MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Sunday, January 21, 2018

What Makes Something Go Viral?

What's the secret to making content people love? Join BuzzFeed's Publisher Dao Nguyen for a glimpse at how her team creates their tempting quizzes, lists and videos -- and learn more about how they've developed a system to understand how people use content to connect and create culture.
 
 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Why Do You Have to Market Your Book? 10 Ways to Focus Your Marketing


Your book is about to be published or already published, and now it's time to talk about the simple facts of marketing. The American marketplace, nearly 300 million strong, is the most lucrative market for books in the world -- and the gateway to the global marketplace. Amazon now has websites in United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Japan, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil -- and is adding more each year. Your book's reach can truly be global -- if your book is visible.

One book in a million launches to instant sales while the author does absolutely nothing. It's the most common pathetic fallacy to think you'll succeed without PR or that the media will cover your book with little effort on your part.

The other 999,999 books require the marketing (promotional) efforts to become visible to the American and global marketplace. And marketing is an ongoing thing that never stops.

To begin with, you need to know this formula by heart:

MARKETING has no direct relationship with sales.

But GOOD MARKETING produces VISIBILITY.

Without VISIBILITY there can be no sales.

Consider BMW, Veuve Clicquot, Victoria's Secret, and many other brands that are embedded in the American consciousness. They well know that spending millions of dollars a year in the big slick magazines with sexy ads has NO direct relationship with sales. But they do it because it keeps their brands in the forefront of the browsers' awareness.

They don't dare NOT spend the money. For one thing, they know if they don't spend it, someone else will be spending it and that someone else may take their place in the buyers' awareness.

The same is true of the massively crowded world of books.

So one way or the other, you must MARKET YOUR BOOK as fervently as -- maybe even more fervently than -- you wrote it. Devote a minimum amount of time EACH DAY because time upon time produces results.

What are some of the best ways to market your book? From years of trials and errors, both my own and those of my clients and published authors, here's what I suggest:

1. Come up with a marketing plan that fits your time and budget constraints; revise it as you continue forward and as opportunities arise.

2. Put time into it, and as much money as you can spare. Nothing happens unless you invest your time and/or your money (and don't forget: money buys time).

3. Get help. If you don't have the time or desire to do it yourself, use our help to make your book visible.

4. Forget about all marketing except the internet. By 2012, 274 million (78.6% of the population) people were using the internet in North America alone; 2.95 billion are online worldwide! Why spend your money on television, or print ads, or even radio (though the last is still a good idea) when you can be in direct touch with this humongous market from your keyboard?

5. Focus your book by offering it exclusive on amazon.com--which has over 100 million subscribers. Get that "Author Central" page up as soon as your book is launched. Amazon is the 500-lb guerrilla -- so set the other monkeys aside until you've sold 100 million books.

6. Build a Facebook page instead of a blog. With 1.3 Billion users globally, where can you find a better marketplace? Maybe you'll consider that limiting when your book has sold a billion copies. Then you can think about expanding beyond Facebook. Meanwhile here's the biggest market imaginable -- nearly 200 million in North America -- right at your fingertips.

7. Focus on getting book reviews on your sell-page. First aim for 30, then 100, then 300. Magic happens when the amazon computer's algorithm starts paying attention to your book, and more and more reviews inevitably make that happen.

8. end out a press release about your book through a service that reaches internet reviewers. You will surely receive requests for review copies -- and at least half of those will end up as reviews on the internet.

9. Social networking is where it's all happening today: Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Linked-In, YouTube, and Tumblr. Set up accounts and send out postings regularly until you grow your following, capturing their emails so you can keep in touch with them.

10. Experiment as much as you have time and funds for, but double down on anything that's working for you.

Don't be overwhelmed by the marketing process. Take control of it by limiting it to a specific time allotment each day, say 60 minutes. You'll be amazed at the results sixty minutes a day, day in and day out, will produce. Good luck -- and enjoy the excitement of this new frontier for writers, where you can reach out directly to your readers and prospective readers.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Publishers Weekly Reviews Dennis Palumbo's Head Wounds





 

Head Wounds: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery Head Wounds: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery
Dennis Palumbo. Poisoned Pen

