This post was conceived while watching one of my favorite movies. Thus, as usual, it is based on my personal experience. So anyway, to the point…
I found myself paying attention to what was going on in the background of this particular scene in this movie instead of what the leading characters were doing. To better understand this, I challenge you to do the same. Choose one of your favorite movies, what’s going on in the backdrop? An old man is laughing with his wife. The waiter is walking away from a table, she looks down at the notepad before walking away. Behind her, the bartender throws a bottle into the air before catching it with his other hand and pouring the liquor into the long line of glasses in front of him. The waiter walks up to the bar, picks up two of the many glasses and walks them over to her table. The old man and his wife smile while nodding thank you.
What just happened? What happened is that there’s an entire event taking place in the backdrop of what’s happening in the forefront. Though not the center of attention, everyone in the scene moves. Though not the primary characters, everyone in the scene is doing something.
While working on my next project, I’ve found it helpful to make sure that everyone in the scene from the smallest to the greatest has something to do, or has a goal they want to achieve (despite how small). There shouldn’t be any stick men and women. If we are at dinner, the people behind Nora’s table should be laughing or talking. Not so that it’s overwhelming, she is the leading lady after all, but they shouldn’t just be sitting there. There should be movement. For instance, in A Beautiful Mind, John Nash sits on a bench in front of the University. With him is his old roommate and together they sit there and talk. As they are speaking, there are people walking by, students, professors, and faculty members. And as the camera zooms in and pans around, we notice the people are looking at John oddly.
For those of you who’ve seen the movie or who are familiar with the man John (this movie is based on a true story, Nash just passed recently matter of fact) you know that John Nash suffered from a severe case of schizophrenia. His college friend does not really exist. From the first time viewer’s perspective, John is just sitting there talking to an old friend. But if you notice the people in the backdrop, they are not just walking by, they are walking by and staring. Why? You assume its because John has always been a little, well, off kilter. Weird. Odd. By the end of the movie however, you realize that the people are staring because John is sitting on a bench talking to himself. They are staring because there is really no one there. Though not the center of attention, even these people have a purpose for being. In this case, they are hints that help lead up to the end of the movie so that it all makes sense.
I’m not saying writing fiction and writing a movie script is the same thing because its not. What I am saying is that everything around us can be useful to help us in our writing. Who says we can’t use non-conventional means to build on creativity? After all, that’s what creativity is anyway, inventing new ways to do things.
Since working on The Renaissance (my 2017 novel project) I’ve been using this technique (making sure everyone in the scene has a purpose) and its really been helping in my development of the story. It helps me to ensure that everything is accounted for and that there are no loose ends. From the protagonist, to the lady swatting at a fly standing behind her, everyone has a goal or a reason for being. Everyone and everything moves.