Melissa Jo Peltier

Author of fiction and nonfiction; film and television producer/writer/director

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Blogging about TV, Film, Media, Literature & Justice For All....

Time to Start Blogging Again (And Thoughts on Storytelling in General)

March 7, 2015

Tags: Storytelling, Criticism, Writing, Writer's block, movies, film

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Tags: Storytelling, Criticism, Writing, Writer's block, movies, film
Thank you, dear stranger, for visiting this obscure website! My analytics have been going through the roof lately but I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s because followers are responding positively to the Tweets & news items I share daily, about my personal passions: film; TV; theatre; literature; freedom of expression; artists’ rights; equality and tolerance… and other random things that I consider provocative and fascinating. If that’s the case, then I hope I’ve touched a chord and I’ll continue to try and improve on that foundation.

The internet is littered with blogs and websites that have started strong then been abandoned by gung-ho writers and artists. For me, it’s been a dry couple writing years since my first novel, REALITY BOULEVARD and its press campaign. I was saved from complete “writer’s block” by ghostwriting a handful of projects over the past couple years (here’s another thing with which my fellow writers will agree – it’s a lot easier to write anonymously in another’s voice than in your own name.) Those writers who tell you the second novel is the hardest weren't kidding. For a living, I’m honored to be working as “story consultant” and co-producer for some important feature documentaries. I've found I love fixing flawed stories and making good stories even better and I’m developing a healthy little business doing that for a variety of artists and non-creative professionals. It reminds me that good writing is at least 60% rewriting and that we all need a “brain trust” of those we respect to critique our work - and help us 'murder our darlings' regularly.

Among the things I’d like to blog about here in the future are movies. My husband, the talented writer/director John Gray (probably best known as the creator of the hit “Ghost Whisperer” series for CBS) will see any movie, anytime, anywhere. I’m not quite the die hard he is, but since I started dating him 12 years ago (we’ll be married 9 years in April), I’ve seen more new movies per week than I used to see in three or four months. It’s taught me that even if you don’t work in the field of cinematic storytelling, watching a lot of movies makes you a better person. Seriously. I dare you to watch a selection of movies (no, not ALL action shoot-em-up action movies, but at least half dramas and indies) and not feel your “empathy quotient” on an obvious upward trajectory.

In the next entry, I’ll write about WHY blogging about other people’s art is ethically problematic to me. I’m not talking about my favorite bugaboo, Reality TV, which I truly believe is a scourge on not just art but general human values. I’m talking about the simple act of one person claiming to have the credentials and authority to “criticize” another’s creative work. If you ask me to, then it's one thing - then the gloves are off. But if I simply take it upon myself to sit down at the computer and tear apart your magnum opus? Do I have the right? It’s a tough one.

What do you think? What is 'criticism' exactly, and what purpose does it serve, for either creator/artist or audience? Who are these critics, anyway? How much should another’s opinion affect how YOU react to the artistic expression of a stranger?

Please send me your thoughts on these questions below or on my twitter feed, @MelissaJPeltier.

More on this to come….and again, all my gratitude for dropping in.
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Comments

  1. March 7, 2015 8:53 PM EST
    Funny timing this. I made a commitment to myself to start blogging again, after frankly, tiring of the whole "This is me and my opinion" thing.

    Here's my take on the subject of criticism. If you ask for feedback, be prepared. It might come back as a blessing or a curse, but hopefully, whether someone likes the piece or not, they can at least be constructive. As a former "D Girl" and manager, I have seen the effects of what I deem unprofessional feedback, which is when it gets personal. This always reflects more poorly on the person giving the critique than the individual who created it.

    It's the old adage of don't burn bridges. You never know if you'll walk into a meeting one day to regret the implosion of a scathing critique.
    - Sidney Peck, Cinema Profound
  2. March 23, 2015 4:59 PM EDT
    This is an excellent materiele for discussion. I am filmmaker and it is rather disappointing to hear internet critics saying bad things about my work when they are not educated or experienced in that art. I am respectful of many critics but there is an atmosphere of very meanness that is disheartening. I would hope more critics would be respectful of the artists they write about.
    - Geneviève à Paris
  3. March 23, 2015 6:00 PM EDT
    There are two kinds of art criticism - one that's meant to be read by people who have seen or experienced the art in question, as a way to further explore the meaning; the other is more of a so called "consumer service" i.e. I'll tell you whether or not you should spend your money on this movie, play, etc. The former has value, the latter has none. One man's Masterpiece Theater is another man's Smokey and The Bandit, and most often critics who write these kinds of reviews are hoping to move their careers along by being as snarky and "witty" and savage as they possibly can (and what a sad comment that such things can move one's career along); they are not interested in helping someone choose wisely. I think it's also true that there is a not a single working critic or reviewer our there who wouldn't trade their profession in a hot second for a chance to actually BE a writer, actor, director, painter, etc. Instead, they sit back in the safety of their office or studies, and pass judgement on work they really don't understand how to do themselves. My feelings about critics are best summed up by the wonderful scene in BIRDMAN where Edward Norton's character confronts the theater critic about her stated intention to give Michael Keaton's character's play a savage review - "He's going on that stage Friday night and he's putting it all out there - he's risking everything - what are YOU doing on Friday night?"
    - Billy G

Published Works

Reality Boulevard
"...a book in the tradition of great Hollywood novels, from Carroll and Garrett Graham’s Queer People (1930) to Michael Tolkin’s The Player (1988), and reads like Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 Network screenplay retooled for the 21st century" - Ken Salikoff, Kirkus Indie Magazine
Fiction
"In this smart, funny, insightful novel, reality TV becomes all too real...Peltier examines the Hollywood world of writers, producers, rich kids, actors, wannabes and con men with a keen and often compassionate eye. " - Kirkus Reviews
"Once I started reading "Reality Boulevard," I could not stop...this is the best satirical look behind-the-scenes of "reality television" ever written." - Arnold Shapiro, Oscar & Emmy-winning Producer of Scared Straight; Rescue 911; Big Brother
“[Millan] arrives amid canine chaos and leaves behind peace.” —Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker
Non-Fiction (Co-Author)
“As complete a tome on the subject as one could want…If the answer you’re looking for in this guide cannot be found, the question is not worth asking...this is an impressive piece of work.” - Bookviews, June 2011