CODA

When I to went Clarion, waaaaaay back in the day, Algis Budrys taught a lesson on the five beat plot (variously the seven beat plot, the well-made plot, and I’m sure there’s another dozen names for it somewhere). The five beat plot boils down to: 1) the heroine has a problem; 2) the heroine attempts a solution; 3) an obstacle thwarts the solution; 4) the heroine solves the problem; 5) validation. (There are many different names for the five segments, but that’s the essence of the thing.)

Think of stories you’ve read, stories you’ve perhaps loved. I have this dread ring of power, see. I must destroy it! We gather our team. I hit obstacles (boy, do I hit obstacles). Eventually, through toil, danger, and blood, I destroy the ring. But not only have I destroyed the ring, the quest etc. has changed me on a fundamental level. I get to vanish into the West with the elves (and does anyone but me wonder if Bilbo ever felt homesick or bored, there among the elves?). I bet you can think of a zillion works, from Austen to Zelazny, which employ this bare-bones outline.

No, the five beat plot isn’t the only way to tell a story, Continue reading “CODA”

A Plea for Better Movies

In a December piece in The New York Times, Nikita Richardson ( a Times staffer) says that The Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies was for millennial women what Star Wars was for an earlier generation.  She cites the gentle scenes between characters — not just Aragorn and Arwen, but between Sam and Frodo as well as other male characters — and notes that she and her sister and her friends rewatched it countless times.

I gather  she means that both series were a touch point for those who were teenagers when they first saw them. Both series were compelling, so this makes sense.

I was older than that even for Star Wars, and in truth my love of the first three of those movies had a lot to do with them being well-made space opera with incredible special effects at a time when the movies didn’t do that.

My fondness for the Lord of the Rings movies had more to do with my love of the books, which dates back to my college years. (I re-read the entire trilogy every semester during law school finals. I am not exaggerating. It kept me sane.)

Plus I’m a fantasy and SF writer and reader and remember all too well when those things didn’t get noticed beyond the cons. So it makes me happy to see them shared far and wide.

But on the whole, her essay broke my heart, because if teenage girls fixated on Lord of the Rings — a story in which there are only three women of any note among a multitude of men — it is one more reminder of how utterly our popular culture has continued to fail women. Continue reading “A Plea for Better Movies”