I do a lot of workshops and articles on writing and I find movies the universal experience to clarify all those writing rules. Here are some of my go-to standards:

1. Romancing the Stone: this flick about a sheltered, shy romance author and the bold adventurer who captures her heart during a treasure hunt is the ideal example of Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Joan Wilder wants to rescue her sister from kidnappers in Colombia. Jack Colton is a poacher trying to capture enough rare jungle birds to buy a sailboat. Kidnappers will kill her sister if she doesn’t bring them a treasure map. Jack wants nothing more than to sail around the world alone. Joan is naïve, sheltered, and has never experienced love or adventure. When she arrives in Colombia, she gets on the wrong bus and winds up stranded in the middle of the rain forest. Her misadventures stack up from there, and are all based on her internal conflicts. Jack’s internal conflicts are that he’s suspicious, unreliable, and slightly on the shady side of the law. When Joan inadvertently releases his cache of rare birds, he sees all his hard work and hard-earned money fly away with them.

2. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Pearl: I do a lot of talks for school-aged kids and when they hear I’m a romance author, the boys (and even some of the girls!) usually groan. But then I let them know that each one of them has seen and enjoyed at least one romance movie in their lifetime. I run the gamut and ask them to raise their hands if I list a movie they’ve enjoyed: Shrek, SpiderMan, and by the time I reach Pirates, every hand is raised.

3. Shallow Hal: There is no better example of Point of View than this film about a man who’s given the chance to see women for their inner beauty. The heroine, Rosemary, is played by Gwyneth Paltrow both in and out of a fat suit. When we see Rosemary through Hal’s eyes, she’s thin and beautiful. When we’re in someone else’s POV, we see the obese version. In one terrific scene, thin Rosemary is standing beside Hal as she’s introduced to one of his old girlfriends. But in the plate glass window behind Rosemary, her shadow is fat. Truly, well done!

4. Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: Need to write a short synopsis and you’re hopelessly stuck? Check out my article on my Gina website, The Top Ten Questions for a Successful Synopsis, which uses this particular film to condense a two-plus hour movie into roughly a four hundred word summary.

5. Cheaper By the Dozen (2003 version): This is one of those movies I cite as a pet peeve. Mom of twelve sends a manuscript to a friend in the publishing world and in the space of a week, she gets The Call, copies of her hardcover book (?) and is booked on a whirlwind talk show tour, ending with a guest shot on Oprah. Ah, Hollywood. Gotta love the fantasy.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Friday Five Family for more fun lists today! Their links are in my sidebar.