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Scott Lax Blog

Writing Through Others' Eyes in Times of War and Peace

This past week I gave two 50-minute presentations and a reading at Chagrin Falls Middle School, and one 50-minute presentation at the High School. This being Memorial Day weekend (and Blossom Time in Chagrin Falls), I wanted to tie together the theme of THE YEAR THAT TREMBLED with Memorial Day, and the current wars.

Among other things, I told the students that I had a wide range of people that told me they liked the book and/or movie. Many were Vietnam veterans. Even though the book is written from the perspective of an anti-war narrator, Casey Pedersen, who had much concern, respect and sympathy for the service men and women that were involved in Vietnam. Others that have liked the book and movie (and play) had been anti-war protestors. And many were in between.

I spoke of the evening we screened the movie at Hiram College in 2002. A veteran of Rolling Thunder, a motorcycle group comprised of Vietnam vets, and Dean Kahler, who was shot and wounded -- and remains in a wheel chair -- at the Kent State killings of May 4, 2010. They shook hands and received each other warmly.

I had cousins that went to Vietnam, and friends. To those alive and dead I give my utmost respect. First because they fought for their country. Second because, as I told the young people, to participate in an unpopular war takes a special courage.

When I write about soldiers, or those left behind, widowed or otherwise bereaved, or other innocent victims of war, such as civilians, as a write I must put myself in their skin and see through their eyes. Very few people in this life consider themselves wrong, or evil. Nearly everyone does what he or she thinks is right, If we have leaders that betray our interests sometimes, be they the angle-shooters at B.P. or Halliburton, or Presidents Johnson or Nixon, it's the common people who suffer.

I think that novelists and story writers should side with the common people, however uncommonly brilliant or troubled they are. I am a common man; I don't write for the CEO of BP (or any company), or for political leaders (of any nation). I write for my tribe - those who must live with the decisions the leaders make; decisions sometimes based on greed and ambition.

Here's to those who have served. To those who have suffered. To those in victory and in defeat. To those like my dad who served during WWII, and to those in Iraq and Afghanistan now. Thank you, and may our country and its leaders be worthy of you, and make the right decisions and support you in your quest to bring peace to the world. Read More 

Actors, Show Business, and the Art of Story

I recently sent out an e-mail blast announcing two new workshops I'm teaching at The Chagrin Valley Writers' Workshop, which I founded in January of this year.

I've gotten some nice e-mails from old friends, including some show business pals from L.A. From 1998 until 2002, I did a five year stint as a movie producer, and, while producing isn't in my blood the way writing is now (and drumming was before), that experience - producing "The Year That Trembled," which was based on my novel of the same name - was an amazing experience.

One of the things I learned was how many talented and unique people are in the film business. Usually, on some level, movie people have a basic element in common with novelists and nonfiction writers: they want to tell stories. That's what drives them, whether they're behind the scenes, in editing, in producing, in post-production, in lighting, in sound, in operating a camera, in directing, and, of course in acting and writing.

Most of us watch TV and movies and enjoy them immensely. My fiance and I do. And every now and then I'll yell out that there's this person or that person who worked or acted in "The Year That Trembled," and I'll remember something about a particular moment in the creation of the film. I'll think of shooting a scene at 3 AM when it was so cold that everyone was in parkas except the actors, who were in shirt sleeves and never complained, because it was supposed to be a warm summer night. Or an indoor scene when it was over 100 degrees upstairs in a house where we were filming, and we were about passed out in "video village," and the actors and crew just hung in there and kept working.

Count me as a writer who respects actors, directors and other story tellers. To act believably, to pull off an effective scene, whether it's on film on video or the stage -- that's an art and a skill that is often lost in the reams of paper and billions of electrons devoted to things superfluous to the art: whose dating who; who's acting out in Cannes or Hollywood. That stuff comprises about .001 percent of the show business world. The other 99 plus percent is hard work indeed.

To all of you who tell stories -- by writing, by acting, or behind the scenes -- thank you for your continued inspiration to those of us typing away and trying to create more stories that you may someday bring to life. Read More