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16 November 2005 @ 02:36 am
American Idiots  
Depending on whether you think Harry Potter is lame or the best thing ever, I've had either a very nerdy night or a very cool night, respectively. The vast majority of my evening has been spent going over the timeline of Prisoner of Azkaban (from the book itself and using the calendar on HP Lexicon) in excruciating detail so that I can finalize the outline for the fan fic I'm currently working on. The fic takes the reader through Prisoner of Azkaban from Sirius's point of view, with a lot of detail of what he was going through mentally, especially as regards his friendship with James and his feelings toward Harry (not slash), and with many flashbacks to his days at Hogwarts and important incidents from 1979 to 1981 (the time when Harry was conceived through the day that Voldemort killed James and Lily and Sirius went to Azkaban).

I've finished Chapters 1 (currently being beta-read over at The Sugar Quill) and 2, but there will be 17 chapters in total, and I realized when I sat down to put together a rough outline of Chapter 3 that I needed to map the whole thing out in detail so that I can be totally sure of what's going on. While doing that, though, I discovered a timeline error I had made in the first two chapters, so I had to fix those chapters before I could do anything else. Then in putting together the outline/timeline for the rest of the story, I found all of these interesting details and ideas to put into the story that really flesh out what Sirius's life was like all year. This writing process keeps throwing these amazing surprises and revelations at me. I mean, through this research, imagining, etc., I feel like I've gotten to know Sirius so much better and that I have a much fuller picture of the year during which Prisoner of Azkaban took place. It's so different from just reading the books, or even analyzing the books. When you write a fic that takes place during one of them, you almost get a day-by-day understanding of the timeline, which is something you wouldn't think that hard about when you're just reading the story.

I'm so glad that I'm getting to this deeper level, because that's one of the huge reasons that I wanted to write fan fic. Writing fiction is such a complex, nuanced endeavor, and I think I've really hit only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding how the process works--but that's miles deeper than where I was just a month and a half ago. From working on just this fic (and this isn't the really big one that I have in the works--I can't wait to see how that one will enrich the writing process for me), I've come to begin to understand what it means to get to know characters, to map out a timeline and iron out all of the kinks, to plan a story, and--a lesson I learned early on, although I'm sure I still have a huge learning curve ahead of me--to trust that even when you have no idea how you're going to get from point A to point B, your writing will work it out for you. In organizing all of my notes, I went through the spiral notebook in which I was writing longhand drafts and found all these notes I took when I hit a tough spot in Chapter 2. Looking back on that, it just blew my mind how I was able to go from being rather stymied to having produced what I think is an awesome chapter. The plot point I was having trouble with could have been a complete disaster, but I just stuck with it, tried some stuff out, knew when that stuff was crap, and then let the story tell itself by starting at the beginning of the particular incident I was trying to describe. Writing is very much about trusting yourself.

It's also about not being afraid to go back and take a completely different direction. That can be hard. For example, say you write about two pages' worth of material, and then you're having trouble figuring out where you're going with the next part. So you try various ways of making it work, but you have no luck. The thing is, what really might be the problem is that you need to back to the bottom of page 1 and scrap everything you wrote after it, even if you liked some of the text, because it may just be leading you in the wrong direction. It's such a tough proposition to backtrack like that, especially when you like some of the material. It's hard to acknowledge that good stuff may be taking you nowhere. Of course, you don't throw out the text entirely; instead, you cross it out without making it illegible (if you're writing longhand) or you copy/paste it into a document of scrap text (if you're writing on the computer). But still, it's really really difficult to go back like that. You just have to trust in the process. And I really believe that this deeper understanding I'm starting to reach--just starting--may really enable me to write original material after all. But I'm not just writing the fan fic for that end. I mean, I definitely do intend to use this fan-fic experience to help me write my own stuff. However, I'm also doing it for its own sake, because I love the Harry Potter books.

Enough about writing. So the other thing I was doing tonight was watching some downloads of Dan Radcliffe's appearances on various talk shows (as well as one Emma Watson clip). Before I get to my main point, I have to admit that I'm becoming a huge Dan Radcliffe fan. Not only do I enjoy the Harry Potter movies, but also I really enjoy Dan as a person--at least, the persona that he reveals in his public appearances, which seems quite natural to me, so I'm buying that that's really him (or at least a part of him; no one ever reveals their entire self to anyone). He's really witty; has a great sense of humor that tends toward self-deprecation (I often use this type of humor myself); is incredibly bright, sharp, sensitive, mature, etc. (especially for a 16-year-old); and just has this amazing sense of self that makes me believe he is really comfortable in his skin. He's sort of dorky, but not at all in a nerdy way, if that makes any sense. He comes across as a really cool guy, actually. He reminds me so much of my friends from high school--not anyone in particular, necessarily, but just that kind of really mature, fun, self-aware (but not in a cloying Dawson's Creek sort of way) aura that comes with natural intelligence and a good upbringing. He doesn't seem to have let fame get to his head. [No, I don't at all believe those pernicious rumors that he snubbed kids at some post-premiere party by staying in the VIP room all night when he had previously promised he'd sign autographs. First of all, from what I can tell, that rumor was originated by The Daily Mirror, a tabloid. Second, from what I've observed, Dan gives a lot to his fans (and I don't even think he'd call people his "fans"--he's far too unassuming for that). He tries to sign as many autographs as he can, talk to people, etc., but the fact is, he's just one person, and he can't spend his entire life signing pieces of paper for people. Even if the rumor is true, which I highly doubt, the guy deserves some time to relax. He's just 16. But truly, he doesn't seem like the type to get a big head and not want to do anything for his fans.] So yeah, I think Dan Radcliffe's really great.

