I recently read the novel The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. It won a Pulitzer Prize, and when Entertainment Weekly said it developed excellent character tension, I felt I had to read it. So I sat down for some good old fashionable ‘everybody’s reading it’ literature time. With sincerest praise, I have to say the book was fabulously crafted in terms of the art of words, but character tension? [SPOILER ALERT] More like wet rag tension. Seriously, the woman has a baby and just doesn’t love it, so she abandons it to go teach college classes on the… wait… what? You did WHAT? Holy hell woman… you didn’t mind making the thing… (deep breaths). People who don’t step up to their parental responsibilities because they ‘just didn’t feel like it’ are straight losers, NOTHING more. You made the child, you RAISE the child. Now… if she felt she was going to be a really bad mother, say she was a drug addict and was worried she’d destroy the kid’s life or was embarrassed to face the little girl… If she left because of a reason like that, a bit of protecting the innocent against personal failure, I might be able to accept it.
That got me thinking, what else might have tightened up this milquetoast plot? Then, as I was browsing the web, I had an epiphany! All Lahiri had to do was add ALIENS to the plot. I’m not talking about pointy-chinned, big-eyed aliens. I’m talking about THE ALIEN—a twin-jawed, long-skulled, lurkin-in-the-shadows, acid-bleeding, parasitic-young-choking-the-life-out-of-the-limp-wristed-father monster from the hell of deep space.
In that vein the book would have become much more interesting. The characters would be forced from the broken record of mewling over life losses they should have nutted up and gotten over years ago to loadin’ solid slugs into 12 gauge Mossbergs…
The mother’s role as absent collegiate student leaving the daughter to a bleak existence would shift dramatically…
She heard her mother typing in the bedroom… tippity tappity, tippity… Silence fell.
A scuttling sound.
The girl went to the door. Touched it’s smooth, grained surface.
A black spike slammed through the wood, a few inches from the girl’s face.
And for the estranged relationship between the father and the daughter…
She’d grown distant from him, not talking… because she had a pale, spiderish embryo strapped to her face, its long, whip-like tail coiled around her throat. When he tried to speak to her, she wouldn’t respond, and that made him feel sad. Very, very, really, really sad.
And the absent mother…
She’d been gone from their lives for twenty years now… because she’d had her chest blown out by an Alien spawn that proceeded to eat the face off every member of the snobby philosophy department she had worked in. When the older man, who’d been kind of a gross daddy-issues love interest took a shot at it, the blood spray burned his skull in half.
Okay, NOW we’re cooking with gas! The Lowland becomes the Awesomeland.
Who might you pit the Alien up against? (If you say the Predator you’re out.)