I think I’ve discovered a conspiracy!
After watching the movie MORNING GLORY (2010) last night and enjoying it completely...which we did after watching JANE EYRE (1996), I,ROBOT (2004), THE FORSYTE SAGA (2002), and added to my reading Robert Reed’s “Murder Born” in the February 2012 issue of ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE and rereading A THOUSAND WORDS FOR STRANGER by Julie Czerneda – as well as reflecting on the characters and stories I like best -- I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a formula here that I’ve never found in any book.
There is a formula at work that appears to come out of nowhere that no one seems to be sharing, teaching or writing about.
So here I am. Blowing the whistle. Uncovering The Conspiracy!
I posted my discovery so that anyone who wants it quick and doesn’t want to read my rationale can just swoop in and go ahead, start writing best-sellers! THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006)! Dicken’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL!
The formula appears to be this: if you take an Adolph (a link to the Urban Dictionary is here because I needed a stronger word than “idiot” and a word that carried the right connotations without writing the offensive word in my blog (besides, after I read the entry I REALLY liked the definition): http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=synonyms%3A%20asshole); add an Idealist, toss in a love interest, you can create a profoundly interesting story!
An Adolph can be male or female, young or old. But the person must be more than just a “bad guy”. They have to be so subtly and complexly bad that a part of each book or story or movie is used up in teasing out the motivation of that person.
Two more examples, one from film and one from one of my favorite novels. In the movie STRANGER THAN FICTION (2006), Karen Eiffel (played brilliantly by Emma Thompson) is the Adolph – a brash, obnoxious, self-absorbed, selfish, respectless, chain-smoking writer who has no time for anyone and certainly no time for a gentleman who suddenly appears at her apartment door one day. Harold Crick (played equally brilliantly by Will Ferrell) is a dull IRS auditor whom we think of as a bore until we discover that he is an idealist! (Ana Pascal, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, is the Love Interest and an Idealist as well, but that doesn't matter in the movie). The end result, stirred with several other fascinating characters, is a marvelous, captivating film.
In KOMARR by Lois McMaster Bujold, the Adolph is played by Tien Vorsoisson – an obnoxious, verbally abusive, angry, actually-pretty-dumb, lazy blamer who has every opportunity but is too self-absorbed to take advantage of any one of them. In this case, the idealist is co-played by Miles Vorkosigan and Ekaterin Vorsoisson. Miles is mostly the idealist, whose view of life (while tempered with a healthy dose of reality) has always been positive. Ekaterin is constructed in his mirror image: defeated, crushed by reality, depressed and “nearly transparent” with pain, she clings to her last idealism – “I am Vor.” They are each other’s love interest.
All of these stories have penetrated my willingness to let just about any piece of writing or movie to slough off. I am a slush reader now for the anthology STUPEFYING STORIES and if most of the stories didn’t just slide off me without touching my heart, I would go mad! I am also willing to watch movies for those I love and have sat through more forgettable films than I’d care to admit in public.
The ones that touch me deeply (while it’s clear that they are NOT the ones that get the Oscars, Emmys, Hugos and Nebulas) are ones that follow this Conspirators formula. So if you’re shooting for a shiny statue, don’t use this formula. But if you want to write solid, character driven fiction – then this might be the ticket! It’s certainly one I’m going to explore.