“The Words” — A Must-See Movie For Writers and Those Who Love Them

It’s good to be a writer.  Because somebody may one day write about you.

There are two excellent films now out that have writer-protagonists.  The first is Ruby Sparks, a “little” film (Hollywood speak for a movies that doesn’t star someone named Cruise, Streep, Pitt, Jolie, Tatum or Hemsworth) about a writer whose imagination gets positively realized… sparks ensue (no pun intended; cliche leveraged).  Well worth the time for the writing and acting alone, especially Paul Dano as the young writer.  (An irony here — maybe just a coincidence, if any reading audience could tell the difference it’s you guys — Dano starred in another “little” movie with a big name, Robert Deniro, who plays his failed novelist father.)

But that’s not the movie of the day.  This weekend was the debut of another writer’s movie, The Words, starring Bradley Cooper and, in an Oscar-buzz role, Jeremy Irons.  I’ll go so far as to say this: you have to see it.  Because it’s about us.

No spoilers here, the plot is outed in the trailer (which you can watch on the linked site above): a frustrated writer who begins to doubt both his talent and his future comes across a long-lost manuscript.  He reads it, it speaks to him — it blows him away — and in a fit of wine-fueled poor judgment, begins to type it out, word for word on his laptop right under his own name.

Guess which plot point that is.

What happens next is, well, inevitable.  The book hits.  Cooper is the next Franzen.  All of his dreams come true, all of his problems are solved.  He even succeeds, for a while, at fooling himself into a state of suspended amnesia as he allows the truth to fade from his fame-glutted awareness.  Oh, the on-the-nose theme of it all.

And then the anticipated other shoe drops — hello dramatic tension.  The real writer (Irons) shows up, and he’s… upset.  The party is over as the karma train pulls out of the bookstore.

But there’s more going on here, a thread not alluded to in the trailer.  I won’t tell you, see if you can figure it out early.  It’s brilliant, and for this reason: it substantiates all my ranting and railing about the need for concept in our stories.  In this case, the concept — this particular twist — is what makes this movie work, elevating it above the one-note (although a sweet one) and obvious-from-square-one dramatic sequence of the fraudlent-author story, which nonetheless works as a vicarious experience — that being one of the six essences of story physics — especially for us writers.

In fact — here’s another reason you should see it — the film is a clinic on story structure. 

See if you can find the major milestones (first plot point, a killer first pinch point, mid-point, second plot point), and notice how the four contextual parts of the story visibly align with their defined missions. 

In fact, come back here and tell us what you think in that regard. 

Another reason, perhaps a better one, is that the film is a love letter to writers, a sonnet on writing itself.

If you’ve ever tried to tell a non-writer about your love affair with words and stories, about the bliss of losing yourself in your characters and their delicious doings, then get ready to feel the love.  It”ll touch you, remind you of why we do this.

And one more reason to see it: Olivia Wilde confirms that she is one of the five most beautiful women on planet Earth, and that she can bring a character to complex life despite the fact.


A personal update…

This week I signed a contract with Turner Publishing for the release of my new novel, Deadly Faux.  It’s the next undercover assignment for my hero from Bait and Switch (2004), Wolfgang Schmitt (original title: Schmitt Happens, but, like William Goldman said, in writing we have to kill our darlings…) , the chin with the attitude and the go-to guy for the Feds when they need someone seduced and trapped under the radar.

The book will be released in mid-to-later 2013 from Writers Digest Books.  And just as cool, at least for me… Turner is also re-releasing my four thrillers originally published by Penguin: Darkness Bound, Pressure Points, Serpent’s Dance and Bait and Switch (my latest novel, Whisper of the Seventh Thunder, remains available from Sons of Liberty press).  All four of the earlier books and the new novel will appear as trade paperbacks and ebooks sold on all the regular channels.

Also, my new writing book — “Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling,” which takes the model from my current writing book (“Story Engineering“, see the new Amazon review just posted, literally as I was writing this post) to a deeper, more cause-and-effect level.  Release date is June 18, 2013… it’s on Amazon now for pre-sale with a placeholder cover design (not to worry).

Thanks for all the support from so many. 

Do you suspect your story is broken? 

That it may not be as good as it could be?   Should be?  I can help.  Even if you haven’t written it yet, or you’rea in the process of writing it, or you have a draft you’d like checked out before hitting the Send button.

It’s my new program, “The Amazing $100 Story Coaching and Empowerment Adventure,” and it’s only a hundred bucks (compared to, in my case, $1500 to analyze an entire finished manuscript, and in pretty much every other case, more than that).  It’s like an MRI for your story, but without the claustrophobia.  Learn more HERE.

Here’s some feedback on this program:

“My experience with Larry’s story review service made me realize why I’ve spent so long on a story that should have been finished years ago — if I had planned it. If I’d known HOW to plan it. If you have any doubt whether your story is doing well or still limping along, take him up on his review service. Best money I ever spent. Now I see what parts of Story Engineering I had confusion over.”

