First, a confession. Yes, I occasionally watch Lifetime movies. I know I'm not breaking any female stereotypes, but anyway there it is. Now, I know when I tune into one of these movies that the story is probably going to be a bit melodramatic and that I shouldn't expect Oscar worthy scripts. However, the one I watched the other day just made me want to beat my head against the remote. Yet, I couldn't stop watching of course.
The story, The Boy Next Door, was a pretty simple set up: romance author (now you know why I tuned in) rents a lakeside cottage to work on her next book. The guy living next door turns out to be a handsome, young stud who she starts watching and taking pictures of from afar for inspiration for her book. (stalk much?) Then, of course, one night she's taking pictures of him and some woman through his kitchen window and the next day, he turns up dead. Shocker.
Okay, so conflict: she doesn't want to tell the cops about the pictures because, well, it's creepy and weird that she was taking them in the first place. This is where my first issue came in--if I have pics of a potential murder suspect, I'm handing them over, even if it means embarrassment. But I bit my lip and suspended my disbelief to keep watching. Well, because she's acting all shifty, the cops begin to suspect her.
Now she feels like she needs to prove her innocence. So what does she do? She breaks into the house next door to search for evidence. Um, seriously? Suspicion is on you, so you're going to go sprinkle your DNA all over the potential crime scene--not to mention risk getting caught in the house? Puh-lease. Now we have entered TSTL (too stupid to live) territory.
Do not do this in your writing. This pisses off readers almost as much as killing the dog. But what if you need for your character to get into a particular situation to move the plot forward?
Then, motivate it. If, say, the woman in this movie had heard that the cops were coming to pick her up in the morning and throw her in jail, then maybe I would believe she would take such a huge risk and break into the house because it was her last hope.
Readers want to believe what you're telling them, but without proper motivation, they won't buy it. So make sure if you need your heroine to go investigate her yard in the middle of the night because she heard a noise that you've given her good motivation to do so. If she's a cop and is confident wielding a gun and searching for a bad guy, then I'll go there with you. If she's a waitress, has no weapon, and is afraid of the dark, I'm closing the book and moving onto something else.
This gem of a Lifetime movie also held a lesson on coincidences, which I will cover tomorrow, so be sure to stop by. :)
So, what movies or books have you seen/read that had TSTL characters? Have you ever found your characters doing something because your plot needed it to happen but their motivation didn't make sense? Am I the only one watching Lifetime movies?
"Stupid Girls" - Pink