Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lessons from Raising Hope

If you haven't caught Raising Hope on Tuesdays yet you are seriously missing out. Probably the funniest show on television today. I wasn't too sure about it when I first heard the premise, but I caught an episode purely by chance and laughed the entire time.

Onto the lesson from Raising Hope.

Finding humor in everyday occurrences and challenges. The charm of this show is Jimmy (the dad) and his determination to give his daughter, Hope, a better upbringing and life than he had. Jimmy makes mistakes, often helped into those mistakes by his family, but he learns from them and his faith and devotion to Hope never wavers.

Jimmy is another "normal" person (like the Secret of NIMH's Mrs. Frisby) who is pushed past his comfort zone for the love of a child.

Have your characters make mistakes. They can be humorous (Riasing Hope) or tragic (NIMH), but making those mistakes and soldiering on is what makes your readers(viewers) connect to your characters.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lessons from The Secret of NIMH

I remember watching The Secret of NIMH when I was a child. Don't remember exactly when, but I do remember being terrified by this movie. I recently rediscovered it thanks to Netflix Streaming. Both of my girls were insistent on watching it overruling my cautions of it being frightening. Thankfully, both of my girls weren't frightened by it as I was, but then again I was one of those kids who got sucked into movies (I still can't watch Bambi and have a hard times sitting through E.T.)

What I noticed as an adult is what a wonderful character study this movie is. Mrs. Brisby is intent from the beginning on saving her children. The family must move as the field they reside in is about to be plowed by a farmer, but they can't leave because her sick child will surely die if moved and exposed to the elements. Thus her journey is launched.

This movie is a perfect example of an everyday character doing extraordinary things despite the fear and terror she feels. Several sequences throughout the movie show her very real fear and that she will act despite her fear to protect her children and to honor the memory of her late husband who she discovers was regarded as a hero throughout her small land.

The climax is particularly powerful as her children are about to be suffocated because their home is sinking in the mud. Mrs. Brisby fights to keep the house afloat and in the end won't leave the house as it is sucked under even though she will die as well because she will not stop fighting to save her children. The rats must pull her away from the house despite her struggles to remain with her children (the picture above). It is this love and devotion which allows her to save her children in the end.

Some stories require characters who act without fear (The Bourne Identity, The Mummy, etc.) and we love those heroes who do what they must and set any fear they might have aside. But don't forget the characters who aren't fearless, but act despite their fear.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lessons from Race to Witch Mountain

I loved Race to Witch Mountain. I know, I know, total kid movie, but kid movies can be a lot of fun. This is a remake of the classic Escape to Witch Mountain which I watched and loved when I was a kid. So, I really wasn't certain if I would like it. Saw it in the theater and the above picture features one of my all-time favorite FX-action scene ever shot. On to the Lesson and Spoiler.

Lesson: If you are writing paranormal, fantasy, or any type of book where your characters have unusual powers, I highly suggest you watch this movie and consider Seth's powers. Ahem, picture above. He can vary his molecular density. This allows him to put parts of his body or his entire self through other objects - think walk through walls. This isn't something which is that unusual in fiction, but what I love is the flip side where he can make himself almost invincible by "hardening" his density. This allows him to stand in front of a speeding SUV and basically total the car like it had hit a brick wall without getting a single scratch or bruise.

Consider your own fictional characters with special abilities. Do their abilities have a flip side?