Monday, June 1, 2009

My Big Fat Wedding Post


Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to usher in the first day of June. This month we’ll be talking about brides and weddings which should be an easy topic for any romance writer. But it’s not.

Do you ever get tired of those people who say, “Well, I could write one of those novels. Anyone could.” Did you used to be that person? I know I was. That’s how I started my first romance, a historical western—you know, the manuscript that would better serve as a door stop. Come to think of it, maybe I should have been more like Leigh Michaels and just burned the first five manuscripts.

But I digress.

We’re talking about weddings, and they are an integral part of romance novels. In fact, it’s that darned Happily Ever After that makes writing a romance novel so challenging. Everyone knows the ultimate conclusion to the story; the challenge comes in telling the story in such a way that your reader actually has to turn to the end of the book for reassurance. I had to learn that lesson the hard way with my first novel, and I concluded that writing a romance novel is a lot like writing a sonnet. Sure, there’s a “formula” for you to follow, but if you want your novel to be truly great you have to push the boundaries of that formula and be even more creative than with “free verse.” You have to weave your story around that formula so seamlessly that your reader doesn’t see the patterns, doesn’t recognize “turning points” or “black moments” as such.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding contains one of those perfectly plotted stories of falling in love--and it had to be made independently! It shouldn’t have been a surprise this movie did well--it’s commercial story telling at it’s finest. This is Tula’s journey, her transformation from mousy, unhappy Daddy’s girl to attractive, vibrantly independent woman who deeply loves her father as well as her new husband. And conflict? First, she has to overcome her father’s desire to keep her close to home. Then, she falls in love with a man who isn’t Greek. Then he proposes but has to survive her disapproving father, meddling family, and even be baptized Greek Orthodox in an inflatable kiddie pool. All this while being a vegetarian in a family that thrives on meat and being erroneously coached in Greek.

But the best part? The ending. In the end Tula and Ian are married, and she discovers that the one thing she disliked growing up—being Greek—is her greatest source of pride. Her husband loves her for all of those cultural differences that made her stand out as a child. Her goal was to escape her heritage, but instead she learned to embrace it. Ah, it makes me want to get out a box of Kleenex just to think about it.

What about you? What are some of your favorite movies that involve weddings? Which ones didn’t resonate for you? (My Best Friend’s Wedding comes to mind.) Make sure you watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding if you haven’t or watch it again if it’s been a while. I’d be willing to bet you’ll forget all about GMC and turning points, but try to keep up with all of those unconventional yet conventional story points if you dare.

In the meantime, put some Windex on it!

26 comments:

Marilyn Baron said...

Sally,

I love your post, especially the part about pushing the boundaries in your writing and I loved My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I'm sure I have enjoyed other wedding scenes but now that you bring up this movie, I can't think of the others.

A great intro to June.

Marilyn Baron

Cinthia Hamer said...

Good morning!

I loved MBFGW. It was a sweet, sweet movie. I think whenever there's a culture gap between two lovers, it amps up the conflict and tension as well as the attraction.

I was a fan of 27 Dresses. Hysterically funny, yet poignant. I love how the more Kevin, the reporter learns about Jane, the more he begins trying to get her to stop standing on the sidelines and reach for something for herself.

Not so much My Best Friend's Wedding. Julianne (the character, darling! LOL) comes across as mean, selfish and manipulative. Not qualities you admire in a heroine.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning Sally:
I loved My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I thougth the whole vegetarian thing was a stroke of genius in character creation.

27 Dresses was one of my favorites. I also loved Two Weeks Notice.

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Marilyn--thanks for the comments. Now that you mention it, I can't think of other wedding movies. I did like the wedding scene in The Princess Bride, though.

Cinthia--I'm glad you agree with me about My Best Friend's Wedding. I felt like I was supposed to root for Julia Roberts' character, but she was just so incredibly mean.

Debbie--I'm going to have to watch 27 Dresses now that both you and Cinthia have recommended it. I totally agree with you about Ian's being a vegetarian. I love that line. "That's okay. I feed you lamb."


Thanks, ladies, for weighing in first thing on a Monday. : )

Cinthia Hamer said...

I just thought of another wedding-themed movie that I just love. "The Wedding Date".

It was based on a novel written by Elizabeth Young. I read it as an ARC and loved it...the movie is a bit different, but excellent, just the same.

Kat has this love/hate relationship with her sister. She lives in New York, her sister in London and she's willing to go to extreme lengths to not only be there for her sister, but to keep her family from suspecting that her life isn't as happy as she's led them to believe.

Nick is funny, sweet and sexy in his pursuit of Kat. He gets her and despite being an "employee", he wants to help Kat move forward with her life.

If you haven't seen this movie, you're missing out.

Jessica Doyle said...