The violence starts early in Palumbo’s engrossing fifth mystery (after 2014’s Phantom Limb) featuring clinical psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, who consults for the Pittsburgh PD. Daniel is at home reviewing the file of the unsolved murder of his wife, Barbara, when someone takes a shot at him through his living-room window. Soon afterward, the police apprehend the shooter, Eddie Burke, the drunk, disaffected boyfriend of Daniel’s attractive, well-to-do neighbor, Joy Steadman. Daniel does his best to comfort Joy, but when he returns to her house to check on her hours later, he finds her strangled body. He eventually learns that Joy told Eddie that she was sleeping with him, hence Eddie’s rage. The police suspect Daniel in Joy’s murder. Meanwhile, a computer-savvy psychopath sets out to torment Daniel by killing or maiming an ever-widening group of his patients, friends, and family members. The tension rises as Daniel uses his understanding of the human psyche to play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with his nemesis. Palumbo, a licensed psychotherapist, has delivered another well-crafted page-turner. (Feb.)
Buy this book

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Joy of Less By Pico Iyer






“The beat of my heart has grown deeper, more active, and yet more peaceful, and it is as if I were all the time storing up inner riches…My [life] is one long sequence of inner miracles.” The young Dutchwoman Etty Hillesum wrote that in a Nazi transit camp in 1943, on her way to her death at Auschwitz two months later. Towards the end of his life, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen,” though by then he had already lost his father when he was 7, his first wife when she was 20 and his first son, aged 5. In Japan, the late 18th-century poet Issa is celebrated for his delighted, almost child-like celebrations of the natural world. Issa saw four children die in infancy, his wife die in childbirth, and his own body partially paralyzed.
In the corporate world, I always knew there was some higher position I could attain, which meant that, like Zeno’s arrow, I was guaranteed never to arrive and always to remain dissatisfied.
I’m not sure I knew the details of all these lives when I was 29, but I did begin to guess that happiness lies less in our circumstances than in what we make of them, in every sense. “There is nothing either good or bad,” I had heard in high school, from Hamlet, “but thinking makes it so.” I had been lucky enough at that point to stumble into the life I might have dreamed of as a boy: a great job writing on world affairs for Time magazine, an apartment (officially at least) on Park Avenue, enough time and money to take vacations in Burma, Morocco, El Salvador. But every time I went to one of those places, I noticed that the people I met there, mired in difficulty and often warfare, seemed to have more energy and even optimism than the friends I’d grown up with in privileged, peaceful Santa Barbara, Calif., many of whom were on their fourth marriages and seeing a therapist every day. Though I knew that poverty certainly didn’t buy happiness, I wasn’t convinced that money did either.

So — as post-1960s cliché decreed — I left my comfortable job and life to live for a year in a temple on the backstreets of Kyoto. My high-minded year lasted all of a week, by which time I’d noticed that the depthless contemplation of the moon and composition of haiku I’d imagined from afar was really more a matter of cleaning, sweeping and then cleaning some more. But today, more than 21 years later, I still live in the vicinity of Kyoto, in a two-room apartment that makes my old monastic cell look almost luxurious by comparison. I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media — and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can’t think of a single thing I lack.

I’m no Buddhist monk, and I can’t say I’m in love with renunciation in itself, or traveling an hour or more to print out an article I’ve written, or missing out on the N.B.A. Finals. But at some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn’t want or need, not all I did. And it seemed quite useful to take a clear, hard look at what really led to peace of mind or absorption (the closest I’ve come to understanding happiness). Not having a car gives me volumes not to think or worry about, and makes walks around the neighborhood a daily adventure. Lacking a cell phone and high-speed Internet, I have time to play ping-pong every evening, to write long letters to old friends and to go shopping for my sweetheart (or to track down old baubles for two kids who are now out in the world).

When the phone does ring — once a week — I’m thrilled, as I never was when the phone rang in my overcrowded office in Rockefeller Center. And when I return to the United States every three months or so and pick up a newspaper, I find I haven’t missed much at all. While I’ve been rereading P.G. Wodehouse, or “Walden,” the crazily accelerating roller-coaster of the 24/7 news cycle has propelled people up and down and down and up and then left them pretty much where they started. “I call that man rich,” Henry James’s Ralph Touchett observes in “Portrait of a Lady,” “who can satisfy the requirements of his imagination.” Living in the future tense never did that for me.
Perhaps happiness, like peace or passion, comes most when it isn’t pursued.
I certainly wouldn’t recommend my life to most people — and my heart goes out to those who have recently been condemned to a simplicity they never needed or wanted. But I’m not sure how much outward details or accomplishments ever really make us happy deep down. The millionaires I know seem desperate to become multimillionaires, and spend more time with their lawyers and their bankers than with their friends (whose motivations they are no longer sure of). And I remember how, in the corporate world, I always knew there was some higher position I could attain, which meant that, like Zeno’s arrow, I was guaranteed never to arrive and always to remain dissatisfied.

