Confessions of a RomCom addict

FAIRY TALE

My name is Teresa, and I am a RomCom addict.

I can’t deny it. Given the opportunity to camp out in front of the TV for a night, I’ll choose a romantic comedy over an action movie anytime. Why? Because the romantic comedy is a concrete manifestation of who I want to be and how I want my life to be.

If we take a closer look at why we like certain genres of fiction, we can learn a little more about ourselves–and others. It’s kind of like taking a personality analysis, like the Briggs-Myers or Jung Typology.  But analyzing our movie choices allows us to SEE a picture of the parts of ourselves–and others. And, I do have an annoying, yet undeniable, habit of analyzing just about everyone I meet.

It comes with the occupation–teaching. It’s not that I face the enemy each day. It’s not that I am on a seek and destroy mission. But if I can get into the heads of the people I work with and figure out what makes them tick, then I can overcome the obstacles between us, nip problems in the bud, as Barney Fife would say. The objective is to work together, not in opposition. I also learn more about me and why I do what I do.

But I digress. My mission here is to confess my attraction to romantic comedies and to explain why I am drawn to them like a bug to a light.

SERENDIPITY

Basically, the most alluring element of romantic comedies is that they spotlight the yearning created when we find ourselves in one place while wanting to be somewhere else. Take the case the case of Jonathan Trager and Sara Thomas in the movie Serendipity, my all-time favorite movie and inspiration for this blog.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Jonathan and Sara meet by accident and realize they are somehow cosmically connected. However, their meeting seems to headed for a dead end. They both belong somewhere else and to someone else. However, they challenge fate. Sara writes her name inside a book, and Jonathan writes his name on a $5 bill. They send these items “out into the Universe” to see if destiny brings them back together again.

And not to be a spoiler here, but obviously they do but not without plenty of obstacles.

Wouldn’t it be great to know if we want something badly enough it will happen, even if obstacles are involved? If we want something badly enough, we’re willing to take on a few obstacles. Right?

Everybody has dreams that don’t come true. Every little boy doesn’t grow up to be a professional football player, and every little girl doesn’t grow up to become Homecoming Queen. RomComs take care of that little detail. Every RomCom has the happy ending that real life doesn’t provide.

LEAP YEAR

Another reason why I like a good RomCom is because the main character is usually a quirky, yet likeable, female who is on mission. No matter how hard she tries to make a smooth journey, she always finds herself in an awkward predicament. Take for instance Anna Brady in Leap Year. Anna has been waiting forever for Jeremy, her cardiologist boyfriend, to propose. When he doesn’t, not even on Valentine’s Day, she decides to take matters into her own hands. When she hears of an Irish custom that guarantees marriage if a woman proposes to a man on February 29, Leap Day,  Anna travels to Dublin, Ireland, to propose to Jeremy, who’s there on a business trip.

Anna’s travel plans run awry when she can’t get where she wants to go due to inclement weather. Her plane lands in Wales, and she has to take a boat to Dingle, where she wanders into the only restaurant in town. She finds herself at the mercy of Declan, whom she pays to drive her to Dublin. Although Anna tries her best to maintain control of every detail in her life, nothing goes right. Complicated turns to comedic. She loses her Louis Vuitton luggage, breaks the heel of her expensive pumps, tries to herd a herd of cows, and feigns marriage to Declan so that he and she can secure the only remaining room at a quaint little inn.

The point is, when everything goes wrong, everything turns out right for Anna. Her mission to marry the wrong man fails, and she falls in love with the guy who drives her crazy. She lives through rejection. She acts like an “idjit.” She falls apart, but she gets everything she ever needed, even though at the time she doesn’t know what she really wants.

I think Declan sums it up best when he says to Anna, “Why don’t you stop trying to control everything in the known universe. It’s dinner. Have a little faith that it will all work out.”

I think we all have a desperate need for IT to work out,–whatever IT is. Oh, to have the comfort of knowing, yes, life will work out.

AUGUST RUSH

My third favorite movie is August Rush, though some people may identify it more as a Chick Flick than a RomCom. Whatever you call it, I like it. It’s a movie that ends with a rhapsody. And in case you aren’t into music theory, a rhapsody is “a musical composition of irregular form having an improvisatory character.” Is that what life is? A composition with irregularities and improvisations?

