Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Writerly Wednesday: Writing Lessons Learned from The Princess Bride (Film Version)

Welcome to another entry into Writing Lessons from the Movies!  Over the course of the next month, there will be 2 – count ‘em, TWO – challenges and contests! *prances around room like a little girl* 
  • The first will begin two weeks from today, March 14th, and will directly follow the incredibly fun writing lesson I learned from Across the Universe (winner will be announced on March 21st).
  • The next challenge and contest will be held two weeks after that on March 28th and will follow along yet another fun writing lesson I learned from Melinda and Melinda – which is a fabulous title, if you ask me (winner will be announced on April 4th).
For the two contests listed above, a secret ‘judge’ – aka: a fellow writer – will be judging the contest entries and deciding the first and second place winners (yes, there will be two prizes for each one!). So mark your calendars and be sure to join me back here on Muse, Rant, Rave for some creativity and writerly challenges! *smiles*

Now…onto today’s writing lessons from The Princess Bride, which came at a special request from a blog follower and friend, Jenn.  To get you started, check out this amazing fan-made trailer.

Plot per IMBD: “A classic fairy tale, with swordplay, giants, an evil prince, a beautiful princess, and yes, some kissing (as read by a kindly grandfather).”

  • A New Take on a Master Plot: I stopped into Barnes & Noble during my lunch the other day and I discovered a book entitled 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them. *cue my a-ha! moment*
    • The Princess Bride is a master plot! Girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, girl is made to believe she has lost boy (through death or some other tragic twist), so girl moves onto another boy BUT then original love/boy returns from the so-called dead to claim his one true love. Sound familiar??
      • Brothers, Pearl Harbor, my untitled-and-currently-in-research-phase-WIP…heck, even The Notebook follows along a similar plotline: Ally falls for Noah, is made to believe that after she goes to school that Noah is gone from her life for good so she moves onto another man, but then Noah enters her life again and forces her to make the decision between her current and original love.
    • Here’s the thing with plots: They are all in some way, shape or form a twist of a master plot, one that is time-tested to linger in the heart of a reader for years to come. They’ve just been made original through world-building, characters, subplots, and ultimately how the stories turn out. I just finished reading Everneath by Brodi Ashton. With this particular story, Ms. Aston has taken the mythology of Persephone and made it unique by intertwining it with wonderfully seamless, modern story-telling and incredible world building. See? A master plot at work right there! So don’t be afraid to tell a story with a famous plot…just make it twistedly-unique with your own added spice, flare and voice, and it’ll be sure to stick in the hearts of your readers.

  • Character Motivations: This movie is the prime example of why every character in your story – especially those who are intricate parts of the plotline – should have their own motivation. The story does not work without their individual and/or group motivations!
    • Westly: Initially it was to seek his fortune so he and Buttercup can marry, but upon his return it is to rescue her from three outlaws then to keep her safe and away from Prince Humperdinck. Why? Because she’s his one true love and that’s what kept the Dread Pirate Roberts from killing him after his ship was attacked.
    • Prince Humperdink: Humperdinck wants to go to war with Guilder, but alas, Florin will not openly begin the war itself…in other words, his subjects will not fight without due cause. In order to get what he wants, he arranges his marriage to Buttercup (a commoner who according to the laws of the land he could not marry, so he lied about her origins), a woman who he obviously doesn’t truly care for (as we learn later in the story), then arranges for her to be kidnapped and murdered so he can pin both on the country he so desperately wants to rumble with. Why? Because he needs an army to fight that battle for him and believes they won’t do so unless their new princess is murdered on her wedding night.
    • Inigo Montoya: Ah, the Spanish fencer and member of the outlaw group who kidnaps Buttercup. His motivation throughout the entire movie is clearly stated shortly after we’re introduced to him. During his swordfight with Westly, he reveals that throughout his entire life since his father’s death, he’s been seeking the six-fingered man who murdered his father. He even has the perfect parting lines for the murderer. Why? Because his father was unjustly murdered by Count Rugen when he refused to sell him the sword he specifically forged and sweated over for the Count due to the fact that the Count went back on his promised price.

  • “This is true love – you think this happens every day?”: Thank you, Westly, I couldn’t have said it better myself! *claps* Because true love doesn’t happen every day, and because it often occurs in a slow-type manner, you should be gentle with it throughout your story:
    • Characters shouldn’t jump blindly into all-out-can’t-live-without-you-love. UNLESS it’s the plot of the entire story, the one in which the entire story and subplots revolve around (ex: Romeo and Juliet). Regardless if you write historical, contemporary, paranormal, fantasy or horror, your two characters aren’t just going to magically fall in love within an hour of meeting one another. Sure there’ll be extreme butterflies, reddened cheeks and bodily reactions to the sight of one another, but that’s not can’t-live-without-one-another-love. Buttercup and Westly did not fall in love on sight. In fact, Westly was a farmhand in which she bossed around, to which he merely replied, “As you wish.” It wasn’t until some time and internalization later that she realized he loved her, and that she loved him. Take the reader along your characters’ journeys of falling in love with one another. Make them fall in love with the hero and heroine just as they are falling for one another.
    • Because true love doesn’t happen everyday, it shouldn’t bleed from the page. I’m sure you’ve read a sappy love story where it seemed that particular plot point was drilled into your head to the point of nausea. My personal experience example is The Vampire Diaries, Book One. The TV show is amazing, but in the book there was way too much “Oh, Elena,” “Oh, Stefan.” Writing about love on every single page will do nothing more than bore your reader to tears. There should be a second plot somewhere in your story that breaks up the gushy love-stuff. Best example: The Black Dagger Brotherhood series from J.R. Ward. Her series is paranormal romance – which means she writes about the romance and love between two main characters. But guess what? Incredible subplots enter the fold and break up the love scenes so that they don’t overwhelm the reader.

  • The Difference Between Mostly Dead and All Dead: If you’re a fellow writer/author, do me a favor: think of one of your MSS that you’ve previously put on the shelf and have forgotten about because it just wasn’t working, or maybe because the plot was tired. Got the MS in mind? Good. Now I want you to pay attention to the following advice from Miracle Max:

Did you catch that? “Mostly dead is slightly alive.” Did your heart just jump a little? I know mine did, especially because it hit me straight between the eyes. Just because you put a MS on the shelf due to a tired plot or maybe one that wasn’t working doesn’t mean the MS’s all dead! There’s good stuff in there that’s keeping that MS slightly alive: three-dimensional characters, a believable world you poured your heart and soul into at one point in time, amazing dialogue, magnificent action scenes, etc. The point is this: you’ve come a long way since you left that slightly alive MS thinking it was all dead, so why not re-visit that world and pump full life into it by changing and/or twisting a few things around to make it work? C’mon, take a chance and spend a little time stewing on it. I guarantee you’ll be freshly excited about the story once it’s been brought back to life like Westly was.

