Monday, December 14, 2009

The Blind Side and Fiction

My husband and I went to see The Blind Side Saturday afternoon. In case you haven't seen it but plan to, I promise I won't give the story away here. I just wanted to comment on something that applies to writing fiction--which The Blind Side isn't.

The movie begins with a janitor trying to convince the athletic coach at a private, Christian school to enroll the janitor's son and, most important to the story, the son's friend, at the all-white school. Once the movie is underway, we never see the janitor or his son again.

In fiction, this would never work, and no fiction writer worth his ink would dream of doing it. One of the first rules of good fiction is that everything in the opening scene is of prime importance. Not just the characters, but the seemingly insignificant details as well. They need to have a bearing on the rest of the story. They need to subtly foreshadow coming events, so that the reader (or viewer) at some point recalls the beginning and says to himself, "Aha!"

You've probably read the writer's advice (I don't remember who wrote it) that if the opening scene of your whodunnit shows a shotgun over the mantel, you mislead your reader if your murderer uses a lead pipe instead.

If The Blind Side were fictional, the author would not have begun the story the way this one begins. Or, alternatively, he would have found a way to weave those introductory characters into the action of the story and wrapped the ending back to the beginning.

I'm not criticizing the movie, of course. (I loved it. Sandra Bullock is wonderful!) And I haven't read the book. I'm merely pointing out what anyone would notice if, like me, they're trying to write fiction.

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