How to Ruin an Ending in One Easy Move

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945) was a fantastic movie. Heartbreaking, suspenseful, psychological. Yes, one hour and 15 minutes of it was great. The last 5 minutes, however, were horrendous. You see, this movie suffered from Cop-out Ending Disorder, and it ruined the entire thing.

Spoilers are included in this post, but don’t worry. If you watch the movie, you’ll be so confused by the ending that only the final screen’s warning will hint at what actually happened. “In order that your friends may enjoy this picture, please do not disclose the ending.” That was the only thing that told me the filmmakers hadn’t gone crazy. I had to really think about what on earth I just watched and only then did I finally understand. That’s when I got really annoyed.

Imagine you spend time writing a deep, sometimes slightly disturbing psychological suspense movie script. You write it all the way to the end and you have two choices: (1) satisfy moviegoers with something that fits the rest of the movie or (2) show that none of the intensity that led to the ending ever happened. That’s right, 30 minutes worth of movie were for naught. And somehow, for some unfortunate reason, Universal Pictures decided that #2 was the ending for them.

Even while you’re watching the bad ending, you think you know where it’s going. You think the main character has gone insane and it’ll end on a fittingly disconcerting note, slightly creepy and still within the movie code (in this time period, movies had to adhere to a movie code where everyone gets their just desserts, essentially). But no. It turns out none of the most satisfyingly dark stuff ever happened and everything is okay and everyone lives happily ever after. In other words, they’ve chosen the dream trope. Oh, thank goodness it was only my imagination!

I don’t know about you, but the disappointment in this kind of cop-out forces me to hate the movie as a whole and want to rewrite it with the much better ending it should been given the dignity to have. If you, reader of my blog, are a writer, please don’t do this to me or to your book. It’s not fair to your readers, your characters, or your writing in general. Do something with your ending that will satisfy and, if possible, surprise. It’s 100% worth the effort to come up with something that is, at the very least, appropriate to the rest of the story. If readers remember your book based on the last thing they read, your ending had better make the whole experience worth it.

That’s my editorial rant for the day.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Writemas

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3 Things I Would Rewrite in HUMORESQUE

The movie “Humoresque” is a classic tale of music, obsession, and love starring John Garfield and Joan Crawford. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it; the violin solos are incredible, the acting is excellent, and the dresses Crawford wears are beautiful. It’s a movie I watch about once a year and enjoy every time, despite my yelling at the screen when this brilliant story deteriorates at the edges – and sometimes forms full-on holes. It’s a shame because this movie is so wonderful overall and had the potential to be perfection but misses the mark and ends up classified as “wonderful” instead.

If I could edit this screenplay, here are the things I would change to stitch up the holes and make it seamless and natural. (If you didn’t already guess, spoilers are included!)