What about you? Do you live on the planet earth? If so, then I know you’ve had to have seen The Princess Bride (if not then I do apologize for calling you an alien). Have you taken a time-tested master plot and twisted it in a unique fashion for a story? Do you flesh out your characters until each of their motivations becomes clear? What about love? Do you write your romances with a little bit of action and dark plot twists? Or do you write action and dark plot twists with a little bit of romance? Have you ever taken a MS from the shelf, brushed the cobwebs off, and brought it from slightly alive to thriving with a pounding heart beat?

Do you have a movie you’d like to see analyzed in this series?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Song of the Week: Diary of Jane by Breaking Benjamin

Happy Monday, everyone!!

As I was listening to Pandora yesterday and pounding out the words (thank goodness the Muse was in good spirits!), this particular song came on and seemed to influence the scene I was working on in a way I didn’t even expect. Don’t you just love it when that happens?

So of course I just to share it all of you!

Hope you enjoy! :0)

The Diary Of Jane lyrics
Songwriters: Fincke, Aaron; Szeliga, Chad; James, Mark; Burnley, Ben

If I had to I would put myself right beside you
So let me ask, would you like that? Would you like that?
And I don't mind if you say this love is the last time
So now I'll ask, do you like that? Do you like that? No!

Something's getting in the way
Something's just about to break
I will try to find my place
In the diary of Jane
So tell me how it should be!

Try to find out what makes you tick as I lie down
Sore and sick, do you like that? Do you like that?
There's a fine line between love and hate and I don't mind
Just let me say that I like that, I like that

Something's getting in the way
Something's just about to break
I will try to find my place
In the diary of Jane

As I burn another page
As I look the other way
I still try to find my place
In the diary of Jane
So tell me how it should be!

Desperate, I will crawl, waiting for so long
No love, there is no love
Die for anyone, what have I become?

Something's getting in the way
Something's just about to break
I will try to find my place
In the diary of Jane

As I burn another page
As I look the other way
I still try to find my place
In the diary of Jane

Happy Reading and Writing, everyone!!!


Friday, February 24, 2012

This Week in Favs….

Playing on the Zune: Attack by 30 Seconds to Mars

**Note: My apologies, but one-sentence descriptions are not available this week due to out of state travel for business/day-job. Next week’s a new – and slower (hopefully) – week! :0)

Social Media and Author Websites

“22 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue [Infographic]” by Copyblogger

“Twitter Tips” by Jessica Faust on the BookEnds, LLC blog

“The 90/10 Promotion Rule: What to Do With the 10%” by Nicola Morgan on Help! I Need a Publisher

“How to Balance Your Social Networking Time” by Lynda R. Young

“Author Websites: Layering Yours with Sticky Extras” by Roni Loren

On the Craft

“Take Your Characters to Therapy” by Tracy Hahn-Burkett on Writer Unboxed

“Ten Obstacles to Creativity – and How to Overcome Them” by Cheryl Reif

“Can We Have Too Much Voice?” by Jami Gold

“What to Write First When Writing Fiction” by Beth Bill on The Editor’s Blog

“Keeping Readers Worried: A Cheat Sheet” by Lynette Labelle

“The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues” by Kristen Lamb

“Be Careful Just Sitting Down and Writing Words Without Thinking” by Scott Eagan

“How to Restore a Character’s Voice When They Develop Laryngitis” by Jan O’hara on Writer Unboxed

“The Dynamic Character Profile” by Mark Landen

“Craft & Creativity of Writing. Learned or Developed?” by Yvonne Lehman on Novel Rocket

“Casting Your Characters” by Merry Farmer

“Writing About the Dark Side of Humanity” by Jeff Bennington on The Writing Bomb

“A Step-by-Step Approach to Persuasive Writing” by David Masters on Write to Done

“Weather Thesaurus Entry: Flood” by Becca Puglisi on The Bookshelf Muse

“Elevate Your Story Through the Sublime – and Subliminal – Use of Sub-Text” by Larry Brooks on Storyfix

“Outlining for Fun and Word Count” by Daniel Swensen on Surlymuse

“Writing by the Seat of Your Pants” by Carolyn Kaufman on

“How to Tell if Your Story Begins Too Soon” by K.M. Weiland on Wordplay

“And…End Scene: When to Add a Scene Break” by Janice Hardy

“First Paragraph, First Thoughts” by C.S. Lakin on Live Write Thrive

Writerly Inspiration

“25 Things I Want to Say to So-Called ‘Aspiring’ Writers” by Chuck Wendig on Terribleminds

“6 Reasons for Writers to Be Optimistic” by Rachelle Gardner

“How to Be Happy” by Ava Jae on Writability

“You Can Do This” by Rachelle Gardner

“Writers Aren’t Painters They’re Magicians” by Nathan Bransford

On Editing, Critiquing, Querying, Publishing and more…

“The 5 Steps to Writing a Novel that Sells” by Blythe Camenson & Marshall J. Cook

“Making and Learning From My Mistakes with PR” by M.J. Rose on Writer Unboxed

“How to Find an Audience for Your Novel” by Janalyn Voigt on Wordserve Water Cooler

“Those Who can’t – Self-Publish. Really?” by Lisa Hall-Wilson on Girls with Pens

“The Editorial Process – My Experience vs. My Misconceptions” by Mary Lindsey on

“Why a Critique Relationship is Crucial for Better Writing" by Adrienne Giordano, Kelsey Browning, and Tracey Devlyn (of Romance University) on Write to Done

“What If I Love Dystopian Vampires” by Lisa Gail Green on Paranormal Point of View

“The Death of a Genre?” by Lisa Hall-Wilson on Girls with Pens

“Ask Jami: Editing Tips – How to Use Color-Coding” by Jami Gold

“The Busy Writer’s Guide to Time Management” by Jody Hedlund

“Critique Groups – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” by Left-Brained Business for Write-Brained People

“13 Ways to Impress an Agent” by Rachelle Gardner

This week on the blog:

Happy Reading and Writing, everyone!!!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Writerly Wednesday: Under the Weather Writing–Er, Sleeping

First off, I do apologize for not having a Writing Lessons from the Movies post together and ready for today.  I spent most of the past weekend asleep in bed due to the crud finally managing to knock me down.  And that’s exactly what I’d like to talk about today:

What do you do when you’re feeling under the weather?!?

