Questionable: How do you decide what your main plot is and who your antagonist is?

AG wrote:
So when is the decision to beef up your villain into the antagonist, and when is the decision to shrink the villain so that the focus is on the primary relationships? I remember that a common complaint has been that Marvel villains are weak, but for several of those films, that worked, since they didn’t get in the way of the primary relationships. But when does the complaint that the villain is weak become an actual issue?

There’s a lot to unpack there. I’ll tackle the first question at length and then hit the second on the way out.

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So Here’s What I Would Have Done: Venom

The last time I looked at a piece of pop culture storytelling and said, “You know, I’d have done it THIS way,” I ended up spending four years writing Nita Dodd. So I’m a little leery of going there again, except that the film Venom is such an interestingly flawed story. Generally monsters, even super monsters, aren’t my thing which is why it took me so long to get around to this one. Also, I’m kind of Marvel-ed out. And yet, this is one of those movies where the good parts are really good, and the bad parts are just blah (as opposed to those movies where the good parts are really good and the bad parts are horrible–see January Man).

This kind of story always fascinates me. If they could get the good stuff right, why couldn’t they avoid the bad? Hypocrites R Us, of course, my books have the same problem. Still, I wanted to take Venom apart to see why Rotten Tomato critics gave it a 29% favorable rating and regular people put it at 80%. Here’s my take (spoilers all over the place below):In the end, I decided it came down to knowing what your story is really about and focusing on that, no matter what you’d planned before.

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE AHEAD.

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Person of Interest: “A More Perfect Union,” “QSO,” and “Reassortment”

The last act of a story has to be lean and mean. The story’s first three acts (or two or four or whatever) have burned away everything but this final push, our protagonist is in the crucible, and there’s only one real mandate: Fight Back.

In a hundred-thousand-word book, my last acts are usually around 15K sometimes less. That’s seven, eight, maybe ten scenes, tops, for my protagonist to pick herself up, get to the antagonist, and end the damn thing one way or another. This isn’t just for pacing purposes, this is for the reader/viewer, too. She’s waited a long time for this, so I don’t stop for anything else isn’t directly related to getting to that climax. This is the top of the roller coaster; don’t slow down on the final drop. Continue reading

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Site To See: Does the Dog Die?

I mentioned this in the comments the other day, but a good site to know about is Does the Dog Die? a movie review site which mostly consists of one or two line reviews like

Raiders of the Lost Ark: A capuchin monkey that the main characters treat as a pet is killed when it eats poisoned dates. Reggie the pet Burmese python is not harmed but a number of venomous wild snakes are set on fire.

See, that’s the kind of thing you need to know, although I’d have mentioned that the cute monkey was a Nazi spy. Continue reading

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