And the British accent's really hot. Fine, fine! I admit it. I have a small crush. And that seems so wrong, because the poor kid is only 16 and I'm...quite a bit older. Mainly, though, I just think he's a guy with a great personality, which is something that's so hard to come by in American Hollywood. Actually, from what I've seen of the Harry Potter "kids" in general, the vast majority of them are really cool and levelheaded--Emma Watson (who seems way older than 15!), the Phelps twins, Tom Felton....And the kids who play the minor characters, like Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), are even humbler, if that's possible. The only one I am less than glowing about is Rupert Grint, and that's just because he's really quiet and doesn't seem that articulate. But hey, quiet, shy guys can be nice (and even outgoing with the people they know well), so I'm not passing any judgement at all. Actually, there's one more: Robert Pattison strikes me as kind of an oddball, but maybe that's just because his real personality is a far cry from Cedric Diggory's quiet, all-around-nice-guy one, and so I'm still trying to bridge that disconnect. Overall, though, the Harry Potter kids seem like really great people.

So who's not great? The American Idiots. And by that, I mean the moron talk-show hosts who have been interviewing Dan all week. I watched interviews with Regis & Kelly, the Today Show, and Martha Stewart, as well as an interview with Rove of Australia and Jonathan Ross of some kind of humorous talk show on the BBC ("Friday Night with Jonathan Ross," I believe) and came off completely appalled at the Americans. First of all, Regis didn't even read any of the Harry Potter books, but tried to pretend that he did until he was backed into a corner. That's fine; interviewers shouldn't be expected to read every book or watch every show of every person they interview. But then cop to that information from the get-go. Don't pretend like you're all into the movie or book or whatever when you really couldn't give a crap. Second, Regis kept trying to put on a British accent whenever he said "Harry Potter," but it just sounded moronic. Kelly was a bit better, because she was a big fan of the books and had respect for them. But on the whole, I couldn't stand either one, mainly because they wouldn't let Dan (or Emma--I also saw her intervew) get a word in edgewise. Every time Dan would start to tell a story, Regis and/or Kelly would cut him off and start yammering on about something else in this really giddy, excited manner. They just came off looking like dumbasses, and Dan--16-year-old Dan--looked a gazillion times more mature than those two blubbering fools.

Katie Couric was a lot better; I do have to give her props for maintaining decorum and being knowledgeable about the books and the movies. But even Martha Stewart was kind of retarded. (On a side note, I almost wanted Dan to ask her about her jail time. But he's too nice a guy for that....) Like, before Dan came out, she said something about "Muddles." Muggles, woman! It's Muggles!!! If you're going to interview someone--anyone, not just someone Harry Potter related--do your bloody homework, for godsakes! Oh, and then Martha started asking Dan about if he's shaving, and I'm like, come on! I mean, I knew Dan would roll with it just fine, but seriously...it's just so stupid to ask him about all the little elements of puberty. It ultimately seems like they're patronizing him.

I just have to give major props to Dan for getting through the interviews with the stupid Americans. We really have perfected the art of making asses of ourselves. But Dan took it all really well. Snaps (whoops, accidentally wrote "Snapes" first, and we certainly don't want that!) to you, Dan Radcliffe!

Jonathan Ross, the British interviewer, on the other hand, was brilliant. He and Dan are both naturally witty people, and they were just going back and forth with funny jokes, interesting stories, etc. And Jonathan Ross would let Dan speak. Not only is that more polite, but it's what the viewers want. I mean, I wasn't viewing the Regis & Kelly clip so I could hear Regis and Kelly. If that were the case, I'd watch their stupid asses every day. Instead, I was watching it to see Dan Radcliffe and hear what he had to say. But because Regis & Kelly wouldn't let him get a word in edgewise, I really didn't get to see or hear much of him. But Jonathan Ross let Dan speak and tell his stories, and it was so much more interesting and pleasant, and I'm sure Dan felt more comfortable, too. Actually, Dan was really really hilarious. I definitely enjoyed that clip.

Rove, the Australian, seemed pretty decent, too. It wasn't a long clip, but he and Dan seemed to get a good back-and-forth going, and he wasn't cutting Dan off or anything.

Every day, Americans find new ways to appall me.
 
 
 
kressel: update2kressel on November 22nd, 2005 03:15 am (UTC)



Hi Sophia. I just joined the Sugar Quill and found you there, a fellow lj-er. I was fascinated to read everything you wrote about the writing process. I'm currently working on HP fanfic, too, though I write very little bits at a time instead of forging ahead. I like what you said about trusting ourselves, though. That's the sort of advice to push me forward.

I'm very interested to read your fanfic. Has it been posted yet? Just so you know, I've created an original character whose name is Sophie.