If you’re like me – a perfectionist – you can’t even fathom the idea of spending an entire Saturday and Sunday in bed (not to mention the Friday before) under the haze the meds tend to give you.  Let’s paint a picture of how three sick days can normally look:

Friday: Wake up at 7:15am, tell hubby good-bye, take medicine, fall back asleep. Wake up again at 10am, turn on computer, respond to comments on blog, get some food, feel too worn out to do anything else, go back to bed. Wake up again at 3pm, turn on computer, try to be a little active on Twitter but realize you may not be making sense, so back to bed it is. Wake up again at 7pm, eat dinner, get back on computer for a bit, make a little more sense on Twitter before attempting to look at your current WIP – in comes the overwhelming feeling of not really knowing where to begin because you’re still rather foggy from meds, so you lay back down and call it a night.

Saturday: Wake up at 10am, take meds then attempt to read a book…only to be awakened 30 minutes later by the cat who is playing with your hair because you literally fell over in the bed and landed on top of him. Play with the cat a little to satisfy his playful side before rolling back over in bed and sleeping another few hours. Wake up at 3pm and attempt to read again after taking more meds. This time, you’re a little more clear and actually don’t fall asleep mid-sentence. So after doing that for about an hour, you attempt to actually make some dinner for yourself and the husband – chicken and pastry (otherwise known as dumplings). Sit down and eat the best dinner you’ve ever had in a week at about 5:30 before thinking, ‘Hey, I think I might be able to stay awake the rest of the night.’  So you go to the grocery store – ‘cause let’s face it, you’re not going to go the following day when they’re calling for rain and snow – and you return home feeling a wee bit tired, but not too much, so you decide to watch The Princess Bride for this week’s post. Twenty minutes into the movie, you’ve fallen over and the cat is playing with your hair – once again. *sigh* So you call it a night.

Sunday: Wake up at 10am feeling more like you did before the crud found you. Make breakfast for you and husband – sausage biscuits, a Sunday morning ritual now – and sit back down to watch The Princess Bride only to realize that it takes at least 3 run throughs of the movie in order to complete your post and you’ve got laundry and dishes that absolutely have to be done, not to mention some pre-packing and one or two rooms that absolutely need to be cleaned. So you bite the bullet and realize that writing and watching a movie 3 times in one day just isn’t going to work, especially the weekend before you have to take a out-of-state trip for work for a few days. *sigh* So you start the laundry, take a nap, switch out the laundry and fold some, take another small cat nap, wash the dishes and fold some more clothes, take another small nap, then take shower, eat some food, read a book and go back to bed hoping that it doesn’t snow too much overnight so you can at least get into the office the following morning.

Does this sicky-type schedule look familiar to you??  Good – I was hoping that I was not alone in this one.

Here’s the deal, when you’re sick and down for the count like this, your body is clearly telling you something: it needs a break! Whether you’ve been up late for too many nights in a row, stressing too much over a plot or the day job, your body just wants to break down and get some rest so it can be at 100% when it’s time to hit the ground running again.

And that’s completely OKAY!

The writing? It’ll still be there. Plotting? It’ll still be there. Blogging? It’ll still be there. The TBR pile? It’ll still be there.  ALL of these things will STILL be there when you become 100% healthy again! So it’s going to be undeniably okay for you to take the break your body’s been craving to sit back and relax a little…or practically sleep 90% of the weekend away.

Worse comes to worse, you throw your schedule out the window, take some medicine and enjoy the comfy softness of your bed and the fact that your hubby is willing to wait on you hand and foot in between long naps. *smile*

Here are some ideas of what you can do if you absolutely cannot stand to step away from writing/plotting/blogging:
  • Writing: Try and read through some of what you’ve already written in that current WIP but limit yourself to only reading and maybe making a note here and there. Once you start to dive into major revisions you’re asking for either A) trouble because you may not be thinking 100% coherently, or B) you’re only going to wear yourself out even more and you’ll end up tacking an additional hour on your sleeping time.
  • Plotting: Having time to sit around and think is something you’ll definitely have in between those long naps. If you’ll notice, I didn’t include this in my day-to-day sicky-schedule above, but I did do a bit of plotting here and there, especially while I was waiting for Saturday night’s dinner to be ready. So not all hope was lost, eh?
  • Blogging: Right now it’s Monday night and I’m in the middle of making dinner before I start packing for my work trip to Atlanta. So I’ve squeezed in the creation of this post into wherever I could. If I didn’t think I could’ve done this, I might’ve reached out to my online writing family on Sunday and asked if anyone could possibly do a guest post on my blog for Wednesday instead. There may not have been a lot of notice but from what I’ve seen and learned from the writing community, it’s that we’re there for each other – even if it’s 3 days before a deadline. So I’m sure someone would’ve been able to help me out this week if I needed it. If not, then I would’ve missed the one blog post…and heaven, earth, and hell would still remain where they are.

As you might have guessed, next week we will be visiting writing lessons from The Princess Bride, which is a request from a blog reader and friend, Jennifer.  I’m really enjoying having these movies picked out for me, so keep the requests coming! In two weeks we’ll be visiting Across the Universe and that particular post will come with a challenge to blog readers – and a giveaway to the best creation from that challenge! 

What about you? How does your schedule normally look when you’re pretty much down for the count thanks to the crud? Are the suggestions above on how to handle your writing life during that time a little helpful? What other ideas do you have for those of us who may find ourselves in mini-hibernation for a few days?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Song of the Week: Serenity by Godsmack

I’ve been under the weather all weekend, so this week I really wanted a song that would instill a bit of calm into what I’m sure will be a chaotic week.

After missing a day and a half of work last week, and considering that I will be out of the office traveling for 3 days this week, I’ve really got to find some serenity in order to keep myself from pulling my hair out by Wednesday.

I do hope you enjoy this week’s choice!

Happy Reading and Writing, everyone!!!


Friday, February 17, 2012

This Week in Favs...

Playing on the Zune:  Endtapes by The Joy Formidable

Social Media and Author Websites

“56 Ways to Market Your Business on Pinterest” by Beth Hayden on Copyblogger <—Take these tips and use them to market your writing!

“Blogging: An Existential Crisis” by Savannah Foley on Pub(lishing) Crawl <—Great ways to look at your blogging life and what you want to put out there into the world.

“2 Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads” by Jane Friedman <—Never thought of using Goodreads this way so I’m incredibly happy to have found this information this week!

“Blogging for Writers – Make Your Blog Work” by Nicola Morgan on Help! I Need a Publisher <—Making the most of your blog.

“3 Core Components of a Blockbuster Blog” by Roni Loren <—Great post on why people read blogs, thus the basics of having a blockbuster blog!

“Blog Commenting – Is It Going Extinct?” by Roni Loren <—Thought-provoking post due to the decline in blog comments. Very interesting – and absolutely correct – read!

