Strong characters, but weak plot?

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trooper6
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Re: Strong characters, but weak plot?

#16 Post by trooper6 » Sat Mar 14, 2015 7:45 pm

OokamiKasumi wrote:
trooper6 wrote:OokamiKasumi, what a great post! I loved your discussion of traditional romance structure...and the class based analysis suddenly makes a number of things clear to me that weren't before.
LOL! I freely admit to reading way too many historical (traditional) Romance novels, and bodice-rippers.
I know this is probably not the thread for it...but I have a follow up question on this thought.
So, although I'm an academic, I come from a working class background and find myself frustrated with works of art whose aesthetic normalizes and universalizes middle class morality too much. So now I understand why I've been too often annoyed by traditional romances. Basically, I want romance heroines who have working class femininity...which involves assertiveness and being active. I understand that historically novels have been marketed towards middle class audiences...but there have been genres marketed towards working class readers. So...do you have any recommendations of romances with working class heroines or working class aesthetics?

I mean the only stuff I know of that might fit my tastes are by Mae West...which I love. And maybe a few of the film musicals of the 1930s...like Golddiggers of 1933 or 42nd Street?

This reminds me bit of an article about the sexual forwardness of The Little Mermaid's Ursula and how society must frame this as evil. Here's a quote:

"Ursula the Sea Witch, from The Little Mermaid, seems a prime candidate to reclaim as tough love mentor, as directors Ron Clements and John Musker did themselves with Mama Odie; what other villains make “evil” schemes so perfectly tailored to help “victims” confront mental obstacles and achieve personal growth? Ursula actually shares many qualities with McCarthy’s character in Bridesmaids: she is sexually assertive, shameless, and models fat acceptance. She positively oozes anarchic vitality. We are drawn to these qualities in McCarthy but, as young girls, we learn through Ursula that they are grotesque and associated with evil. Theoretically. We’re not told why Ursula was banished from Triton’s palace, but she embodies “dark feminine” qualities that are routinely suppressed or mocked by our own culture. Ursula’s show-stopper, “Poor, Unfortunate Souls,” presents case studies of mermen and mermaids made miserable by culture. What this song really teaches is that internalizing cultural messages is a fatal weakness, and rejecting cultural conditioning is a source of great power. Small wonder that Ursula had to die the most gruesome onscreen death in all of Disney."
http://www.btchflcks.com/2015/02/reclai ... QTJhYb3arV

So...I've always preferred the sort of heroine that middle classes have found too forward and who therefore must end up having to be villains or dead. So...do you have book recommendations for things that might be up my alley in the realm of romance?
Last edited by trooper6 on Sat Mar 14, 2015 9:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Strong characters, but weak plot?

#17 Post by Cith » Sat Mar 14, 2015 8:39 pm

That was a pretty awesome post, and I'm disappointed there's no "like" button on Lemma.
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Re: Strong characters, but weak plot?

#18 Post by trooper6 » Sat Mar 14, 2015 9:06 pm

Hm...now that I think about it, there has been lots of writing arguing that the very modern notion of romance is fundamentally an 18/19th Century middle class invention...so maybe what I want doesn't really exist?

Though, perhaps some of the romance storylines in British Working Class soaps like Eastenders might count?

These are things to ponder artistically.

Side note: it is too bad there is no like button.
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*Currently Doing: Coding of emotions and camera for the labels--On 5/10
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*Next Next thing to do: Set up film animation
*Other Thing to Do: Do SFX and Score (maybe think about eye blinks?)
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Re: Strong characters, but weak plot?

#19 Post by OokamiKasumi » Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:13 pm

trooper6 wrote:... although I'm an academic, I come from a working class background and find myself frustrated with works of art whose aesthetic normalizes and universalizes middle class morality too much. So now I understand why I've been too often annoyed by traditional romances. Basically, I want romance heroines who have working class femininity...which involves assertiveness and being active. I understand that historically novels have been marketed towards middle class audiences...but there have been genres marketed towards working class readers.
Something you may have overlooked; Romance novels have always been written by middle class people specifically for middle class readers. They're 'middle class' Fantasies of the nobility. Realistically, true noble women in such dire straits would not have had any reservations about acting 'forward' to save themselves from poverty, but that doesn't fit with what the middle class wanted to believe as the noble Heroine 'ideal,' so that's not what got published.

