Developing characters for your stories is an important part of the storytelling process. And most authors will devote plenty of time to this task. After all, the character is the one who makes the plot unique. Die Hard, for example, already comes prepackaged with an interesting concept (based on the thriller series that begins with The Detective by Roderick Thorp). But it’s made more interesting by its hero, John McClane, a flawed and sarcastic police officer who’s caught stopping a terrorist-driven tower heist in a district he doesn’t even work for!
Sounds good on the surface. But here’s the twist! The novel it’s based on, Nothing Lasts Forever, doesn’t feature John McClane. It features a character named Joe Leland, who’s introduced in The Detective. When he (and The Detective) was adapted to film, Leland was originally played by Frank Sinatra! And when Hollywood bought the rights for Die Hard, their idea was to bring Frank Sinatra back to reprise his role. But, as the Hollywood story goes, Sinatra turned it down, and so, to salvage what they had, Die Hard’s producers rebranded the story with a new character and series.
Think about that for a moment. How different would Die Hard have been if it had remained within its original series and original star?
Now, while you’re thinking about that, and thinking about how that likely would’ve eliminated the horror story that is A Good Day to Die Hard, consider how the story might change if the events didn’t take place in a tower. After all, even if the character changed from book to screen, the tower didn’t. The book, as does the movie, focuses on terrorists in a tower. But, what if it didn’t? What if it took place on a boat? Die Hard on a Boat (or Under Siege)! How about a bus? Die Hard on a Bus (or Speed)! What about at an airport? Well, that’s just Die Hard 2: Die Harder. But the point is, the setting can affect the story just as much as a character can. If you let it.
Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. This week, we’re done with characters. Instead, we’re discussing settings and how to make them part of the story in a way that doesn’t throw them away as nonessential. Our book, A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting by Mary Buckham, helps you navigate the murky waters of relevant scene-setting by walking you through a process of developing places that matter to your story. It’s a must-read!
Get the book at the link below, and check out my discussion video to find out more about it and why I recommend it.
And if you haven’t seen Die Hard for some reason, go get it now!
by Mary Buckham
· Paperback: 256 pages
· ISBN-10: 1599639300
· ISBN-13: 978-1599639307
· Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books; Revised edition (January 1, 2016)
Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.
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