Tuesday, May 14, 2013


For nearly all of my stories and for some of my books, I've conceived and executed the whole thing. Characters, story, descriptions, themes, etc etc, up to and including putting words on the page and then (of course) revising them. But other books I've talked over with Matt until we're both hoarse. In some of these cases, he's given me central ideas, ideas without which the project would not exist. I've told him repeatedly that I feel guilty taking these ideas and putting my name only on the book, but he tells me that he can't write the damn thing, and what good are his ideas without the writer who does all the work?

My guilt persists. This weekend we talked for over an hour on the wikibook (as it shall now be known), because I was brainstorming and wanted to know if certain technology ideas I had were feasible. The information and ideas he gave me in the course of this conversation may (or may not) end up being pivots on which the plot turns. Like, they're his ideas, his plot. Doesn't he deserve some credit for that other than a thank-you in acknowledgements that no one reads?

What do you think? Where does authorship start and end?

On Sunday night I watched L.A. Confidential for the 1800th time, and man, it just never is anything but brilliant in every gesture, every moment. The reason I loved it most this time was how character-driven it is. One of the most recent times I watched it, it dawned on me how hard it is to create three main characters who are superficially alike but thoroughly different underneath without turning them into broad sketches. It's a difficult balance and I'm always impressed by it. This time around it was inspiring to see just how much character drove the plot - how intertwined character and motivation were, and how characteristics slotted in to make plot developments fresh (if not surprising per se), moving, and easy to comprehend.

That's how I want to write. It's harder on character Z that X event happens because he has characteristic Y, and the reader knows it in an instant because Z has been developed so well. I attempted that in Highbinder, but I think it was a little rudimentary, and I had a lot fewer moving pieces there than L.A. Confidential does. (A GM assembly line has fewer moving pieces than L.A. Confidential does.)

Incidentally, while watching I found myself thinking of The Black Dahlia and realizing that part of the reason it failed so spectacularly at being a good movie was that it was trying to be the next L.A. Confidential. Which was a dumb thing to do. Also incidentally, I just saw Guy Pearce in Iron Man 3 last weekend, and he looks not a molecule different now than he did 15 years ago. Whatever he's using, I want some.

Today I went to the L.A. County Museum of Art to see the Kubrick exhibit. I also took a quick walk around the modern art gallery and saw all kinds of wonderful stuff. They have a Rothko, which I sat and looked at for a little while. I had a freaky transcendental experience in the Rothko gallery at the Tate Modern about ten years ago, and ever since then I've been a fan.

This is the one I saw, White Center, 1957. 

Incidentally (again!), if you choose to go to LACMA - and you should, it's a wonderful museum - set aside a considerable period of time to get there and back. I've been down into the city a handful of times for various things since we moved here (exhibits, a concert, To the Wonder), and this was by far the worst experience I've had with it. Nevertheless, I had such a wonderful time looking at Hollywood (the district) outside my car windows. There's so much to see on every block. I'd want to live there if it didn't have such a vacant, sad, dangerous feeling in the air.


Maria said...

I think that most good writing has many hands. I've not had that much published, but one of my pieces was an idea that my partner had planted in my mind about a dream that she had.

She had the dream. I wrote the story.

Katharine Coldiron said...

Someone on Facebook said something similar - that the myth of the written work is that it's accomplished alone, which is actually far from the truth.

My husband also says that he's more realistic than I am about the value of ideas. Ideas are easy; creating a finished work, much harder.