Monkey at the movies – Marvel Phase 3: FINALE!

monkey at the marvel movies

It’s finally here: my super-late, overlong, fangirly reviews for the last few movies in Marvel Phase 3! I reviewed all the other movies in Phase 3 back in March (and Phase 1 and Phase 2 before that). And now here we are *dun dun dunnn*. Get ready for some HOT TAKES and (possibly) *controversial* opinions…

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Captain Marvel– Okay definitely going to be *controversial* with this review, cos I didn’t like this movie at all. A lot of the criticism (and in turn praise) for this film has been its blatant political activism and similar complaints about the lead actress. Now, personally I think Bree’s a pretty good actress buuut she just wasn’t given anything interesting to do and the activism was definitely this movie’s downfall. It’s unquestionable that the agenda for this movie drove all the plot points- you can tell who the villain will be and who the goodies are just by playing the identity politics game (even if it doesn’t make any logical sense from the opening gambit, I just knew what the twist was gonna be). And of course, the main character is a woman so, by modern Hollywood standards, that means she’s a plank of wood with no personality and no weaknesses. Because of course. As a woman, I couldn’t be more bored of these bland non-characters, but who cares what I think, writing Mary Sues ticks the *strong independent woman who don’t need no man* box, so we should all stand up and applaud! Sorry, I know I’m getting salty- alas there just wasn’t anything I liked about this movie. And no, you don’t need to watch it to enjoy Endgame. It’s probably too late to spare anyone the snoozefest, but I can safely say you can ignore the marketing on that front.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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Avengers: Endgame*spoilers*, of course, because this has been out for ages (also I have *a lot* of thoughts!) This was epic! And it felt like such a great send off for the original Avengers. From the powerful opening scenes, Endgame doesn’t pull any punches. We’re given a chance to feel brief elation and then snapped back to despair as we realise this hasn’t changed anything. For a while, we’re left stewing in that failure- which really sets the bleak tone and gives weight to everything our heroes consequently do. I love how this incredibly fantastical movie made me feel that there were true stakes at play. And that’s when we get our solution: time heist! Which allows for a super fun adventure to ensue. Of course, the emotional wheel doesn’t stop turning and there are still some tear-jerking moments to come. And while the structure of the film is unusual- relying heavily on everything that’s come before- I definitely felt the weight of every single decision. That’s the massive achievement of this film- it doesn’t just give you a rundown of the previous movies- it’s makes you invested in this last hurrah. The tension rises and rises, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the final act.

Now, having said the stakes were high, my personal preference would’ve been for Tony to risk his present timeline for the sake of the world- proving that he put the fate of the world above his own happiness and therefore experienced the greatest amount of growth… however I understand why the writers decided to table that idea in order not to have the whole story play out as “would you kill baby Thanos” (a question they answered well). And I thought that, ultimately, Iron Man’s ending made perfect sense. To me, it’s a massive part of his character that he wasn’t going to stop until it killed him- but I was glad that when he finally met his end it was for someone else’s sake.

I did also like the Cap’s ending- it was sweet and the best possible outcome for him. Black Widow’s though… ahhh!!! Sorry, lost for words. It was a heartwrenching scene and made the most of the character. Also, I’ve gotta admit, after seeing Captain Marvel I was *so relieved* it wasn’t just the Carol Danvers show. It would’ve been such uninspiring storytelling to have her just zap everything better- especially cos that would’ve taken away from all the original cast (plus, no amount of other characters saying “I like her” will make me magically like her). The new characters were incorporated brilliantly: I was ecstatic when Tchalla, Spidy and the rest came back; I was cheering them on when they were running the gauntlet and I loved the epic battle to the death!

Honestly, there was only one part of the movie I wasn’t happy with: Thor had become a shadow of his former self. And I don’t mean that he was pushed to the limit like the other characters. I mean, it felt like the writers decided they didn’t like his character much… so his entire arc consisted of gaining weight and making dad jokes. It was pretty unsatisfying and left a bad taste in my mouth if I’m honest.

