Ask a male author about your male character traits or thoughts.

Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Degrees of odd coupleness

As a guy, one of the first things I think of when writing a character is how are they different (from others). How do they relate to the other character(s) in an aggravating (or endearing to the reader) way. Some writing books call these quirks, fatal flaws, others call them charms. There’s something to work on, fix, change or live with. Of course, fatal, it is not, at least in any literature with a happy ending.

One of my editors complained, “When are is your hero going to eat anything else but spaghetti and meatballs?” This particular hero also had a problem being seen in the buff by the heroine. Every experienced writer inserts these cute peccadillos. I especially enjoy exploring the differences between genetically identical twins and how they love each other.

Why employ odd coupleness? Throw your hero and heroine into a mess and people will want to see how they’ll clean it up or make it worse. It’s human nature to identify with the characters and want to fix things that are broken. Making it worse makes us laugh. Humans, by their nature, work and create.

HelenKay Dimon gave her former Navy Seal, claustrophobia, but the heroine nurtured him without laughing aloud. Besides, that would have likely got them killed.

Odd coupleness is found in every type of well-written literature. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is so good at this. She mismatches hero and heroine all the time and I think she has the most fun finding out how and why they could love each other.

Mention any good movie. Showgirl and the Professor, You’ve Got Mail. Remember the ending of Some Like It Hot, “nobody’s perfect.”

Today, I want to pay tribute to The Odd Couple, originally a play by Neil Simon:
On Broadway 1965 with Art Carney & Walter Matthau.
As a movie 1968 with Jack Lemon & Walter Matthau.
On TV 1970 with Tony Randall & Jack Klugman.
Made into a female version in 1985 on Broadway with Sally Struthers and Rita Moreno.
On and on, including this year when it premiered on CBS starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon (8:30 PM Thursdays). If you like seeing Felix throw away hundreds of hamburger buns until he finds the right one to photograph and then having some sesames picked off, then you’ll be hooked. Please don't misunderstand the purpose of this blog. I'm not promoting shows, songs or movies. I'm casting light on writing techniques, generally from the male point of view.

Plot basics for those who have never seen the show in any of its venues—Wiki: Plot overview:

Felix Ungar, a neurotic, neat freak newswriter (a photographer in the television series), is thrown out by his wife, and moves in with his friend Oscar Madison, a slovenly sportswriter. Despite Oscar's problems – careless spending, excessive gambling, a poorly kept house filled with spoiled food – he seems to enjoy life. Felix, however, seems utterly incapable of enjoying anything and only finds purpose in pointing out his own and other people's mistakes and foibles. Even when he tries to do so in a gentle and constructive way, his corrections and suggestions prove extremely annoying to those around him. Oscar, his closest friend, feels compelled to throw him out after only a brief time together, though he quickly realizes that Felix has had a positive effect on him.

Characters:
Oscar Madison: A slovenly, recently divorced sportswriter.
  • Felix Ungar: A fastidious, hypochondriac newswriter whose marriage is ending.
  • Murray: An NYPD policeman, one of Oscar and Felix's poker buddies.
  • Speed: One of the poker buddies. Gruff and sarcastic, often picking on Vinnie and Murray.
  • Vinnie: One of the poker buddies. Vinnie is mild-mannered and henpecked, making him an easy target for Speed's verbal barbs.
  • Roy: One of the poker buddies. Oscar's accountant. Roy has a dry wit but is less acerbic than Speed.
  • Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon: Oscar and Felix's giggly upstairs neighbors, a pair of English sisters. The former is a divorcĂ©e, the latter a widow.
According to Neil Simon, the Pigeon sisters made the third act work better (credit a New England critic) and the play more successful. Naturally, along the writer’s journey one needs enduring and endearing secondary characters to interact with.

Here’s a peek at the 2015 TV version on CBS with references to earlier versions:
 

2 comments:

  1. Bob:
    Thanks for the laughs this morning. I haven't seen the latest version of THE ODD COUPLE, but I did see a couple of the earlier ones. Is Thomas Lennon related to anyone else in show biz? The Performing Arts Club where I live has performed many Neil Simon plays.RUMORS, seldom talked about, was one of the best.

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  2. I wasn't impressed with the one episode I watched of the new version. Matthew Perry just doesn't make a convincing Oscar.

    I think opposites make good pairs though. Mostly :)

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