Monday, March 01, 2010

Maverick, Novels, and Life

Recently, I noticed that the movie, Maverick, was showing on one of the classic movie stations. Kay couldn't believe I'd never seen it, although I had managed to catch and enjoy a few episodes of the TV show. So, I recorded the movie and we then spent 135 minutes watching it. Here's my review: James Garner's talent for deadpan comedy was underutilized. Mel Gibson's acting ran the gamut from A to B (I stole the line, but don't recall from whom). Jody Foster alternated between being a vamp and a scamp. And--here's where I finally reach my point--there was a shameful lack of a single, defining story arc. Oh, sure, Maverick wanted to get enough money to join a high-stakes poker game, but to get to the end it appeared to me that the writers stitched together several one-act plays with very little to hold them together. Just my opinion, of course.

What does that have to do with writing novels? Lots. My first novel dealt with a physician who'd failed at professional baseball (write what you know!), only to have the opportunity to attend a fantasy camp and possibly redeem his career. I thought it was great, but looking back I can see that the editors were right. There was no hook, no defining story arc, no quest that was the driving force. When my then-agent suggested I try writing cozy mysteries (an activity at which I failed miserably) she warned me that these were short, simple novels and there wasn't room for multiple plots. Keep it simple, and stay on point. And you know what? That works very well in writing a full-length novel. There may be subplots. There can be character issues. But driving it all there must be a goal to which everything is tied without taking too many side trips. Novelists, do you agree? Or is it just me?

Then, there's life (for which we're all grateful). What makes you roll out of bed each morning? Why do you keep doing what you're doing? Is it money? I hope you make some, but if that's your goal, life's going to get pretty stale fast. Is it fame? Good luck, but the odds are against you. Is it satisfaction at doing something and doing it well? You're getting closer. Is it the desire to live the best life possible, to do the right thing by your family and set a good example for others, and to honor the God who gave you life? Bingo.

Don't make your life a Maverick movie. Keep your purpose in front of you, let it drive you, and don't make too many side trips. Enjoy.

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