I was sitting with the wife this evening watching The Wedding Singer after a nice dinner of chicken pot pie soup. I had somehow missed seeing this movie over the past eleven years since it came out and, last night at the video store, I set out to fix that. There are a few movies that everyone else has seen that I haven’t, but sadly not as many as I would have thought. Apparently, I like stories, even ones I don’t have to read. Go figure.

Anyway, while my wife and I were enjoying our movie, my children were watching Shrek in one of their rooms and it occurred to me that we were watching the same movie. Think about it–boy meets girl, girl is spoken for, boy spends time with girl, boy falls for girl, girl falls for boy, boy and girl fight, girl plans to marry jerk of a guy, boy sets out to stop the wedding, jerk gets eaten by dragon/billy idol, boy and girl get married.

I think this is what they call “archetype”.

I’ve nearly finished the last big edit on Gifts of the Hirakee, although I’m now leaning toward the more ambiguous, but catchier Mixed Blessings as the title I’ll submit it under. I’m still waiting for feedback on this title from my readers, but nobody’s come up with anything better so far, so it’ll probably stick. If an agent likes the story and a publisher buys it, they can name it any damn thing they want, so I’m not going to obsess. Well, not any more.

I’ve also started on the next book, an urban fantasy novel set in Nashville which I now dub as (working title) Wielder of the Soul. I’m pretty exited about starting this one, as I am every time I start one, but I’m seeing this one better and better every day and I think it could turn out really well if I do what I think I can with it. I will, of course, post regular updates on my progress on here for no one to read. I even have a soundtrack already. Now, I just need to write the damn thing.

I wanted to do a couple of short stories in between the two novels, but I’m a bit short on shorts right now with this big story blocking out my view of everything else. I have a novella I might work on in between times, but we’ll just have to see.

I came home from work late last night and found my wife watching the Sally Field classic, Sybil. For anyone not familiar with this flick, it details the mostly true story of a young woman in New York suffering from multiple personality disorder, a disease that leads her along a path of fear and danger, both from the outside world and from herself, as a doctor struggles to understand and help her. You hear jokes about people having multiple personalities all the time, but a true case such as Sybil’s is exceedingly rare and offers a fascinating look into a world most of us cannot comprehend.

Still, as I sat watching the movie, part of me did understand, the part that writes the stories. Being a writer, in a much more benign sense, requires you to assume multiple personalities–your main characters, your supporting cast, etc.–that, at its best, completely immerses you into another mind, another set of perception often completely different from our own as we sit in our desk chairs or on our sofas. That we make this choice to go inside someone else’s head, to become someone else for a time, voluntarily says something vital about our necessity to write. The one thing nearly we would sacrifice last if asked to do so is our identity, our sense of who and what we are. As writers, though, we can only find success by doing just this, by giving up our own thoughts for those of another as they pour from our minds, down through our hands, and onto the page.

I do realize that Sybil’s (and, by proxy, every other true sufferer of the disorder) case is a much more frightening thing than writing a novel and do not wish to make that comparison at all. Instead, I find it fascinating that something so incomprehensible to us in our sane, reasonable minds is exactly what leads us to success as we are composing. We engage in controlled insanity, temporary displacement of our identities, to accomplish even the basest scene of dialogue or narration. We give up control of ourselves in order to control lives that do not even exist beyond the pages of our work. Just as Sybil confronts long periods of missing time, so do we as we compose. A scene that lasts only a few seconds in the story may take hours to complete. I cannot even count the times I’ve finished my daily writing and been shocked by how much time I’ve spent wandering the realms of unreality. Just as Sybil hears the voices of those sharing her body, we hear the voices of our characters, their dialogue sounding as real to our ears as that of a family member in the next room. I often get caught by my employees at work, mouthing pieces of dialogue under my breath, working out the exact cadence and word choice before I even start to compose. No wonder they think I’m a little off.

So, if you haven’t seen Sybil, I strongly recommend it. Sally Field does an amazing job as the tormented title character and some scenes and images (like the green kitchen) stay with you long after the movie has ended. Also, like all great movies, it reflects aspects of life that we often don’t see until we are, like I was last night, confronted head on by the underlying connections of truth and fiction, both of which are closer together than we often think.

I’m running off to pick up The Dark Knight. Also, my wife’s birthday is today, so I’m going to get a few hours of sleep before I get up and conduct my husbandly duties in that regard.

At least I’m off today and tomorrow. Nothing like working seven straight nights in retail during Christmas to make you appreciate your off days.