Thursday, December 27, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: Wild Bill (1995) - What is a Good Motive?

[Quick Summary: The rough and tumble life of Wild Bill Hickok, from Nebraska to Deadwood.]

Wild Bill is pretty memorable, but I kept thinking about the antagonist, Jack McCall.

McCall is a cowardly gunman with a grudge, who follows Wild Bill.

I thought he had a "good" grudge, since his motive convinced me.

What makes a motive convincing anyway?

I remembered author Patricia Highsmith who wrote:

"It's much easier to create from positive, affection emotions than from negative and hateful ones. Jealousy, while powerful, I find of no use at all, and it most resembles the disease cancer, eating away and giving nothing."*

Here, McCall's mother and Wild Bill had a relationship long ago.

The mother languished and died, and McCall always blamed Wild Bill.

Out of love for his mother (positive emotion), McCall swore he'd kill Wild Bill (grudge).
 
Love would easily energize McCall through the whole story.

But vengeance or jealousy (negative emotions)? Perhaps a few scenes, but they don't have nearly the same kind of sustaining energy.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: For motives, think in terms of positive emotions.

Wild Bill (1995)
Written & directed by Walter Hill

* Plotting& Writing Suspense Fiction, by Patricia Highsmith, (1983, p. 24).

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