I Think I Had a Breakthrough!

I had a couple of ideas for today’s post.  I could discuss the recent devaluing of the accomplishments of a national book award winner.  Or, I could apply the recent teachings of Chris Rock to the publishing industry.  OR I could talk about an epiphany I had about my manuscript.

I chose option 3. Mainly because I’ve discovered that the posts about my personal struggles (e.g., how not writing is makes me feel fat) usually get the most hits. Those and the ones with Kanye in the title- no wonder CNN keeps posting those stories about weight loss and reality stars!

Anyway, let’s just say I’ve spent the last couple of months pondering about my manuscript. Pondering the things that must be changed within it, but also pondering about the way I pitched to the dozen or so agents I sent query letters to.

Perhaps the little thing that I know needs to be changed (yet haven’t been able to figure out) does not actually concern my manuscript, but rather my query letter. I’ve read that one of the fatal mistakes people make when pitching agents is inaccurately describing the story. The result is that the agent asks for some pages expecting one thing, and gets another. Or, perhaps more tragically, an agent passes on pages because they think it’s about one thing, when they were actually looking for something like what you wrote.

I have described my story as a love story or, alternatively, a story about a relationship (probably on this blog, but definitely in my query letter). What inspired me to write it? Well, what I learned about how a relationship can change you- it forces you to figure out your fundamental values, you experience growth from combining your hopes and dreams with someone else’s, and for a lot of people, heartbreak is the first time they experience grief.

Wait a second!

If that’s why I wrote this thing, then it’s not really a love story. It’s a coming of age story! The love story/relationship is just the catalyst. I mean it’s still central and important, but not the point. Really, it’s a dual coming of age story, because both the male and female protagonist evolve and learn about themselves from the experience.  There’s also the black lives matter angle (black fictional lives in this case)- that is, I make some conscious efforts to depict aspects of black life that I don’t see a lot.  I also don’t really talk about that in my pitch.

I’m not sure how much the rest of the world cares about this, but it feels good to have a mini breakthrough.   Happy holidays!!!

Let’s Talk About “Beyond the Lights”

Like so many of you (who have heard of Beyond the Lights), I was not sure if it would be worth the 2 hours and $13. However, it’s a love story starring a bi-racial artist and an African American aspiring politician that’s written/directed by the person behind the classic Love and Basketball. So of course I watched it.

For those of you who don’t know. It’s a movie about Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a pop-star who attempts to jump off a building, but is literally saved by Kaz (Nate Parker), a noble police officer who wants to save the world through public service. From there their love grows.

And I loved it. Oh, how I loved it. Do you understand that Beyond the Lights represents everything I want to accomplish as a storyteller?! Here’s why:

  • It’s character driven. The plot isn’t completely original, but the characters are well-written and well-acted in this case. As we get to know them throughout the movie, their actions and reactions make sense.
  • It’s a love story. I love love stories and I hadn’t seen a really good one in a while. This was a good one.
  • It’s a love story starring non-white people. I don’t like this concept of telling a story where the characters “just happen to be black” because I feel like that aspect of one’s identity shouldn’t be ignored, even if it’s not the point of the story. I think this movie does a good job being a love story first, but also acknowledging the unique backgrounds of the characters. For example, the main character Noni is biracial (not uncommon), but she actually has a white parent – Minnie Driver – who plays a major role in her life (surprisingly uncommon)! I mean it’s so obvious and easy to have a bi-racial person depicted with a white parent, but how often do mixed people actually see themselves represented in that way?
  • The music was awesome. It was sooo on point, and helped tell the story. That’s the thing about fiction, it has to make sense. You can’t just have any song playing in the background and at any moment, every detail has to help move the story along—and in this case it did.

I encourage you to check the movie out!!  Or at least the soundtrack! :)