Friday, 12 March 2010

Object Impossible

I settled down to watch Mission Impossible III with my son the other day, thinking it would be a nice bonding sort of thing to do. OK, so I haven't watched MI I or II but I hoped it wouldn't be too hard to keep up. I needn't have worried because There Is No Plot.

Somebody has taken an object called The Rabbit's Foot. It's never established what it is, why anyone wants it, who the baddies are or what they're going to do with it should they get their filthy mitts on it, but hey that didn't bother the film makers. Instead there's an awful lot of running around waving guns, gadgets, explosions, people looking at computer screens with narrowed eyes, fast cars and slinky women in dresses with no backs, but - Oops, they forgot the plot.

Well, actually they didn't. At the very end, someone says cheerfully, oh yes, what is it we were trying to do? and some one else equally cheerfully says, it doesn't matter and they all go off and live happily ever after. So the film makers knew all along there wasn't a plot and didn't care, even pointing it out in a post-modern ironic sort of way. Something similar happened in the most recent James Bond film: lots of big bangs, oil tankers going whoosh, Daniel Craig without a shirt, the usual - but there wasn't a story.

Stories are not collections of random events, they are linked and have meaning for the characters. Cinderella searches for love, and finds it. King Arthur learns that even the best can be betrayed by those closest to them. The third little pig learns that persistence and diligence pay off, and the first and second little pigs learn not to laugh at others. The Big Bad Wolf doesn't learn, and gets roasted down the chimney as a result.

When writing always go back to two questions - what does my character learn from these events, and how have things changed for them? That's your story.

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