Still, it was a genuinely funny movie at times, it packed so much in and it did a great job of paying off allll the creative work that had gone into this saga. Marvel really rewarded its fans for sticking with this super long serialised story. I for one was certainly glad of time I invested in the franchise.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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spider man far from home

Spider Man: Far From Home– okay so you should probably all know I have a soft spot for Spidy, so I had to watch this. And it was a good time! It was laugh out loud, really enjoyable and it was the best movie to follow on from Endgame. Not just cos it had a lighter tone, but because it tied into Iron Man really well. I liked that this was a way to really let us feel his sacrifice again. One downside of this movie was that the twist was SO FRICKIN OBVIOUS. I mean, it was great that Peter Parker got to be smart in this movie- but gosh how could he be so dumb!! I guess you could play it off as him being a kid- which was done well to be fair. But yeah, that villain wasn’t in the slightest bit mysterious. Having said that, it was a fun movie, with cute moments (loved every scene with MJ!) and the ending was sweet. To be honest, I could’ve let the whole predictable element slide if not for those end credit scenes… The first one wasn’t so bad- it was just frustrating knowing we’re not going to get a Spider Man movie that actually pays it off. The second one I didn’t like at all though because I liked the role Nick Fury had in the movie (even if he had acted out of character). So yeah, kinda left feeling *irritated* knowing that Spidy is out of the MCU. I was entertained though, so…

4/5 bananas

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Okay, these were on the most part positive viewing experiences… whichhhh is why it’ll probably come as a surprise that I’m pretty much done with Marvel movies. To be frank, I will always be interested in any Spider Man films and I want to see the last Guardians story play out, but I’m not enthused by most of the upcoming characters. Without Spider Man taking up the helm of Iron Man and with Captain Marvel poised to take on the leadership mantel and whatever role the wizard-or-whatever Dr Strange is playing, I can’t say I’m interested. Not to say that I don’t think other people will have fun with them (and I sincerely hope they make everyone that goes to see them very happy). But personally, I think Endgame is a great note on which to bow out.

So, have you seen these movies? Do you plan to? And what are your thoughts on future Marvel movies? Let me know in the comments!

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Is all art fanfiction?

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Last time, I talked about fanfic, I said I wasn’t going to go down the “all art is fanfic” route. Last time, I said I didn’t have a vested interest. Last time, I broached the topic, I lit powder keg. Well, *a lot* has changed in the two years since last time, so let’s see if we can have a conversation about this without things getting too explosive 😉

Now firmly in the age of reboots, remakes and retellings, I’ve found myself wondering where is the line between fanfic and art? Let’s look at the definition again:

fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, film, etc.

Disney pillaging its old animations and remaking them shot for shot… seems like fanfic to me. Looting the spoils of Marvel and DC… seems like we could call that fanfic. Buying off creators, like Lucas, and making derivative work… yeah probably fanfic (incidentally, many previous works have been relegated from canon, because of course only massive corporations have permission to make Star Wars stories…). Regardless of whether one likes these franchises or not, one could regard these “new” works as akin to a music cover, because they skirt around legal issues and (mostly) compensate the original creator (again, at the risk of going severely off topic, this does beg the question, why stop there?). Outside of the mainstream, I can see a resurgence of fanfic coming from disgruntled fans and critics, desperate to fix the decimated plotlines and endings for their favourite books/films/shows (*coughs* yes, this is a thinly veiled reference to Game of Thrones… *cough cough*).

game of thrones ending brienne meme

Additionally, art is conversation. I’ve long held the view that originality is overrated, since nothing is technically original to begin with. To return to Disney, I recently watched a few interesting discussions on Youtube about the origins of the Lion King. The gist of the debate is that Osamu Tezuka was inspired by Disney’s Bambi to create Kimba the Lion, which in turn Disney used to launch its own Lion King story (playing up its so-called originality in marketing).

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While people have been quick to slam one side or the other, I don’t see this as a black and white issue. If you watch Kimba, you’ll quickly notice the visual and structural differences. Which pulls me away from looking at this as a controversy. Instead, it’s made me think about where we draw the lion (*ahem*) line on what constitutes transformative work. Once you consider whether its satire, if the characters are the same, if the storyline is similar enough, it might be possible to see a huge amount of creativity in fanfic. Not to keep using the same old examples, but there are plenty of success stories for fanfic-turned-mainstream, where all that needed changing before publication were the names.

