Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Art Analysis

Image by M4D Group, via Flickr
When I ghostwrite memoirs, I often ask my clients to tell me the movies they loved when they were young teenagers, say between the ages of 12 and 15. Young adolescents are very impressionable, and it’s at this time in our lives when we start paying attention to the world outside our family, and making decisions about what is good and bad, and how we fit into that world. Our decision-making ability is in its infancy so we often draw the wrong conclusions, or conclusions that are too black and white, but the movies we’re exposed to during this time often color our personality, beliefs, and even deeds for our entire lives. So when we remember those movies from our early teens, the results are always illuminating and help me to “get” my client’s personality so I can write as them.

This works when you do this for yourself, too, in order to explore who you are. It’s an easy form of self-analysis. When I did this for myself I googled which movies were popular in the years I was 13 and 14 – and discovered that although I did remember some of them, none of them made a big impression on me, so I thought my great insight was wrong.

But then I remembered that the movie that did make an impression on me was an older movie I saw on TV when I was 13 or so. It was “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando, and it indeed did speak to me and color my development. (I must admit that as a 13 year old girl, Marlon Brando’s hot and sexy looks may have contributed to my admiration.)

The movie is about corruption and politics, but what I took from it was how admirable it was to act on what you believed to be right, even if it went against your family and cost you your job, your community, even your life. Because if you didn’t, you would never be a contender. At this time in my own life I was dealing with my own beliefs coming into conflict with my parents’ beliefs, and it was costing me plenty. The movie contributed to my rebelliousness that both fueled me and held me back during much of my twenties.

Good art is so much more than entertainment. If you are writing a memoir, I recommend you try this. Besides being helpful, it’s fun.

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 12 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 45 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit kimpearson.me.

9 comments :

  1. Very interesting post, Kim. I had not thought about looking at the movies from different time periods in my life, and my mothers, but I will do that for the books I am writing about her. Thanks for the tip.

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  2. It's funny how we change. I remember reading Atlas Shrugged over a weekend, and being influenced by the principles for at least a decade after. I tried to read it again a few years ago, and could barely get through the first chapter. What utter BS! I'm guessing the movie would disgust me even more. :D

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  3. I read Atlas Shrugged when I was around 15/16, and it influenced me too, luckily only for a few years until I realized how stupid and heartless it was. I agree with you, utter BS indeed. Teenagers are so vulnerable.

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    1. I also read "Atlas Shrugged", but I read all Ayn Rand's books. I loved "The Fountainhead" and its idealism, but I wasn't swayed by A.S., maybe because I read "The Virtue of Selfishness," and thought it, well, a treatise on selfishness. Her books were always black and white, and I was into gray. :-)

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  4. I wonder what it says about me that my favourites are mostly time-travel movies: Back to the Future; The Terminator movies; 12 Monkeys. But those were mostly just lots of fun, and mind-bending. I think the movie that really deeply affected me emotionally at that time of my life was Dead Poet Society.

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    1. Love Dead Poets' Society! I can recite whole speeches from it, although I'm not nearly as good as Robin Williams

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  5. I was more of a reader than a movie-goer, but I did see some Mario Lanza movies (I love music), Titanic with Robert Wagner, and a few others. Writing stories and poetry was a more likely pastime even then, and I was a daydreamer. This is great food for thought, Kim. The effect of movies on our thinking may even influence a character's actions in a forthcoming book. :-)

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  6. My friends and I were into musicals, and we would come out of the theater and dance down the street, singing the songs. Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Dan Dailey. I loved Audrey Hepburn. As far as the influence of my parents political ideals, they turned out to be mine. I note now the fanaticism of a couple of families like the Mercers and Princes, and see their offspring adhere to the same principles, or lack of them. We are definitely influenced by what we see around us at developmental times.

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  7. I have probably seen almost as many movies, series, etc. as I have read books of late. I love storytelling in any form. I tried to think back to age 13. We mostly went to the local drive-in movie theater. The movies were things like Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang and other innocent Disney fare. My mom was a huge fan of the horror genre so we watched Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock, and the Night Stalker. Horror movies also made the list. My daughter and I share a love of good psychological suspense and horror without over-the-top gore. I took my kids to the movies at least twice a month and we rented DVDs frequently. Now my grandkids can see virtually any movie on-demand. They don't take as much time to read, but I spent time reading to both of my children until they got old enough to prefer reading their own books. The thing that gutted me most as a young person were the Care commercials about starving children. I thought, there is so much, how can anyone let this happen? I still wonder how we can let this happen.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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