Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Writing Tips #3

Um, I'm not sure how it got to be Friday already, but here we are! And I live in Texas where spring is already in the air (I know, cruel to say to all you northerners still steeped in snow). My window is open and there are literally birds twittering their asses off outside, and the small tree we planted two years ago has green shoots budding on all its branches. I'm ready for spring, even though my winter was great--so much good news and craziness, it felt a little surreal though!

But spring feels sturdy and hopeful and promises that maybe we'll find a little stability and sanity in spite of all the upheaval of moving and book deals and thesis-writing. Or maybe I'm just on a delusional high from all this warm spring air :)

On to writing tips, which I think I'll be making a weekly feature. I'm deep into Book II and am thinking about writing pretty much constantly. This week I finally had occasion to use a plot scheme I've known since I was a kid and watched the 90's version of Robin Hood with Kevin Costner and Alan Rickman: only reveal all of the details of a planned rescue/escape (complete with diagram in the sand) if it is doomed to go horribly awry when it all actually goes down. This was one of those movies I watched OVER and OVER as a kid, along with Terminator, Running Man, and Beauty and the Beast. *hmm, I wonder if this explains my love of epic hero story lines and dystopian/apocalyptic futures?*

Anyway, back to Robin Hood! Robin's going to break into the castle to rescue John Little and others from being hanged. It takes about 5 minutes of screen time to explain in detail the rescue, which looks perfectly planned and should go off without a hitch. But when one of their men who's a plant in the crowd at the hanging is discovered and tied to the barrel of gun-powder Robin had been planning to blow up as a distraction, all planning goes to hell. But because of those thwarted expectations and spontaneous complications, it makes the scene so much more compelling for an audience.

From then on, I always paid attention in movies or novels, and it's a rule that almost always holds fast and true: if they explain in detail, it's doomed to go wrong. If there's a rescue/attack and they just jump into the scene without telling you the plan ahead of time, it will more likely go according to that secret plan, and the spontaneity comes from the fact that the audience just doesn't have all the details until they are revealed in real time.


  1. I love this movie!! I used to listen to the soundtrack over and over again and plot out my version of the story...the romance element just wasn't enough for me.

    Perhaps I should keep these things to myself.

  2. OH! And I also love how Kevin Costner sometimes has an English accent but most of the time he doesn't.


  3. I know, this is one of those movies I have warm fuzzy nostalgia for, but seen in hindsight, doesn't quite hold up. I feel the same way about Willow, which actually, I can still watch over and over again, in spite of the cheesy effects :)