Friday, January 30, 2009

Playing with clichés

Been thinking about Maureen’s pre-determined post, and how it works well in paranormal, so it’s been used quite a bit. And when done well, it can be really hot. The problem is, it’s been done a lot, so now we have to do it well, and in a way that’s a little different.

The same way that the marriage of convenience works in historicals, but again, how do we use it in a different way.

Well my favourite website Entertainment Weekly posted a list of the best action films in the past twenty five years. Action movies are right up my alley, and of course, my favourite movie came in at #1.

Aliens.

I fully get that I blabber on about this movie incessantly to anyone who will listen, but it does a couple of things that make it, for me, - one of my fall back on for inspiration – movies.

It takes the conventions of the action movie and switches them around, brilliantly. And yes, there are aliens, but really, this is an action movie, more accurately, a war movie.

And it all centers around Ripley, the heroine. She is feminine, and motherly, and still completely believable as an action hero. She was the first, real, female action hero, and to my mind still the best. They took the cliché of the action hero and came up with the exact opposite, and made it work. They made it work, because they made it believable, every scene that doesn’t include something blowing up, leads into how they made it work.

I think about this a lot, because if we are going to take a convention, we need to switch it up. I’m thinking about Private Arrangements, where instead of the rich hero pursuing, and marrying the heroine and then screwing it up, Thomas gave us the rich heroine doing exactly that and made an old concept feel really fresh.

I’ve been thinking about my next book, which is at it’s core, a woman in distress, and how I’m going to switch it up. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I know now, that me heroine will only appear to be in distress, at least, initially.

And back to Aliens. Anyone noticed how much of Alien and Aliens has seeped its way into Battlestar Galactica? I think I’m the last person to have noticed…

11 comments:

Maureen McGowan said...

I read this great suggestion about brainstorming character ideas once -- Blake Snyder? not sure who to credit with the idea -- but the idea was to think of a character, then think of the exact opposite of that character.

Now, most often the exact opposite isn't going to work in your story. ie. you can't drop a nine-year-old girl who loves to dance and make mud pies, into the role of your alpha-male hero... but the idea is to take some elements of that nine-year-old girl, some of her characteristics, and give them to your hero.

I think the same thing can work with plot twists and keeping cliche's fresh.

Amy Ruttan said...

You're an Alien gal? That actually kind of surprises me. I don't know why. LOL.

I don't know who said it, because frankly my brain has turned to mush. I have the Trifecta of Mommy Brain at the moment.

Anyways, someone said that there are NO ORIGINAL STORIES. It's the spin you take to make it original.

I mean Twilight was based on several different classical novels.

Eg: Moon was Romeo and Juliet

And then there's Bridget Jone's Diary which is Pride and Prejudice and that awful movie with Alicia Silverstone Clueless based on Jane Austen's Emma.

Sinead M said...

Amy, I'm obsessed with the movies... even named my cat after Ripley.. how sad is that..
I love big, plot driven action movies. So Aliens scored well for me, as did Dark Knight, but the best plot movies have great character details.
Maureen, great suggestion from Blake...

Molly O'Keefe said...

Uh oh Maureen, she dissed Clueless...careful Amy...

I love that idea of thinking of your character's opposite. It makes total sense to think that way in terms of plot points, or big reveals. Or genre even. It's an extension of that creating three dimensional characters idea: if your character is defined by one characteristic than they have to at some point show the opposite...Excellent idea. Way to steal from some other writer and not really remember who you stole it from. I love it.

Maureen McGowan said...

Ha!

I read Amy's comment in my e-mails and came on to yell at her for dissing the brilliant and clever Clueless, LOL, but Molly got there before me. Do we know each others tastes in movies or what?

Amy, seriously, I love that movie. So silly, such a fabulous (very intentional) interpretation of Emma, and Paul Rudd...

Molly O'Keefe said...

all my alpha males make mud pies and love to dance...it's my thing.

Abby said...

Yeah Ripley! Love her. Tough choice between Ripley and Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. Ripley was first, but Sarah is so, so flawed and complicated.

They don't make action heroines like that anymore...

Sinead M said...

Abby, so right.. our action heroines these days are like robots, or bad representations of the intial male action heroes... cartoons.
Ripley and Sarah were great, and loved how both played on the idea of what is and isn't maternal...

Diana Peterfreund said...

I really love Aliens, too! One thing james cameron really excels at I think, is creating REAL 'strong female characters' -- not the fake ones described in this article:

http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/08/18/why-strong-female-characters-are-bad-for-women/

Ripley is very strong, but not at the expense of true character -- you see her fear, you see what she has lost, you see what her desires and weaknesses are. What a great movie.

(I also love The Terminator. One of my favorite love stories.)

And I also really love Clueless! How could someone not love that film? What fabulous satire! Must go watch again...

K J Gillenwater said...

You know what's funny? I was thinking this exact same thing when the topic came up here on the blog. How do you mix it up and give a fresh spin on the cliche?

Maybe you need to take a cliche from one genre and thrust it into another.

For example, the arranged marriage in historical romance. Try using that in a paranormal romance. Or the virgin widow! Wouldn't that be interesting?

I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE "Aliens." I like that Ripley can be both bad ass and motherly at the same time...which actually was supposed to reflect the Alien queen, I think. You know, same feelings, same fighting spirit?

Last night when I was watching the Super Bowl, many of the movie previews were disappointments...either sequels (like Star Trek, although it looks 'fresh') or remakes like the old tv show "Land of the Lost." Where are the original films? Even horror flicks are in remake mode.

K J Gillenwater said...

Diana, actually something you said about Ripley is also true for my favorite male action heroes. Indiana Jones was always blundering his way through fight scenes, car chases, etc. He just kept plowing on even when he made mistakes, and that is what I think many people like about him. He's not a superhero, he's just a guy who finds himself in crazy circumstances.

Bruce Willis in "Die Hard" would also fall under this category of 'blundering' male heroes. Sure he's a cop, but he takes what he can find in the situation and just prays to God that it works.

I want less wires and CGI-enhanced fighting scenes with perfect martial arts choreography and more sloppy, messy fighting scenes of REAL people duking it out. Whether it be male or female.

(BTW, Sarah Connor in T2 is my HERO!)

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