The final movie in Peter Jackson’s trilogy version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s single book, The Hobbit, doesn’t disappoint with action. With a title of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, the movie delivers on that promise with an epic battle involving dwarves, elves, orcs, humans, and all sorts of wild creatures.
And, oh yeah, a hobbit. That guy is in the main title, after all.
The final movie in The Hobbit trilogy reminded me of the final installment of Peter Jackson’s treatment of Tolkien’s actual trilogy of books, The Lord of the Rings. In both trilogy-ending movies, a long, sustained battle takes up most of the flick. At least the battle seems to take up most of the flick — and most of the day.
Don’t get the wrong idea: I like action in movies and books. I thought The Battle of Five Armies was an entertaining movie. It was a big improvement over the first movie in the series, An Unexpected Journey, which was one chase scene after another and would’ve been a stronger movie had it been chopped in half.
After I saw The Battle of Five Armies, I thought of how a vessel (book or movie) can substitute tons of action for story. Yes, there is story in The Hobbit movie trilogy, but it’s very stretched out — and the gaps are crammed in with action.
Sometimes, that’s okay — because it can lead to an entertaining product. Sometimes, though, it leads you wanting for more substance.
Here’s where I’m coming from in this: I write erotica under a pen name, and I write non-erotica under my real name. You can say that the erotic stories I write are very predictable. You know that much of the time, the climax of the story is going to be a climax. Yes, I went there. And it’s true. When you start off reading my erotic stories, you know that the characters are going to eventually either go after each other like howling wolves wrestling in the forest, or they’re going to make sweet, sensual love.
In other words, a vessel crammed with lots of action instead of lots of story.
But, I figure, that’s sometimes what readers want. There are times when viewers don’t want a porn movie to have a plot. They want attractive people gettin’ down to business. They don’t watch porn for story. There’s It’s a Wonderful Life for that. Sorry for calling out your movie, Frank Capra, but that really is a compliment.
It can be the same for me in writing some of my erotic stories. I want to create interesting characters and have them get down to business. Some of my stories start with frisky dialogue, then shift into the sex. Other times, the characters have a problem they want sort out.
But that’s not all of the time. Because I also like to craft story. I look at it this way: There are books where the sex is the story. And there are books with a story that can include sex. (Speaking of books for adults here, not literature for children.) Those two categories are much different. In one track, the characters connect physically and emotionally (not always, though), and that’s the whole story. In the other track, events outside of the sex happen, and the characters have to deal with those.
With erotica, sex occurs in the story — that’s why it’s erotica. But the sex doesn’t have to be the story’s entire reason for being. Erotica can have much more beyond that. Complex characters. Deep emotions besides lust, such as jealousy, anger, sadness, anxiety. Events that have nothing to do with the lovemaking.
My take-away from The Hobbit’s movie trilogy was that tons of action can be entertaining — but it has limits. Because there’s not a whole lot of story with armies just thrashing each other. Nor is there a whole lot of story with characters simply going at each other in bed (or in other sexy location).
I’m sure I’ll write more of those direct stories where just sex happens to characters. It’s a fantasy world for me and readers to dive into and enjoy for a bit before we return to the real world.
But I’m also very interested in writing where story happens, and not just one kind of action. Because those stories can be really interesting, in deeper ways that stay with you.