Monday, April 21, 2008

Choices in writing

Sometimes when I watch movies, I'm surprised by what the writers got away with writing. Makes me wonder if I second-guess myself too much!

I recently watched The Darjeeling Limted and Juno. Of course, both of those are indie movies so the scripts probably didn't undergo all the editing and script doctoring most studio movies do, but people did have to buy into them on some level. The Darjeeling Limited has some very heavy-handed symbolism, and my husband thinks Wes Anderson probably used some of it almost ironically, because it's so obvious, but still...there's one scene near the very end where I turned to my husband and said, "I would never have written that. I'd be embarrassed to write that!" I felt like if I'd written the action I'd just seen on screen, any editor or critiquer would have taken me to task for its groanworthy obviousness (and indeed, some reviewers at did mention it, but it's still in the movie, and is really almost the basis of the movie).

Similarly, in Juno, I wouldn't have ended Juno's personal story the way it ended. As a viewer, I liked it, but as a writer, I'd assume everyone would say it was too cheesy and corny for a character like her, or for most teenagers today. Not only that, but I realized one of her main choices at the end of the movie grew out of a scene where her father gave her advice. I'd be scared to write that in a YA manuscript, since people would tell me the character would have to reach her own conclusions without guidance from a parent. While of course, she did reach her own conclusions, she really listened to her dad's advice (which I found refreshing). That may be an indie film, but there's a similar scene near the end of the movie Along Came Polly, where Ben Stiller's adult character gets advice from his dad that helps him see things more clearly. I do have a scene in my Chasing Monday manuscript where a peer helps my main character get perspective on things, but I've always been a little embarrassed to have it in there, and figured someone might question my use of that scene. Yet here are movies, including the one that won the Academy Award for best original screenplay, in which characters use advice from their parents to help them make decisions. Interesting. (Now, if only my own kids would take my advice--even in elementary school, they'd usually rather not!)

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