Friday, January 13, 2012

Guest Blogger: Carolyn Frank on Super 8: Bad Luck or Bad Story Question?

It's time for a guest blogger - today I welcome Carolyn Frank. She is hosting me on her blog as well - go check it out! Carolyn, take it away.

Today being Friday the 13th, I felt "luck" would be a fitting topic.

My husband and I watched the movie Super 8 over the holidays, hoping for the typical Steven Spielberg type of entertainment. We were disappointed. After reading some reviews, we found that the movie had done relatively poorly for a Spielberg film, confirming our sentiments.

Was Super 8’s lack of success merely a case of bad luck for Spielberg? I don’t think so. I think it was a matter of why a lot of books flop—it lacked a story question. (A story question is: what does the protagonist want; what is his goal. Jordan McCollum has an awesome post about this on her website about this.)

My husband isn’t even a writer, or a reader of fiction, but he recognized the lack of “story” in the movie. “What was the movie really about?” he asked. “Was it a story about a boy losing his mother, a story about kids making movies, a story about a kid experiencing his first love, or a story about an alien wanting to go home?”

It could have been about any one of those and been a good story. But unfortunately, it was about all of them, yet none of them. It was like trying to make a meal out of the free samples at Sam’s Club; they’re all tasty, but you come away wanting a real meal, one that works together to satisfy your hunger and your nutritional needs.

Having a strong story question is essential to the success of any story, whether on the page or on the screen. And just knowing what the protagonist wants is not enough. The entire focus of the story must work around it—not special effects or interesting side characters. What he wants must be in jeopardy, not some alien that we haven’t even come to care about. And the resolution needs to pertain to what he wanted, not the cool destruction of an entire town so some alien’s spaceship can mysteriously (I didn’t understand this part), come together and fly him out of there.

Super 8 is prime example of how even the most polished of artists can lose sight of what makes a story tick. A famous name alone cannot ensure the success of a production or a book. In one aspect we are on a level playing field with the big name authors/producers—it’s not a matter of luck that will make our works successful, it’s a matter of following the time tested rules of story.

Carolyn Frank’s first book, Hattie’s Promise, will be coming out this spring. It is a Middle Grade historical fiction set in the shadow of Bryce Canyon before it became a national park. Before she started writing seriously, Carolyn created and owned her own company, Puppet Partners Inc. She designed puppets and wrote and produced numerous puppet plays for the educational market.


Donna K. Weaver said...

And yet I still enjoyed this movie. Watching those kids made it all worth while. Great cinema. Definitely not. Maybe I'm too easy to please.

kbrebes said...

I loved the movie and thought the story question was, "Can Joe let go of the past? Can he overcome the loss of his mom?" And then there's the question, "How will he handle life with his Dad? Will he be able to make the jump over their bad relationship to form a working family/lasting relationship?" I think the quirky things in the movie are what led him to make that jump, run into his Dad's arms, and let go of the necklace at the end. Ahh, I bought the DVD. LOL

Tapper said...

For me the downfall of the movie was the horrible language. Some of the scenes were funny and entertaining, but my ears hurt so bad from the way that they talked that it was hard to pay attention.

Anonymous said...

The only thing I think worked about this movie was Elle Fanning. She drew me in when the entire rest of the movie failed to do so. As you said, it was trying to do too many things and not accomplishing any of them. Love the Costco comparison. Works perfectly.

Jordan McCollum said...

Thanks for the shout out, Carolyn & Tristi!

Apparently I'm the only one who hasn't seen Super 8. Oh well.

franklycreative said...

Thanks for letting me a guest on your blog, Tristi. You're a peach!

Peggy Eddleman said...

I thought the same thing! There was a lot of great things in the movie, but when you left, it just kind of felt like you really missed something. You didn't feel full. :)

Valerie Ipson said...

Yes, to everything you said, except about the movie because I haven't seen it. I go away from many movies lamenting their lack of plot.

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