Thursday, December 2, 2010

What Are You Trying to Say Here?

When I got my first editorial letter back on Deathday, one of the things I noticed was that my wonderful editor wanted me to trust my audience more. I was all like, "Garrrrrr!!!!! How will they know they're supposed to be VERY VERY SAD!!!! if I don't tell them they're supposed to be VERY VERY SAD?" There's this thing called subtlety that I'm not particularly great at. After I write a first draft, I frequently have to go back and cut out all the lines that beat my audience over the head with meaning.

I recently watched the movie THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. I'd been wanting to watch the movie since it came out and was psyched when iTunes had it early for rental. By the end, I felt like I'd been beaten over the head. Like someone had been screaming at me, "LOOK! We're Lesbians! We're ALTERNATIVE!!! We work on co-ops and compost and watch PORN, and our kid aren't any more messed up than YOURS!!!" I'll leave out of this discussion my annoyance that they bollixed the lesbian relationship by having one of them sleep with a man (because for some reason everyone thinks all a lesbian needs is a man anyway). But for serious, I wanted to love this movie. I'm the target audience. I'm young and concerned about our environment and alternative and I have lesbian/green/hip/alternative friends. But I felt like the movie was trying SO frickin' hard to make its point that I wasn't able to see the performances. There were no nuances, no subtlety.

Contrast, for example, the movie LET ME IN (or the original LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, which is better than the original but only just). The movie never stops trying to be a creepy fucking vampire movie. It's designed to scare you, creep you out, and generally make you never want to get in your car in the dark or swim in a public pool AGAIN. EVER. But hidden under that is a terrible tale of isolation and love and humanity (or lack thereof. This is the movie that TWILIGHT should have been--about the cruelty that is being in love with someone who sees you as food. About the horror of living with a killer who will never age. You leave the movie breathless and scared and only days later, after you've tried unsuccessfully to banish the movie from your mind, do you begin to see what the film maker was trying to say. There are subtle points that surface slowly, as they worm their way up from your subconscious.

So what's MY point? Let your story speak for itself. Write a damn good story. Plot the hell out of it. Make your characters so real that they bleed off the page. And then get out of the way. Readers are smart. They already picked up your book, trust them to pick up what you're trying to say without bludgeoning them with it.

*please ignore any crazy spelling errors...I'm testing working exclusively on my iPad, which has a crazy auto-correct, and I'm too lazy to proof this morning.

1 comment:

  1. excellent post - and one I whole-heartedly agree with. Also something I struggle with sometimes, knowing how much is too much - it's one thing to guide your reader to the's another thing entirely to hold their head under the water trying to make them drink :)


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.