Friday, June 19, 2009

It's a thin line between character and plot

Have you ever read a book where it seems that the writer loved their character so much that they wrote even the smallest scenes, scenes that did illuminate some other facet of the character, but did little else?
Am reading the third in a trilogy right now, and the same character has been the lead in each book and I'm skimming large chunks of the third. We know this character too well now, that focusing in on her, and her interactions with those around her, just feels repetitious.

It reminds me of a great line from The Truth about Cats and Dogs. Love your character, but don't Love your character. (line bastardized for my purposes)

What was a fascinating mystery and character study in book one has become long and drawn out and really, boring, by book three.
Not everyone would agree with my assessment. I'm certain some readers must have loved this book. It's a fine line, because every reader is different.

Some readers love the intricate details of a character study, others want fast paced but in there somewhere, is a balance. And it's why writing is so freakin' hard, because the balance is different for each author, each book, and there is no equation, or course, or graph. There is just writing the scenes and seeing if they work.

But there are ways to illuminate character in short, but vivid ways. Watched the episode 1 of Tru Blood this week. And the elements that bothered me about the show were still there. I find the dialogue between Sookie and Bill still really stilted, and their relationship is still my least favourite storyline, but the rest is ridiculously great.
Love Tara and the way she is on the edge of peril, in a way we don't understand, but am salivating to discover. Love Jason, even if his stupidity is broadly drawn and the Lafayette in the cellar storyline had to be the highlight of my week.
What topped it all off, was Eric coming down and tearing apart one of the other cellar dwellers, in a vicious, bloodthirsty fashion, all while wearing highlight foils in his hair.
The foils were a brilliant touch. You have a vicious vampire who highlights his hair. Perfect character details in ten seconds.
Could not love this show more right now.

5 comments:

Stephanie Doyle said...

Sinead - I completely agree. I don't like Bill and Sookie. I thought it was Bill... but I actually liked his interaction with the "teen vamp".

Best line of the night....

Bill - I have a friend coming over.

Teen - Can we eat her?

This show rocks and the foils in the hair were perfect!!!!

I love the details. I want to steal the details.

Steph

Sinead M said...

Stephanie, forgot about that line, but also loved Bill's interaction with the Teen.

Loved when he told her "We recycle in this house"

It's not Bill, it might be Sookie though.

Maureen McGowan said...

LOVED the highlight foils, too. And you're so right. Tiny perfect details say so much more than a scene designed just to show character and nothing else.

I was sticking up for Anna Paquin last season, but I'm starting to think you're right -- she was miscast. Dumb things are bothering me like her blonde hair. That girl does not look good with blonde hair.

If those two had more chemistry that show would be perfection. I did think she was pretty good in the "I'm drawn to him, excited by him, but terrified of him" scenes very early in the first season. Perhaps they didn't go beyond those scenes in casting and just assumed the pair would have real chemistry once they were a couple. Not so much.

Kimber Chin said...

"Have you ever read a book where it seems that the writer loved their character so much that they wrote even the smallest scenes, scenes that did illuminate some other facet of the character, but did little else?"

Uh oh, have you been reading my first drafts?

Molly O'Keefe said...

I just watched that episode -- I totally agree there are so so many things to love about that show (not the least of which is they guy who played Sbotka in season 2 of The Wire) and I think the show would be over the top incredible if it weren't for Sookie. I'm not sure you can blameAnna Paquin - I think she's trying real hard with the garbage lines and two-dimensional character garbage she's been given. The character is so damn earnest all the time - there's no other speed for her. Give me Lafayette in the basement anyday of the week!!!!

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