Can’t promise you it won’t hurt, but I can promise it’ll help.







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11 Responses to “The Words” — A Must-See Movie For Writers and Those Who Love Them

  1. I have to be honest here: I saw The Words with high expectations and ended up disappointed. Just my personal opinion. The acting was great and there was some nice symbolism throughout the parallel stories and I’m a HUGE Jeremy Irons fan, but … meh. I just didn’t love it. And I really wanted to. But I’m glad you liked it.

  2. Yay new writer movie! Can’t wait to see it, thanks for the suggestion. 🙂

    Also congratulations on the contract, and wish you much success with Deadly Faux!

  3. OMG, I couldn’t even get through the trailer without crying! Thank you, Julie, for saying something because I very often work myself up too much and end up disappointed. I will try not to do that. 🙂

    Thanks for the heads-up, Larry!

    My poor blog is WordPress dis-functional at the moment so I am successfully frustrated and don’t know where to turn. Grrr!

  4. Jones

    Haven’t seen The Words, but recently heard a review on the radio. The critic complained that the ending was ‘unsatisfying.’ Isn’t the ending the most critical aspect of story? Getting the ball rolling doesn’t seem half as hard as coming up with a fresh, rewarding, unpredictable ending. Something I’m reminded of whenever I think of my time wasted watching ‘Lost.’

  5. @Jones — well, I disagree with that critic. The ending of the film is rooted in that conceptual twist I allude to above, and thus, can’t be specific here without busting that spoiler. But because that twist is so good (IMO), the ending works. It isn’t an explosive ending, but it’s kinda brilliant and VERY character-driven… which will mean even more to writers when they understand what this conceptual duality (triality?) is. Let me know what you think. L.

  6. I have to whole-heartedly agree with you, Larry.

    I think the critic @Jones heard missed it completely. I thought the ending was a brilliant twist! (I won’t give it away.) And, yes, I would label it a “triality.”

    I can understand why @Julia Daines may have been disappointed. It’s a quiet film and there isn’t the kind of accusation, chastising, and insistance to “make it right and come clean, or else” by the Irons character. But, it’s why I liked the film so much; the plot thickened.

  7. Pingback: Every Which Way But Focused | Sheila Seabrook

  8. Martha

    Oh, how I hate to show my ignorance here in front of all you writers, but I must have missed something in the showing I attended. I did not GET the ending, and was hoping one of you brilliant film-goers would post a spoiler and tell me what in tarnation the ending was supposed to mean. I argued all the way home with my friend about it, but I wasn’t sure her version was right, or if mine was. Whichever, the implications at the end didn’t do it for me.
    Otherwise, I loved it madly and enjoyed it thoroughly.

  9. I just received my feedback from Larry’s ‘The Amazing $100 Story Coaching and Empowerment Adventure,” and I am thrilled; it was amazing and empowering. His insightful and illuminating questionnaire is a workshop on your own story. Great questions! If you don’t know your story intimately, you will when you finish this. …On one hand Larry really pointed out a couple gaping wounds in my story (I knew they were there, I just wasn’t sure where they were hiding), and on the other hand he was very supportive and encouraging. This experience has been invaluable. Now I know in what direction to head. Thanks Larry!
    Okay, now I must rush out and see The Words. I’ll come back to this post afterwards.

  10. @Martha – I feel your pain…

    Larry is correct, the ending twist is very subtle, and it could certainly be open to interpretation. But, I pretty sure we are of the same mind-set. This is Larry’s blog and I have to respect that he doesn’t want to post spoilers – especially this early on in the release.

    If it will help you, email me:


    and I’ll split the can wide open.

  11. I’ll take a shot at the structure. As Larry said, the FPP occured when Rory copied the found manuscript, although I could be persuaded that is was actually when he did NOT tell Dora the truth, that it wasn’t his writing. That seemed to start the snowball down the mountain. Rory was then “compelled” to show it to his agent/boss. If he doesn’t, he disappoints Dora.

    The pinch point is when the agent offers him representation, maybe the last thing Rory expected to hear.

    The midpoint is when Jeremy Irons’ old man shows up and starts to tell his story. The audience knows what’s going on by now, even though Rory isn’t sure.

    SPP is when Rory tries to make amends to the old man but the old man doesn’t want anything from him. Rory is forced to reconcile the fact that he’s a crook (plagiarist) who gets away with the crime, with the misery he suffers for not being allowed to right that wrong ,on top of the realization that he really is not a great writer, because all of his subsequent success is due to his plagiarism.

    THE WORDS works perfectly in structure, at least it did for me.

    I don’t want to sound a spoiler alert either, so I’ll just say that Larry’s comment about triality is a good clue regarding the ending. The theme to me is making choices and then dealing with the consequences of those choices, whether they are good or bad–or unexpected.

    I enjoyed the movie, especially Jeremy Irons. I thought the ending was good even though it was vague. It made sense to me and worked even though I’m sure many people left the theater unsure or unsatisfied that it wasn’t clear cut or finalized.