Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Reality Check

by Stephanie Black

Sometimes my teenage daughter gets up extra early before early morning seminary so she can watch a favorite TV show on DVD while she gets ready. She enjoys watching Monk or The Pretender while the rest of us are snoozing and she has the house to herself. Plus, knowing she's got a fun show to look forward to helps motivate her to rise and shine.

We have only minimal cable. I'm not even sure what we do have, because I rarely watch a show that's actually being shown on TV. Stop hyperventilating, Rob. Some people do get by without American Idol. We're a Netflix crowd here. But lately my daughter has gotten hooked on the show Psych, which is too new to be on DVD, so she buys episodes off iTunes.

And thus our saga begins. One night, daughter 1 and daughter 2 were excited to watch another episode of Psych, but it was time for bed, so they plotted that daughter 2 would arise super early with daughter 1 and they'd watch Psych in the morning. They went to bed.

At about 11:40, I was in my bedroom getting ready to snooze and I noticed a light on outside my door. I investigated and found my daughters huddled around the computer, watching fake psychic and professional brat Shawn Spencer solving a mystery. I told them they were crazy; daughter 2 conceded the point with, “Yeah, whatever.” I went to bed, figuring if they were goofy enough to creep out of bed and stay up until midnight on a school night, that was their problem and I'd see them bright and early for scripture reading.

It wasn’t until morning that I learned the real story. They’d both fallen asleep at ten-something. Daughter 1 woke up around 11:15 and thought it was 5:15. Somehow she didn’t notice the “11” on the clock. She roused daughter 2. Daughter 2 felt rather jet-lagged, but accepted daughter 1's story that it was morning. Granted, it was a bit weird that daughter 1's hair was still wet from her shower the night before, but, isn't life like that sometimes? So daughter 1 proceeded to get ready for seminary and they watched their show. Daughter 1 wasn't fazed by the clock in the corner of the computer--maybe it got messed up when she downloaded new stuff. After the show, she went into the kitchen with thoughts of breakfast and saw the time on the microwave. Twelve-something. Weird. Maybe the power had gone off. The clock on the stove said twelve-something too.

Finally, the light began to dawn that it wasn't dawn.

They went back to bed.

The thing that amuses and boggles me about this story is how repeatedly daughter 1 ignored every bit of evidence pointing to the fact that it was midnight. Evidence be darned! It's morning! Let's watch Psych!

That's the way plotting a novel goes sometimes. We want something to happen, we've made the assumption that it will happen and it needs to happen if the story is to work. Then all of a sudden, reality hits.

No real human being would do what our protagonist or villain is doing.

From writer Eric Berlin's blog entry of September 26th, 2006:

Now I’m writing the second book. Once again, I’ve got my basic idea. Up until last night, I even had my underlying mystery. And then I realized that what my bad guy was planning made no sense whatsoever. Seriously — none. I can’t believe I’ve had this idea rolling around in my head for so long without noticing. If someone tried to do in real life what my bad guy was going to do in my book, he might even make a clean getaway, but only because the police would be rolling on the floor, gasping for air from laughing so hard.

This rings SO true. Ever had this problem? For me, writing involves a lot of reality checks--hey, wait a minute, this won't work. How can I fix it? How can I make it logical? How can I put enough pressure on my character so it makes sense that she'd go rushing to confront the villain alone instead of waiting for the police?

I've got to go check the clock. I think it's past my bedtime. Either that or it's time for lunch.


At 9/27/2006 3:54 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

Now if Berlin's protagonist was your daughter then it wouldn't need to be logical.

At 9/27/2006 4:32 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Good point.

At 9/27/2006 4:37 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Stephanie, your problem as I see it is that you are a gifted author. If you were a hack writer you would know that the key is to create characters who are so unbelievable to begin with that readers won't question anything they say or do. (Editors are another matter, unfortunately. If I had a nickel for every time Angela has pointed out something that didn't make sense I wouldn't need royalties!)

And, really, aren't rich and famous storytellers getting away with the ridiculous every day -- especially in movies? I can't count the number of times recently I've left the theater complaining about plot holes larger than the canyon to the north of my abode. (Mostly I'm just jealous that the aforementioned Angela wouldn't let ME get away with any of that kind of stuff.)

At 9/27/2006 11:59 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

It's true that huge plot holes sometimes make it all the way to the silver screen--or to the press. I wish I could come up with some plot holes that would net me millions of dollars . . . ;-)

Blessings upon Angela for keeping us from inflicting confusion upon unsuspecting readers. Of course, I'm secretly hoping there are a few things she'll let me get away with in this new novel . . .it doesn't all have to make sense, does it? (Angela, if you're reading this, I'm just kidding. I swear I'll come up with a logical reason to include that scene with the trained goldfish, a Rob Wells impersonator and Sam Houston's left shoe.).

At 9/28/2006 3:43 PM, Blogger FHL said...

My wife will often complain to me about things she reads that don't make sense. And she is scrupulous (read: obsessive) about checking dates and timelines when she's editing. "This can't be right, September 5, 2002 was a Thursday - they couldn't have been going to Sacrament meeting." or whatever. I know you folks don't have direct contact with the free-lance editors at Covenant, but she's good.

I just want to say that Psych is a wonderful show - it's too bad they have that weird Monk split schedule such that we have to wait until January for the rest of the season. And the Psych-outs on the USA show are worth watching, too.

At 9/28/2006 8:05 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

FHL, what a wonderful woman your wife is to keep us writers on track with dates and details! There's so much to keep track of in a novel. I confess I still haven't worked out the dates on my current project. I need to sit down with a calendar. I love the fact that you can google up a calendar for any year you want.


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