“Are You Making These 7 Mistakes with Your About Page?” by Sonia Simone on Copyblogger <—Mistake to avoid on your About Me page on your blog.

On the Craft

“Mastering Words: Transform Your Writing Weakness into Strength” by Angela Ackerman on Write to Done <—The power of attitude, an open mind, asking for help and rewriting.

“Make a Writing Schedule and Stick to It” by Scott Eagan <—No more excuses – if you have a plan of action and a strict schedule, you’ll get the writing done.

“10 Favorite Writing Lessons from Margie Lawson (and her peeps!)” on Writers in the Storm Blog <—Quite a list of valuable writing lessons! A Must-Read!

“Thumbnail Character Sketches” by Kat Zhang on The Katacomb <—Awesome character work idea!

“Dialogue –Make It Real!” by Ann Mulligan on Novel Rocket <—Great examples on how to make your dialogue sound real.

“Feeling the Love” by Keith Cronin on Writer Unboxed <—On writing fictional love and connecting it with the reader.

“The Plot Thickens” by C.S. Lakin on The Bookshelf Muse <—Awesome post on the importance of plotting layers! A Must-Read!

“Why Romances are a Valid & Important Form of Literature” by Jody Hedlund <—Excellent reasons why Jody writes romance (and why the rest of should definitely try our hand at it!).

“25 Things You Should Know About Protagonists” by Chuck Wendig on Terribleminds <—A deep insightful look at the protagonist. A Must-Read!

“Does Your Story Have too Many Characters?” by K.M. Weiland <—How to figure out the right number of characters for your story.

“The Power of Explanation Compels You: Avoiding the Dreaded Infodump” by Janice Hardy on The Other Side of the Story with Janice Hardy <—How avoid the ever-tempting infodump in your story. A Must-Read!

“The Number One Objective for Your Novel” by C.S. Lakin on Live Write Thrive <—I love C.S.’s thoughts on what the first objective of your story should be. A Must-Read!

“The Author as Actor” by J. Thomas Ross on The Author Chronicles <—Lightbulb moment! The author should become an actor in order to convey their characters’ feelings on the page.

“What Is Your Story’s ‘Take-Away?’” by Scott Eagan <—If you feel your story is lacking something, it could be because you’re missing a ‘take-away.’

“Weather Thesaurus Entry: Sleet” by Angela Ackerman on The Bookshelf Muse <—New weather entry into the thesaurus!

“Why the Secret of Lying Well is Also the Secret of Writing Well” by Jurgen Wolff on Time to Write <—The 4 secrets of the good liar and writer.

“Riveting Our Readers by Using the Death Factor” by Jody Hedlund <—Ways to increase the Death Factor in your story. A Must-Read!

“Need Voice? Think Out Loud” by Jami Gold <—Excellent post on finding your voice and pulling it through in your writing.

Writerly Inspiration

“Write Yourself a Bad Review” by K.M. Weiland on The Artist’s Road <—How to get past the inner critic.

“Bring Back that Lovin’ Feeling – What do Do When You Feel Burned Out” by Kristin Lamb <—Ah, such a well-timed post about how to come back from the writing burnout.

“I Write Dirty Books, and I’m Proud of It” by Mike Mullin on The League of Extraordinary Writers <—Be proud of you write, regardless of the content and who might shy away from it!

“Writers, Don’t Forget the Love” by Daniel Swensen on SurlyMuse <—Wonderful Valentine’s day post on not losing the love of writing.

“What Isn’t On the Page: The Writer’s Guide to Growing” by Martina Boone on Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing <—Insightful post on stepping back and considering what you haven’t put on the page in order to push into what you should/could put on the page. A Must-Read!

“4 Ways to Bounce Back when Your Confidence Takes a Beating” by Tawna Fenske on Don’t Pet Me, I’m Writing <—Tricks to getting your mojo back. A Must-Read!

“6 Ways to Energize Your Writing Naturally” by Chrystle Fiedler on Mystery Writing is Murder <—Natural cures to make you more alert and focused with writing or anything else you need to do.

On Editing, Critiquing, Querying, Publishing and more…

“Why No One is Buying Your Book” by Jeff Bennington on The Writing Bomb <—Excerpt from The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe.

“A Writer’s Guide to Punctuation” by K.M. Weiland on Wordplay <—Great resource for all things punctuation!

“5 Writing Myths” by Ava Jae on Writability <—Great myth-busting analysis of the 5 major myths out there haunting writers.

“Do You Know What Business You’re In? Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3” <—”What the Publishing Industry can learn from Kodak”

“How to Revise for Structure, Part 2” by Jami Gold <—Wickedly awesome follow-up to last week’s post with 2 – count ‘em – TWO spreadsheets to assist with story structure and revision. A Must-Read!

“Learn How to Write a Synopsis Like a Pro” by Courtney Carpenter on Writer’s Digest <—5 quick tips on how to write a synopsis followed by what you should avoid when doing so.

“Guest Post: Alexandra MacKenzie on Publishing Her Second Novel” on The Literary Lab <—How publishing the second book is vastly different from the first.

“Querying Your Unlikeable Character” by Jane Lebak on <—How to query if you have a main character that isn’t so…likeable.

“How (Not) to Write the Perfect Query Letter” by Ava Jae on Writability <—Must-have tips on what not to do when writing that query letter!

“Bracing For Impact – The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm” by Kristen Lamb <—Interesting post on where NY is headed and how they become more responsive in an instant gratification age. A Must-Read!

“Editing to Life – Characterization” by Lydia Sharp on Writer Unboxed <—Micro editing, characterization and tips and resources helpful to the editing process.

This week on the blog:


Happy Reading and Writing, everyone!!!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Writerly Wednesday: Writing Lessons Learned from The Good Girl

Last week we visited Forrest Gump and analyzed just a few of the writing lessons the movie offered.  This week we’re going to venture into a movie that wasn’t exactly considered a blockbuster, but it won over the critics nonetheless: The Good Girl. While it wasn’t a popular movie, it was most definitely noticed at Sundance and proved to the critics that Jennifer Aniston could definitely push past her role of Rachel on Friends. It also showed us how the popular book, The Catcher in the Rye, still effects the lives of its readers.

Plot per IMBD: “The plot revolves around a young married woman whose mundane life takes a turn for the worse when she strikes up a passionate and illicit affair with an oddball discount-store stock boy who thinks he’s Holden Caulfield.”

