Don't Alienate Your Readers

Should a writer listen to the readers and craft stories with their expectations? Especially in an established series such as Alien? No. But that was one of the biggest complaints for the new film Alien Covenant. More on that later.

For me I've crafted my story with something real to say about the human condition. Outside input would only muddle that message. Trying to convey my message is hard enough as it is.

This leads me to Alien Covenant directed by Ridley Scott. There appears to be a lot of discontent around the net regarding his latest effort. Scott seemed to have ignored the basic timeline of the Alien universe, logical storytelling, and has fallen to using the worst horror cliches since the Friday the 13th movies. Impossible, you may say. Would a skilled filmmaker and storyteller recycle a shower scene where a couple is making out and both are killed? Hell to the No, you scream at me. Unfortunately, yes he did.

However, most reviewers, both who favored and hated Covenant, didn't comment on the most glaring thing that was missing. I can't blame them, though, as there were a lot of things wrong. A huge indication of what's missing is with the casting of James Franco as the captain of the ill-fated ship. He dies in his hibernating capsule right after most of the crew has awaken. This is not a spoiler because it doesn't do anything except beg the question: Why cast such a named actor if Scott wasn't going to use him beyond the beginning? That's simple. I'm assuming here, of course, but Scott was probably banking on Franco dying to get the audience to care. If that's true, then I don't think it worked. At least not for me.

Scott used that death by having the loyal crew argue with the succeeding captain that they should have some sort of funeral. The new commander denies their request because the ship is falling apart and repairs are needed now. Makes sense to me. Everyone is in a spaceship...in space...where if it falls apart everyone dies. However, the crew gathers below deck anyway and salutes the dead captain as he's shot out into...space.  The filmmaker is hoping the audience will care because the crew was loyal.

The issue is that there are no character traits to separate the many crew members, most of whom end up as cannon fodder. No character traits means no character arcs of any kind. Some of the reviews had touched on this by stating they didn't care that this person or that individual was killed. They may have not known why they didn't care. But it was obvious the writers didn't root the audience to anyone except to use Franco as Franco—not as the captain—breaking the fourth wall, which is the movie screen.

Here's what I think Scott is trying to do:

See this movie star James Franco who's been in everything? You guys like him, right? Well...he dies.

The audience shrugs because they know this is just a movie, and Franco the actor wasn't killed in the making of this film.

At this point the director hasn't pulled the audience into the Alien world. We have yet to suspend our disbelief.

Daniels, played by Katherine Waterston, is his wife—the original captain, not Franco. She cries a lot after his turbulent passing. Again, we don't care. We didn't see them interact as a couple. We don't know who she was. Does she prefer cats or dogs? Something, anything to hook our teeth into.

Now, if the writers had her share a moment with her husband, then it may have opened our hearts and drawn us in:

The ship rumbles, taking on damage. Mother, the computer, wakes the crew. The captain hauls himself from his hibernating capsule. After delegating orders to repair the ship, he pulls Daniels in and gives her a small birthday gift. They had gone into the capsules the day before her birthday, so he was saving this gift for when they woke up after arriving at the destination. The gift is a locket with a picture of them atop the first mountain they had scaled together. She recalls how cold it was that night. And he quips that she didn't complain inside their tent. She looks down at his pants and says that she had to take care of his little friend. He smiles and bites her nose.

On the planet, the crew explores the forest, WEARING SPACESUITS. The captain trips and falls on something sharp, unknowingly infecting himself with an alien virus. The day passes as the mystery grows: Who planted the wheat? Where are all the animals? Why is the captain getting sicker? The crew struggles to find what's wrong, but time runs out. Pain riddles the captain's body. He shakes and screams, giving birth to a xenomorph that rips him apart. Daniels screams, clutching the locket.

OK. Not my best.

Part of writing a story where death is such a prominent and visual aspect is rooting the readers or audience to the characters. Think of it this way: When we hear that someone is killed on the news, we're not really affected by it. We go on our day as if nothing happened. To that person's friends and family, the news hits them like a Mack truck because they're attached to the deceased. And that's the difference. Rooting is important to all stories. But when you begin to kill off characters without getting the readers to care, then they're gonna care.

My point is, draw the audience in, give us a chance to suspend our disbelief, root us to at least one character, and slap us with tragedy. Badda-bing-badda-bam.

a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven

Here's what I hate about organized religions. Before I go into it, I know very little about them. However, the top three cults in the world—Catholicism, Christianity, Muslim—require that humans convert somehow, be saved essentially, so the path to Heaven will be open. For those few who do not convert will end up in Hell in the afterlife. Bear in mind that the only proof of a Heaven or Hell comes from fiction, such as the Bible, and from several people who have had near death experiences, stating various things like a white light, warmth, a presence, etc.

