Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Hubby and I are sitting here watching the greatest summer movie of all time, The Greatest Show On Earth with Charleton Heston, Jimmy Stewart, Betty Hutton, and Cornel Wilde.

Because I can't just watch a movie anymore--I have to analyze it--I ask hubby who he thinks is the main character. By now, he just rolls with my craft obsession. We launch into an intense discussion about this and several more movies of which that question needs to be asked.

Regarding the movie of topic, I listed the four mains above, but they each have strong storylines, each have plenty to lose--the criteria for knowing who the main character is.

Heston is the owner of the circus. A lot happens under the big top, and he's responsible for it all. What about Stewart? He plays a clown who hides under his makeup. He's a doctor who is responsible for the death of a patient. And Hutton? She fights for the center ring and finally gets it because of a fallen comrad. Her guilt eats away at her. Wilde has an accident. Is his trapeze career over? But above all four main characters, there is one that I haven't mentioned yet.

Or have I?

Take the movie, Twister, another summer fave. A romantic story between Helen Hunt and Bill
Paxton ensues. One would think they share top billing. But do they? Maybe the main character is someone different entirely. Yes, I have mentioned that character.

What about Showboat? There are a lot of characters in that story. Who is the main character? Or The Alamo? Rich history (although somewhat inaccurate) is told through the characters, but the Texas mission itself is the primary one we care the most about.

May I suggest that the question isn't WHO is the main character in each of these stories, but WHAT?

Midway, a WWII movie with a slew of characters and storylines, was actually about the island, Midway, and the battles fought over it for control. The Japanese wanted it to launch attacks from, the Americans owned it, and defended it to keep that from happening. In this case, the island has the most to lose.

Yes, I'm suggesting that the main character need not be human. I'm sure you can think of several movies where you aren't sure who the main character is. In that case, perhaps the backdrop holds that honor.

In Twister, the backdrop is the storms and finally, that one F5 that nearly takes the characters lives, but actually leads Hunt and Paxton to success in their research for an early warning system. As such, the tornado loses its punch because it "knows" it can no longer surprise people in the middle of the night. That final twister is the main character.

And in The Greatest Show On Earth, the circus is the main character. In the final scene, it is crippled from a train wreck. Will the show go on? The circus breathes life and the characters under its canvas are its heartbeat. And to bring that point home, the boss man, Heston, is accused of having sawdust in his veins.

Here's something else to ponder. Could the main character be something that isn't tangible? An ideal perhaps. Take Journey to the Center of the Earth. Could the main character be the journey itself? Or is that just the backdrop? Does the journey have the most to lose? Hm. Perhaps not. What about The Hunt for Red October?

A Russian submarine captain defects, taking the Red October with him. Now the US and the Russians are hunting for it. Is the sub the main character, or the hunt for the sub? The title suggests the latter. That hunt is what drives the movie. It is important for both parties to be the first to find the sub. I suggest that the Hunt is the main character.

We are now taught that you must have one character for the readers to identify with. Some storylines call for a plethora of characters and plots. Yes, by today's standards, we may have to comply and showcase actual people, especially the new author. But once you're seasoned, and really know what you're doing, it would be great to see stories where the backdrops take center stage.

As you think about writing that breakout novel, remember to create a strong backdrop. Make it a character in itself, and maybe, it will steal the spotlight. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Consider the following movies, (which hubby helped me compile) and decide for yourself. Is the title character the main, or is it simply the backdrop?

The African Queen
The Poseidon Adventure
The Titanic
Stage Coach
The War Wagon
Air Force One
Towering Inferno
Apollo 13
The Rock
42nd Street
New York, New York
South Pacific
Jewel of the Nile
Police Academy
Back Draft
Big Trouble in Little China
Murder on the Orient Express
Holiday Inn
Gunfight at the OK Corral
How the West Was Won
Royal Wedding
The Great Race
The Great Escape
Stalag 13
The Guns of Navarone
The Bridge over the River Kwai
The television shows:
Gilligan's Island
The Love Boat
Fantasy Island

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Proposal - My Review

I saw The Proposal tonight. Sandra Bullock is back! She's so funny, and has the ability to do drama. Her characters show depth, and that's why she's my fave female actress. The male protagonist, Ryan Reynolds, also proved himself as a fine actor, able to play humor with realism that endeared me to him with every passing minute of this movie.

I strive to write like that. Sprinkle in the humor, but give my characters depth. I write sweet romances, but that doesn't mean my characters can't have real issues. In Merely Players, (now available in the 3-in-1 Florida Weddings available here,) my hero was abused by his father. This shaped him into the adult he became, one more comfortable playing a role than being himself. In my next book, God Gave the Song, (available in November 2009 through Barbour Publishing's Heartsong Presents,) my hero was abandonded by his hippie mother. And in my current work in progress, Crossroads Bay, my heroine needs to save face, proving her father wasn't crazy for chasing his dream.

