Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Elements of Good Writing

The other night I watched Morituri with Marlon Brando and Yul Brynner. The movie really called to mind how a great plot—and the absence or abundance of conflict—can make or break a story. Although the movie was set in 1942 during WWII, this wasn’t a beat ‘em up–bang ‘em up flick. Good story development and strong characters came together to create a suspenseful plot with goals that the viewer could really care about.

The protagonist and antagonist had opposing goals, but in spite of their imperfect natures, they were both likeable. It was hard to know who to root for. In fact, this added another dimension to the conflict. These two characters had clear and understandable motivation, deeply held beliefs that were challenged by circumstance, and both were changed by the events that took place. It’s perfect:

Two men on a freighter in the middle of the ocean with nowhere to go and—in Brando’s case—only two days to achieve his goal. Brenner’s character doesn’t know what Mr. Kyle (Brando) is up to but still manages to make his life impossible. That makes for a fast-paced, engaging story. Set against the backdrop of WWII and Hitler’s Germany, this story not only changed these two imaginary characters; it changed me too. That’s good writing!

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