I've had wet dreams, nightmares where ghastly things chase me, all feeling very real and wet, but that does not mean any of it was real. Except in my mind. And the wetness.

I like science's approach of being able to quantify or measure something. So taking someone's word on what they remember feeling during a state of unconsciousness isn't the most reliable. And if you know anything about how delicate memory can be, even in healthy adults, then you can understand my trepidation on relying on unconscious people.

Well, Jimmy, can you measure love?

Well, some voice in my head, check this out.

I had attended my nephew's wedding in a church a couple weekends ago. The reverend who performed the what-felt-like-hella-long ceremony basically said this, God loves us all. If that were true, then why does any human have to convert in order to be saved? Why segregate? That makes no sense to me, unless this was a construct of man, which would make perfect sense. Humans are very tribal.

In my life I'm open to new ideas, friendships, even things that rock my boat of normality. I used to have a friend who was angry and sad. She hated the world. She hated me. But I'm a listener. So she found it easy to talk to me and be open. I tried not to judge her, but she had voted for Trump. That's not a big issue, except that she believed in everything that he had said. Still does. She won't listen to both sides of the story. Still, I accepted her as a human being, tried to help her out of her sadness, but she had a difficult time letting go. I get that's hard. But if you can't let go of your past, then it haunts you.

One of my close friends told me that a friend of hers didn't like spending time with me. Her friend specifically asked that I not get invited to a get together.

What the hell? Had I done something to offend her and offend her family? Knowing me, probably.

I never asked why I was disliked. I just don't care. Because once she segregated me, then a friendship between us would be fake. Kinda like small talk. We'd do the How are you?, and the That's good to hear, and the Weather's getting warmer, and the Yeah, the sun has been out. Hence, warmer weather.

But the real truth is this: her friend's issue with me is not about me.

And that's hard for people to truly understand.

I had been on a Criminal Minds kick. Thank you Netflix. Procedural dramas work well because the discovery of a serial killer, in the case of this show, usually kicks the hour off. Then we watch the BAU (Behavioral Analytics Unit) do their thang.

What the BAU focuses on is really interesting. Yes, the crimes, the murders. But they profile the killer to try and get a sense of who he is. By doing that, they understand where the hunting ground may be, who the potential targets are, and even possible timelines between killings. And I've yet to see a case where the killer wants to kill because that's his thang. His need to kill comes from issues within him. Whether his father molested him. Or he was ridiculed in school. Or he had been abandoned as a child and the foster care system warped him in some way.

It's never about the victims. Sure they fulfill some crazy fantasy, but if that fantasy was never there, meaning they'd let go of their past, then there'd be no victims.

So when I challenge religious folk and tell them that there are no Heaven nor Hell, they get pissed off. Because they've built this huge reality, living with the sole purpose of catapulting their soul into Heaven. Maybe they don't realize it yet, but Earth could be the Heaven they're searching so hard for. Or it could be their Hell.

"The mind is a universe and can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

― John Milton

Not So Fine Whine

What is California known for? Hollywood? Star Wars? Surfers? Apple? Sunny weather? Gay capital of the world? Nope. Well. Yes. But the sunshine state has an abundance of wineries. They're everywhere. Even Francis Ford Coppola has a winery. Robin Williams owned one before selling it. Now, I'm not a drinker since I have the disease called the Asian Glow. But what I really wanna talk about are whiners.

Most of the time I go to my local Starbucks and plant myself in one of their cushy bench seats and pull out my iPad and write. So I've gotten to know most of the baristas and some of the regulars. There's one couple that often comes to get their caffeine dosage, so they can head to the gym revved up. About half the time they see me and come to have a five minute conversation. Last night the husband came in by himself, and he started to complain about the sad state of the economy, which was somehow Trump's fault. Well, argument was more like it. And I took myself a little too seriously and my temper flared up my Asian Glow.

"How can China's economy grow 70%, and ours only 1%?" he whined.

Being a writer of fantasy, I'm not hooked into the details of how the economy is doing, but after a quick search revealed that Whiner wasn't wrong. The Economist wrote the economic growth was 0.7%. Another search showed China's GDP to be around 6.5%. Not sure where Whiner heard 70%, but I didn't know all this last night.

"China is still considered a Third World country," I said. "So it's no surprise to me they're becoming more industrialized."