In all three stories, I've added giggles here and there, but hopefully I haven't missed the real issues, and the spiritual struggles that round out real-life situations.

As Rachel Hauck mentioned in the previous post, The Proposal is well worth seeing. If you'd like to learn how to write funny with depth, this is the movie to watch. Each character had reasons for being the way they were. And the writers brought that out in natural ways.

Disclaimer for my "family friendly" readers: Do beware that there is a partial nude scene between Bullock and Reynolds. Nothing is seen, and it is totally hilarious, but I thought the director let it go a tad too long to the point of gratuitousness. Is that a word? It is now. Because of that, this movie gets 4 out of 5 stars from me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Proposal - Guest Author, Rachel Hauck

This week, guest author Rachel Hauck will give a craft review of the new summer movie, The Proposal. I met Rachel in 2002 at the first national conference for American Christian Romance Writers, (now called American Christian Fiction Writers.) She has served in that organization as worship leader, president and now as adviser, and has never lost her sweet, humble spirit. She has since authored some terrific novels, the latest -- Love Starts With Elle.

Rachel wrote the following post to our ACFW loop and I quickly snarfed it up for this blog. I haven't had a chance to see this movie, yet. My husband and I usually reserve the theater for blockbusters, like Star Trek. But I've heard so many terrific things about it, we may have to break that rule. I'm not sure I can wait for it to come out on DVD.

And now, Rachel:

I just saw The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. It was a great movie. There were a few cliche scenes, but the director made them work well for Sandra's character and the setting.

Otherwise, this was a GREAT movie for dialog, pacing and how to raise the stakes. What starts out as a ridiculous set up -- she's a publisher from Canada about to be deported because she violated her green card status, and he's her exec assistant working his tail off to become an editor.

So she pretends they are getting married so she won't be deported. Why would he go along with this? He hates her! But the screenwriter wisely raised the stakes for him, and brilliantly. Lots of times we see stupid reason for raising stakes: she's going to tell he dated the bosses daughter... Big deal.

But the stakes are real, and believable. This is a great movie to discover how to raise the stakes, both private and public.

The dialog was also fantastic. In one scene, Drew and Margaret are quietly arguing and he wants to reminder of what kind of hard woman she is and instead of doing the typical name calling or using the B-word, he says, "you're going to have to quit eating children while they're dreaming."

I loved that line. Why? Because it shows how hard she is and how he perceives her. She's a dream killer for her own gain. Best of all, it was utterly unique. I love dialog and struggle to get unique lines sometimes, but this has inspired me to think and dig deeper!

Best of all the chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds was great. We should strive for that among our protags!

Thanks, Rachel, for the great review and writing tips. Folks, Rachel has a wonderful service for writers called My Book Therapy. She knows her stuff!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer Movies Fresh Out of the Gate

I've been to see one summer release already, Star Trek in IMAX. All I can say is, WOW! Okay, I can say a whole lot more than that.

As one who remembers the original series before it became reruns, I worried that this movie would mess with my icons. I feared the same thing with last year's summer blockbuster, Get Smart starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. Both Get Smart and Star Trek honored the original series, as well as punched up the stories for the big screen.

The casting was perfect with Chris Pine (Princess Diaries 2) as Kirk and Zachary Quinto (Heroes) as Spock. I'm so glad Quinto played this role because after watching Heroes, I was having nightmare with his character, Sylar, showing up and slitting the tops of heads. If I was dreaming and Sylar showed up, I think, "Oh, crumb!" Now, I'll just turn him into Spock if he suddenly appears. (But I digress.)

The other iconic characters were also well cast, particularly Dr. McCoy played by Karl Urban. From his opening line off camera--"I don't need a doctor. I am a doctor, damn it!"--we knew we were going to like this young Bones.

I also liked Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana, who refused to give her name to Kirk. This, according to the IMDB site under "Trivia" was a tribute to the character on the series who never had a first name. (Check out the trivia site after you watch the movie. It's fun to see how director J.J. Abrams and his team honored those responsible for all of the original series and movies.)

From a writing standpoint, the back story for the two main characters worked very well. We know why each man is the way he is--what makes Kirk a rebel and Spock...well...Spock. If you must write back story, watch this movie to see how it's done. Also, the movie followed the character arcs of both Kirk and Spock well, leaving plenty of room for growth. Could a new Star Trek franchise be in the works?

I sincerely hope so.

For another review of Star Trek and its competition, Up, go to the blog, Musings on This, That, and the Other Thing by Jennifer AlLee titled, Summer at the Movies: Action, Laughs, and a Bunch of Kleenex

I hope to see more summer releases soon. Up and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian are next on my list. Watch for more reviews.