Tuesday, March 16, 2021

3T Writing Tidbit

 What's the difference between a movie, a television show, a play, a musical, an audio book, a graphic novel, a novel? There are differences in how you can tell the story and what kind of story you can best tell. Musicals, movies, and television have the added emotional element of music but often lack what's going on inside the character's head. Visual elements make for differences, too.

But there are some elements of basic storytelling that cross boundaries. This one I learned from Thunderbirds Are Go (2015), an animated children's adventure about five brothers who run a high-stakes rescue service in the near future, aided by their grandmother, their adopted sister, and a British lady and her very accomplished chauffeur. 

SPOILERS: John Tracy in Thunderbird 5, the space station, has created a simple game AI. The AI is nearly destroyed and, believing everyone is out to get her, does a 2001-Dave on John, kicking him out of the space station and nearly killing him. He manages to get back in and she continues to try to protect herself, escalating until (as I remember it) she endangers everyone on the planet. 

At that point John, to prove not everyone is trying to control her, takes off his helmet and challenges her to vent the atmosphere, placing his life in her hands.

AT THIS POINT there is a close up shot of everyone we're close to, reacting in shock and sorrow to John's decision. His brothers, his sister, his grandmother, the lady and her chauffeur. Gripping, gut wrenching, lending even more impact to an already emotional scene because we not only see John sacrificing his own life--we see how the loss of his life will affect those he holds dear. Plus it draws out the tension.

It's the turning point and the AI becomes friendly, though still playful. We again see reaction shots of all John's loved ones, this time in relief and joy.

We can use that technique effectively in books, too. We can draw out the tension and magnify the impact of an emotional high point by showing the reaction of non-point-of-view characters (best if they're characters the reader actually cares about). Even better, bookend an important turning point with non-POV characters to enhance both the before and the after.

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.  

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