Monday, July 11, 2011

Let's Talk About Writing

I said I would bring up that YA series, but still don't feel like naming it.  It's very popular--I don't know how popular actually but it seems to be.  There was a movie, and it was supposed to be a franchise.  I saw the movie on youtube and I've read 6 of the X many books.

I'm going to try to sort out all the elements for us so we wind up somewhere other than the Isle of Confusion.

I'm going to work backward and start with the movie that was panned.  The lead actor was gorgeous and a good enough actor for the material.  The production values were wonderful--it was not an inexpensive movie to make.  The supporting actors were well-known/famous although not A-listers.  It was a good way to pass 90 minutes although besides some scenes, I couldn't really give you a timeline of what happened.  I don't even actually remember...oh yeah, I do, what the main point of it was.  Not a good sign.  The  franchise is dead.  Deader than Monty Python's parrot.

The movie reminded me of some research I was doing on the legend of Siegfried.  There is a 2 part movie made in 1924 and it's been assayed a number of times.  This German version might be the most recent, no idea.  The blonde girl is beautiful.  She should have been the star because when she was on camera, she was riveting .  The Siegfried actor really struggled uncomfortably; English wasn't his first language, that might have been a problem.  The photography was quite dark, it was difficult to see what was going on.  It was a multinational mess.

Here we go with an embed felony alert

This was not a good way to spend 90 hours--that's what it felt like.

(You didn't think I'd post the trailer for the movie I'm actually discussing, did you?)

The similarities between these two movies is that they are full of action.  The main character is trying to do something and there are a lot of difficulties but in the end it's all resolved.  Siegfried maybe dies and good riddance.

But if you are not made to care, and it's up to the writer to make the audience care, then the audience glazes over.

That's what happened in this YA series and its movie.  No one cared.  You don't have to believe me, this is what all the movie reviews said.

Characters can't be free-floating.  The hero needs a confidant.  I'm sorry, this is true.  If it's not first person and they're not revealing themselves and their concerns directly to the audience, they need someone to talk to.  Hamlet had Horatio "Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio."  The first year of McGuyver Ricky Dean Anderson had no one to talk to and I knew they'd have to change that.  Next season, Dana Elcar was brought in.  This is required.

This is writing 101 and I know this YA author knows better than that but s/he didn't do it.  It wasn't in the book and even though the author wrote the script, it wasn't in the movie either.  Oh yeah, I saw how s/he tried to bring in material from later books, making Ms Y a more prominent character, and bringing in a love interest from a couple books in the future, so the hero would be tethered somewhat.  But it didn't work.  The construction of the structure wasn't there.  When it's not there to start with, it's really hard to insert later.

Do readers notice this?  I suspect not.  The books are like a roller coaster ride so much plot is zooming past you.
If that's the appeal then a time-out for reflection is a big bore.  But like in life sweet is sharpened by tart, the difference between soft and hard is more noticeable when they are positioned together. 

Who is this character?  What does this character want?  Who are these people around the main character?   If the writer takes a time-out to answer those questions as the adventure proceeds, there is texture to the story.

I think this is where this series failed.   Maybe it worked for its target audience but when it became a movie, all the faults in storytelling and character creation became glaring. 

Most of us will never have a movie made of their book so we can get away with a wide-range of slip-ups.  Readers may not even notice.  But that doesn't mean those insufficiencies aren't there.  It's up to you if you care.

The way things are today, I feel like an idiot telling you to care about it.  It's practically bad financial advice.

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