I was going to review Crimson Peak… until fellow DFWCon-er Rachel put up this post. She hits every point I could’ve possibly hoped to make, then adds a frigate full of sad-eyed kittens. Take for example –
I’d like to draw your attention to one other point that I didn’t notice until my second viewing, but when I did, it broke my damn heart. At the beginning, when Thomas takes Edith to the party and convinces her to dance with him, he says: “I’ve always closed my eyes to things that make me uncomfortable. It makes them easier.” Consider that for a moment in light of the abuse the man’s faced at the hands of his sister. And then consider the two times we see him in a sexual situation, with Edith he had his eyes open, and for all the animalistic sounds we hear leading to when he’s caught in the act with Lucille, he doesn’t.
I. Can’t. Even. *Looks at Thomas Sharpe and mourns.* Damn you, Hiddleston, look what you’ve done to us!
Long story short – I loved the movie. Loved. The moth-eaten manse of Crimson Peak is creepy, yet stunning. Creaks and groans, red clay oozing from the walls, corridors framed with dagger-like protrusions. At first the spirits act like the trailers want you to believe – on the periphery, meant to scare or harm Edith. Which is a shame, because I spent way too much time (like a lot of people, I suspect) waiting for when the ghosts would do more, instead of absorbing the character turmoil on the screen.
Thomas, Lucille, and Edith, it turns out, are exactly what I needed to understand why my current WIP felt off.
(Okay, you got me. It was mostly Thomas.)
Up until this October, I had the worst time with my story’s MC (main character). From day one she’s felt more like a canvas I splattered with attributes and shallow feelings than a genuine human. I tried character questionnaires, and uncovered the parts of her back story pertinent to the story to no avail. It always seemed like my answers were forced on her. She makes it through each plot point, but there are times when I can’t tell if it’s because of her agency or my authorial hand pushing her through them.
Added to this was the sense that I needed to make the story darker somehow, and not knowing how to go about it.
Cue Thomas and Lucille, characters extraordinaire. The slow reveal of wicked things they’ve done to survive, glimpsing where those dark roots took hold and how they flourished to an eventual, likely unavoidable, fall. Their back story amounts to little more than breadcrumbs, but we don’t need to be shown more – their habits, motivations, and actions can easily be traced down that rabbit hole. Therein lay my answer, and also, the realization how desensitized I (and maybe we, as a nation) have become in our little bubble known as America.
I mean, how fucked up is that my mind went to some kind of magic event/apocalypse or making the world dystopic just to send the story on a darker path? There’s so much violence and hate in the world as it is… without any magic or other supernatural bullshit involved. People end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Each day is a tragedy for somebody, whether it’s a car accident caused by a drunk driver or a kid accidentally suffocating him/her self trying to do some new fad stunt to fit in.
Needless to say, the events around the world since I started this post 1.5 months ago reinforce part 1 of the epiphany – the source material or “inspiration” needed to darken my fictional world already exists. I don’t need to make something else up when people are far too cruel to one another already.
For part 2 – as will happen with epiphanies, I can’t really put into words -why- it clicked on a character level. All I know is that after seeing Crimson Peak, I understand my MC. She isn’t just a skeleton. She’s not whole either, but she feels much more real and separate from my own self now than she ever did. Once I started seeing her as a person, shaped by her past, present, and her goals for the future, she started answering the questions I had for her. She is more cohesive in my mind, more apparent (I think) in the narrative. The choices made in regards to obstacles (plot) feel more like what she would do and less like me pushing her in the right direction.
Granted, all of this came about after I finished up the 1st draft of book one. So I’ve been putting this newfound insight to practice for book two (my 2015 NaNoWriMo project), but this also means extensive edits for book 1.
*Sighs. Buys all the coffee.*
If there is one moment in Crimson Peak where, I think, the epiphany on creating whole and real characters took hold, it would be when Thomas has to break Edith’s heart. It’s a cliché moment – he crushes her romantic ideals for the two of them so her father won’t reveal Thomas’s secret – but then veers from the stereotype. Thomas asks her what she knows of love and goes on to berate her overly optimistic, childish view of it, yet it’s almost like he’s speaking to himself. Like he’s afraid of the spark Edith ignited in him – warm, bright, the promise of acting in his own interests. This is a completely alien concept compared to the love Lucille has shown. And as much as he fears Edith finding out their secret, he’s more afraid of the change she offers. She rattles his core foundations. Doesn’t Lucille know what’s best? Hasn’t she protected him all this time?
His emotions aren’t just stemming from having to break Edith’s heart, but because he knows the bleak course he will return to without having her in his life.