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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

Month

March 2017

So, I’ve seen Beauty & the Beast (2017) twice now…..

……..and I loved it both times.  I also cried at the sheer beauty (pun not intended) of feelings it evoked in me, regarding the characters and the story.  This is not a review, only my response to a number of reviews about the film and its flaws.

The most common theme in all of the reviews I’ve read is how it’s Belle who bends and changes first, that it’s her responsibility to change the man, rather than the man doing it of his own volition.

I heartily disagree with that assessment.

I’m not excusing the Beast’s behavior (he’s a jerk and needs to learn about boundaries), but it’s his poor behavior that’s the catalyst.  It’s the reason Belle flees the castle in the first place – he’s rude, he’s being an asshole and he scares her over something that she does not realize has significant importance, not just to the Beast, but to his servants, as well. [1]

After scaring her out of his castle, the Beast realizes his error and almost becomes paralyzed with despair.  He knows he blew it, he knows he’s probably ruined the only hope to undo the curse that he and the castle are under and he wallows.  In many ways, his behavior is of someone who has given up all hope, who does not even dare to acknowledge that there is hope.

I understand that feeling.  I’ve been in that black pit of despair.  I did not treat my nearest and dearest well during that time.  Would anyone?

But what does the Beast do then?

For reasons never explained in the animated film or (presumably) the Broadway production or even in the 2017 version, the Beast goes after Belle.

Why?

What would be the point?  If he’s such a misogynistic, self-centered asshole, why would he do that?   Was he obligated to go after her?  No, he was not.  Was he obligated to save her life?  No.  The Beast CHOSE to go after Belle (to apologize, presumably, but, as observed earlier, it’s not made clear), and he ends up SAVING her life.  Was he obligated to that, too?  No, he was not.  He chose to do it because it was the right thing to do.

The Beast changed first.

It was his selfless act of saving her from the wolves that allows her to change her mind.

And yet, no one sees that. No one sees that he recognized his error (self-awareness) and went after her, to apologize (again, there’s no reason stated for why he went after her) and ends up risking his life for her.

All they see is that she changes her mind about him.

Belle didn’t reassess her opinion of the Beast out of nowhere. There was a motivating factor.

He saved her life, at great risk to himself, of his own free will.

She could have let him die and you see her move to leave him again, while he’s wounded and too weak to follow.  But she doesn’t – she recognized that he saved her life.  He chose to bend first, not Belle.

My argument here is that it was not Belle who initiated the change in their dynamic first.  She didn’t in the animated version nor in this version (and not in the Broadway production, either, I’m assuming).  I’ve read many reviews of this movie, and no one, NO ONE, remembers that Beast risked his life to save Belle BEFORE Belle decides to reassess her opinion of Beast.

Nothing happens in a vacuum.

Belle bends, but the Beast did it first.

*****

[1]  As for his relationship with the servants and why they couldn’t help Beast change his abusive and rude behavior?  Their relationship dynamics are in an already established hierarchy (master and servants).  As anyone in a family knows, effecting change in someone’s behavior is difficult enough as it is.  To effect it in someone you know is even more so.  Sometimes, it takes a stranger, someone from outside, to hold a mirror up to you before you can see it.

So, I’ve been working on my Novel in Progress…..

…….and I noticed an interesting connection it had with my saucy speakeasy story.  No, neither story features characters that show up in both tales, nor does the action take place in the same time frame or location.

However, that being said, this is what I’ve noticed.  It’s not the first time I’ve noticed at least one connection, but the others surprised me.

The Novel in Progress is a contemporary tale, with flashbacks to the 1920s via letters and experiences related by other characters.  The Narrator 1, due to circumstances dictated by the story, is a virgin.  I didn’t even realize that until I’d been writing the novel for a about a year and a half – it just never crossed my mind.  She is estranged from her parents and has no other family to speak of, as far as she knows.

And then, I wrote a few of scenes where she interacts with two very different men at different points in the story.  One expresses obvious interest in her, flirts with her, gives her his contact information (which she promptly gives away to another woman, despite her own cautious interest).

