Part Three of my Patreon series on Raiders of the Lost Ark…
I have to be honest. I crush on Marion just as much as Indy. They are both joys, but Marion is a subtle character profile compared to the rugged, determined, and focused leading Jones. You have to watch her.
We first meet her in her own bar drinking a Nepalese under the table for cash. She’s rough-voiced, a bit sweaty and disheveled, and feisty. It’s like that word was invented for this first scene with her. When she punches, Indy, you get the first glimpse of her physicality, and this follows for the rest of the movie.
She is not made for dresses, no matter how hard Belloq wishes it were so.
During the bar fight, she is as much a hinder as a help, but she tries. She is every one of us wanting to be the heroine, but falling a tad short, but not giving up despite this.
I love that she is not at ease with the children or the monkey at first in Cairo. She’s polite. She’s friendly, but you can tell she’d rather be sitting at the table with the guys figuring out the plan.
Indy is to blame for her kidnapping. He keeps pushing her away. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have done the same. She’s a mess in a fight! But, dang. Those wedge heels and her running in them crack me up. She does okay, though. The frying pan, hiding in the basket…none of those are bad choices.
When she’s in the tent, and Belloq offers her alcohol, two things happened in my writer brain.
1. Did the writers go back and set up the first scene after they realized she’d need to hold her liquor?
2. Who pours from a bottle with their elbow askew like that? Only Marion.
When she’s tossed in the snake pit, she’s furious with Indy (rightly so) and flings herself out of his arms – right into the face of an asp. Then, she freaks and climbs all the way up to Indy’s shoulders. I love this scene so much. I want to write this scene and make my readers laugh!
I also love it when Indy tears her dress off so she won’t catch fire. It’s a nice gesture, not necessary for plot, but vital for character development. He cares about her. He thinks of her. He’s practical and efficient.
I already outlined the fight at the plane, and Marion’s clumsy role which functions as a way to increase the stakes and tension. It’s handy to have a sidekick who can do this for you as a writer.
When they are on the boat together, her all-elbows-and-knees act really shines. She is SO excited to be alone with Indy, and she makes a royal stew of it. The part where she slams him in the chin with the mirror is my only real laugh-out-loud moment in the whole movie.
The end of the movie at the island is her only passive bit. She’s tired. She’s defeated. Remember what I said about decreasing the BUTs so you can end the story? That’s her role here. She’s not creating any more side trouble, Indy is the focus as he makes his choice.
At the very, very end when Jones leaves the government office, and Marion is waiting on the stairs, I wanted to freaking call Karen Allen on the phone and squeeze her long-distance. She does this little up-the-stairs, down, no up, no-down-the-stairs jig that is delightful.
So…how does all of this work as a writer? How do you make someone so believable and real?
Are your secondary characters comprehensive and deep people with their own stories, quirks, body language, and dialogue? Not just a tendency to chew fingernails or tighten their jaw…it needs to be an assemblage of tiny movements and choices that fill out the drawing until it’s like a painting in motion.
How does Marion’s (and your characters’) back stories shape who they are in this moment? Marion was raised by an adventuring, hard-to-please rascal. It shows in her desperation to please and her fierce need to do it herself. These are opposing wants, and they manifest in physical ways.
Lingo. Every person has a knowledge base unique to their past experiences. You don’t know archaeology terms probably, or speak Nepalese, or how to run your own business…but Marion does. She thinks inside those terms.
If you remove your dialogue tags, do you still know who is talking because of the way they use their words and which words they use?
For instance at the end of the first scene, she holds up the medallion by the light of her burning bar and says, “Until I get my five thousand back, you got more than you bargained for – I’m your goddamned partner!” This is something only someone of her background would phrase this way.
I’m a nurse and a mother. My first instinct would not have been to save the medallion, much less partner up to get my money back. My first words would have been, “Are you hurt?”
Consider your characters’ lives up until this moment you are narrating to frame how they would speak and what words they would choose.
For the record, no one (almost no one) writes this deeply in a first draft. It takes multiple edit passes and layers, so keep writing!
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