… and why I can’t take one.
For reasons other than the sweltering heat, today is shaping up to be a pants off, swing high sweet butt cheeks aimed at the gold plated porcelain throne E L James earned herself.
As the fourth instalment of 50 Shades of Grey: Christian Grey’s Pervy POV Party is released, James’ publishers sent out an #AskELJames hashtag to the “Twtterverse”, only to find a large number of witty, hilarious, and mean spirited responses in return.
First, I would like to state that I agree the books are poorly written, and the story tells us of a generally undesirable situation for a young woman had Mr. Grey not been a young, beautiful, and wealthy suitor.
But we’re not here to have yet another discussion over the story. Or the writing.
So why are we here?
As an editor/ story editor, I have read thousands of manuscripts and screenplays in the past eight years – and I can tell you one thing after having read exactly 1 1/2 of James’ books (the first instalment in full and the second to the halfmay marc befour loosing me english wordsing).
50 Shades of Grey sells because it subtly plays with women’s psyche on one of the deepest levels it can. And it’s not about the sex. In fact, it’s about the very first thing we come to learn as women from the time we are born and bombarded with Disney films, Hollywood romances, and classic novels. Ready?
Christian Grey is a broken man that begins to change for Anastasia Steele.
And it has become many women’s fantasy to change a (broken) man.
I’m stating this from a purely psychological standpoint. There is no feminist rah rah here. There is no accusation that this true to every single woman on planet earth either.
But let’s be honest with ourselves. What kind of lessons have we learned from the above mentioned Disney, Hollywood film and classic novels? How did we approach relationships when we were young, idealistic, and naive?
I for one have learned that the best relationship I have ever been in is with the man I’m going to marry next year. The man I accepted and embraced for who he is from the very beginning of our relationship. And I have never been happier.
But to get back on point: 50 Shades of Grey sells women their most incorrectly learned neurosis. The idea of being able to change a man. And it works. Just as it did for Stephanie Meyer when Bella changed Edward (e.g. he has let go of being alone and allowed himself to love and commit after being on his own for some hundred years or so).
Neither of the books are well written, and neither are telling a new story. But both are capitalizing on characters that could never exist as E L James put it in a recent Q&A: What makes Christian Grey so appealing? “Because he doesn’t exist” she replied. Characters with an old story in a new setting that could never exist. Brilliant. Well, brilliant in the sense of: BIG payday brilliant.
While I don’t read romance novels, this is indeed a revival of a genre that has plummeted in recent years and only recently seen a 300% growth and renewed demand from publishers.
So here we are. Being honest with ourselves. 50 Shades of Grey sells. Twilight sells. And while I always encourage the writers I work with to be impeccable wordsmiths, we have to look at the story. And the key to a good story is to create a relatable situation (and/or characters) to engage your readers. We can all relate to having at some point in our lives attempted to (knowingly or not) change somebody.
I have to end here for now as my fiancee started playing the banjo to distract me and I must RAISE my voice in disapproval!
I’ll write more on Psychology and Story in future blog posts so stay tuned.
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“I’ll go away now, but thank you for making me a better person by telling me not to bother you while you blog,” he responds smugly after reading my post.
Well played sweetheart, well played.