Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category
Man of Steel’s Writer Character Lois Lane and Her Compelling Conflicts: Protecting Your Subject, Falling for Your “Subject” and More
The 2013 Superman reboot Man of Steel is a pleasant addition to the superhero movies with its brilliant cast (Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon, Amy Adams, Henry Cavill), a satisfactory (back)story and some great effects that unfortunately didn’t exist in the time of Christopher Reeve (Superman from 1978).
However one of the things that made me like this Superman movie a lot more than all the other Superman movies (and this coming from a Reeve & Donner fan) and many other comic book adaptations is that there are several compelling “writer” conficts that are relatable.
Now, you can read the plot and movie review here. But I’ll provide strictly Louis Lane-related plot points (and conflicts) below:
Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is an award-winning journalist sent to a military base in Canada to observe the weird craft (ruled out as a submarine) found. There she follows one of the new workers (Clark Kent, played by Henry Cavill) there as he finds the answers to his origins. He gets to save Lois’ life and then disappears, working to improve his abilities.
But when Lois’s boss refuses to publish her story (that doesn’t sound plausible), she leaks the story other channels, and then looks for Clark herself. Up to now, including the story, he’s a mystery man whose identity and background are unknown.
When she finds him (or he lets her find him), and Clark explains her the reason for his hiding the truth, she decides to keep his secret. But then Zod, the killer of Clark’s biological father, sends a threatening message: Either humans give Clark to him, or he destroys them all.
Lois is arrested by the FBI, but she isn’t exactly willing to talk. Clark doesn’t trust Zod, but he agrees to turn himself in for the safety (and freedom) of Lois.
Then Lois and Clark find themselves on the spacecraft of Zod. He tries to persuade Clark to join their plans of recreating Krypton on earth, but Clark doesn’t want anyone to be killed. On the craft, Lois gets to “meet” Clark’s father, and learns some critical strategical information.
From then on, Lois becomes an integral part of the team determined to stop Zod from destroying everything.
The Famous Writer Character: Lois Lane
Lois in Man of Steel is the ideal journalist. She goes to whereever her leads (and curiousity) take her, no matter how dangerous things might be. She then writes about her experiences without holding back, and gets frustrated at her boss for not giving her the green-light, even though her story sounds, quite improbable. And when she can’t make herself heard through the publication she works for, she gives her story to a guy who is famous for writing stuff like that- even though this could cost her her job.
But when she learns why Clark has been hiding who he really is, she keeps his secret- even if it eventually leads to her arrest. When Zod asks her to come on board with them, she willingly leaves; and this has nothing to do with the story.
Of course the more Clark and Lois know each other as a person, they more connected they feel. So we have a mutually protective, risk-taking and loyal relationship combined with a lot of attraction.
And as much as things got very complicated and dangerous, all ended well for both characters. But things could have gone really wrong for Lois, had she been a real person and her “subject” not a superhero.
She could have lost her job, the guy she wrote about would probably be less sweet and understanding about her story, and none of them would probably survive such dangerous situations.
But it makes for a fun and appealing story. The romance is delightful because it includes friendship, chemistry, understanding, loyalty and bravery. Lois proves to be more into her story than her career (and her life), which is really admirable (though this would probably send her parents to an early grave.) And she has the courage to step up when the world needs her.
Of course Man of Steel isn’t just for writers. But with all the Loises I have seen on both TV and big screen, Amy Adams’ is the coolest and most likeable. She is also a lot more than a damsel in distress.
How far would you go for your story? For your subject (love)?
And did your stories ever bring you real life romance?
Call me crazy, but I’ve grown quite fond of querying. Gone are the days I was terrified of coming up with something the editor would laugh at (not in a good way).
Sure, I still get a bit of an adrenalin rush before I hit send and wait for the reply, but I’ve become a lot more apt and confident at querying.
A lot of writers will advise you to do whatever you can to eliminate the process, and they have a good point: It’s not very practical (or lucrative) to depend on making your entire living out of the yeses you get out of your queries. Because there will be lots of rejections and no responses, especially in the beginning. And they never completely go away. So it makes sense to land ongoing gigs and clients so you’d not go through a feast or famine cycle.
But unless you become a famous writer with a ready and sealed 10-book deal (yes, I’m aware of how “often” that happens), you will need to query, a lot.
You’ll need to query editors, other clients, agents and publishers. So the better you get, the more you’ll write for your favorite publications.
