On Sunday night, Colin Firth won the BAFTA award for Best Actor for his portrayal of King George VI in The King’s Speech, and he is expected by many to win the same award at the Oscars in a little under two weeks time. It is a truly wonderful film, one that I had the pleasure of watching last week, and won seven awards in total, out of an incredible 14 nominations.
Not bad for a film, quite simply, about an heir to the British throne and his struggle to overcome a stammer.
The King’s Speech is an utterly wonderful and touching film, impeccably acted by everyone involved, and at turns surprisingly funny and quite moving. The film’s merits aside, I got to thinking what it can tell us about good writing, both in the execution of making this film, and the contents of its story.
A Simple Story, Told Well
You don’t need much to tell a great story. Sometimes we get caught up in the misguided belief that all great stories have to be cleverly-plotted, with twists and turns, different perspectives and shifts in time and place, with an overarching theme or moral, intricately-woven into every scene and sentence. This is rubbish. All you need is a simple story, with characters that you care about, and to tell it well, so that your readers will care about them too. The King’s Speech is a perfect example of making a compelling story from the barest bones of a “plot”. Colin Firth himself said that the film is, essentially, about two people in a room talking. But you are made to deeply care about these people, and their relationship, that you find yourself captivated.
Face your Fear
If there is one thing that holds back people from reaching their potential, it is fear. Writers are a group of people who really do struggle with this, and The King’s Speech is a film about facing that fear. Prince Albert is reluctant to become King, he feels he isn’t “King material”. Quite often, you may not feel like you are “Writer material”. But whatever is holding you back, it can be overcome. Find your weakness, and deal with it. Sometimes that weakness is just fear.
Prince Albert is loathe to accept Logue’s help partly due to his unorthodox nature, but also in part because he is too proud to accept help. I’m sure some of you feel the same with your writing. Writing can be a solitary calling, but that doesn’t mean we have to struggle through alone. Friends and family will be more than welcome to read your work and give you feedback. There are some amazing writers to follow on Twitter, who offer advice, help and insights into their work. And then, of course, there are some amazing websites and communities, like Fuel Your Writing! Getting involved in these can do wonders for your writing, even just that you’ll realise that most other writers out there is struggling as much as you!
Do things Differently
Prince Albert sees many different speech therapists before being introduced to Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush. At first, Logue’s off-the-wall techniques put off the King; they are stupid, ridiculous, pointless. He doesn’t seem to take the situation seriously. Maybe you are doing the same with your writing. You’ve got stuck, writing has become too serious, and you are unwilling to try anything radical or different. But you should shake it up, change things. Write in a completely different genre, maybe the genre you hate most! Write a script for a change. Try writing a Twitter story. Give collaborative fiction a go. Make writing fun again, try new things, and you might be pleasantly surprised by what happens.
Power of Words
Words are incredibly powerful. With the new introduction of radio around the time The King’s Speech is set, it was not enough for a King to go out into public and just be seen. He had to speak, to command, to reassure the people of his country and of countries around the world, especially with the onset of war looming and dark times ahead. Believe in the power your words can have, and your writing will be stronger for it. Don’t feel that you have to over-explain everything with expositional dialogue, stilted description or over-long passages. And definitely forget those adverbs, how many times have you been told!? Choose the right words, be bold, write with guts, and the power of your words will be felt.
Please share your thoughts and comments, abut this article or The King’s Speech, in the field below. And good luck to Colin Firth for the Oscars!
Images courtesy of Worthing Theatres and Yahoo Movies.