Monday, June 27, 2011

Writing Action in Mystery (and Why Daniel Craig is my Imaginary Boyfriend)

by Julia Buckley
My family and I just re-watched Casino Royale, and I still found it to be an enjoyable flick. It wasn't because of the plot, however, (which I still couldn't really follow in its entirety), and it wasn't necessarily because of the Daniel Craig's charm or his amazing Greek Godly physique. (Although those were nice, and my husband glared at me during the entire "James walks out of the ocean" scene).

What I found was that I was in total agreement with my sons: the appeal was in the action. Granted, this has always been a James Bond staple, so it wasn't surprising that the most compelling parts of the movie were the chase scenes. But I realized, when we dissected the film after viewing it, that we weren't saying, "That was a clever line that he said to the bad guy at the poker table." None of that really stayed with me, and I can't even remember what he said to the pretty woman as he flipped her around in the bed as if she were an attractive pancake.

What I remembered was what my boys remembered: that the guy Bond was chasing was really fast, and James was really fast, and it was exciting to watch two athletic guys running. Then the bad guy did this amazing launch of his body through a tiny window, but James came barreling right through the wall in a most unexpected (and satisfying) way, and we all cheered like groundlings.

My admiration for both Daniel Craig and action makes me eager to see his newest movie, Cowboys and Aliens, which promises to have a unique plot and to provide a plethora of gunslinging with a modern, alien-fighting twist.

From watching Craig's first Bond movie, though, I learned a lesson which I want to apply to my writing: description and narration are necessary and can be beautiful, frightening, fun. But action will raise the reader's blood pressure, action will make them turn those pages, and action might be the only thing they remember when they close the book.

Sometimes, it's all in the action.

Image: Yahoo Images


Sheila Connolly said...

I read the Bond books at an impressionable age (and watched the movies as they came out, or at least the Sean Connery ones), and what sticks in my mind was the certainty with which Bond did everything--fight off the bad guys, seduce female spies, order wine, all without dithering or self-doubt.

I'll confess that after seeing the trailer, I'd see Cowboys and Aliens. But you're too late for Daniel--I read in the paper today that he's just gotten married.

Julia Buckley said...

I saw that, too, Sheila--and in a very surprising pairing.

Ah, well. I did say "imaginary" boyfriend. :)

Sandra Parshall said...

Thrillers are supposedly all action all the time, but if you read one with that in mind, you'll be surprised at how many quiet moments most of them have. The quiet moments make the action more memorable, IMO. Without the lulls for emotion/thoughts/dialogue, the action would become tedious. Reviewers describe some books as "nonstop action" because the action is all they remember.

It's interesting how our mental image of Bond has changed through the years (decades!). He's written as handsome, suave -- Sean Connery, etc. But now we accept Daniel Craig as the embodiment of all that Bond is.

Julia Buckley said...

At least until they cast him again. :)

But he may be a dying franchise--isn't that what they say? What an interesting study in the evolution of a character.