It’s that time of year when cops patrol school zones like crazy, crosswalks teem with half pints, and office supply stores fill with grownups suffering from a strange compulsion to do back-to-school shopping. There’s a certain nostalgia about autumn even for those of us who are done with school and do not have children, isn’t there?
Pondering the root of this nostalgia brings to mind a scene from Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail” when Tom Hanks’ character muses about how much he loves New York in the fall. He say’s, “It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” I by no means think “You’ve Got Mail” is a great movie, but I remember being struck by this line when I first watched the film. This is because the specificity of his remark reveals something about Hanks’ character; it shows us that he’s not only itching to make a romantic gesture, but that he’s the type of guy who’s capable of thinking up something more creative than a simple bouquet of roses. Perhaps this means a good question to ask ourselves when creating a character is: what would he/she give a lover instead of a bouquet of roses? If your character would give roses, why?
The fact that a mediocre movie sparked this writing lesson really highlights how important it is to look for things that even ‘bad’ movies, books or other works of art have to teach…Have you ever learned an important writing lesson from a less-than-stellar source?