Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘DaVinci Code

 

A few blogs ago I had a bit of a rant about what I considered to be duff advice about how to create characters in novels, and wrote a skit called ‘The DaDisney Code,’ in an attempt to spread an internet ruimour that Dan Brown based his characters on the seven dwarves. Maybe it was a little silly, a little surreal. But it was just a bit of fun.
I have since found that I did not invent the connection, and would have known that if I had been a little more attentive in my reading of the Da Vinci Code.
Apparently there is a long passage which claims that Walt Disney subscribed to the ideas expressed in Da Vinci (i.e.that the church suppressed information about Mary Magdalene having a child by Jesus- sorry one person who hasn’t seen/read it) and sprinkled his films with references to this belief.
Unlikely? Then why does this picture, the ‘Penitent Magdalene’ by seventeenth-century artist Georges de la Tour…

…appear in this one, from Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid?’

Hmmm… makes you think doesn’t it? But before we get carried away, it’s good to remember what my old theology lecturer taught me about signs and symbols: signs have one-to-one correspondence to the thing they represent. Symbols mean different things to different people. It’s a good job that road signs only have one interpretation- although I do sometimes wonder.

That particular lecturer could find ‘Tree of Life’ symbolism in almost any icon he was presented with, but never once referred to any phallic significance- perhaps that was because he was also a Methodist Minister.

Returning to ‘The Little Mermaid,’ there is a rumour that a symbol has been added by the artist to the picture below. Look closely at the tower…

Closer…

Closer still…
 
 
 

 


Yes, it is for real. Rumour has it that it was added by an artist who found that he was about to lose his job with Disney. But Stopes, that debunker of Urban and internet myth, has tracked the guy down, and he says it was nothing of the sort and that no resemblance was intended.
Thanks, Stopes, for spoiling a great story. I really wanted to believe that. I bet they’re hot on the trail of the guy who painted the Turin Shroud. 
 
BUT… doesn’t this open up an even greater mystery? I mean, when the artist sketched out the tower, when he added colour, carefully highlighting the glistening erection… did it totally escape his notice that he had just painted a giant golden ****?

Or is it just another example of the tree of life?

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So you are sure of who you are, and what you want to do. You know there’s nothing wrong with it- you’ve been doing it for years for God’s sake. All you have to do now is to tell someone.

You go over the scene so many times. You are in that familiar living room but the walls seem to press in and each breath feels like you are aspirating in a pool of warm sweat.

You practice the words, imagining the gasps, the incredulity… the laughter.

‘Mum… Dad… Sweetheart… I’ve something to tell you: I’m… I’m… AN AUTHOR!

It’s time to unleash your creation upon your first readership- your friends and family, which is not an easy thing to. You have laboured long and hard on this, it is your baby, you’ve grown attached, and will be upset if anyone tells you it’s ugly. But be brave- better a friend tells you than a publisher.

So ask them to be honest, and to make any marks on the manuscript in a different colour to what has been used by previous readers. Ask them to comment on the plot, characters, anything they liked or didn’t like. Ask them if they feel that it reads like something they would buy from a book shop, and if it doesn’t, why not.

You will be surprised, regardless of how thoroughly you have revised and proof read your work, just how many typos and spelling mistakes will still be found. A spell checker will pass ‘there’ or ‘their’ as correct, regardless of its context.

I even say to people that if they get so far in and think that it’s drivel to stop and give it back. LIFE IS TOO SHORT.

Fortunately, so far, no one has done that. Remarks have tended to be very encouraging. As I sat watching a football match at the city of Manchester Stadium I got a series of texts from someone who just had to know that her favourite character would survive. As it turned out, Manchester City lost and the texts turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the afternoon.

(Here’s an old football joke for you:
Football fan 1: City lost today.
Football fan 2: How do you know?
Football fan 1: It’s Saturday…)

Don’t feel obliged to make every change suggested by your readers. They, like you, bring their own presuppositions to the piece. But if several people make the same point this probably is a big indication that you need to rethink.

