Friday, 25 February 2011

What is it about 'The King's Speech'?

I loved 'The King's Speech', but then that's to be expected. I'm British and my friends sometimes tease me for being 'posh'. I take an interest in public speaking and I'm quite an admirer of Colin Firth (and not just for 'that' moment in 'Pride and Prejudice' either). On the face of it, though, 'The King's Speech' is not a film you'd expect to strike a chord with huge numbers of viewers from completely different backgrounds, and even some of the cast admit they have been surprised by the extent of its success. So why has it been such a hit with audiences all over the world?

I don't pretend to have the whole answer, but I do have some ideas. Firstly, of course, there is the star-studded cast: Mr 'Wet-Shirt' Darcy, the hugely glamorous Helena Bonham-Carter, and the very talented Geoffrey Rush. Then there's a script packed with witty observations about the British class system, the monarchy and what happens when a maverick Aussie takes on the establishment - there's no contest, obviously!

But the biggest thing the film has going for it is the underlying story: if you like, the Hero's Journey. It's a simple enough story. The hero is faced with a challenge - to overcome his terrible stutter and make a speech. In the ordinary run of things, it wouldn't matter a great deal whether he succeeded or not, but since this hero is a Prince, soon to be thrust into the role of King, and the speech is his inaugural broadcast to the nation, it matters quite a lot.

You may not be a monarchist, but it's hard to avoid feeling some sympathy for the Prince who's always lived in his brother's shadow, unable to express his own point of view thanks to a crippling speech impediment. We may not know what it's like to be a Prince suddenly faced with the elevation to Kingship, but most of us do know what it's like to be pushed into a position for which we feel unfitted and ill-prepared, whether it's a public-speaking situation ('Oh, I can't do that presentation on Tuesday. Take over, will you?'), a management role, a family responsibility or something else entirely. And because we know what that feels like, we soon find ourselves rooting for the Prince and his unlikely fairy godmother, the down-to-earth speech therapist Logue.

When the Prince is finally goaded into finding his voice, it's about more than his ability to get words out of his mouth. It's about believing that he will be able to step up and accept the huge responsibility that's been dumped in his lap. It's about knowing that he deserves to be heard. I think that's why so many people watched the climactic scene with tears streaming down their faces. For anyone who's ever felt silenced or invisible, and for anyone who's ever been afraid that they're not up to the responsibility they've been given, the King's Speech is a reminder that, with a little help from their friends, even the most unlikely people can be heroes.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Another wonderful story - In the Shadow of the Volcano

It's not often I find myself teary-eyed over a short story - it usually takes longer to build up characters and a situation that I care so much about - but this story by romantic novelist Imogen Howson had my eyes decidedly moist. It's set in the same world as her Volcano series from Samhain, and it's the heartbreaking yet hopeful story of how one woman learns to live with a gift that could kill both her and those she loves. Another definite recommendation!

A story I wish I'd written

I'm getting back into sci-fi at the moment, with my short story 'Tomorrow's News' appearing in this week's 'Book it', and a post-apocalyptic love story in the final stage of edits. So this story came just at the right time for me. It's a fairly quick read, beautifully evocative, and just made me wish I'd come up with the idea.

If you like science fiction or love stories, I thoroughly recommend Alone by Janette Dalgleish- available for free on the 'Literary Mix Tapes' blog, and as part of an anthology in aid of the Queensland floods. Great stories for good causes... what could be better?

Monday, 7 February 2011

Why we love romance

It's coming up to Valentine's Day and love is in the air - so no wonder it's getting steamy at Michele Zurlo's blog. Every day this week, she's visited by several romance writers talking about what love is and why they love romance.

Today's views include 'love is being able to hold your partners hand as the years go by, looking into their eyes, and telling them that there is no one else in the world for you but them.' (Jenika Snow), and 'Someone you can live with, laugh with, love with and get through the rough patches of life with. Someone who's not afraid to see you grow and spread your wings, who'll support you in anything and everything.' (C R Moss). Beautiful.

Tomorrow, on 'Happy Ending Tuesday', I'm one of the visiting writers. Come and find out why I write romance at: