Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When Delivery Trumps Plot

What if everything you were fighting for was a lie?

That's the essence of "The Green Zone," a movie in which a US soldier questions the existence of the weapons of mass destruction he's supposed to be finding in Iraq.

Believe it or not, the film reminded me of the book Abundance, a novel about Marie Antoinette.

In both cases, going in to the stories, the audience knows what's going to happen: that no WMD exist, that Antoinette is beheaded. What we don't know is how the plot will get us there.

In both cases, the story is personal. It's credible, compelling, twisty. There's an angle, a question.

Will Saddam's top man meet up with our soldier? Will Antoinette maintain her composure?

What do the characters think? Feel? HOW do they get to their end?

"Titanic" is another good example of predictable conclusion. We know it sinks. What we don't know is when, or why, or how. Or if the two lovers live or die together.

I respect stories that take an audience's common knowledge and add depth and dimension. It can't be easy to pull off. But it sure is fascinating to think about.


anjie said...

Good post, Jennie. My favorite historical fiction trilogy, which starts with The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., is a great delivery. You know the gist of Josephine Bonaparte's life, but getting there in the reading is what makes it so fascinating. I suppose that's true of most historical fiction. Now to make it happen in my own...

Elana Johnson said...

You're so right. I've never thought about certain things like that. Thanks for the insight!