Why do so many housewives and teenagers adore the Twilight series?
-- Because it's a Fantasy about romantic love with a monster only they can control who is beautiful only for them. As poorly written as it is, it fulfills one of the most popular romantic fantasies of all time: Beauty & the Beast; the ultimate Love-Slave story specifically for women.
trooper6 wrote:So...do you have any recommendations of romances with working class heroines or working class aesthetics? I mean the only stuff I know of that might fit my tastes are by Mae West...which I love. And maybe a few of the film musicals of the 1930s...like Golddiggers of 1933 or 42nd Street?
Unfortunately, I don't. Such stories never appealed to me because they're too close to reality for my personal comfort.
trooper6 wrote:This reminds me bit of an article about the sexual forwardness of The Little Mermaid's Ursula and how society must frame this as evil. Here's a quote:
"Ursula the Sea Witch, from The Little Mermaid, seems a prime candidate to reclaim as tough love mentor, as directors Ron Clements and John Musker did themselves with Mama Odie; what other villains make “evil” schemes so perfectly tailored to help “victims” confront mental obstacles and achieve personal growth? Ursula actually shares many qualities with McCarthy’s character in Bridesmaids: she is sexually assertive, shameless, and models fat acceptance. She positively oozes anarchic vitality. We are drawn to these qualities in McCarthy but, as young girls, we learn through Ursula that they are grotesque and associated with evil. Theoretically. We’re not told why Ursula was banished from Triton’s palace, but she embodies “dark feminine” qualities that are routinely suppressed or mocked by our own culture. Ursula’s show-stopper, “Poor, Unfortunate Souls,” presents case studies of mermen and mermaids made miserable by culture. What this song really teaches is that internalizing cultural messages is a fatal weakness, and rejecting cultural conditioning is a source of great power. Small wonder that Ursula had to die the most gruesome onscreen death in all of Disney."
http://www.btchflcks.com/2015/02/reclai ... QTJhYb3arV
Keep in mind, Walt Disney Corp supports the 'cultural norm' of 'sweet Virginal non-violent innocence' in their female characters almost rabidly. It's absolutely no wonder to me that Walt Disney chose this sort of female for a Villain.
trooper6 wrote:So...I've always preferred the sort of heroine that middle classes have found too forward and who therefore must end up having to be villains or dead.
LOL! You're not the first, nor will you be the last. In fact, the more outcry for these types of stories there is, the more likely authors will come out of the woodwork to write them. The trick is finding who is publishing them.
Cith wrote:That was a pretty awesome post, and I'm disappointed there's no "like" button on Lemma.
Aww... Thank you!
trooper6 wrote:Hm...now that I think about it, there has been lots of writing arguing that the very modern notion of romance is fundamentally an 18/19th Century middle class invention...
This is actually TRUE.
trooper6 wrote:so maybe what I want doesn't really exist?
I'm sure it does, but you're going to have to comb through the Romance section to find it, or look in the Literature section. In fact, the closer to truth the story is, the more likely it will be in the Literature or Fiction section.
trooper6 wrote:Though, perhaps some of the romance storylines in British Working Class soaps like Eastenders might count?
They DO count!
trooper6 wrote:Side note: it is too bad there is no like button.
LOL!
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Re: Strong characters, but weak plot?

#20 Post by trooper6 » Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:26 pm

OokamiKasumi wrote: Something you may have overlooked; Romance novels have always been written by middle class people specifically for middle class readers. They're 'middle class' Fantasies of the nobility. Realistically, true noble women in such dire straits would not have had any reservations about acting 'forward' to save themselves from poverty, but that doesn't fit with what the middle class wanted to believe as the noble Heroine 'ideal,' so that's not what got published.
The minute you wrote this, it all became clear. Now I know why so many romance novels chap my hide.
OokamiKasumi wrote: Keep in mind, Walt Disney Corp supports the 'cultural norm' of 'sweet Virginal non-violent innocence' in their female characters almost rabidly. It's absolutely no wonder to me that Walt Disney chose this sort of female for a Villain.
Oh, Disney is super creepy. So super creepy.
OokamiKasumi wrote:
trooper6 wrote:Though, perhaps some of the romance storylines in British Working Class soaps like Eastenders might count?
They DO count!
So what I want then, is a VN with romance that seems like Eastenders. Actually, I don't see why kitchen sink realist soaps wouldn't make a great model for a VN.
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Re: Strong characters, but weak plot?

