Monday, April 19, 2021

White Like Her

 

Gail's Mother
Mystery writer Gail Lukasik tells the story of her mother's mixed race ancestry in her memoir White Like Her. This is an excerpt of a 2017 article about her book from The Washington Post. I found it so fascinating, I ordered the memoir and have since read the heartbreaking account. I love family histories, especially when a secret is involved. An excerpt of the article is below:

I’d never seen my mother so afraid.
“Promise me,” she pleaded, “you won’t tell anyone until after I die. How will I hold my head up with my friends?”
For two years, I’d waited for the right moment to confront my mother with the shocking discovery I made in 1995 while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records. In the records, my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, and his entire family were designated black.
The discovery had left me reeling, confused and in need of answers. My sense of white identity had been shattered.
My mother’s visit to my home in Illinois seemed like the right moment. This was not a conversation I wanted to have on the phone.
Author Gail Lukasik
But my mother’s fearful plea for secrecy only added to my confusion about my racial identity. As did her 1921 birth certificate that I obtained from the state of Louisiana, which listed her race as “col” (colored), and a 1940 Louisiana census record, which listed my mother, Alvera Frederic, as Neg/Negro, working in a tea shop in New Orleans. Four years later, she moved north and married my white father.
Reluctantly, I agreed to keep my mother’s secret. For 17 years I told no one, except my husband, my two children and two close friends that my mother was passing as white. It was the longest and most difficult secret I’d ever held.
My mother’s pale, olive skin and European features appeared to belie the government documents defining her as African American, allowing her to escape that public designation for most of her adult life.
In the silence of those 17 years, I tried to break through my mother’s wall of silence. But every time I tried, she politely but firmly changed the subject. Her refusal to talk about her mixed race only fueled my curiosity. How had she deceived my racist white father? Why was she so fearful and ashamed of her black heritage?
Using my skills as a seasoned mystery author, I started sifting through the details of her life, looking for clues that would help me understand her. But this real-life mystery only intensified as I tried to sort truth from fiction.
I am eagerly waiting for my copy of White Like Her to arrive! Any secrets in your family?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!
Originally published 12/11/17

Monday, April 12, 2021

Advice from Anthony Hopkins

I stumbled across an entertaining interview with Sir Anthony Hopkins from Fox News. He shared some fascinating facts about his life and also provided some great advice.
Sir Anthony Hopkins discussed his battle with alcoholism in a speech to students at the University of California on Wednesday.
Hopkins, 80, was a guest speaker at the LEAP conference and addressed a crowd of about 500 students, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Academy Award-winning actor told the crowd he was not the easiest person to work with.
"Because that's what you do in theater, you drink. But I was very difficult to work with, as well, because I was usually hungover,” Hopkins admitted.

“The Silence of the Lambs” star said he was "disgusted, busted and not to be trusted" when he drank. However, the actor said his life turned around in 1975 after a conversation with a woman from Alcoholics Anonymous.
“Why don’t you just trust in God?” the woman asked Hopkins.
The “Westworld” star said he did not have the urge to drink after the conversation.
Hopkins also told the crowd why he got into acting because he “had nothing better to do” and was “not all that bright in school.”
"I believe that we are capable of so much," he told the crowd. "From my own life, I still cannot believe that my life is what it is because I should have died in Wales, drunk or something like that." 
"We can talk ourselves into death or we can talk ourselves into the best life we've ever lived. None of it was a mistake. It was all a destiny,” he continued.
As for his advice to students, Hopkins told them to not chase money and success.
"If you chase the money, it's not gonna work. And if you chase success, it's not gonna work," he said. "You just have to chase whatever you want to be, but live it as if it is happening now. Act as if you're already there, and it'll fall into place.”

Is any of this information about Anthony Hopkins new to you like it was to me? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Originally published 7/30/18


Monday, April 5, 2021

Save the Cat: A Great Resource for Any Writer!

Save the Cat is a great book for any writer! Even though the subtitle is The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, it's a helpful tool for any writer!  Check out what writer editor Tim Stout says: 

The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet is the best plot structure template I’ve come across.
It breaks down the three-act structure into bite-size, manageable sections, each with a specific goal for your overall story. It’s a great resource! 

Below is an explanation of each beat:

THE BLAKE SNYDER BEAT SHEET (aka BS2)

