Monday, July 27, 2009
Whenever I watch a movie, it makes me think about my writing. I watch for enjoyment, but I also find myself picking things apart. Good storytelling has many intricate elements, and movies are no exception.
Joe and I recently watched Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. This is one of the few movies that we had splurged on to see in the theater as well. Totally worth it.
But this post is not a review (although this particular movie wouldn't be a bad choice). Something jumped out at me while we were watching: DIALOGUE.
Well duh, Lydia, of course you notice dialogue when you watch a movie. Movies are nothing but dialogue and action. And since everything is viewed externally, you can't get into a character's head like you do in a book.
Or can you?
Character motivation is what drives any story. In writing, a character's statement of motivation needs to be clear early on, and it needs to be repeated throughout. In Rise of the Lycans, Lucian's character does this very well. The dialogue is superb. We see what his motivation is, we see what his goal is. Not only that, we want him to succeed because we can see that his motivations are not purely selfish, and we can relate to his natural need to be treated decently.
This is what makes Lucian's character stand out, aside from his awesome abilities as a werewolf. To demonstrate my point clearly, here is my favorite snippet of his dialogue. He is collared and caged, surrounded by his Lycan brethren:
"We are not animals. Is this what you want, to be their entertainment, their playthings? Their pets. Cowering beneath the whip . . . and then fighting amongst ourselves!
Is this what you want!
I have lived by their rules my entire life. I've protected them . . . envied them. And for what? To be treated like an animal. We are not animals!
We do have a choice. We can choose to be more than this. We can be slaves, or we can be Lycans!"
His self-concept is clear. His goal is clear. Tell me that doesn't get your heart pounding. As writers, don't underestimate the power of a few good lines of dialogue. It's one of the best ways to show your character's inner thoughts.
And his closing line proves another point not to be overlooked. Lucian had no control over the situation he was in, but he took control. Characters that readers/viewers fall in love with are proactive. They don't sit back and let things happen to them, they make things happen.
Final word: If you haven't seen the movie yet, and you can stomach a bit of blood, rent it today. For my fellow writers, think of it as (really bad-ass) research.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans official movie trailer