Tuesday, April 05, 2011

In Praise of the Set Up

I've been thinking about how much I love a good set up since I watched Date Night a week or so ago. The set up on that movie was great. I totally believed Tina Fey and Steve Carrell as a couple trying to keep it all together and I totally related to their struggle. There are things from the first 15 minutes of that movie that keep coming back to me. Tina Fey has a recurring stress dream about having sex with three men at once? I totally get it. It would be so stressful to try to please that many men at once! And the whole thing with her night guard when they come back from their date? Absolutely priceless.

I'm not so sure about the rest of the movie because I watched it while I was making witch hat cookies for the booksigning and had to pay attention to sticking Hershey's kisses to Fudge Stripe cookies with canned frosting (only the best for my fans!). Okay. FIne. I managed to drag my gaze off my work when Mark Wahlberg was on screen without his shirt, but other than that I was being really industrious. It kind of fell apart for me after a while, though. Without the kisses and the frosting and the fudge stripes, I'm not sure it would have held my attention.

I've read a few books where the set up was great, but didn't quite carry that promise through. Sock is one I can think of. Also the Yiddish Policeman's Union. The shtick made them charming at the beginning, but then got burdensome by the end. I might have finished both of them if I could have made cookies while I read them, but no suck luck.

How about you guys? Any books or movies where the set up rocked, but then lost you? And is a good set up enough for you? Will it carry you through to the end?


Maureen McGowan said...

I can think of several books.. but not sure I want to call them out because some were written by people I know or know of. I know that many (most) books by established authors are sold on proposal, but sometimes it seems more obvious, as if you can pin point the end of the good stuff that got the author the big advance.

It's that dangerous sagging middle. These days, if it sags, I'm not going to keep reading to find out if it gets better.

That said, I think if I get invested enough in the characters or fall in love enough with the voice/language, I'll keep going.

I will mention Gail Carriger's Soulless in that context. I loved that book. But if I hadn't loved her heroine (and hero) so much, if Carriger hadn't written at least two things per page that made me laugh, I'm not sure enough plot happened in that book through the middle. In the end, I realized the entire book was a set up for her series... But I loved it anyway.

I get what you mean about Date Night. I really enjoyed it, but it was such a good set up/premise that it was hard to make the plot of the rest of it live up to the start. They had to rely on jokes. But a lot of the jokes were funny. :)

Eileen said...

Good point about the synopsis/proposal. It's true. You can spend almost as much time creating that as you do writing the rest of the book once it sells.

Sinead M said...

A few books come to mind in this as well. A few of the major YA's with the really fresh idea but the really boring middle.

It sometimes happens in romance as well. the author creates this great setup for the hero and heroine and then gets lost in the middle trying to sustain the tension.

Eileen said...

You know, it makes me think about Blake Snyder's Save the Cat. It's just at the middle point where he said to fulfill "the promise of the premise." That's when the high concept idea should pay off and, incidentally, should keep the middle from sagging.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Date Night did get a bit ridiculous, but for me it was the ridiculous that worked. The robot stripper dance...killed me. All of it in fact killed me.

And I loved the Yiddish Policemen Union - Chabon is in the immortal words of Vanilla Ice - A lyrical gangster...that was terrible. He's so much more than that. But I love all his work.

But after diagreeing with you - YES! I totally understand the heartbreak of the un lived up to premise. So many tv shows go that way for me. I'm trying to think of some books right now, but I can't only because I've been such a reading high - yours included sweet Eileen! Just started, but I'm with Steph, that's a world that's fun to get back to.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...