  • First Lines/Opening Monologues: As far as opening lines/monologues in movies go, I believe this one is in the top 5. The Good Girl opens with a monologue by the MC, Justine Last, where she states: “As a girl you see the world like a giant candy store, filled with sweet candy and such. But one day you look around and see a prison, and you’re on death row. You wanna run, or scream, or cry. But somethin’s lockin’ you up. Are the other folks cows chewin’ cud ‘til the hour comes and their heads roll, or are they just keepin’ quiet like you…planning their escape?”
    • An opening line or monologue seeks to drop the reader directly into the midst of the action. But action doesn’t necessarily mean physical action; it can mean the emotional action the MC is going through. Think about it: a first line seeks to grasp the reader, to take ultimately ahold of them with something universal that they’ve more than likely felt at one point or another in their life and not let go – or it can also be something that just grasps their curiosity because they haven’t experienced it before (i.e: running from the cops or a murderer). Justine’s opener does just that: 
      • She feels trapped and unhappy with her life.
      • As a little girl she looked at the world with bright eyes and couldn’t wait to come of age and enjoy all that life had to offer.
      • She wants to run away, begin anew.
      • She often wonders if anyone else feels the same way.
Maybe instead of searching for that perfect first line, we should seek to settle with the most honest, truthful first line that practically sums up our MC’s frame of mind as we begin their journey? It’s definitely an option and has been done before, it’s just that whenever we’ve read it in the past we’ve thought of it as only the perfect first line instead of the truth at the core of the entire plot. Now there’s an idea: don’t search for perfect, search for the truth because that’s what’ll lead you to the perfect first line. Alleviates the pressure a bit, doesn’t it?

  • A Likeable Main Character (Regardless of Her Flaws): Justine Last is a miserable, sad and selfish girl. But you don’t actually realize all of these flaws until after you’ve become invested in her story. Here’s a mini-breakdown of her arc:
    • At the beginning of the film you get to see a day in her life: from the boring 8-hr day at The Retail Rodeo, to coming home and not being able to park in her own driveway, to watching TV with her husband, Phil, and his friend, Bubba (while they’re getting high in her living room) and listening to their stupid-crazy marijuana-talk. Once you’ve watched what a day is like for her, you begin to empathize a bit – her life truly is miserable.
    • In walks – er, sits – Holden, a cashier who’s real name is Tom but refers to that as his ‘slave name’ (note: while it’s not exactly said, he truly does believe he’s Holden Caulfield).  He’s just as bored and dissatisfied with his life as Justine is (and keeps to himself because, in his words, he’s a writer). Bingo! We have a connection and a glimpse of the ‘other side’ that Justine’s been looking for. So she plays with fire a bit and flirts with Holden. But Holden wants more than she’s willing to give at the moment for fear or hurting someone.
      • But then again, all these questions begin to fester inside her: “Has a special fate been calling you and you’re not listenin’?”, “Is there a secret message right in front of you and you’re not readin’ it?”, “Is this your last, best chance?”, and “Are you gonna take it? Or are you going to the grave with unlived lives in your veins?” <—Special Note: This is exactly how inner conflict should work. In order to get inside the mind of the MC and ‘get’ why they made their decisions, a push/pull of emotions on big decisions should be reflected.
    • The day Justine’s co-worker and friend, Gwen, gets sick at work, she receives a letter from Holden: he states she’s the only person who’s ever ‘gotten’ him and that he’s quitting his job because of her – BUT if she wants to be with him too, body and soul, then she should meet him at 5pm outside the Chuckie Cheese (*giggle*). Justine drives her friend to the hospital, drops her off at the ER entrance and tells her she’s going to park and will be right in…but instead she runs off to the Chuckie Cheese (takes the leap) and drives Holden to a local motel where they begin an affair.
    • Because her friend is in the hospital for a few days, Justine uses that as an excuse to come home late from work for the next few days. While her husband believes she’s at the hospital visiting a sick friend (whom she hasn’t seen since dropping her off to begin with), she’s off having an affair. Pretty selfish, huh? But we were invested from the get-go so why stop now?
    • Everything crumbles when she sees Bubba’s truck outside the motel one night, so she runs to the hospital to make as if she was there the entire time. But when she arrives she discovers that Gwen died. She then has a wake up call and decides to go to church one night. Here is when she begins to make strides towards changing her circumstances. But then Bubba blackmails Justine, holds it over her that he’ll tell her husband unless she sleeps with him, so now she’s really eyeballs deep in alligators.
    • During this entire time her husband has been making gestures to make their home life a little better: fixing the TV she’s complained about, seeing a Dr. to find out why they can’t get pregnant, etc.
    • Justine learns she’s pregnant (another turning point). From there she begins to try and figure a way to leave Holden and their entire affair behind her after coming to the enlightened conclusion that “Holden is at best a child, and at worst a demon.”
    • Eventually it all comes down to a crossroads after Holden robs The Retail Rodeo and tempts her with the opportunity to leave Texas and begin a new life, just the two of them (the movie’s tagline: “It’s her last best chance…is she going to take it?). Justine packs her bags and truly makes as if she’s going to leave her boring life behind.
    • But with a bit of reflection, she makes the decision you hoped she would: she turns Holden into the police and walks away (dubbed by her boss ‘The Good Girl’ for doing so).
    • She suffers the consequences of her affair though: Her husband finds the credit card bill and confronts her. She owns up to her mistake and eventually receives forgiveness from him.
Yes, this is a bit long for a ‘mini-breakdown,’ but you get the gist of what I’m talking about when I say that the main character should be likeable regardless of their flaws! She made a mistake because she was dissatisfied with her life. True she should’ve handled it differently, but that’s what makes her human just like you and me. The journey she took made her realize what she had wasn’t so bad. Isn’t that the same one we all take at one point or another? And she was likeable the entire time – even while she was being selfish by not visiting and using her dying friend and so wrapped up in this affair that she was unable to see the great things her husband had begun to do around the house until it was too late. Yes, believe it or not, she was likeable the entire time. <—The magic of writing!

