The Small Man has been ill for the last week, so he’s spent a lot of time on my lap, watching his three favourite movies; Wall-E, Toy Story 2 and Bolt. Over and over. And over. I can pretty much recite them all by memory now.
The interesting thing is, after seeing them so many times in a row, I’ve stopped seeing the story, and now I can make out the structure underneath. It’s fun to analyse the writerly tricks and see what has been used to good effect.
(Warning: spoilers ahead!)
In all three movies, foreshadowing is precise. Each moment in the climax has been neatly foreshadowed earlier in the movie. For example, at the beginning of Wall-E we see that he has a selection of spare parts to repair himself, an important detail for Eva’s rebuild at the end. And that information was deftly inserted into a humorous scene where Wall-E teaches Eva to dance. Just a moment, but an important one.
“Bookending” has also been used to effect. This is where a defining scene or moment from the beginning of the story is repeated at the end to show the changes from the story. In Toy Story 2, we see Woody ‘shelved’ in the beginning due to his damage, and his fear that Andy will abandon him. At the end, Woody is damaged again, but this time Andy repairs him, and Woody realises that his fears were groundless (the whole point of the movie is about facing your fear).
And all three movies use the same structure. Intro, first conflict, rising action, turning point, climax, denoument. In Bolt, we get to see him in his normal environment in the studio, believing he is a super-dog. Then the first conflict, when Penny is ‘captured’ and Bolt gets accidentally freighted to New York. Then the rising action as Bolt fights to make his way back to Penny, and discovers along the way that he is not, in fact, a super-dog. Then the turning point, as he finally makes it home, but thinks Penny doesn’t love him. The climax, when he rescues Penny from the fire, and the denoument, when Bolt, Mittens and Rhino go to live with Penny.
Watching these movies has taught me three things;
- Write simple stories well
- Show the gun in the opening sequence, so your reader won’t be thrown at the end
- Tie your ending to your beginning
Who says you can’t learn from television?
Your turn. Do you agree or disagree? Have you ever had a revelation about your writing from watching a movie or TV show? Have you ever used visual techniques in your writing?