Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Movies Influence Plot and Character Development

Please join me in welcoming Alex J. Cavanaugh! Alex has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games, and he covers those topics on his blog. His first book, CassaStar, was released last fall and is available in trade paperback and all eBook formats. The sequel, CassaFire, comes out next February.


Movies and books - they really do tie together! Besides the fact I can discuss movies anytime, I think writers can learn a lot from watching films. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Two hours isn’t a lot of time to develop characters in a movie. Some filmmakers don’t even try. (Why bother with character development? Just add more special effects!) We all know one-dimensional characters make for a crappy movie though.

However, when a filmmaker does it right, we get to see great characterization in action. Think of all the fine details: facial expressions; body language; dress; residence; personal items; the five senses in action; etc. (These things can fly past on the screen, so we have to watch for them.) All of those aspects go into developing a detailed character and once we learn to look for them, we can add them to our writing.

Plots are similar. Some storylines are so lame and poorly executed, you wonder who green-lit this mess? (Maybe the director has a photo of the producer with a donkey or something?)

I think we can learn just as much from the bad ones as from the good ones. Those plot holes big enough to drive a bus through - how would we fix them? Films that move at a snail’s pace - what could we do to speed things up a bit?

When the plot works on every level, there’s a rhythm. It hits all the right notes and maintains a good pace. While a book doesn’t move as quickly as a movie, we can still create rhythm with our words.

So the next time someone gives you grief about your movie watching habits, tell them it’s research.

You are now free to move about the movie theater!

Alex J. Cavanaugh
http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/
http://twitter.com/AlexJCavananugh
CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science fiction/adventure/space opera
ISBN Print 9780981621067 eBook 9780982713938

3 comments:

p.m.terrell said...

Great post, Alex! I often get inspiration from movies. I enjoy renting or buying the DVD and turning on the Director's comments. It's a great way to learn how they set up each scene and what they often have to change when transitioning from the book to the big screen. I think it's made me a better writer. I look forward to seeing you at Book 'Em North Carolina on February 25, 2012!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks again, Patricia! I'd really worried this idea was lame. All right, I usually worry that all of my ideas are lame!

p.m.terrell said...

They're never lame! Thanks for dropping in!