interesting post, Christine. I do enjoy hearing about the personal and writing lives of authors.

For example, I've always been intrigued by Sylvia Plath, who took her own life at age 30. I always wonder what she more would've given to the literary world had she lived a long life.

jo robertson said...

LOL on the ban on CASTLE, Christine. I watched a show yesterday, a U.S. Marshals thingy, and there were so many logic errors in the first five minutes that I clicked it off!

I don't mind if it's all in good fun, but this was meant to be serious and taken seriously. Sheesh!

gamistress66 said...

I an old fan of the tv show "Murder She Wrote". That Jessica Fletcher was a pretty good amature detective, of course as many murders occured when she was around, I'd be nerveous meeting her ;) Same goes for Castle, though at least he has the excuse of working with the cops. :) (He's cute enough that the danger would be worth it.) :)

jo robertson said...

I meant to add, too, that I think most of us writers lead pretty pedestrian lives. Maybe that's what frees our minds up to write more exciting scenarioes in books.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Fedora, well done on the chook!

Christine, what an interesting post. And I hate to say it, but I'm with you on Castle. I know people LOVE that show but I just can't suspend my disbelief enough to settle down and enjoy it.

LOVE Romancing the Stone!

catslady said...

I love Romancing the Stone. And of course Castle with Nathan Fillion and guest writers once in a while. It's my favorite show (sorry Anna lol).

Kirsten said...

Hi Christine! Count me in as a fan of Joan Wilder. I don't like Michael Douglas, but I thought he was the PERFECT romance hero in that movie. Just awesome.

I find most amusing when I read erotic romance, and the woman is a 30+ housewife with a few extra pounds who (coincidentally) writes and/or reads erotic romance and catches the eye of some fantastically hot younger man. Talk about writing your own fantasy! :-)

Helen said...

Well done Fedora have fun with him


May I say that I have never watched Castle either I don't really watch TV much at all

I too loved Romancing the Stone and I have loved the movies that everyone has mentioned already Dianne Keating in Somethings Got to Give was such a great movie and as Claudia has already noted when she is banging on the keyboard and crying I really loved that scene.

Have Fun

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Christine! What a fun post. I liked Romancing the Stone best, as well, of all the "I'm a writer" stories. :>

Fedora, I see you and Susan agree with me.

Hey Fedora, congrats on the Chook! (We're still trying to figure out if it was actually him that sent Paolo the ticking package the other day)


Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Donna said: I wonder if there the temptation to make a main character an author on the misconception that they have the freedom - due to the lack of a boss - to reluctantly participate in adventure. How come these writers never have deadlines?

I think this is a big part of it Donna, along with the "they make pots of money and can do what they like" myth.


BTW, Christine, I'm with you on Castle. I love FIllion and the plots are cute, but its really, really hard to suspend disbelief on that one.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Jo said: For example, I've always been intrigued by Sylvia Plath, who took her own life at age 30. I always wonder what she more would've given to the literary world had she lived a long life.

Okay, cue the Twilight Zone music. I was just thinking this the other day, Jo. I ran across a (very) dusty copy of The Bell Jar whilst organizing. (A momentary sickness) And I wondered the same thing.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Kirsten said: I don't like Michael Douglas, but I thought he was the PERFECT romance hero in that movie.

Snork. I don't like him either, but he's brill in this. And as Gordon Gekko. Othewise, I'll leave him, thank you. Ha!

Had to REALLY LOL about the erotic and writing your own fantasy bit. So true.

Tawny said...

Ooooh, I loved Johnny Depp as Mort Rainey in The Secret Window :-)

Of course, he turned out to be a little crazy and had a few murdering tendencies, but who among us doesn't???

GREAT question, Christine :-)

and Fedora, congrats on the rooster. Is he dolled up for the holidays?

Christine Wells said...

Hi Fedora, congrats on the rooster!

I enjoy the Austen 'updates', too, although the most recent one I saw, Miss Austen Regrets, painted her as a very difficult woman, which I didn't really like. Even if she was difficult, I don't want to know, you know? I'd rather just enjoy her fiction.

Actually, I'm fascinated by real life authors, too. Although it's not their everyday lives I find as interesting as their writing process and creativity.

Christine Wells said...

Susan, you're so right! I dream of Central American bandits rescuing me from the bad guys because they're fans of my work:) I really love that movie! Funny to think that when I first saw it I had no idea I'd end up writing romance!

Christine Wells said...

Donna, I'd totally forgotten JN was a romance author in AS GOOD AS IT GETS. Thanks for the reminder. That was a corker. Would love to know about the accountant one!

I forgot to mention PAPERBACK HERO, which was sweet and of course had Hugh Jackman in it, so what's not to love?

LOL on the editor finishing the book. I hope she suffered the torment of the damned!!

Christine Wells said...

Haha, Claudia, I knew someone would be horrified about the Castle thing. I don't know. I just can't get over the improbability of a murder mystery writer actually consulting on murder cases. Even the 'will they, won't they?" tension doesn't overcome it. Maybe it's the lawyer in me:)

But if it means losing your friendship, I will watch religiously from now on!

Oh, it sounds like I have to see Something's Got to Give. Sounds hilarious!

Christine Wells said...

I know, Trish. What am I thinking? Claudia has persuaded me to give Castle another try.

I haven't seen Stranger Than Fiction. Must check it out!

Christine Wells said...

Margay, how lovely to live near where Louisa May Alcott grew up. Do you recognize aspects of that area in her books?

Christine Wells said...

Hi Ang! I sat down to watch Romancing the Stone after listening to a workshop where the presenter broke down the movie structurally and looked at Joan Wilder's character growth. It was fascinating and a lot of fun to see the movie again after all these years.