Okay, so much of what I’ve said is in favour of the view that “all art is fanfic”. And indeed, these days I find myself much more sympathetic to that mindset. But I do still have reservations, because the statement is too much of an oversimplification of art. As much as art can be a response to other art and as much as all art will inevitably draw on its predecessors (as discussed in my piece on “intertextuality vs innovation”), they often diverge so much from the “original” that it can be hard to see the similarity. Take Legend by Marie Lu, inspired by Les Mis. Heck, take Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, which reflects on Paradise Lost. These works are so wholly different that I couldn’t reasonably describe them as fanfic. They have grown lives of their own, had adventures and rode off into the sunset. And, who is to even say where the original began? Or from what pieces the multifaceted novel is derived? To me, it is too complex an issue to be satisfied with the “all art is fanfic” refrain. As I’ve said before, if we water down the term “fanfic” it would cease to have much meaning at all. To me, it’s just art, with an asterisk that all artists are likely big ol’ fanboys and fangirls.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with me that all artists are fans? Or do you think that all art is fanfic? I’d love to hear your take!

I am completely obsessed with You…

youThe book and TV show… why what did you think I meant? 😉 Kepnes infamous story about social media stalking in the modern age certainly grabbed my attention and now I’d like to share it with *you*. So, what can you expect from this book about a New York love affair gone very, very wrong?

Immediately, you will be struck by the unreliable narrator. Combining a biting wit with an exceptional use of second person pov, you will find the execution of this novel is top notch. This unique style allows for stand out characterisation and a story that captivates and horrifies in equal measure. Now, you might have seen a fair amount of criticism for the crassness and vulgar language… to which I say: what do you expect? Yes, a stalker and dangerous individual is less than polite and uses violent means to get his way. To me, anything else would be a dishonest representation of reality. Naturally, you will agree that it is unnerving to be this up close and personal to evil- but that is what really works about this book (admittedly the show has a different take… more on that later).

Another criticism you might have is that the characters are all pretentious a-holes. Which is true- but given that they’re viewed through the lens of a psycho stalker, you might be inclined to let them off the hook. Again, you will find this an ingenious way of letting you inside his twisted mind. Every portrayal he shows you will be warped beyond recognition and every barb he directs at others can be thrown back at him.

Either way, you will discover there’s something enigmatic about the distinctive writing. This voicey book gives you more characterisation than a thousand thrillers combined. You will come to see it as more of a character study than a typical story.

Most importantly, you will be compelled to the finish line as if someone is chasing you down a dark alleyway. Truth be told, you may find the plot fairly predictable- but that’s because when you’re trapped in a terrifying place with no way out, there really is only one way it can go down. All the bodies littered throughout make the ending inevitable. So if you are like me and you like *BIG* twist thrillers, you might not end up giving it 5*. But that’s okay, because you know it’s a great book regardless. And you may decide that, while you’re not sure you need a series of books in this vein, you’re still invested enough to check out the Netflix adaptation…

Okay, I’m gonna stop with the second person because you get the idea 😉 Also the voice is used slightly differently in the TV show. In fact, there were a number of distinctions between the book and the show: the timeline, the characters and even the relationship have all shifted. Most importantly, the more lovey dovey romance makes the show more of a deconstruction of rom coms than the danger of Social Media. While still present, the idea of stalking someone online is made light of at times when (for reasons I can’t fathom) Stalker Joe tells her he’s been following her?! Aside from the illogical tint this gives the story, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this take. I think that the ideas it was presenting, while not entirely in line with the book, were still valid critiques on society. Plus, on the more positive side, this did flesh out some aspects better.

Characters who weren’t given a proper voice in the book (understandably) did finally get their chance to speak for themselves. I liked that while Peaches made more sense as a character, the tv version didn’t remove her shades of grey. I also loved Blythe and Ethan- as different as the latter was to the book counterpart. Most significantly, we actually got her perspective. And it’s good- it’s very good. She gets to be a far more well-rounded character and her life is given importance its so lacking in the book- which makes the impact of the narrative greater still. I liked that they even had her talk to herself in the second person- it was a nice touch.