The second man is made a prisoner by the same people looking for the Narrator 1, which unites them in their own survival and freedom. There is a moment where both of them become aware of the other, but she blurts out “I’m not ready” and they both back away from it.

Interestingly, “I’m not ready” is the same thing said by the female Narrator 2 in my speakeasy story.  Only, the dynamics are little different, as this work in progress is following the erotica beats.  Where Novel in Progress is set in the Present, with only occasional flashbacks to the past, including the 1920s, the Saucy Speakeasy Story is fixed very firmly in that decade, from flappers to jazz music to bootleg whiskey.

Narrator 2 is about the same age (nearing 30) as the Narrator 1, but her life circumstances are in direct contrast.  She has three younger siblings, of whom she assumed care of when their parents died.  She had a fiancee who died in World War I and has had some sexual experiences that Narrator 1 did not.  She is not afraid of her own feelings or her desires and the man she meets in this saucy tale revels in her own autonomy.

I’ve been working on both stories for the last couple of years.  I ought to have noticed these similarities sooner, but I guess it’s one of those things that you only notice when you’re ready to see it.  The fact that the two Narrators are also so different and so tied to their time and place, I guess it’s not that hard to miss.

I’m amused that I’m writing about two very different women who are separated by almost one hundred years, five hundred miles and life experiences.

What are their similarities?  They are moving from one established role to another, one by chance, the other by choice.  They refuse to compromise themselves to achieve whatever goal they accept.  They’re smart and articulate and the men in their lives respect them.

Interesting.

So, a year ago on this date, I was in Ireland…..

…….and I have to say, it’s hard to believe it’s been a year.

It feels like it just happened.  It also feels like it happened more than a year ago.

I plan to go back, there’s so much more to see than just taking a tour over the course of a week and cramming so much activity into a day.

Maybe not during high holy days, like Good Friday, but for sure I plan to take longer than eight days and seven nights to enjoy my stay.  I slept better in Ireland than I have at any other time in my life.  I ate breakfast at 7 AM.  I never eat breakfast until about 9 or 10.  Sometimes I just forget about it altogether.  Boy, did I eat while I was over there.  Once back in the states, I was back to my regular schedule.

But I never stopped thinking about Ireland.

I have to go back.  My soul belongs there.  So does my heart.  I have family there – I have no idea who they are and they have no idea of who I am.  But I want to know them.

Plus, you know, Guinness beer tastes better over there.

Irish countryside.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about chances…..

…….and its cousins, opportunities and risks.

We go through life making choices that present us with one or all three.  It’s up to us to decide whether or not the outcome is worth it.

There’s a lot of fear that goes into making that choice and that’s okay.  Fear of the unknown is what helps us be alert to red flags or, in extreme situations, keep us from harm.  And fear is a good survival instinct.  It lets us know that maybe there’s a situation out there that’s too much or too dangerous for us to handle.

But you can’t let fear be the ruling factor in your life.  Stopping before you even start or because of thoughts of failing is fear.  You can’t let the possible negative outcomes determine your choices.

If you have a dream to write a novel, go write it.  Don’t let your real-life responsibilities slide, but do make the time to write every day, even if it’s 20 minutes.  Set a time and just do it.  Same thing goes for any other creative form.  Or if you want to add to your skill set in your field, if it’s medicine or law or cooking.  Add to those skills.  Make the time.

You have a dream.  Accept that there’s fear in making that first step and push through it.  There will be failures and false starts and rejection and obstacles.  Stick with it.  The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

So, I’ve got a lot happening on my Patreon page…..

…….and I’m moving all of my creative work over there.

Right now, I’ve got two serial novels set up – the first is based on a series of true-life adventures that really actually never happened (but should have).  These are stories that I based on myself and two of my best friends from high school. We always had a lot of fun hanging out together and the nice thing is, we still do, when schedules allow.  This is the one thing about being an adult that sucks.

