This week: Is Real Life an Anti-Climax?Edited by: Thankful Sonali
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How much reality is good for Drama?
I watched the movie 50 First Dates [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_First_Dates] on TV last night - and found myself thinking about 'real' life v/s. 'reel' life Drama.
Basically, the story is about Lucy (Drew Barrymore), who has been in an accident and suffered memory loss. She cannot convert short term memory to long term memory while she sleeps - cannot remember the people she has met, or the things she has seen or done post the accident.
Henry (Adam Sandler) falls in love with her, and gets her to fall in love with him afresh each day. The plot goes through its twists and turns, and ends with the two being married, and being parents, though Lucy still has to be reminded of her identity and personal history at the start of each day.
The thing is - throughout the movie, I kept waiting for 'the dramatic moment' when things would change, and she would regain her memory. During a scene in the rain, I thought 'now she'll trip because it's wet, and fall on her head and get her memory back'. In one sequence, she beats Henry up, and I anticipated that she would hit herself by mistake, and regain her memory. So, I waited and waited - and at the end, found that 'the dramatic moment' hadn't happened the way I wanted it to, and that, perhaps, I had missed some real 'dramatic moments' in waiting for that expected one.
Frankly, I wasn't sure how I felt about that. In one sense, I felt a bit cheated. I had invested my time and my emotions in the protagonist and hoped for the 'best' for her, which didn't happen. One part of me wanted everything to be okay, because, hey, Drama is escapism in a sense, and you switch the TV on to shut real life off, don't you? Plus the little adrenaline rushes as I anticipated the return of her memory, which didn't lead to the big adrenaline rush as it happened, and the nuances I might've missed along the way, left me kind of empty.
I was a bit peevish - why did they make me think it's going to be a happy ending, if I was going to be at square one as the credits rolled up?
On reflecting more, though, I felt that Lucy getting her memory back would've been too 'pat'. Life isn't always fair, and maybe Drama has to reflect life. I'll probably think about the movie a lot more, and recall it for a lot longer, because it didn't give me what I'd expected. It did have a happy ending in a sense - the happiest ending it possibly could have - so my emotional investment in the protagonist 'paid off' in that sense. Maybe I'll watch the movie again, without the distraction of anticipation, and catch the real 'dramatic moments' and the real happiness in it.
Also, Henry's character - completely persistent, loyal and committed, shone through because Lucy didn't get her memory back. Maybe he would've looked a bit 'pat', too, if he just got what he wanted and then all was well with the wave of some magic wand.
Sigh - I still wish she had got her memory back, though!
As a writer of Dramatic Fiction, what does this mean? I guess, if you analyse it, it would mean:
1. Reflect real life, or escape from it, or a balance?
2. Build toward an incident and surprise the audience with another, at the risk of disappointing them?
3. Character or plot - which is the focus?
I'm not sure how this particular writer went about creating this story/script, but I do know that as a viewer, I was left with a mixed bag of feelings - I felt cheated, peevish, thoughtful, happy, sad, empty, fulfilled ...
And maybe that's what good writing is all about, evoking several feelings!
Thanks for listening,
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Thanks to those who responded to "Drama Newsletter (October 27, 2010)"
Great NL, Sonali!! The best protagonists REQUIRE some sort of motivational factor-- that "want." I recently read a few stories about characters who didn't appear to have any motivation at all and boy was it frustrating to read! I had a lot of trouble putting my finger on what was not "clicking" for me but when I stopped to think about it, the characters in question simply didn't WANT anything. Which is fine, if someone wants to write about nothing of consequence, but having characters with no motivation--nothing that drives them forward-- does not make for a good story! Great anecdotes and advice.
As always, great newsletter. Thank you for including Simply Positive.
Thanks for the reminder. I get so focused on the obstacles and the way the story will end that I too often forget, "What the characters think they want isn't always what they really want."
Your newsletter was very interesting and gave me lots of great ideas for stories. I usually tend to skip over that element of the plot when I write, but I know I should pay more attention to it. Thanks for a great newsletter! - Fiona
Brooke - it's cold!
It's always important to remember what you're thankful for. Your newsletter was terrific! Loved it. Thank you also for highlighting my forum "A Time to Give Thanks" . You're the best.
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