Now, where were we? Yes. Michael Bay creates a delicious spectacle of flashy CGI, cool cars, explosions and wisecracks. He neglects to give his movie narrative force but still ends up with a fun flick, despite the fact that, having little in the way of plot, this film amounts to nothing more than a long, large screensaver.
The few of you out there who give a rat’s ass about my future wellbeing will know that I have been working on a very ambitious novel project. The plan was to have it written by October, self-published by November, in stores by December and then I sit back and let sales provide me with airtime for the rest of the year.
But I hit a snag. That snag being that I have been writing this thing for ages, but it’s going nowhere.
The novel itself is kind of like a Michael Bay film: full of very cool cars. (well, not really, but for the purposes of this post, let us say it is).
By the way, you know what the chief difference between a book and a movie is? It is much easier to make Stingray Robots in books. You make them thus.
“He opened the door and saw, there in the garage, a silver Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. He blinked in surprise. It looked awesome. But no sooner had he reopened his currently still-in-blink-progress eyes than, Gasp! The car began to transform into a giant robot. In seconds, the car was gone. Replaced by a large robot. One with swords.”
I didn’t spend a dime on that. I can do it all day. I can even make my version of Meagan Fox hot. I do that simply by saying,
“In walked Megan Fox. She was the hottest thing he had ever seen.”
But, though some of us are very able—actually, MANY of us are fully capable of consuming meaningless spectacle on screen, it won’t work as a book. I really think I have a pleasurable bunch of scenes down on paper but I have reached the point when I can’t avoid the question movie critics asked about the Stingray: “Where’s it going?”
They teach us that we need at least three acts to tell a complete story. In the first act you introduce your setting and characters and try to convince your audience that these characters in this area are worth their interest. In the second act you have to introduce conflict. And in the third act this conflict is resolved, allowing you to finally end the story.
TROTF was all first act it seemed. If any conflict was introduced and resolved, it was a weak, insignificant event, drowned out by all the engine noise and explosions. I barely remember what it even was. Someone wanted to burn the sun oba?
Now, even though I am not going to go so far as to deny enjoying the film, cos I really did. (Look! A Stingray/Robot!) I now get to see what its detractors were saying: because even I began to get a little bit bored as we entered into the second hour. I can fully understand why some people would begin to think: “Yes, it looks good, but what does it do?”
Michael Bay had taught me to think that a plot is nothing but a skeleton upon which to layer all the cool flesh, a thing that allows the martial artist to pivot his muscles so he can fight.
That’s it. My novel is stuck because I have been watching too much Michael Bay-style blockbusters.
If you are vegetating in front of a screen on a weekend, that may be enough, but as a writer, how about thinking of the plot as scaffolding? As a framework around which to build your thing?
If one maps out a plot, one never gets to the point where one asks where one should go next because one already has ones’ path mapped out!!!11one
So what a storyteller needs to do is throw in some crap for the people to deal with it, help them deal with it, and that is not only how you break out of your snag, but it is also how you avoid TROTF’s major failing. Thank You Michael.
By the way, if you are wondering what any of this navel-gazing has to do with you, well, consider yourself advertised to. Coming soon to a bookstore near you…