Christine Wells said...

Jo, I had a thing about Sylvia Plath when I was in high school. I think she must have had big highs and lows, don't you--so often that's the way with creative people.

Yes, and with CASTLE I really do know I'm supposed to suspend disbelief, it's just that I keep rolling my eyes all the time:) Honestly, it's the script. I think it's pretty corny--not my style of humour at all.

Christine Wells said...

Gamistress, did Jessica Fletcher ever actually write? LOL

But you're right, it was such a small town, too! Murder Central:)

Christine Wells said...

Jo, you're right--as a writer you really need to step back from life for a good amount of time.

Although not the case with the jetsetting, cruising Ms. Foanna. SHe's been living the high life lately!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Anna, great to see you back! Yes, I think perhaps it might be a cultural thing with Castle. I find the humor just misses the mark for me. But I love Romancing the Stone, too!

Hope you're all recovered from the trip!

Christine Wells said...

Catslady, I know, I know. Anna and I are just a bit strange!LOL

Christine Wells said...

I'm totally with you on Michael Douglas, Kirsten. I should say that I don't find Michael Douglas attractive, but I have seen him in quite a few things and I like him as an actor. He really gave those movies his all, didn't he?

LOL on the erotic fantasy!! Living the dream...:)

Margay Leah Justice said...

Oh, yes! But the funny thing is, in the most recent incarnation of Little Women (with Winona Ryder), it drives my mother absolutely crazy when the girls head into town - because they are going in the wrong direction! You can't even mention the movie without her remembering that!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Helen, thanks for dropping in! Is there any romance reader who *doesn't* love Romancing the Stone? I think we all want to live in those novels for just a while, don't we?

Christine Wells said...

Oh, that ticking package, Jeanne! Poor Paolo, he resents all the attention that dang rooster gets.

Oh, Jeanne, how interesting you don't like Castle either? I thought it might have been a cultural thing. But then you have so much in-depth knowledge of crime fighting, I should have guessed it might not float your boat.

Christine Wells said...

Tawny, I've never heard of The Secret Window but I'm there if it's Johnny Depp! Thanks for the recommendation.

LOL, murderous tendencies? Moi?

Christine Wells said...

Haha, Margay, you've hit on something most authors dread--the readers who actually live where they set their books!LOL

I must say Winona Ryder is an actor I usually avoid so I haven't seen that version.

Janga said...

There was a biopic about Plath called Sylvia with Gwynyth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath and Daniel Craig as Ted Hughes.

It's surprising that there are so many movies about writers. Anna blogged about Miss Potter a while back, a movie I adored that's about a writer. Shakespeare in Love, another favorite, is about a writer too. :)

Some are brilliant movies but far from the HEA fare I crave--The Hours, My Brilliant Career, Deconstructing Harry . . .
And I thought Michael Douglas, like him or not, was really good as Grady Tripp in Wonder Boys, based in the Michael Chabon book.

Christine Wells said...

Janga, how could I forget Miss Potter? Although you're right--so few real life authors get their HEA! I quite like the thought of Georgette Heyer having a happy marriage and family and I can't wait to read the biography that's coming out (hopefully) soon. I do feel that Heyer was sadly dismissive of her talent, but that probably kept her home life more down-to-earth, at least!

Actually, the more I think about Michael Douglas, the more I think what a good actor he is, because I think I've found him compelling in everything I've seen him in, even though I don't find him at all attractive as a hero-type.

Christine Wells said...

Oh, and how could I forget one of my favourite books about a fictional novelist--Georgette Heyer's Sylvester! Love Phoebe and her Count Ugolino!

Sheree said...

Michael Douglas ("son of Spartacus") is only so so to me. He was really cute in "Streets of San Francisco" with Karl Malden but that's about it. How he managed to marry Catherine Zeta-Jones is beyond me.

Has anyone read Sylvia Plath's children's book? Yes, she wrote one.

The author whose personal life I'd like to read more about is Dorothy Sayer's, write of Lord Peter Wimsey stories and one of the first women to receive a degree from Oxford.

Christine Wells said...

Sheree, I seem to remember something about Sylvia Plath's children's book. I must look that up. You don't remember the name of it, do you?

Catherine Z-T has to be one of the most beautiful women on the planet but I'm sure Michael Douglas has a lot of other things going for him.

Agree that Dorothy Sayers' life would make fascinating reading. Imagine what it would have been like to storm the bastion of Oxford as a woman in those days. That would be a wonderful story in itself.

Louisa Cornell said...

Good job, Fedora! Make him behave!

I love Romancing the Stone and what I loved most what that it showed a romance writer as a less than perfect, somewhat neurotic person rather than a Barbara Cartland, diamonds and bon bons type. And it's just a fun movie to watch!

Oh Tawny! I LOVE Secret Window! JD is eerily fantastic in it.

There are days I can completely relate to Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining! LOL

I'm a big fan of Stephen King. After reading his book On Writing and seeing interviews and reading stories in various media about his life as a writer I have to say I admire him. He wasn't an overnight success. He worked hard to get where he is. And I think the funniest part was that after his terrible accident he thought he might not write again, but his wife didn't give him a choice. She knew he needed to write and set up his desk again and said "Get to it." There is something very romantic about a relationship like that.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Louisa, so great to see you here! I'm glad I'm not the only writer who can identify with Jack in The Shining! LOL

And you're totally right. I loved the way Kathleen Turner was portrayed, too.

I loved that part in On Writing and I think every writer would love to have someone who supports them and 'gets' their work on that level. That's the stuff of romance novels, really isn't it?