Last night we watched Serpico, the Al Pacino/Sidney Lumet classic, and my husband remarked that the film opens very much like my novel does, with an incident where someone has been suspiciously injured and the story works backwards, somewhat, to ultimately return the viewer to the present scene.
So I realized that as a child of the 70’s, I was also a product of the story-telling formulas of that era (in this case, film). So this got me thinking…how do we learn to tell our stories? And are the stories that impacted us as children the ones that shape our writing/plotting techniques?
Now it should be pointed out that I wasn’t a voracious reader as a child–TV was my medium of choice and for years in my writing, it showed. Early on in my writing, my plots tended to bear more resemblance in structure to an episode of the Love Boat than, say, Moby Dick.
So which is it, I wonder…?
Do we learn from Uncle Bert who imagined himself a master storyteller every holiday when he’d hold court at the table with the upteenth telling of Dad’s rise to cannonball-fame at Camp HiHowAreYa?
Do we learn from our favorite authors (or filmmakers)?
Or do we maybe learn it from watching a stranger on the subway who is frowning out the window, his expression fixed in some secret grief that we instantly want/need to explain?
Maybe it’s a bit of all three.
Just something to chew on…