Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Retro Tuesday: A Fish Called Wanda

When I was at the RWA conference, I attended Erica Spindler's talk about her career and how it progressed through speed bump after speed bump until she became a New York Times best-selling author. She's a fabulous speaker and a wonderful lady, and I enjoyed the workshop and her wisdom.

During her speech, she made a comment about fan mail, and brought up an interesting "rule" for writers that I've heard bandied about more than once: don't kill the pets. Especially dogs.

Ms. Spindler mentioned that a writer friend had written a book in which a protagonist had a cat, and lived in an apartment. In the story, the apartment burned down, and the writer never mentioned whether the cat had made it out alive. The author got letters asking about the cat, wanting to make sure it had survived.

I've heard this kind of feedback before, and not just with romance novels. Apparently it's okay to write about serial killers and child kidnappers (although I personally can't read books in which a child is hurt or abused or anything like that--even Nora's Carolina Moon almost lost me because of the girls who were killed), but don't, whatever you do, kill the dog. Or the cat.

Which is why I find it interesting that A Fish Called Wanda (see, I was getting to my point!) is such a brilliantly funny, romantic, engaging movie...even though those poor doggies all meet their end!

Perhaps it's because Ken (played by Michael Palin) takes the pressure off us--we know he'll do anything to keep Wanda (the fish, of course), and the dogs, and any other creatures alive--so we don't have to worry about it. He has his revenge in the end!

And, actually, I think the movie saved itself from becoming a PETA target--not only because of Ken, but also because of how the doggie deaths were filmed.

Originally, the remains of the dogs included fake innards (gleaned from a nearby butcher, apparently) spread around the ground next to the bodies...but in the preview screenings, the audiences didn't like that. (No surprise there.) So, they re-shot the scenes with obviously-fake dog bodies.


Unfortunately, that's not an option for a writer--we have to keep the pets alive no matter what.

So...does that bother you--pet deaths in a book? What else upsets you?

And if you haven't seen A Fish Called Wanda, hie thyself to Blockbuster, or to your Netflix queue and get it. It's a joy to watch, and the cast is fabulous.


Blogger Heather Harper soliloquized...

I never finished reading Needful Things by Stephen King because of the scene with the dog.

I still grieve over the death of a pet from 2002? (I keep forgetting the year.) So yes, pet deaths in books distract me to no end.

It's not the writer's fault though. I understand it might serve the story, I just won't be able to read it.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 8:17:00 AM  
Blogger Jaye Wells soliloquized...

It doesn't really bother me, especially well-motivated within the story. I'm not saying a relish pet deaths in a story but if it works then I deal with it. Except for Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows. Those movies are horrible. Kids are another story, though.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 10:23:00 AM  

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