Having said that, the show’s desire to fill in some aspects meant that the things Joe does make less sense sometimes. There was more of an attempt to make him likeable and misdirect the viewer into thinking he’s not an entirely terrible person. For instance, he genuinely cares about Paco, which felt strangely out of character for me as someone who’d read the book (and was the first major indicator that the book and show were going to be different entities). Again, I wasn’t quite convinced whether I liked that he was more sympathetic. On the one hand, it made him less predatory… but on the other there was more of an unnerving sense that this could really happen to anyone. It didn’t hurt, either, that unlike the book closing off its ending, the show had a chilling end that left me wanting more.

Ultimately, I found the show just a bingeable as the book was a page turner. Sure, they were different, but this didn’t impact the quality. I gave both the book and show:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So have you read or watched this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Authors are *AMAZING*

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I mean, as book bloggers, we hardly need to be told this 😉 But sometimes it’s just good to show our appreciation and talk about why authors ROCK OUR WORLD!

book love belleThey give us BOOKS! We get to live vicariously through their characters and go for wild romps in their imaginations.

 

 

it's aliveThey bring people (okay characters) to life. I mean, don’t we all have book boyfriends/girlfriends/besties… sometimes they feel more real than actual people and they wouldn’t exist if not for authors!

 

 

adventureThey take us on adventures! As George R R Martin says: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”

 

whole world in my handsThey create whole worlds for us to play in! Because of their worlds, we get to be children again, wonderstruck by new marvels and sensations. They bring our very imaginations to life.

 

 

braveThey put their neck on the line. The very action of putting their thoughts out there is brave. And then so many of them go and write dark, intense, pushing-the-boundaries books out there- whether I always agree with their message or not, I respect their courage to do so.

eurekaThey help us realise truths about reality. Using well trodden paths and archetypes and tropes, they open our eyes to things we may already know, but get to see with fresh fervour, as if for the first time.

 

 

I'll help you kiara and zira lion king 2They’re supportive of readers and often very helpful. I feel like there’s endless criticism of authors and they’re always coming under fire for something or other- yet they’re often happy to set the record straight and that’s cool of them. And I guess this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately- and am definitely going to be discussing more shortly. I think it’s easy to fall into criticism and sometimes harder to think about all the positive ways strangers can impact us.

Are you grateful to authors? Do you have any other ways they’re awesome? Let me know in the comments!

Confessions of a (justified) mood reader…

 

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This has been a long time coming. I’ve been holding this secret inside and I don’t think I can keep it from you anymore: I’M A MASSIVE MOOD READER AND SOMETIMES I MAKE RIDICULOUS READING CHOICES! (okay a lot of you already knew that and so this was perhaps a little melodramatic 😉) Point is, it’s time I exposed my silliness to the world… (so that you can laugh/judge/commiserate with me!) Let’s get into some of the ways mood reading effects my reading:

piles of booksI am incapable of keeping to a TBR. I’ve talked about this before, but there’s a reason you’ll never see a proper TBR post from me (and if I do one, it’s more like: here’s some books I plan to read within the next decade 😉)

 

merlin books sharingOh and forget about keeping to hard deadlines- I like to have months to read an ARC, buddy reads are often a no-go and I will happily read a gift years after I get it (the exception being that I am almost pathological when it comes to library due dates 😉)

 

shameBecause of that I have so much TBR Shame! Often people will be impressed that I have only 300 books on my goodreads TBR… until I point out that I have wishlists with hundreds of books on every. single. book site (I don’t even think this is simply being disorganised- I think this is a way of tricking myself into believing my TBRs are not all exponentially long). And I only ever seem to grow them instead of making them smaller. It’s a real struggle to delete something off the list that I will never might not read- let alone pick them all up! (which to be fair would be impossible, since I seem determined to list every book in the universe, no matter how much it seems like these lists are never ending blackholes…)

 

hoarding booksI also hoard ebooks like there’s no tomorrow. I have books for every occasion and every possible mood- some of which have been on my TBR *forever and a day*. Here are just some of the books I’ve got on my kindle that I’ve been meaning to read for years:

 

(yes I am sneakily including these so I can guilt myself later 😉)

choose books2And yet I still struggle to find the perfect book for the perfect moment! I will spend ages between books looking at my shelves/overdrive/going to the library, trying to determine what’s right for my mood and choosing what to read next… which should be easy with options from *all the genres* but NOPE.

