There are many stories that I wish I had written- stories whose characters, structures and pretty much anything- I wish I would have come up with. I’m definitely in love/awe with those stories. Some of them are:
Pretty much any John Grisham legal thriller, but especially:
- The Runaway Jury- the book, not the movie
- The Brethren
- The Partner – remind me why The Partner and The Brethren haven’t been adapted to screen yet?
By Christopher Nolan (and Jonathan Nolan)
- Memento (nope, not The Prestige.)
- The Dark Knight Rises (not the first two)
By Kurt Wimmer:
- Law Abiding Citizen
By Randal Wallace
- Braveheart. (duh!)
By Nancy Meyers
- What Women Want
By James Cameron
The list goes on. But the point is:
Those stories are perfect to me in their genres. Yes, the books mentioned are best-sellers, and the movies are either critical/cult hits or box office hits or both. They made me laugh, think, cry, get glued to the screen/book, hold my breath or made me do a various combinations of these.
So these movies make you want to wish you could sit down with those authors and pick their brains. Interviews don’t always help. For instance Joseoph Gordon-Levitt and Gary Oldman are marveling at what a great story-teller Nolan is. OK-I’m admiring too but how the hell does he and his brother (who created one of my favorite shows, Person of Interest, too by the way) write those things?
Of course some of these writers do also come up with stories that don’t impress (me) so I don’t die of jealousy. Apparently, Kurt Wimmer did Double Trouble (action comedy about muscular twins who….you don’t really care about.) And James Cameron did Titanic and Avatar. (who does that after Strange Days???You might enjoy those movies, but if you watch Strange Days, you might appreciate why a fan of that story might expect different things from Cameron.))
But back to the stories we love.
No matter how many times I dissect writing manuals and those movies, I still find a hard time delving into the secret ingredients-how the hell they managed to put one and done together. Sure, Randall Wallace had history to guide him- but with Braveheart, he outdid himself. If you have seen Pearl Harbor, you might wonder how the writer of Braveheart could write that (nope, I don’t like Pearl Harbor. Could’ve appreciated that one in 1930. Not in 2001. )So I’d definitely not die for the story structure of a love triangle between soldier presumed dead, his girlfriend and his best friend.
Was I ranting? Good. That was the point. A story (structure/idea) to die for is something most writers go after, and not many accomplish. So it was a relief to have run into PJ Reece’s Story Structure To Die For in which he rants, gives great examples of stories that worked, what didn’t work from his own stories and he does rant about what other how-to writers left out of the equation.
And you know you can relate to Reece when he dedicates her book to Jack Lemmon and Eva Marie Saint (it will make sense once you read it) and that he gives Moonstruck as an example for a great story structure. For one, even though I like the movie, even though it has an Oscar and all that, it is a guilty pleasure for me. Oh the stereotypes and the soap opera acting and the emotional outbursts of Nic Cage…But guilty pleasure or not, it WORKS and that’s what matters! (and it is nice of him to pick a movie we have mostly seen and remember- I probably would have had a heart attack and never gone back to the book, had he been giving examples from Lars Von Trier.) He has some other solid and useful (yet fun) examples as well.
There is also the way he structures this non-fiction- you automatically assess your characters and writing to see how you measure up to talking about-he needn’t give checklists and bullet points. You instinctively visualize, analyze and evaluate.
PJ Reece makes his points well. He also reminds you of the ultimate screenwriter fantasy- the Oscar. Whether we’ll ever get nominated and win is another issue. But he does help you see how to get unstuck from ruts, insufficient conflicts and unnecessary writer panic born from unsatisfactory story flow. He also makes you want to re-watch Rocky and Good Will Hunting- for educational purposes.
Read the book. It’s also a fine example of how to write an engaging and fun e-book on non-fiction matters. You can download it from here. Looks like I have another writer blog to hang out at.