Friday, January 12, 2007

I Didn't Mean to Make a Plot Contrivance!

My crush for 2007:

How did I ever miss that Clive Owen is such a hottie? I remember going to see King Arthur and thinking Ioan Gruffudd, who plays Lancelot, was pretty easy on the eyes. But somehow I missed Clive.

What was I smoking?

I've voting that Daniel Craig's James Bond learns he has a long lost brother so I can sit through hours and hours of Clive and Craig as Bond and Bond.

Anyway...has it every happened to you where you were writing merrily away on a story, loving how nicely it was all flowing from the fingertips and really into the groove, nearly giddy with excitement over your story idea, when all of the sudden you learn some fact that renders your entire premise null and void?

Like, for example, say, you were writing a romance about a man and a woman who communicated with each other entirely in Morse Code, and the girl couldn't spell very well so a few Little Misunderstandings cropped up along the way, but it was all so good and cute. And you'd placed your story in the Roaring Twenties so your heroine could also be a Flapper. But you see a PBS program about how everyone in American during the 1920s was using this new fangled telephone thing, and it occurs to you that a man and woman using Morse Cord would never happen because they would have really just picked up the phone to call each other, thus making your entire story mute.

You find yourself the proud owner of the dreaded Plot Contrivance. Because everyone who looks close enough can rightly say "That would never happen!" and you are up the creek without the paddle.

So now you are faced with a couple of choices. You could retrofit your story into an earlier time, a time before the telephone was common place. But then your heroine couldn't be a flapper, and that was integral because the hero is the owner of a famous speakeasy and a big hunk of the conflict between the two is the fact that she's actually the moll of a Big Time Mafia Boss who frequents the hero's establishment. Besides, she's also a secret member of a women's group promoting suffrage and that defines her as a Spunky Gal. Moving the story back in time doesn't fit the image you had in your head of jazz music and speakeasies.

Or you could kill the entire Morse Code communication angle. Except you liked that your hero and heroine believe that they've never actually met each other at all when in truth they see each other all the time at the speakeasy. If you go with phone conversations, then the characters become Lois Lane stupid when the don't recognize each other's voices. Letters won't work, too slow.

You could ignore the inconvenient truth that you've just learned. You could go on with writing your story as you'd originally planned it, ignore the telephones hanging on every wall and forge straight ahead, hoping that some history/Alexander Graham Bell freak doesn't call you on your bogus shit. This is what I think 99% of the storytellers in Hollywood end up doing, and sometimes we are so into the story we don't notice and/or don't care and other times we roll our eyes until they hurt and talk about what a suck movie we'd just seen.

Last resort, you could kill the entire premise, stash the files in a dark, dusty corner of your hard drive and say goodbye to many days of great writing and hard work.

What do you do? How do you recover?

1 comment:

cicadashell said...

perhaps they share a superstition, inherited from an older relation from the country, about the newfangled telephone and prefer not to use it, despite the ostracism of their fellow jazz agers. maybe that's a bit of a contrivance as well. research the history of so-called "technophobia"?

but it could be worse. some random internet editor could have blindsided you by suggesting you look up the difference between the words "mute" and "moot". :-)