Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Importance of Authenticity

Truth: No one’s going to care about a story unless a goodly amount of their brain is sparkin’ along with you - invested, your willing captive for a few days or a few hours. Engaging a reader, or a viewer, requires authenticity on many levels, especially when it comes to characterization.

I recently broke down and watched the most recent Star Wars movie, episode III. I’d been so disappointed with episodes I and II that I almost let it slide. I’m glad I didn’t. I nearly couldn’t breathe during the last 30 minutes of the film for the glee filling my lungs. Lucas had finally managed to tie everything together authentically.

Why would a good boy who’d grown into a good man suddenly turn into a monster?

Oh, yeah: manipulation + intense fear + rejection + betrayal (x 3) + near-death + mutilation + soul-searing loss = gynormous character change.

We all know it--whether we’ve actually spent time thinking about it or just recognize it instinctively: Life events trigger change. And the bigger the life event, the bigger the knee-jerk reaction (which can kick off a variety of unpleasant scenarios), the bigger the readjustments to a new reality, the bigger the possible change in personality and overall character. We've seen this sad stuff first hand. A father loses his 3-year-old son in a fire and remains bitter for the rest of his days. An adolescent girl’s father runs off with her mother’s best friend, and she spends the rest of her life sleeping around, unable to hold a relationship together.

Need a character to pull a 180 on you? Screw with their lives. External turmoil = authentic character change. (Aren’t you glad you’re not paying for your character’s therapy sessions?)

p.s. If you haven’t seen the 3rd Star Wars, rent it. It really is admirable the way Lucas pulls everything together. And if you’re sick to death of hearing about Sci-Fi flicks, you’ll be glad to know that I’m going to tackle the brilliant authenticity in the romantic comedy “When Harry Met Sally” next! Until then, keep it real! :)


Blogger Kathleen Bolton said...

Wow, you almost make me want to see the movie. I lost interest after Episode One turned into an interplanetary NAFTA story. Characters DO make the difference.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Elena Greene said...

This movie almost worked for me. Though I think a lot of it was very powerful and did go a long way toward explaining Anakien's transformation into Darth Vader, there were spots where the setup could have been improved.

Some friends and I discussed this at length over several pitchers of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, just after the movie came out, and we brainstormed several ways to make the rift between Anakin and the Jedi more believable. Unfortunately I can't remember what they are now!

I also didn't care for how they explained the Princess's death, something to the effect that she lost hope. A spirited woman with twin babies doesn't just lose hope. I think just a tweak, something to do with the Dark Side, showing Padme fighting to live and finally succumbing, would have made that scene much stronger.

Overall, the movie felt like a next-to-last draft. Almost right but not quite.


9:35 AM  
Blogger Tess said...

Well, I certainly think Ep III was way better than I and II, but still didn't quite capture me like Eps IV or VI. Somehow the magic wasn't quite there for me - I think it's cause I KNEW Anakin couldn't be saved (at least not by Amidala). But I like your take on it :-) Great analysis!

10:27 AM  
Blogger Therese Walsh said...

Thanks, Tess!

10:03 AM  
Blogger Elsie said...

Great! Where can I buy this new novel, Ep III? The subject of your blog is novels, right?

1:12 AM  
Blogger Therese Walsh said...

Hi Elsie,
Though the subject of the blog is writing well, this particular post is on the movie, Star Wars, episode III. Our point is that you can learn more about craft by looking at what works in other mediums as well. :)

8:40 AM  

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