Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Get a Plot, Already!

I am a movie junkie. I'm particularly fond of the old classics and have made up my mind to become an expert on them. Achieving expert status requires a lot of research, so I watch a lot of old movies. I highly recommend choosing a career you love ...

I recently watched the 1952 movie, "The Belle of New York," starring Fred Astaire and Vera-Ellen. With two top-notch dancers like that, the musical numbers were bound to be outrageous, right? Well, they were. The two of them glided effortlessly around the stage, leaping tall buildings ... you think I'm joking, but they actually did, with the help of some special effects ... and you've never seen such flying feet. But the plot line ... oy.

Essentially, this movie is a sad precursor to the 1955 movie "Guys and Dolls." Rumor has it that Astaire wanted the role that went to Sinatra in "Guys," but that's neither here nor there. In "Belle," Astaire sees girl who is a member of a religious organization, falls for, and ends up leaving his riotous life behind for her. While singing and dancing.

The point I'm making here is this. You can have all the spangles and glitter you want. You can embellish something with dance numbers and pull in the big names to star, but if you don't have a plot line, you're sunk. How many of you have ever even heard of "The Belle of New York?" I'm willing to bet that not one of you have, despite the excellent dancing.

The same is true for books. You must have a clearly defined plot. The reader should have an actual story to follow. Wandering off into musings about the downy feathers on a little birdie's back is all well and good, I suppose, but the reader needs to have some sort of indication of where they are going, and if that part's a surprise, please at least give them something to entertain them while they're on their journey. Window-dressing will only get you so far. Work on establishing your plot - don't end up like a Hollywood flop no one has ever heard of before.


Christine Thackeray said...

Love it! So true.

JoAnn Arnold said...

You said it Well while using a perfect example. We can all learn from reading your post.

Nichole Giles said...

Nothing is more frustrating than a movie with no plot. As you said...oy! The sad thing is people are still making these movies--and sometimes they actually do well because they have cool special effects or scenes. Sad, but true.

But a plot--oh how much a plot is worth in the world of writing!

Good post.


Cindy Beck said...

Oooo, nothing is more frustrating than a book (or movie) without a plot. By the time I'm done reading/watching, I'm upset that I wasted my time.

Although ... watching Fred Astaire and Vera Ellen dance might make up for it! :)

Tristi Pinkston said...


Basically what you should do is blip through and just watch the dancing. The rest isn't worth the time at all.