"So does that mean we've invented everything?" Whiner asked.

"What have you invented?"

"Nothing."

"OK, then."

"I can't see why China can grow 70% and we can't. I voted for Trump because he said he was going to rev up the economy. When's it happening?"

And then I said some not so nice things, using words like "You're an idiot", "Don't be stupid", "Are you fucking kidding me?"

I'm not a Chump supporter...sorry...Trump supporter. Yuck. Threw up in my mouth a little. But I heard the same complaints when President Obama was in office. And I always knew one thing. If I were to depend on one man for my health, wealth, and happiness, then I was going to lose all three.

Recently I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. One of their Smart Rider Commitments is: I acknowledge that an expert rider is one who uses expert judgement to avoid having to use expert skills...

In other words, ride safely, don't do stupid ass shit and get your ass jacked up.

It's the same with health. I exercise so I can keep my body in good working order. Anybody can do this. I often tell people to at the very least walk everyday. Like make it a point and go outside and take a damn walk. People take their dogs on walks. One of my friends even takes his cat out for walks. No joke. So go outside and take your body out for a walk. A truth about the human body is if you don't use it, you'll lose it. We see this with the elderly.

Wealth is no different in that we must take responsibility for it. I know too many people who spend so much of their hard-earned money on shit they don't need. Maybe they want to keep up with the Joneses, or that they want to buy stuff so they can try and fill their bottomless holes. One of my exes used to spend about $500 a month on new clothes/shoes/purses/junk. Over a five year period, that's $30,000 on stuff, which she'll have to pay more money (bigger house) to store.

Taking responsibility of your wealth can also mean trying new things like build a small business or explore other ways of bringing in additional income. No matter how small that income may be. You're just exploring, and if you can grow it, then all the better. But no. Judging by how long Keeping Up with the Kardashians have been on (a decade), a lot of people plop themselves down after work and watch reality television. Think about that. They're watching someone else live their life who's chasing their dreams.

Watchu talkin' bout Willis?

Don't be a whiner. Whinin' about stuff ain't gonna change nuthin'. So you might as well do something new. Because if you fail, at least you did something, and you most likely learned something you didn't before. And that experience will fill that bottomless hole more than any physical thing. Hm. Except for sex.

Hey Baby...

Babies. You can grow them. Julienne them. Boil them. Bake them. Sauté them. Juice them into a healthy drink. Or eat them raw. There are a myriad of things you can do with baby carrots. But I don't wanna lead you astray. Let's talk about babies, the human kind.

My last relationship ended because I wasn't sure I wanted to raise a child, let alone have a child. I told my then girlfriend that I leaned heavily on the side of not spreading my genetic material. Unless we're talking about a pearl necklace, in which case lie down and enjoy. As most women know, men do not have the best aim, so the pearls may come in different sizes.

We had many long discussions about children, whether I cared if she raised her Muslim—I didn't—whether I cared if she taught her Arabic—I didn't—whether I wanted her to learn Cantonese—sure but I wouldn't be the one to teach that language. About the only thing we agreed on was that my ex should fulfill her need to become a mother and that I shouldn't hold her back. So here we are.

I spoke to my office wife about children at length. But her perspective about not having children is much different than mine. Her biggest concerns were:

  1. Why bring children into this world?
  2. Why ruin your happiness?

Her first point referred to events like 9/11, terrorism, the death that befalls around us.

We as humans are capable of the most horrible of things, defining what a true monster really is. Spanish Inquisition anyone? The Holocaust. However, we can also create the most beautiful things this world has ever seen. Life it seems is just as common as death. As I have written, everything is in the world, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is what we choose to see that colors our reality in that moment.

Which leads us to her second point: Children lay waste to happiness. My office wife had talked to a few couples who have children. Some looked unusually unhappy. Some were divorced. Never had she mentioned knowing any couples with children who were happy. And that's the issue. She's colored her lenses so all she noticed were couples with severe issues and linked them with children.

When I write articles about my experiences with people, such as my encounter with this delightful idiot, people may think he's like this all the time. And that's not true. He's not often delightful. I'm sure he has his moments, few and far between as they may be. But I've colored my own lenses having only hung out with him a handful of times and not liking him all that much.

Now, I'm a chill dude. But I'm not chill all the time. Sometimes I get lost in my own thoughts and overthink, complain, whine, cry, and get fuckin' pissed off. I imagine parents are similar. They're people also. Sometimes they look tired because they are tired. Sometimes they're over joyed because their child said Mommy or Daddy for the first time, or composed his first symphony like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You know. Appreciate that small things.

