Monday, April 20, 2009

Seven Deadly Writer's Sins: #1

or: Need More Ned!

I admit with a touch of embarrassment that I went to see 17 Again this weekend.

I went with low expectations, and for the first 15 minutes, I felt that perhaps even they had been too high. (Admittedly, however, I find it difficult to argue with any premise that stipulates that if divorce is imminent, the way to save your marriage is to have your husband suddenly turn into Zac Ephron and still have the hots for you.)

Often, I actually enjoy movies with scripts as full of holes as this one -- they give me great comfort, and bolster my hopes. Though they make me seriously question why I bother working so hard on things like character development and continuity.

But then I realized that I was enjoying some parts of the film far more than others. And I wasn't alone. Every time Thomas Lennon came on the screen, the audience perked up and the energy level in the theatre rose. Less than 30 minutes into the movie, I commented to my friend Chari that I could watch an entire film of just Ned (Lennon's character).

You see, in my humble opinion, the writers of "17 Again" committed one of the seven deadly sins of writing: they created a secondary character and made him more interesting and more engaging than the protagonist.

By the end of the first act, I was far more interested in what Ned would do next than in what Zac (oops, "Mark." Or was it "Mike?") would do. Ned got the best lines, the best scenes, got to wear the most interesting clothes, and had the most complete inner life. He may have been created only as comic relief, but his character assumed a life of his own and grew far beyond the meager bounds of the movie that he lived in.

Why is that a sin? Isn't it a good thing to create a memorable character that lives and breathes? Of course. But if your supporting characters are more well-rounded than your protagonists, or your antagonists, you have committed the writer's sin of Complacency. You thought you had a Good Idea, and figured it would take no more than bare-bones cardboard characters to execute that idea.

For shame!

One well-rounded character -- no matter how small -- shows the audience that the writer had it in him the whole time. But only one such character also lets the audience know that the writer didn't feel like working that hard on every person he created.

In Other News

My major client has sent more work my way. I hope to be able to make great inroads on it by the end of the day. I'm also putting the final touches on a chapter of Ryan's book.

Which means, if I play my cards right, I will carve out some free time to work on my Own Private Project. I have a portion of the first paragraph finished, the entire story mapped out, and a fairly good handle on all the major characters. With any luck (if I do my job right), the characters will all be interesting enough, flawed enough, and compelling enough to merit their position as major players on the story's stage. Time will tell if I'm guilty of the same sin I accuse others writers of...