Monday, April 26, 2010

Fools Gold and the Missing Treasure by Susan May Warren

This Manuscript Monday Susan May Warren concludes her series "Craft Tips and Techniques from Today’s Blockbusters." It's been a pleasure hosting Susan again these several weeks. Thank you, Susie, for sharing craft tips with our readers in a movie-lover's fashion!

Fool’s Gold and the Missing Treasure
by Susan May Warren

This question lingers throughout the rest of the movie. Why are they divorcing?

I love a great romance. Something that stirs my heart and makes me believe anew in true love. And what’s not to love about Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson?

Any movie that takes place in the Caribbean is a winner for me. Add to that a buried treasure and an adventure . . . I thought I’d love their newest romantic comedy, Fool’s Gold.

Admittedly, the shallow part of me did. But the part that longed for a true romance . . . well, I walked out empty-hearted. It had the right ingredients:– cute couple, adventure, locale, even a sound subplot. What was it missing?

I call it The Key. It’s the moment/situation/reality in the movie that unlocks the characters’ true feelings and opens the treasure they’ve really been hunting for: intimacy; the realization that they belong together. Why do we love romances like Sleepless in Seattle, While You Were Sleeping, or even Return to Me? It’s because in these movies, the couple uses the key and to unlock their hearts. They confess the truth of their failings and their deep need for each other. (Remember the line in Return to Me: “I’ll always miss Elizabeth, but I ache for Grace.” Oh!)

Let’s return to Fool’s Gold.

We know Finn loves Tess, after all, he grabs her picture—and only her picture— from his sinking boat. And Tess loves Finn, evidenced by the mascara dropping in the sink in her first scene. But it’s not long after that we discover they have problems. Tess believes he is completely irresponsible and even uncaring about their relationship. After all, he can’t even bother to show up for their divorce on time.

However, he is racing to stop it. “This is a big mistake!” he says after bursting into the judge’s chambers. “This woman and I still love each other.”

But it’s too late. They’re already divorced. Finn, in desperation, turns to her and asks, “Why?”

This question lingers throughout the rest of the movie. Why are they divorcing? But a great romance needs to start at the beginning. Why do they belong together?

Sure, they’re both treasure hunters, both driven by the mystery, by the magic of adventure; however, clearly they are different people. She is smart, ambitious, responsible; he’s a mess and a lying scoundrel, albeit driven and charming.

One she can’t seem to eject him from her life.

He appears on the boat she’s working on, and soon he’s cajoled the owner (and her) into racing after the one thing that binds them together: a buried treasure.

The movie makes a valiant attempt to subtext the metaphor treasure with their happily ever after. “Aurelia’s [the treasure] right around the corner. And she’s all ours,” he says.

We hope so, but instead of diving deep into their issues, or even realizing why these two love each other, the story keeps us at surface level. Finn and Tess unlock the clues together, even share a moment of passion, but still, what went wrong? Why should they give their marriage another chance?

Fast forward to the end when they’ve nearly lost their lives and they’re in an airplane about to crash. He says, “This next part, I’m not exactly sure how to pull off.” Of course, he’s talking about landing. But he could just as well be talking about their future.

“Are we going to die?” she asks.

“No. No, we’re not.”

So, suddenly they’ve bridged their gap and are on the home run toward the happily ever after. Except, what happened to the middle? They key moment when they realize that something has changed? Is finding the treasure all they need to find happily ever after?

Apparently yes, because when they surface, the first thing out of Finn’s mouth is, “I’m sorry. I love you. I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes. Marry me.”

“No, you haven’t,” she says. And follows up with, “And, yes, I will.”

Okay, we can buy that excitement of finding the treasure has reminded her of why she was first drawn to him. And, of course, without the financial woes between them, life will certainly be easier.

But what about that deeper treasure? The value of each other that they’ve found during their journey?

What need do they fulfill in each other’s life? Passion? Adventure?

“Why?” Finn asked when his wife divorced him.

“Why?” we ask as we watch them get back together.

Because although it’s a fun romp with beautiful people, their issues are still so glaring we know it can’t last. Will he still be a scoundrel? Probably. Will she still get fed up with him? No doubt. Will they continue to require dangerous adventures to keep them together? Most likely. They haven’t really found the true value of their relationship; they’ve only discovered Fool’s Gold.

It’s all about the why. Why do they belong together? Why can’t they live without each other? Why is the happily ever after worth the risk? Ask your hero and heroine why, and you’ll discover The Key to unlocking the real treasure of a great romance.

Susan May Warren
is the founder of My Book Therapy, a boutique fiction editing service for writers, and runs A Writer’s Blog. See her Web site to learn more about her award-winning fiction.


  1. Wow, I never thought of it that way. That's a great piece of advise. I will look through my MS and ask a bunch of whys. It makes sense that we need to go deeper to find the root of the character's attachment.
    Thank you

  2. Hasn't Susan's series been helpful? Love her heart to teach other writers. Happy writing!


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