The Writer's Connection, SM
a publication of The Virtual Writing Coach SM
In This Issue:
2. Publisher's Note
3. Capote: The Movie
4. Getting into Action
The Writer's Connection explores the creative process of writing and the interplay between thoughts, feelings, and actions. We are an interactive community of authors and readers who share ideas to enhance our knowledge, skills, and experiences in writing fiction in any genre, but our emphasis remains mystery and suspense thrillers.
Published monthly, the Newsletter offers writing tips for authors, coaching suggestions, editing, and marketing information.
Topics are presented from the perspective of Keith Barton and represent only his ideas on producing your first manuscript, and are provided to the general public. Because we are an interactive community of writers, other viewpoints are welcomed and may be printed in future monthly newsletters with permission from Keith Barton.
2. Publisher's Note
Dear Writer's Connection Subscriber,
This month features ithe screen adaptation of Capote's book, In Cold Blood, into the movie, Capote.
3. Capote: The Movie
This month’s newsletter is a slight departure because I wish to focus on screen adaptations based on a novel. If you haven’t seen one of this year’s academy award nominated movies, then I would suggest you try Capote before the award presentations in March. The movie is a screen adaptation from Truman Capote’s 1966 book, In Cold Blood, about the killing of the Clutters (husband, wife, and two children), a Holcomb, Kansas, farm family on November 14, 1959, for forty dollars cash. Capote took four years to write the book and another two years of revision before the book became a successful bestseller and is recognized in some circles as the beginning of the non-fiction investigative reporting genre.
Harper Lee, world-renown author of one of the most successful selling books, To Kill a Mockingbird, and long-time friend of Truman Capote assisted Capote in interviewing Perry Smith and Dick Hickock in the murders of the Clutter family. It’s interesting that the movie was a fair and balanced portrayal of the painstaking research that Capote did without the benefit of tape recorders and laptops. He would meticulously transcribe into notebooks the day’s interviews with people connected to the killings. He was a gifted child with almost total recall (he says 94% in the movie) for the spoken word. This feat is all the more remarkable because he couldn’t recite the complete alphabet or subtract numbers since childhood.
The movie is carefully crafted to show the interconnection between Capote and Perry Smith—an almost symbiotic view at the dualism between good and evil. Both grew up without mothers; both lived with various relatives without a father; both were bullied and considered “different” from their peers. Yet, in a poignant epiphany Capote tells Smith that while Smith went through the “back door” into adulthood, Capote took the “front door,” an enigmatic affirmation of the delicate balance of good and evil and how close we all come to life’s forces. (Capote later succumbed to prescription drug and alcohol addiction in 1984).
The strength in this movie is not Capote’s life or Perry Smith’s life, but the developing bond between the two men and man’s inhumanity to man. The title of Capote’s book sadly describes Capote’s deceitfulness and narcissism in taking advantage of Smith to keep him alive long enough to finish his book. Another scene in the movie shows Smith reading a newspaper review of Capote’s reading of his pre-published book to a New York audience, despite the protestations from Capote that he hadn’t even picked a title for his book. One could say that “it takes one to know one” when Capote lied to his subject In Cold Blood.
The acting of Philip Seymour Hoffman is superb in describing Capote’s eccentricity and narcissism. Capote’s homosexual lifestyle is alluded to with his partner’s writing career and their frequent trips to Europe. But the movie, despite its title, is not about Capote but man’s inhumanity to man. The senseless killings of four innocent people, graphically depicted in the movie is no more alarming than Perry’s hanging five years later in the warehouse surrounded by those who gave so much of their lives to ending or saving Perry’s life. Capote does keep his promise to his friend and is the “only family” to witness his brutal hanging. A free fall of ten feet snaps a hooded man’s neck as he dangles at the end of a rope swinging in a lonely warehouse witnessed by lonely men.
This is a “must see” movie regardless of which side of the fence you stand on capital punishment or homosexuality. Like all iconic movies, it’s a movie about us and the potential for good and evil in all of us. Some of our depravity is overt, but oftentimes it’s covert and seductive as evidenced by Capote’s slippery slide into dying alone almost twenty years later like his friend Perry Smith.
- Go see the movie, Capote, and reread the book to see how well Capote captures the starkness of the Kansas countryside, just seventy miles from the Colorado border. Screen adaptations as a rule are not a good as the book; does this ring true for you and why. Name those movies that you thought were better than the book.
- Screen adaptations generally rely on superb acting to carry the movie, because the plot is already well known. Do a crosscheck between movie adaptations of famous people’s lives and measure the strength of the portrayal by the acting
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About Keith Barton, Ph.D.
Dr. Barton received his Ph.D. in 1972 from the University of Texas at Austin and has been a practicing therapist for over thirty years. He is currently enrolled in MentorCoach and is accepting new clients. He has been an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina, consultant to Fortune 500 companies in executive development, founded and managed Texas Community Living Ventures, Inc., in 1986 for providing group home services to persons with mental retardation, and has been running a clinical practice in Northwest Houston since 1990. He writes part-time with the goal of completing one novel a year. His desire to coach others derives from his passionate interest in helping others become attuned to their creative powers of storytelling.
Dr. Barton has training in coaching, cognitive and family therapy and health psychology. He has published articles, made presentations and conducted workshops about:
Anxiety and achievement
The relationship between psychology and spirituality
Copyright by Virtual Writing Coach and Keith Barton, 2001-2010.