  • Raise the Stakes: Now that you’ve had a breakdown of Justine’s story, I can easily point out that throughout her story, the stakes were raised higher and higher:
    • She’s dissatisfied with her life…and life should be enjoyable. Does she continue down that path or seek to make herself happy regardless of how? <—A universal question
    • Now that she’s played with fire, she may get caught. Her husband’s best friend has blackmailed her: he knows her secret and will tell her husband unless she does something in return. Now it thickens and she’s closer to possibly losing everything, regardless of how boring it was to begin with.
    • With the decision to wipe her hands clean of the affair, the stakes rise even more when Holden cries, gets a little rowdy when she hints at wanting to end things, and he even threatens to hurt himself. Now it’s suddenly not just her life she’s got to think about (In her words: “I realized Holden was at best a child, and at worst, a demon.”).
    • After the discovery that she’s pregnant, the stakes are raised even more: there’s a new person whose life will be affected by her decisions. Will she run away with Holden and be a fugitive, but yet have what she’s always wanted by getting out of that town? Or will be stay and raise her child with her husband who’s really a good man at heart (he just likes to get high, what?)? Truth be told, and you find this out at the end, if she’d only shared her unhappiness with her husband she would’ve learned that he too can feel as she did in the beginning: Phil: “I need to get stoned. I just gotta escape. Do you ever feel like that? Like you gotta escape?”
Notice a pattern here of how to raise the stakes? If it ain’t one thing, it’s another! Think of situation or dilemma to begin your MC with. Now think of something tempting, something that would force them to make a huge/life-changing choice (ruining their life or the life of others – it doesn’t always have to be ‘life threatening’, especially if that doesn’t fit the genre/story), then rain hell on them, continue to ask yourself: “What’s the worse thing that could happen now?” Or you can ask my favorite: What could I do that would make my character scream, “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another!!!”

  • Introduction of Secondary Characters: The secondary characters in this movie just float in, as if they were always a natural part of the story and not inserted because the movie needed more characters/interaction. No big introductions, no real time spent on each one, they just float in and around the story and soon become the ones you know by name and can always count on to make you laugh a little when they appear.
    • Corny: A religious security guard who you first see as playing with the automatic door of the store during Justine’s opening monologue. He’s the one bugs Justine to come to church. His appearance is extremely natural in the film.  Movie funny: When Justine tells him that she prefers her nights to herself vs. going to church, he replies (paraphrase): “Well maybe you’ll have night after night of eternal hell-fire all to yourself.” *snicker*
    • Cheryl: A young, cynical girl working at the store who begins in the movie as the intercom announcer of the store’s great deals. But you quickly learn that she enjoys sneaking in sly innuendos into the sales announcements. Her appearance is also extremely natural – every store has some kind of announcement going on in order to drive their sales, right? Here’s one of Cheryl’s (again, paraphrasing): “Liquid drain cleaner, 2 12oz cans for $5. Liquid drain cleaner has turning power and it will turn right through your pipes. Ladies, you need female formula. Shove something clean and new up your filthy pipes. That’s liquid drain cleaner on aisle 3. Have a good day and thank you for shopping Retail Rodeo.” *laughs out loud ‘cause nobody notices*
    • Gwen: A woman older than Justine who works behind the cosmetics counter with her. A very natural introduction because she’s working her butt off while Justine just sits there, bored with her job and her life, watching her co-worker do both their jobs.
    • Phil: A natural and intricate character to the story who didn’t need an introduction because you could figure out who he was when Justine got home that first night (and got fussed at for getting blue paint on their new couch).
    • Bubba: Phil’s best friend who also didn’t need an introduction. He sits next to Phil, night after night, and definitely appears to be a natural part of the story.
There are more characters I could bring in but the point is that each character you introduce should  happen in the most natural way possible. Ever read a story where every character who comes into play is fully described from their height and build to their hair and eye color? Didn’t it feel jarring? Exactly! Introducing a character that way is unnatural. Your MC doesn’t walk into some they know and describe them in that moment, do they? Nope, that’s normally reserved for those mysterious men who appear out of nowhere so the MC is noticing all of that to ensure the vision is burned into their memory. So why would we write that in unless it’s one of those moments? Let the characters’ actions and dialogue be their introductions – the one that’s the most natural to the story.

What about you? Have you seen The Good Girl? Have you ever felt like Justine? If so, have you used that in your writing in order to relate to the reader? Are there other writing lessons you can extract from this particular film? Do you have a movie you’d like to see analyzed during this series?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Song of the Week: Sing for Absolution by Muse

Happy Monday, everyone!!

This particular song is a go-to whenever I have a hard time getting the muse the cooperate.

For instance: I sat down to write this past Saturday and the muse decided he would not stick around after I got started.  I turned this song on, set it to repeat, closed my eyes,  listened for a couple of rounds, and poof! There he was standing next to me, whiskey in hand, ready to continue from where we’d left off.

Hope you enjoy this one!

Friday, February 10, 2012

This Week in Favs…

Playing on the Zune: Uprising by Muse <—This song never fails to get to the writing flow going!

Social Media and Author Websites

“Here’s the Thing About Social Media” by Lynn Price on Behler Blog<—“The wider you cast your net, the more people you know, which makes it far easier for your publisher to promote you to mainstream print and TV media” –Lynn (‘nuff said) A Must-Read!

“7 Crucial Tactics for Writing a Wildly Successful Guest Post” by The Blog Tyrant on Copyblogger <—Awesome tips for when you’re writing the all-too-important guest post!

“The Fine Art of Tooting Your Own Horn, and a Word About Covers” by James Scott Bell on The Kill Zone <—A few words from the fabulous James Scott Bell on self-promotion.  A Must-Read!

“8 Quick Tips for Writing Bullet Points People Actually Want to Read” by Robert Bruce on Copyblogger <—In a world of social media these are great tips on how to pack it all in your blog posts – effectively!

“How to Recover From a Social Media Hangover” by Cori Padgett on Copyblogger <—I don’t know about you, but this was soooo needed this week! *smile*

“6 Ways to Beat Blogging Blahs” by Jody Hedlund <—How to make it through those moments where you’d rather stay in bed then create a witty and interesting post.

On the Craft

“Why (not) Tell the Story in Present Tense?” by Juliette Wade on TalkToYoUniverse <—The pro’s and con’s of present tense (with examples).

“How to Return to Writing After a Long Break” by Nathan Bransford <—He’s baaaack! Great tips on how to get back into the swing of things!

“Writer Unblocked” by Danyelle Leafty on <—The 3 causes of writer’s block and how to cure those symptoms.

“What’s In a (Baby) Name?” by Jael McHenry <—Naming your characters is nothing like naming your child.

“Descriptions that Pack A PUNCH!” by Laura Drake on Writers in the Storm Blog <—Examples of some of the most awesome descriptions ever written (check out the comments also).

“Revealing Characterization Through Banter” by Stina Lindenblatt <—Using dialogue to show who your character is. A Must-Read!

“Avoiding a Saggy Middle” by Lisa Gail Green on Paranormal Point of View <—Questions to ask as you’re writing Act II of your story.

“Setting Thesaurus Entry: Catacombs” by Becca Puglisi on The Bookshelf Muse <—Another great thesaurus entry – now all I can think about is how I can squeeze this into my plot somewhere! LOL!

“Hero Worship” by Michelle Griep on WordServe Water Cooler <—List of superhuman attributes you can add to any MC.

“Prologues: Please Use Responsibly” by Roz Morris on Nail Your Novel <—Another great post by Ms. Morris – approach a prologue with caution!