My apologies for not keeping up with this blog (part of the reason being I had to work on my Maggie entry. Which is in. Yay!).

Fun wedding-related movies:
- The Philadelphia Story, natch. I want to see it again; the first time I saw it I was rooting for Katharine Hepburn to get with Jimmy Stewart, and that seems wrong, somehow.
- The Wedding Singer: in retrospect it piles on the 80s jokes a bit too much, but the interactions between Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are really sweet.
- The opening sequence of Red Sorghum: which is only tangentially wedding-related, but impressive in its combination of color and action -- heck yeah, the two characters are attracted to each other in unlikely circumstances.

Didn't work so much for me:
- My Best Friend's Wedding. Agreed that the heroine isn't very likable, and moreover, the hero is too bland to inspire such craziness on her part.
- The second half of The Graduate. I think the movie's brilliant until Elaine enters the picture, and then it turns weirdly wish-fulfilling.
- Much Ado About Nothing -- thinking specifically about the Branagh version, but the play as a whole, I guess. I don't know how contemporary audiences took the Hero/Claudio subplot, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. (On the other hand, I think As You Like It is great and Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night fun.)

Finally I would ask: does the HEA have to involve a wedding? On the one hand, we are now at the point (thank God) that a same-sex fictional couple can top off their HEA with a wedding. On the other, you have an enormous number of people who don't get married, for various reasons -- and may yet still look for a wedding in the novels they read. I wonder what it is about weddings -- and marriage -- that continue to loom so large.

(I say this, after repeated attempts, and repeated failures, to explain to my husband why our getting married was so important to me, long before a kid became part of the equation.)

Sandy Elzie said...

Good morning,

I also liked Mama Mia. Cute.

I watched BFGW once and loaned it out, never to see it again. (the person swears she gave it back, but...) I enjoyed it. I loved that they made her appear so plain in the beginning, but Ian saw below the surface to the beautiful person within and suddenly we all saw her that way as well.

Great post and a nice reminder that we're into June...the magical month of love,romance...and weddings.

Sandy

Anna Steffl said...

Lots of great stuff here, Sally!

I've never been one of those people who thinks writing a book is easy--and I've reserved several rooms in hell for non-writers who tell me what great novels they could write.

But, I am guilty of thinking my first effort was anything readable.

I have such a lousy memory. The only wedding movie I can recall, outside of MBFGW, is Wedding Crashers.

Cyrano said...

So Sally,
It seems you are as much a movie lover as I am. You're constantly referring to them. You're a girl after my own heart.
I loved MBFGW. Only saw it once, but I really loved it.
I also loved when Padme' married Anikin Skywalker in a secret ceremony overlooking Varykino Lake on Naboo (huge Star Wars geek here). It was a beautiful, romantic start to a very disfunctional and dangerous galactic relationship wouldn't you agree?
I also loved Runaway Bride (Richard Gere and Julia Roberts have great chemistry) Muriel's Wedding(Toni Collette is priceless) For keeps with Molly Ringwald (can't recall the guy's name, but I liked the challenges the young couple faced) and The Blue Lagoon's sweet wedding ceremony.
I didn't care for the Wedding Planner. I don't think JLo was believable really.
Loved the post Sally.
Have a gorgeous summer day all,
Tamara

Dianna Love said...

Love the blog on weddings and MBFGW. Actually today is my anniversary - as Karl put it "we're at two dozen" wedded years, but 26 together so I'm enjoying the fun wedding memories from movies.

BTW - I did not have time to post yesterday (barely made the airplane in time to go), but Aspen Expose is coming along great!

Ana Aragón said...

Ah...weddings! I loved MBFGW...it was truly genius!

My favorite? Fools Rush In, with Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry. It reminded me of my own wedding!

Great post!

Ana

Maxine Davis said...

Sally,

Great post! I loved it and I loved MBFGW. To see a sort-of ugly duckling become a swan is my thing.

Ana, I also loved Fools Rush In. If that reminds you of your wedding, you must tell me about it!

Susan May said...

Great post Sally. I've seen all the wedding mentioned. Liked them all. Since becoming a writer I look for all the elements in the movies. If they don't have them I don't like them as mush as a use too.

Linsey Lanier said...

Sally,

I loved My Big Fat Greek Wedding, too. I'll have to rent it again after reading your post.

Some good points about "formula" writing. Like tightrope walking, it's not as easy as the good ones make it look. LOL.

Great post. And congrats to Dianna and Karl!

Linsey

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Sally,

I LOVE My Big Fat GReek Wedding!!! This is one of my all time favorite movies because it was so fun and ended in such a possitive way.

Another one that comes to mind about weddings is While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock. I LOVED the wedding scene when she stops her own wedding to tell the groom that she's in love with his brother. I still stop and watch it every time I see it on TV.

I agree with everyone else about My Best Friend's Wedding. Didn't like it at all...

