Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Emotional tension

In July, I'll be giving a workshop in San Francisco with fellow Romance authors Jessica Hart and Barbara McMahon. We'll be talking about emotion, emotion , emotion and its global appeal and one of the sections that I'll be dealing with is emotional tension. For that reason, I have my antennae trained for ways others writers develop emotional tensions.

And tonight (on Australian ABC TV1) will be screened the series final of BBC show Life On Mars. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about writing tension, this is an episode you shouldn’t miss.

For those of you who live in Oz and haven’t been watching the series, it’s about Sam Tyler, who had an accident and woke up in 1973. He doesn’t know if he’s mad, in a coma or has travelled back in time. Throughout the series, he’s been trying to get back where he came from. He believes if he doesn’t get back he will die!

For me, the big draw card besides the plot, is the character Gene Hunt played by Philip Gleinster (I’ve had a small swoon on this blog about him before. E’s not all that happy about how I like this guy so much, but at least he and P.G. share the same birthday. That’s supposed to keep E happy.J)

Last week, we were out but our son copied the episode for us and we caught up with it yesterday (just in time).

Normally, Sam and Gene are detectives solving crimes and hunting down criminals, but approaching their jobs with entirely different perspectives. Gene, a 1973 man, is very un PC and little more than a thug, while Sam is the careful and cautious 21st century cop with knowledge of all the modern technology, which is frustratingly no longer available to him.

Last week the tables were turned on Gene.

Wow! Talk about racking up the tension!

Gene became a murder suspect. Sam managed against all the odds to discover who actually committed the crime and he saved Gene’s bacon -- or so he thought.

However, in a last minute twist, the baddie (for want of a better term) told Sam that he can’t save Gene. If he tries to help him again, he will never be able to go back to his real time!!!!!

Which leaves Sam with the hugest of dilemmas. This is the stuff that makes a really good story – a choice that is truly difficult, when a character has to give up his long cherished, vitally important goal, or do something self-sacrificing, but very worthy. (I’ve often wondered if Claiming His Family won the RITA because Erin faced the challenge of giving up her very important goal to keep her son Joey, and was prepared to let him go with his father, Luke.)

Anyway, back to life on Mars, I can kind of guess what Sam might choose, but I’m hoping tonight’s episode will answer all the questions the series has raised (we have to at least see a glimpse of Sam in 2007 surely) and still keep me on the edge of my seat.

As a writer, I find the story options open to fellow writers and the choices they make endlessly fascinating


2paw said...

Wow, that's an excellent workshop-lucky participants.
Isn't LOM fantastic?? I love it. MrsDrWho and I have not watched this last episode, we are saving it so we can watch it together. There is something about a shared experience!! Top class writing and acting all around. Did you know there is a sequel?: Ashes to Ashes, set in the 80s, but Gene Hunt is still there. It has just screened in the UK.

Barb said...

Hope you enjoy the last episode 2paw. I won't comment just yet, seeing you haven't seen it.
I understand that the new series called Ashes to Ashes is a different story line. Philip Glenister is a vampire hunter! But I could be wrong.
Let's hope someone from the UK drops by here and sets us straight.

Liz Fielding said...

I loved Life on Mars! Despite the allure of PG I couldn't get into the second series. Keeley Hawes just drove me crazy. And no, PG isn't a vampire hunter. It's set in the 80s and Keeley has gone back in time in this one.

Barb said...

Oh, thanks for clearing that up, Liz. I don't know where I read about the vampire hunter.
Pity there's such an annoying character in the next series.

Liz Fielding said...

Maybe it's just me, Barb. Michelle Styles has been raving about it -- but again, mostly about PG :)

Barb said...

I first fell for PG when he was Captain Dobbin in Vanity Fair. Funny, because in that role he played such a different character. There's not a sniff of "bad boy" about Dobbin, but man, I wanted to be Amelia. (She didn't deserve him, of course.)
There's something very compelling about Glenister. When he comes on screen, everyone else seems to fade into the background.