A regular stream of good ideas (accepted through good queries) will help you establish a relationship with an editor – and that editor will tend to send assignments your way, directly or indirectly.
The more yeses you get, the more confident you’ll feel and the more comfortable you’ll feel sending out more queries.
But don’t feel discouraged when you get rejected. Study, practice and improve. And if you still shudder at the thought of writing more queries, below are some wonderful resources that I’ve compiled: 7 Great Query Letter Resources: A List of (E-)Books, Articles and Blog Links.
OK, now that we’ve gotten that sorted out, let’s get to the reasons:
1) It’s good practice on being concise and interesting. You’ve limited space, and what you say and how you say it are extremely important.
2) This practice will make you a better writer, and it is what you do. You write. Novels, screenplays, articles, essays, posts, newsletters…
Whatever you write, you want to be read, liked, shared, published, taken action upon. And you’ll always have limited space and time to get your target audience’s attention.
3) The more you are read and sold, the more you make. So queries do help you on getting the writing career you’ve always wanted. And yes, you’ll need to query agents and publishers too.
4) It makes your skin grow thicker –which is one of the essentials of being a healthy, happy and earning freelance writer.
5) It makes you more confident, especially after you have gotten your first acceptance(s).
6) It’s fun. The more ideas you sell, the more you want to brainstorm.
7) You do end up earning more, and querying less (if you want.)
So how do you feel about querying?
Equilibrium is a universally compelling action drama that takes place in a post- WW3 universe where all wars and crimes have been eliminated, as well as all “evil” feelings of rage, violence, greed and such.
Oh, yes, there’s a catch. A gigantic one:
Along with the negative feelings and impuses that have been eradicated are also love, passion, friendliness and such. Nobody feels anything, complements of the government-supplied, obligatory doses of a drug.
What about stimulators, you might ask. Like music. Paintings. Personal taste. All forbidden. Nothing is custom, or individualistic. Nothing is colorful, or creative.
Everyone’s only an obedient, faded clone of themselves.
Oh, of course there’d be no point in watching the movie if it was all grey.
There are rebels, of course. People who refuse to take the drug are fighting against the totalitarian regime- with whatever means they can find.
Guess what the punishment is? Death by being burned. Or death on site during combat. They are seen as enemies of peace.
But the rebels have to fight, because what else is there? In a world where everything is soulless and grey, where there is no individuality, they prefer to go down fighting and feeling, as opposed to living without feeling. And who can blame them?
Now, until here, I painted the spoiler-free picture of the story. You can move on to my Equilibrium review for more on the movie . From now on, spoilers will flow –as we’ll analyze some of the most touching and relatable conflicts ever.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have shared a lot of relatable and powerful story conflicts on this blog.
But with a lot of them, it is easy (and logical) to assume that you wouldn’t end up like that.
For instance, unless you are a tycoon, I don’t foresee you in the danger Tom Mullen was in Ransom.
We don’t live in the 18th century, so there goes A Royal Affair.
Assuming you didn’t marry a religious nut out of gratitude and then cheat on him with your next door neighbor, you don’t need to worry about being in the shoes of the characters in The Ledge.
You get my point.
But how about having ever lived in a country where the rules and regulations stifled you? The government wanting to be too involved in your private life –e.g. abortion rights? How about having been ruled by someone who wanted to empose his/her religious beliefs onto the public?
Now how much do you relate?
Granted, Equilibrium is an extreme scenario – but how extreme or fictional, apart from John Preston’s fighting skills – depends on where you live(d).
So with that in mind, let’ get back to the story, with spoilers:
John Preston (skillfully played by Christian Bale) is a priest- meaning he leads the armed forces against the rebels. He has an unique level of empathy, but he uses it to guess the hiding places and manevours of the rebels, not to understand them. He is extremely loyal, proud of his job and he is excellent at it.
One “disappointing” incident in his life has been his wife who, to his surprise, turned out to be “guilty of feeling” and was sentenced to death. As he raises his two children, this incident is the only “alarm” his life has raised and is the under “scrutiny” of the ruler.
The “second” incident makes him question everything more: His partner (Sean Bean) a great officer with a stellar record turns out to be “faking” the “not feeling.” This adds to the “scrutiny”.
However this brings up memories of his wife; and add some strange behavior from his son and some missing of the dosage; and things get very complicated as John starts to feel – overwhelmingly.
