The Princess Diarist: Carrie Fisher’s Writing Career

from popverse

Brenna Sarantides, Social Media Coordinator

When you hear Carrie Fisher’s name, you may think of her iconic look with two giant, dark buns of hair bookending her cheeks. Or you may think of her in the metal bikini that she so vocally despised. You may even mourn her tragic passing that occurred just over two years ago. While all these things are iconic to her personhood, one of her greatest strengths was her writing.

Carrie Fisher was more than just an actress. She was a writer who breathed life into every piece she worked on. These include her own personal memoirs, multiple novels, a comedy special, and countless scripts. Fisher writes based on the raw truth of her life. She takes all her struggles, including drug addiction, mental health, and living in the public eye, and exposes them. By putting her own spin, she reclaims the things that have happened to her.

“I need to write. It keeps me focused for long enough to complete thoughts. To let each train of thought run to its conclusion and let a new one begin. It keeps me thinking. I’m afraid that if I stop writing I’ll stop thinking and start feeling.” (The Princess Diarist, 2016)

One of her famous quotes is “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true and that is unacceptable.” She exemplifies this in all her pieces of work. She is jarringly funny, optimistically cynical, and painfully truthful. Any pain she has endured, she has found a way to get a laugh out of it. She lives on the outskirts of the reader’s comfort zone. She makes you laugh and cry in the same sentence.

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Fisher’s semi-autobiographical novels introduced her into the writing world as quite the force. Her first novel Postcards from the Edge (1987), tackles an actress coping with her drug addiction. It’s loosely based on Fisher’s time in a rehabilitation center. She experiments with form throughout her entire book. One chapter relying on mental diary entries from the protagonist Suzanne and another rehab patient; the next solely dialogue of Suzanna on a date. Her innovative writing style, and killer comic lines, all are present in her other novels, The Best Awful (2004), Delusions of Grandma (1994), and Surrender the Pink (1990).

“My inner world seems largely to consist of three rotating emotions: embarrassment, rage, and tension. Sometimes I feel excited, but I think that’s just positive tension.” (Postcards from the Edge)

Later in her career, Fisher began writing memoirs. Wishful Drinking (2008) and Shockaholic (2011) give readers a look into her life, and how she learned to laugh about it. Fisher has become an advocate for mental health and drug addiction. Her work candidly speaks about her personal struggles with both throughout her memoir work. She battled drug addiction throughout her life, with stints in rehab that she chronicles in all three of her memoirs. She was also diagnosed with manic depression, now known as bipolar disorder. With her signature humor and honestly she depicts these struggles. Her openness helped erase the stigma that so many people endure surrounding drug addiction and mental illness.

“You know how they say that religion is the opiate of the masses? Well, I took masses of opiates religiously.” (Wishful Drinking)

The last book that Fisher published before her passing was deeply personal. Titled The Princess Diarist (2016), her work chronicles her acting career. It specifically touches on her time while filming undoubtedly the most iconic movie franchise, Star Wars. While the book covers some film secrets, like the affair that she had with Harrison Ford while filming A New Hope, something else stood out to me. She included the journals  she’d written at the age of 19 during filming. Even in her youth, with no writing experience, her words carry weight on the paper. It’s a testament to the natural talent  she had to convey all emotions, even the ugly ones.

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Less publicly, Fisher also excelled as a script doctor. Script doctors are brought in to rework parts of movies, usually for emotionally charged scenes, dialogue, or punch lines. As an actor, by Return of the Jedi, Fisher was altering some of her lines as Princess Leia. Lucas then pulled her in to help work on the scripts for the Star Wars prequels. But her work as a script doctor was more than just in the galaxy far, far away. She worked on Tinkerbell’s comedic dialogue for Steven Spielberg’s Hook. From there she picked up jobs on countless other movies including, The Wedding Singer, Sister Act, Outbreak, and countless more. Fisher even adapted her own work into a screenplay. Her first novel, Postcards from the Edge, was turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Shirley Maclaine.

 

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.” (Postcards from the Edge)

Carrie Fisher will forever be known as our space princess. But her triumphs as a writer should never be overlooked. Her work continued to push the limit. Her pieces are always funny, but even more so, truthful. Fisher’s raw honesty and daring wit should be remembered more than Leia’s metal bikini.

 


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