Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why Didn't They...

Why didn't they just...

Sometimes when I'm watching a movie or reading fiction I wonder, why didn't she do...this...or that. For example, I was watching Hitchcock's "The Birds" one night this week and I wondered, why didn't the protagonists pack up the mother and the little girl and head to Mitch's place in San Francisco after the kids were attacked by the birds at the birthday party? Or at least after the mother found her neighbor killed by the birds?

I heard a comedian during a routine he was doing question why the characters in the Amityville Horror didn't just leave the house when weird things started happening.

Certainly, these sentiments are common to most of us. That's why the comedian used that material in his show.

Sometimes characters do the things they do because it's in their "nature" to behave as they do. Using "The Birds" again as an example, neither Mitch (who was a criminal lawyer) nor Melanie (who kept company with a "wild" crowd) were the type of people who ran from a fight. Each of them, as we learn during the picture, stood strong and faced challenges rather than running away from them. So, they stayed in Bodega Bay instead of seeking the safety of San Francisco.

I can live with the question "Why didn't they just..." if the answer is as clear cut as it is in "The Birds." I understand characters should behave according to who they are. I WANT them to be true to their nature, even if the actions they take seem ill advised. If they use poor judgement or make mistakes, it only makes them more human.

We readers or movie viewers are only cheated when writers of novels or screenplays "force" characters to do what it is not in their nature to do or when their actions are directed by the writers who are fulfilling an agenda for the story instead of letting characters be who they were created to be.

For example, the author of a book I read earlier this year "forced" two old sweethearts into a reunion leading to marriage without any attempt at resolving the titanic problems which had festered between them for nearly two decades. All of a sudden, each of them forgot the terrible pain they'd caused each other and just decided, hey, let's get married.

This book left me asking, why didn't she just..., but this time the "she" wasn't a character, it was the author. Why didn't she put the hero and heroine in a situation where they needed to rely on each other to make it through a crisis? It would then be logical and believable that they could somehow realize the old feelings they had for each other were even stronger than any of the problems they'd had in the past.

Life's complicated, writing fiction is complicated.

However, reading fiction should be pure pleasure and a complete escape from life's complications. Shouldn't it just?


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

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