Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rebel With a Cause

This is Memorial Day weekend, so strains of dog fights and screech bombs, rapid gun fire and explosions float from the family room as my husband enjoys yet another weekend of war movies.Midway
I’ve seen a few, though I must admit, what drew me was more the  actors than the action. With its all-star cast, I remember seeing Midway in the drive-in theater when it first came out. Three hours sitting in the front passenger seat and no destination in sight. But I was riveted. Not because of the carnage in front of me, but because this was the first war movie I remembered seeing where the opposite side had a voice.
I didn’t agree with why the Japanese Imperial Navy felt they needed that tiny island, but I appreciated hearing their point of view. They felt the island of Midway would give them the best advantage to totally defeat the US Pacific fleet and put them in prime position for an all out land attack. Listening to their conviction, I began to feel sympathetic with the admirals in charge, even while rooting for my own team.
Years later, when I began to study the craft of writing, I was told that I must make my villains sympathetic. All I could think of were Disney villains who didn’t have an ounce of redeemable quality in them. Cruella Deville who wanted to kill puppies; Lady Tremaine, the quintessential evil step-mother to the innocent Cinderella; Stromboli, who burned his marionettes for firewood when they could no longer perform. Now these are villains! We never knew, nor cared, why they were so evil. Their only job was to make our skin crawl and our tiny throats clench as we cried out in the theater, “Run away, Pinocchio!”
But the Japanese Navy in Midway had, what they felt, a very good reason for defeating the Americans. They pushed their cause to the bitter end. And that is why studying movies such as these can help to strengthen our own antagonists, giving them layers and a purpose for being in our stories.
I always have the GMC, (Goal, Motivation, and Conflict) clear for my main characters. What do they want? Why do they want it? What gets in their way?
Wonder what the GMC is for the Imperial Navy?
  • Goal – Take the island of Midway.
  • Motivation – It would put them in prime position to totally defeat the Americans.
  • Conflict – But a crippled, yet determined, US Pacific fleet, still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor only six months prior, stand in their way.
I must admit, answering those questions for my villains were rarely on my top to-do list. But, if we could take the time to figure out what makes these bad boys/girls tick, I believe we’d have a much more compelling story.
In honor of Memorial Day, I’d like to include a link to a blog post I wrote in 2009 titled “Thank You For Serving”. It’s a small tribute to the men and women in my family who made the brave decision to join the U.S. military.

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