One of my big discoveries while at McDaniel was Joss Whedon, The man is a god where plotting is concerned. He routinely puts his protagonists into situations where there seems to be no possible resolution–at least none that include continued existence and/or happiness. And he equally routinely manages to pull off crazy creative solutions that accomplish just that.
I dream of someday getting a review that says, “reminiscent of a Joss Whedon story.”
Told you that to tell you this:
Recently, I read a romance novel with a plot that was what Jenny Crusie calls a string of pearls–a series of tenuously connected events that are all roughly the same intensity.
The book started out strong. The protagonist was the widow of a famous musician. Her husband had died a year or so before and she was dead broke, living in her car and selling off her possessions on eBay to buy food until hubby’s will cleared probate. Only then it turned out hubby had invested everything in a company that failed. There was no money.
Hubby had also, just prior to her death, informed her–on national television–that he had three kids by a mistress she knew nothing about. Especially painful given that she always wanted a family but was never able to have one.
The protagonist and, for that matter, the other characters in the book, were all really likable and believable. Overall, the book had the feel of a Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel. (Another wrtier crush of mine.)
On a 1-to-10 scale of potential for a great read, I’d give this an eight. And I’m a tough grader–I reserve my nines and tens for books that leave a mark on me.
Soon after that slam-bang beginning, though, her former brother-in-law brings her to live in a mansion. She meets the three daughters of the (now also dead) mistress, who are also living there (bad), but she almost instantly learns to love them, and they her (good).
In order to keep the money flowing in, she has to agree to do another season of the reality show where she first learned about her husband’s other life (bad). The studio agrees to pay her an insane amount of money, to place the cameras only where she directs, and to declare anything she doesn’t want to share off limits (good). Under the terms of the contract she negotiates, if the show doesn’t finish out the season for some reason, they still have to pay her. (unbelievably good)
Her character arc is to let go of loving the douche-bag dead husband who cheated on her (bad) and turn her sights toward the BIL who is really good-looking, wealthy, and has been in love with her since the day he set eyes on her. (good)
It’s another case of the author not being willing to torture her beloved characters.
If Joss Whedon had been plotting this, it would have started the same way, but:
1) The kids would have hated her. Everything she tried to do to win them over would have just made things worse, up to the point where kids were running away, using drugs, skipping school and possibly setting the house on fire to make their point.
2) The studio would have given her half what she wanted, but only in return for setting up cameras inside the bathrooms, bedrooms and anywhere else you might want a little privacy.
3) The brother-in-law would have treated her like a gold-digging hooker.
And that, in my opinion, is what Joss Whedon would do.