Everyone Needs a Hook, Even If It's Not a True One
Two stories jumped out at me from the LA Times today.
One is about a woman named "Margaret B. Jones", who wrote a recently released memoir called "Love and Consequences". It detailed the story of her life, a half-white, half-Indian girl lost to the foster care system, who found herself selling drugs for the Bloods in South Los Angeles at age 12.
Sounds moving and compelling, no? Unfortunately, when her sister read a profile of her in the New York Times, she blew the whistle. The woman actually grew up with both her parents in Sherman Oaks, and went to a private school. No drugs, no Bloods, no foster care; she isn't even half-Indian.
The book has been pulled from shelves, and her book tour, which was to start today, has been canceled.
The other story is about chef Robert Irvine, the host of "Dinner: Impossible" on the Food Network. Turns out that he made up a lot of the major stuff on his resume, and that his claims that he cooked for Presidents and Britain's Royal Family never actually happened.
The network announced that it wouldn't renew his contract, which runs through the end of the season, though it will continue airing already-filmed episodes. Though they also said that they might revisit this at the end of the season, which means that if no one really cares that much, he'll probably keep his job.
So why do people lie? Easy. Because that's how you get these jobs.
Though the publisher claims that they had no idea that the memoir was fictional, I guarantee that someone, somewhere along the line told this woman that her own story was boring, and that she needed to come up with a much more moving one. And that it would have a better chance if she claimed that it was true. And sure enough, she got published.
If you're Robert Irvine, you boost the resume because you are trying to seem different and special, and, again, it worked. Until it didn't.
Diablo Cody is interesting because she used to be a stripper. Never mind that she only stripped for a little while, just so she could write about it; she was a stripper. It's her hook, as is her name, which isn't the one she was born with.
I've had some meetings as a writer, and people introducing me to other people always make it sound like I'm more experienced and interesting than I actually am. Because this way it justifies their getting these people to meet with me.
It's probably something that I should be doing more of myself. Not lying about my resume, but spinning things in more-interesting fashion.
Because, don't lie to yourself, it's the business that we're in. It's all about sticking out from the crowd in a good way.
Just like a script that you write needs to stick out as well. It needs to grab someone by the lapels and scream "watch me". Or at least "make me and people will flock to see me".
The thing about a screenplay is that what's inside is never a lie (unless you are claiming it's based on a true story. Then it's just usually a lie).
But if you find yourself describing a version of your screenplay that is more interesting than the one that you have actually written, then you'd better write that interesting version.
Meanwhile, I'm going to go work in a massage parlor, just so I can say I did. Happy ending, anyone?