The premise goes like this. Lyla is an accomplished cellist. Louis is a guitarist and vocalist of The Connelly Brothers, an Irish rock band. Succumbing to their mutual attraction, they spend the night together, but then their lives are interrupted. They go their separate ways, and Lyla finds out she’s pregnant. Before giving birth, she is involved in an accident, and the baby comes early, only to whisked away by Lyla’s father, who puts him up for adoption. The boy, a.k.a Evan, ends up living in an orphanage the first eleven years of his life, but he has something spectacular about him. He can hear music EVERYWHERE.

Led by a spirit of “knowing he will find his parents,” he goes on search for them. He follows the music. A street busker finds him and exploits his talents for cash. Evan becomes August Rush. Again, driven by his passion, August follows the music and finds himself at Julliard, where the people take note of his savant abilities and nonconformist methods and enroll him as a student.

His work is so grand his work is chosen to be played by the Philharmonic at Central Park. Coincidentally, Lyla too will play there that same night, and Louis shows up as well.

Louis and Lyla follow the music and find Evan. The family is reunited.

This RomCom isn’t like the others. The lead character isn’t a quirky, female. But there is a happy ending. Love prevails.

And that is the real message behind RomCom–love prevails.

No matter how ridiculous life can be, love prevails.

No matter how many obstacles and hurts a person has to go through, love prevails.

No matter how confused the lead character may be about what she wants in life, love prevails.

Love prevails. And in the case of August Rush, music leads the way.

Come on now. How could I not fall for a good RomCom?

Real life, however, is not always a RomCom. Any given day, it could be a action-adventure or a thriller or even a horror story. Just turn on the news. There’s your proof.

As for me, I will continue to play the quirky, clutzy, sometimes overly optimistic, sometimes doomsday pessimistic, spastic female on a mission. And I will go where the music takes me and wait for love to prevail.

WORDS OF WISDOM
[Love} always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

MUSIC NOTES
I don’t wanna wait in vain for your love;  / I don’t wanna wait in vain for your love. / From the very first time I rest my eyes on you, girl, / My heart says follow t’rough. / But I know, now, that I’m way down on your line, / But the waitin’ feel is fine ~ Bob Marley from the movie Serendipity

Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you / Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you / But in your dreams whatever they be / Dream a little dream of me ~ Ella Fitzgerald from the movie Leap Year

Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance / With the stars up above in your eyes / A fantabulous night to make romance / Neath the cover of October skies ~ Van Morrison from the movie August Rush

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
www.youtube.com/watch?v=mARCRguuCrk

FINAL THOUGHT

Happy-Ending-Quote-192x179

 

Why do they do what they do?

why

Whenever Taylor Swift has a bad break up, she puts the poor guy in a song.

I taunt my friends and tell them to watch out. I won’t put them in a song; I’ll write a whole book about them.

Uh, wrong. I could never do that. I’m a keeper of secrets. I’d make a terrible member of the paparazzi. I don’t like intruding. I don’t like airing people’s dirty laundry. I live by the journalistic principal “Do no harm.”

But, yeah, if your path crosses mine, you might end up as a character (or part of a character) in one of my manuscripts, but I would never reveal the secret of your identity, not unless you wanted me to–or unless you are already famous. Then you’re fair game.

Right now I have two manuscripts under my belt, and, yes, I deliberately modeled the characters after people who have stepped into my life. Of course, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. And I doubt these people will ever know the influence they made.

I named one minor character after a server at Red Robin, and I don’t remember why. Maybe I liked his name. Maybe not. Maybe it was just because I was really hungry at the time, and Red Robin has the most amazing onion rings. I am a magnet, I draw stories from people, people I don’t know. Maybe he told a cool story.

One of my characters in one of my manuscripts is based on Little Richard, yes, THAT Little Richard. The famous one–thus, the revelation of his identity.

I don’t know why. I guess his humbleness and gentleness touched my life second hand. He met my parents and was so kind to them that I’ll never forget how pleased they were to tell the story.

