Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Dark Knight and Delicious or subplots are the new black

I feel like the real difference between books I read three years ago and the books I'm reading now are the explosion of subplots and POV's. Books just seem bigger, don't they? These romances I'm reading and not just the paranormals or the historicals are using characters and subplots to build worlds - opening up a book is like falling into a new world. Which is freaking awesome!!!

I just finished Sherry Thomas' Delicious, which I loved more than Private Arrangements. And I also saw The Dark Knight, which I loved more than most things. And both of them were just made better with the incredibly detailed and exciting subplots that made the main plot all that much stronger.

And what I really loved about the Dark Knight is that the subplots were fully formed - with heros and villians in each of them. Aaron Eckhardt's Two-face, stole the show for me -- the way that plot line was dealt with and meshed with Bruce Wayne/Batman ultimately blowing up the end of the movie for the third installment -- amazing. So, amazing. The writers took thier time, finding exciting ways to tie the two plots lines together -- they loved the same woman, they tried to save the same woman, they are fighting for the same cause, but then switch places and then they both become the Dark Knight in thier own story lines. Eckhardt pretends to be Batman for a few scenes, Bruce Wayne does some fund raising for Eckhardt and ALL of this runs beneath the subplots between Bruce Wayne and the love interest and Bruce Wayne and The Joker and Bruce Wayne wanting to stop being the Batman.

Setting up the villian for the next movie like this -- brilliant.

For me, the takeaway is that in romancenovel land, we're still spending way too much time telling things the reader should know. We talk to much about lust and we talk to much about anguish and we talk to much about how they can't be together --when if we just showed this stuff we could take all that word count, all those pages and really start to build our worlds. We can create fully-formed villians. Fully-formed themes. Fully-formed subplots.

Which sort of made me think of Delicious - people aren't going to totally buy into the premise of this book. She uses a couple of devices 1. this couple fell in love one night ten years ago and haven't seen each other since. 2. she hides her identity by wearing masks and lurking in shadows and despite his lust and the fact that she is a servent - he doesn't force her to show him her face. Now, you either buy this or you don't. I think she wrote the crap out of the scenes that show thier motives. I believed it, or suspended my disbelief enough to get swept up in the romance of it.

But good romance writing depends on making the reader believe a few key scenes and either we 1. don't think we've accomplished it or 2. don't trust the reader and so we follow up that scene with a bunch of long contemplative scenes telling the reader what that initial scene should have accomplished.

If I could just boil my writing down to those scenes and really understand them - really get what's at stake and how all those characters change in those big scenes and how it is always the small things that pack the biggest punch - I think I'd be able to build these worlds that are so captivating - create these subplots that are so exciting.


Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, Molly!
Glad you finally saw The Dark Knight. I'm still hoping to see it again and still thinking about it.

I read an analysis of the film on Blake Synder's blog and he says the film was about the Joker and Batman battling over the Aaron Eckhart character and ultimately splitting him in two. Not sure I 100% agree, but interesting take.

Really need to see this movie again, and can't wait to read Delicious.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I totally agree with Blake Snyder - I think that's the point of the movie exactly-- Eckhardt being humanity and the Joker and Batman being good and evil. Love it.

You know I also really love some the dialogue in that movie -- it seemed smart and succint and sometimes over the top, but sometimes over the top in a movie like that is the only way to go.
"Why is he running, Dad?"
"Because we have to chase him."
Freaking awesome.

Sinead M said...

Yeah, let's talk about the brilliance of the Dark Knight... and how they didn't hold back in the lovely grimness they brought to it.
Synder was dead on about the movie, and more so, how Batman felt about him... his salvation, the city's, all tied together, the subplots brilliantly interwined, both the internal and external, so they didn't feel like subplots.
That's what it is for me, making your subplot feel like it's just part of the bigger plot.. when possible.

Suzanne said...

I love your comments about making our fictional worlds more 'real'...that applies not only to romance novels but any really good fiction...something I need to keep in mind with my own writing, perhaps to get out of the main character's head and make sure the world around her is believable. Great post.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I just finished a Kresley Cole book and I can't say I'm nuts about her - but her world building is compelling through her secondary characters. These witches and Valkeries etc... are so real. It's a lot of fun. I think there are a lot of ways to make your world really work - it's just finding out what fits our voice or our book.

M. said...

i hear you! i adore subplots and secondary characters.

and i have trouble with novels that provide two sentences about how the characters are feeling for every one sentence of action or dialogue. clearly there is a large market for that type of novel, i'm just not part of it.

Annette said...

Great post! It made me think of Seinfeld. All the plots and subplots were interwoven and eventually came together in the end.

Often, I find secondary characters to be more interesting than the main character. It's the same thing when I'm writing. I have an easier time with my secondary characters than my main ones. I wonder why that is?

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