Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

We all can relate

22 Comments

I watched Jurassic World last night for the first time (yes, I know it’s been out for, like, three years, but I’m a little behind. I just saw Hidden Figures last week). It’s a good movie for those who like dinosaurs (me! me!), but as a storyteller, I noticed a few things that made me think of writing, plotting, etc. (Note: if you haven’t seen the movie, just sayin’ there will be spoilers.)


Yes, I know it’s one of those all-action, not much in the line of story-telling movies like so many these days. There was more character development in some of the Transfomers movies (yes, I like big, sentient robots too 😀 )

Anyway, that wasn’t what I noticed. The first thing I noticed is something that my writing teacher mentioned in our Master Novel class. A writer has to draw the reader in, and there has to be conflict of some sort. You know the classics: man v. man, man v. nature, man v. self, and man v. society. (I looked this up to verify my memory was working, and discovered now there is one more: man v. the supernatural. Well, I would consider that nature *shrug*)

The conflict is obvious: man v. big bad dinos juiced up by man’s incessant desire to tinker with Nature. How does the saying go? Don’t mess with Mother Nature, she’ll kick your ass. So what if they filled in some DNA gaps with other stuff? You know, like cuttlefish camoflauge DNA or frog DNA (in the first Jurassic Park, that’s what caused the problems in the first place, the spontaneous gender-switch some frogs (lizards too?) will do). What could possibly go wrong?

Character development is at a minimum. The only characters that seem to develop by the end are the main character Claire, who takes the typical “ignore family because of work” to the “family in danger, family is more important” route. The two boys, a teenaged brother and a somewhat younger brother, change from the sulky teen and smart-but-lacking-confidence middle-grader to a stronger, more confident pair who take care of each other.

Yawn.

Where was I? Oh yeah, conflict and drawing the reader in. The part that reminded me of my writing teacher is the drawing the reader in part. Once way to increase conflict and make the reader care more about what happens is to create a bond between characters, either between the one in danger and the hero/ine, or between the protagonist and the antagonist. They did that with this movie, as well as with the first one, Jurassic Park.

In Jurassic Park, the man who started the park, Hammond, invited his grandkids to see the park before it opens. Of course, the kids get into trouble when the dinos get loose, but there is a family tie, which automatically ramps up the tension. In Jurassic World, the woman managing the new park, Claire, is tasked to babysit her nephews while her sister and brother-in-law deal with marital issues. Once again, the kids get into trouble with the super-smart, bad-ass dino gets loose.

See a pattern? Tension is increased when the conflict involves a relative or loved one. Even the first Jack Reacher book had a family tie: Reacher’s brother is killed, and Reacher hunts for the culprit.

A reliable way to draw readers into the story is to use family ties of some sort, because everyone has experienced having a sibling or parent or significant other or favorite/hated relative. We care more about people we can relate to, which is why in my debut novel I include a family tie, where in the first draft I had none. It made a huge difference in how the reader cared about the main character.

The plot was pretty typical action movie stuff. Bad guy/dinosaur/robot/supernatural creature terrorizes hero/ine’s loved ones, good guy’s goal is to save loved ones and beat the bad guy, in spectacular, CGI-laden, heart-pounding, explosion-ridden, magic/mutant power-blasting style.

The other thing I noticed was the ending (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT). Granted, I didn’t sit down and watch the whole thing; I was making fresh salsa for my home-from-college-for-the-weekend daughter during the first 30 min of the movie, so I might have missed something, but when Claire released the kraken–er, wait, wrong film. When Claire released the T-Rex, I had to suspend my disbelief. It was the T-Rex from the original movie, but I don’t remember them mentioning the old T-Rex at all. I could rewatch the whole movie (or I could just rewatch the first half hour) to find out if they foreshadowed the T-Rex, but really? I mean, talk about deus ex machina.

Do not do that in your writing. Seriously. Totally blew the experience for me, because I was wracking my brain for anything about the old T-Rex from earlier in the movie. I might have to rewatch it anyway.

Repeat after me: No magic/unexpected solutions to finish off the bad guy. No pulling a rabbit out of a hat to beat the bad guy if you haven’t told readers about the killer rabbit earlier. Just. Don’t.

Today will be apple bread and chocolate chip cookie day. And little, if any, writing. Sigh.

Have a great weekend!

