Monday, February 20, 2012

Fixing the Plot

I don't know about the rest of you, but I like to reread my favorite books or watch an old film or tv episode when I need comfort.  It's like having a beer or a chocolate bar except without the fat and sugar.  Unfortunately, no matter how many times I read certain books, the protagonists insist on making the same stupid decisions.  Shouting at them does not help (though it will get you some privacy to read or an introduction to the cute security guy at the 24-hour Greek restaurant where you are raving nonsensically at your book).  I find this a bit frustrating. 

When I was a little kid, there were a series of books published in which you supposedly got to affect the plot by making various choices as you read.  I hated those things.  They did not satisfy my annoyance about the characters' choices because you never had a coherent plot to work with--and the books just weren't very good.  Besides, you were always being told to "turn to page 17" for one path and then "turn to page 32" for another, and it made it damned difficult to remember where you actually left off in the book.

Anyway, I've had a frustrating week (yes, I know it's Monday, but it's one of those Mondays where you have a two-hour meeting that makes you want to bang your head against the wall, but you can't because you have a stack of papers to grade and also you promised to buy a drink for someone because you posted a cancer joke on her facebook wall that will probably get you sent to hell eventually), so I've made a list of advice I'd like to give various characters in various works of fiction and drama.  Feel free to add your own, if you like.

1. Criseyde from Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde:  just sneak out after your father and leave Troy to its fate, preferably after lacing your uncle's food with a powerful laxative.

2. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre:  don't marry him.

3. Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre:  don't marry him.

4. Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings: call the eagles to carry you over the mountains and tell Saruman that you gave the One Ring to the balrog.

5.  Charles Bovary from Madame Bovary: don't marry her.

6.  Ophelia from Hamlet:  he's not worth it, but if you must have him, dress up as a boy, add some white make up and chains and tell him that his fate is to elope with Ophelia and move to a better climate.  Suggest Italy. 

7. Rick Santorum* from The 2012 Presidential Election:  Stop asking people, "If you were Satan, who would you attack?" because there's a certain narrative inevitability about that kind of thing.  Haven't you noticed everyone edging away with frozen smiles?

8. Charlie Swan from Twilight***:  for Athena's sake, move yourself and your daughter to someplace sunny and buy her the complete dvd collection of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.

9. Arthur from Malory's works: when choosing a bride, listen to Merlin.  Also, Morgause?  Dude, she's your sister.  Sister.  Whatever, but don't think we're buying that love spell story.

10. Tony from West Side Story:  don't go to the rumble.  I said don't go. 

11.  Andromache from the Iliad:  get out.  Take your son and flee.  Don't wait for Hektor; he's doomed.  Steal whatever wealth you can carry, grab Cassandra or someone and get the hades out of that place.

12. Rachel from Glee: you're much more talented than Lori Singer's character was, so have your dads move to New York where Debbie Allen can help you learn to dance and you and Coco can duke it out for parts.  Seriously, Erica Gimpel is still working fairly steadily, so get thyself to NYC already.  Also, don't marry him.

13.  Mina from Dracula: a small crossbow, suitable for ladies, would eliminate the last fifty tedious pages of the novel.

14. Desdemona from Othello: don't marry him.

15.  Han Solo from Empire Strikes Back:  find another place to put down for repairs. 

*Yes, I've heard the rumor that he is not a fictional character, but I don't buy it.  He's just not plausible, and I got taken in by Ross Perot** and refuse to be fooled again.
**No, I didn't vote for him!  I believed the mainstream media's assertion that he was a real candidate.
***This does not count as a "favorite book."


  1. Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games: don't trust anyone, stop getting hurt so badly that you make yourself useless to everyone, accept your fate and make people listen to you instead of just maneuvering you around, you aren't Bella Swan so stop moping like her and act like you are really "the girl on fire". Also, don't marry him, he's boring.

  2. Also, Troilus, grow a pair!