Pelham One Two Three and Good Writing

The other night I was watching an old movie, Pelham One Two Three (the original, from 1974), and it reminded me about good writing. You can find lessons in writing anywhere, but this particular one involved allowing a story to build. So often in movies today they try and get right to the action, so much so that the characters don’t really have a chance to develop. But in Pelham One Two Three, the story started out slower. The characters each had a backstory of some sort, so by the time the action started, you had a better idea of why the characters made the choices they did. You understood why some freaked out, others remained calm, and still others fought with each other.

The same applies to writing. So often, especially in novels, writers try to get to the action quickly so they don’t lose the reader’s attention. But the problem is sometimes this doesn’t allow for characters to properly develop. The story might jump right in, but the reader doesn’t care about what’s happening to the characters. The trick is to gently move the story along in the beginning, but to do so in a way that also gets into the nuances of the character.

When was the last time you were inspired by a movie? Which one was it?


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