Friday, July 20, 2012

Hitchcock, Truffaut, and Me

Two masters talking about telling stories.
Check out the website this picture is from.
There's this book that Francois Truffaut wrote decades ago where he spent a dozen hours interviewing Alfred Hitchcock. I've read this book twice and learned a great deal about storytelling when I did. However, I haven't looked at it since I have been writing prose so I thought it would be a good time to glance at it.

In Chapter 6, they begin by discussing Rebecca and how Mrs. Danvers almost never moves on screen, then Truffaut makes the point that the whole tale, while suspenseful, is really more of a fable. This is something that Hitch considered while making the film. It's a fascinating discussion made moreso by the revelation (or reminder to me, in any case) that the main character in the film is never named. She's the mistress of Manderly, or her husband's wife, but she doesn't have a name. Since the Daphne Du Maurier novel is told from the first person point of view, this makes sense. We don't often use our names when we tell stories, do we? We say "I" or "me" or some variation.

Something of a great deal of interest is brought up near the end of that particular subject. I'll tell you why after I give you the quote:

"...the location of the house is never specified in a geographical sense; it's completely isolated. That's also true of the house in The Birds. I felt instinctively that the fear would be greater if the house was so isolated that the people in it would have have no one to turn to."

This was done because the picture was made in America and not in Britain. (It was his first American film for David O. Selznick, who had just done Gone With the Wind.) Hitch admits that they would have been "tempted to show the countryside and the lanes leading to the house." If they had gone for a more realistic setting they would have "lost the sense of isolation".

Of course. When one reads these words and knows the film, it makes perfect sense. One of the great romantic stories retold by one of the great storytellers of the last century is multi-layered in such a way that it's not obvious until you step back. It's one of the things I've striven for in my own storytelling but have failed to achieve.

At least until the development of my novel.

I'm still in revisions, but I'm getting closer to sending it out. I was hoping for the end of August but it may be more realistically the end of September. That's neither here nor there for now. Why the word 'isolation' is important is that main characters in successful stories are always isolated at some point and I've never really thought of it that way before. So, the light has gone off and I'm sharing that with you because I like you guys.

But also, the Confabulator Cafe's new series of stories are coming up and I want to tell you a little about that. We've created a house, an isolated house, where things have happened over centuries. The house is the main character and the people and things inside it are supporting characters. I'm excited that this is happening and I want you all to make sure to come visit. It'll launch the end of this month or thereabouts and I'll remind you when it's going on. Six days of stories by some really talented writers ought to be pretty satisfying. I'll go ahead and tell you that my story happens in the Upstairs Library in 1955.

Oftentimes it feels like I"m pretty isolated as a writer. I'm new enough in the game that not many people know me, but I've been doing it long enough that I know a lot of people. I'm looking to take that feeling of 'in-between' and isolation and transfer that to the stories I'm telling. Meantime, I'll be reading Truffaut's Hitchcock book a lot more closely. I recommend you do, too, if you tell stories at all.

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