Writing Tips I Picked Up From Classic Movies
I do not know about you but I am a huge fan of classic movies. There is just something so appealing about a great black and white film that cannot compare to the modern films of today. I love when I watch them and am transported back to their day and age. They have so many great lessons to teach us too. Some of those lessons can be applied to our lives, and I have found some classic movies have inspired my writing as well. Here are some things I have picked up from my favorite classic films:
1. Have great characters – The very first thing that appeals to me about the old classics are the great characters they have. It is not just the film characters themselves but the actors and actresses of that era had lives and characters all their own that brought the on screen versions to life. I want my characters in my writing to be like that. They should have a life all their own. They should be memorable and unforgettable. They should draw the story forward in a way that makes them human and relatable, more than a caricature or cliché. Even though the old films were full of clichés you never felt like they were because of the passion and life the characters gave to the stories.
2. Feel the passion - Adding passion to your writing should be one of the most important aspects of anything your write. Whether it is poetry, fiction, nonfiction or romance you need to have that real passion behind it to drive it forward. That is what you saw in a lot of old films. That passion was there, even when they talked about mundane things or things that we would have skimmed over in a movie of today. Passion for every aspect of life was present in the old films and should be there in your writing today.
3. Remember your plot –Another thing the old movies got right was a concentration on plot. How many movies have you watched lately that were plot less. Yes, that works sometimes but most of the time a really great movie or film or book is driven by a great plot. You have to have an idea of where you are going and how you are going to get there. A unified plot line can bring together a diverse group of strong characters and move a story forward. Making it more than just a story but making it a whole, unfitted book that gathers all the characters into one place and really reveals how they are interconnected.
4. Add a twist –Plots do not have to be simple a to b to c things either. They can be complex and convoluted with a plots and b plots and twists and turns. That is what makes a story really entertaining. Think about the best classic movies you remember. They all had twists. From Rosebud on, there did not seem to be a film written that did not have a particular twist to the climax that kept you guessing how it would end. Readers love to feel a little off balance. They love a real plot twist and a surprise ending. Do not be satisfied with just a simple story, make it more and make it entertaining for readers. Get them hooked and then reel them in.
5. Keep it clean –One of the most appealing things to me about old movies is that you can watch them with your whole family. You do not have to worry about violence or sex or language or nudity. Instead everyone can sit down and enjoy the film together. Writing should be like that also. To get the widest audience for your story you should strive to keep it clean. That does not mean you have to stifle your personality or story line, but you do not want to pocket yourself as an erotic writer or something like that either. The more specific you get the more your possible audience shrinks. You want to throw the widest net you can, at least at first, so keep it clean.
6. Make it funny –Everyone loves a bit of humor in their stories. Even a serious story should have something here and there sprinkled in to lighten things up a bit. You can think back to your favorite movies. Even the horror ones all had a bit of humor to lighten things up so you could appreciate the scary things more. Add some fun to your writing and remember that you can vary the tone without losing the meaning of your writing.
7. Have some romance –Love, romance and relationships are what the world is built on and that has not changed from the olden days until now. There is a reason that romance movies are such a big genre. Everyone likes a little romance story, even in the midst of another plot line. If you can have a couple of your charters dance around some sexual tension or even just feel a mutual friendship attraction that can be a great way to add an element of interest and romance to your story. It does not have to be the center plot line by any means, but it is a great additional element.
8. Remember the senses –One of the things I enjoy about the old movies is that they gave the audience everything. They sang, they danced, they did jokes and they had the central plot line. While I am not suggesting you write a song for your next book, I do think you should add in other aspects to thrill the senses. Things like sounds, tastes and smells should be included in your descriptions. The more you can get the readers involved with all their senses the more into the story they will get. Your goal is to have the readers enthralled by your story line, your descriptions and your characters so much so that they can’t put it down.
9. There is nothing wrong with slow –One thing we forget in this fast paced and modern world is that slow is not a bad thing. Unlike the films of today, movies in the old days did not start out with explosion and car chases to grab the audience’s attention right off the bat. Instead they started slow and introduced the back story first. People do not read to run through a story. They read to savor one. It is by necessity a slow path, so savor that with them. Do not rush to get to the climax but instead make the journey there pleasant and as fast or as slow as your plot or desire demands. Your readers will enjoy the calmer pacing and you will get a lot more detail into your writing.
10. Clichés are there for a reason – As I said earlier, old movies are full of clichés. But clichés are true, that is why they have been around as long as they have. There is nothing wrong with using tried and true ingredients in your stories. In fact, those often work well. Just make sure your whole story is not a cliché or a rip off of something else. Instead make it your own version of the truth. As we all see things differently it should not be hard to give readers your view of the old clichés and make them see it in a whole new light.
These are just a few of the things that old movies have taught me about writing. You can come up with many more I am sure. There is always something to learn from the past. Take some time to think about what you like, what sticks out in your mind, and why it does. It may help you in your own journey to tell your story.
Allison after graduation combines her two passions, writing and children. She has enjoyed furthering her writing career with www.nannyclassifieds.com . She can be in touch through e-mail allisonDOTnannyclassifiedsATgmail.