Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Wedding Pact

Occasionally I'll see a movie and feel disappointed and/or unsatisfied afterwards. Then I'll ask myself why. And this is what happens.

Wedding Pact is a romantic comedy. And I've blogged about romantic comedies before here.

The set-up is pretty cool. A guy and girl find they've reached the end of four years of college, having known and liked one another, but never actually dated. At a graduation party she points this out and asks him that if they still aren't married after 10 years, why don't they marry.

I really, really loved the premise, but it hides a terrible secret the casual viewer might not catch.

And so as you'd expect 10 years elapse and they're both single. He learns of this and embarks on a road trip to find the girl and remind her of the promise to marry.

We then learn that he has carried a torch for this girl since he first met her on the first day of college. In any story you should see character development. In this story the character arc should be obvious. Something is lacking in this guy's character that prevents him from successfully romancing someone, anyone. And since the girl never marries either, there's something in her character that should similarly sabotage her romantic success.

Whoever wrote this movie never got around to thinking these thoughts. As a result, it sort of stumbles around and ultimately uses a deus ex machina (in the form of a biker gangster) to force a happily ever after.

So, gentle reader, let's suppose you've been called in to script-doctor this turkey. Suppose you agree that the premise is sound. Now, here's an assignment for the reader: devise some creative solution to explain why 14 years elapse, they like each other, he doesn't marry someone else, she doesn't marry someone else, but they don't marry each other.

The cool thing about answering this problem is that it can drive the plot into some really interesting (as in fresh and original) ground. Obvious solutions: he's caring for a sick aunt or she's obsessed with her career should be avoided b/c they are so UNORIGINAL.

I played this game with my wife and she suggested that his older sister and her husband died right after graduation leaving him to care for his twin 8 year old nieces who 10 years later grow up and gone to college. My suggestion to her was that he's afflicted with some kind of narcolepsy so that every time he is stressed he falls asleep. And every time he's about to tell a girl he loves her he nods off, whereupon she breaks up with him.

We could fuse these two ideas by giving her the nieces to take care of. Then the nieces and the narcolepsy can create complications in the second act. Particularly, if the nieces believe some false report about the guy. Meanwhile, he's had a decade to understand his narcolepsy handicap and to devise a clever technological solution (involving a dead-man's switch and a videotaped explanation)--that will malfunction to create a Dark Moment. But the nieces feel bad for their earlier interference and they save the day somehow.

Sadly, the movie Wedding Pact did nothing even close to this. He starts out the movie as a loser, which creates initial sympathy, but he never really outgrows being a loser. He never asserts himself, but passively accepts the help of the deus ex machina character.

I think it is safe to assume that you should expect each romantic comedy to start with two potential lovers who each have some character flaw that they have to overcome in order to find love. Then it is the job of the storyteller to put them in situations where they each identify and fix the flaw. Unless you're writing a tragedy...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Trickster Noir

(I got ahold of a pre-release copy of Trickster Noir that I used to create this review.)

There was a TV show called Mannix that I used to watch long ago. The hero was a private eye. It seemed like every week he'd get in a scrape, there'd be a lot of tough-guy action, and as often as not someone would put lead in him.

But he would tough it out and solve the crime or whatever. Then he would retire to his sickbed to recover in time for next week's adventure.

If you haven't read Pixie Noir, I will try not to spoil it more than to say the hero doesn't die at the end, but he does get hurt.

Unlike Joe Mannix, Lom, the pixie bounty hunter, doesn't get all better before the next episode starts. That episode is Trickster Noir.

There's some cleaning up to do of messes left over from Pixie Noir. First, there's a nest of ogres who need to get hunted down. Happily, there's a friendly bigfoot who doesn't want the attention the ogres are attracting. And then there's Bella's friends and family who are pretty good with guns and bomb-making. The ogres don't stand a chance.

That gives Lom time to heal before getting on with the main business of the novel. If you know anything about American Indian lore, you may have heard of the Raven spirit. Seems he's got a problem and can't or won't go to Siberia to solve it himself.

And the Fairy court has a similar mission in Japan. Lom and Bella figure they can kill two birds with one stone if they combine both missions.

Of course, they need a decent cover story to explain to all the gossips why they're heading to the other side of the world. And they oblige by providing not one, but two weddings.

Ms. Sanderson may be a bit too anxious to depict the chastity of her protagonists. And a bit too elaborate in the wedding planning. Maybe this is because I'm male and leave wedding planning to the fairer sex. I appreciate the fact that Bella and Lom wait until their union has been solemnized in a manner appropriate to their respective cultures before they consummate their relationship.

One of the things I intimated, but did not state overtly here is that I think sexual congress belongs within the context of monogamous marriage. Stories that show 007 jumping from bed to bed should also show his inability to make a permanent connection with anyone. I believe it is untrue to depict sexual promiscuity seamlessly settling into happily ever after without significant negative consequences.

But that's just my opinion and I've no desire to make you feel bad if you do not share it.

Ms. Sanderson does not preach at this point, but she does belabor the good example of Lom and Bella enough to notice. And when folks notice they get the idea you might be preaching.

There's been a recent flap wherein Social Justice Warriors have insisted that story be sacrificed on the altar of The Message. They insist that you have just the right number of transgendered third-world bohemian have-nots depicted in a caring and sympathetic fashion. Frankly, this is a demand that writing become preaching.

Preaching is just as annoying when it is anti-Christian as when it is pro-Christian. If you absolutely must put a Message into your writing. Then encode it in the first letters of each sentence where it won't club the reader over the head with the subtlety of an Eskimo dispatching a baby seal.

Happily, you'll find no such clubbing in Trickster Noir. It is as much fun as Pixie Noir. A lot of questions about Ms. Sanderson's world-building are nicely answered. And as many backstory questions are left unanswered. What exactly did Lom do to get on the wrong side of the law? And what unhappy fate befell his first wife? I guess we'll just have to wait until Ms. Sanderson's next "Noir" novel.

Five stars.

Those more worthy than I: