Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Is it Always Snakes?

The cable channel USA ran a marathon of INDIANA JONES movies this weekend. I caught a bit here and there, and the opening of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK reminded me that even Spielberg, Lucas, and Kasdan can get it wrong sometimes.
In the opening set piece, Indie manages to make it through a complex maze of booby traps and escape the incredible giant rolling boulder. He even saves himself from a tribe of angry locals with little more than a smirk and a bit of sweat although he loses the golden idol to his rival.

Then he gets in the seaplane and freaks out when he finds a snake inside. Our cool and calm hero is afraid of snakes.

But what does he do? He controls himself enough to throw the snake out of the plane.

What does this tell us? Indie can get past his fears to do what needs to be done.

Is that the right message to send the audience?

I don't think so, particularly because, in the last part of the movie, he must make his way through a tomb filled with poisonous snakes to rescue his love interest from certain death. He must face his greatest fear to do so.

But he's already controlled his greatest fear in the first scene in the movie so we know he's capable of it so the tension is lessened.

In that first part of the movie, the snake should have been somewhere where it would have stopped Indie in his tracks, and his fear should have made him fail. If he'd failed then and at another time in the movie to enforce the knowledge that he's scared silly of snakes, his bravery in facing the snakes to rescue the girl would have been that much more heroic.

A hero isn't a hero if everything he does is easy or without challenge. The possibility of failure must be internal as well as external. If he's afraid of snakes, then those snakes must stop him until he's willing to face his fear and move beyond it. And he must face and defeat that fear at the end, not the beginning of the story.


Marilynn's Workshop Schedule and Information Links

Writing the First Chapter, January 3-31, 2011.

Drawing a reader into the first chapter of your novel is more than an exciting beginning, more than a “cute meet,” more than a sexy hero and a feisty heroine. Step by step, I'll show you the craft needed to draw the reader into your novel and make her eager to keep reading. I'll also show you how to set up the goals for the main characters and for the novel.


Writing in the Moment, April 11-May 8, 2011

How to get your voice, viewpoint, and craft so perfect that you disappear and your story comes alive. Lots of worksheets.

The Blurb: Mother of All Promotions July 25-August 7, 2011

A blurb is the pithy description of your novel in a query letter, the short "elevator pitch" used at a writer's conference, the log line for online promotion, and the all important back cover copy for a published novel. Without a great blurb, a novel won't be noticed by agents and editors.

Marilynn Byerly--creator of a blurb system used by university publishing courses, publishers, and many authors-- will show you how to create that perfect blurb for your novel. The course will include a number of worksheets and in-class blurb analysis.

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