Being self-employed will always make for a precarious life; these days, it is more uncertain than ever, especially since my tools of choice, written words, are coming to seem like accessories to images. Like almost everyone I know, I’ve lost much of my savings in the past few months. I even went through a dress-rehearsal for our enforced austerity when my family home in Santa Barbara burned to the ground some years ago, leaving me with nothing but the toothbrush I bought from an all-night supermarket that night. And yet my two-room apartment in nowhere Japan seems more abundant than the big house that burned down. I have time to read the new John le Carre, while nibbling at sweet tangerines in the sun. When a Sigur Ros album comes out, it fills my days and nights, resplendent. And then it seems that happiness, like peace or passion, comes most freely when it isn’t pursued.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers freedom to security, who feels more comfortable in a small room than a large one and who finds that happiness comes from matching your wants to your needs, then running to stand still isn’t where your joy lies. In New York, a part of me was always somewhere else, thinking of what a simple life in Japan might be like. Now I’m there, I find that I almost never think of Rockefeller Center or Park Avenue at all.


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Author PhotoPico Iyer’s most recent book, “The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama,” is just out in paperback.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Silence Her by Douglas Feterly Review




Silence Her by Douglas Fetterly


Exposes are not something foreign to reporter Lishan Amir as her goal is to take down Senator Libby and his cohort Jack Conner wanting to take down not only these two but anyone attached to them too. Dealing with her boss, executive editor Jerry Hanson the roadblocks, danger, threats she faces will make you wonder why she persisted when everyone around her just wanted to permanently Silence Her. Lishan is brash, hardnosed and will stop at nothing to take down Jack Conner and his company. False labeling on products is at the heart of this novel as we learn much about the FDA who they are really concerned about protecting and why one man was able to have products so readily available to the public even though some proved deadly.
 
Kickback, fraud, toxic fillers and empty calories are just part of what Conner delivers to the unsuspecting public and what we as consumers need to be more vigilant about reading labels and understanding that there are different names for trans fats and other harmful ingredients in our foods. When Conner learns more about Lishan it becomes an all out war. With the aid of her friend Erik she learns more as Lishan finds herself in the presence of Conner, Libby and the FDA commissioner and Nathaniel Ferrali, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia plus her boss Jerry Hanson all at the same party yet Lishan tried to make herself inconspicuous. Saved by her friend JoJO a scientist friend with the FDA and performer at night she has him and several other allies that will work to help her uncover what she hopes will bring Conner and his team down. Plus a strong support in Howard Perkins.
 
Dr. Arthur Schuler is the FDA commissioner who spoke the audience present at this gathering promising and stating that he ensured public safety: FDA’s Determination of Obesity Relative to Artificial Sweeteners and the questions focused on a specific theme about the correlation between artificial sweeteners and the rise of obesity in the United States and the impact of Aspartame-like sweetener Connulose that Conner foods introduced. You can hear the discussion and the arguments on pages 18-21. Lishan was then attacked and saved by someone named Osiris while walking to her officer. The author explains why the FDA in this case seems to be skirting around protecting the public and is more concerned with those in industry as Lishan’s life is in danger and she is attacked many times and the people she thinks she can trust are not what they appear to be.
 
She is relentless and won’t stop at anything and her liaisons with many men that she encounters prove at times to be dangerous and wrong choices. Her impulsiveness gets her in trouble at work and her confrontational attitude brings her to the attention of the higher ups at the paper causing them to delve into her past.
 
