Being interesting

Due to massive schedule cockups on mine and TYG’s part last weekend, we were only able to catch two feature films at Nevermore (even though I volunteered) and one of them had to be The Casebook of Eddie Brewer (2013(. Which did, however, get me thinking about the problem of build-up in a fantasy story.
One of the critiques I got on the earlier draft of Affairs of Honor was that if I was presenting a Colonial American world where magic works, it needed to be clear up front what sort of magic we were working with. Which, judging from reading it to the writing group this week, I’ve done successfully.
I think this is generally good advice for alternate histories (I’ve given it to other people). If you’re writing a world where the Nazis won or Chairman Mao is a vampire, it needs to be obvious up front: Writing 50 pages of straight adventure or drama, then revealing things are different is going to leave people feeling the rug’s pulled out from under them.
With an “intrusion” fantasy—it’s our normal world, except magic is somehow intruding it into it—you have more flexibility. You can take some time to set up the normal world before the weirdness starts, introduce one weird moment then let everything lie fallow (so readers have to wonder when it’ll pop up again) or slowly build to something freaky.
The trouble is, in all these cases, the mundane ordinary part has to be interesting. Which is where Eddie Brewer falls flat.
The British film has a TV reporter following the eponymous paranormal investigator around (yes, it’s another of those hand-held camera films) through his fairly dull investigations. Then we get to a supposedly haunted block of flats, where we get a few creepy incidents, but mostly a lot more talk, talk, talk about what’s going on, and more talk from people who don’t believe. And then finally we get a murky climax in which lots of weird stuff happens and people die and at the end Eddie is just left wondering what the hell happened.
This could have worked fine if the focus had been on Eddie’s character, but it isn’t; he doesn’t have anything that could be called a character arc. He doesn’t grow or change, but his failure to grow isn’t the point either. Instead, they seem to be shooting for a cinema verite depiction of life as a paranormal investigator … but even if it’s spot-on, it’s a pretty dull life (which ties in with this earlier post). I imagine they’d have cut most of the footage for the TV report. We should have been so lucky.
A minor problem is that in one scene, a girl whispers the true name of the creature haunting her and Eddie is clearly horrified. We never learn what the name is. I would count that as a cheat.
My other Nevermore film was much better, so I’ll save it for Saturday.


Filed under Movies, Uncategorized, Writing

2 responses to “Being interesting

  1. Pingback: Movies and Books | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Movies and Books | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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