“Nine Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write” by Ali Luke on Aliventures <—Get to writing….now!!

“Writing Lessons from THE HUNGER GAMES: Stakes and Characterization” on Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing <—Awesome writing lessons from the wonderfully written and compelling Hunger Games trilogy! A Must-Read!

“Weather and Earthly Phenomena: Eclipse” by Becca Puglisi on The Bookshelf Muse <—A new entry in the thesaurus!

“Why Your Novel Characters Need Real Flaws” by Rosslyn Elliott on Rachelle Gardner’s blog <—Creating real character flaws.

“The Three Layers or Story Engineering, Architecture, and Art” by Larry Brooks on Storyfix <—Learn how to slice and dice your story.

“5 Muse Abusers: How to Protect Your Creative Flow'” by Roni Loren <—Great tips on keeping your creativity well fed and away from negativity.

“Writing Dialogue with Purpose” by Ava Jae on Writability <—Creating well-written dialogue.

“Mining for Character Emotions” by Sharla Rae on Writers in the Storm blog <—How dig deep into your character’s emotions and transfer them to the page.  A Must-Read!

“Fast Drafting: A Word Count Builder” by Lynette Labelle <—Great information on fast drafts!

Writerly Inspiration

“A Misleading Sign on the Road to Writertown” by Daniel Swensen on SurlyMuse <—Labels can either empower or deflate, but it’s your choice whether or not you call yourself a writer or not.

“The Business of Writing with James Scott Bell” by Lisa Hall-Wilson on Girls with Pens <—Awesome interview that is not to be missed! A Must-Read!

“25 Reasons that Writers are Bug-**** Nuts” by Chuck Wendig on Terribleminds <—Chuck does it again – you’ll be nodding your head the entire way through. A Must-Read!

“Eating the Elephant” by Cynthia Robertson <—Overcoming the overwhelming, hopeless feeling of writing an entire novel.

“Our Inner Apples and Oranges” by Domey Malasarn on The Literary Lab <—Learning that every story is its own and requires a different set of skills to write.

On Editing, Critiquing, Querying, Publishing and more…

“Write Tip: How Not to Use the 9 Free Ways to Market Your Book” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt <—A follow-up to January’s post: “9 Free Ways to Market Your Book”

“A New Approach to a Traditional Group – The Concept Critique” by Kristen Lamb <—Awesome follow-up to January’s post: “Can Critique Groups Do More Harm than Good?”

“Should You Focus On the Fast Return or the Long Term Investment” by Scott Eagan <—Risk your career for fast (short term) cash?!?

“Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Coauthor?” by Ellery Adams on BookEnds, LLC blog <—Every considered coauthoring a book?  Then ask yourself if you have what it takes.

“6 Grammar Mistakes That Will Cost You Readers” by Marcy Kennedy <—Great tips that need to be put to good use during the editing phase!

“How to Get Published: Part 2” by Lynda R. Young <—Follow-up to last week’s post: “How to Get Published: Part 1” A Must-Read!

“Expanding the World of Your Novel” by Matthew Pearl on Nathan Bransford’s blog <—Expanding the external life of your book.

“Tuesday Ten: How to View Your Work with Fresh Eyes” by Cheryl Reif <—Great tips on how to save yourself from a world of aggravation and frustration.

“Breaking Up is Hard To Do (In Which I Talk About the Comma)” by Marisa Hopkins on Living the Creative Life <—If you’re also a comma user-and-abuser, here’s a great resource suggestion for you!

“How to Use the “Save the Cat” Beat Sheet for Revisions” by Jami Gold <—Great resource for getting through those dreaded revisions. A Must-Read!

“Updated Publishing Dictionary” on BookEnds, LLC blog <—Updated publishing dictionary (good for the notebook of industry knowledge!).

“Learn to Love the Pitch” by Sarah Pinneo on Writer Unboxed <—Pitching isn’t *that* dreadful…so learn to love it!

“Not For Us!” by Joe Moore on The Kill Zone <—Awesome post about rejection.

This week on the blog:

Happy Reading and Writing, everyone!!!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Writerly Wednesday: Writing Lessons Learned from Forrest Gump

Thanks to the super-convincing awesomesauce words of S.P. Sipal, I’ve decided to do a series of posts based on the writing lessons we can learn from movies (I do believe I may have found my niche *throws confetti*). 

Last week we visited John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club. This week we’re going to visit an even bigger blockbuster of a movie: Forrest Gump.

Plot per IMDB: “Forrest, Forrest Gump, is a simple man with a low IQ but good intentions. He is running through childhood with his best and only friend, Jenny. His ‘mama’ teaches him the ways of life and leaves him to choose his destiny. Forrest joins the army for service in Vietnam, finding new friends called Dan and Bubba, he wins medals, creates a famous shrimp fishing fleet, inspires people to jog, starts a ping-pong craze, creates the smiley, writes bumper stickers and songs, donates to people and meets the president several times. However this is all irrelevant to Forrest who can only think of his childhood sweetheart, Jenny, who has messed up her life. Although in the end all he wants to prove is that anyone can love anyone.”

  • Symbolism – a strong story element: Remember the white feather that just floats along in the beginning of the movie…then reappears at the end? That particular light-as-air feather packs a BIG meaning, especially when Forrest says at the end of the movie, "I don't know if Mama's right or if its Lieutenant Dan, I don't know if we each have a destiny or if we're all floating around accidental, like on a breeze." The best part is that this is one of those symbols that represents a wide variety of meanings to different people.  Here are two interpretations from the cast of the movie as an example:
    • Tom Hanks’s Interpretation: “Our destiny is only defined by how we deal with the chance elements to our life and that’s kind of the embodiment of the feather as it comes in. Here is this thing that can land anywhere and that it lands at your feet; it has theological implications that are really huge.”
    • Sally Field’s Interpretation: “It blows in the wind and just touches down here or there. Was it planned or was it just perchance?”
I suggest taking a look at the Symbolism Thesaurus over at The Bookshelf Muse for more ideas of how you use this element throughout your own plotting. Like I said, regardless of why you use it and what it means to you,  it’s a powerful element that’s open to interpretation by the reader…and it’s something the reader will forever remember in the back of their mind (I always think of Forrest whenever I see a feather).
  • Develop you minor characters:  In this particular movie we not only follow Forrest, but we also follow several other characters: Jenny and Lt. Dan.