JoJo is a molecular scientist and his input and knowledge are invaluable as you come to know him better. People risking their lives for Lishan are many but even so at times she seems to take them fore granted. Labeling on foods can be misleading and the FDA mainly CFSAN allows mislabeling. Two cases sited by the author in this novel deal with MSG which causes from personal experience I know migraines and headaches and producers of foods are allowed to put a zero trans fats on the front of the package, when in fact as you will learn when delving deeper into this novel and what is present, the Principal Display Panel, with its net quantity of contents and ingredients indicates the presence of HYBROGENATED OILS aka/TRANS FATS! The speaker continues with quotes from their own FDA documents and one from a budget file. Dealing with the front labeling of a product few people check and should check the nutritional facts label on the information panel of foods on the back side of the product. However, this person claims that the FDA is charged with ensuring honesty and truth in the labeling it supports and mandates that the transgressions he mentioned need to be addressed because the health and welfare of the public is at stake. On pages 124-128 the author reveals more information about how the company is concerned with stockholders as a PI named Beck is speaking to Lishan and how the commissioner of the agency and the faction of the Agency sides with what some call good ol boys. More cases are sited about the FDA more reviews and Conner Foods seems the most likely culprit as products are put on the market and toxic substances are present and people get deathly ill or die and Conner claims that’s not true. Then Lishan receives a box of cupcakes and one of the people in the newsroom’s daughter takes one and winds up deathly ill and might not survive. Guilt wears at Lishan as she tells her story to her Aunt Niesha who has some powerful connections and realizing that the cupcakes were poisoned and probably sent by some on Conner’s payroll if not him.
 
Every step of the way Lishan meets and has to overcome many obstacles. Dealing with someone named Raphael she falls into his trap and his main reason for wanting to see her is revenge for how she treated him in the past. Erik seems to have found someone else and Lishan falls apart when the PI working to help her is killed and then she contacts one of Conner’s henchman and he winds up the same way when she’s supposed to meet with him.
 
Going undercover, disguises, putting people in danger and changing her appearance, Lishan and her team her aunt, Maya and at times Erik hope to find the credible documentation and proof to take down this powerful man. But, wandering the streets, not being careful about a cab she went into, Lishan might find herself to be another victim.
 
The cafeteria at Factory 17 was included in experimental fat used in the cafeteria. Conner Foods’ factories decided to test the fats by using employees as subjects and some get sick others died. Conner could care less. Howard Wiggins is her source and stating that someone like Conner who’s considered an industrial giant states that its new drug reduces blood pressure and it does that’s enough to satisfy at least the primary entry requirement onto the list of approved drugs. Side effects get less notice and press and at a minimum and this is scary as most people forget to check out these side effects before even considering taking certain drugs can be a fatal mistake. Some cause heart attacks, others blood clots or worse and many of these drugs pass muster but the client is not the public it’s the industry. But, Lishan is relentless and finds someone named Fatima to help her and talk about Factory 17 but will she and what if anything will she learn that might help her? Mazzini is someone she contacts who is close to Conner but just talking to her seals his fate. Conner has eyes all over. Mazzini is a risk but her aunt wanted him alive and things get even more out of control as Lishan becomes more of a target. Maya and her aunt Niesha are her two support systems as Maya’s office was in the United States Attorney’s office building and her title was Criminal Justice Chief her aunt was even more powerful. A visit to interview a prisoner named Alan Frazier is enlightening and the ending just might end it all for Lishan as she is held captive by someone working for Conner and the end result could mean her life and the end of the case. When the final headline comes out what will it read: Conner is arrested and charged or Lishan is another victim? Who’s straight and whose paid off and who wins at the end? A novel that will make readers think twice before trying foods that are mislabeled, foods with sugars that have pen names other than sugar, trans fats with false names and realize that the FDA approval needs to really target protecting consumers.
 
A young reporter that puts it all on the line and risks the lives of so many to make a point and take down a giant in industry that seems to be so far above the law that he might skate. Lishan is tough, outspoken, takes risks, impulsive but in the end will this do her in. A ending you won’t see coming and a young girl that is outspoken, passionate but most others just want to take her down for good and SILENCE HER! Consumer beware! Read your labels and know what goes into your body as author Douglas Fetterly succeeds in giving readers much more than food for thought!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Writing in the Cold by Ted Solotaroff

"As far as I can tell, the decisive factor is durability. For the gifted writer, durability seems to be directly connected to how one deals with uncertainty, rejection, and disappointment, from within as well as from without, and how effectively one incorporates them into the creative process itself, particularly in the prolonged first stage of a career." ~  Ted Solotaroff

Writing in the Cold is a Brilliant Essay on the Psychology of Writing by Ted Solotaroff from The Pushcart Prize. It is absolutely the very best and most inspiring essay for late bloomer writers. It’s also the most insightful on the emotional and psychological struggles that are part of becoming a writer.  (


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Science Says These are the Oldest 23 Words in the English Language



They've lasted over 15,000 years.

