Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stop Making Sense!

For the past several weeks, I have been gamely trying to determine the unfathomable influences that caused one of my best friends to commit to a train wreck of a life choice. If I can just figure out what is motivating her, I reasoned,maybe her decision will somehow make more sense...

The fact that I couldn't come up with ANYTHING that would explain the inexplicable bothered me terribly.

Inexplicably poor decisions are the hallmark of bad writing. Watch any dodgy horror flick, and you'll see ample evidence of this.

"Scary bad things are happening... I think I'll go to the basement, unarmed and alone," some young thing thinks -- and you just know that character's about to meet a Bad End. It's the movie world's IQ tax for stupidity. Rarely does any person in the audience care about the Horrible End about to be visited on the actor-wannabe because -- let's face it -- everyone knows that no one in real life would be so dumb.

I spend a great deal of time thinking about a character's motivation. I want to make sure that, no matter how stupid a decision may seem, I can defend it in light of a character's core. Granted, sometimes I watch a movie or read a book and realize that I work way too hard on this issue... Still, I reason that everything has reason.

And then real life proves me wrong.

The always interesting and entertaining Alex Papadimoulis is a gallows-humor master when it comes to commenting on the wild and wacky underworld of computer programming, IT, and other geek-speak things.

In his latest article, Mr. Papadimoulis explores the Real Life scenario that presented itself when a company's CTO declared that technical support should never be necessary. If the client had a problem, this mental giant reasoned, that problem clearly arose from incomplete or improper documentation.

Among other things, the mandate resulted in the following report:

ISSUE #88274
Client Issue:
"Has ANY person in your company ever Looked at or tryed to READ any maniual man u all something like thet that it's funney even after 7 years I still LAUGH any way some people like Ta know I mean Ya know!"

Problem Point:
We failed to provide the client with a version of their manual in garbled, unpunctuated non-english.

Improvement Goal:
Many companies miss the garbled, unpunctuated non-english market segment completely, and we should not be one of them. It's important to remember that for every client that understands "Click the 'submit' button to save your changes", there's another that only understands "klik tHe summit butt on two SAVE yer changez ya know ya know".


Which just goes to prove, I suppose, that not only is Truth stranger than Fiction, but it is also stupider.

Now, I'm not suggesting that writers completely disregard the importance of realistic motivation when it comes to creating characters. I am, however, positing that perhaps a readily recognizable, connect-the-dots progression from decision to deed is not always available. Real life is messier than that. Sometimes it's ok if a character's motives are as murky as a Real Person's. Heaven knows it'll certainly keep the reader guessing...

Project Updates

The manuscript for Ryan's book, complete with suggested photo and illustration requirements, should be finished by this time tomorrow.

The Marathon Man screenplay goes out to two key interested parties this evening (very exciting).

The sample chapter for the Marathon Man book proposal awaits commentary from the subject of the book. He's currently out on a speaking engagement, but I expect to hear from him by Monday. With any luck, the proposal will wend its way to the agent who has expressed interest in it by the end of the month.

This will free me up to work on my own things, most notably the novel I've been picking away at in my free time. Perhaps I should re-examine my characters within it. I suspect they may all make too much sense...