Oh, the iconic saying that even starting to make the sound of “bah” puts people into a tizzy. I, personally, have only read one of the Bond books and it was… okay in my opinion, but that was back at a time when I was more into fantasy and science fiction than plain fiction.
I am, on the other hand, more familiar with the movies. And who isn’t really? Bond fans, whether avid or not, know the movies have tons of hot girls, cool gadgets, and the sexy and suave Bond. Everyone who watches does so for their own reasons, which is more than likely a primary reason Bond has stayed so popular for all these years with the first movie, Dr. No in 1962 with Sean Connery (my 2nd favorite actor to play Mr. Smooth), to the latest installment of Skyfall with Daniel Craig (who I’m not a fan of – Oh, Pierce, why did you leave me???).
Wait, let’s pause a moment to consider this: We’re talking about a legacy that has lasted over 50 years!!! I don’t care how much you love or hate the Bond series, that’s impressive. Wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records and it should be! Ian Flemming would have been proud to see this legacy and don’t we all wish we could do the same? As a writer, having our work go from the written word to the silver screen seems like a long shot. Most don’t make it that far and those who do, well, they probably hope they can one day beat Mr. Flemming’s record (doubtful, but we all need dreams).
For me though, my only fascination with the Bond movies is those special moments. The ones where you watch and see the totally awesome, fantastic act, gadget, or saved by the skin of the teeth move that makes your jaw drop. Yeah, that’s a good description, the jaw dropping moments. At least, that’s what most people would call it.
I, on the other hand, call it the “Uh huh, yeah right.” I mean, come on, there is no way in hell any of those moments can be done in real life without the special effects, the movie set up, or the stunt double. One of my particular favorites was the boat chase in The World is Not Enough when Bond drives the speed boat over a ramp and does a 360 roll in the air and lands perfectly on the water to keep going.
Uh huh, yeah right.
I dare anyone to send me a video of it being done for real without any wires, computer graphics, or movie magic in the exact same way. Hell, I dare Myth Busters to prove me wrong on this. It can’t be done… at least not safely and not with the person walking away in one piece. The amount of torque plus momentum that would…
Yeah, see, right there. I’m about to start my rant which I’ll cut off before I get in full swing. Talk about a tangent…
In watching Bond, I’m curious to find out if those special scenes are described in any of the books. It makes me wonder and think, when writing we’re often cautioned to be as realistic as possible. If you’re going to break the laws of physics, explain how and why they are broken. If you’re going to reverse gravity in the middle of the story it must make sense.
This is, dare I say it, one of the top 5 golden rules of writing. It has to be real within the context of the story. In science fiction where the year is 3102 where there are space ships using a warp drive, we expect that science has moved beyond our current understanding. It’s real for that time period. Go back to 1023 and you better have your history and facts right about how people talk, the politics, the class structure… you get the idea.
It’s hard for me, as a writer, to watch those Uh huh, yeah right moments because I waffle back and forth between “Wow, that’s cool!” and “Puhlease, like that could happen!”
The truth is, in my humble opinion, the fine line between my double reaction to those moments is hard to walk. Especially in writing. On one hand, we want the story to be a fantastic whirl wind where our hero is able to complete the impossible without ruffling their hair and walk into a bar ten minutes later to order a “martini. Shaken, not stirred.” (Complete with accent). On the other, we want to be true to our characters.
We go through great pains to create characters that are believable, relatable, and enjoyable. We do it for ourselves, for our readers, and for the characters themselves.
The question I have is this: we put so much effort into the characters and the scene and/or science behind the stories, but how much focus do we put into the action of our story?
For some stories the action isn’t quite as pivotal as it is in others, but it is still there. When it comes down to it, do we give the action as much effort to keep it in that realm of realistic? For my fight scenes, I try to block and plan it. I try to ensure that physically it is possible. I’ve talked about it before, but I’m not sure I put as much effort into hiking through a forest, or riding a motorcycle. I take these little bits for granted, as do our readers, so should we put in that much thought? Does it matter that we have a car driving over 1000 miles and never write in the part where they stopped to fill up the tank? Is that just the extra boring details?
How much liberty are we taking in expecting our readers to know? For fiction it’s easier because everyone who drives knows that you can’t go 1000 miles without stopping for gas. You’ll run out, but how many of us knows that a horse can only travel a few leagues (or even what a league is) before having to stop and rest?
That’s not to mention the scenes. Agents tell us “never start with the weather” and often times unless the weather causes some type of element for our characters to deal with, we leave it out beyond a single line of “the sun was hot” or the “rain wouldn’t stop”. Do the same questions apply?
Or maybe, just maybe, I’m over thinking this again. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
- A Brief History of James Bond (mrmovietimes.com)
- Web extra: Stephen King on storytelling (cbsnews.com)