Everything bottled up and subdued comes out.
Now, he daily has to go through the conflict his partner went through:
Do you kill fellow “feelers” to keep up the role, protecting yourself and your family? Do you do your job?
Do you deny your impulses because it is too hard to bear?
Because in all honesty, there’s no way he can quit his job without giving himself away.
Of course after he can’t give up on feeling once he realizes what he is missing, John starts sucking at his job. And after a while, it is only fair that he joins the movement himself – especially he also has to lose another person he cares about.
So he fights.
It is a big, difficult fight but he wins in the end.
The glory feels wonderful. Things will no longer be the same, in all senses of the word.
Of course the movie is so much more. A lot of it has to do with the cast, especially Christian Bale who does a superior job of reflecting his characters’ both internal and external conflicts. You feel for him, understand him and want him to win with all your heart.
The war was fought for the right to feel, as well as the right to be whoever you want to be.
We often have to struggle in our lives when it comes to the right of being who we are. Sometimes it is against (or within) our family, friends, school, society, bosses, country….How much we win can depend on the level of authority we are fighting for.
Sometimes it is small, sometimes it is big. But we fight everyday. For some, the battle is tougher and on a much bigger scale. The key is never to give up.
So what do you think of the conflict(s) of this movie?
Can you empathize?
Your Love Sleeps With Another Guy or You Lose Your Baby: A Royal Affair-Most Enthralling Story Conflicts 5
Picture this: You are madly in love. It’s mutual. Together, you’re not only having fun – you’re realizing your dreams and you’re making the world a better place.
Then she gets pregnant.
Well, normally it’s great news. And his first reaction is a genuine smile. She’s really upset. Then reality sets in: She’s the QUEEN. Her husband, who she is NOT sleeping with, is the KING. And it is the 18th century.
What do you do? Run away together?
As a romantic, that’d be my vote. Even for the 18th century. It’s not like he can’t take care of them. He’s a doctor (Mads Mikkelsen).
But how does one exactly run away from servants, army, the nosiest step mother-in-law, and all the conservative council members who hate their humane ideas?
So she does the inevitable. She hates it. He hates it. But she does it.
And at least the baby is born, and she is healthy.
But then what?
Yes, eventually they get caught.
*** (I’ve not given anything that hasn’t been shown in the trailer yet, but read on at your own peril. I’ll give away the ending.)
But the tragicomic thing? They don’t get in that much trouble because of the baby. The others just use the baby to make sure the unstable king is persuaded to get rid of the doctor and the queen.
People are so obsessed with power and money. Then there’re the hilariously misinterpreted religious beliefs (“let’s not give the king’s son a vaccination- he’s royal so he’s immune by God’s doing”)…
They could have made it, but eventually, it comes down to friends selling out friends for money or to save their own butts.
The story doesn’t have a happy ending. The queen is sent to exile, the good doctor to execution.
The funny thing? The whole affair is the king’s fault. Yes, I’m serious. For one, he treats her absolutely horribly. He sleeps around with hookers, calls her a boring cow, sends away her best friend/maid…. Oh, and he is generally mental.
The doctor is brought in to restore some sanity and common sense in the king, and it starts to work. But then the king does something mad again. He tells the doctor to make the queen fun.
Sure. Go ahead. Tell your hot, older, wiser, sane, free-spirited and forward-thinking doctor to spend time with the young, beautiful, neglected, free-spirited queen.
I told you it was the king’s fault.
I wish they had taken the risk, and run away. They just didn’t envision the good they did coming back to bite them in the a**.
But all is not lost. Thankfully, her children (the first one is from a horrible one and only night with the king) receive her letters when they grow up, persuade their dad and make sure they grow up in a better country.
Oh, yes, the king was upset his friend was executed. He had no idea that was going to happen. Yes, he was crazy.
So, how is that for a story conflict?
Of course the conflicts start before this. And they keep coming after. But it is one of the most frustrating, heart-breaking and challenging conflicts I have seen. And it is based on a true story.
From a writer’s, and movie-lover’s perspective, the whole story/movie is gold.
From a romantic’s perspective, it is a nightmare until the affair. The relationship between the doctor and queen, even before the affair, is amazing. It’s a nightmare again when she becomes pregnant.
Yes, the movie is absolutely recommended. I’m still disappointed it didn’t get the Oscar for Best Foreign Film this year.
