My daughter and I have been watching a lot of movies lately. What better way to spend a cold afternoon with your child than to split a bag of popcorn and watch movies from the comfort of your own living room?
For me though, watching those movies isn’t just a relaxing past time. I consider it part of my work, because after we watch the main part of the movie, my daughter and I love to watch the deleted scenes, and when possible, we listen to the commentary of the producer who explains why he chose not to put that specific scene in the movie. I have learned a lot about writing my own novel by finding out why a producer chose to cut a certain scene from a movie.
Take for instance the movie He’s just not that into you (I know, a chick flick, I do have to entertain my tween daughter, you know, but there is a lesson there, believe Me.) a whole character was taken out of the movie because her character distracted attention from another main character. Rule: Don’t let minor characters steal the show from the “star”. If the character does, either the character needs to be cut or perhaps you should be writing a different story line.
Another scene that was cut was the scene where what’s her name went on a nice but boring date with Bill. One of the reasons the scene was cut was because of time constraints (translate: Keep your word count within the bounds of the size you want your novel to be.) Two: By removing the scene and showing only that she was asked out and then returning with Bill and having an awkward goodbye, you are able to fill in the blanks of what happened. This kept you from being bored like our main character was, but allowed you to get the sense of what happened on the date. (Translate: Don’t make your reader get bored even if your character was. Structure your novel in such a way that you hold the reader’s interest. )
In the movie Outlaw Josie Wales, Clint Eastwood tells about where the book in which the movie was based came from. This gave me better insight into knowing what others are looking for in a script. Not that everything I would write would be like that movie, but that what I needed to be writing isn’t the same old stuff that’s been rehashed, but I needed to create my own spin, my own signature writing style, in the same way that Clint Eastwood’s movies are unique to him.
During an interview on the DVD he discusses how he had to move back and forth from his role as the actor to his role as the director of the movie, and how challenging it could be for him at times. As a writer, I can relate to this, as well, because there are times when I need to be in my POV character’s head, but at the same time I have to be sure to move the plot ahead.
Next time you sit down to watch a movie with your family and a bowl of hot buttered popcorn, be sure to pay attention to the special features. You might just find what you didn’t know you needed for your own brand of fiction.