This week, I’ve been plowing through snowstorms in the car while listening to the soundtrack of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Evita. It’s perfect music for when you are crawling along at 35 km per hour (what is that in miles? I’m not sure, but I’m afraid it’ll sound even more dreadfully slow). There’s a warm Latin beat, and the white-hot chronic anger of the heroine fueling various project. It makes me feel cozy in my little rolling deathtrap.
I don’t think anyone would deny that Evita works. According to the Internet Broadway Database, it’s been performed 1,567 times, and according to Wikipedia, it took award after award in 1978 and 1980. And I love it. But the heroine’s goal is a little fuzzy, and there isn’t a single overarching conflict lock that unites the story.
Evita is the story of a young Argentinian girl who goes to the capital at the age of fifteen, then proceeds to get modelling jobs, movie jobs, radio serials and finally the heart of a military man and through him, the reins to control the country. And then she dies, because . . . well, because everyone dies. But it’s particularly important that we follow her to her death because she is not a Good Girl. If she’d died at age 90, everyone would resent her luck and discover her lies, cheats and scams (maybe). But, dying at 33, she throws a nation into mourning for the death of her potential. And she gets what she deserves (according to the storyteller) for bucking the natural order of the world.
So, that takes the story out of the romance category, and possibly out of the women’s journey category, too. There is love. There is romance. And there’s one hell of a journey. But there’s are very complex characters who don’t get a happy ending for themselves, not in this story. They get a happy moment of the soul, and then retribution for their sins happens.
So . . . my question is, how can we pull off this trick? What’s necessary to get away from the overarching conflict lock between two human beings? I suspect it’s partly have an incandescent hero at the center, one who fights society, poverty and herself through a series of carefully crafted vignettes that are full of conflict themselves. And maybe it helps if you aren’t writing a novel, but are writing a musical.
What do you think? Che Guevera could be considered her main antagonist, I suppose, but he’s there more to haunt and goad her into confessions or truth. But, they don’t block each other in their goals, and he disappears before the ending of the story. He’s more a bouncing board or an echo chamber, I feel. He definitely acts the agency to be a true antagonist. (As a matter of fact, he’s a lot like a lot of my heroines! Reflective, critical, not doing anything to move anything along but acting as a catalyst.)
My best wishes to those of you finishing up your NaNo experience. If you’ve won, congratulations! If you haven’t, just remember that three days of effort is better than no days of effort, and get cracking! It’ll be December soon . . . .