Character wrangling and Downton

So I’m just waiting on say-so from Amazon and Fifty Shades of Neigh is soon to be a thing, an actual book. Once that happens I will post the (sort of) thrilling conclusion and point you nice people to a place where you can get your very own shiny Kindle copy.

In the meantime I’m forced to think about proper writing – the kind that requires thought and research – and face the reasons why the novel I thought I wanted to write in November fizzled out before the fifteenth of the month.

I have a serious problem with the central love story. I’m just not feeling it. At first I had the two of them meet as strangers in chapter one and then came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t going to work. And now I try to grasp why I thought that in the first place I feel like my head is full of bees and I want to punch something.

BUT IT FEELS WRONG.

Only way I can describe it. IT FEELS WRONG THEREFORE IT IS WRONG DON’T QUESTION ME I DON’T KNOW BUT I AM FUCKING RIGHT.

I’m not sure if it’s my instincts as a writer talking there, or simply my menstrual cycle.

Of course the alternative is that he is someone she’s known for a long time as a friend and then they become lovers, which is tricky to say the least. I don’t want the love interest to come across as one of those clammy, whiny, wimpy Nice Guys who wait like Fry’s Dog for the woman they crave to become single and then act like they deserve her as a prize for their unending patience and kindness – kindness and patience that they would never have bothered with if they didn’t think there was a fraction of a chance that one day she was going to fuck them.

By the same token I don’t want the heroine to do that I-only-want-you-if-I-can’t-have-you thing that made Downton Abbey such a masterclass in How To Annoy Your Audience.

Yes, I’m aware that there are people who found the whole Matthew and Mary saga romantic, but those people don’t have to live in my head, in the company of fictional characters who I would prefer weren’t given to prevaricating, backsliding and generally behaving in a way that makes sane people want to gnaw off a limb.

I was trying to remember why she even broke off the first engagement with him. Was it something to do with the Turkish diplomat who died unexpectedly in her antechamber (And yes, that’s totally a euphemism.) or was it just because the way was clear for them to be together and nothing dries Mary’s snatch faster than a clear, uncomplicated path to happiness. (Except for maybe a dead Turkish diplomat.)

I asked my better half and he reminded me that Mary dumped Matthew first time around because Cora was pregnant with a possible Viscount, a baby who would mean Matthew would have to bugger off back to Manchester and practise law.

It’s easy to forget, because poor Cora didn’t stay pregnant, thanks to the chainsmoking amateur abortionist who does her hair, but then nobody stays anything in Downton for long. It doesn’t matter if you’re pregnant, paralysed, blind, diseased or Burnt Face Amnesiac Long Lost Cousin From Canada – it usually clears up in an episode or two, because we wouldn’t want to deliver on promised drama. That would just be spoiling the viewers.

I know I compared Downton to a deflated souffle but I never expected to be so right. The scene in the first episode where Daisy almost poisons the entire Crawley family but doesn’t is like a metaphor for the entire series.

Possible new heir? Holy shit – that’s going to change the whole dynamic. Quick, pass the soap.

Burnt Face Amnesiac Long Lost Cousin From Canada? Meh – it was probably nothing. Anyway, he got bored and wandered off after one episode.

Matthew got paralysed in the war? Oh shit son – what are they going to do now his penis doesn’t work? Will Lavinia have to hire a new gamekeeper?…oh, wait – he’s fine. Somehow.

The scene where Matthew leaps to his feet after six months in a wheelchair is one of the most gloriously silly things I have ever seen on TV, right up there with the episode of The Colbys where Fallon left the series in a spaceship. We were pointing at the television and hooting like gibbons – it was fucking great.

“What the fuck just happened?”

“Oh come on – didn’t you see it coming?”

“Well, yeah, but didn’t they have muscle atrophy in 1919?”

Apparently not. Apparently they didn’t have brains in 1919 either, if the Spanish Flu episode was any indication. Global pandemic comes to Downton? No problem. Come on over. Bring your baby. Bring your inlaws. We’ve only got three patients down with a vicious, fast acting disease which has wiped out millions – it’s probably not that contagious.

Of course, poor old Lavinia’s dance-card was marked since Matthew discovered that his wee-wee worked again and Little Miss I-Only-Want-What-I-Can’t-Have was positively moist at the thought that Lavinia had first dibs on the resurrected organ.

Exit Lavinia, who was tucked up in bed with some hot milk. As soon as she took a turn for the worse, enter half a dozen gawping Crawleys to stand around maskless, open mouthed and breathing heavily while she expired of an extremely contagious disease.

Downton Abbey? More like Darwin Abbey. Fucking hell.

I love that Lavinia got to miss out on heliotrope cyanosis and drowning horribly in her own fluids so that she could die like the unwanted plot point she was and bless the endless, boring, back and forth fuckery that passes for Matthew and Mary’s romance. And I love that Lavinia dying like an angel (in the face of all medical odds.) and blessing the endless, boring, back and forth fuckery then fed into into the endless, boring, back and forth fuckery, causing Matthew to wail that he and Mary were cursed and could never ever ever be together.

You’re not cursed. You’re just idiots. Go and lock yourself in a shed somewhere and fuck. Please. Nobody can take it anymore.

It’s so stupid. I love it. I love that annoying Fisher-Price revolutionary of a chauffeur, and his habit of barfing up chunks of A-Level History over Sibyl every time she goes down to see him.

“I love you – did you hear Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, has been assassinated?”

“Come away with me. They stormed the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg – I think there might be a revolution.”

“Kiss me, I’m Irish – and I lost relatives in the Easter Rising of 1916.”

God, it’s so terrible. I want the new chauffeur to be James Joyce – doing a spot of freelancing while he polishes up his next draft. He could make lewd suggestions to Lady Edith and send her screaming from the garage.

“Edith, he wanted you to do what on a glass topped coffee table?”

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