Daydream Nation is a drama from 2010. It is a little fun, a little depressing and a tad annoying. It is also heart-warming in a weird sorof way. While it is not a must-see movie in any way, it is also not a waste of time for those who like its actors (Kat Dennings, Josh Lucas, Reece Thompson, Andie MacDowell) or writers who, like me, enjoy seeing movies with writer characters. You can read more about the movie on my movie blog. But here, let’s get to our writer character:
The Writer Character
Barry Anderson (Josh Lucas) is the English teacher of a depressing industrial town’s high school. There isn’t much excitement going on in his life, and it is hardly a surprise when he jumps at the opportunity to fool around with his new student Caroline (Kat Dennings). While any teacher sleeping with his under-aged student is sure to ring loser bells, you can hardly blame Barry. He lives in a town where everyone seems to be going through a drug addiction, some level of depression or both.
Barry is happy in this relationship, and informs Caroline that she has inspired his writing and he is working on his novel. He even has an agent.
The Writer’s Story
Then one day Caroline gets to read his book, and it is just too much like a memoir. Unfortunately, Barry’s past has been even more pathetic than his present, and Caroline doesn’t like how she is represented in his novel. She decides to break things off, but when you are your boyfriend’s only muse & hobby, it can get tricky to get rid of him.
The issue here is that Barry didn’t even attempt to add a slice of fiction to his characters. Along with Caroline, we learn that his return to town as a teacher was an obligatory move when he failed in the city, both professionally and romantically. We learn that this 30-something guy is not really all that wiser or more mature than his druggie students. We finally see how much of a loser he really is, and that he makes no effort to change things.
Writers always debate whether you should write what you know or not. It actually depends on one thing: You! I always believe in writing what you love, because writing something you don’t care about is bound to be a disaster. So it doesn’t matter if you know the subject, because you can always educate yourself along the way. You just need to be passionate about what you are writing.
But usually, what you know (or you come to know through research) works best when combined with the depths of your imagination.
Barry doesn’t have much of one, and “what he knows” isn’t what he loves. It is what he despises. You could argue that a memoir, how depressing it might be, can serve as a therapy for the writer, at the very least. Unfortunately, Barry ends with 0 self-development, minus a girlfriend.
The Writer behind “The Writer”
All in all, as depressing and weird Daydream Nation is as a story, it is more entertaining and interesting than Barry’s “fiction”. I just hope that it wasn’t a memoir of the writer/director Michael Goldbach , as the movie also features a serial killer on the loose…
Me, The Writer
I once read that readers want sexy, engaging characters through journeys that entice them. And I agree. There was nothing enticing or engaging about Barry’s loser story. If he detested living it himself, what are the odds of anyone enjoying it?
I am in the midst of writing a novel that is a mixture of what I know. And I’ll confess that there is a part of me in some characters. But what happens to my characters in the novel didn’t happen to me. And for me, that is the exciting part!
You, The Writer
How about you? What do you think about writing what you know/live? How do you feel about writing stories based (solely) on your experiences? Please let me know in the comments!