The other day I was talking to my girl friend, friend that is girl. Well, she's a woman. Woman friend. She told me that her friend's boyfriend had broken up with her and stated the reason was she hadn't measure up to what he wanted physically, looks wise. I've seen pictures of this woman. In one word she's gawd dayem stunningly hawt and scrumptious. But that's not the issue. The issue lies with the blind feller. Maybe he doesn't feel a connection. Maybe he likes big breasted bodacious blondes. Who knows. So it is with parents divorcing. It's never the children.

When I wrote my book, I knew that war between factions, provinces in this case, was really the background to what the real story was about, a father and mother dealing with the death of their child. The war was like a catalyst or a magnifying glass that flares the issues within and between the characters.

Again, I imagine children to be like this. Raising kids ain't easy. There's a reason It takes a village is a well known saying. So it's not surprising that issues may bubble up to the surface in the insane chaos of a job called child rearing. But it's never the children's fault when it comes to divorce.

To me deciding to have or not to have kid(s) is extremely personal. Influence from societal norms, married friends with children and family pressure should not weigh in on that pivotal choice. My office wife doesn't want to have kids. But she shouldn't blame it on factors that our outside of herself. It's a personal choice and no explanation either way is needed.

Answering the Question: Am I A Man?

I'm not a man. Because I'm afraid of heights. Because I wear both the panties and dress in a relationship. So, I want to come out of the closet and tell the world I'm not a man.

What does it mean to be a man?

That's a hard question to answer. And one I try to in my book.

When I first envisioned my main character, I wanted all the hallmarks of what America thought a man was, or at least from what I could gather...

He has to be white. Having blonde hair is a plus. He can fight, a warrior, so long hair is on the ingredients list. And he's a master with a pair of broadswords. Skinny swords? Hell no. Those are for sissies! And he has to be a captain of industry. In this case, he commands a Legion of warriors. Not just any Legion. The largest and most powerful.

Of course, no man is complete without having sewn fields of women. Endless fields. Like countless. Like seven...

But there comes a time when any real man with manly qualities must take a wife. Yes, take. Not only did he take from another suitor, he charmed her with his charming charm. Is there any other way? And what a beauty. To say she is hot is like saying the sun is bright. A quarter doesn't bounce off her ass because quarters don't exist in my novel's world. But if they did, it would't stop bouncing. In fact it'd bounce higher and higher. That is how fit his wife’s ass is.

Now their children can't be anything less than ultimate perfection. Both son and daughter are beautiful and strong warriors, well educated, and have wisdom that extends beyond time and space.

All right. I went a tad overboard here. But what would happen if I took away these things one by one. Would my character be less and less of a man?

How you answer that question will say a lot about yourself, man or woman. Because I can take away everything on that list, and I do in my book, and my character would still be a man. No, I'm not talking biologically. But nothing from the above list makes any person a man.

Think of it this way. There are two guys. One owns a Porsche 911 R, which starts at $184,900. The other drives a Walmart 18-speed bike, which costs $79...$87 with tax. I bought one. Who's more of a man?

This is a question that's impossible to answer. First off, material wealth doesn't determine manliness. Second, we as a society can't pin down what a man is versus what a man isn't. Even men have a hard time defining what a man is. So they buy more and more stuff, big stuff, fast stuff, stuff that says, "See this big, fast, brightly colored thing? I own it. Well, 1% of it while I owe the bank the next five years of my life. But, hey, I'm a man!"

Or we do crazier and crazier things in order to prove ourselves. Or deny doing things because it's not manly. "Crying? What's that? Some sort of hand-to-hand combat to the death?" "Read? No. I don't read. Only nerds and geeks read." "Chick flick? Not really into throwing little yellow birds."

However, my definition of a man is pretty simple. It's knowing thyself.

Fuck you! What the fuck does knowing thyself mean?

Part of being a confident person is knowing your strengths, your weaknesses, what you like, what you don't like. It's having the gumption to be fine with your weaknesses and not judging yourself for not liking certain things such as sports. I don't like watching sports. That ain't my thang. Math isn't a strong suit of mine, despite being Asian. I don't go around solving string theory equations or force myself to be a sports fanatic in order to become more manly. That would be a waste of my time.

Now back to my acquaintance who basically said I'm not a man, and I wear dresses.

