Sunday, August 8, 2010

30 Days of Night

This week hubby and I watched 30 Days of Night with Josh Hartnett. It’s about a small town in Alaska that gets no sunlight for 30 days. Naturally, this set-up provides the perfect smorgasbord for vampires. I won’t go into the gory details of the fanged leeches run a muck. And I won’t give the details of the hero’s demise in the end. I’m a romance writer. I want the happily ever after, not a Nicholas Sparks’s ending, no matter how poetic.

So, what caught my attention the most in this film?

Unnecessary characters.

Throughout the story, there are 5 maybe 6 vampires that are shown consistently. We never learn their names, but we see them often enough to identify them as the collective villain. However in the climactic scene, suddenly there are about two dozen vampires. So, where did they all come from and why didn’t they show up before the end?

Also, a couple of characters emerged for very brief scenes and none of the “humans” knew who they were. Apparently, the vampires didn’t either.

Hello! If no one in the story can explain who the mystery characters are or why they are there, why bother having them pop in?

Unnecessary characters clutter the story and confuse the heck out of me.

I’m not talking about the nameless, faceless, cardboard stand-ins that are the innocent bystanders or persons in the check-out line at the grocery store or the pedestrian the heroine passes on the street who are needed for local color. I’m talking about the characters that suddenly appear, unannounced, un-introduced, and no one but the writer knows who they are or why they’re in the story. Then, poof! They’re gone.

Now, I’m annoyed. I spend more time trying to understand the intrusion and lose focus on the story.

In one such scene, a little girl vampire is devouring a nameless someone. Every known character on screen comments that no one knows who this child is or where she came from. Okay. I was a bit intrigued, expecting a plot twist because so far none of the vampires had children in tow. So, where did this pointy-toothed munchkin come from and why was she in the story?

I’m waiting for the big revelation and they promptly lop off her head.

Big disappointment.

Later, it’s revealed that she bit one of the humans that had banded together and he begins turning into a vampire. Hmmmm. Why not use a vampire character who we’d already seen rather than one that no one knew how to explain?

The little girl was a loose thread and if yanked, the plot wouldn’t unravel. Wouldn’t have left even the tiniest whole in the fabric of the story.

Switching gears to writing…If a new character can be deleted, or replaced by another who the reader has already been introduced to, and still maintain the integrity of the story, you must snip that new character out of the manuscript immediately. Failure to do so will cause little fuzz balls in your reader’s mind. The danger there is that little fuzz balls are worrisome and distracting. The reader may become irritated at those imperfections, lose interest in the story, put it down and never pick it up again.

Every character that you write into your story should be, in some way, integral to the plot. No one else should be able to act or react in they way that character does and his/her actions should push the plot forward, complicate the plot, or twist the plot in a fresh direction. If the new character can be interchanged for another, you’re using the wrong the character or you have a weak plot point. My advice, yank that string out and re-knit that scene.

~Kristal Lee

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Anonymous said...

Pat McDermott
August 9, 2010 at 7:08 am
Good points, Kristal. We writers have enough to do to keep the relevant characters straight without adding superfluous cast members like cute-but-evil-little-girls for dramatic (and useless) effect. There’s nothing like reading a tightly written tale!

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