Critique Group

Redemption, Inception, and a Vet named Kowalski

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2013 at 8:00 am

As writers we can learn a lot from each other. Prose writers should read poetry and listen to song lyrics. Why? Because poets and song writers have mastered word economy. They do concrete detail and imagery better than anyone, and they have to provide so much in so few words. Other writers must pay attention. What can poets learn from prose writers? In some ways, structure, syntax, playing with grammar – of course, that can fly both ways. The point remains that we have much to learn if we simply watch what other writers do and do well.

One of the best places to learn pacing is from screenwriters. Don’t think of pacing as simply a by-product of plotting. It is much more complex than that. And it isn’t simply about films that keep you on the edge of your seat for two hours, and you suddenly realized it’s over. A drama that moves slower can still be paced quite well. It isn’t about the speed of the pace but about matching the pace to the story arc.

220px-Inception_ver3Inception is a multi-layered film that has such depth to it, that many people viewed it multiple times. An intellectual film that looks at the mind and what can happen when we look at ‘stealing’ intellectual properties, it goes much deeper than anyone imagined. Pacing a film with the type of scenes and worlds being spliced together had to have been a nightmare and yet, it works brilliantly.

SSindexShawshank Redemption is one of those quiet, “under the radar” films that most of us are surprised to discover other people have never seen or heard of. A story of two men and the baggage they have carried and the redemption one of them makes possible could have moved ploddingly along. However, it doesn’t. The screenwriter instead uses the film’s score to speed up and slow down consistent with the action. It works beautifully for this story and has helped make it a cult classic.

indexGran Torino is a drama hidden behind the visage of an action adventure film. The plot of gang bangers causing problems in a neighborhood and the cranky Korean War Vet, Walt Kowalski has action adventure written all over it, throw in a cool muscle car and every teenage boy lines up at the theater. This film was not your typical fare though. A relationship film paced with a traditional film arc it moves consistently from beginning to end. No one is bored in the film, but you won’t get sick from the car chase scenes either.

The next time you watch a film, observe the pacing. Look at how each scene fits into the whole. How is each third building toward the climax? It’s a worthy activity for any writer. For me it’s a win-win. You can watch a film (always acceptable) and include chocolate.

What’s your favorite film for pacing?

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