  1. John Garfield’s sudden change of heart. In one scene, Garfield disgustedly tells Crawford that he appreciates all the help she’s given him (i.e. jumpstarting his whole career) but ultimately it was a completely selfish act on her part. He also puts her in her place about their relationship being nothing more than business. In the very next scene, they’re at Crawford’s beach house (how did this happen?) and Garfield makes a pass at Crawford, about to kiss her. She’s the one who has to turn him down. How did any of this happen? No one knows. It’s a huge jump, almost as if a scene in between that explained this change of heart was cut out.
    My rewrite: Here’s what should have happened. Garfield and Crawford have their previously mentioned fight, but before they end up at the beach house, a scene takes place where it’s clear that Crawford has backed off of Garfield, not calling him for a few days, not helping him with his career, not showering him with her attention and money like she has been. Garfield starts to realize how much that attention meant to him beyond the money and career help, and he tries to find her but fails, becoming more and more antsy to see her. Finally he reaches her on the phone, at this point a little desperate to see her, and she says she’ll see him only if he makes the concession to come to her beach house, where she wants to be, thereby setting up the switch of power in the relationship from him to her. The perfect transition. Enter the beach house scene.
  2. The convenient good girl. Joan Chandler appears in the film a few times, young and sweet and genuine – Crawford’s exact opposite. She’s seen at the beginning of the film, then reappears randomly a few times later, once to serve as a cause for jealousy and other times for apparently no reason at all. At one point, she attends Garfield’s violin concert after she knows about his feelings for Crawford, and it seems that this relationship drives her over the edge (a little overdone if you ask me), so she runs out of the concert. It’s raining outside and she has to walk past poster after poster of violin-playing Garfield’s advertisements, all paid for by Crawford. It seems to be a surefire sign of the end of her interest in him, and yet she suddenly appears here and there at other concerts of his. Why? No one knows. On top of that, she completely disappears and her interest in him is never resolved (and he never seemed very interested in her as more than a friend anyway). Perhaps at the end of the film it’s insinuated that Garfield might go back to Chandler, but frankly the end is quite underwhelming and uncertain anyway.
    My rewrite: From the beginning, Garfield should have shown more interest in Chandler, clear romantic feelings. Then his abandonment of her would feel much more upsetting. As it stands, most of the time I felt like Chandler was trying to squeeze affection out of him when he didn’t seem interested in the same kind of relationship. If he had shown more romantic interest in her from the beginning, then as he forgets to call her and misses dates with her, we would feel pained. Then when he happens to meet her later on when she’s waiting for an audition and then they have lunch, the situation should have been that he contacted her after all that time specifically to have lunch with her, perhaps because he missed her (it doesn’t have to be spelled out), which would make Crawford’s jealousy more understandable and Chandler’s upset over Garfield choosing Crawford over her much more real. After Chandler leaves the concert in the rain, she wouldn’t show up at any more of his concerts. Finally the “why do we shave every day” scene would be cut (or at least that strange conversation would be cut) and instead we would see her meeting him at the bar he used to frequent with Crawford, clearly at his request. They would leave together quickly after he says some line that makes it clear he’s leaving his whole past with Crawford behind, and they could walk back together to his family’s home. This would sew up both his return to humility as well as to his family and her.
  3. Timely insanity. Crawford ends up going crazy and needs to quiet her uncertainty, confusion, and indecisiveness with suicide in the famous ocean scene. Her insanity doesn’t make much sense because some key aspects are missing to provide psychological proof that her mind would be pushed to such an extreme condition. Yes, Garfield’s music comes first in his life, which is tough for a selfish, self-centered woman to take. But this is countered by the fact that he isn’t unreasonable about putting his music first. In fact he seems to spend all his time outside of rehearsal with her, so what more could she really ask for? Yes, she’s an alcoholic to cover up her own unhappiness, which would make her more unreasonable. But Garfield clearly states that she’s able to give up alcohol when he asks her to. And finally yes, she’s torn between marrying him like she wants to (and he wants to) and leaving because his music comes first, something Garfield’s mother also points out to Crawford. But aren’t these problems relatively superficial? It all comes down to her needing all of his attention and not wanting to share it with anyone or anything, not even a career. She’s obsessive, and while that would be painful, it’s not a solid reason for insanity. It’s a basic personality problem.
    My rewrite: As much as I love the way the drowning scene is executed with such class, I would have to cut this out or rework most of Crawford’s character to make her insanity reasonable. Instead, to keep this edit somewhat confined to the insanity/drowning scene, I would still have her die but from alcohol poisoning. She wouldn’t go crazy, but instead she would go back to alcohol (after she had stopped drinking because Garfield asked her to) and be so desperate to get drunk because of her own confusion and indecision about whether she should marry him or not that she would way overdo it and die of alcohol poisoning.
    Another thing connected to Crawford’s insanity that I would alter is her indecision about marrying Garfield. She’s sure this is what she wants until she sees him crumple up a note she sends him during rehearsal telling him she has urgent news and to meet her immediately. Of course, like anyone would, he puts that note in his pocket and continues rehearsing with the orchestra and conductor. Listen, unless that note says someone died or some horrible accident has happened, a serious musician isn’t leaving rehearsal with a full (paid) orchestra and conductor just for a note from his girlfriend. That’s just not how it works. This clearly shows Crawford’s lack of understanding of this man she’s supposed to love. Instead, I would have her indecision caused by her alcohol addiction (it’s really not easy to give up alcohol when you drink all day and all night); her encounter with Garfield’s mother who would still beg Crawford to leave her son alone, but the mother would visit Crawford instead of vice versa and make the argument that Crawford could destroy her son’s future by both distracting him from his lifelong goals and through the scandal and emotional upset of probable divorce since she has divorced multiple times already; and perhaps a boyfriend from the beginning of the movie coming back to visit her and her remembering how much simpler things were with simple men like him (not as much of an emotional relationship, but one that satisfied her obsessive, selfish side). All of this would serve to add up to her return to alcohol at the end and her death by alcohol poisoning.

Even if these changes extended the movie from 1.5 hours to 2 hours, it would be well worth it to have consistent characters and storylines, accurate psychology, and no holes in the film’s plot and character development. Now that I’ve said my piece, let’s appreciate the beauty that is Joan Crawford’s fabulous resting bitch face in “Humoresque”, one thing I wouldn’t edit out for anything in the world.

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The Liebster Award: Get to Know Me

Thanks to the talented and difference-making Michelle Diana Lowe for nominating me for The Liebster Award!

Here are my answers to her unique 11 questions:

1) How long ago did you start blogging?

Oh dear…I think I started around 2012! I had blogs before that, but I wasn’t interested enough to keep them up.

2) What is your favourite day of the week?

It has to be Friday or Saturday – those are both my film noir movie nights. 😉

3) What is the nicest thing you have ever done for a stranger?

I donate clothes yearly or twice yearly to a local charity, but besides that I once noticed a car’s parking meter running out and put in an extra quarter.

4) Who is your favourite band or artist?

I don’t have one. I like a little bit from lots of different artists and groups. I probably like the most from Moby.

5) Do you prefer orange juice or apple juice?

