Hello, all. It’s Thursday, so it must be Susannah. Welcome!
I’ve been asked more than once — by persons whose identities I have sworn to protect — to do a series on correct usage of the comma. I had good intentions to start that this week. But my mind rebelled and I just couldn’t do it. It’s summer! This is no time for grammar. There are pools and beaches and melting ice cream cones and . . . summer movies!
I love movies. Especially funny ones. There are some movies that reduce me to a quivering, snorting mass of giggles: Zoolander, or pretty much any Ben Stiller movie, for instance. (“Moisture is the essence of wetness. And wetness is the essence of beauty” “Mer-Man!”) The original Pink Panther movies starring Peter Sellers. (“Do you have a license for your minkey?”) I defy you to watch those and not marvel at Sellers’ perfect comic timing. (With all due respect to Steve Martin’s versions, No. Just . . . No.) Or the more restrained, romantically funny, You’ve Got Mail. Never fails to bring a tear to my eye and a laugh to my lips.
As writers, we can learn so much from movies. A movie tells a story in just a couple of hours, whereas a novel requires a much longer time commitment. That’s because a movie has the advantage of giving us immediate visual satisfaction. In a novel, we must rely on the author to create the visual for us, then we must interpret it.
The pacing must be just right in a movie, otherwise a viewer loses interest immediately. Ditto for novels — a saggy middle equals lost readers, who may just close up the book, never to return to it. Or anything you, the author, ever do again.
Movies are characterized by snappy, concise dialogue, because there just isn’t time for rambling. Guess what? There’s no time for rambling in your novel either. Say it, don’t spray it.
There are lots of resources out there that can help us bring screenwriting tricks to our novels. And I don’t think any of us would turn down a movie option if were offered to us, would we? Might as well make it as easy as possible on Hollywood and write a novel that’s movie-ready. Check out Michael Hauge for some good information. I hope to get to one of his workshops soon.
Tell us about your favorite movies. Have they influenced your writing? Feel free to give us your favorite quotes!