Today’s post title is sort of multipurpose. Chris and I watched the new Will Farrell movie out on DVD, Stranger Than Fiction, earlier this week. Well, I watched it–Chris mostly slept. I really liked the movie. Farrell is actually a pretty decent, subdued actor when he’s given good material to work with, and this was very good material. I tend to watch everything from a writerly perspective–and this movie is very writing-centric. Emma Thompson is terrific as the reclusive author who is unknowingly wreaking havoc in Ferrell’s character’s life and plotting (unsuccessfully for most of the movie, thanks to writer’s block) his untimely demise.
I also really liked Queen Latifah as the steely and calm assistant who’s been tasked by the publishing house to make sure she finishes her novel on schedule. Equally undaunted by sitting in the pouring rain while her charge contemplates the literary merits of auto accidents, and the arrival of a living, breathing fictional character at the office door, I can easily see why the former Dana Owens chose the name “Queen”–there is something regal and unflappable about her.
Predictably, Dustin Hoffman steals every scene he’s in as a literary professor trying to help Farrell’s tax auditor figure out what novel he’s in and who might be writing him into the hereafter. The underrated Linda Hunt has a brief appearance as a psychiatrist. I adore Linda Hunt–she’s like a live-action Edna “E” Mode from The Incredibles. But I digress.
So anyway, I enjoyed the movie, but it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea. Don’t go into it expecting your usual frenetic Will Ferrell comedy.
In other fiction-related news, I really am liking yWriter.Â RoughDraft–not so much.Â At first, I was really, really aggravated by yWriter, because you can’t simply open a new document and start typing.Â Then I realized that’s the point. Â It literally forces you to organize and structure your writing–to write with a point and a purpose, as opposed to just opening up a vein and bleeding on paper. Â You have to start a “Project” with at least a working title.Â You have to set up chapters.Â You have to designate scenes.Â Then you get to write your prose within a scene.
Once you get over that hump, of not being able to just start writing–it’s actually quite an ingenious little tool.Â You can set up individual records for each character–their descriptions, motivations, goals, etc.–and then track which scenes each character is in.Â For each scene, you can enter, outside the actual prose itself, what the point of that scene is, how it moves the overall plot along, the main conflict for that scene, resolution, etc. Â Â You can drag and drop scenes–if, say you decide that argument between Ben and Sally fits better in Chapter Six than Chapter Four.
Basically, yWriter does well the things that most writers don’t naturally do well–organize, structure, and plan.Â It forces you to do those things first, and then you find that the easy part (for most writers), actually committing prose to paper, becomes even easier, more focused and more productive.
And best of all, it’s completely free.Â That said, there’s no manual and as I mentioned, it’s not the most intuitive software I ever met.Â Â But once you get over the learning curve, it’s a very useful tool for longer works.