What can Novelist Learn from the Movies?

I recently read the book Save the Cat by Blake Snyder , a must have for screenwriters and all story tellers. As I’ve been reading, and going over notes from my last conference, I realize there is much we can learn from TV and movies.

  1. Dialogue: This is the most obvious of course, but TV/Movies are littered with good, and bad, dialogue. It is a great way to hear what works and what doesn’t. Aprilynne Pike recently said that she thinks her writing is better when watching Gilmore Girls. I agree it is a witty show that does a great job with dialogue. And as writers, I think it’s important to read our dialogue out loud to help edit our work.
  1. Plotting: Because of the short length of movies (in comparison to sitting down and reading an 80,000 word novel), movies are a great way to look at the plot of a story and see what works. Most movies follow a formula, and those that don’t struggle. Blake Snyder goes over plotting in his book for screenwriting, and it mirrors a lot of what I’ve read from other writing books as well. Usually you can watch the major plot points happen like clockwork.
  1. Characters: Watching Pulp Fiction and seeing how Quentin Tarantino makes two drug addicted hit-men likeable is amazing. Whether creating an anti-hero or making secondary characters memorable (I think of Second Hand Lions), TV and movies are great examples.

So don’t feel guilty next time your binge watching your favorite series. Think about what makes the show work for your or where it can improve. Ignore the guilt and chalk it up to homework.

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