I had become friends with a woman on a group trip to Zion, Utah. Afterward, I called her for a date, and she said yes. Having gone on two dates, I was trying to set up a third when she told me she was going to go to the store. So I told her to call me back. An hour crawled by. A second hour oozed into the night. So I texted her if she was back. An hour weaved its way through a labyrinth of endless thoughts in my head. And I went to sleep. The next morning, she texted back and apologized. I asked what had happened. Not where the fuck did you go, bitch? That wouldn't be manly, in my opinion. She texted, "Had an emergency with my madre."

She'd never mixed Spanish like that when we talked. So either this turned out not to be an emergency. Or she might have been playing some game. I don't play games in dating. It's just not my style. I'm upfront. I'm an In Your Face Motherfucker kinda dude. So I decided to not text back and to never talk to her again.

A couple years later, some guy I know told me that he had dated her for a few months. I asked him why it didn't work out. He gave me no details except that they had clashed. Later through our conversation I found out they had talked about me. Were they that bored, having nothing else in the world to talk about? He revealed that this woman had never liked me because I'm weird. And he agreed with that assessment. Had she and I gone on a blind date, I would understand why me being weird would be a turnoff. But we spent a week together in Utah. The fact that I'm weird wouldn't escape a sleeping sloth high on cocaine with two heroine needles stuck in each arm after binge drinking Everclear. If her intuition didn't pick up the signal that I was weird, then good luck in life, girl.

A part of me thought that she was a dinner collector. A woman who goes on dates just to eat. But on our second date, she ordered only an appetizer, the entrees had been a bit pricy. That's not dinner collector behavior.

Then the guy said, "You didn't even go all they way up..." and stopped himself.

I know there's a chain. Lemme alone

I know there's a chain. Lemme alone

One of the hikes in Zion ended at a place called Angels Landing. It's a trail that averages about 3-4 feet wide, I was told, and rises 2,000 feet above sea level. I'm afraid of heights. I told the group that when we had gone on this hike. Having a choice of falling off to my left or right to certain death wasn't something I relished. So I decided to wait, while they finished, and had a good conversation with the woman I would be going on the dates with. Obviously she told him I hadn't gone up onto Angels Landing. And the fact that he harped on that meant he thought I wasn't a man because he followed up by stating that my ex wore the pants in my last relationship. He witnessed all of three minutes of it because she didn't like hanging out with him. So I'm not sure what he saw, but he never told me the reason for his assessment of me.

This from a guy who had told me that he could do way better than his ex-girlfriend and broke up with her. Then he tried to get back with her only to find out that she had moved on with another guy. He then educated me by saying Asian women are like a five out of ten, but white women are like a fifteen. Apparently math is not his strong suit either. And if he ranks Asian women lower than whites, then why do I see him date Asian women? Does that speak more to his own self image?

Getting Fit Will Get You Hot Chicks (no)

To conform or not to conform. That's not a question that many people would ask of themselves, though why would they?

A friend of mine was having issues getting laid. Well, the issue was more why his dates didn't go further than, "It's nice to meet you," as they scurried away from him like the Road Runner. Maybe he did this:

At that time, I remembered him calling me a racist when I made fun of Asians. I took that to mean that he was stiff, having no sense of humor, or maybe he was afraid of expressing himself. So I asked if he conformed to societal norms, or if he said whatever he wanted.

He made sure that he was the crazy one amongst his friends. That don't mean nuthin'.

Usually, I'm the crazy one when I hang out with people, but that's because most of them don't say or do stupid stuff like I do. But if I hung out with a bunch of adrenaline junkies, then I'd be the "normal" dude shivering in the back of the plane as everyone jumped out into uncertainty.

A few months later, my friend told me that he had had a string of women and was sure that it was due to him conforming. However, in hanging out with him, I found that he's conforming more to his true self, or that he expresses himself honestly, as Bruce Lee had put it.

I was discussing this subject of being more of yourself with an acquaintance of mine. He's socially awkward. He tends to stare at you for long periods of time. He thinks getting fit will get you hot chicks (it can help, but no). It's difficult for him to carry a conversation, so he usually sits there, staring at hot chicks.

"I tend to say whatever I want," I said. "So practice doing that. And don't worry about what other people think of you. You have no control over that."

So he thought for a moment as he stared at me and said, "I like to spank girls."

Whoa!

Now it may look like I'm pulling in the reigns of honestly expressing yourself, but I know what he was trying to do. He was trying to say stupid shit like I did. I say stupid shit because sometimes I like getting a rise out of people. I've had years of practice. He hadn't. So when he said he likes spanking girls, which is cool, me too, he was trying to emulate some part of me instead of being himself.

