Have You Considered . . .
The Damage Referencing Another Person’s Work Can Do To Your Story?
Yesterday I was reading a wonderful romance. It began well. I liked the way the hero and heroine met. The heroine had been abandoned by her father as a child. Her father was the best friend of the hero (the father and hero were not of the same generation; this is not a May/December romance). The hero thought her father was a great man, as did everyone else in the community. He resented her view of her father. The author handled both of their emotions well.
However, the book lost me halfway through, when the heroine proclaimed Sleepless in Seattle as the most romantic movie ever. I saw the movie once in the early 90s and I saw nothing romantic in what is essentially a training film for stalkers!
In the movie Annie (played by Meg Ryan) heard Jonah, Sam’s son; tell his father’s sad story on the radio. Then Sam took over the phone and Annie became instantly obsessed with Sam. Now I admit, Tom Hanks’ voice is fine, and he has probably had many a stalker follow him, but I doubt anyone would find those stalkers romantic. Nor do I believe he would ever allow a stalker near his child.
Why do I call Annie a stalker? After hearing Sam’s story she thinks about him while she is with her fiancé, she contacts the radio station trying to get his contact information, then she hires a private detective to track him down. (Is that truly romantic or is it frightening behavior, worthy of a Law and Order: SVU episode?)
Then Annie’s equally delusional boss sent her to Seattle to track down Sam, (oops! blush) excuse me, the official line is that the boss assigned Annie to research the radio talk show industry.
While in Seattle Annie went to Sam’s house and learned he had taken his son to the beach so in true stalker style, she followed him there and watched them from a distance. Her stalking profile had not yet risen to the direct approach level.
Seriously, if you were Sam would you ever voluntarily allow this woman anywhere near your child? I would be in court getting an Order of Protection.
Annie loves the movie An Affair to Remember and equates it to her circumstances. How delusional can a woman get? In An Affair to Remember Nicky Ferrente and Terry McKay meet on board a ship heading to the United States from Europe. They had actually met and had a relationship. There was no stalking involved.
The Whole Sleepless in Seattle thing made me stop reading the book. But it had been a pretty good book up until that point and I wanted to see how the hero and heroine got together. The author had done a fine job in the first part of the book. Was it fair not to continue?
I don’t mind admitting I’m a skipper. If an author leaves an important piece of backstory hanging too long, I will jump forward until I find it. If the story is lagging or not as good as I had hoped it would be, I skip ahead to see if it gets better. In the case of a good story, I will go back and read it all the way through. I decided this story deserved a chance and I skipped ahead. Later in the book the author used the Sleepless/Affair meeting at the Empire State Building (also used to get Michael J Fox and an old girlfriend together on one Spin City Christmas show) to get the hero and heroine together, although she did use a different landmark and city. They did not have to go to NYC.
An Affair to Remember is a classic romance. Sleepless in Seattle would have been a better movie with Alfred Hitchcock as the director, the subject matter more his cup of tea. Nora Ephron was wrong to try to romanticize a stalker.
Stalking is a dangerous behavior that has led to the victim being murdered by the obsessed stalker. Rebecca Shaffer from the comedy show My Sister Sam was murdered by her stalker. Jodie Foster’s stalker tried to kill President Reagan.
During a twelve month period in 2005-2006 over three million, four hundred thousand people reported being stalked in the United States. One study shows that one out of every twelve women and one out of every twenty men will be stalked at some point in their lives. (Which means someone you know is in danger of being a victim.)
While we are fighting to get the Violence Against Women Act passed, should we be glorifying a movie in which a woman stalks a man. (Spend a weekend watching ID or OWN and you will have a clearer view of the evil that happens at the hands of stalkers.)
To be honest, it was touch and go on whether I would finish reading the book. There have been many times when I have chosen not to finish reading a book for less than this, but this time I did finish. Sleepless in Seattle was a plot devise to fill in for writing something original. Be careful when you use a book or movie as a reference. Your readers may not be familiar with the piece, or as in my case, may hate it.
The best way to keep your readers interested in your book is by using your own devices to move along the plot. Don’t depend on another person’s work. Shine on your own merit.