Disney Movies Offer a Plot Structure for Dummies Guide

May 07

disney movies aid writers

Lion King's appeal is universal

Movies that have inspired my writing. This is today’s post theme for bloggers who are participating in thethrough the month of May. And, I have spent a good portion of the day agonizing over my inability to get inspired by this particular idea. Movies? Writing? Yes, the two go hand-in-hand. Good writing, after all, leads to great movies. Furthermore, great movies are often based on wonderful stories written by incredible writers. I get the relationship.

But still. I can’t drum up a list of movies that have had much, if any, impact on my writing. Sadly, my mind keeps meandering toward Disney movies. Embarrassing, isn’t it? How does an adult who has diligently pursued the craft of writing for several years relate her writing, in any way, to formulaic Disney flicks? And, just in case you’re wondering, I’m not the kind of person to traipse around the Magic Kingdom (which I’ve visited with my kids many times) wearing Mickey Mouse ears or flashing a lanyard laced with trading pins. I have too healthy a dose of cynicism to do that.

Since I began my latest rewrite of my middle grade novel, I’ve agonized over whether each scene relates back to the book’s main theme and plot. And, more pathetically, what exactly is the main theme of the book? Is the hero even moving toward the central goal that he will ultimately achieve? I often recount the simple formula of a Disney movie to remind myself to keep the book’s message universal, and thus, appealing to a young readership.

Everyone knows that Disney’s films are stereotypically simple, yet they are wildly successful among both kids and their parents. Why? Because every audience member immediately identifies with the struggle of the hero or heroine. Whether she yearns true love, parental acceptance, or a sense of identity, the desire is one in which every person can relate.

My novel, on the other hand, has meandered in and out of this simple formula and has become – at times – unnecessarily complicated. When I’m feeling frustrated and lost inside my own manuscript, I think about a Disney movie. It’s a sort of Plot Structure for Dummies guide that helps me clarify the direction of my story.

While I hope to finally craft a complex and well-developed character facing a challenge with many twists and turns along the way, I need to maintain a clear sense of direction for the character that keeps the readers rooting for his success.

Disney movies are uncompromisingly good at that. Within the first fifteen minutes of every movie, viewers know exactly what the hero or heroine needs to accomplish and what evil villains will get in his way. We’re cheering him on from the very beginning and experience fulfillment, ourselves, when he reaches his goal.

While I proudly admit that Prince Charming will not figure in my novel, I’m more than happy to have him lead me the way.

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One comment

  1. I struggled with the movie theme too, and ultimately decided not to use it. (Instead, I picked up a thread from an earlier post.)

    But if I HAD written about movies, “Finding Nemo” would definitely have been on the list.