Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Light Old West Comedy

Yesterday Carrie K. commented:

"I can't read romance novels. (Much. I like Jennifer Crusie but most of them have me throwing the books at the wall.) It's all so contrived and silly and un-real."

I'm not certain I have any problems with silly and un-real. (See: Terry Pratchett) Contrived? Well, I think it depends on the circumstances. If it's well done, I like silly and contrived and un-real. Unfortunately, it is usually not very well done. Which reminds me...

The Matchmaker
If you read yesterday's post you already know that I am in a tizzy about a romance novel I read recently called The Matchmaker that let me down. (I know, life is so hard!) Since I have been trying to be more serious about my own writing lately I've developed this tendency to read books with an eye for what I would do to fix it. And I'm not talking grammar, punctuation, etc. You can probably tell from this blog that recognizing an adverb is not my strength. No, I'm talking about plot and characterization. I'm not too hot in those areas, either, but humor me.

When I picked up The Matchmaker I was thinking it'd be the novel equivalent of something like Calamity Jane and Support Your Local Sheriff, oddly enough. Light, Old West comedy that's not entirely historically correct but amusing enough for it not to matter. Obviously, I was wrong. Now I am going to tell you in maddening detail what this book could have been, at least in my fantasy world. Then you can tell me if I am totally off my rocker or not.

First off, I would find a reason for a matchmaker to suddenly appear in this quaint gun-toting setting. Perhaps there is a war of the sexes going on (the tavern-goers vs. the Lady's Temperance Society?) that somebody thinks can only be solved by most of the troublemakers getting hitched - assuming that in the process of getting hitched they will come to understand the perspective of their potential spouse, and thereby bringing about harmony. For this to work, it must not get too deep (light comedy), or be too superficial (stupid comedy). Issues do need to be addressed and answered with more than the power of animal attraction. And, to make things interesting, bring in another crisis, as well.

This book would be a parade of Old West stereotypes, with slants on them to make them more refreshing. There would be a gunslinger, gamblers, ranchers, town clowns, prudish women, liberated women, prostitutes, burlesque dancers, cowardly town officials, piano players, bartenders, mustache-twisting villains, the villain's dim sidekick, and possibly a superintelligent horse. There would be a train scene, a tavern brawl, and possibly a shoot-out. Maybe someone getting dragged through the mud by the horse.

The gunslinger - let's call him Jed - comes to town on the same train as the new entertainer, a world-weary, aging singer/burlesque performer and her assistant, who also happens to be her son. the gunslinger is also world-weary and has just bought a ranch near town where he can settle down to a nice, peaceful life. Only, the town is far from peaceful. The war between the temperance women and the boozers is so intense that he can hardly get through a beer. He looks into the problem and realizes that nobody has either an idea of what to do or is capable of doing it. It is left up to him to save his dream of retirement. He becomes the Matchmaker.

The entertainer - let's call her Molly - is too ill (drunk?) to perform the first night of the show, but they're under contract and coming to this one-horse town was her last option, so in desperation her son cross-dresses and performs her act. He knows it by heart, and his mother is old enough and he's young enough that the dark hall conceals his true nature. However, the Temperance League intrudes, led by the mayor's spunky newspaperwoman daughter, Anne. Anne has a bit of a complex about not being feminine enough because she is so independant and forward-thinking: she is the kind of woman who would wear pants. She sees Molly's son on stage, their eyes meet, and it's kismet. However, Anne thinks Molly's son is actually Molly. Anne becomes flustered and leaves on a weak note.

And get this - Jed knew Molly long ago. He is, in fact, the father of Molly's son. But this doesn't get sorted out right away, especially since she changed her stage name.

Etc., etc., etc. Done well - with wit and motivations that don't insult the reader's intelligence - this could be a fun read on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Or at least that's what I think. Have I lost my mind?


Jeanette said...

Sounds like an amusing plot. It also sounds like you may have already writen a chapter or two in you mind if not anywhere else.

Christine said...

Doesn't it? I am very bad.

Carrie K said...

Very bad? I think it sounds great.

I may have misrepresented my dislike of romance novels. I made the mistake of reading one in the midst of a break-up and heaved it against the wall ages ago and have never really gotten over it. Like getting overindulging to the point of nausea and never really being able to enjoy it again.