How the Movie Descendents Can Make YOU a Better Writer

 I saw the George Clooney movie Descendents over the Thanksgiving weekend.  It left me in awe of the script writers and actors. If you are interested in any type of writing, this is a MUST SEE movie. Many movies dealing with deep emotions often gloss over them, don’t delve deeply enough into real relationships, or they go for the schmaltz – – the melodrama, without taking time to really connect with the audience.

The IMDB site’s summary of Descendents states: “A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.”

As for the acting, George Clooney is able to show shock, grief, and horror within moments all within his facial expressions and body movements. His daughters, who show their grief and relationship issues in rebellious ways, are also supreme actresses. Shailene Woodley plays his teenage daughter while Amara Miller is Scottie, the elementary-aged youngster.

As a writer I was impressed with the depths of the relationships. Timing is everything. We learn different elements of the plot and as it develops, and the relationships between each of the characters change. This is shown not only through their dialogue and actions, but through the looks they exchange between each other, their gestures, and their body movements. As the strength of their family deepens, our connection to them as an audience becomes stronger.

How can we as authors connect our characters to our readers? Through showing and not telling:   writing with five senses and not generalities. Instead of writing “They loved each other” show this love through dialogue, a specific action that is unique to the characters and can this can be repeated again later. We need to really know who our characters are. We may have to write more about them than we will ever include in the manuscript for publication.

Writing Prompts:

1. Take a notebook and a pen with you when you watch Descendents. Jot down specific notes on what works with this script. Keep your eyes on the screen so you don’t miss a moment. Write messy! When the movie is over, go home or to a cafe and use one of the characters as a basis of a poem.

2. Write about a character as the basis of a scene in a story. Choose a scene they may have not included in the movie. Don’t use any of their dialogue but create your own.

3. Remember these exercises are not for publication, but for our own writing growth and experience. By using a good role model, we can grow a lot within our own writing.

Discover more about the movie here:


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2 Responses to “How the Movie Descendents Can Make YOU a Better Writer”

  1. Joanne Says:

    Taking notes on what works in a movie – what a great idea! This is where Netflix could be invaluable. Being able to “Stop” and “Rewind” to view a favorite scene more than once allows us writers to focus on one character at a time, watching for non-verbal responses to an interchange.

    And don’t forget, there are a few worthwhile TV shows with excellent writing, too. I recommend “Blue Bloods” if you’re interested in family relationships, and “Castle” for sub-plots.

  2. lizbooks Says:

    You are right, Joanne. DVDs are a great learning and teaching tool for us. I’ve never seen “Blue Bloods” or “Castle” so thanks for the suggestions. Now we can all “deconstruct” t.v. shows too so when someone walks in the room and sees us watching the set, we can say, “Shh. I’m working!”

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