There are times when I talk to my friends and I'm very straight forward. No funny stuff. Boring really. Sometimes I like being lewd and crude and rude and using lube because the situation calls for it. Or maybe I like it.

The whole point is do you. Whatever that may be. If you wanna be silly, then be silly. If you want to have a serious conversation, then have it. If you wanna jump out of a plane, then don't ask me to join. Seriously. That shit scares the shit out of me. I actually would empty my bowels as I plummet toward the earth.

The Death of a Butterfly

I like to ask uncomfortable questions. Especially when people are in relationships. You can tell a lot about a person by how they date. Just like you can tell how a person will treat you by how they treat the waitstaff. But if your lovers tip you after having sex, then that might be kinda awkward.

When I meet people, I naturally start thinking about what character traits they may have if they were to be written in a story. Character traits shape how they see the world. So if someone is insecure, then they'll value themselves below everyone else, for example.

A friend of mine is seeing someone that lives out of state. I think her character traits look like this:

She works with kids, loves them. She's insecure, and I'd imagine because she doesn't know herself well. She has lived a sheltered life, but is trying to stretch her wings and explore the world and, as a result, herself.

Now I've met her man once at a get together at a bar. But we didn't have deep conversations because he was withdrawn, uninterested. However, from what little I've gathered, this is his character chart:

From a writing standpoint, this triangle would collapse on itself, making this person seem very one dimensional. Someone who is autistic might not like being around people he doesn't know.

So how does a writer separate this autistic trait from shyness? They tend to look the same, making it hard for the writer and reader to separate the two.

The better question is how would I make this character more interesting? I could make the third character trait be charming. That's the last thing people would think an autistic person would have, so the distance between charm and autism feels huge.

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Dimension in the physical world can be measured. If I say you have to sprint one mile, you may feel that's a great distance for a full max effort. There's an inherent understanding there. With character traits, measuring the distance between them is difficult, so doing something unexpected like coupling charm and autism can give a character depth. Or imagine coupling kindness and hatred.

Now, here's the story: The girl has lived a sheltered life, and she realizes this. She wants to explore herself in the world by doing weird and crazy things. Her guy is afraid of people due to his autism, despite being high functioning, so going out into the world isn't the most comfortable thing.

Will their relationship work out? I mean, opposites attract, right?

I'd imagine their love story has a lot of push/pull in it. For example, she has to give in to his fear and plan things for them to do, which is to stay in and make many a Blockbuster nights. You youngens might not know what that is. He has to compromise by going out and meeting new people. The end scene would be him not talking to anyone and running away, alienating her and her friends. Of course, this being 'Merica, after much tribulation, they end up living happily ever after.

Yay. Boring.

But since this is a real life couple, could a relationship like this work? My knee jerk reaction would be No. However, I've seen some crazy couples, and they seem to be doing fine. I think the more interesting question would be why an attractive woman is working so hard to be with a man who seems to be resisting moving here and meeting her friends? That character study would make for a better story. Too much energy is placed on the end story both in real life and writing, which isn't the purpose of life. Looking at the why we do things is definitely more engaging. So...

If we look at her character chart, we can see that insecurity plays a big part. Does she not see his unwillingness to participate in her life says something about how he feels about her? No, because her insecurity blinds her to the truth, and she thinks that this guy is the best that she can get. Here we begin to understand why she can't move on. Now let's put a small twist and have them take a break from the relationship.

She goes on endless dates. Show montage of crazy dudes being idiots. We can deepen the story by writing about her co-dependency where her desperation to be married forces her to have sex with any guy that will have her. And this causes issues like self-loathing, the loss of connection with friends and family, an unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, drug use that leads to a miscarriage. And if you thought we were too nice, then we hit her hard with the death of her grandmother who had taken care of her when her own mother was on the fritz with her life.

At this point, our story can become a tragedy. After all this, how can it not be? Well a tragedy is when a character fails to become the person she should become. In this case, she fails to realize that her insecurity is something that she believes herself to be, entrenching herself deeper into worthlessness, depression. In other words, she's like a caterpillar who never becomes the butterfly. She tries to break free of her cocoon, but the man she's hung up on comes back into her world. She attaches her self-worth to him, never giving herself the chance to bloom. We see this as her not having her own thoughts, opinions, but being controlled by a man who needs to keep her down so he can feel better about himself. And his worsening treatment of her forshadows her life. 

Obviously, this is just an exercise of light character study. My friend still has her whole life ahead of her to grow, which is what people naturally do when they don't think they're worthless in any way.