 

book loveBecause *lowers voice* nothing really happens if I make the wrong choice. Sometimes I could pick something up in a genre I don’t feel like and just put it down again. The rest of the time, I secretly know that I could probably choose anything and it wouldn’t actually matter if I thought I was in the mood for it- if it’s a great book, I’ll get in the mood…  

So are any of you mood readers? Do you have the same problems as me? Let me know in the comments!

Plotting Vs Pantsing – Differences in Style #9

 

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“Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters’ theses.” – Stephen King

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” – Terry Pratchett

“If you do enough planning before you start to write, there’s no way you can have writer’s block.” – R L Stein

Well, if the title plotting vs pantsing hasn’t stoked a few fires, those quotes surely will have. For those of you unfamiliar with the terms, plotting is planning your books before you write them and pantsing is “flying by the seat of your pants” aka winging it. However, whether you’ve been in the writing community long or only had a casual glance at authortube, the first thing you’ll notice whenever this discussion comes up is the (unnecessary) divisiveness of the debate. Many writers often feel attacked by the other side and can get super defensive… which is why I’d like to have a chill discussion about what the differences are and why both processes are equally cool. Now, I usually talk about outcomes rather than the actual process- which is why this is such a unique topic for me. Because I don’t think you can tell the difference just from observation. Let’s have a look at some famous examples of both and you’ll see why…

(NB I had a great deal of fun researching this, but a lot of these came from various sources/interviews/quotes, so forgive me if I’ve got any wrong- I’ve tried to include as many of these as possible at the bottom of the page so you can check for yourself)

Famous plotters:

J K Rowling

John Grisham

Sylvia Plath

Arthur Miller

Leigh Bardugo

R L Stein

Rainbow Rowell (semi-plotter)

Hilary Mantel (likes to storyboard)

Kazuo Ishiguro (hardcore plotter)

Ken Follett

Virginia Woolf

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Vladimir Nabokov

Joseph Heller

William Faulkner (go figure- you can’t achieve that level of obscurity without planning)

Marcel Proust

Famous pantsers:

George R R Martin (though famously coined the term gardener)

Laini Taylor

Stephen King

Tim Bowler

Margaret Atwood

Ray Bradbury

Pierce Brown

Neil Gaiman (prefers the gardener term)

Maas (natural pantser, but has had to plot)

James Joyce

Mark Twain

Ernest Hemmingway

If you can tell the difference at a glance, you must be a savant. Personally, I found a few surprises (some plot-light authors are on the planning side and there are most certainly complexly plotted stories on the pantser side).

Really though, the thing that came up a lot of the time during my research was “eh I kinda plan” or “eh I sorta wing it”. Schwab, for instance, referred to herself as a “connect-the-dots-er”. George R R Martin, one of the world’s leading “gardeners” famously gave the notes for his ending to showrunners. Joyce was a self-proclaimed pantser and yet he too did extensive research. And I read a fantastic post about all the ways plotting and pantsing overlap. This makes the most sense to me. I for one consider myself a hardcore plotter… and yet this is only true up to a point. Beat sheets are a joy-killer for me, I’ve pantsed a novella and I usually leave subplots/romances unplanned (which helps keep some parts a bit more dynamic). That’s why I think drawing a clear-cut line between the two is a little rigid. Especially as there are pros and cons to both…

Plotting upsides

One of the best things for me about knowing an ending is that it gives a clear goal for you to write towards. Personally, I find it keeps characters consistent, whilst also allowing for growth. If you know where a character has to end up and how it’s different from where they came from, you can chart a clear course. This also may allow for a smoother plot and maybe even a cleaner drafter (maybe). The genres I’d say this is ideal for is thrillers, mysteries and epics- because a pre-planned plot can help you weave interesting setups and even red herrings organically into the narrative. Though foreshadowing in tragedy doesn’t go amiss 😉 I’d also say, as Stein pointed out, it’s a great way to prevent writer’s block and can sooth any nervous starters. 

One of the misconceptions of plotting is that it doesn’t allow for deviation- therefore sucking all the creativity out of the project. Now, this obviously isn’t true in the sense that creativity and imagination has to happen at some stage in order for the story to work- it may just happen in the planning stage. However, I’d say for me (and many other plotters) I tend to think about it more as adding complexity- you haven’t taken anything away by putting a plan in place- you’ve just laid the foundations for you to build on (we’re back to that awesome architect metaphor!) Also, frankly, I’m pretty sure even the most diehard plotters deviate at some point. I don’t think anyone can get away without some aspect of discovery writing.

