Wednesday, March 27, 2019

How to Plot Your Novel with a Movie Soundtrack

We’ve been talking a lot about plot lately. A lot of writers use music to help them find the mood of the novel they’re working on. Or they might crank up their favorite tunes to help them write the most words per writing session. Today’s idea is to help you break down the plot structure of a movie you’d like to analyze. One thing you can do to break down the plot of any movie you watch is to use the soundtrack.

The classic 1992 movie, Far and Away, directed by Ron Howard, is the movie we’ll analyze today. The basic plot is that two Irish immigrants seek their fortune in 1890s America, eventually taking part in the Oklahoma Territory Land Run of 1893.

Far and Away Soundtrack

The classic 1992 movie, Far and Away, directed by Ron Howard, is the movie we’ll analyze today. The basic plot is that two Irish immigrants seek their fortune in 1890s America, eventually taking part in the Oklahoma Territory Land Run of 1893.

The two immigrants, Joseph Donnelly and Shannon Christie, are played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, respectively. If you have never watched the movie, that’s okay. Take a look at the Soundtrack. It highlights the most important scenes. You can guess where the plot points happen. But I won’t make you do that. I’ll lay it out for you below.

  1. "County Galway, June 1892"
  2. "The Fighting Donnellys"
  3. "Joe Sr.'s Passing/The Duel Scene"
  4. "Leaving Home"
  5. "Burning the Manor House"
  6. "Blowing Off Steam"
  7. "Fighting for Dough"
  8. "Am I Beautiful?"
  9. "The Big Match"
  10. "Inside the Mansion"
  11. "Shannon is Shot"
  12. "Joseph's Dream"
  13. "The Reunion"
  14. "Oklahoma Territory"
  15. "The Land Race"
  16. "Settling with Steven/The Race to the River"
  17. "Joseph and Shannon"
  18. "Book of Days"
  19. "End Credits"

Plot Summary of Far and Away

In the sections below, I’ve laid out the entire plot of this movie and how all the songs from the soundtrack overlap and perfectly match the plot. This is especially helpful if you find a movie that seems difficult to deconstruct. Try it! Easy peasy! Who knows? You might even crank up the tunes and start dancing!

Pre-Race Life (exposition)

"County Galway, June 1892"

It’s 1892. Shannon wants to run away from her Ireland home and claim some free land in America. Joseph is suddenly homeless (his house was burned to the ground) and he promises his dying father that he would run his own land someday. Shannon is upper class and Joseph is lower class. Shannon loves to ride horses. Joseph fights in pubs.

The Signup (Plot Point 1: inciting incident)

"The Fighting Donnellys"

The Signup is when Joseph Donnelly’s house is burned to the ground. If it hadn’t, he never would have gone out looking to kill his landlord. And he never would have met Shannon. He never would have made it to America. The Signup is the ARRIVAL of the landlord’s men with torches (and the subsequent burning down of the house).

Second Thoughts (refusal of the call)

"Joe Sr.'s Passing/The Duel Scene"

Shannon rescues Joseph from a duel. Even still, he is reluctant to trust her.

The Gunshot (Plot Point 2: point of no return)

"Leaving Home"

On a ship bound for America, Shannon tells Joseph all about the race to the free land in Oklahoma. He is still reluctant to believe or trust her. Regardless, he feels a little hopeful for the prospect of some land to call his own.

Pit Stops (rising action part 1)

"Burning the Manor House"
"Blowing Off Steam"
"Fighting for Dough"
"Am I Beautiful?"

They get a job in a factory to earn money to make it to Oklahoma, but then Joseph starts fighting for money. Even though they are rooming together while pretending to be siblings, they start to feel attracted to each other.

The Halfway Point (Plot Point 3: midpoint)

"The Big Match"

The big fight puts a lot on the line as far as being able to earn enough money for the chance to get their own land. Plus, the romantic subplot adds depth to the storyline.

Runner’s High (rising action part 2)

"Inside the Mansion"
"Shannon is Shot"
"Joseph's Dream"

Shannon’s family has left Ireland to look for her. Inside an empty mansion, Joseph and Shannon share a first kiss. Soon after, Shannon is shot and when Joseph looks for help, he finds her family. They still shun him.

The Wall (Plot Point 4: rock bottom)

"The Reunion"

Shannon is reunited with her old love, Stephen Chase. Joseph feels all is lost. No hope for land and no hope for love. He joins the railroad company laying track.

Final Sprint (the final push)

"Oklahoma Territory"

Joseph realizes the wagon train parallel to the tracks and runs across the fields to join up with the land seekers, hope renewed.

The Finish Line (Plot Point 5: climax)

"The Land Race"

Joseph and all the others race on horses and wagons to claim their land. He and Shannon join hands when planting their stake into the lot of land.

After Party (falling action/resolution

"Settling with Steven/The Race to the River"
"Joseph and Shannon"
"Book of Days"
"End Credits"

Shannon finally rejects Stephen, once and for all. Joseph and Shannon kiss on their own new piece of land. ...and that’s all folks!

For more plot summaries, you can check out Wonder Woman, Comes A Wind, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, or My Girl 2.

What's YOUR favorite movie? Share your comment here.

Outline Your Novel 

With a Simple Plot

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