Last Sunday, my daughter and I went to the theatre to see Gnomeo and Juliet. I’m not a Shakespeare fan, but I am a gnome fan. As a writer and reader of books on how to keep readers involved and excited about a story, I watched the tale unfold through my 3D writer’s glasses.
I studied the first meeting of the young lovers in the dilapidated greenhouse and noted the use of the ‘keep the action moving’ method utilized to tease movie goers and entice them to watch for the outcome. It’s a short scene, but highlights the essential tools authors can also use to keep the pages turning.
Although we see it played out in movie after movie, many of us don’t grasp the idea of getting our characters in trouble then deeper trouble then even more trouble to keep the action rolling, the suspense building and readers reading.
For example, the director of the movie could have had the two characters stumble upon each other, fall into the greenhouse and argue over the beautiful flower. Boring. Instead, the characters teased each other by claiming the flower as their own. Each time a character nabbed the flower and tried to get away, a piece of the greenhouse broke, causing them to fall or lose their balance. This gives the other the opportunity to grab the prize and try to escape. But they, too, fall victim to the greenhouse’s weak state and lose the flower. Eventually, no one gets the flower, but through this sequence of action, we observe the two strangers falling in love.
This scene is well balanced and ends before viewers receive too much back and forth action. For certain, this type of ‘attention grabbing’ can be overdone. I use all the Ice Age movies as examples. If I see one more clip where that squirrel is chasing the nut he’s always losing, I’m going to throw myself off a bridge. It’s over done to the point it’s sickening. It’s a cheap money grab by people who have no idea when enough is enough or how to fill 90 minutes with quality story.
Some may disagree with the character being pushed from a plane, their parachute not opening, the emergency chute failing 50 feet above an old shack, them crashing through the roof, sliding off a pile of hay, being chased by a mean dog, tripping over a water bucket, being shot at by a wily hermit, being wacked in the head by a garden rake and landing in a the pig muck . . . but others love it.