What would you do in a situation like that?
Don’t forget – 1700s, it is an affair, you are the queen or the doctor. There are no easy ways out.
If it were your story, how would it end?
Whether you call it a to-do list, experimental phase, career-management strategy, a bucket list or just don’t name it at all, we have a lot of stuff we want to do in most areas of our lives. But hey, being writers, the writing-related list is usually the longest, most imaginative and inspiring.
Dana Sitar of DIY Writing (yep, the name tells you a lot,) starts her book by pointing out the fact that when writers decide to be writers, they usually dream about that great American novel. Or the best-selling novel. Or the hit literary novel that makes hit literary novel not seem like an oxymoron.
Now, she was one of the writers who set out to become a big novel writer.
I guess for to-be-writers who are movie fans, it is also common to dream of being a successful Hollywood screenwriter. I was, and am, such a writer.
That’s not to say I didn’t try or enjoy other forms of writing. I loved writing essays in school, even during exams. I tried my hand at playwriting and a short story. In college, I wrote academic articles and a thesis. And to the shock of all my friends, I had chosen the courses specifically because I’d have to write those.
But funnily enough, the thought that I’d love non-fiction articles didn’t occur to me until I started blogging in 2009. I didn’t know I could write a complete novel before I finished my first draft earlier this year. Oh, I’m still writing screenplays.
My own writing journey is the reason why I liked Dana’s book so much. She also found herself trying and loving different forms of the craft- so much so that her novel isn’t still quite finished.
She also shows that you don’t need to limit yourself to one genre or format. You don’t need labels or strict categories. Whatever you like writing, you can do it – be it a hobby or an income stream. And those hobbies and/or income streams don’t have to be in one niche.
Oh, I can relate alright. I get a kick out of learning, reading and writing about business, advertising, career management, human resources management, psychology, freelancing, writing, blogging, career management, lifestyle design, entertainment and relationships. I love novels and non-fiction books. Oh, how I’d love to see my stories made into film…
So I dived into her fun bucket list – a diverse list of writing and not-so-writing related things any writer should do to find her calling(s), start/manage her career, find more awesome story material, meet other writers, find readers and have a lot more fun in life in general.
The categories are Creative Growth, Inspiration, Career, Education, Building a Network and Life Experience.
I read the whole thing in one sitting, and counted how many of the things I could cross off my list. My number is 46, and they were mostly done before reading Dana’s e-book. My 46 includes meeting other writers online, applying to college, getting paid for my writing, writing stories/articles my family wouldn’t approve, writing a novel, writing a screenplay, entering a contest, learning a second language, drawing, learning an instrument among many others.
But there’s also a lot on the list I’ll be working towards: such as contacting agents and getting my books published, contacting a famous person, working closely with a mentor, winning a contest, doing weird stuff for a year…
There’re a great deal of goal-setting books out there. Same goes for inspiration, career management, networking and writing life in general…However, I don’t think there’s another one that compactly features everything in such a fun and honest manner.
I recommend reading the book, saving it and coming back to it on a regular basis to see what more you have crossed off your list, and what more you’d like to do. It also won’t hurt to add your own ideas. I know I have.
You can read about Dana and her mission in the book and on her website, DIY Writing. A Writer’s Bucket List is her free gift to her subscribers.
Music has always been such an integral part of my life. People who are more exposed to music than me are probably musicians. Hell, if I hadn’t been tone-deaf, there’d be no stopping me from hitting the stage with my own band and rocking until the early hours of the day. Not that I’d stop writing. I’d be a writer/musician.
But luckily you don’t need to have talent to enjoy and utilize music to suit your moods. You can even use music to adjust your moods.
How many times have you listened to a sad song in a sad mood because you wanted something you could relate to?
I can also easily find a song to transform my emotions anyway that I like. For instance, if it is winter, and I need to be writing a sunny beach scene in Hawaii, I take advantage of chirpy and fast songs to help me get there. Sure, imagination works. But why not make the transition smoother, faster and definitely more fun?
Writing along to an upbeat song can help with your mood, as well as your writing speed. As much as I like a good REM song, a Motörhead number (Ace of Spades, to be specific) will make me think and type faster 90% of the time.
That said, I would definitely not be listening to Motörhead, Mötley Crüe or Guns’N’ Roses if I had a headache. Not because the songs are hard or fast, but because the voices of the singers…well, are not the softest. They might blend in nicely with catchy electric guitar solos, but they don’t offer relaxation. Not to me, anyway.
