Friday, September 08, 2006

Die Hard Part 4: Conclusion and Lessons Learned

So what have I learned from rewatching the film and tearing it apart? Is there anything I can apply to my own work?

Lessons to apply:

  1. Intercut scenes and use subtly parallel structures: true parallels, foreshadows, echoes, reverse foreshadows, reverse echoes.
  2. Dialogue needs to sparkle.
  3. Strive to write scenes and dialogue that work on multiple levels at once. The best line of dialogue is one that gives insight into a character, while also advancing the plot, while also being entertaining in its own right. Not everything can work this way, but look for opportunities where it can.
  4. There is no such thing as a throwaway character.
  5. Humor and heart can go a long way toward papering over plot holes and inconsistencies. If the audience is identifying with the characters, they're less likely to look for logic holes to pick at.

Some of it I'm already applying. I've added a lot of POV intercuts, explaining the bad guy's plan and sequence of actions more clearly, and giving minor characters more room to grow. I've tried to flesh out the characters more, making them more easy to identify with.

Unfortunately, while I've always considered dialogue one of my strengths, I think it might be suffering in the rewrite as I try to give more dramatic weight to the proceedings and lose some of the levity. However, I think I'll then be going back over the novel again in what the movie types call a "dialogue polish," specifically to brighten and tighten the dialogue. And with luck, I can make the book sing.

The big problem, and one that just hit me in a lightning flash this afternoon, is that the protagonist isn't. He gets recruited to join the team in act 1, then kind of mopes around aimlessly in act 2, wrestling with a moral dilemma, and failing to act on it, until the villains force his hand at the act 2 climax. He doesn't really protag until act 3, when he gets off his butt and kicks ass.

Act 1 works pretty well as near as I can tell. And the act 2 climax and act 3, while they need a lot of patching, are structurally sound, I think. But for the bulk of act 2, I need to give my protagonist a goal to work towards, something to keep him pushing forward and to get the reader to keep turning pages. Which means I'll need to introduce some kind of subplot and re-restructure the work I've been slogging through for the past two weeks or so. This kind of reimagining is something I'm very bad at.

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