Not a lot of things last over a thousand years; even fewer last over 10,000.

Yet a British research team has put together a list of what they called "ultraconserved words," or words that have remained basically unchanged for a stunning 15,000 years.

The researchers say this is because they all originate from the same ancient mother tongue -- a language used toward the end of the last ice age. That language tumbled from its tower of Babel to become seven language families, which all sound like they're out of Game of Thrones: Altaic, Chukchi-Kamchatkan, Dravidian, Inuit-Yupik, Indo-European, Kartvelian, and Uralic.

The 700 modern languages used by more than half of earth's population descend from those seven original families. Researchers scanned them for cognates: words that sound and mean the same things in different languages, like "father" -- padre, pere, pater, pitar, etc. From those, they put together proto-words, or what they believed were the cognates' ancestral form.

Ultimately, they found 23 words shared by at least four of the seven language families, making them the oldest and longest-lasting words in English. Here they are in all their ancient -- and modern -- glory:

1. Thou

The singular form of "you," this is the only word that all seven language families share in some form. As soon as language evolved, we would have needed to identify each other, and specifically to refer to the person to whom we were speaking.

2. I

Similarly, you'd need to talk about yourself. Plus, what's the use of language if not to talk about yourself?

3. Mother

The last cry of most soldiers dying on the battlefield is "Mom," so it's no wonder that it's a primal word. It's also an interesting non-pair on the list: "mother" makes it, but "father" doesn't.

4. Give

Human survival has always been predicated on our ability to cooperate. Teamwork in early civilizations wasn't a nice-to-have -- you died without it. "I was really delighted to see 'to give' there," study head Mark Pagel said. "Human society is characterized by a degree of cooperation and reciprocity that you simply don't see in any other animal. Verbs tend to change fairly quickly, but that one hasn't."

5. Bark

As in from a tree, not a dog. Anthropologists suggest this was a particularly important element of early civilizations because it was used to make baskets, rope, and, when boiled in water, medicine. In fact, aspirin was originally willow bark tea.

6. Black

Likely because in its original form, it helped early humans distinguish the light of day from the black of night. Another non-pair: "black" makes the list but "white" doesn't.

7. Fire

Light, warmth, security, a way to cook, a way to keep the wolves away. For a long time (and for many, to this day), fire was the greatest tool for survival. It was the best way to keep the "black" at bay.

8. Ashes

Makes sense, given how critical fire was.

9. Spit

What happens when you try to eat ashes.

10. Man/Male

The fact that "woman" doesn't make the list gives one pause, and may point to the linguistic reality of the patriarchy that has ruled much of the planet for thousands of years.

11. Hand

After our brains, arguably the most important body part for a human being, especially with its accompanying opposable thumbs.

12. Hear

There were all kinds of things we needed to hear: the approaching footsteps of a predator; the sound of prey fleeing; the sound of a baby's cries.

13. Flow

Unclear why this was so foundational, but perhaps it had to do with another fundamental element required for survival: water.

14. Old

Wisdom is essential when it comes to survival. The old people in a tribe were respected and listened to, for the simple fact that they had seen more and therefore knew more. Our modern culture would do well to reinstate this kind of respect.

15. This

Probably because you'd need to be able to specify that you meant this rock.

16. That

Not that rock.

17. Pull

The list of things you needed to pull was endless: wood, animals, stones, etc. Combine it with the last one for a full sentence: "Pull that."

18. Worm

Possibly the most random word on the list.

19. Ye

This is now "your" in modern English. A useful word when asking about things around camp: "Ye worms?"

20. Not

"Not ye worms?"

21. We

"We need worms."

22. Who

"Who can find worms?"

23. What

Because even 15,000 years ago, when you couldn't hear what your brother had just said about worms but didn't want to get up from the basket you were weaving, you could always shout, "WHAT?"

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Myth to Movie: Pygmalion By Ken Atchity



The wish-fulfillment archetype —the dream become flesh—finds perennially poignant expression in stories based on the Pygmalion myth.

A Cyprian sculptor-priest-king who had no use for his island’s women, Pygmalion dedicated his energies to his art. From a flawless piece of ivory, he carved a maiden, and found her so beautiful that he robed her and adorned her with jewels, calling her Galatea (“sleeping love”). His became obsessed with the statue, praying to Aphrodite to bring him a wife as perfect as his image. Sparked by his earnestness, the goddess visited Pygmalion’s studio and was so pleasantly surprised to find Galatea almost a mirror of herself she brought the statue to life. When Pygmalion returned home, he prostrated himself at the living Galatea’s feet. The two were wed in Aphrodite’s temple, and lived happily ever after under her protection.

