Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007
Waning Moon
Mars Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Cloudy and cold
3-5 inches of snow predicted

I’ve been trying to figure out how to articulate my feelings about the assassination of Bhutto, and I can’t get it down properly. Saddened, angry, concerned – just don’t express the gamut of emotion that I feel. But I did want to acknowledge it, and not act like I’m ignoring it.

The year-end GDR Wrap-Up for 2007 is in the post below this one. I kept in what I stated last January and then updated where I am now, for comparison/contrast. I’m frustrated because the only thing I seem to have done is the career transition. Which is huge, but I wanted to get more done.

I’m going to ramble on about the National Treasure movies a bit more, since the first one was on again last night and I checked a few things, and then I’ll shut up and go back to my life and MY characters. Geez, between yesterday and today, it sounds like my existence is revolving around two darned movies, for crying out loud, and it’s not.

The next paragraph may have character spoilers for the second film, but if you skip it and go to the paragraph beyond, there aren’t spoilers, just character studies.

They changed houses between 1 and 2 and never dealt with it, thinking we (the audience) are too stupid to notice. In the first film, Riley is smart and resourceful and funny and inventive. He’s a great foil for Ben, and a great balance to the Ben/Abby teamwork. In the second, he’s treated like a joke, he’s miserable, has no sense of self-esteem, and keeps trying to prove he’s valuable. It might make sense at the beginning, that he hit a rough patch since the end of the last film, but as 2 moves on, he should regain his confidence, thanks to Ben’s confidence in him. Instead, Ben is dismissive. That hurts Ben’s character as much as Riley’s. And, in the first, Riley’s always the gentleman. Ben rushes forward; Riley’s the one who turns and gives Abby a hand when she needs it. That dynamic set up between the three of them, subtle, but there, worked beautifully, and is missing in the second film. In the first film, Riley actually saves Abby’s life, when she’s so focused on the Declaration that she nearly gets run over by a truck. It would have been a good touch to see her do something helpful for Riley in this one. Or get to see them do anything except run through the basement of the Library of Congress. The fun of the first film is you get to figure things out WITH them; in this one, they already have the answers and simply reveal them to each other. The sequence in Buckingham Palace, as ridiculous as some of it is (hey, buddy, no backpacks get through security after 9/11), is the only one where that sense of fun and discovery is retained. I missed it in the rest of the movie. I got more and more frustrated, because I felt characters were sacrificed for badly constructed machinations. And, as someone whose own work is character-driven, and who is drawn to character-driven material (the best action/adventure movies are all character driven), I got more and more frustrated.

A reader emailed me a question yesterday about why I think Riley Poole is such a good character. A big part of it is how perfectly Justin Bartha portrays him. It’s a case of the actor finding the details in the character and communicating them in a way that connects to the audience. Riley’s a smart, resourceful guy, especially in the first film. He’s not just the sidekick who gets killed off two thirds of the way through the movie. Yeah, it’s Disney, they can’t kill him off. You root for him, for a good portion of the film, you ARE him, He embodies the regular guy in the audience in many ways, but smarter, which is what you want for fiction. You don’t necessarily want to be as obsessed as Ben, although you’d want to be friends with Ben and want to help him on his quest. Ben and Abigail fit so well together, especially in the first film, because they’re both obsessed. Riley is their counterpoint, their reality check.

Ben is smart enough to know that history is written by the victors until somebody comes along to make more discoveries and rewrite it. A prime example in our time is Aaron Burr, back in Revolutionary Times and into the early 1800’s. In his time, he was tarnished as traitor, and Hamilton as hero, especially after the duel. As the centuries have gone by, and more information comes to light, it looks more and more like Burr was original and committed and on the verge of crazy in the right way, while Hamilton was the control freak and the asshole. Actually, in my opinion, based on my research over the years, both men could be brilliant and both could be assholes at times. They were too complex and interesting to be just one thing – as all truly brilliant people are.

To get back to Riley: You’d want to be Riley. He might not have the background in history, but he knows how to find things out, and he’s got a great learning curve. He makes himself irreplaceable in the team, even though he doesn’t realize it. He’s just totally who he is, and totally up for doing whatever it takes to support those to whom he’s loyal, and in whom he believes. We’d all like to be that good a friend as well as have that good a friend.

