Friday, June 15, 2007

Unbelievable (& a few links)

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.
--Robert Mckee

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.

Free Books

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.


pattinase (abbott) said...

What I would like to see that director do though is make a movie about geeky girls finding beautiful men that want them. Of course, the opposite works because women don't rate looks that highly (although when I say this my husband always complains), but when was the last time you saw a geeky woman with a stunning man.
(Maybe my husband would say it is true of us)

Brian said...

I haven't seen the movie and probably wont until its on HBO at 2:30 in the morning and I cant sleep (it happens more then you think). But I do have to wonder if their dislike of the onscreen pair has anything to do with chemistry. If that's the case then the movie reviewers should have been savvy enough to pick up on that.

Good onscreen chemistry is a wonderful thing and makes a movie or even scene. There's Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line (very subtle) or Kevin Costner & Renee Russo in Tin Cup (underrated but undeniable) or Simon Callow & John Hannah in Four Wedding and a Funeral (touching and sad, think the eulogy -- you cant fake a voice crack) or Jack Nicholson & Angelica Huston in The Crossing Guard (the scene in the diner) or Mark Ruffalo & Laura Dern (the kitchen scene) and the list goes on and on.......

On the other side of the coin is bad or no chemistry. For example the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Kierra Knightly & Orlando Bloom have zippy chemistry and it shows. Or Kevin Costner & Whitney Huston in The Bodyguard.

Which also ties in with the MY BOOK, MY MOVIE portion of the post. With Suspicious Circumstances chemistry is key so instead of thinking about individual actors/actresses and a shared look that they might have with Lara & Ty a potential producer of the movie would have to think in terms of a couple.

Hell since race doesn't come into play during the book just have them be black and played by Will & Jada. (I'm being serious by the way)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Patti, such a movie would get roasted as unbelievable, obviously! But I agree. I would also suggest it's true of me and Kevin.

Brian, I completely agree about the issue of chemistry. Having not seen the movie either, I can't comment on that, but it's just what I said in SC: The Movie: "The actors portraying Lara and Farraday could make or break the movie. They’d need a certain chemistry, the kind of bond that comes from trust, not sex. I’d be happy to leave the decisions to the pros, although it was fun to think about it."

That would be more critical than anything. Unfortunately, you just don't know what two people are capable of producing until you see them together, and I didn't want to pick pairings we'd already seen because then they connect to the other project and that will get in the way of buying in to them as Ty and Lara.

It was tough to come up with names.

Christa said...

If the idea of a beautiful woman having sex with a shlubby guy is so unrealistic to most men, how do you explain the fame and popularity of porn star Ron Jeremy? I'd be willing to bet neither of those reviewers have ever zipped up and hit stop when The Hedgehog went to work just because it seemed so unrealistic.

Christa said...

Patty, Sandra, have either of you ever seen the film DOGFIGHT? It's about a contest were guys compete to score the ugliest girl, only the main character actually falls for his "dog."

pattinase (abbott) said...

Christa- I did see it. Lily Taylor right. So painful. Can't remember the guy though.

Sandra Ruttan said...

No, I haven't seen that movie.

What gets me about the whole "looks" assessment is the number of people who don't realize relationships are about a lot more than looking pretty. Given the choice between the "sexiest" man alive (whoever that's supposed to be) and someone intelligent, caring,creative there's no doubt in my mind which option I'd choose. To be honest, when someone's "hot" but they've got nothing but air between the ears I actually find them not as good looking.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Good looking women do marry goofy-looking dudes. I'm proof of that.

D.A. Davenport said...

Patti-River Phoenix was the soldier who falls in love with his Plain-Jane. A terrific movie. Loved the touch they pulled in casting Holly Near, the great folk-singer, as the girl's mother who runs the natural Cafe.

Sandra- Thanks...took your advice and signed up for RandomHouse's newsletter, but also dropped them a note that I felt their survey pigeon-holded me as a female who would prefer Evanovich over Bruen or Macbride!

I wish it had been set up to gear it more towards personal taste, not what would be reflected by my sex. I know too many women readers out there who prefer harder-edged reading material than supposed by publishers.

pattinase (abbott) said...

God, River Phoenix. I'd forgotten it was him. What a shame!

Sandra Ruttan said...

D.A. interesting about the survey. I, uh, didn't do it because I didn't enter. We get enough free books so they should go to someone else.

And yeah, River Phoenix. What a tragedy.

Eileen said...

I love the character quote- I'm going to have to post it above my computer.

Steve Allan said...

Women can't wear beer goggles? Thank god that's not true. Hello, ladies. You're just my type: drunk and desperate with poor vision. Your place or mine?