Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Emotional Connection

Yesterday in the dark theater, my wife leaned over and said to me, “I’m glad you’re the type of guy who likes to see these types of movies. Thank you for bringing me.” 

I love the action movies as much as anyone else—but I found the recent over-hyped Star Wars movie boring in spots and pure dullness (and yes I like fantasy and have seen all of these films multiple times—before I get blasted from the Star Wars fanatics).

You don’t have to read these entries about the writing life long to understand my love for books but also movies and the theater. Each of these venues, I process in a variety of genres and types. Yesterday we went to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Before going to the movie, I read the reviews and knew about the bestselling teen series from Ann Brashares (her first novel)—but I knew little else.  There were other men in the theater—but it was mostly packed with teenage girls.

If you haven’t seen it, four lifelong 17–year-old girls are apart for their first summer. They keep connected through a magical pair of jeans. Before they split up to different places, they try on a single pair of pants. While each is a different build, the same pair of pants magically fits each girl. They decide to share the pants through the mail and each girl takes a turn wearing the magic. As Ann Brashares writes, “I’ve always liked the idea that clothing can hold emotions and memories or connections to other people, so it wasn’t a stretch to imagine a pair of jeans could be a physical repository for a living friendship.”

This coming of age story connects with the audience in a remarkable way. We fall in love with the characters share their joys and heartaches. The scenery is beautiful in the film—particularly on a Greek island. Be prepared if you go for an emotional rollercoaster that I didn’t expect. Suddenly I was watching a section and tears are rolling down my cheeks (good thing the theater is dark). It was like I was transported back to a teenage memory and the heartbreak of the experience. And it wasn’t just me. Many people in the theater were also reaching for a Kleenex. As my wife later told me, the teen girl beside her uncontrollably sobbing so much she felt like putting an arm around her to comfort her—but she didn’t since it was a complete stranger.

As writers, we can learn a great deal from how these movies and books are constructed. In some regards, it’s a bit of magic but in other ways it’s a technique that you and I can learn. If we understand and make the emotional connection.

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