And, yes, Little Richard, is one of those celebrities I have chosen to pursue. Notice I didn’t say stalk. He lives close to me, but he’s so far away. Other people run into him all the time. But I don’t. Why not me? Why not me?

Maybe I would scare him. I don’t know. I do believe people’s paths cross for a reason. Maybe they don’t cross for a reason. God wrote the story. He knows.

I love analyzing people. Every person has a story, and an enticing motive makes a great story.

I’m also into pop psychology. I stumbled upon a theory of  the German-American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. It’s referred to as “character orientation.” Influenced by Freudian ideologies, Fromm asserted people have specific character traits which serve as powerful forces that guide their behavior and motive.

And people aren’t even consciously aware of them.

As a writer and a reader, I spend a great deal of time getting to know characters. I have to believe them in order to trust them. I have to trust them in order to like them. If I don’t like them, I won’t read the book. And, of course, if I don’t like my own characters, there’s no point in writing the story unless my protagonists win and the ones I don’t like get what’s coming to them. Is it okay to seek to revel in revenge if the plot is made up? I think so. I’m not vengeful in person.

But back to the personality analyses, psychologists have determined there are twenty-four character traits that fall under six categories, which are referred to as virtues. Four of these are nonproductive, the other two productive.

Remember if you are writing a book, you want to write it true, so you should make sure that your characters act true to their natures. If we go with Fromm’s research, our characters’ should fall within these parameters. If they do something uncharacteristic, then we should analyze their motives.

HEROS

The following are considering nonproductive orientation characteristics. Think character flaws or antagonist traits:

  • Receptive Orientation Characters
    Wait passively for others to provide them with things they need
    Want others to provide them with love and attention and are reluctant to give these things away
    Lose loved ones because they have a hard time talking about their feelings or troubles
    Have a hard time letting go of past issues
    See minor or trivial conflicts as a conflict to their security with a loved one
    Lack creativity–REALLY lack creativity
    Are quiet
    Have a difficult time making decisions
    Lack confidence in their own abilities
  • Exploitative Orientation Characters
    Take whatever they want when they want it
    Do whatever they can to get whatever they want
    Have no qualms about stealing or taking something from someone else, even if they have no real desire for it
    Manipulate others
    Hate those they manipulate but rely on them but also hate themselves
    Love to lead and live in the ruling class
  • Hoarding Orientation Characters
    Save whatever they have
    Hold back their opinions
    Hold back their feelings
    Hold back their possessions
    Grasp and refuse to let go of love, power, or other people’s time
    Desire order
  • Marketing Orientation Characters
    View themselves as commodities
    Think they can sell their themselves based on their good qualities
    Possess very few positive qualities
    Are typically empty souls
    Choose mates on a commodity basis
  • Necrophilia Orientation Characters
    Love death
    Possesses passion to tear apart living things
    Destroy for the sake of destruction
    See no hope

The following are considered productive orientation characteristics. Think protagonist traits or redeeming qualities of conflicting characters:

  • “The Person Without a Mask” Orientation Characters — (Fromm came up with this title.)
    Accept freedom
    Accept responsibility
    Come from a family that loves
    Prefer reason to rules
    Prefer freedom to conformity
    Have learned to become one with the world
    Love all

So how long did it take you to shift from your character to yourself? Stop. Don’t do it. The story is NOT ABOUT YOU! Likewise, as you are writing, remember that your character is not YOU, and your character’s motives aren’t necessarily the same as your own.

Let’s be honest. Did you ditch your character and start analyzing yourself? Yeah, me too.

I thought I had myself all figured out. But then I took an online test based on character orientation. The first test I took said I possessed “hoarding orientation.” Ouch. I do desire order. I don’t like letting go of people I love. I took another test, and it said I possessed “receptive orientation.” Worse–I’m quiet, passive, insecure, and non-creative. Non-creative? BIG TIME OUCH!

Who believes these test anyway?

My suggestion? Stick to using these tests–for now–to analyze your characters, not yourself. Otherwise, you’ll be drawn away from what matters right now–your writing. We writers are neurotic already. We don’t need anything else negative to self analyze.

