February 9, 2014

What Writers could learn from Movies

Dear M,

Some writers believe that watching movies is a waste of time and does not contribute anything to them.

I disagree - probably because I like watching movies. Many of them are senseless and provide nothing more than an enjoyable passage of time, but some have something interesting that we can take back with us. It could be an interesting character that could lead us to improvements in our own characters. Or it could be a plot that inspires us. Most of all what interests me in a movie are two things: one is dialog. The crisp, well-scripted, concise dialogs. One line that says it all. We tend to write long long paragraphs of conversation; sometimes what is needed is a couple of lines.

The second most important thing about films is that they are time-boxed. Ignoring the practice these days of making two movies from a story, usually however huge the book is, the movie would be confined to two hours. Which means, many things would be snipped from the story and only the most essential scenes are taken. And when something is snipped off, any reference to it later will need to be rounded off too.

When we write, we bring in a lot of back story, fluff, side events, unnecessary complications, at the risk of boring the reader. Some of these could be removed. We are the writers, we would find it tough to cut off parts of our own story. But sometimes a merciless snipping is required. Think movies; think time-boxing. What parts of your story could go into a movie and what would be removed?


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