Time In Film/Fiction

Time in film is often an artful edit, a story told in film language. When I was in college I had a brilliant  professor who taught me to ‘read’ film, not just see it, or feel it. Film is the great language of symbolism, verisimilitude deconstructed, syntagmatic readings of the psyche in juxtaposition. Propaganda in filmic doses . Montage in the hands of editors and directors who cut into our linear perception and twist the lens of our subconscious, where privacy is vulnerable to the violation.

But what of time in fiction? Is being linear playing it safe? If my characters think in present time their thoughts are random, and like dreams, scuffle and shuffle to their own music. Sometimes, as I sit here in the present I get a flash of myself in 1970. A moment later, I recall the face of someone I knew in 1990. Words flow that might never have existed, emotions surface I might never have felt, but for several seconds, I am transported outside of myself, and the comfort of the present tense, which pales next to the time travel of mental ellipses and the rewriting of history.

In retrospection, time is tempered, retold, suppressed, reanalyzed and reevaluated. But, alas, my life is not a novel. Form is not owed to the randomness of my memories. However, what I have in common with my characters is that we think of what we will do, and have done, more often than what we’re doing right now. The present only holds me by action. When action is broken by inaction, the past surfaces like celluloid negatives. Memories, without warning, appear like burps and cause reactions that settle in the unconscious mind like mine fields. What we recall is sometimes like a bullet, aimed at the heart and meant to shatter the safety of distance.

I keep going back to this one novel of mine that is already written, but probably won’t be published for a couple of years. I keep returning to it because of the issue of time, which has begun to fascinate me. The five characters in my novel are tied together through the past. A reunion is called and they attend, for reasons of their own, but certainly to move toward a linear conclusion.  Within the linear telling of the story, their recollections surface and old wounds are opened. So, the novel, in a sense, is a telling of five different interpretations of the past  within the same linear story. I can only hope my readers are not made dizzy by these journeys back to my character’s youthful regrets. After all,  memories  are out of sequence, and oftentimes, without sense, they stare back at you, even when you turn away.

I recently saw the film, Seven Pounds. It’s a good example of how time tells its own story, how memory is the root cause of action, reaction and regret. The film is also a perfect example of brilliant editing. In my heart, I am still a film student, still thinking of that syntagmatic current that manipulates our concept of realism and flirts with our perception of the linear line. I recently found myself using the present tense in a novel I’m writing, instead of the obvious past. I discovered that my character has a mind of her own. I let her have her way and decided to keep her recollections in the present tense. I overstepped a boundary. Maybe I want to jostle my reader, to claim the intimacy I lose when I say: I ran to the rhythm of my own breath; the beat of my heart provided the music of being alive. I could say:   I am running to the rhythm of my own breath; the beat of my heart provides the music of being alive.  I am no longer writing to tell you. I am writing to claim you, to make you join me, to offend the safety of the past tense with my character’s audacity.

My two published novels are tales and they are told as a linear story, but someday I will take another look at the films,  Last Year at Marienbad and Hiroshima Mon Amour. I will read them, comprehend them,  and then, do something different. I will write a book that starts at the end and ends at the beginning. I will upset my own sense of balance and never solve the riddle. Are you here today, but it was yesterday we met? Don’t you remember? Then again, perhaps, not until tomorrow, will you turn and find my eyes.  I’ll be waiting.

Vera Jane Cook

Award Winning Must Read Women’s Fiction. Dancing Backward In Paradise was published in November 2006 and received rave reviews from Armchair Interviews and Midwest Book reviews, as well as an Eric Hoffer and Indie Excellence award in the Literary fiction category for notable new fiction in 2007. Hearts Upon a Fragile Bough, Ms. Cook’s second novel, was published this year and will be followed by its sequel, At the End of a Whisper, in 2010. To learn more about her books you can visit her web site at www.verajanecook.com

To contact the author send an email to jane@verajanecook.com

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So, Loved My Book, Right? Or Where to Really Put the Energy

Truth be told, as a writer we accomplish the near impossible: we actually finish our novel, tie in our plot and pour out our souls. Once we publish our little masterpieces, we are unabashedly naked, exposed, vulnerable and hanging by our thumbnails for feedback. Well, let me warn you; feedback is subjective, and though it is often heartfelt, it can also be manipulative, false, arrogant, biased and sometimes, though not very often, useful.

Once your novel is out there, be prepared to be praised, ignored, insulted, ridiculed or admired. All meaningless reactions when it comes to sales. I appreciate it beyond words when friends not only take the time to read my books but also take the time to respond with a note or a call. This kind of support is priceless and it comes from the people who care enough about me not to distance themselves from a pat on the back, a comment or a few good words in an email. But unless your caring and valued friends are spreading the good word on dozens of social networking reading sites, the good words will do nothing more than warm your heart.

Let’s talk about selling your book. The most important thing you can create as a writer is a fan base. This fan base will always buy your books because they like the way you write. They may not buy all your books but they’ll spread your good name around social networking sites and your sales will increase, and your fans will increase. In terms of the math here, this fan base is more important than your mother, father, best friend, worst enemy and even the professional critic that gave you all those accolades. Good reviews will not even sell your books, but what will sell your books are the reviews that get passed around the internet by your fans. Your fan base will be found among your target audience. You must recognize who that audience is, seek them out, give them free copies and send them bookmarks. Nurture your relationship with them, be available for book club discussions when they ask for you, and if possible, even offer pre publication copies of your new books.

Anyone who writes knows that some reactions you get to your work will disappoint you in one way or another, and for one reason or another. As a writer, you will discover friends who aren’t, friends who are, people with hidden agendas who will withhold commenting on your books, which simply translates into “I hated it.” Hating your book is their issue, not yours. People who withhold admiring you and praising you for a job well done are not the people you want in your sphere anyway. Arrogant people bore me, withholders bore me even more.

As a writer, you have to be an observer, a storyteller and a beast. Really, you have to be a beast. When all the snarly people who judge you harshly stalk you in the forest of creativity, simply eat them alive and spit them back out. They really don’t taste very good anyway. Expect nothing less from your friends and family than honest praise and expect nothing more from your enemies than silence. Give all your professional critics room to critique you. And hug your fan base, feel flattered when they love you, listen when they don’t, and continue to open up your heart to all the right people.

As a writer, don’t be sensitive outside of your solitude. The Beasts in the forest of creativity will attempt to destroy your confidence in a myriad of ways. For one, they can’t do what you do and if they could, could they do it as well? Listen, they aren’t in your fan base … so take aim … and move on.

Vera Jane Cook

Dancing Backward In Paradise was published in November 2006. The book has received rave reviews from Armchair Interviews and Midwest Book reviews, as well as an Eric Hoffer and Indie Excellence award in the Literary fiction category.  Hearts Upon a Fragile Bough was published in 2009. The book is a family saga that spans the twentieth century, soon to be followed by its sequel, At the End of a Whisper. To learn more about her books you can visit her web site at www.verajanecook.com

To contact the author send an email to jane@verajanecook.com


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