Plotting downsides

Unfortunately, though, there is the danger of pre-plotted stories becoming predictable. There is also the argument that it doesn’t leave room for inspiration (which I’d disagree with as a plotter- having a roadmap doesn’t ruin my enjoyment, especially since the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and you never really know where you’ll end up. Plus, creating plans can be a lot of fun in its own right). The most serious argument I have heard is that planned endings give you the danger of veering into propaganda- since you know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it (though, looking at the authors above, I think it’s fairly safe to say the danger is no stronger whichever path you choose). I’d say the biggest cause for concern is that sticking to a planned ending may not always be in the story’s best interest, as a narrative might shift organically over time (the best example of this being HIMYM’s forced ending).

Pantsing upsides

I do definitely see the upsides of pantsing (even if it fills me with utter dread). Because countless pantsers will tell you how thrilling this method is, how much fun they have and how it helps them keep their ideas fresh. It’s known for being open to the imagination and giving the writer as much of a wild ride as the reader. And the results are telling- there are some stellar authors who swear by pantsing. For some people, this invigorating process is certainly the way to go, which can give raw and powerful results.

Pantsing downsides

Not knowing what’s going to happen can certainly have its issues though. The fear would be that after a stellar opening, the story can fizzle out (I know I’ve read a few of those). I also think there is the potential for plots to come out of nowhere or feel random (the upside of this being that the universe is pretty random- so that gives it something of an edge in terms of realism over a heavily constructed story). There is a potential to come unstuck as well (although many plotters will tell you they have the same issue- *raises hand*- and there is always the option to plot/feel/stab your way out of any writing corner you’ve backed yourself into). I think the same final issue of forced endings comes into play- because this seems to be a pitfall for pantsers as well.

Ultimately, it’s not so important which method you choose, because the process doesn’t mark out the end result for greatness. These discussions always allow for the basic truth: all creatives have a different process. No two writers work the same. And, even more importantly, we must take stock of this simple fact:

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Sources:

https://themillions.com/2016/07/planners-pantsers-write-novel.html

http://www.amreading.com/2016/09/18/what-are-plotters-and-pantsers-hint-j-k-rowling-is-one-and-stephen-king-is-the-other/

https://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/549-plotters-vs-pantsers-can-you-guess-which-side-stephen-king-and-j-k-ro

https://thethousandlives.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/fierce-reads-san-diego-stop-leigh-bardugo-ava-dellaira-emmy-laybourne-and-jennifer-mathieu/

http://bookandlatte.com/2012/11/sarah-j-maas-how-i-write.html

http://www.lainitaylor.com/2013/07/

https://yawednesdays.com/2015/11/16/10-things-we-learned-about-rainbow-rowell-and-david-levithan/

Other posts in the series:

Pared down vs Purple prose – Differences in Style #1

The art of Intertextuality vs Innovation – Differences in Style #2

*ALL the Viewpoints – Differences in Style #3

Coherence Vs Incoherence – Differences in Style #4

Telling Vs Showing – Differences in Style #5

Unreliable Narrators – Differences in Style #6

The Art of Fragmentation – Difference in Style #7

Subverting Expectations vs Wish Fulfilment – Differences in Style #8

What do you think? Do you think there are any upsides/downsides that I’ve missed? If you’re a writer, do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser? Let me know in the comments!

Subverting Expectations vs Wish Fulfilment – Differences in Style #8

 

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Normally, I do these posts because I’ve read a cool book recently or been writing something related or seen a craft video- not this day! For a change, I was inspired (and challenged) to do this because of my recent TV watching habits. Thanks to the shocker of an ending for Game of Thrones and the contrastingly amazing finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I’ve been thinking a lot about how story may (or may not) stick the landing.

So what do I mean by wish fulfilment? Well, in the case of a comedy, this is when characters get exactly what they want/deserve. The baddies are punished, the goodies are rewarded. In a tragedy, the heroes suffer too, but we’re okay with that cos readers are masochists it’s *cathartic*. Basically, if a book does what it says on the tin, chances are it fits into this.

