HALLIE EPHRON: Yesterday I had the great good fortune of
attending an all day workshop given by James Scott Bell (author of PLOT & STRUCTURE and pictured with me, Hank, and Ray Daniel, president of the New England chapter of MWA).
Perfect timing: I'm in the final stages of writing a novel, about to start revising, and ready to recharge my critical eye with advice from a pro.
For me, one of the most useful pieces of advice is that at the midpoint in the novel, there should be a "mirror moment." The main character takes stock -- he looks at himself in the virtual (or actual) mirror and and asks: What am I? What have I become? What must I become? And in the second half of the novel, what he realizes plays itself out.
During the workshop, I opened my manuscript, marked the midpoint, and took furious notes about how to tweak it to make it a real turning point in the character's arc.
The great fun of Bell's class is that he uses classic movies to drive home his points about plot. Here are some of the movies he uses:
- The Fugitive
- The Godfather
- Lethal Weapon
- The Wizard of Oz
Which got me thinking about movies, and how much the great ones can teach us about structuring plots. Here are some movies I'd add to Bell's list:
- The Sixth Sense
- The Usual Suspects
- Pretty Woman
- The Shawshank Redemption
- Field of Dreams
- Thelma and Louise
What movies would you add, movies that have the kinds of plots we all wish we could write?