Below are suggestions for songs, singers and bands for causing, avoiding or accelerating certain feelings and moods (as well as helping with writing certain settings):
(Of course keep in mind that I’m primarily a rock fan so that the choices won’t surprise you a lot.)
A hard-rock club scene/ head-banging people at concerts/just writing damn fast: Ace of Spades-Motörhead, Fuel-Metallica, Kickstart My Heart-Motley Crue. Just for starters.
80s-90s/fitness/partying through rock’n’roll/feeling energetic/typing fast: Pretty much all the fast numbers of glam metal/glam rock bands (or the glam rock periods of classic rock/hard rock bands) such as Warrant, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Mr. Big.
Romance: Pretty much all slower songs of the bands mentioned above. And Bryan Adams.
Ultimate relaxation, peace and passion without exhaustion: REM (stay clear of songs like Lotus, though unless you prefer electric/computerized sounds over the softness of guitar), The Corrs, any slow Bryan Adams (he has more energizing rock numbers than people give him credit for), most unplugged albums of artists you like, Road Trippin’-Red Hot Chilli Peppers, anything Elvis Presley
For modern times: Matchbox 20 , Goo Goo Dolls
Fast, angry, slow, frustrated, depressed, happy, confused, excited…Whatever feeling you are after, or any combination of these feelings, they can provide the songs for you.
Anger, frustration and rebellion: Metallica, Offspring, Greenday
One cure-for-all: Bon Jovi
It’s a shame that people are either crazy about ballads like Always or the 2000 hit It’s my life and deem the band a too-popular-to-be-cool pop-rock band when they have so much more to offer. Not counting the first two albums (Bon Jovi, Fahrenheit 4800) that would fit perfectly in the over the top soundtracks of most 80s films, and if you really don’t want to get into the 80s happy-go-lucky parties and big hair periods (though there are some great classics in their 3rd and 4th albums), just start with Keep the Faith (1992). It’s modern rock before modern rock bands started popping around. The themes are more diverse and lyrics are funnier. It’s a good combination of awesome party fun and soul-searching. The sound is just different, in a very good way.
Then there’s These Days, a dark rock album closer to hard rock than pop rock. Survival, faith, love, sex, betrayal, drugs, depression…You name it. It’s there.
I can go on for a while, with them being my favorite band and all. But they do have the ultimate combination: great vocals, diverse and great lyrics and good music.
Give me a theme or a situation, and I can probably find a song from them. Also given that the singer’s voice improved considerably since the early 90s, there’s no mood they can’t put me in or get me out of. They write stories, not just situations.
Oh, they are also the right choice when you want someone singing that you’ll make your dreams come true. They sing that theme really often and really well.
MY FAVORITE HEADACHE-KILLER VOCALS – SONGS-BANDS
(These can kill headaches faster than Advil)…
Any Crowded House song
Blind Faith by Warrant
Bon Jovi (try acoustic or non-pop rock ballads)
Bryan Adams – any slow number
Red Hot Chilli Peppers- Road Trippin’
I have more of course, but these are my basics. Who do you listen to when you write? And why?
Sorry about the absence.
I’m publishing my new post very soon, and until then you might want to head over to Sarah Russell’s Write Your Revolution blog to read my article 9 Simple Ways Writers Can Find Paying Web Markets. The article lists how to create your own ever-growing list of web markets in any niche since when it comes to web markets, we don’t have a definite resource.
And hopefully this month will be the month when I’ll turn bulk-writing a habit. I’m good at taking notes and brainstorming in bulk when ideas hit from north and south, but maybe because I’m good at with the brainstorming, I end up writing one post at a time.
Do you occasionally take posting breaks without wanting to?
You might remember from my When It’s OK to Use Cliches in Your Writing: Hidden Metaphors – Poison’s Bret Michaels Style post that I am all for clichés that work. That post will be followed up with more working clichés (especially in fiction). But this article is dedicated to classic writing tips.
There are more than 6 of course, but today I’m tackling these 6 popular ones.
- Write about what you know
Not everything you know might be fun or lucrative to write about, but I bet some of your vast knowledge is fun, lucrative or both.
Writing about movies, TV shows and music is incredibly entertaining for me. In addition to running an entertaining blog, I got my first assignments on these subjects too.
