After watching Gettysburg several months before, both Mark and I were champing at the bit to watch Gods and Generals. Mark's a huge Civil War buff, and while I'm not an aficionado, I really loved Gettysburg. Great characters, good writing, action that moved along...
An hour into Gods and Generals, I tried to fall asleep. Mark looked for the function on the Blu-Ray remote to double time the movie, kind of like speeding up records.
We were bored.
We finally turned it off and went to bed, but then spent the next half hour dissecting the movie. If I were a film or film-and-literature professor, I would make my students write a paper on why the film failed.
I won't make you do that; instead, I'll summarize the results for you.
The dialogue was beyond ponderous. For some reason, the writer/screenplay writer felt the need to make all the language extremely formal. Now, while speech was more formal then than it is now, it wasn't THAT formal - or slow.
The movie flitted from scene to scene to scene, with no real connectivity to each other. As a viewer, I wondered why a particular scene was important. I never forgot I was watching a movie, which is the ultimate failure of a movie or any written piece. You want the viewer or the reader to be so immersed that she forgets it's a movie she's watching or a book she's reading. If I were the director or editor, I would have made the writer defend each scene's inclusion in the movie. If it's not crucial, it shouldn't be there.
The one battle scene (Manassass) we watched had no real through-line. Whether it's Gettysburg or Braveheart, the battle scenes have to be more than just people sticking swords into or shooting at each other. There must be a reason that scene (battle or no) is there.
Along with not being clear on why it was important to watch these scenes, I didn't feel there was any forward movement. As a writer, your job is ALWAYS to move the reader forward, whether it's to entertain and have the result to have been entertained, or to get to some result, like self- or business-improvement. The screenplay writer or director (or both) of Gods and Generals seemed to have forgotten that more important directive... move things forward.
It felt like someone wanted to film an historic moment (or two years of moments), not tell a story. Everything is a story. Business books tell a story, even if they don't look like traditional stories. The screenplay writer or director (I don't know who to blame for this one) seemed to have no sense of structure or plot development.
What does this tell you about your writing?
If you include dialogue, make it real. That doesn't mean you have to include a lot of "uhs" and "ums." It means the flow and use of language should sound as if real people are talking.
Everything you write should be crucial. If there isn't a strong reason for it to be there, then slash without remorse. That goes for characters and scenes in fiction, and illustrations and concepts in nonfiction.
Along with being crucial, everything needs to connect. Think of it like a flow chart... this connects to this, and then it connects to this, and then to this... No one segment of a piece of writing should be independent of the whole. The whole should be better off for each element.
Before you start writing anything, know what your purpose is. What do you want your reader to come away with at the end? What do you want your reader to do as a result? When you're clear about that, then everything you write should lead to that final purpose.
Tell a story. We are of a storytelling culture. We respond to stories, even as adults. Even with nonfiction. No matter what you're writing, engage the reader, and enthrall him or her.
If you're conscious about your writing the elements above, your writing is sure to be a box-office hit.
Dawn Shuler, Content Creator Extraordinaire, helps entrepreneurs and authors convey their deep message into compelling words, whether it's marketing material or a book, as well as to create powerful content to increase their credibility, visibility, and profitability. Her soul purpose is to help entrepreneurs unleash their authentic selves into their businesses through their content. She created the Writing From Your Soul system to help business owners connect more powerfully, reach more people, and make a difference. Download the free, 13-step system at http://www.WritingFromYourSoul.com