I’ve met so many different writers since I first started giving NaNoWriMo a go. In one month we all aim to create a 50,000 word novel in the single month of November and to heck with everything that gets left by the wayside! I know that many of my fellow novellers have their own methods of prepping for this writing endeavour and (in all honestly) usually mine involves looking at a calender to discover that November begins tomorrow.
This year I’ve had a little more time to prepare myself for the trials of a month of non stop writing and part of that has been my rediscovery of “Whisper of the Heart”. An animated film from Studio Ghibli, it proved to be a true inspiration for this hopeful novelist and I cannot recommend it enough if you’re wondering how to get yourself in the spirit for a month of writing. If you’re willing to trust my opinion as a hardy veteran (and once winner) of National Novel Writing Month then I implore you to go find a copy of the film online. If you’d like to know more about why this film has inspired me to complete a novel in 2013 then please read on.
Rocky Doesn’t Write: Novelling in Film
Novelling doesn’t really lend itself to the montage, when you think about it. If someone filmed me writing non-stop throughout my attempts then they’d have several hours of a girl illuminated by a laptop, not eating and looking very frustrated at every interruption that comes along. Not even “Eye of the Tiger” can make that look boss (though I am now very tempted to try it). This results in an activity that doesn’t often become the prime focus of a movie. When it does, it’s often not the physical writing of the book but is instead the act of getting it published or the story it revolves around. Though writing may be the backbone of my existence, it was never designed to be a spectator sport.
Enter “Whisper of the Heart”, a charming film that centres around Shizuku, a 14-year-old Japanese student. Shizuku loves stories and pledges to read 20 novels before she returns to school whilst translating “Country Roads” into Japanese at the request of her friends. When school start again she throws herself into studying for the intense Japanese school system. Throughout the summer before and the school year, she bumps into a young man who initially irritates her but soon they begin to bond. It’s at this point that he reveals his passion for making violins and his desire to leave Japan and take up the trade in a prestigious school in Italy. Shizuku is happy for him when he’s offered the opportunity to apprentice for two months in Italy but also feels as though his determination to succeed highlights the lack of direction in her own life.
In a spur of the moment decision, Shizuku decides to write a novel in the two months whilst he’ll be gone. Whilst the story had been in her head before, his departure pushes her to work harder towards making it a reality. What follows is several scenes that are so recognisable to me and my previous attempts at NaNoWriMo as well as some wonderfully heart-warming moments between Shizuku and her friends/ family. In order to finish the novel on time, Shizuku ceases studying for her exams, causing her to drop several places in the school rankings. This leads her to have a confrontation with her family, who become initially frustrated by Shizuku’s cryptic responses. I don’t want to ruin the entirely fantastic scene that follows but I would have loved to have had a family like this when I was a teenager.
But the adult to takes on the role of the mentor is the owner of The Baron, a cat doll that inspires the protagonist of Shizuku’s story. When Shizuku comes to him requesting that she write a story about The Baron, he agrees on the condition that she will allow him to be the first reader of her story. Shizuku balks at such a thought but, when the novel is finally complete, she appears on his doorstep with the manuscript and requests he reads it immediately. As a writer, the scene that follows resonates in me so much that I hope that many more who intend to take part in NaNoWriMo can give it a go. Once again, I want to explain the scene but if this has interested you then I hope you’ll look into seeing the film for yourself.
Find a Film That Makes You Love Writing for NaNoWriMo 2013
What I love about “Whisper of the Heart” is that it doesn’t portray writing as a job or something you must sell in order to make it worthwhile. When Shizuku finishes her novel, her focus returns to her school work because “writing isn’t enough”. This isn’t to say that Shizuku isn’t still interested in writing, but through her writing she discovered a desire to learn and write from a position of knowledge. This is the self discovery that I feel many novelist experience but we see portrayed so infrequently. It is her own process of self discovery as much as a way of escaping how much she misses her friend or fulfilling a goal she’s set herself. To this end, I hope my latest engagement with NaNoWriMo can be, in some small way, fruitful and revealing about myself just as much as I’ll be intending to tell a rough and unpolished story.