Monday, October 7, 2013

Writing Under the Influence: Sex and the City

Today's influence post is all about relationships. And there is nothing stronger about Sex and the City than the relationships. Friends, girlfriends, significant others, family, and most importantly, the one with yourself.

I didn't watch SATC while it aired. I was a late-comer to the party. But I can only here so much talk of "You're a Carrie" and Manolo Blahniks before I have to see what's happening.

So the year after it went off the air, I bought Season one. I soon turned into a junkie. I would power through an entire season and call my husband to sweet-talk him into picking up the next one on his way home from work. I couldn't get enough.

And while I loved that it took place in my favorite place on Earth, NYC, and I did love Carrie Bradshaw and her closet of shoes, that wasn't what held me. Here was a show with four, strong female leads, and while yes, their conversations and most of the plots revolved around dating and men, that wasn't the backbone. No matter what, it came back to the friendships and bonds between these four women, with or without the guys.

In a show built on the premise of dating in New York, there's a whole lot of non-dating and other factors that go into it. Not one of them falls into insta-love. They make bad, realistic choices. they live unbelievable lives that most can only dream about. They are four, very different characters and tropey, perhaps, but it works.

Carrie - She's a bit cynical but still has hope. She smokes, she drinks, she makes a bunch of really bad choices. But she's a writer (love!) and in the end, her hope pays off. Her friends hold her up through all of it, and even when she's completely unlikable and the worst version of herself, they love her anyway.

Samantha - She has sex like a man. With who she wants. When she wants. And she refuses to be forced into a mold. Ironically, she has one of the longest relationships on the show. And she feels the societal prejudice sting of her actions, but even then, she holds true to herself. And though she doesn't agree with her friends on most things and they don't always see her point of view, they have no one in their corner who loves them more.

Miranda - She's a woman in a man's world. A successful lawyer happy on her own, Miranda has a hard time balancing the want for a man vs. her need to be independent. Eventually, after a long, tortuous and bumpy road, she finds just that with love, work and family. Even if it is in Brooklyn.

Charlotte - Char's the romantic. She's always looking for Mr. Right, not willing to settle for anything less. She ends up finding love where she least expects it. She looked where she thought where she would find it, not where it really was. She's the most childlike and the most grown-up of them all.

#1 - Don't make your characters one-dimensional.
What they all share in common is how smart and strong they are. The number one thing I take from this show is that while there characters are brilliant and self-reliant, they need each other and still make dumb mistakes. I mean, they make crash-and-burn mistakes.

And it's okay. They aren't that typical "I'm strong-chip-on-my-shoulder-I-can-do-it" sort of women I'm tending to find in fiction today. To be strong doesn't mean you have to be a bitch or sleep around or bea ll about women-power. It simply means, you're strong.

Being a smart character doesn't mean they're perfect. Smart people still make mistakes. And really big ones some times. And it's okay.

How to use it -
I think it's important to learn the difference. Character can be extremes, but most are complex, like real people. Of course your characters are fiction, but if they aren't real, readers can't connect.

#2 - Not every relation is about love, even the romantic ones.

This is huge, especially as a romance writer. But if you write MG, YA, or whatever, the personal relationships between your characters can make or break your story. Nothing irriates me more than two people get in a relationship and then everything is perfect.

Yeah. No. Love is perfect. Until he leaves the seat up. Until she uses the last of the toilet paper. Until he drinks the last cup of coffee. Until he finds out she snores like a freight train. SATC excels at looking at these little things and how couples have to deal and make them work. And sometimes they don't because those little things can become really big.

But on the other side, how really big things can be dealt with and while trying, can end things or make them stronger.

The same for the friendships on the show. And the family relationships. There's death, love, break-ups, make-ups, lies, truths, deceit and complete in-your-face there for you. Just like life. And I adore it.

How to use it -
Put depth in the relationships. It matters. A lot of times what people see as a one-dimensional character is actually not the character, but how they interact with others. This is important. Make a note.

That was a short list today. But they are two huge things. And while I love the show for it's humor and heartbreak, Cosmos and Manolos, Big and Aiden, ridiculous and real, it really all comes down to the sotry of four best friends who can make it through anything.


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