So go through it, making the alterations you agree with, remembering that each one may be keeping you that little bit further away from a publisher’s rejection pile. If you think this sounds tedious, how must it have been before the invenion of the word processor?

When you eventually get published (oh yes, positive thinking is essential,) you might want to give the people who helped you a credit.

My book is a thriller, of sorts, so I made a point at first of only asking people who I knew read that genre. After all, they were doing me a service, so I wanted them to at least get some enjoyment out of it.I asked my Wife, my Father and Brother to read it, but not my Mother, as she wouldn’t have got past the (necessary and appropriate) strong language. Which brings me onto another difficulty which you might find in sharing your work with people who know you…

What you consider to be your well-written and objective exploration of a neglected corner of the human condition may to someone who knows you come as an appalling revelation that you are a disgusting pervert with a mind like Satan’s sewer.Don’t laugh- it came as a great shock to Iris Murdoch’s nearest and dearest that some of her subject matter was in her head, so it does happen, even to the best of them. I once told a colleague who had read my novel that a great deal of it was based upon real events. She laughed and asked me if I was referring to the scene in the factory toilet (at the beginning of Chapter 3, which you can hear on YouTube.)

So think carefully- is your work a processing of reality through your imagination, or is it a confession of your warped psyche and a series of clues about where the bodies are buried?

Depending on your answer, your next step will be to send a sample of your work to an agent (in the first case literary, in the second, government.)

And you though it had been hard getting to this point…

At the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence not only can you see ‘David’ but also several of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures.

An assumption I had always held about sculpture was shattered the day I visited that gallery: I had always assumed that a sculptor would chip away at the front of his slab of marble, then gradually move round it, whittling it down to a figure. Not so Michelangelo- He worked from front to back- and the unfinished pieces look as if all you have to do is to break the remainder of the ‘cocoon’ from aroud them to reveal a complete statue.

Some writers work that way. Stephen King, for instance, starts at the beginning and writes until he gets to the end, developing characters and situations naturally as they emerge.

I don’t think that I could write that way as long as I’d got a hole in my **** (or, for any American readers, ***.) I’m more of a potterer around the marble with my chisel sort of writer- I may start at the beginning, but in my mind I have scenes from the end or half way, and I need some sort of structure- loose as it may be- to hang the story on- a plan, an idea of major themes and significant scenes.

I don’t mean anything too complicated, and it doesn’t even have to be written- especially not on stone, so that once the characters start to find their feet they can run if they want to.

Having a structure can help when you hit the block- you might be getting bogged down with an earlier part of the story, but feel inspired by a theme which has flashed into your mind from further on. I would recommend that you go for that, write it (In these days of Word Processing it will hang around for you below the earlier pages until you catch up with it) then return to where you got stuck, refreshed with a dip into your creativity. Usually I go back to the sticking point after this and find that it is so below the level of what I’ve just been writing that I just delete it and start again.

And what about chapters and where to end them? Remember: each chapter MUST add something to the story- either in moving the story on or revealing something new about a character. If it doesn’t, you might as well get rid of it. And try to end your chapters with ‘page turners.’ Although my last posting was partly a bit of fun, there is something to be learned from an aspect of Dan Brown’s writing which is shamelessly parodied there. You get to the end of a Dan Brown chapter and there is always something there you didn’t expect, or which makes you ask ‘what happens next?’ or ‘how do they get out of that?’

To my mind, a lot of Brown’s page turners draw too much attention to themselves for what they are, and I think that he produces tiny chapters in order to do this (Look at chapters 53-59 of ‘Deception Point’ for example.) But who am I to knock this? I have read and enjoyed all of Dan Brown’s novels (with reservations about the DaVinci Code because I am a qualified theologian and know just how much he twisted the ‘evidence’- but hey, this is entertainment, and his sales figures speak for themselves.)

The point is, if you want to know what a page turner is, just go through a Dan Brown novel and simply read the last line of every chapter.

And when you’ve done that, if you are a writer, go through the last lines of each chapter of your novel. Do they just fizzle out, or do they make the reader want to read on?

This is your homework until next time.

