Monday, July 26, 2010

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Want to Become a Better Writer?

by C. Patrick Schulze

Do you want to become a better writer? Go to the Movies.

I watched a mystery movie the other evening titled Perfect Stranger. It starred Halle Berry whom I consider the fourth most beautiful woman in the world, behind my wife and two daughters. Though the thought had struck me many times before, the movie reiterated how much a well-written and directed movie can teach us as writers.

As I watched, I studied the plot, characterization, setting, dialogue, conflict, pace and even how their "chapters" were structured.

If you look at the plot in Perfect Stranger, or any well done movie for that matter, it flowed naturally, nothing exists that wasn't needed and it builds tension from the start. In the case of Perfect Stranger, it even had a plot twist upon plot twist upon plot twist. (Even my charming wife, who can figure out any mystery by chapter six, never saw this ending coming.) However, the script writers did a wonderful job of making these twists believable and appropriate for the story. I did have a couple minor problems with the plot, but nothing that detracted from the overall storyline.

As to characterization, each possessed a personal motivation for the things he did and had a backstory the writers presented in a nonintrusive manner. They come across as authentic and likeable. Further, I even grew to identify with the heroine and her sidekick, Giovanni Ribisi, whom I think is the best male actor in the flicker-shows these days.

One thing I especially liked about the hero and her sidekick was their dark side. I'd recently written an article about this subject so I'm on the lookout for it.

I did find two characters for whom I didn't care, but again, they didn't detract from the story to any great degree.

Setting in this movie also played well. Each character lived in their own worlds that came across as genuine and believable. The movie writers did a nice job of transitioning from one setting to another. Again, I had a couple minor beefs, but nothing of any consequence.

The dialogue in the movie is focused, concise and effective. It held all the elements the dialogue in our novels should have. It provided us glimpses into the characters motivations, their backgrounds and enhanced the conflict. It moved the story forward, foreshadowed and the rest.

I examined the conflict and found no flaws. Now, there wasn't a great deal of action, but a lot of conflict. Every moment something built to the next thing and the characters emotional reactions were valid.

As to pace, things never quieted down, though you had plenty of breathing room. At all times the plot moved forward at a speed that enticed and encouraged interest.

The "chapters" of the movie even had a classic methodology of organization. That is, they started with a just a hint of setting then, bang! The shifted right into the action. They each had a beginning, middle and end, just as they're supposed to have.

My point with all this, is if you want to become a better writer, study the way movies are produced. Mimic their skills and you'll be well on your way to success.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, "Born to be Brothers"

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