Sunday, May 16, 2010

Procrastination


Procrastination


I decided this was a fitting topic since I did so much of this today. I started out trying to write on the porch, but didn’t type a single word. I went to Starbucks and realized I forgot my earplugs. I can’t write with background music. I was going to try to write at a table in the grocery store and remembered they had background music as well. Finally, I went home, put on a DVD I’ve seen a hundred times, blocked it out and wrote a new scene.

So, why do we procrastinate? I think fears creep up into our subconscious. Possibly the fear it won’t be good enough.

Is all procrastination bad?

If procrastination keeps you from finishing a book, then in one sense it is bad. But I have found it is also sometimes productive.

How?

Before I became a writer, I used to procrastinate from cleaning by watching movies or reading novels. These activities ultimately became research. I learned back then what went into a good story.

Today, when I procrastinate from writing I clean. I find that ironic. I find that when my home is clean I am more productive when I do write. When my condo is a mess, I feel like the walls are closing in on me. Proponents of Feng Shui say clutter blocks your energy flow and leads to frustration.

I generally save movies for the evening, which is my least productive writing time. I have learned to analyze them for good story writing techniques and often report them back to you on this blog.

So, yes, procrastination can be bad if it inhibits you from reaching your ultimate goal, but in moderation may not be so bad overall.

Until next week,
Happy Writing,
Tina LaVon

Sunday, May 9, 2010

It’s Complicated
Writing the Romantic Triangle
(Spoil Alert – I will give away movie details.)

Our family spent Mother’s Day at our mother’s house for a delicious roast dinner followed by movies.

In the movie It’s Complicated Meryl Streep’s character, Jane, sends her youngest child off to college and soon finds herself immersed in a “complicated” situation. She ends up at the same bar with her ex-husband, Jake (Alec Baldwin). They have more than a few drinks and end up in bed together. To make the situation more complicated, since the divorce he married the woman he had an affair with during their marriage. Then, to make things even more complicated, she starts dating Adam (Steve Martin), the architect working on the addition to her house.

The hardest part of writing a love triangle is making the heroine sympathetic to the audience/reader. Affairs are generally frowned upon. In this case, the fact she constantly feels horrible, the man was once her husband, and her shrink tells her it’s okay to explore this, makes her actions forgivable. She also needed a valid reason for being involved with two men. In this situation, Jane feels as though she hasn’t resolved the issues in her marriage. Okay, we can understand that, but why involve the innocent architect? She doesn’t start dating Adam until Jake stands her up for a dinner date and she decides she isn’t going to see him again. Jane soon discovers it’s difficult not to follow the heart, especially when the family is together and it feels like old times. So….she ends up back in bed with her ex.

I found myself wanting Jane to be with both men at times. And neither one too. This made the story more compelling. When Jane’s family spent time together with Jake, I felt warm all over and wanted the family reunited. But, her ex would soon say something crass and I thought she could do better. As a couple, I didn’t believe he added to her life. On the other hand, we have the architect, Adam. He is nice, but still getting over his divorce which could be a problem. He’s also a bit nerdy, which I found endearing, but some women may not. As the movie progresses, he shows he is a wise, responsible man.

The writer did a great job of gradually showing Adam as the better choice, so we were happy with her choosing him. Of course, the reader knew the audience would still want that family unit to exist, so the addition of a few lines near the end proved she made the wise choice. Jake tells Jane he doesn’t regret giving it a second chance and she says it would have been better if he wasn’t married. Jake says it might not have ever happened if he wasn’t married, proving he can’t be faithful.

At the end of the family we are glad she got the answers to her questions regarding her former marriage and she ended up with the better man. Well done.

Until next week,
Happy Writing,
Tina LaVon

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Redeeming the Bad Boy Hero


An Affair to Remember
My mother used to watch the 2:00 movie every week day afternoon. I would often come home from school to find her eyes and nose red from crying. On one such occassion, I came home in time to see the end of the movie, An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. I have never forgotten the scene where he realizes she is the woman who bought his painting - the woman who cannot walk. This is the same scene discussed in Sleepless in Seattle. Deborah Kerr's characer is supposed to meet Cary Grant's character at the top of the Empire State Building if, after six months, they still love each other and plan to run off to get married. He waits there in a thunderstorm not knowing she has been hit by a car.

I watched the movie again as an adult, as a writer, wondering how they transformed the hero from a playboy into a likeable man worthy of our heroine's love. Most of the small steps taken were shown in the scene where the Deborah Kerr character meets his grandmother.

1. They show animals and children like him, so he must be okay. We are often told that animals and children are instinctually correct about a person's character.
2. His grandmother adores him and we get to see him through her loving eyes. If someone else loves a person we tend to believe they must have some redeeming qualities.
3. He dotes on his grandmother, thus showing his softer, loving side. He even gives her a painting he made of his deceased grandfather knowing how much she loved him.
4. The grandmother tells the heroine her grandson was once an altar boy. We tend to think he can't be all bad if he has roots in the church.
5. He gazes upon the statue in the chapel and then admires the heroine praying. We see signs of some religous beliefs lingering and his growing affection for our heroine.
6. The grandmother tells us he is a talented artist but gave it up because he is such a harsh critic of his own work. We feel a bit sorry for him here.
7. He later tells the heroine that he wants to be worthy of marrying her, so he is going to spend the next six months trying to earn a living. During an interview with his current fiance, he announces he is getting married in six months and he plans to support his wife with his painting. We are shown here that he is still committed to the heroine and the plans they made. (But he still needs to get out of his current relationship. The heroine is watching the interview with her fiance, whom she still needs to leave.)
8. The hero becomes more likable yet when he refuses to sign his own name to his paintings and thus capitalize on his playboy image.
9. We know he has changed his ways when he no longer acts like the playboy even though the heroine did not show up for their meeting.
10. His most heroic move is when he shows he still loves the heroine even though she cannot walk. That is the scene that stole our hearts.

Although we are told repeatedly our hero must be likable, this movie shows you can have a bad boy if you show early on that the character has redeeming qualities. The reader needs to know our hero will be worthy in the end, just like Cary Grant's character did in An Affair to Remember.
Until next week,
Happy Writing!
Tina LaVon

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