Monday, July 23, 2012

The Confession

Okay, so I have been busy lately with family things and scout camp. This blog update is a little overdue. Hopefully I will make up for that with wittiness and intelligent comments. In case of failure in that purpose all I can say is, "At least it's better than reading your teenager's facebook.

After a long couple weeks of careful consideration I have decided to post about something that has been bothering me for a while. That is the presence of the bad guy's confession in books, movies, and especially television shows.

My wife watches several police type dramas on Hulu and Netflix. I noticed a common thread in many of the shows where after a lengthy investigation with many dead ends and red herrings, the street-smart cop and his sidekicks finally corner the bad guy.  He is trapped into coming clean in a lengthy confession and personal epiphany of his terrible wrong-doing.

Now I know that this is a huge pay-off for the regular viewer as our society loves to have someone else take the blame for bad stuff that happens. Trust me. I have enjoyed many a good, "Take that to your cell!" moment in TV drama. We all like to see the good guy triumph and the bad guy get what he deserves.

My problem is simply this. I believe that in the real world we are all the heroes of our own life's story. No one likes to think of themselves as the "bad guy" or evil. Most of us will never experience a life changing epiphany where we realize how evil we are, or feel sorrow at how much pain we have caused to other people. We like to feel that those bad acts are justified because the other person somehow asked for it, or deserved it because they are so bad.

For instance: How often have we seen a movie where the bad guy is so bad that we cheer for the good guy to kill him? After and hour or so of countless atrocities by the villain we actually want our hero to take him out for good. The villain has killed people, and we call it bad. Then it somehow becomes okay for us to want our white knight to ride in with vengeance, and soil his righteous armor by the same act?

Call me a hypocrite. I like those same movies.

The confession bugs me a little more. I have seen it done well at times, but I think the part that bothers me is when an author uses the confession to fill in plot holes, or introduce a mind-blowing twist. I feel it is cheap and lazy.

I simply have a hard time suspending disbelief when a hardened criminal breaks down in tears to explain that he killed the girl because he loved her. It is inconsistent with the man I have seen be so diabolical and deliberate throughout the rest of the movie or show. Be true to your character.

I almost like it better when the villain goes to jail cursing the police officer the whole way, and blaming everyone--even his own mother for not loving him--the whole way there. It is more true to real life. Think about it. What was the last thing you did that someone was offended by? Did you have a lucid moment of epiphany where you realized you just might be that person's villain?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Guy's Week

This last week my wife and step-daughter were out of town. This left me with my step-son, 3 biological sons, and our baby girl to play Mr. Mom with. While most of you are shuddering with visions of Michael Keaton in a flannel shirt, feeding his baby chili, I will have to tell you my week was nothing like that. I spent time taking my boys on their paper route, teaching them to make tin foil dinners on a grill, eating out at a pizza place with a play-land, and making various ice cream treats. It was pretty smooth.

Alas, I was not able to get much writing done as a result. I didn't even have time to write my blog.

I have been doing alot of visualizing though. Hanging out with two ten year old boys, with their eight year old brother, as well as my other six year old son, I was able to learn alot about my target audience. First, they have a pretty grown-up vocabulary. Even the six year old. They also are able to get very complex concepts. Finally, I learned that their love of violent video games was deeper than I was comfortable with.

All these things I will take into consideration as I work on my book. Dialogue, complexity, and video games will all play a part in my novel.

I am convinced that it is close to impossible for someone who isn't familiar with children to just decide to write a novel for the middle grade audience. They would talk down to them, miss the correct voice in dialogue, or just totally fail to pique their interest.

Lucky me. I can do research walking through my living room at home.