"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" ~ C. S. Lewis

Monday, January 31, 2011

Letters to Juliet: It's All About the Characters

I suddenly realized IT IS MONDAY.

And I totally didn't have anything ready to post for Writerly Monday, but then I remembered that I said I might post about TV or movies, so here you go.

That was a completely unnecessary prelude, but it's there and I don't feel like erasing it.

And that was a completely unnecessary aside.

Last week my Dad went to stay with some friends so he could work on his dissertation without any as many distractions. When I knew he was going to be gone, I decided to add a chick flick to the top of my NetFlix queue, since he isn't a big chick flick fan. (note: he watches them with us quite regularly and even enjoys most of them, but they're not his favorite, obviously)

I had been wanting to see Letters to Juliet since I saw the preview for it, so one night Mom and I settled in to watch it.

I love movies like this! Besides, it took place in Siena and the Tuscan countryside and Florence. AND I am crossing my fingers that things work out for me to go on a trip in May to Siena and Florence (and Rome) and now I want to go more than ever. Gor.Geous.

Letters to Juliet was a lot of fun. But the thing I noticed the most (since this IS Writerly Monday I should connect it to writing in some way, right?) was the characterization.

First, a quick overview of the story, without spoilers - of course, it's a romcom and it's really not about the plot twists, if you know what I mean.

Sophie and her fiance, Victor, take a pre-wedding honeymoon to Italy. Victor is about to open his own Italian restaurant and he wants to spend the entire trip talking to buyers, going to wine auctions, tasting tomatoes and cheese, etc. Sophie loves him, but doesn't really care about his business, so they end up spending a lot of time apart. She discovers the wall where broken-hearted women leave letters to Juliet asking for advice on relationships. A group of women, called the secretaries to Juliet, collect the letters and respond. Sophie joins them and finds a letter from many years before that had been missed. She answers the letter and ends up joining the, now elderly Claire, on a quest to find her long lost love, despite the objections of Claire's grandson, Charlie.

This makes the story sound so dull, but it's not. But remember, the thing I wanted to talk about is the characters.

The characters totally popped. You had such a strong sense of who they were almost as soon as they were introduced. And they were very realistic. Sophie was such a rich main character. Sassy, funny, thoughtful and tenacious. Victor made you crazy, but he wasn't just a jerk. He was passionate and tried to do something right, it just wasn't right for Sophie. Charlie - well, he is hilariously obnoxious at the beginning. But you just can't dislike him. And his growth was really the main journey of the story. As for Claire, she had some of the best lines in the movie.

Many movies do a good job with character development, but what made this one stand out to me was the way you really felt like you knew them almost as soon as they appeared on screen. That is so hard to do.

It's something I struggle with in my writing. How do you make the characters pop? In Letters to Juliet, the key tool they used was dialogue. And I think that is really important. How a character says something is almost more important than what they say.

Example: (from my WIP) Instead of saying, "I have a headache," my MC, Layla, says, "It feels like rutabagas are tap dancing inside my skull." This give the reader a much better sense of who Layla is. (at least in my opinion)

How about you? What do you do to make your characters pop? What else is important, besides dialogue? Seen any good movies lately?


Laura Marcella said...

I really liked this movie, too! It was so sweet!

I saw "Toy Story 3" over the weekend. It was amazing! That entire trilogy is so impressive. The Toy Story films are other movies with dynamic characters.

Like you said, I think dialogue shouldn't just move the story forward, but it should also reveal insights about the character speaking. For me, the little habits and things that make a character tick can make a character pop, too.

Hannah Kincade said...

I haven't seen this one nor heard of it...hmmm. Netflix!

I think dialogue plays a huge part! Great example. I'd like to think I'm getting better at dialogue but we'll see what the CPs say once they read the newest project...

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

oh man! I hope you get to go to Italy in may! I went in highschool and it was awesome! (also, almost all the mens are attractive. BONUS!)

Dangerous With a Pen said...

Haven't seen that movie, but...Ohh... Italy.... jealous! My husband is 100% Italian - both of his parents were born here but his great grandparents moved here from Italy (all 4 of them) and so a lot of Italian is flung around in his family and I've heard many amazing stories. :)

On dialogue... I am working on using dialogue to show characterization as well. And completely enjoying the banter between your two girl MCs, even though I just started reading!

Melissa said...

I totally loved Charlie. He was my favorite!

This movie really did have amazing characters. And you are so right about them popping immediately. I never thought about that before.

Talli Roland said...

I haven't seen this film, but it sounds like I'd enjoy it. Thanks for the review!

Naomi Ruth said...

Now I'm sad that I missed watching this with you. Boo.

I agree with the dialogue. Sometimes I also tend to give my characters certain movements. Like Damaria shakes her bangled arms around to make a point, or Scotch hits things, or Jacqueline gets quiet and starts fluttering like a bird. I don't know if you can do that all the time, or if it even helps make characters pop, but I hope so.

ANYWAY. Now I want to watch this movie.