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For some time now there has been a school of thought on the internet which has pointed out a spooky synchronicity between Pink Floyd’s ‘the Dark Side of the Moon’ and the film, ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ (Go on- check it out!)
The latest rumour of this type is that an unidentified bestselling author based the characters in his novel upon those of the Seven Dwarves. Judge for yourself from the exerpts below, which are taken from an early draft of the work acquired only this week…

Chapter 94

‘The curator even died with a smile on his face,’ said the albino assassin. ‘He was always happy, even in death. What bloody right had he got to be happy all of the time? He should have tried living my life.’

The Doc tried not to pay too much attention to the rubik’s cube which he was holding, because he now knew beyond doubt that it held the answer: at its centre was a parchment, wrapped around a vial of vinegar, which, if broken, would cause the material upon which the clue was written to disintegrate.

The Doc had had no trouble securing the cathedral for his private use. After all, the Archbishop owed him one, and all he’d had to do was say ‘nice frock, Bish,’ to reduce him to a blushing, beard twiddling, malleable heap.

So now it was a case of waiting with Miss White, whose skills as a cryptographer were second only to her indescribable beauty, to see who turned up.

And so far, it had been the albino.

It occurred to the Doc that even in the unusually tourist-free cathedral, the monotone voice of the albino failed to produce an echo, as if the immense walls were themselves finding him too tedious to engage with.

Just listen to him, whingeing again about his cilice. And it’s not even about it cutting into his flesh… oh no, it’s the style and colour this time… not what he would have chosen… so who did choose it? Who is the mastermind behind all of this?
The Doc’s train of thought was interrupted by the rustling of paper.

‘Gee what a nice little museum. Have they got dinosaurs?’

It was John Doe, P.I.

‘Surely,’ said the Doc, ‘you can’t be the evil genius who …’

‘No, I just got these from an English chipshop and stepped in out of the rain- want one?’

The Doc suddenly realised that in the last twenty-four hours he had traveled the length of two continents and as well as having no sleep the only thing he’d touched which resembled food had been a poisoned apple.

He reached out to take a French fry, but his hand froze as he heard an all too familiar sound from a dark corner of the cathedral:

‘Aaaaaa-choooo.’

‘Professor Teabing… I should have known… or ‘Sneezing Teabing,’ as we called you at the seminary.’

The Doc slipped the Rubik’s cube under Doe’s ‘chip paper’ and into his oily palm, whispering: get this to lecouchez at Interpol.

He knew that this could be a gamble. Lecouchez’s narcolepsy tended to kick in at inconvenient points during investigations… but who else could he trust?’

Spinning round, he saw Teabing hobbling toward him, and wondered why he had never noticed his strong resemblance to Magneto.

‘Give me the… A-a-a-a… give me the… A-a-a-a-CUBE!’

‘Haven’t got it,’ said the Doc, holding up both hands.’

‘Don’t lie to me, Doc, I know that.. Aaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhh…’

‘Was that meant to be a sneeze?’

‘No, it was meant to be an aaaarrrrggghhhh… you fool! What have you done?’

Teabing was staring over Doc’s shoulder. He turned to see Doe, who was holding one half of the cube over his dinner.’

‘Gee,’ he said, waving the broken puzzle , ‘who’d have thought: a Rubik’s vinegar shaker.’

Jack felt his pulse quicken, but the cube was no longer the focus of his attention. Something else, something he had never expected to see, was rising from the midst of the grease-soaked potato snack.

Chapter 95

Grabbing Miss White with one hand, and the bag of chips in the other, Doc ran for the door, leaving behind him the crumpled, sneezing theologian, the hapless Investigator, and the grumbling albino.

‘Where are we going?’ asked Snow.

‘Haven’t you worked it out? What we are looking for is not a grail, but a woman with royal blood from the line of king David.’

‘But who could it be?’

‘I don’t know Princess,’ he said, pulling a long turd-shaped object from the bag, ‘but I’ve got the next clue.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Deep fried Mars bar… we’re off to Scotland…’

I would be interested if anyone has any information of a similar kind. A.M.


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