Either! I love them both. Orange juice in the spring and summer, apple juice in the fall and winter (because I can make apple cider out of it).

6) Name one of The Spice Girls?

Posh Spice.

7) What book did you read last?

I just finished The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham, and it was absolutely fantastic. Read my review here on Goodreads.

8) What is your favourite TV show?

That’s too hard! I love The Honeymooners, Miranda, Seinfeld, The Good Wife, Downton Abbey – a good variety of favorites.

9) Are you an an author as well as a blogger?

Yes! I’ve written many short stories, poems, essays, and haikus, some of which have been published and two of which won awards. My book Anatomy of a Darkened Heart is for sale here on my homepage, via Amazon, and via Smashwords.

10) What is your next goal in life?

To make being an author my full-time job. I have a loooooong publishing plan, so I’m pumped to make it happen. In the meantime, my next book, Locke and Keye, will be out in fall 2016.

11) What is your middle name?

Lynn.

I nominate the following people for The Liebster Award for bloggers – David Kelly, David Ellis, David Spell. All the Davids!
Here are 11 questions for my nominees:

1) If you could only read one genre for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

2) Do you have or did you ever have a nickname you hated?

3) Do you prefer the cell phone age or do you wish cell phones didn’t exist?

4) What time period would you live in if you could choose any one you wanted?

5) If you could live in any fantasy world – anything from a video game, book, or movie – where would you live?

6) If you could teach one lesson to everyone, what would it be? This doesn’t have to be book or writing related.

7) Would you rather carry on sleeping a certain amount of hours every night or would you prefer to not sleep at all Monday-Saturday, then have to spend all of Sunday (24 hours) sleeping?

8) What is the best thing to ever happen to you?

9) If you could melt one book into yourself so you’d always have all of its words with you, which one would you choose?

10) Approximately how many books do you have in your home right now? Library books count.

11) What is your ultimate dream?

Below are the rules that each nominee needs to follow:

And finally, here are 11 random facts about me:

1) If I could own all the dogs in the world, I would.

2) Chocolate is the best thing ever invented.

3) There’s nothing scarier than fuzzy mold.

4) If I don’t write for too long, I start to get very moody and depressed.

5) I wish every book I own was also on a shirt in my closet.

6) I’ve never taken a writing class.

7) When I was young, I really thought I could read every book in my lifetime.

8) When I was young, I wanted to be in the Olympics. Still kinda do.

9) I hope to someday teach at my alma mater.

10) I never thought I would write historical fiction. Ever.

11) When I was young, several times I started writing The Book of Information in which I wanted to publish literally all facts, definitions, and objects in the world. I really thought this was possible.

Midweek Gaming Update

As promised, here’s my midweek update on the technical problems I was having trying to record my first gaming and reading/writing chat video. Spoiler: it’s good news! 🙂

See you on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time!

Gaming is Still Coming – Tech Issues

I promised you gaming, and gaming you shall get. Here are two things you need to know:

  1. Windows Movie Maker is completely and utterly rude
  2. I think I’ve figured out a workaround

<Rant begins here:

I had to use my six-year-old computer to run American McGee’s Alice, which I don’t mind at all. In fact, that computer works very well! And thanks to fellow author Joshua Robertson’s excellent advice for what software to use to record my gaming (Dxtory for screen recording and Audacity for voice recording), the hard part was done.

And then there was Windows Movie Maker.

Alice and I were quite mad.

Editing the footage should be the easiest part. Well, it is on a Mac with iMovie, and it appeared to be similar on Movie Maker. Not so! Granted, I’m probably working with a buggy, outdated version, but the problem I had made no sense. I couldn’t put my cursor anywhere but the beginning of the footage or else the audio would jump to an earlier section of the movie. Which means I couldn’t split or edit the audio either because it gave me the same issue. Um…weird. There is no excuse! So after lots of messing around to try to work with it on my Mac among other attempts to fix the issue, I’m videoless. Well! Not a happy Christie.

Rant over./>

I think I’ve found a workaround, so I’m going to try it out this week and update you on my progress. If all goes as planned (which obviously it hasn’t so far) I’ll have the video ready for June 25. I plan on recording a quick video midweek to let you know whether I’ll be able to make this work or not. It must! I’m determined.

Thanks for your patience and support. It has been so lovely to see people say across platforms that they’re looking forward to watching my gaming vids. Thank you so much! 🙂

Gaming and Chat This Weekend!

It’s been too long since I’ve posted and I’m not happy about it. You know when you have a week so overwhelming and seemingly never ending that you feel you might go crazy? I had three of those in a row. Being that I’ve now gone totally mad, I thought I might appropriately play American McGee’s Alice, one of my favorite dark video games ever.

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This game is one of many iterations of Alice in Wonderland and it had a huge impact on my writing. In fact it helped develop my taste for dark fiction in general.

This weekend I’m going to start my chatty playthrough of Alice on YouTube with lots of funnes, book talk, writing talk, and more. I’m so excited about it, and I hope you’ll join me in this fun venture! I think you’ll like it. 😉