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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Pausing for a Rant...

Have you ever been reading a book or watching a movie or television show, and a character says or does something that makes you go, “Huh? Where’d that come from?” That’s the bane of being a writer. There’s an internal editor in your head that often threatens to ruin any book, TV, or movie experience. That editor's often hard to turn off.

One day I was minding my own business, watching a bit of daytime television and eating my lunch. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what happened to a couple in distress. (cue organ music…)

“Oh, Sean, I used my last hairpin trying to pick the lock on the door.” Belle frowns. “What are we going to do?”

Her line made me pause, and then my internal editor muttered, “Oh, puh-leese!” Why?

To paint their scenario a little more clearly, a young couple is locked in their stateroom on a cruise ship. The villains are loose. The cruise ship authorities feel they’re justified in locking Sean and his blonde in the room. Sean and Belle are desperate. They need to protect their daughter from Belle's psycho ex who’s after all of them. (more organ music)

Makes for good daytime TV. How are they going to get out of the locked room? Back to Belle's line about the hairpin.

Hairpin? Who uses hairpins now, the metal ones with plastic-tipped ends? This doesn't fit Belle's character. Belle's in her early 20's, has straight hair that skims her shoulders. How many young women in their early 20’s use hairpins or know what they are? Okay, maybe they know what hairpins are. I’m sure if I ask my 23-year-old niece, she’d probably wrinkle her nose and say, “Oh, they’re those metal thingies old ladies use to keep their hair in place or curlers on.” And if you’re a mom, they come in handy when turning bedsheets into a kid’s costume. But I digress. I’m thirty-hummmm, and I don’t use hairpins.

Belle’s attempt to free them did not fit her character. Hairpin? Maybe if she was older, or had a different hair type, she’d have a hairpin, but this one line baffled me and totally yanked me out of the scene. I can hear it now. "But Lynette, you're talking about a soap here." Yes, and I'm talking about our books here. We can do better than this!

A character’s actions should make sense and fit them, considering their age, level of education, personal quirks. Unless you have a good reason for slinging a curveball, which could happen, don’t make them pull out a hairpin to pick a lock. I personally have used a metal skewer when my daughter locked herself in the bathroom, but then I’m a mom. I’d grab a kitchen tool.

End of rant. Now, off to apply this in my own writing…


Blogger Robin Caroll said...

LOL...I do that ALL the time. Annoys my husband, but now he's gotten to the point where HE's picking out the dialogue probs.

Do I smell a DAYS fan? LOL

8:40 AM  

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