You believe he doesn’t get the girl and he has trouble finding dates, because, in life, that kind of guy, smart, but with self-esteem issues, ALWAYS goes for the girl who’s going to treat him like crap. He’ll go for the pretty, shallow young thing with lots of money, or the ambitious, manipulative young thing who wants a lot of money and expects the guy to pay for everything. He’ll never fall for a woman of substance, because it would never occur to him. He’ll always be hurt and, eventually, alone because these twinkies keep using him and dumping him. And the women who used to regularly fall for HIM (because they recognized he’s smart, funny, and a good guy), but whom he always ignored because he’s off busy chasing the shallow things, eventually outgrow his kind of guy and fall for guys who appreciate them. That’s how it happens in life, anyway. In fiction, there’s always the possibility that Riley will actually gain enough self-respect to fall for a woman who’s smart and resourceful. And that gives the people who relate to the character hope, and the people who tend to fall for that kind of character hope. Riley’s all about hope. To me, he’s the lynchpin of the movies, which is why I got so frustrated in NT2. In other words, he’s interesting and important to me for what he represents in the mythology of the stories. If I was to compare him to a tarot card, he’d be The Fool in the Major Aracana – standing on the precipice, ready for his hero’s journey, with infinite possibilities in front of him. The Fool isn’t a weak or foolish character; he’s a symbol of hope and joy – despite his cynical and sometimes sarcastic repartee. Riley is the every day guy embarking on the wonderful journey. The original NT set that up for him, and then didn’t fulfill it in the second movie. Now, if there’s a good character arc in a next movie, I might accept this arc within context of a trilogy, but if they just keep making him a joke because twenty-three useless, talent-free middle executives thought it was funny . . .you’ve lost a viewer.

And I’m not even going to discuss the poor research done by the writers in the second film. In the first were delightful historical tidbits then blown into unique mythologies that served the vision for the movie. Even when it stretched credibility, there was enough cleverness involved that you forgave it. In the second, it was sloppy – whether on the writers’ parts, or because some stupid mid-level executive made “changes” and figured the audience was too stupid to notice. And it lost me.

And now, back to my life.

I actually had to turn down hockey tickets tonight between the Rangers and the Canadiens – that was hard. But I can’t rearrange my schedule to go, so I had to say no.

And I’m thrilled that the Patriots won last night! I’m not a football fan, but I do like the Pats, and I used to have family in Foxboro, so the tiny percentage of football loyalty I’ve got goes to them. I’m thrilled that they had a perfect regular season.

I had a FANTASTIC morning on Hex Breaker. I’m almost at the climactic scene and then we wrap it up. I’m exactly where I want to be. With any luck, I can finish it on retreat the next few days and then have nearly a week to polish it before I send it off. I love this piece.

And more adventures with these characters are swirling around in my head. And the ideas for two short stories that have nothing to do with anything else that I’m writing, but could be kind of fun.

I’m off to my friend’s place (to do more laundry) and then off to my retreat. If I don’t check in for a few days, I hope everyone has a fantastic New Year!

Devon

Hex Breaker – 19,975 words out of est. 25,000

PS Diane, thanks for the Writertopia info. It NEVER works for me — the bar will NOT appear in here, no matter how many times I follow the exact coding it says to put in. I have never, ever, ever been able to get Writertopia to work.

I need to create my own word bar. Because relying on these other people’s crap just doesn’t work.

Published in: on December 30, 2007 at 11:09 am  Comments (5)  

5 Comments

  1. I always felt Riley’s character was immature and just needed to grow-up. But, you sound as though his character is the smart frat-boy type. Which I dislike. Thank you for the character study. It just reafirms my opinion that I don’t want to see this movie.

    A good day for Hexbreaker! YAY!

    Have a nice time on your retreat. I hope you find the peace and resolution you seek.

  2. Brandy, Riley is NOT a smartass frat boy type at all. He’s got much more going for him than that! If he was that type, I’d be first in line wanting to see him fall over the edge of a cliff.

  3. It took me AGES to work out why the Writertopia code wasn’t working, but once I’d found it, I’ve kept
    hold of it … see if these work.

    This is the comical graphic:

    (Moods go from 1 – 6 and you can add in &target= if you want.)

    This is the simple bar:

    (Said she hopefully …)

    Now then, if this cocks up my entry in your comments … I apologise. :o)

  4. Okay, it skipped the codes. That’ll be the chevrons. I’ll try again and if this doesn’t work, I’ll email it to you.

    Replace ( and ) with the chevrons …

    This is the graphic:

    (img src=http://meter.writertopia.com/words=30000&mood=1)

    Here is the simple bar:

    (img src=http://picometer.writertopia.com&words=10000&target=20000)

    Fingers crossed …

  5. I saw the second National Treasure last night and was equally disappointed in the gaps between the first and second. There was a lack of character development. Ed Harris’ talents were wasted on the poor fleshing out of his character. They really missed the boat with this sequel.


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