Thursday, March 31, 2011

Revealing the story... & why I love Ryan Reynolds

I finally got around to seeing one movie that I've been dying to see, Buried. I'm a big Ryan Reynolds fan, but that's not the point. I really wanted to see this based on the premise. It's about a guy that's been kidnapped over in Iraq and held for ransom. Okay, so that's not that different? But, the entire movie takes place in a coffin. For 90 minutes all you see is the things that are happening to Reynolds. He has a phone, alcohol, lighter, numerous (coloured) torches, knife and pens.

A movie that's only got one visual actor (the rest are voices over the phone), it needs to be able to tell the story some way and I absolutely loved Chris Sparling's script. So, what does this have to do with how the story's revealed? Even though movies are pretty much all show because they're up on the screen and you're watching the action unfold, it's still the fact that he's stuck in a coffin, so the viewer needs to find out what's happened and all the background story over the phone.

This movie is a great example of how to do small snippets of backstory in the dialogue without seeming like exposition.

As writers, we have an entire backstory created for the character that we really can't just put in big blocks of writing. So, how do you choose how to reveal that story?
  1. Reveal snippets in dialogue
    This is the easiest way, as long as it flows naturally and doesn't seem like the character is just talking about their life because it's needs to be said.
  2. Flashbacks
    The easiest way would be to go back to the part of history that you need to describe of the character.
  3. Memories from items
    Characters could find an item, diary or even a place that might bring out that memory. Still this needs to show the relevance to the story that you're creating.
  4. Is it important?Before you actually tell the reader of the backstory, you must decide whether it's actually important. Will the reader gain a better understanding of the character or their motivations? Does it reveal a hint about the ending? Or is it just a fascinating tidbit that you love? The last question probably means that you don't need to tell the reader of it.

    So, how do you choose what backstory to include in your stories and how do you reveal them? Also, what was the last movie you saw?


    Unknown said...

    I can't imagine a whole movie with the guy inside of a coffin. That takes some good writing. Like the movie where the guy's in the phone booth the whole time.

    I think I use a little of all of those techniques, depending on the story. The last movie I saw was Hereafter.

    Alleged Author said...

    Great post on revealing history through other means than having the narrator speak about it. I try to use dialogue for this, but I've always loved someone like Laurie Halse Anderson who can do it differently. Wintergirls is a perfect example of flashback within the action.

    Bethany Elizabeth said...

    This is super interesting - how incredibly difficult to write something like that. 90 minutes in a coffin? Darn. :)
    For me, backstory is something I handle with the occasional flashback, but mostly in dialogue - only when needed, of course. Really, it's easier when I don't need it. :)

    Rachel Searles said...

    I fit most of my backstory in through dialogue--but only in the smallest brushstrokes.

    Last movie I saw was Battle L.A., and it was terrible. Best thing about it was reading Ebert's hilarious review the next day.

    Sara@CleverlyInked said...

    I am not a writer, but I do love Ryan Reynolds! If you have never seen Blade Trinity, check it out! The movie shows his hip cleavage on more than one occasion! Yay!

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