Last night I sat down and re-watched John Wick, ’cause I have this idea for a story in my head and I wanted to wrap my head around the minutia of the genre I like to call killing your way to the truth of things of which Wick is the most recent high-profile example. There are others on my list. I mainline a lot of media, in the build-up stage of writing.
I’ve also been immersed in the creation of a short story course for work, where I try to pull apart the microstructure of scenes and lay out things like narrative beats and action/reaction rhythms, giving people a toolkit for pulling apart the minutia of narrative of figuring out how it does what it does.
And it’s interesting, having these two things in my head, ’cause John Wick plays with narrative contrast on a scale that very few films manage. Nearly every major scene is contrasted against something else through the use of quick cuts and alternate points of view. It’s a core part of the film’s visual aesthetic: scenes that would otherwise consist of a single character sitting down and narrating are given life by shots of other characters preparing to go to war, or stepping into a new situation that will set up their next scene.
Scenes that would feel flat are suddenly laden with tension, simply by contrasting what the audience knows with what the character knows. Not a technique that’s easily transferable to fiction, since we lack the conceit of voice-over, but I’m curious enough to go looking for people who attempt to replicate the approach.
And, with that, I return to my bunker, my brain full of writing things to ponder as I start hashing out a voice and a plot for this project.