#21 Post by OokamiKasumi » Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:31 am

trooper6 wrote:
OokamiKasumi wrote: Keep in mind, Walt Disney Corp supports the 'cultural norm' of 'sweet Virginal non-violent innocence' in their female characters almost rabidly. It's absolutely no wonder to me that Walt Disney chose this sort of female for a Villain.
Oh, Disney is super creepy. So super creepy.
A prime example is Mulan. They spent fully half the movie with her training to kill, yet in the end the villain doesn't die by her hand, he's killed by the Comedy Relief character: Mushu.
trooper6 wrote:So what I want then, is a VN with romance that seems like Eastenders. Actually, I don't see why kitchen sink realist soaps wouldn't make a great model for a VN.
So, what's stopping you from making one?
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Re: Strong characters, but weak plot?

#22 Post by trooper6 » Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:52 am

OokamiKasumi wrote:
trooper6 wrote:
OokamiKasumi wrote: Keep in mind, Walt Disney Corp supports the 'cultural norm' of 'sweet Virginal non-violent innocence' in their female characters almost rabidly. It's absolutely no wonder to me that Walt Disney chose this sort of female for a Villain.
Oh, Disney is super creepy. So super creepy.
A prime example is Mulan. They spent fully half the movie with her training to kill, yet in the end the villain doesn't die by her hand, he's killed by the Comedy Relief character: Mushu.
Oh Mulan. That ending really ticked me off.
OokamiKasumi wrote:
trooper6 wrote:So what I want then, is a VN with romance that seems like Eastenders. Actually, I don't see why kitchen sink realist soaps wouldn't make a great model for a VN.
So, what's stopping you from making one?
It'll go on my list of projects! It'll have to follow after my creepy noir projects though. I'll probably look to both Eastenders and the work of Jaime Hernandez in Love and Rockets for inspiration.
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Re: Strong characters, but weak plot?

#23 Post by OokamiKasumi » Sun Mar 15, 2015 1:32 am

trooper6 wrote:It'll go on my list of projects! It'll have to follow after my creepy noir projects though. I'll probably look to both Eastenders and the work of Jaime Hernandez in Love and Rockets for inspiration.
Sounds like a plan!
-- Oh, and I happen to like creepy noir.
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Re: Strong characters, but weak plot?

#24 Post by inkbrush » Wed Mar 18, 2015 6:34 am

No idea if I'm too late posting here or not but I figured if anyone having a similar problem looks through this thread, they'll at least see this.

As my favorite author, Max Kirin, says:

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Re: Strong characters, but weak plot?

#25 Post by TheDesman » Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:11 am

Why is your plot "weak"?

What I mean is that what happens in your story might not threaten the end of the world, but it might mean the world to your character.

For example if I were to compare two different stories. In one we have a superhero that fight against an evil conglomerate that controls the world. The other story is about a guy taking out his trash. Is the first story inherently stronger? Not necessarily. Of course, the premise might sound more interesting and grander. But that won't mean that the story will be better.

But the story about the guy might be a journey through time. Each object in the trash bag is a relic of past mistakes, and he's not left his apartment for almost a year. He's not sure whether or not he has the strength to do it. But in the end he manages to sever the ties and move on.
While the superhero story might just be a series of transitions and then suddenly it's all over.

Show me why this is so important to you character(s)? Engage me through their actions and reactions as they handle their problems. Make me care for their troubles. Then you'll have a strong plot.

I could probably elaborate around this some more but there are already a lot of text in this discussion so I think I'll keep it short.
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Re: Strong characters, but weak plot?

#26 Post by Rossfellow » Thu Mar 19, 2015 8:53 am

Here's a rather relevant video even if it's not a topic about written work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j1PXhkXJ2A

the tl;dr version is, good character can support weak backstory, but not vice versa. Characters are why you care about backstories to begin with.

Plot and characters should be two sides of the same coin. What characters do in an important plot point determines what kind of character they are. Even if the plot is something as weak as being behind on a cooking contest, what does the character do about it?
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___(n) 1: The averse reaction to stillness, silence and/or state of helplessness.
______2: (Psychology) A state of distress where the victim's sense of reality can no longer keep up with his or her imagination.
______Related: Madness, Paranoia, Despair

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