Monday, May 1, 2017

Writers of Romance Required Reading

John C. Wright is a giant among current writers.  Even as the most nominated author in Hugo history, his talents are sorely under-appreciated.  His recent essay, Ugly and the Beast is a clinic on how not to write stories. 

If you want to understand story structure, characterization, and the subtle art of a slow burn romance, this essay presents a specific case-study in how to do it well (animated version) versus how to do it poorly (live action version).  It's a fascinating side-by-side comparison, and I'd rank it right up there alongside Plinkett's original review of A Phantom Menace as a masterpiece of cinematic analysis.

An excerpt:
Everything that in the original was of due proportion, here was dialed up to eleven, but at the same time made simplistic and stupid. It was not enough that Belle be bookish in a town that did not understand her, as in the original; here she is hated for daring to teach a little girl to read, she is a fighting visionary, but accused of witchcraft by the yokels. It was not enough that Gaston be selfish and vain. Moderns like the vices of selfishness and vanity. Here he is a murderer. And so on.
How bad was it? Let me count the ways...
Belle was an angry and independent modern woman, and never shown to be someone capable of falling in love based on something below surface appearances.
Maurice, the father, here is dignified and sober, hence never shown to be the lovable fool who needed Belle to care for him, and not someone anyone would believe was crazy.
This portrayal means he is not lovable, hence Belle’s offer to stay in his place and take his punishment had no motive.
But then again she does not make that offer. Instead, being a modern woman, she merely pushes him out of the jail cell with her brute strength. Why the Beast who was master of the house would allow this was unclear.
And then Maurice is dragged off, but no reason is given why he does not turn around and come back in. Since he is not foolish  in this version, but competent, his going for help is an unmotivated act, perhaps even cowardly.
Gaston here is not an alpha-male, handsome and strong and adored by the villagers, hence not someone they would follow into the enchanted castle of a beast. When they do, it is unmotivated. 

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