What I Learned About Writing When I Watched the Movie Ever After
I’m a sucker for a Cinderella story, and it doesn’t take Freud to work out that this stems from my own difficult childhood.
Ever After is a classic Cinderella story set in France some hundreds of years ago. Drew Barrymore is fantastic as Cinderella and Angelica Houston is great as the step-monster.
For the first half of the movie I didn’t recognise Dougray Scott as the prince, he is just such a perfect spoiled royal.
The movie was more than just entertaining for me, it taught me about writing. The main characters are as they should be, but the minor characters really flesh out the story, taking it from simple to extraordinary.
The character of Leonardo DaVinci first seems a distraction in the story, and a hindrance to the prince, but ends up being a crucial part of the tale and he is nicely woven in by the detail that Cinderellas childhood buddy is an amateur artist.
This taught me that clever associations can add to a story as long as they carry things along.
Jacqueline De Ghent, the younger step-sister, is written as the lesser daughter, the imperfect and to her mother not at all useful extra child. In the story she acts as our bridge between Danielle, Cinderella, and her mother and sister.
Gradually Jacqueline becomes more and more outspoken about her unhappy life and in the end sides with our heroine.
This character taught me about writing a gradual shift of allegiance and why it might begin. At first, the character doing their best to fit in, all the way through to rejecting the very thing they thought they wanted so much.
Fictional characters are a lot like us in that think they know who they are and what they want. When a character gradually realises that they need to pursue a different course, we can relate to that.
As a reader, or a writer, we want what we want from characters and when they surprise us it’s a gift.
When we watch a movie or read a book, we see from the outside looking in at the lives of the characters and we recognise parts of ourselves in each one.
The Baroness Rodmilla De Ghent, the step mother, doesn’t change at all throughout the story, and that works well. She knows what she wants, which is to have the regal life she feels she deserves, and she is ruthless in her attempts to push her elder daughter forward to achieve her desire.
This taught me the importance of sometimes creating a character incapable of shifting from one single-minded attitude.
There’s one scene where Cinderella and her step mother are alone and the step mother speaks about her upbringing by a mother who sounds a little unhinged.
The one small fact that the step mother shares is enough to make you think that there was a good reason why she turned out unbalanced herself. From this one scene I learned the power of a single detail.
The character of Gustave is Cinderellas friend from childhood. He is a simple character; friend and amateur artist, but the story-tellers use him to show what Cinderella is thinking through conversations.
This taught me to use seemingly insignificant characters to show rather than tell what is going on for the main character. This is a really important part of writing. Finding ways to show, not tell, is part of the business of good writing.
I love this movie so much,and being able to learn from it is the icing on the cake.
Thanks for reading and I hope you have a creative day.
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Write your life, know yourself,