Funny, isn't it, how willingly we buy movie plots about impossible casino heists, miraculous spider bites and rock-star pirates… And yet something as simple as a beautiful woman getting involved with a not-so-beautiful man strikes some of us as the height of absurdity.
This seems to be another case of men not understanding women. If you go check out the write-up on this movie, you’ll find (in general) the men have projected their own biases onto women, while the women aren’t taking issue with the believability factor at all.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because some readers are so damn fussy. I didn’t think of myself being that bad – I’d stop reading a book if it was boring or stupid or badly written, but all the technical research aspects and actively questioning things as I read weren’t things I’d do. Until I started seeing things questioned on lists and forums and started doing my own research.
However, the issue around Knocked Up goes to one of character. And this is a far shadier area for people to jump on a bandwagon and make criticisms about. Face it: Just because I would react one way in a situation doesn’t mean everyone would. And even with each person there is a certain degree of hypocrisy. We can all be tempted to do things that would not be in our character normally. Extreme circumstances can produce extreme responses.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Part of the reason is that I’m writing something that involves following a group of people over about a decade. Since one of them is a child, there is a lot of change in that character. The whole point is about how circumstances influence changes in her, actually. It’s one of the more challenging things I’ve ever done.
One of the other things that makes it tough is that I believe that what people say and do reveals character. And that should translate over into books. In reality, people think all kinds of things and would like to believe they’d be a hero given the opportunity to prove it, but it’s when you’re standing in front of a burning building hearing someone scream and you decide to act – or not – that you prove whether or not you’re a hero. And this is one of my beefs with some books. They’re so far in the head that you’ve got the protagonist’s idea of who they’d like to be, but little more. I’m a ‘put up or shut up’ person.
In discussion over at Crimespace, Jude Hardin actually posted this quote:
TRUE CHARACTER is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure--the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature.
I love it. It sums up my philosophy perfectly. What happens to the character in the book, and what they choose to do as a result, will tell you more about them than anything else.
It’s made me think a lot about my favourite characters, and favourite books, and why they work for me while others don’t.
And reading that piece about Knocked Up? It’s the proof that, no matter what, someone will say the realistic is unrealistic and you just can’t worry about convincing everyone. I had a laugh this week, because of a rejection I got on my book from a partial. The reason it was rejected wasn’t something that happened in the book. It would be like sending a letter to the creator of the X-Files saying, “We’re going to pass on running the show because we don’t think Mulder should become a Christian in season 3.” In other words, what the editor asserted I did wasn’t something that I did, and since they had a partial I had to wonder where they got that idea.
Ultimately, you have to shrug and say, “Whatever.” At every stage of the game in this business – from seeking an agent, to trying to find a publisher, to putting the book out and reading the reviews – you’re subject to people projecting their biases and their opinions on your work. The responses over Knocked Up should be a source of comfort to all creative types who occasionally feel their work is misunderstood. Yes, sometimes it is. Get used to it.
And sometimes, you just can’t worry about it. Sit at the feet of those you admire, learn, apply and don’t worry about making converts out of critics. Just focus on doing the best job you can, and finding those who get what it is you’re doing.
For A Good Cause
Val McDermid and her wife, Kelly, team up to raise money for The Children’s Society. Visit the link to find out how you can get involved.
Random House & Transworld Publishing team up to offer free books for a year. Just sign up for their newsletter to be entered.
Suspicious Circumstances, the movie
Marshal Zeringue has had the page 69 test the page 99 test and my book, the movie blogs going, all in an effort to promote books and encourage reading.
Suspicious Circumstances the movie is the latest addition to ‘my book, the movie’. I would have found this easier if I’d based my characters on actors. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t, and I found this quite hard, so feel free to go laugh at my choices.