Thanks for this fun reminder. I'm headed to grab my copy of MBFGW off the shelf right now!!!

Tami

Ana Aragón said...

Maxine,

You'll have to stop by tomorrow....

Ana

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Cinthia,

Thanks for the recommendation--I'll have to look for that one.

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Jessica,

Thanks for stopping by--you must be feeling very philosophical today.

I'm going to have to watch Philadelphis Story. You're the third or fourth person to recommend it. I had also forgotten about The Wedding Singe which is pretty cute. I can't say I agree with you on Much Ado About Nothing, though. First, that one's all about Beatrix and Bennedict. Second, the only bad thing about that movie was casting Keanu Reeves.

I think you're really on to something with the idea of why it's so important to end with a wedding, or at the very least the promise of one. I'm not sure we can explain it other than to say that a wedding lends a sense of permanence to the romance. Also, there is something magical about weddings. I just attended one this weekend, and you can always tell when two people are that much in love and surrounded by people who love them and are committed to helping them make it work.

Interesting questions about same-sex couples, but I think the fact that same-sex unions are such a hot button further suggests the importance of marriage and the symbolism of weddings for all involved.

Thanks,
Sally

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Sandy--Thanks for the reminder about Mamma Mia. I still haven't seen that one, either. And I really like Pierce Brosnan.

Sorry to hear about your copy of MBFGW. That happened to my Laundry Service CD. Perhaps we should look into homing devices on movies, books, and Cds.

Anna--
I used to get upset about how "non-writers" told me about their novels when I announced my intention to write one. It took me at least four years to realize that they weren't going to do anything about it and that I had no need to fear.

I'm glad you mentioned Wedding Crashers. I know it was supposed to be pure slapstick, but it's actually kinda sweet. And then that reminded me of The Family Stone, even if it is about an engagement instead of a wedding.

Thanks, ladies!

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Tamara,

I think I'm just a pop culture geek. I got started making allusions and looking for themes in literature and then I just couldn't stop.

I'm going to have to disagree with you on the Anakin and Padme thing. The wedding itself was sweet, but he was such a jerk in that movie with such an arrogant swagger. I've often wondered if knowing he was going to be Darth Vader made it difficult to sympathize with him or if it was just the way the character was played. I kinda liked Runaway Bride, but it really didn't stick with me that much. I'll have to add Muriel's Wedding and For Keeps to my TBW pile.

I agree with you on The Wedding Planner. That one fell a little flat to me although I really liked the premise.

Thanks for dropping by, and I'll be happy to share a movie obsession with you. I'm even a bit of a Star Wars geek, although enough of a purist to much prefer the original trilogy.

Sally

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Dianna,

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Anniversary! (Imagine me singing the song a la the diner scene in The Emperor's New Groove.)

I'm really glad you are enjoying Aspen Expose, too!

Sally

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Ana,

Thanks for the reminder about Fools Rush In. I did like that movie and couldn't understand why the critics didn't like it more.

Maxine,

Thanks for dropping by, and I'm with you. I want to hear more about Ana's story if it's like Fools Rush In!

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Susan,

I know what you're saying about elements in movies. After my screenwriting class, I can't watch a movie without thinking of "inciting incidents" and the like. Just this weekend we went to see Night at the Museum. Kamunrah puts Jed in an hour glass, and I think to myself "ticking bomb."

Oh, well.

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Linsey,

I think your tightrope analogy is far better than mine. Thanks for that.

Tami,

I agree with you about MBFGW. There is just something about that movie that is so unbelievably positive. It's defintely a story that resolves perfectly in that way Deb Dixon was talking about--it's got such a great pay-off.

I'll have to watch While You Were Sleeping again. It has been forever.

All of this talk reminded me of another of my favorites, though, Sweet Home Alabama. Now, I don't think it's the best movie ever, but it has great moments including that last wedding scene.

Thanks, everyone for commenting. I wish I had been by the computer all day to answer as the conversation was on-going.

Cyrano said...

Sally,
You probably won't get this since it's after the fact, but you're awesome!!
I love that you challenged me on the Padme, Anikin nuptuals. You made some very good points, but I'm sticking to my light saber on this one. Yes, their future was bleak, but at that moment with the Naboo suns shining in the sky, the crystal water sparkling beyond the balcony and Anikin's prostetic limb shining beneath his robes, those two doomed lovebirds were happy. I wished those crazy kids could have worked things out, but alas, he was destined to be a dark lord and she the mother of his defeater.
I feel tears coming on.
You're the best!
Tamara

Carol Burnside said...

Sally,
Sorry, I didn't make it over here on Monday, but I enjoyed your post just the same.

I'm a HUGE HEA/Romantic movie/Love story buff! Can't get enough, but when one falls flat, it sorely disappoints.

Wonderful start for June!