Writing Lessons from the Movies

Lights! Camera! Movies!

In addition to my own writing, I’ve taught a writing class and thought I’d offer a few Hollywood inspired tips today.

Movies and books often go together, but I’m not talking about Hollywood’s versions of the best sellers today. Instead, I’m talking about the inspiration that authors can gain from movies. It’s true that you have to read a lot to write well, but there is also something to be said for studying the craft of film making. Considering that other books aren’t an author’s real competition, but other forms of media are- it makes sense to study some of the ways that people enjoy having a story told to them. At its heart, that’s what a book or a movie is- a story transmitted from one person or group of people to another. While literature and movies clearly divide in some areas- visual effects will only work on screen for example- there are some writing tips that can be gleaned from classic films.

First- Casablanca-
This is one of my favorites, because it’s Casablanca! In terms of writing, though, there’s an important gem. Only present characters’ back stories after we already care about the character. That’s exactly what happens with Rick and Elsa in the movie. I’ve heard many agents and editors say that they don’t like to have an “info dump” of a character straight away. It makes sense. In real life, we don’t meet a person for the first time and instantly know everything about them. It takes time to make a friend and getting to know a character should also take time. The key is getting the reader to stick around to care.


ForeSHADOW twists-  If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I mean by that, specifically the bold type. Twists and surprises are wonderful in literature. They’re even better when the reader says, “I can’t believe I didn’t realize that! All the signs were there all along!” It will also make the story a lot more believable, if a scene doesn’t appear out of nowhere. Magical rabbits appearing from hats are entertaining; plot devices appearing out of nothing are not as charming.

Do you have any tips related to movies and classic cinema?

My best to you all,

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