Though it was never absent from western literature, this transformation myth resoundingly entered modern consciousness with Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, which enlisted it to explore the complexity of human relationships in a stratified society. My Fair Lady, based on Shaw’s retelling, took the myth to another level of audience awareness.

The obligatory beats of the Pygmalion myth: the protagonist has a dream inspired by encounter with an unformed object (“Look at her, a prisoner of the gutter!”), uses his skills and/or prayers to shape it into a reality; falls in love with the embodiment of his dream, and lives happily ever after, or not.

Essential to the pattern is that the dreamer-protagonist is rewarded for doing something about his dream, for turning it from dream to reality with or without a dea ex machina. Thanks to the infinite creativity of producers, directors, and writers, Pygmalion has generated countless wonderful movie story variations: Inventor Gepetto, in Pinocchio (1940--with numerous remakes), wishes that the wooden puppet he’s created could become the son he never had; a department store window dresser (Robert Walker), in One Touch of Venus (1948, based on the Ogden Nash/S. J. Perelman musical), kisses a statue of Venus (Ava Gardner) into life— trouble begins when she falls in love with him. In 1983’s thenEducating Rita (from Willy Russell’s play), a young hairdresser (Julie Walters), wishing to improve herself by continuing her education, finds a tutor in jaded professor (Michael Caine), who’s reinvigorated by her. In a reverse of the pattern, as quickly as she changes under his tutelage he resents the “educated” Rita and wants her, selfishly, to stay as she was.

Alvin Johnson (Nick Cannon), in 2003’s Love Don’t Cost a Thing, a remake of Can’t Buy Me Love (1987), comes to the rescue of Paris (Christina Milian) when she wrecks her mother’s Cadillac and can’t pay the $1,500 for the repair. Alvin fronts the cash with his savings and, in return, Paris has to pretend to be his girlfriend for two weeks; Alvin becomes “cool” for the first time in his life, but learns that the price of popularity is higher than he bargained for. In She’s All That (1999), the pattern is reversed as Freddie Prinze, Jr., is a high school hotttie who bets a classmate he can turn nerdy Rachel Leigh Cook into a prom queen but, of course, runs into trouble when he falls in love with his creation. In The Princess Diaries (2001), Mia (Anne Hathaway), a gawky Bay Area teen, learns her father was the prince of Genovia; the queen (Julie Andrews) hopes her granddaughter will take her father’s rightful place as heir, and transforms her from a social misfit into a regal lady but discover their growing love for each other is more important than the throne.

Pretty Woman (1990) is my second favorite example of the tirelessness of the Pygmalion myth. Taking the flower-girl motif of My Fair Lady to the extreme, Vivian (Julia Roberts) is a prostitute (albeit idealized) and Edward (Richard Gere) a ruthless businessman with no time for real love. As he opens his credit cards on a Rodeo Drive shopping spree, we experience a telescoped transformation-by-money accompanied with the upbeat music that reminds us that we love this highly escapist part of the Pygmalion story, the actual process of turning ugly duckling into princess swan.

My favorite example is La Femme Nikita (remade as Point of No Return, 1993, with Bridget Fonda), because it shows the versatility of mythic structure, taking Pygmalion to the darkest place imaginable as it fashions of street druggie Nikita (Anne Parillaud), under Bob’s merciless tutelage (Tcheky Karyo), a chameleon-like lethal sophisticate whose heart of gold allows her to escape both her unformed past and her darkly re-formed present.

So popular is the Pygmalion myth with audiences that it crops up in the most unlikely places. In Pao zhi nu peng you (My Dream Girl, 2003), Shanghai slum-dweller Cheung Ling (Vicki Zhao) is thrust into high society when she encounters her long-lost father, who hires Joe Lam to makeover his daughter to fit her new status. In Million-Dollar Baby (2004), the unformed matter (Hilary Swank) reports for duty and demands to be transformed. Instead of falling in love, the boxing instructor (Clint Eastwood) is reborn, reinvigorated, re-inspired, learns to feel again—thereby revealing the underlying emotion that drives the Pygmalion myth for both protagonist and the character he reshapes: rebirth into a more ideal state of being.


First published in Produced By, the official magazine of the Producers Guild of America