So I saw the movie SKYLINE this weekend. It was dissappointing, to say the least. SKYLINE is a bad movie that could have been great.
As I watched the big screen, I couldn’t help but see the movie as a semi-solid first draft. It was as if they took a freshly written NaNoWriMo piece and filmed it. If only the screenwriter, director, and producer had put more work into polishing the movie, it could have been EPIC. If only they’d revised as any good NaNoWriMo scribe would.
What revision lessons can writers learn from SKYLINE?
1. Prologues (usually) stink, so start where the story starts.
Don’t begin with the alien invasion and then backtrack to the day before. Build in bits backstory as the action unfolds. Or simply anchor the beginning of the story in the ordinary world, just before the action explodes.
2. Cut. Cut. Cut.
Only include scenes that matter. Don’t include irrelevent subplots. For example, don’t spend an ungodly amount of time developing a love triangle between a hollywood player and his two vapid mistresses if you’re just going to have an alien snap off each of their heads off midway through the story.
Edit out any characters who don’t pull their weight and bulk up the ones who do. In Skyline’s case, we needed less rich-girls-we-don’t-care-about and more *cough* hot and angsty, alien-punching ERIC BALFOUR.
What can you cut from your novel?
3. After editing out the fluff, deepen and develop the good stuff.
Skyline had a great premise, but it played out like a disjointed sequence of special effects scenes. It didn’t quite gel. (ME GRIMLOCK EAT A DELICIOUS VFX REEL AND POOP OUT SKYLINE.)
But if the creators of the movie had cut out some of the extraneous story arcs, they could have really focused on the characters that count, aka Jared and his pregnant girlfriend, Elaine. Their conflict, their relationship,was a great thread. But because SKYLINE squandered so much energy on other subplots, the movie ran out of time. At the story’s most climactic moment, SKYLINE just sputtered out. The film had a non-ending–no satisfying conclusion was offered, only the worst kind of ambiguity.
Boo, hiss. Don’t do that with your NaNoWriMo novel. Revise it to the point that it: 1.) has a satisfying, complete story 2.) has interesting, compelling characters and 3.) has an actual, HONEST-TO-GOD POINT, for crying out loud.