I think most of us have heard the theories on how many basic plots exist in fiction. Depending on the source you go by, the answer is as simple as one or as many as . . . well, there isn’t any agreement on how many possibilities there are. And since these possibilities have been used so much in storytelling, writers are told to make these basic ideas FRESH! and NEW! I think this can get confusing because if you go too outside the box, no one can relate to your story. But if it’s too familiar to an existing story, you’re accused of ripping it off.
I’ve been thinking about this since I watched Premium Rush. The plot is in no way mind-blowing: bike messenger is trying to deliver a package that a dirty cop is willing to kill for. A Chase plot, according to James Scott Bell. If I wasn’t a total Joseph Gordon Levitt fanboy, I probably would’ve passed on this one until it came to Netflix. But since I can’t help but go to all of his movies, I bought my ticket and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
I think this was due to the overall fun of the movie and likeability of Levitt’s character. He’s the first person you meet and he’s quickly established as a sarcastic, slightly insane (with the way he rides through Manhattan) kind of guy who rides through the city on one gear with no brakes and never looks back. From then on, I was hooked and wanted to see what mess he’d get himself into.
Most comments I’ve read about the movie are people saying they’re not interested in seeing it because of the less than grabby premise.
But . . .
Everyone who has seen it, has really liked it. From the little bit I read, the feedback was all positive for the same reasons I had. It was fun and Levitt’s character was likable. I have a feeling this movie will do well once it’s rentable. Definitely reminded me of Gleaming the Cube or the lesser known B.R.A.T. Patrol. (No listing on Netflix OR Amazon. WTF?)
Coincidentally, the book I’m reading also has a not so mind-blowing plot, yet I’m still loving every second I’m in that world. It’s called Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep and it’s the first book in the elemental assassin series. The hero, Gin, is on her latest assassin job, which doesn’t go according to plan and has been framed for a murder she DIDN’T commit. But just like Premium Rush, Gin is introduced in a way that you know what she’s all about and like her immediately. By the time the main story is in motion, you’re set to follow Gin wherever she goes.
When I decided to watch Premium Rush and read Spider’s Bite, my objective was to be entertained by a FUN story. While I love a deep, thoughty story as much as the next guy, I still have a place for fun. This doesn’t mean a fun story gets a pass on having a solid plot. It still needs one. But maybe it doesn’t have to blow the hinges off what’s been done. Maybe the place to really concentrate on our uniqueness is in our characters and the way they react to the basic premise we put them in. What do you guys think? Any other examples of stellar characters livening up a basic plot?