Oh the crazy things we do.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Choose either your own character or a character from your favorite book. Take one of the tests below and answer each question as your character would answer it–not yourself. This exercise is great practice to help you see through the eyes of a character.

WORDS OF WISDOM
“I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.”  ~  John Locke

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”  ~ James 3:13

“If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.”  ~  Mother Teresa

MUSIC NOTES
“A long, long time ago / I can still remember how that music used to make me smile / And I knew if I had my chance / That I could make those people dance / And maybe they’d be happy for a while”

LOOK AND SEE SERENDIPITEE
Which of Erich Fromm’s Personality Orientations are you?
http://quizfarm.com/quizzes/new/DeanFS/which-of-erich-fromms-personality-orientations-are-you/

Fromm’s Orientation Test
http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/frommtest.html

FINAL THOUGHTS

ChickensMotives

What do you get when you cross a conspiracy theorist with a psycho vigilante?

I am a visionary.

No, don’t expect me to start my own psychic hotline. On a whim, I took the Myers Briggs personality test and discovered I am an oddity—an INFJ (introverted, iNtuitive, feeling judging). Only one percent of the population possesses these characteristics. I suppose my “type” is called “visionaries” because we INFJ people are supposedly gentle, caring, and highly complex, intuitive individuals.

I feel special.

Here are a few more details pertaining to the INFJ:

  • Artistic, creative
    Dedicated listener
    Derives satisfaction from helping others
    Devoted to personal beliefs
    Lives in a world of hidden meanings
    Possesses uncanny insight into people and situations
    Protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they want to share it
    Perfectionist
    Dislikes conflict or stress
    Best suited for the career of English teacher, photo journalist, musician, novelist, freelance writer

Spooky, isn’t it? That’s me! (Okay, I should have written “That is I.” Silly perfectionist.)

According to MyPersonality.info, other people who fall into the INFJ category include Adam Sandler, Shirley Temple, Oprah Winfrey, Mel Gibson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Weird! I really don’t consider myself having
anything in common with any of these, except Hawthorne, maybe. Fictional characters include Luke Skywalker and the Tin Man.

I did a little Googling and found a website by Paula L. Fleming that offers some great information for writers about building characters based on personality types. Check out Writing-World.com’s section called “What ‘Type’ Is Your Character?” You’ll find some nifty hints that will help will character motivation.

Writers, you might ask your characters to take a shortened version of the test to determine if their actions match their motivations. You might also discover a little bit about yourself as you analyze your characters. What personality types intrigue you the most?

Just for fun, I “asked one of my characters” to take the shortened version of the test on the Personality Pathways website and found he is an ISTP (introverted, sensing, thinking, perceiving). His characteristics include the following:

  • Intensely analytical, a trouble-shooter
    Always busy
    Needs personal space
    Often responds to stress with angry outbursts
    Confident
    Would perform well in the computer or engineering fields
    Skillful with physical things
    Athletic
    Good listener
    Observant
    Lives one day at a time
    Easy going, fun to be around
    Stubborn or disobedient

Interesting. Some of my character’s traits overlap with mine. Some do not. If I were to write his story based on what I would do in a situation I would clearly be off track when it comes to character motivation.

Famous ISTPs include Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood, Keith Richards, Tiger Woods, Mick Jagger, Burt Reynolds, and Amelia Earhart. Famous fictional ISTPs include James Bond and Wolverine.

Do these characters, real or fictional, have anything in common with my character? Maybe. I suppose if I were in doubt about how to write a scene, I could always imagine what Mick Jagger or James Bond might do.

I also checked out the Not Your Typical Personality Types parody site. Oh, this one is fun.! It inspired me to infuse a little humor into my character creation.

This site pegs the INFJ as a conspiracy theorist and the ISTP as a psycho vigilante.

Hmmm. Imagine putting those two into a book. What fun! (Insert evil laugh.) Let’s get to writing.

BTW:  One of my favorite blogs, Divine Detours, is featuring Jeannie Campbell, the “Character Therapist” today. How cool! Perfect timing. Please check it out. You could win one of her character therapy guides.