There’s nothing quite like settling down on the couch with a large bowl of popcorn, a litre of iced tea and a good movie. I like my popcorn mixed with Jelly Tots, and I drink my iced tea from a dark blue goblet that catches the light and makes me feel extra special. Some of you probably think that’s a bit sad, but let’s remember that this is MY way of indulging and you’re welcome to mock me, imitate me or follow your own paths of quirkiness.
So what’s been on my DVD menu? Obviously the first three Indiana Jones movies – I’ve always been a huge fan of watching a youthful, toned and sexy Harrison Ford win the day against all odds. Watched on three separate nights with all the bonus materials on the nights in between, that was a feast which kept me going for a week and provided a lot more nourishment for the soul than the courses dished up to Kate Capshaw’s poor character at the banquet in the second movie.
Other nights saw me enjoying A Fish Called Wanda, A Good Year, A Room With A View, Becoming Jane, Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice. Yes, my favourite movies are stored in alphabetical order right after the box sets, and the shelf with A and B just happens to be at eye level. Isn’t that how all obsessive compulsives store their movies?
Anyway, by last weekend I had worked my way through to the shelf with H so I watched How To Steal A Million. This was good timing because the 4th of May would have been Audrey Hepburn’s birthday.
As a writer I feel the need to justify any indulgent time-wasting by passing it off as a writing exercise. Every time I watch a movie I hope that something about the story structure or characters will strike a chord. So what was my Eureka moment in this recent burst of movie-watching? It happened while browsing the Internet reading titbits about the movies I’d enjoyed. I found a quote on IMDb by Hepburn’s How To Steal A Million co-star, Peter O’Toole, in which he talks about the best roles to act: “The good parts are the people who don’t make do. They’re the interesting people. Lear doesn’t make do.”
I’ve often thought that writing a character involves the same process as acting one. Both require research into what makes that character tick; an exploration of the motivations behind his or her actions and reactions; and an understanding of why the conflicts in the plot cause that character’s goals to evolve in that particular way between the start and finish. O’Toole is right – Lear doesn’t make do, and neither does Indiana Jones. Or Wanda and Otto, or Lucy Honeychurch, or the British girls who play football, or any of the heroes and heroines who make our movie-viewing special.
When I look at the single biggest reason why my first two trunk novels have remained in the trunk, it’s because all the characters in them made do. They settled for less. In fact, it now looks as if they shrugged at me when I wrote them, and said: “Okay, the trunk is where we’ll stay because that’s all we’re good for.” If those characters are ever to get out of that trunk, they need to be re-invented and become driven, three dimensional people who refuse to make do with what life (and their author) throws at them.
This in turn means that the author – er, that would be me – needs to rework those plots in order to give the characters as much conflict to overcome as possible, so that you – the reader – can get more enjoyment and entertainment from characters who refuse to make do with something just because it made the writer comfortable.
This could take a while but – as I always say – watch this space...