Like that one guy said: Good writers borrow, great writers steal. Welcome to the place where all things have been lifted, looted, and otherwise pilfered…Remember, possession is 9/10s of the law.
You know how they tell you creating complications is a good thing in writing a story? Challenge your characters? Well, Wodehouse is The Master.
I remember thinking this way back when I read The Code of the Woosters. Now I’m reminded of his skill in The Luck of the Bodkins.
In this funky love larger-than-triangular-geometric-pattern, Wodehouse creates a mess and half. You’ve got Monty Bodkin who loves Gertrude. Gertrude thinks he’s a cheating rascal, due to a misunderstanding. Just when he’s convinced her otherwise (because he’s truly a gentleman) his buddy Reggie, who mistakenly thinks Gertrude has lost her “spark” for Monty, tells her Monty’s a true catch–just look at all the girls who hang around him! Then, right after Monty learns of his friend’s blunder, Monty is (through a convaluted series of events) comforting the hottest movie star in town when Gertrude shows up to confront him. Sparks ensue.
And I didn’t even tell you about the movie producer who’s scared of customs agents mistaking Monty for a Customs Spy. I’m only a quarter of the way through the book but I know somewhere that’s gonna cause a big load of hassle.
What I really enjoy about these complications is the human-ness of them. Each fear and complication hinges on something in the character. Monty, for example, is a sexy, rich, young man. He doesn’t have to work. His whole trouble with Gertrude starts when he sends her photographs of himself on the beach in the Riviera–hence she thinks that this sexy, rich, young, bored man would of course be a cheater. Which tells us about her insecurities as well as Monty’s flaws.
Then those flaws feed off of each other.
From my experience with The Code of the Woosters, I know Wodehouse is capable not only of complicating matters, but complicating matters right until the very end. Literally, I was on the last two pages of that book before he started to resolve anything. And VOILA! It was delivered with a tidy little bow.
Still not quite sure how he does it. I’m working to see how that all comes about. I have only caught that the flaws feed each other.
So, Mental Note: character flaws must feed the plot complication.