Saturday, March 12, 2011

Loss of a Teardrop Diamond and Emotional Pulls

I decided to watch The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond tonight. It's an unfinished screenplay by Tennessee Williams about a snobby debutante who bribes a hunky plantation workers' son (played by Chris Evans) to escort her to a series of coming out parties.

I watched, skeptically, as themes of euthanasia, abortion, drugs, division between laboring classes and sex before marriage were tossed about the screen.

As much as I enjoyed the scenery...

...I just felt the characters lacked depth. Sure, I felt for the bored, rich girl that no one liked. I longed for her to be redeemed. I wanted to see the workers' son, for once, not swallow his pride, but stand up for what he really wanted. I didn't know if the two leads were going to hook up in the end.

The movie just didn't pull me in.

Until it did.

Like one minute from the end. [Spoiler alert]

They're standing side-by-side on a levee, overlooking a river tinseling with moonlight. They refuse to look at one another. He's angry at his position, at her, at what she's asked of him time and time again. She's longing for his love, but doesn't know how to show it.

She asks him for a kiss.


She turns toward him, a tear rolling down her cheek.

His gaze slowly follows as it runs to her chin. His eyes linger on her lips. He's holding his breath. He turns away.

Her breath is punched out of her. Knowing he's rejected her for the second time in one night, she walks away, defeated. But the instant she turns, he grabs her arm.

My stomach caught.

She glances at their hands, at him, tears falling freely to the earth that's bound him into such a lowly position. He pulls her close.

Cue credits.

The message I took from this movie wasn't Williams' stance on abortion or sex before marriage or drugs or euthanasia. It came back to writing. It only takes one emotional stomach catch...for your writing to shift from meager to spectacular.

Thanks to that one scene my opinion of the movie completely changed. What girl wants to beg a guy to kiss her, only to be turned down? It's not a stretch to imagine the total embarrassment she would feel. What girl wants to have to convince a guy to be with her time and time again? It's not a stretch to imagine how desperation would taint her spirit.

It wasn't the strong, universal themes from the movie that will stick with was the simple guy/girl dynamic. The dynamic I can relate to on a very real level. THAT'S what got me. Not the complex plot. Not the stunning imagery. Not the controversial themes.

Just the simple human emotion.

Now to figure out how to elicit that emotional tug from a reader...if you come up with a simple fail-proof formula, be sure to let me know. Until then, I'm going to netflix some other movies that'll help me finish up my insane-plotting sessions for Book 3.


A. J. Larrieu said...

I think you make a great point here--no matter how "big" a story is or how complex the issues it deals with are, it's really the characters we relate to. If there's no one in the story we can connect to, we lose interest.

Nicki Elson said...

Well, my dear, you certainly did pull me in with your writing of that scene, so I'm gonna guess that emotional tugs are no problem at all for you to accomplish. ;) There is no formula for it, just inspiration.

Kristin Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristin Miller said...

A.J--Thanks and you're right! Most times I remember the lead characters from my favorite books, not necessarily the scenes they spun around. Yet, here I am, a plot-driven writer. Sheesh. There's balance in there somewhere, to be found, I know it. *Back to plotting I go*

Nicki--You are too kind. :) Emotional tugs are definitely not my least I don't think so. Complicated plot lines, turning points and black moments tend to come to me more easily than a complex character who really tugs at your heartstrings. And although I've never read your work, I hear it's fantastic. :)