Then there is the fact that your internal entertainment trivia database can help in finding many fun references and making your points come across in a more remarkable way. Copyblogger does it. Carol Tice does it. It works, and it comes and flows naturally.
It also fits my category Fictional Writers where I cover writers from movies and TV shows. You might want to start with my latest in that category: The Following: When Both The Protagonist and Antagonist Are Writers.
Other areas where I wrote what I knew and sold articles include traveling, business, freelancing, writing and social media.
- You don’t have to be an expert to write about a topic.
You just have to know better than the audience you are targeting. Just like you don’t have to play the guitar like Slash to be able to teach a beginner, you don’t need to be light years ahead from the readers of the market you are targeting.
If this weren’t so, our publishing possibilities and writing income would shrink considerably.
That being said, I wouldn’t mind being an expert writer who could write a bestselling book on my expertise area. There is a reason so many books written by professionals turn out to be great reads. Nope, not all of them are ghost written.
- Write what you don’t know.
Time comes when the alternative gets so popular that it feels weird to call it alternative. Raise your hand if you think Radiohead no longer belongs to the alternative rock bands category.
Just like its counterpart, this is a practical and lucrative tip. Especially if these new areas you’re discovering have anything to do with finance and technology.
You know how to research. You can educate yourself about new areas and end up finding a lot of “what you know” and hopefully “what you love” in the process. My new obsession ares are microexpressions in psychology and neuropsychiatry.
- Write about what you love
I quit my full-time job because a)it wasn’t related to writing b)I hated it.
Now, while I am absolutely addicted to writing, I have no interest in writing about things that I don’t care about, or at least find interesting.
This blog is based on this idea. Writing only about what you love (granted it also depends on which areas you love) might take a longer time when bringing home the big bucks. So you have been warned.
But I found the perfect balance by supporting my writing income with part time teaching. Teaching helps me with being more social (as opposed to the solitariness of writing) and prevents me from taking jobs that don’t excite me. Win-win. Oh, and it also worked as an article idea.
- Make yourself familiar with the publication
In other words, research the publication like mad. While it won’t guarantee being published, it is one of your strongest weapons to increase the odds in your favor. Team it up with a great idea, an exciting query and you are good to go.
- Everyone gets rejected.
You’ll get rejected. It sucks, but after a little practice (and some published articles/stories), you’ll learn to shake it off (in a shorter time).
Sure, there might be a writer out there who never gets rejected. But then it is possibly a writer who is not really working. At least not for others.
Even if you’ve eliminated the query process and ensured that clients come and find you, there is a chance not all your ideas won’t knock your clients’ socks off. Statistically speaking.
So yes. I know you heard it before. It’s not personal, and it can be due to a variety of reasons. It is however almost never about your writing skills. It might be about the idea, or how you structured that particular article.
If there is constructive feedback, take it, thank for it, revise and re-slant for another. Yes, there are other reasons but usually the fix is the same: get to the source of the problem (if it is writing skills, that can be improved too), take care of it and don’t let the idea go to waste.
Most ideas can be salvaged through brainstorming, improving and recycling.
So what cliché writing tips work for you? Do you have any favorites?
“One thing guaranteed to kill a movie-going experience is an unsatisfying ending. In my opinion, the ending might very well be the single, most important moment of your script… the final taste in the audience’s mouth. For example, if you remove the twist of an ending in ‘The Sixth Sense’, would the movie have gotten such a buzz? I doubt it.”
Script Magazine, E-mail Newsletter
How important is the ending of a novel or a movie to you? Are all the works you enjoyed great from the beginning to the end?
Or have there been stories that had you from the first page only to disappoint you with the ending?
What about stories that you found merely mediocre but had to applaud the ending?
Let’s take these three groups of stories:
*The thrilling story with an unexpected, sad ending
I’m a huge John Grisham fan. I love all his legal thrillers, and I’ll consider myself so lucky if I can write such page-turners one day.
But one of favorite my John Grisham books has a bittersweet ending that I didn’t see coming. After all the brilliant things the protagonist pulled, it caught me by surprise that Grisham hadn’t given his hero a romantically happy ending.
While no one would expect cheesy or boring or happily ever after from his genre, the hint that the hero wasn’t let down romantically in the end would be just fine.
Because while he wasn’t the nicest guy on the planet, he was by far the most likeable character in the book, and I was rooting for him. No, a partially sad ending didn’t lessen my admiration for the book. But I couldn’t help wonder why Grisham wanted the hero have an ending like that.