The other is a fantasy/mystery and the fun thing about this one is that there are four choices on what happens next.  There’s even a poll so that readers can vote – whichever choice gets the most votes is what happens next.  No votes, no moving forward, although it falls on me to have an overall arc, characters and ending.  This serialized novel and its poll are currently open to the public, but they will both close on March 15, 2017.

I’m excited about this next step in my creative development.  I hope you are, too.

You can find all of this here, at my Patreon page.

So, I’m enjoying the constant learning…..

……of my websites, from this blog to my Patreon page.  The joys of finding little things that make the process of posting a little easier.  Of being able to write as many posts as I want and not sharing them immediately, but scheduling them out a little at a time.  Of finding new ways to shape what I’m presenting to you, my audience, that will make you feel welcome and inspired and energized.

It’s not just the technical aspects, either.  The more I post, the more ideas seem to come out of thin air, some as solid and real as cotton candy, some with the substantive weight of a thousand pound horse.

Some of those ideas survive, some don’t, and that’s okay.

That’s known as process.

So, my little challenge in January…….

…….of writing a post every day, proved to be a valuable exercise.  I’m writing more, I’m feeling energized about it and I look forward to it (sometimes).  I’ve always been chewing over ideas and plots and writing them down in my journal, but now I’m looking for the bigger picture that’s framing the story.

All writing is good – whether it’s jotting down notes for your character or plot or shaping a poem out of a couple of key images, you’re working the writing muscle.  My challenge in January was like an exercise regimen, shaping and refining the muscle that was beginning to lose some of its shape.  I’ve still got some work to do, but I’m encouraged.

Like in my tap dance lessons, I’m gaining confidence.  Keep writing, keep doing your creative and artistic thing, make that muscle strong.

So, it’s March 9, only eleven days or so until spring……

……..but the temperature suggests that it’s actually the middle of summer.  I’m not someone who enjoys hot weather – I can barely move when it hits 80.  Don’t ask what it’s like when it hits triple digits.

Just know that it isn’t pretty.

I love cold weather and rainy weather, especially if I don’t have to go out in it.  If there’s no reason for me to leave the house, then i’m more likely to go out for a walk and enjoy the rain as it patters on my umbrella.

I recently took a trip to Morro Bay and, while I knew it was going to rain, it ended up being more of a storm than I was expecting.  I ended up staying an extra night – I don’t like driving in the rain to begin with and the storm that was coming was pretty bad.

Still, I loved it – watching the surf pound the breakers, the bay churning and the wind fighting with the birds about who had dominion.

Yep, I’m definitely a cold weather person.

Stormy morning on the bay.

So, I’m excited about my Patreon page……

…….and what I have planned there.  A lot of thinking went on behind it, long before I even really understood what Patreon was about.  And the more I learned about it, the more I observed on other pages, the more I realized that this could work for me.

A little over a year ago, I decided that I wanted to write a column, so I contacted a local on-line zine.  They were eager to have me on-board……with one catch.  It was not a paid position.  Still, I was more interested in the process as a challenge than anything else, so I let that slide.  Then, of course, I started seeing stories about writers not getting paid for their work, whether it’s from small publishing houses or Pulitzer prize winning newspapers.

And that got me to re-think the column I was writing.

No one sees the work I put into my writing, except my cat and he’s usually asleep.  If I’m going to write for free, then I’m going to write for myself.  I actually turned down offers of having a by-line from another global news site because they don’t offer compensation, other than ‘exposure to a wider audience’.

If people want my stories, then I need to be paid for the work that went into them.

I know my worth.  Know yours.  Whatever your passion is, whatever you’re creative and artistic form is, know that you deserve to be paid for your time and effort.  Granted, if it’s a volunteer situation, such as community or college theater, that’s one thing.  But don’t ever sign onto a job that expects you to work for free.

You deserve more and better.

And so do I.

So, if you’d like to view my Patreon site, you can follow this link.  I am excited to see how this site develops.  🙂

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