I have been told there is no love like in the movies. I disagree. For example, this weekend I went with my boyfriend to his family’s cabin in Vermont just over the border of Western Mass. It was a beautiful weekend, the fall leaves cascaded from the oaks and maples like delicate Chantilly drapery. Saturday afternoon, we road our mountain bikes to a summit where we had a picnic. It was perfect, he’s so sweet, he even brought my favorite, lavender champagne! To be honest, most of the weekend, we were cut off from the rest of the world holed up in the cabin’s foyer under its vaulted ceilings. It was so cozy by the roaring fireplace. The heat lit the room like a grenade in a fox hole.
Ok…I made this up. Ha! I don’t have a boyfriend- in fact, not only am I not dating anyone but I stayed home all weekend to work! However, this story is just the kind of thing my brain starts to think up every time I meet a suitable guy. If you think that’s bad, you should see some of my daydream about my beach wedding! Unfortunately, I have retired the beach wedding daydream (after having to replace the groom several times since I first thought it up, it kind of lost it’s novelty).
None of these daydreams have ever come to fruition. I might as well replace the usual cast (men I date in real-time) with celebrities like Ryan Gosling or Robert Downy Jr. Why not? Statistically the likelihood of my beach wedding happening with one of them vs. someone I actually have dated are scarily similar. Despite these poor odds, I haven’t given up, (I’m a gambler!).
It actually has nothing to do with gambling. The reason I haven’t given up is based on years of research. Yes, years, and no I am not referring to strings of failed relationships and dates that turned out…not so good. I am talking about actual research, burying my face in books kind of research that I did as a Creative Writing undergraduate student and as an editor for a literary magazine. I actually took college very seriously (I swear, I didn’t just write that because I know my Dad’s reading this).
Part of the creative writing curriculum is writing workshops and I took many. Writing workshops can be fun depending on how much you like reading. It usually goes like this. Every week you’re responsible for writing some type of manuscript and printing about a hundred copies of it to swap with the other students in your next class. Usually you leave that next class with a stack of papers thicker than a phone book. You are expected to read each piece and make notes on what you liked about the story and give suggestions on things they could do to improve their work.
During these workshops I certainly ran into a lot of critics. Nobody liked the tasteful period piece I wrote, though I still think it’s great. It is about the son of a minister who is engaged to a beautiful girl from the town. Somehow his fiancee happens to get impregnated with Satan’s spawn. The minister’s son reacts very violently proving once again that even being the minister’s son doesn’t make a person pious. Still not sure why it was so offensive- lots of Christians in the audience? The other manuscript I wrote was even more controversial, anyways, after reading so many stories by so many different writers something strange began to happen.
In just one read through, I was able to intuitively tell three things:
1. If the author had made the story up completely (the story was actually a work of fiction).
2. If the story was based on a story or event the author heard from someone else or in passing.
3. Or if it was a true story about the author’s own life but the author thinly veiled it as fiction (and by thinly, I mean, it was close to 100% truth but to throw everyone off they labeled it “fiction).
It was the same as when I read submissions for a literary magazine and to be honest, the strait up fiction was always the least compelling of these three categories. I began to understand how teachers were so good at catching kids who cheated or plagiarized. When writing, everyone has a very distinct voice whether they realize it or not. This “voice” is a unique thumb print and extension of the writer’s soul. It cannot be replicated with ease or hidden well from me or teachers, at least.
After I had this realization it became clear that for the most part 90% of the work I read, though titled “fiction,” was not actually fiction. Every story was based on:
-Something someone had heard about
-Something fictitious that still had roots in real life events
-Or something that actually happened to them
Naturally, this gave me insight into another art form: film. Film always begins on the page, whether it’s a treatment or an adaptation, it starts in print. That deduction just about proved the realistic roots of film (excluding sci-fi, super heros and the like). Of course there is such a thing as love like in the movies because before it was a film, it was a story, and before it was written down it was being played out somewhere in the world in actual events.
You have heard the saying, that every story has already been told? This makes it even more difficult to create anything completely original;anything not based in life. What they say is true, in fact, there are only seven basic story plots.
1. Man vs Nature
2. Man vs Man
3. Man vs the Environment
4. Man vs Machine/ Technology
5. Man vs the Supernatural
6. Man vs Self
7. Man vs God. Religion
Sure the details may change. Perhaps for their anniversary, he bought regular champagne instead of say lavender. Or maybe they couldn’t afford the romantic beach wedding so they got married in town hall. And maybe his family didn’t have a cabin in Vermont or anywhere and he lived by himself in a small studio outside of Brooklyn. The difference in the detail does not change nor make the actual plot.
But it is not just writing. It is art. Art is human emotion transcribed to page; it has been brought from the dimension of thinking and feeling to the physical reality. So to say there is no such thing as love like in the movies suggests that perhaps all emotions portrayed in art are false. Is it true, that no one has ever died for love, or from a broken heart? Was the famous photograph “a Sailor, A Nurse, A legendary Kiss” staged? What about music? Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” written for his young son’s premature death. Were those emotions not real?
I’ll be the first to admit that I believe in lots of things that other people find silly, but at least I believe in something. I don’t think love like in the movies is just a fairy tale but maybe that’s because I believe in fairy tales too. Yes, you can scoff at fairy tale endings in favor of something more desolate and depressing – you might even call this realism! I say what is going to happen is going to happen, so I will not give up on my belief- that somewhere there is love like in the movies and that maybe someday it will find me. I have read thousands of manuscripts, papers, and stories. I have probably seen just as many works of art and movies, if not more, and I know as a writer and artist all the things that we read on our computers or view in galleries started out in the same place: inside of the mind and heart of someone who cared enough about it to transcribe it.
So what do you think? Do you believe in love like in the movies?