P.S. If you are guessing or wondering which book, just ask me on Facebook.
*The thrilling story with a worthy ending
In the wonderfully exciting world of grey characters, you don’t exactly wish for a happy ending. You do want a satisfactory ending, though your definition of a satisfactory ending changes as the story progresses to reveal the protagonist to be less than a model citizen.
Gerard Butler/Maria Bello/Pierce Brosnan movie Butterfly on a Wheel is such a story for me. The kidnapper (Pierce Brosnan) “kidnaps” the parents (Gerard Butler and Mario Bello) while he has their daughter taken hostage somewhere. They either do whatever he wants, or the little girl dies. But what do you do when his requests turn out to include destroying their life savings, blackmail, career sabotage and murder?
It may not have the effect on everyone, but I love a movie where the seemingly sociopathic villain turns out to be a victim of circumstances and the so-called hero is a selfish jerk. Oh, and the ending…whether you see it coming or not, it is so much more than Gerard Butler managing to save his and his family or not.
But my favorite great concept-great story-great ending combination has to be The Life of David Gale with Kevin Spacey.
*The not-so-engaging story with a brilliant ending
(Warning: From this point on, I’ll include major spoilers for the movies The Sixth Sense, The Others & Passengers, so please proceed at your own risk. )
Maybe it was because I saw it on DVD on my friend’s PC, but I just didn’t like The Sixth Sense (1999). It wasn’t thrilling, surprising or interesting. It was a bit spooky at times, but I just didn’t see what the fuss was about…until the end came and I had to applaud the writer/director M. Night Shyamalan for his creativity.
But my love for the ending doesn’t change the fact that as a whole, I wasn’t impressed and I don’t want to see the movie again.
And the brilliant ending gave birth to:
*The once-great-now-disappointing ending
Surprise me once, congrats. Surprise me twice, fine. Pull the same trick for the third time, and lose your audience.
How many movies have you seen that are like Christopher Nolan’s Memento? And by like Memento, I mean movies that tell the story backwards, starting with the end and ending with the first scene. If I have seen similar movies, they certainly haven’t made an impression. Oh, I love Memento, by the way.
Of course another good movie using similar storytelling chronology is possible and welcome. But it just wouldn’t be as remarkable if that story ended (well, in this case, began) like Memento. Would it?
Now, I actually liked The Others (2001). Maybe it was because I created a suitable atmosphere: I watched it on a big screen TV with a friend at night, with lights off and while there was no one else at home. Any outside sound made us jump, and it didn’t let the slow pace of the movie affect us in a negative way.
When the ending came…Let’s say that it wasn’t a huge letdown, but it didn’t make us appreciate the movie further. Still, with the endings in mind, I prefer The Others. But I’m done with that kind of ending.
Then came Passengers (2008). Passengers wasn’t a thriller/horror film but a romantic mystery/drama and I enjoyed the psychological aspect of it as it told the story of plane crash survivors who try to deal with the trauma. It wasn’t ground-breaking, but it was good. Fun. Emotional. Until the moment when we learned about what really happened to the survivors. Yep, they were dead all along.
Unsurprisingly, The Sixth Sense has the highest revenue, most critical acclaim and the highest rating by movie-goers. The Others is also highly-regarded and turned in profit. Passengers didn’t make a profit, and isn’t appreciated much.
Can a bad, or a recycled ending take away from the experience as a whole? Absolutely. It can even make you wish you hadn’t watched/read that thing.
But can a great ending make up for 100 minutes that failed to engage you? No, not really.
Of course a great story is a story that hooks you from number 1 and never lets you go. A greater story is a story that doesn’t let you go even after it ends. The ending is one of the most crucial parts of the story. It can break it, but I’d not go as far as to say it can make a story. And the Script article covering endings unsurprisingly covers a movie that is liked from start to finish: Rocky.
What are your favorite endings?
What endings disappointed you the most?
How important is the ending to you?
Spend 6 Years in a Hellish Prison or Your Best Friend Hangs:Return to Paradise-Most Enthralling Story Conflicts 4
Would you agree to spend 3 to 6 years in a Malaysian prison to save your friend’s life, who has been serving his sentence there? He will be hanged if you don’t.
You want to say yes. You should say yes. It’s partially your fault that he’s there. But here’s another problem: He’s losing his sanity. He is horribly treated.
