Friday, April 1, 2011

Snow, Plants, Sunshine and...more Plants by Lisa Mondello

After seeing Ramona's beautiful Tulip pictures yesterday, I'm longing for spring. But Mother Nature is playing an April Fool's joke on us in New England. Again. Yes, it's snowing. And all those beautiful daffodil and crocus sprouts that have been poking out of the ground in my yard for the past week are now covered with snow. In fact, there are plants all over my yard that are just waiting for beautiful sunshine and warmth so they can grow, grow, grow. And it won't be a moment too soon for me!



Today I want to talk about plants of another kind. These are the plants we use when writing novels or those that are put into movies. You know the kind I'm talking about. When the camera shows a picture of a knife on the counter for a few seconds, you just know the hero or heroine is going to need to use that knife to defend themselves later in the movie.


Plants (some call it foreshadowing) in a story are important. They create connection from one point in the story to another. They also give credibility to the story and add to the suspense. For instance, early in the movie What Lies Beneath with Harrison Ford and Michelle Phieffer, we see one of them trying to use their cell phone because they're stuck at bridge, try to make a call on the cell phone and there is no signal. That's a plant. Later in the movie (when the suspense kicks in) this earlier plant is important because then Michelle Pheiffer's character is desperate to make a call for help. Where is she? At the bridge where there is no signal.


In movies, plants can be introduced with a quick visual. In novels, we must describe them and integrate them into the story seamlessly. You can't rely on a camera to silently capture the knife on the counter. Like in What Lies Beneath, the plants in novels must be integrated into the story so it seems natural. You really want the viewer/reader to say, "Don't go to the bridge! You won't be able to call for help!" And then of course, send them there, because let's face it, it's suspense and we want to be unable to sit in our seat. As much as we hate it, we want to see the trainwreck coming just so we can see the person on the tracks miraculously saved at the last second. (Okay, that trainwreck thing is kind of cliche but it still works!)


Plants don't have to be tangible things like a knife or no cell phone signal. And they don't have to be in just suspense stories. Plants play an important part of all stories! A plant can be a unique character action that seem like nothing until it suddenly shows itself as something important later in the story. For instance, in the movie Julie and Julia, we see Julia Child walking in the park with her husband and looking longingly at a baby carriage as it goes by. It's a natural thing for people to do. Babies bring out smiles. But for Julia, it's more than that and yet we don't really know it at that moment. But later on when Julia gets a letter from her sister telling her that she's pregnant, the moment in the park comes to life when Julia reacts by breaking down in tears. At that moment we realize that Julia, while happy for her sister, is upset because she can't have a baby herself. We see that emotional struggle. Without that initial plant, the impact of this scene wouldn't be as strong.


A great movie that had lots of plants and then revealed them all in the end was The Sixth Sense. What are your favorite plants in movies and books? Describe them here. Did you see it coming? Or were you blown away and left making the connection to everything afterward?


Until next time, many blessings!

Lisa Mondello




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2 comments:

PamelaTracy said...

Lisa,
Would you like me to send you some warm weather. I sent my son to school in shorts yesterday.

Ramona Richards said...

We're getting our first taste of spring here, although there's still snow in some areas.

I LOVE the literary plants, though. Great post. One of my favorites, which is now a pop culture reference, was the snake in Indiana Jones' plane...which led to that memorable moment at the opening of the resting place of the ark.

How successful was it...well, in the past few days, the @BronxZoosCobra tweeted: "Indiana Jones! Why did it have to be Indiana Jones?" Pretty successful for a plant that's now 30 years old.