Shortshrifting a story

Have you ever read a story or watched a show and had a character do something so obnoxious that you called him or her names? I was watching a movie and the father did something fairly shitty to his daughter and then when she responds with an act he doesn’t like (but a mature and reasonable act), he gets pissy. No, he was a dick.

This has bothered me since I watched it. I know it was deliberate on the part of the writer/director and had the desired effect of putting the watcher on the daughter’s side and making the father the bad guy. There’s a hint that he may be having a hard time in secret with his finances, which he refuses to discuss with her. But as the movie goes on, you realize that he’s been dismissive of his daughter for a long time.

What bothers me is that this story arc is a lot like the fridged woman. It’s just an easy way to set up the daughter’s angst without offering any depth or any playing out of the relationship. So when it’s mended, there’s no real satisfaction in it. Again, it’s just there to trigger certain information about the character, but it’s like saccharine–unfulfilling and a little bit bitter and leaves a bad aftertaste.

I won’t even get into the stupidity of the rest of the plot. Actually, it’s not the whole plot. It’s just a shortcut again and in the context of the show, it doesn’t make any sense and it’s unfulfilling.

I wanted this movie to be entertaining, and it was to an extent. But it was light and fluffy and lacked any sort of substance. what was aggravating was that it didn’t have to be that way. It had potential for a good story and it just didn’t seem to bother. I felt really sad and also cheated of a good story.

Now, on to a different topic–Costco just got in my very favorite candy. I had some last year at Christmas and then it went away. They are Sander’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels. And they are amazing. Especially since last year they were covered in milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate. It’s hard to eat more than one at a time, which is really good. Anyhow, if you run across them, you need to try them.




About Diana Pharaoh Francis

A recovering academic, Diana Pharaoh Francis writes books of a fantastical, adventurous, and often romantic nature. She's owned by two corgis, spends much of her time herding children, and likes rocks, geocaching, knotting up yarn, and has a thing for 1800s England, especially the Victorians. Check out samples of just about everything on her website:


Shortshrifting a story — 6 Comments

  1. This weekend I was at Capclave, a delightful small SF convention in MD , and I moderated a panel on this very subject! It was on characters you hate but actually become worthwhile in the story. Among the candidates on offer were Dobby from HARRY POTTER, most of the adults in ROMEO & JULIET, and substantial swathes of the cast of Game of Thrones. I suggested Merry and Pippin, from LOTR. At the beginning they are almost completely worthless, but by the end they are totally heroic.

    • Right. Because the author deigns to treat them as real. And Charles Dickens had a knack for making even the most minor characters feel real and round and purposeful in the story.

      Though I always liked Dobby. But I”m weird.

      And I’ve never been a fan at all of Romeo and Juliet. Most every other Shakespeare play I love, but that one I’d rather poke my eye out than sit through.

  2. Yes, I get so frustrated with stories that have potential, but have characters who feel generically painted by the numbers. So many authors are rushing to bring out multiple books a year (many under pressure from their publishers), and it often shows in lack of depth. AND thanks for the tip about the dark chocolate caramels!