But if he’s that far gone, the same thing could happen to you. Is it worth it?
Don’t write me off as inhumane, or insensitive. I’m merely being honest while conveying the opinions of the friends who are in this dilemma.
Return to Paradise Story:
MAJOR CONFLICT 1: Sacrifice 3-6 years of your life to save your friend’s
3 friends, Sheriff (Vince Vaughn), Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix) and Tony (David Conrad) vacation in Malaysia and have a great time, not without the help of some weed. Later Tony and Sheriff return home while Lewis stays for a bit longer.
A couple of years later, Sheriff and Tony are contacted by Beth (Anne Heche), Lewis’ lawyer, and given some tragic news: Lewis has been locked up in prison there, having been caught with enough weed to be considered drug trafficking. He was sentenced to be hanged; having to serve the sentence for all three of them. There’s, however, a deal on the table:
If Beth can return to Malaysia with Lewis or Sheriff, her client will live, and eventually gain his freedom. The other will serve 6 years in the same prison.
If Beth returns with both of them, each will serve 3 years and will have saved their friends’ life.
And while they want to do the noble thing, leaving a semi-comfortable life for a bleak future they know is already destroying Lewis – a future they might very well not survive keeps them question their decision, sense of morality and friendship.
Granted, the first conflict is what attracted me to watch Return to Paradise. I stayed to see how the dilemma would pan out. I also liked being conflicted within myself, asking myself what I would do. Sure, you can try to dismiss the idea by rightly thinking you’d smart enough not to smoke weed in a foreign country where it is illegal and the punishment is severe.
But what if you did? Or you didn’t do anything illegal, but your friend got wrongly convicted. What if the deal remained the same? What would you do then? Still, it’s your sanity, your life at stake. But then again…could you live with yourself if you let your friend be killed?
Supporting Conflict: Can you leave your life, future and fiancée behind?
Now it is unfair to think that just because Sheriff is single and drives a limo for a living with no further career aspirations, it should be easier for him to do the right thing.
But on the other hand, you have Tony’s fiancée (Vera Farmiga), who has no fault or whatsoever to be in this situation. She doesn’t want her fiancé to leave, his life or her. And while she often comes off bitchy, you can hardly blame her. She hasn’t even met Lewis. It’s easier for her to be selfish.
But then again, what makes her future marriage more valuable than Lewis’ life? What makes Tony’s life more valuable than Lewis’? In hindsight, getting over your guy should be relatively easier than not preventing a person’s death.
MAJOR Conflict 2: Getting involved with one of the guys she has to get to prison
If there is anything that could make the situation even more complicated, and the first conflict even stronger, is falling for Sheriff. And unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view,) Sheriff falls for her too.
Doing the right thing seems even more important. He wants to prove to others that he’s a bigger person than they believe. He wants her to believe that he is not some shallow, aimless guy. He also needs to believe, for himself, that saving his friend is more important than him going through his life without a purpose.
From this point on, I’ll be showering you with spoilers, so you might want to see the movie first. I’ve seen it a couple of times, and its power on me doesn’t subside.
Major Conflict 3: Beth’s relationship with Lewis
Seeing Lewis’, and the prison’s conditions are enough to cause Tony to have second thoughts. But the turning point comes when Beth lets it slip that Lewis is not just her client. He’s her younger brother.
Both Tony and Sheriff set out to leave, but Sheriff decides to stay.
Beth is relieved that Sheriff stayed, but is shocked when the Malaysian court breaks the deal due to the story a hungry reporter published-Lewis is to be hanged, and the sentence of Sheriff is to be decided.
Now Beth has to fight for Sheriff, who stayed for her. Because of her. They stay together, but we don’t see whether she was ever able to gain his freedom…
Return to Paradise isn’t without its flaws. It could have taken a bit longer to develop the relationship between Sheriff and Beth.
But overall, it is one of my favorite stories to portray morality, friendship, love, guilt and the struggle to do the right thing (no matter how difficult that might be.)
It also contains highly powerful conflicts that keep you questioning your own capacity to do what’s right and your tendency to do what won’t make you suffer.
Would you go back to save your friend? Could you really trust a government to hold to their end without any written agreement? Hell, could you trust them with a written agreement? Would you risk it in the name of friendship and love?
I’d like to think that I’d, but things are never as simple as deciding your hypothetical fate in front of a movie.