Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lipstick + Pigs = Miss Piggy – you thought she was for kids? Ha!

Part 5 continued from series Good Story and the Lie

I often think of the overused example of Twilight. Had that manuscript crossed my desk, I would have told the author not to bother—and maybe gently asked her if she was getting any help for her rampant case of adverbs?

(The excerpt above is from the original article quoted in the first post about Marketability. I haven’t read Twilight, I watched the first movie.)

 In her opinion, the story didn’t work for her. Why did it work for the YA market? Is it because our kids care less about story and more about the teen angst? Is it the magic of a teen heartthrob? It’s possible, but I think it’s because the teen angst is the story. When plot is something teens (or fans in general) can latch onto with tenacious strength it is nothing when compared to teen angst. This is something our kids live every day as they try to find themselves in the complex social structure of the zoo (high school). Survivial with one's cool status intact or improved is all that matters. It is suvival in the social jungle I've known teens who can give a honey bager lessons in viciousness when they set their minds to it.

Teen angst is a powerful motivation to any kid with a social barometer. Add to that, the classic archetype of Romeo and Juliet, with forbidden love. And here come the raging hormones of puberty into the mix. That is a No-Brainer receipe for success. Or at least as close to a gurantee anyone will ever get in a world that does not have safey nets.

My belief that the author's ability to recognize the needed aspects, then create a story with those aspects well presented, and do it for a series of works is admirable and quite a feat that should be commended. But it is also my belief those factors don't make Twilight a Good Story (Take cover! Incoming! Kathryn dives into a foxhole and grabs the Kevlar helmet. Ground Control to Major Tom! Huh - oh crap - wrong channel!) Okay, sorry gang - again I'm not trying to offend anyone here, but let me continue to the point. Now that I have the bullet proof vest on. Don't make me break out Sworn to Love and get Nathan in here. He's a SEAL and I'm not afraid to use him. ;) Besides he's gorgeous and distracting.

My point about Twilight is that it has powerful elements which we all recognize as being part of Good Story. Power is power no lipstick needed on that pig at all. It is what it is. If we think of marketability as putting lipstick on a pig, then adding good story elements can combine to bring us...oh dear...

Miss Piggy!

Now y'all think I've totally lost it. But hear me out. She’s a pig who wears lipstick and has a serious attitude. I think, if I had a story that was nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig, I’d hope to have enough good story elements that I would end up with Miss Piggy. If anyone tries to call her out for being pure pork, she’ll just knock ‘em over with her purse, or karate chop, or whatever she needs to do to get them to shut up, and get out of her way.

Gotta have the YouTube vid!

As a reader or writer folks may not like this type of story but we have to respect it. If we don’t, Miss Piggy will inflict pain, and no matter how much she irritates us with that diva attitude, she keeps coming back. The lipstick may get smeared, the hair gets mussed, the diva attitude explodes into pure piggy temper – but she lands on her feet and keeps right on going. And if Kermit is lucky, (unlike in the vid) she doesn’t take it out on him.

Respect Miss Piggy or she’ll hurt you and it’s embarrassing to get your ass handed to you by a pig, one wearing lipstick no less!

Miss Piggy would, in all honesty, fall in adoration of our hero, Good Story, for she sees only the handsome face and the suave smile and she falls for him every time. Miss Piggy has elements but not enough to equal Good Story. She doesn’t care, as long as he keeps looking at her like that and smiling as he does, she’ll be all his…Kermit who? As long as Good Story doesn’t reject her or ignore her, she will be happy. Poor Good Story will see the limits of his patience tested. But Miss Piggy isn’t all bad, in fact she can be quite entertaining. She has her place and is most likely here to stay.

Miss Piggy has enough strength to carry the day on her own. She can make you believe that her success is due to Good Story but in truth it's the diva that maintains her momentum. If we observe, we will eventually see her weaknesses as she slugs people into her way of doing things by sheer force and intimidation.

So we see this happening all of the time in popular fiction. Marketability doesn’t make a good story. A good story is always marketable, this is proven by the success stories that are still relevant no matter when they were written.

So where does that leave us now? Our cast of characters is not complete yet. Freedom was only the beginning.

To be continued! Stay tuned!

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