TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Stakes

I love adaptations, especially of Austen’s books. I think they can work, if done well.

This book…not so much.

Even though the main characters are teenagers, I can’t stomach the unnecessary drama. Jenni James acts like everything that happens between the two leads is the most traumatizing thing ever. Every conversation they have spirals out of control.

I sort of remember this from high school. I remember snapping at people and things getting out of hand. I still maintained the ability to have normal–not even civil, just normal–conversations with people I didn’t like. Not so with Jenni James’ characters. The act of sharpening a pencil quickly becomes, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU, TAYLOR ANDERSON!” “YOU NEVER UNDERSTAND ANYTHING, CHLOE HART!”

The amount of drama and bile these characters have doesn’t work because the stakes are so low. In the original Pride and Prejudice, the Bennett sisters are poor and are considered lucky to attract any man at all. When Lizzie rejects the wealthy Darcy, while undoubtedly the right decision, it’s a big deal because she has no guarantee of ever attracting another suitor.

In Pride and Popularity, Chloe refuses to date Taylor…because he’s popular. The biggest thing to come out of this is she doesn’t have a Valentine…or a date to prom. Quite the hardship.

The amount of angst they wring from this event makes me laugh. When your big emotional climax is funny instead of heartbreaking, you know your writing needs work.

There was an excellent episode of “Beauty and the Geek” where the Beauties and the Geeks acted in a soap opera. The scenarios they came up with were amazing because they were so outrageous, e.g., “I can’t believe you went back to Chris! Don’t you remember when he faked his own fiery death? What about when he was kidnapped by pirates?”

That’s what this reminds me of. I want to like and connect to these characters, but I’m put off by the melodrama of these mundane events. Either make the stakes bigger or make the characters’ reactions more believable. This is not a soap opera.

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