Sunday, June 30, 2013

Writing Fiction: Suspension of Reality

We can often learn valuable writing lessons when watching movies. Last night, my husband and I watched The Heat. The movie was entertaining, but there were many times I had to remind myself it was a comedy. Police Brutality should be the McCarthy character's middle name. In the real world, most of her cases couldn't go to trial because she steps way outside the legal limits of the law to make an arrest. She even threatens, intimidates, and verbally abuses her fellow officers and commanding officer. She should have already been fired.

Today's audience, whether it be moviegoers or readers, usually understands the basics of law enforcement. They know an investigator isn't going to get away with beating the bad guy unless it is a case of self-defense or easily explainable in some way in which it his word against the investigator's. In many films, the beating is meant to obtain evidence, no arrest is made, and the bad guy has no desire to report the abuse because of their criminal activity. In these type of movies, the investigator is most likely after someone who killed their partner or a member of their family. These are not usually comedies. More like a Dirty Harry film.

If the investigator is rude and disrespectful to his boss, we need to know why this character is able to get away with this type of behavior. Does the investigator have something on his boss which can cause him to be fired? Do they have history which makes it plausible for them both to speak to each other in an unprofessional manner? Your readers/audience will want to know.

Comedies are meant to be funny, but you need to decide if your comedy is going to work within the limits of reality or if you are going to step over all of the lines. In the Lethal Weapon movies, the comedy works within the confines of reality. The Mel Gibson character may step over the line, but he usually gets in trouble with his boss and in the end everything is tied up in a way the audience can accept. In The Heat, the writers step over the lines in the first scene, which prepares the audience to suspend reality for the rest of the movie. This was a smart move on their part. I only thought "She can't get away with that!" twice before I was able to suspend reality and enjoy the rest of the movie.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Internship Reminded Why I Read Romances

Watching The Internship reminded me why I read and write romances. Going into the movie I expected the comedic duo to make me laugh, feel sorry for them, applaud when they grow as characters, and then allow me to leave with a sense of completion at a well-deserved happy ending. They did not disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

On the way out of the theater, I told my husband the story of how long ago I read a few books recommended by Oprah and colleagues at work. They were depressing. After devoting hours to the story, I read the last page and felt emotionally drained, empty. After two or three, I couldn't face another one of those books. I turned to romances because I knew no matter what happened to the hero and heroine I was guaranteed a happy ending. It's like going on an amusement park ride. You know you will scream with fear and laugh with delight. You also know, no matter how afraid you might get, you will eventually stand on your wobbly legs and walk safely off of the ride.

Romance novels make it safe to enjoy the story. Cheer the characters on, yell at them when they let their flaws get in the way of true love, and let your heart fill with joy when they overcome their fears to do the right thing. You know you are free to feel every emotion because when you reach the last page, everyone has a happy ending, including you.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Character Driven Stories

Spoil Alert: If you haven't seen the movie, you may not want to ruin the ending by reading more.

My husband and I are movie buffs. Last night, we watched The Great Gatsby.You know you are watching a great character driven story when you are so captivated you forget to eat your Peanut M&Ms. The fact Leonardo DiCaprio was superb helped also. Gatsby starts out as a mysterious, rich and powerful man. There are plenty of rumors, but no one seems to know the true story. He throws lavish parties and knows the elite of New York on a first name basis. As the movie progresses, we learn how and why he built his empire. His goal was to win the hand of Daisy. His motivation was an all consuming love for her. The conflict was she wouldn't marry a poor man. With his mass fortune, he is one step away from the grand prize. Unfortunately, this isn't a romance so there is no happy ending.

If you need assistance in writing your own great character driven story, read Debra Dixon's book, Goal, Motivation & Conflict.