It seems sacrilegious to follow Cara’s post on Pride & Prejudice with one on Sex and the City, but I finally saw it this weekend and can’t resist the urge to discuss it with you. I promise to do my best to stay on topic!
I will not discuss Carrie’s wedding dress. Or the possible hazards of sleeping in pearls. Or gladiator shoes. Or those horrific pants Samantha wears to the shower. I will not talk about the studded belt, or even about those gorgeous blue Manolos. No, I won’t talk about any of these things!
What I’d like to talk about is predictability. Many of the official reviews of the film were negative and the single biggest complaint I noticed was that the plot was predictable. Yet many fans rave about this film and I loved it too. Apparently, predictability isn’t the biggest issue for many people.
I think what saved it for fans is that they love the characters. The series established Carrie and her friends so well that we know all their flaws and quirks and can guess what challenges they’re going to face as their relationships progress. But we still like spending time with them.
Being a writer, I couldn’t help thinking about what might have been done to make the plot less predictable. Frankly, I was stumped. This was very much a character-driven series. It’s not like a mystery or action/adventure series where you can vary things by introducing a new villain or new threat to world peace or whatever. The surprises in a series like this come from revealing new aspects of character. But with these characters we’ve passed many of the big revelations. It’s more of a gradual evolution now as they don’t change so much as become more themselves.
To have Carrie, her friends and their men behave unpredictably one would likely have to have them go out of character, which would have bothered fans of the series far more. To me, predictability seems a lesser crime than being untrue to your characters.
In a standalone film or novel, this isn’t as much of an issue because the viewer or reader doesn’t already know the main characters and it’s easier to create surprises as layers get peeled away. But at some point, some readers (especially those who are also writers) can often predict what the characters’ Black Moment is going to be and even how it might end. It’s hard to keep the characterization true and also surprise a reader who takes the time to step back and make predictions. I aim for that but I also hope that my readers will become so engaged with my characters that they start seeing that world through the characters’ eyes. Then hopefully they’ll ache along with them and forget that they know better.
So what do you think about predictability in stories? If you saw it, did you enjoy SATC? And do you love these shoes as much as I do? (They’re only about $1000. A bargain, right?)