Rasin-ets

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Little Town Tuesday: Heads Will Roll


Last week in the Dayton Daily News, my old company announced another round of layoffs--75 people of the remaining 612.

Sometimes it's nice to have already gotten the ax.

(Pictorial beheading courtesy of Dave Wells, GIMPer extraordinaire.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fiction Friday: What Makes a Great Love Story?


As warned, I'm going to spend a few weeks deconstructing the Twilight saga and trying to understand what made it so compelling.

In all the really great love stories I've ever read, the hero had the following characteristics:
o Rich
o Attractive to women (in the same way that cocaine is attractive to addicts)
o Is prepared to make her the center of his universe forever (It's fiction, people.)

That about sums up our Edward, doesn't it?

Compelling heroines are more of a mixed bag, I think.
o Bella is altruistic (to a fault)
o Scarlett O'Hara is stunningly selfish
o Clare Abshire (The Time Traveler's Wife) is unshakably faithful from the first minute she meets Henry
o Elizabeth Bennett instantly forms a prejudice against Mr. Darcy

Next, the hero and heroine are in some way opposites:

o Edward is a vampire, Bella is a human
o Scarlett wants acceptance/admiration from her society, Rhett could give a rip
o Clare is temporally sequential, Henry is a time traveler
o Elizabeth is lower middle class, Mr. Darcy is wealthy

So, if I wanted to create a compelling love story, I would start with people who are opposites:

o He's Wall Street. She's Occupy Wall Street.
o He's an atheist. She's a missionary.
o He's a prosecutor. She's a criminal.
o He's a soldier. She's an anti-war activist.
o She's Doctors Without Borders. He's a revolutionary.
o He's an abortionist. She's a right-to-lifer.

The more fundamental their differences, the more compelling the story. While Mr. Wall Street/Ms. Occupy Wall Street make a romantic comedy, Dr. Abortionist and Ms. Right-to-Life are not kidding around.

And if there is something about those fundamental differences that makes them dangerous to each other, the tension ratchets up another notch.

o If Elizabeth falls in love with Mr. Darcy, she has to admit she was wrong about him and that she's not as smart as she thinks she is.
o If Scarlett marries Rhett, she loses the acceptance of her society.
o If desperately-wants-to-be-a-Mom Clare marries Henry, she miscarries all those time-traveling little fetuses.
o If Bella spends too much time with Edward, he may lose it and suck her dry.

Which is why Twilight works so well.

Next week: Love stories and lumpy goods.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Third Annual Toddler New Year's Eve Party

(Better late than never....)























The plan was for the boys to sleep upstairs under Old Dog's supervision while the girls bedded down on the first floor, with me on the couch.

After yelling at the boys to settle down and go to sleep, Old Dog dozed off, only to awaken to the following whispered conversation:

Robbie: It's a monster!

Sam: There's no such thing as monsters.

Robbie: Yes, there is, and it sounds like this (makes a very loud snoring sound).

I hear you, kid. Grandma sleeps with that monster every night.

So we threw down another air mattress and the boys came downstairs and we all (except Harper, who conked out at 11:45 and Old Dog, who was upstairs sawing logs) watched the ball drop over Time Square.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fiction Friday: The Twilight Zone


When Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, became a bestseller back in 2005, I had no real desire to read it. I didn't care for Young Adult fiction even when I was a Young Adult, and a love affair between a human girl and an ageless vampire struck me as a particularly silly concept. Beyond that, I'd heard that Ms. Meyer's prose style was not good. (Which made it particularly humiliating when iwritelike.com classified my own fiction-writing as being most like hers, but that's another post.)

Then, a few months ago, I heard a book reviewer on NPR talking about his--his, mind you--guilty reading pleasures. He was embarrassed to admit it, but he just loved Twilight.

My interest piqued, I picked it up from my local library and zipped through it.

And realized Ms. Meyer's critics were right: her prose style is not strong. I don't believe I ran across a single metaphor in Twilight that wasn't a well-worn cliche. She felt the need to tell us, not only what people said, but how they said it. (I suggested. He agreed. Mike muttered.) Even the grammar wasn't always correct. (The past tense of "kneel" is "knelt," not "kneeled.")

On the other hand, Ms. Meyer is a kick-ass story-teller.

As someone who struggles to create sympathetic characters, I was fascinated by how Ms. Meyer made Bella Swan so appealing. (According to my critique partners, my own characters tend to be too blunt in their communication and too analytical. They suffer, I'm afraid, from Just-Like-My-Creator syndrome.)

As Twilight begins, 17-year-old Bella is moving from warm, sunny Phoenix, AZ to always-raining Forks, WA to live with her dad. Her mother has recently remarried and young Bella wants to give Mom a shot at happiness with her new husband. Our girl is not a particularly good sport about it--she's as sulky as your average teenager--but she does make a voluntary choice for her mother's happiness over her own.

Altruism is very attractive.

I was interested, too, in Edward Cullen, Meyer's brooding hero. What makes a compelling hero? Chiseled good looks? Intelligence? Cash? All those things, plus a willingness to make the heroine the center of his universe. (Which is what makes the courtship phase of relationships such a drug, but, again, that's another post.)

Then, in my quest to analyze Meyer's characters, I picked up the second book in the series, New Moon.

This is where it got crazy.

New Moon is 563 pages.

Eclipse
, the third book, is 629 pages.

Breaking Dawn (which, by the way, reads like Meyer had to turn it in to her publisher, ready-or-not and they published it as-is) is 754 pages.

I read those nearly 2000 pages this week. While working full-time. Finishing at 10 p.m. Thursday. (Okay, I had Monday off for MLK Day, but still.) After reading New Moon I was obsessed. Old Dog fell asleep every night this week with the light on my side of the bed shining in his eyes as I assured him that I'd turn it out "in just another minute."

Even when I wasn't reading, I was in a supernatural fog.

Now that the mist has (mostly) lifted, I'm going to go back and tear these things apart and see what makes them tick. Over the next few weeks we'll look at characterization and plotting, refererencing Bob McKee, Blake Snyder, Syd Field and Christopher Vogler and Joseph W. Campbell as I try to figure out what made the Twilight books so hypnotic.

Because, while I have no desire to write a vampire book, I would give all four bicuspids to write something that mesmerizing.
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