I am not following the rules of Tuesday Books for Writers! this week. Not that there are really that many hard and fast rules to this, but the label does suggest that I will be discussing a book. I’m not. I’m discussing a movie.
Because Tyler and I are obsessed cyclists, we rented Breaking Away, a film from 1979 about a young man from a working class family in Indiana who is obsessed with Italian cycling. It was a fantastic coming of age story. A story that would probably translate to Upper YA in the publishing world. Dave Stoller is not-quite college bound and believes he’s destined for cycling greatness in Italy. But his friends believe they are more likely destined to stay in their small town working dead-end jobs, living in the shadow of the prepsters at the local University. And Dave’s parents also question their son’s inane ambition. By the end of the film, everything is turned on its head and none of the characters end up where they thought they would be.
The characterization in this film was near perfect. Within the first ten minutes I knew exactly who the main characters were and got an immediate hint of their struggle. That is quite a feat in ten minutes! It reminded me how important those early moments are in any story. That we must share what type of person each character is through specific dialogue and behaviors. It also reminded me something an old screenwriting professor told me. That the first five minutes of a character’s time on screen shapes what viewers will believe about them for the next two hours. It’s no different in a book.
Not only were the characters well developed, but their character arcs were also fantastic. Even secondary characters had major arcs throughout the story. The people they became made sense given their intentions from the beginning of the story, even when their goals changed as they faced obstacles and setbacks. The script was really a great example of the hero’s journey and seems like it would be a pretty good format to follow in your own writing if you really dissected it.
So if you writing a coming of age story or if you’re just interested in learning more about character development, I highly recommend watching this film. It’s also quite funny, so you’re in for a treat. And if you’ve seen it please let me know what you thought!