Surprise, Surprise!

October 28, 2009 at 1:31 pm (Reviews, Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Happy Wednesday!

How’s it going out there, peeps? Today it’s bright and sunny here in Dundee, which is most unusual. But enough with the tedious formalities! Here’s part 6 of my notes from the writersroom seminar…

SURPRISE

When you are writing a screenplay, you want to write something that is fresh and original, but there are only a finite number of basic plots that you can work with (I’m going to do a blog on these basic plots later too) so you need to know what’s different about your version. What unique perspective are you bringing to the story? What’s your original touch? How are you going to surprise the audience?

When you watch a movie, or read a great story, there should be a sense that the ending was totally inevitable, but at the same time unpredictable. What I mean by this, is that, once the dust clears, you should be able to look back and see that it was obvious the story would end like this. Everything should “add up”.

A good example of this would be the movie “The Sixth Sense”, by M. Night Shyamalan. The story is about a child psychiatrist (Bruce Willis) who is working with a young boy that claims he can see ghosts.

If you haven’t watched it, don’t read any more as there is about to be a terrible spoiler…

…at the end of the movie, it’s revealed that Bruce Willis’ character (the main character throughout the film) is actually a ghost. This is a great plot twist in the movie, as, when you look back over the film, you can see that it really was quite obvious, but not (to my mind anyway) predictable. Now, not all stories need to end with such a mind-blowing twist to be a success, but they do need to come to a satisfactory resolution that has been built up over the course of the plot. Many movies start off strong, but lose it at the ending. This is usually because the writer simply hasn’t done enough to suggest this kind of conclusion to their story.

An example of a movie that (in my opinion) utterly fails in this principle, is the film, “Vanilla Sky”.

Don’t be fooled by the great trailer. This movie uses the technique that children are taught never to use in writing class, the “and then I woke up” lazy-ass ending. The writer has created all these confusing yet interesting situations/circumstances and twists in the plot, but then, instead of rewarding the faithful viewer with a great resolution that explains everything, they cop out by saying it was all a dream. Awful stuff.

So, that’s all for this section. Many of you may disagree with my thoughts on “The Sixth Sense” and “Vanilla Sky” (as there is potentially some case to be made in suggesting that Vanilla Sky does, in fact, point towards its ending), but hopefully you can see the principle behind what I mean anyway.

L.

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