The only rare cases when this fails is in satire or if there’s been an implied twist on the tropes. A good example of this for me was in Shadow and Bone, which I felt held promise as being a fresh take on the fantasy genre, but ended up being conformist. That said, a lot of people loved that very traditional ending, so you can see how that gets subjective pretty fast 😉 There is also the issue of predictability- which I find a lot of readers are forgiving of- even in the thriller genre. What I will say is when this veers off into really dodgy territory is when a choice is made for “fanservice”- where the creator makes a decision purely to please fans- which ultimately backfires spectacularly. I often imagine misguided producers shrieking: “I was doing this to please you! I thought it was what you wanted! LOVE ME!” Let’s just say, I’m not a fan.

Moving on, I think we’ve heard a lot about subverting expectations lately because of Game of Thrones royally screwing up its ending. However, it might surprise non-fans to hear that Game of Thrones actually used to be the *BOMB* at this (back when the show was following GRRM’s books, that is). Spoilers if you plan to watch/read it, the Red Wedding in particular is my favourite example: yes, there was misdirection upto this point, but when you looked back you could see exactly how this was set up and how it was secretly the logical outcome for Robb’s story arc. Sure, it was a shock, because the characters involved didn’t see it coming, but a clever reader could’ve seen the writing on the wall. And yes, plotlines were abandoned because of it, but it not only made logical sense, it left you with an even greater sense of longing for what might have been AND managed to create dramatic consequences for the other players in the story. Essentially, subverting expectations enhanced the story in every way!

Sadly, subverting expectations won’t always work and the final season of Game of Thrones proved this unequivocally. There was very little setup in order for there to be payoff, often plotlines came out of nowhere, and there appeared to be times when the writers pivoted direction mid-story.

D and D we hope to avoid the expected.png

But of course, as George R R Martin says:

george r r martin plan.png

One of the biggest components for this failure is that the building blocks of character and story have to be in place in order for this to work. Sometimes you can get away with this in terms of tone, as with Carry On, indicating through jokes that this is a parody of Harry Potter; sometimes you have write hundreds of thousands of words before you can twist the story on its head. Point is, readers/viewers will be unhappy if a plot thread comes out of nowhere. Plus, there has to be a reason for doing this: humour is a good reason, challenging convention is another, entertaining the viewer also works… to an extent. Because if the audience suspects this is purely for shock value, they’ll ultimately be dissatisfied. Again, it all comes down to delivering that longed for catharsis.

Most of the time, things fall in the messy middle though. Endings that are bittersweet- like the emotionally charged victory of Lord of the Rings– can be equally as satisfying. Even things we think of as classic tragedies, like Romeo and Juliet, play into comedic tropes in order to subvert them (and ultimately ends up conforming to tragic conventions). Narrative arcs will generally allow for characters to rise and fall (in tragedy allowing for a moment of bliss and in comedy giving a time for despair). Very few books “flatline” (a distinct example being City of Dreadful Night– where the narrative remains bleak throughout). For instance, this is a useful source showing the rise and falls in six basic plots. And here’s my (entirely subjective and unscientific) graph of where a story might fall in terms of subverting or fulfilling expectations:

(where tragedies end in death and comedies end in marriage)

subvert expectations graph.png

Whether you entirely agree or disagree with where I’ve placed certain stories, hopefully you can see the difference in endings. And even after we’ve considered all of this, sometimes an ending can deliver for some fans and not others (as is the case with Harry Potter). Chances are there will be dissatisfied parties and I will say that there’s no pleasing everyone- and that’s not a bad thing! Really, there is no one way to stick the landing and we always have to consider that taste plays a part. And I haven’t even covered the difference plotting vs pantsing makes when it comes to endings… that’s a discussion for another time.

Pared down vs Purple prose – Differences in Style #1

The art of Intertextuality vs Innovation – Differences in Style #2

*ALL the Viewpoints – Differences in Style #3

Coherence Vs Incoherence – Differences in Style #4

Telling Vs Showing – Differences in Style #5

Unreliable Narrators – Differences in Style #6

The Art of Fragmentation – Difference in Style #7

So what are your thoughts on the differences? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said here? Let me know in the comments!