  • Jenny: When we first meet Jenny (Robin Wright Penn) she’s a little girl and the only kid who offers a place for Forrest to sit next to on the bus to school. Throughout their friendship she never judged Forrest. Sure, she may have asked him within the first few minutes of their meeting, “Are you stupid or something?”, but after that she leaned on him in her times of need: when her father abused her, when she needed a place to rest and deflate, when she knew the end of her life was in sight. Her journey is a memorable one in the fact that she begins her journey into adulthood with emotional issues due to her abusive childhood and like many others, she deals with those in the only way she knows how: by numbing herself with alcohol and drugs. Eventually she cleans herself up (thanks to Forrest for taking her in) and becomes responsible when she has a child and that within itself is where I believe her character arc truly resonates and shines. Yes, every story is mainly following a single character, but there are other characters that the reader (or viewer) yearns to learn about, to care about, to root for. Jenny is one such character and her existence in itself was a symbol to Forrest.
    • More on symbols: Throughout the story Jenny is a symbol for Forrest. To him she represents all that is wonderful and good. He listens to her when she tells him to run (which saves his life in Vietnam and starts a jogging craze across the country), she unintentionally pulls him through the rough times, and she’s the one that started him on the path to greatness – his rock or foundation, so to speak. Without her being in his life he would’ve never ran like the wind and pushed past his disability…thus allowing him to run like hell from bullies…thus getting him into college to play football…thus causing him to graduate college where he then enrolled into the Army…thus saving his life once again by telling him to run if he ever got in trouble while in Vietnam…and so on and so forth.  What would’ve happened if Jenny’s character hadn’t been followed and developed alongside Forrest?

        • Lt. Dan Taylor: Lt. Dan (Gary Sinese) is another character we just wanted to root for, but we didn’t necessarily do so until after he’d been knocked down to his lowest level: when he lost both legs in the war and pulled Forrest out of his bed one night and practically cried in his arms over feeling like a cripple (this is something that he and Forrest, unbeknownst to Lt. Dan, had in common since Forrest had to overcome that particular obstacle at a young age) and stating that he’d been cheated out of his life’s destiny by Forrest. Throughout the course of the movie we watched as Lt. Dan entered Forrest’s life after a TV interview where shortly after, he defended Forrest to two women who called him stupid. In effect this opened Forrest’s eyes a bit to the fact that he and Dan had another thing in coming: Forrest didn’t like being called stupid just like Dan didn’t like being called cripple. Lt. Dan’s character takes a turn after he joins Forrest on his shrimpin’ boat, lovingly called Jenny, and finds a newfound outlook on life after challenging God during a horrific storm – this is where he finally thanks Forrest for saving his life. In the end, Lt. Dan appears with new titanium alloy limbs, a fiance, and a smile on his face. Where would this movie have been without that particular development of Lt. Dan? I can’t even imagine it, can you?
      • The art of show don’t tell: This particular movie is a prime example of ‘show don’t tell.’ Here are a few examples:
        • When Forrest can’t get into school due to his low I.Q. or 75, his mother takes things into her own hands to ensure her son receives equal treatment by *ahem* meeting the needs of the man in charge (so to speak).
          • We weren’t told that she had sex with the man and Forrest never thought twice about it. Instead what the story showed is Forrest hearing disturbing-type noises that night, followed by the man leaving his home stating (I’m paraphrasing here), “You’re mama sure does care about your education, boy.” Even without the noises, the viewer can figure out what happened between them with just that statement. To quote some of the best advice I’ve received from Lisa Gail Green: “Trust the reader!”
        • Before Forrest goes to Vietnam, he visits Jenny.
          • While Forrest states that Jenny finally got her dream to finally be on stage, singing with her guitar, what is shown is that she’s actually a performer in a strip club. We didn’t have to be told because we could deduce it from the fact that the men in the crowd were screaming for her to move her guitar aside and show them some action.
            • Sidenote: While we know what’s really going on and we’re seeing how her life has declined, that’s one of those moments where it’s really great to see the world through Forrest’s eyes.
        • Historical writers will like this one: When the men who are looking for the ‘fuse box or somethun’ near Forrest’s hotel room – the one where President Nixon moved him.
          • Since we’ve all had our history lesson we really didn’t need to be told exactly what was happening. Putting two and two together for the viewer showed us Forrest was the one who busted the five men breaking and entering into the DNC headquarters at the Watergate complex.
        • Jenny’s death – the one where she states she has some kind of virus, one the Dr.’s can’t figure out.
          • Given the timing and what we know about Jenny’s history it’s pretty easy to figure out that she more than likely had contracted the AIDS virus. While it’s not exactly identified, the viewer knows it in their heart of hearts.

      • Choose the theme(s) of your novel carefully and plant them seamlessly throughout your story: While the author of the novel, Winston Groom, has stated that Forest’s story is about dignity, I like to think it’s also about respect, tolerance, unconditional love, and perseverance.  All four are universal themes that we all aspire to be/have in our lives: We aspire to earn and keep the respect of others around us, we yearn to learn tolerance of others and their choices (even if we don’t like them), we learn through our children, friends and family what unconditional love is (and through our stories we strive to teach others), and each and every day we persevere. 
        • Most themes aren’t particularly obvious as you’re watching a movie or reading a book until the very end when you sit and reflect on the life story you just witnessed. Strive for that with your writing. Strive for planting theme(s) seamlessly throughout the story that will bring the reader back time after time, that’ll get the reading groups talking, that’ll transcend sex, gender and race, and that’ll speak to every generation.

      I could go on for about another thousand words with the writing lessons we can take away from this particular movie, but instead I’ll leave you with some trivia before opening it up for comments. Be sure to come back on Friday for this week’s round-up of writing posts. Next Wednesday we’ll visit writing lessons from The Good Girl.

      • John Travolta was originally sought after to play the role of Forrest. He of course turned it down and has said that it was a huge mistake. The next person they wanted for the role was Bill Murray. But the one actor who nabbed this part was Tom Hanks who signed onto the film within an hour and a half of reading the script.
      • Kurt Russell, though not credited, provided the voice of Elvis Presley in the scene where Forrest showed his moves.
      • Mykelti Williamson (Bubba) wore an attachment during filming in order to give himself the ‘big gums’ look.
      • Dick Cavett played the 70’s version of himself in the movie (with the help of make-up, of course).
      • A sequel to the book has been published, Gump & Co., and for a while Hollywood debated on developing it but opted out shortly after the world changed with 9-11.
      • According to the research I’ve done, the author, Groom Winston, was never thanked during acceptance speeches for being the mastermind behind the character and his story.
      • Forrest Gump won a total of 29 awards – 6 of which are Oscars

      Your turn: What other writing lessons can you pull from Forrest Gump?  Have you been using these lessons all along and never thought about how they were in some way, shape, or form incorporated into this particular film? Is there a particular movie you’d like for me to post about? <—I’m definitely up for the challenge!
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