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Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", will be released in March, 2019, by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer with a family of two teens, a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, three chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

22 thoughts on “We all can relate

  1. What an interesting idea, Julie, to use the film to talk about writing! And you make such well-taken points, too. I especially agree with your last one: unexpected solutions do not work in a story. They put the reader right off. It’s much better if an ending, or the main conflict resolution, fall out naturally from the plot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Absolutely, Margot! I think it happens more these days in film and TV, but sometimes when I get to the end of a book and the character pulls a stunt/wand/stick of dynamite out that no one knew was there, I’ll go back though the section of the book where it should have been mentioned to see if I missed something. Sometimes I do (oh, yeah, that hidden room was mentioned in passing), but when I don’t, I have to shake my head. On the flip side, I pay attention when they show/describe something that seems to be inconsequential to the story, because often that will be the key to the mystery later on.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I watched this a while ago, expecting it to be average (so why did I bother to watch it? I think that was my son’s fault). It was, on every level, but oddly entertaining. I can’t even tell you why!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Julie, you draw some great storytelling tips from what sounds like an okayish film. The film would have me spluttering in annoyance … the film I was most angry with was entailed The Other Earth! Terrific title, great premise and even all the right conflicts and characterisation – however the other earth just hung there, tantalising out of reach! No one went there, we knew nothing about it!

    Enjoy your apple bread and chocolate chip cookies … with such dietary delights all is right with the world! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was an okay film, but I didn’t expect it to be a wonderful film. I haven’t found an action film outside that really made me consider it more than just another ho-hum action flick. I have to admit, I like the CGI dinosaurs. The special effects are cool, but sometimes they are at the expense of opportunities to tell a better story.

      My daughter made the cookies 😀 She wanted to bring some back to school with her to show her friends how real homemade chocolate chip cookies taste. It’s so interesting how much she appreciates home stuff now!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve learned to set my logical side aside for these movies…..lol. I do enjoy them anyways. Yes, great point and comparison not to pull that rabbit out of the hat at the end of a story. Have a great weekend Julie:)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great analysis! Isn’t it annoying to learn stuff about writing and not be able to turn it off? It makes enjoying movies/books/tv shows that much harder now that you’re no longer ignorant of the process. Ah well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh man, you are so right! I writer-analyzed another show last week (of course I can’t remember what it was), disparaging the lack of foreshadowing or some such complaint. Or sometimes they miss opportunities to develop the characters. I wonder how much my analzying out loud bothers my husband…

      Enjoy your weekend, Betsy!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Apple bread and chocolate chip cookie day sounds good to me.

    By the way, I had butterscotch pudding at a restaurant tonight. The previous time I had it was decades ago. It was great!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I found the movie totally lame, Julie, and watched it just for the special effects – who can resist dinos after all! But great point about endangering family (or important others) in the conflict. It’s a huge source of motivation for characters, compelling them to be proactive and take risks. Great post and Happy Writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I tend to watch movies late, too. Jurassic World is one I enjoyed (when I finally got around to seeing it) because it delivered what I expected (cool dinosaurs). Oh, and Chris Pratt. Can’t forget that. I wasn’t expecting a Oscar-winner, so I was entertained.

    I love your point about the family angle (although Claire’s nephews both annoyed the crap out of me). I also like your point about Chekhov’s gun. Or the inverse of it, I guess. I can’t be sure, but I think Rexy was mentioned earlier in the film. I know the Indominous Rex got part of its DNA from her. But I think (stress THINK) the techs were talking about the T-Rex when Claire left her meeting and went to the control room. Whether mentioned or not, I have to admit the raptor/rex/ocean dino tag team made me happy.

    This was a great post, Julie. (And now I want cookies.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Staci! Yes, the kids were annoying. And good, there was probably a really brief reference (during which time I was carefully avoiding my fingertips while dicing tomatoes for fresh salsa 😀 ) earlier in the film. I wonder how many other people missed it. Probably when they got up to let the cat outside 😀

      PS: My daughter made the cookies, and they were yummy! There’s nothing quite like fresh-baked homemade chocolate chip cookies! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re a good mom. Fresh salsa is the best. Then again, the same can be said for homemade cookies!

        My daughter loves to cook but doesn’t much like to bake. My son offered to bake me a cake yesterday; maybe that counts.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m late chiming in but I learned that “don’t pull a rabbit out of the hat” mantra when I ended a story that way back in my 20s. My critique readers were all over it, LOL. Needless to say, lesson learned.

    It’s been a while since I saw Jurassic World (I actually just watched JW: Fallen Kingdom last weekend), but it never really stood out for me. Maybe it was that lack of character connection you mentioned. Same with Fallen Kingdom. The original Jurassic Park will always be a classic. They took liberties with Crichton’s book, but the movie kicked butt. None of the ones to follow have come even close.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right about Crichton’s book; I read it and enjoyed it a lot more than the movie (except the dinos were more spectacular on screen than in my head 😀 ) You are right, though. The first JP was far better than the two that came after. The biggest thing with JW I thought was cool was Chris Pratt’s character training the raptors. (of course, I knew right away that was going to be either his end or his saving grace later in the movie).

      JW: Fallen Kingdom is next on the list. Now, if they would just make Anne McCaffery’s Pern novels into movies–CGI dragons would be awesome!

      Liked by 1 person

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