Thursday, December 17, 2015

Writing Emotional Moments

I was watching Childhood's End last night and a highly emotional moment was brushed over too quickly. The character, Ricky, chooses to make a tremendous sacrifice that will impact his life terribly. There was a spurt of action and then it was over and on to another POV.

That felt all kinds of wrong to me.

First of all, no one acknowledges the sacrifice. Ricky is dying. He is young and newly married to Ellie. He is offered medicine that will cure him. That in itself was handled very blithely. He didn't seem to care much either way when the alien gives him some sort of magical cure. As they talk he puts the medicine on the work bench.

Ellie and the religious woman arrive on the scene. Neither knows about the medicine. There is a confrontation and the alien is shot, crumples and appears to die. Ricky runs over and gets the medicine to cure him. He's been told there was only enough for the one dose. So Ricky chooses to use this medicine, the only cure for his illness, to save the alien's life. But no one knows what it is, so neither woman makes any comment or move to stop him.

The alien is saved and bang we go off to another plot line.

I thought Ricky's sacrifice fell flat because no one was there to witness it or mourn for his loss. If Ellie had seen it, we could have felt the loss so much more through her eyes. She would have argued for him to keep it for himself. And we could have seen his reasons for why he thought the alien's life was more important than living out his life with his wife.

The alien doesn't acknowledge the gift. I don't know how this was originally written, but if I was writing it, I'd put it up to the innate selflessness of humanity. The alien should have reacted in some way. Even if he came back and said it didn't matter. The lack of reaction was disappointing.

Ricky and the alien seem to have become friends. The alien tries to soften some of Ricky's difficulties. He should have been surprised and grateful to Ricky for saving his life. This could have been more pivotal in their relationship.

Even to keep the sacrifice private, just between Ricky and the audience, would have worked if there had been a bit of internal dialog. Maybe a glance at the medicine and a glance to his wife. Something to indicate his understanding of what he is giving up. The scene was too fast and too short for something so important. He seemed to not care about the cure and gave it away too easily.

Emotional moments need to have enough time to sink in. A witness, or internal dialog, needs to settle them into the reader/viewer's mind. If they go by too fast, they have no lasting meaning.

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