This week’s video shows how the classic action thriller Jurassic Park achieved lasting success through its attention to character.
Video Transcription: Authors sometimes feel pressured to dive right into the action of their stories, at the expense of important character development. None of us wants to write a boring story, and, as a result, we sometimes overreact by piling on the explosions, fight sequences, and high-speed car chases to the point we’re unable to spend important time developing our characters. Character development is especially important in the first half of the story, since readers need to understand and sympathize with the characters before they’re hit with the major plot revelations at the halfway mark and the climax.
Summer blockbusters are often particularly guilty of neglecting character development, but in Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, we have an enduring exception. A viewing of this movie provides important insight into its success. No one would claim this film is a leisurely character study, but it rises far above the monster movie genre through an expert use of pacing and loving attention to character, principally in its first half. It may surprise some viewers to realize the action in this movie doesn’t heat up until almost precisely an hour into the film. Up to that point, we have no scream-worthy moments, no adrenaline, and no extended action scenes.
Spielberg used the entire first half of the movie to build suspense and encourage viewer loyalty to the characters. By the time the storm hits and the dinosaurs attack, we sincerely care about the half dozen main characters and our nerves have been effectively strained to the breaking point through the magnificent use of foreshadowing. Spielberg, unlike so many authors and filmmakers, understood that if he could hook viewers through his characters, he could take his time building his story to an artful climax.
Tell me your opinion: Do you prefer stories to open with character or action?
Related Posts: Utilize Character in Your Opening Scene
Use Foreshadowing to Keep Readers Reading
Up the Stakes to Grab Readers
Story by K.M. Weiland