The word is—magic.
While I was off on my computer-less vacation, I wasn’t completely tech free. Thanks to a DVD machine and a TV, I watched quite a few movies at the cottage. Most were good to great. But, continuing my trend of examining the not so great—here we go.
No matter what we as authors write—even if the story has a contemporary setting—we create worlds and invite readers to enter them.
Worldbuilding is a little like playing God. It can be creative, captivating, and plain fun—but it also has rules. Okay, it can also be annoying, but let’s not get into that.
Now, before you go and tell me that “rules are made to be broken”, especially in writing, hold on. While I agree that taking a certain creative license that challenges readers is a good thing, messing with them is something else altogether.
A story produces a symbiotic relationship between the author and reader. The author creates her world and the reader, by entering into it, agrees to suspend a certain amount of belief.
The question then becomes—How much suspension of belief becomes too much and just plain unbelievable?
Back to the movies. Films do the same thing as books, inviting viewers to suspend belief. To, in this case, enter a visually compelling world for a couple of hours.
Despite hearing negative things about Lake House (2006), I decided to watch it anyway. I mean, how bad could a movie starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, and Christopher Plummer be?
Put it this way—if this had been a book, I’d have thrown it across the room in disgust.
To begin with the “magic” didn’t make sense. Even if I suspended my belief far enough to credit a magic mailbox that can deliver letters two years out of sync, the comings and goings of the characters violate the laws of string theory big time. I’m no physicist, but I know enough about parallel universes (hey, necessary research for potential plotlines) to shake my head at this one.
But let’s say I love romance and so I’m willing to say, “to heck with magic and the laws of physics,” I’m still left with one BIG problem that dropped me right out of the story and bothered me right through the credits scrolling down the screen at the end of the movie. Bothered me enough that I decided to blog about it.
How many doctors—heck, people period—would not know the name of a person who died in their arms?
Sandra Bullock plays a doctor, Kate Forster, who starts a correspondence with an architect, Alex Wyler,(Reeves) who lives in the Lake House she once rented. But, he is living two years in her past. At one point fairly early on in the movie she is having lunch with her mother in a city square and witnesses an accident. A man crossing the street is hit by a bus. She rushes over to offer her assistance, but the man dies.
Near the end of the movie Forster and her fiancé visit an architectural firm to discuss renovations to a house they want to live in. Just as she’s leaving she sees a sketch of the Lake House and discovers that Alex Wyler died two years ago to the day (it’s Valentine’s Day). Forster instantly realizes that Wyler is the man who died in the accident at the square where she ate lunch with her mother.
This “revelation” was just too unbelievable. For one thing, piecing together the timeline, by this point she’d physically met him twice, kissed him even, although she didn’t know who he was at the time. For a second thing, not knowing the name of the accident victim struck me as too out of character.
Bullock and Reeves were definitely not up to Speed. (pun intended)
Worse, I felt cheated—something I try darn hard not to do to my own readers.