Opening Image – A visual that represents the struggle & tone of the story. A snapshot of the main character’s problem, before the adventure begins.
Set-up – Expand on the “before” snapshot. Present the main character’s world as it is, and what is missing in their life.
Theme Stated (happens during the Set-up) – What your story is about; the message, the truth. Usually, it is spoken to the main character or in their presence, but they don’t understand the truth…not until they have some personal experience and context to support it.
Catalyst – The moment where life as it is changes. It is the telegram, the act of catching your loved-one cheating, allowing a monster onboard the ship, meeting the true love of your life, etc. The “before” world is no more, change is underway.
Debate – But change is scary and for a moment, or a brief number of moments, the main character doubts the journey they must take. Can I face this challenge? Do I have what it takes? Should I go at all? It is the last chance for the hero to chicken out.
Break Into Two (Choosing Act Two) – The main character makes a choice and the journey begins. We leave the “Thesis” world and enter the upside-down, opposite world of Act Two.
B Story – This is when there’s a discussion about the Theme – the nugget of truth. Usually, this discussion is between the main character and the love interest. So, the B Story is usually called the “love story”.
The Promise of the Premise – This is when Craig Thompson’s relationship with Raina blooms, when Indiana Jones tries to beat the Nazis to the Lost Ark, when the detective finds the most clues and dodges the most bullets. This is when the main character explores the new world and the audience is entertained by the premise they have been promised.
Midpoint – Dependent upon the story, this moment is when everything is “great” or everything is “awful”. The main character either gets everything they think they want (“great”) or doesn’t get what they think they want at all (“awful”). But not everything we think we want is what we actually need in the end.
Bad Guys Close In – Doubt, jealousy, fear, foes both physical and emotional regroup to defeat the main character’s goal, and the main character’s “great”/“awful” situation disintegrates.
All is Lost – The opposite moment from the Midpoint: “awful”/“great”. The moment that the main character realizes they’ve lost everything they gained, or everything they now have has no meaning. The initial goal now looks even more impossible than before. And here, something or someone dies. It can be physical or emotional, but the death of something old makes way for something new to be born.
Dark Night of the Soul – The main character hits bottom, and wallows in hopelessness. The Why hast thou forsaken me, Lord? moment. Mourning the loss of what has “died” – the dream, the goal, the mentor character, the love of your life, etc. But, you must fall completely before you can pick yourself back up and try again.
Break Into Three (Choosing Act Three) – Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute Thematic advice from the B Story (usually the love interest), the main character chooses to try again.
Finale – This time around, the main character incorporates the Theme – the nugget of truth that now makes sense to them – into their fight for the goal because they have experience from the A Story and context from the B Story. Act Three is about Synthesis!
Final Image – opposite of Opening Image, proving, visually, that a change has occurred within the character.
THE END

I used the Beat Sheet method in writing my last novel and it was a big help! Are you familiar with Save the Cat? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!  

Monday, March 29, 2021

From Novel to Screenplay


Gone With the Wind is  a movie that's just as phenomenal as the book it's  based on. But have you noticed that's not always the case when  a novel  is made into a motion picture?

When I first posted this article back in August of 2018, I had just started adapting one of my novels into a screenplay. That task is complete, and it was quite a learning experience! Now I understand why some movies fall flat when compared to the novels they're based on.  

Forget about introspection and long descriptions, plus subplots have to be dropped and minor characters combined or omitted in order to condense a three-hundred and fifty page novel into a one-hundred and twenty-five page screenplay. If you have ever considered turning a novel into a screenplay, here's a portion of an article from Scriptmag.com to help you start the adaptation process:



First, make a list of the following:

  • The world and setting of the story.
  • The 5–8 main characters of the story including the protagonist and antagonist, what their respective back stories are and why/how they come together.
  • What 5 things about your main protagonist/antagonist are the most important for an audience to know.
  • The major core conflict of the story and why/how this occurs.
  • The most visual and key scenes in the book that connect to how that conflict plays out.
  • Your 10–20 FAVORITE lines of dialogue that drive the plot, are vital to the story or character development and that really shine.
  • The major overarching theme of the book.
Margaret Mitchell with her novel
Be aware that you will probably have to cut many supporting characters, subplots that don’t connect to your main storyline, and almost all of the description. Instead of two pages of character description, you only get two lines. Often, two or three different characters in a novel will be combined into ONE character in a screenplay. And what happens on the first page of the book may not be how you need to open the film. Try to nail the same tone that the original material had—as that is part of what built its fan base and that tone needs to translate on film. But the real key to adapting a book to film or adapting someone’s true story—is FOCUS and knowing how and when to take poetic license.
If you are adapting a true story, it becomes even trickier, but you need to know that changing the timeline of the original story is OK. Your primary job isn’t to be loyal to a book or to another writer or even to the main character—it’s to be loyal to the core story and yourself. You can’t show a whole lifetime on screen (except maybe in Benjamin Button), so you need to choose the most important, interesting, conflict-filled, character-building part of the book or the person’s life—and focus on that to create a tight story.
Or alternatively, if you’re adapting a small personal story, you may need to expand it to fill the screen. All those Nicholas Sparks novels are incredibly small and usually depressing, but the screenplays introduce more conflict and raise the stakes. Though not based on a book, let’s examine Academy Award nominated The Fighter, which was based on a true story. The screenwriters looked at all the material they had—all the characters, all the true things that happened, the time range of the real story—and then wrote what worked. The Amy Adams character wasn’t even in Mickey’s life at the time he won those fights. Many characters were combined and the time period was totally fudged so that the story became more cinematic and engaging but it kept the essence of the characters involved, the story and the emotion of it all.
That’s exactly what your job is when adapting a book or person’s true life story. Much like in life, learning to adapt is often a difficult process but can be one of the keys to success. Keep writing!
For the complete article, click here.

Have you ever written a screenplay or considered writing one? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Black Count

I knew that Alexandre Dumas was of mixed race heritage, but only recently learned about his father, who is profiled in The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss.

It's always fun to see what inspires a writer, and here we learn who inspired one of the greatest.  Through historical sleuthing, Tom Reiss has uncovered the life a forgotten hero who was the inspiration for The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

The real-life protagonist of The Black Count, is General Alex Dumas.  Though almost unknown today, his story is familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of literature's best loved heroes.

Not only does this book tell of swashbuckling adventures, it reveals a secret: the real hero was the son of a black slave.  He rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our current time.

Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris. There, he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. After enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution.


A fascinating story! Are you familiar with The Black Count?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!