Monday, April 5, 2010


It's my pleasure to welcome award winning romantic suspense author, Patricia Sargeant. I had the opportunity to meet this delightful author last September. I'm please she was willing to stop by and visit us.

I've heard of others mention learning about writing characterizations and plot from watching how movies are put together. Patricia's topic takes this a step further and she discusses three movies and what she learned from them.

Before I get started, I’d like to thank Sia for inviting me over for coffee. I’m excited to be here.

I love watching movies. A really good movie can take you out of the theatre in the same manner that a really good book can pull you off the sofa. You also can learn creative writing tips from a well-written script. That’s what I’d like to explore with you today. What movies can you return to and enjoy time and again? What creative writing tips – if any – have you learned from those movies?

Would you like to start with three movies from my list? Great! But first, a disclaimer; these are old movies. If you haven’t seen them yet, you probably won’t. In any event, this is your first and only spoiler alert. Now pass the popcorn and sit back.

  • Speed: Talk to me

  • Speed, starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, taught me the value of dialogue for characterization. Who else has seen this movie? I see very few hands going up. Seriously, check your library to see whether they have a Speed DVD you could borrow.

    Anyway, Reeves’s character, Jack, is the strong, silent type. He’s a man of action and very few words. An example of his characterization through dialogue – or lack thereof – comes in the scene in which one of the passengers on the bus turns to Jack in fear of the action they’re about to take. Desperate for reassurance, the young man asks, “Is this really going to work?” Jack stares at him without responding. Strong, silent type.

    Bullock’s character, Annie, is a nurturer. She cares a great deal for the welfare of the other passengers on the bus – and that is shown through dialogue. Annie is driving the bus. (It’s a long story; rent the DVD.) She miraculously (It’s Hollywood.) completes the dangerous action that the young man was worried about. The first words out of her mouth are, “Is everyone all right?” Nurturer.

Mulan: What will happen?

Has anyone else seen Mulan? Oh, now that’s just sad. Your library basket is filling up.

This time, we’re going to talk about foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is like story seasoning. Sometimes, you can identify the spices and sometimes, they surprise you. Hopefully, it’s a good surprise.

Mulan is peppered with foreshadowing. Right at the beginning, the Emperor tells the General he wants to draft civilians because, “A single grain of rice can turn the tide.” Then they cut to the scene introducing Mulan. In this scene, Mulan is rigging a device that enables her dog to feed the hens while she does other chores. The scene demonstrates Mulan’s creative intellect. It foreshadows her relying on her mind rather than her muscle to be victorious in battle.

  • Frequency: Larger-than-life heroes

  • Years ago, a multi-published author gave a presentation on larger-than-life heroes. I had no idea what she was talking about. Then I watched Frequency, starring Dennis Quaid and James Caviezel, for a second time. Tell me you’ve seen this movie. No? OK. Add it to your library list.)

    In brief, Quaid’s character, Frank, is a New York City firefighter who’s desperate to save his wife from a serial killer. The opening scene of the movie establishes Frank as a caring risk taker. Therefore, his actions later in the movie are believable. However, they are the actions of a larger-than-life hero. The writers took Frank way out of his comfort zone and put his life at risk. Each time, Frank stood up to the challenge and delivered.

Those are my three movies.

What are some of your favorite movies, and did you get any writing tips from them that you can share with the rest of the us?

  • Heated Rivalry (A Kensington Publishing mass market paperback)

She Wants What He's Got

Valerie Parker is desperate to win the affection of her emotionally distant father and land a promotion at his advertising firm. Her biggest obstacle is junior partner Steven Crennell, a dazzling former NBA star who scores all the big accounts. But Valerie's attempt to outshine her charismatic rival unexpectedly leads her straight into his arms.

And She's Everything He Needs

Steven hopes to dispel the playboy stereotype left in the wake of his NBA career. Between battling his ex-fiancée and focusing on his work, finding his soul mate isn't on the agenda...until he meets his match in Valerie. And when competition leads to explosive passion, he learns that the game of life-and love involve a very different set of rules.

Read an Excerpt from Heated Rivalry

Buy:, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Borders

Patricia will be offering a copy of Tails of Love, to a commentor today. Be sure to leave me a way to contact you if you're the winner.


Award-winning author Patricia Sargeant writes romantic suspense and contemporary romance.

Patricia’s romantic suspense novel, You Belong to Me, earned third place in the 2006 Reviewers International Organization’s award of Excellence in the Favorite Debut Novel Category.

A voracious reader, Patricia first realized she wanted to be a published author at the age of nine. She was drawn to write romances because she loves happy endings. Her romantic suspense novels feature ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Her contemporary romances reveal characters struggling to overcome their inner demons.

In addition to reading, Patricia’s hobbies include music, jogging and hiking. She loves movies and she’s addicted to Law & Order and TruTV.

Raised in New York City, Patricia now lives in Ohio with her husband.

Patricia loves to hear from readers. Her e-mail address is:


~Sia McKye~ said...

Patricia, I'm so glad you're here and I love your topic! I'm now going to have to go and get Frequency so I can see how the whole larger than life characters are presented.

Oh there's plenty of hot coffee, tea, and other goodies, pull up a chair and be comfortable!

Patricia Sargeant said...


Thank you again for inviting me over for coffee. It's a pleasure to be here.

I'm looking forward to chatting with everyone about favorite movies and writing tips we've learned from them.

I'll be popping in an out - the day job, you understand - so please don't take offense to my long silences. I'm looking forward to your company.



Tonya Kappes said...

My good friend Alex Sokoloff teaches and amazing class about screenwriting and how to look at movies when writing a novel. It was so much fun watching a movie with her in this way. Romancing the Stone is a great one to watch. You can completely see where the conflict is and how all the scenes are broken up.
Thanks Patricia for taking the time to break down three different movies. Your books sounds great!

Karen Kelley said...

Missed Mulan, but loved the other two.

For me, The Net with Sandra Bullock. Really brings home, What's the worse thing that could happen to your character--now make it happen.

Lori Foster aka L. L. Foster said...

Hey Patricia and Sia! I'm a huge movie buff because it's the only time I'm not plotting on my own books. :-) I can get drawn into just about any movie for some brain downtime. But yes, Patricia, I am inspired by movies too! Most recently by Taken. My next single title, "If You Dare," out in 2011 was hatched after watching that movie.
I love how you explained things and the examples you used.
Giant hugs!


Marcia James said...

I missed Mulan, too, but enjoyed the other two movies very much. I think Raiders of the Lost Ark really showed The Hero's Journey. Plus it had humor and Harrison Ford! ;-D

I can't wait to get my copy of Heated Rivalry!

-- Marcia James ;-)

Vannie Ryanes said...

I write a column about work and family issues. The movie that stands out for me is the 1947 comedy/drama, "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." The period is the late 1900's (New England.) A young widow and her daughter move to a seaside house. The widow has taken this step to get away from her rigid and stifling in-laws.

The house is perfect except it is haunted by a bullying sea captain. He tries to scare her away, but she does not allow it. Eventually, he helps the woman write a novel about his life on the sea. But she is a woman in a man’s world, “why isn't she writing about tea and manners?” and “who really wrote this book?” She changes tactics and becomes a best-selling author.

I don't think characters touch, but there is such sensuality and love. The man (ghost) has a good soul and the woman is vibrant and strong. I later found out the movie was based on a book written by a woman under a male pseudonym.

I am not a novelist, but think there is so much to be learned from this movie and its characters. Learn to look past the surface of a person, stand your ground but keep your dignity; look for the content of his or her character. If I were a novelist, I could use this.

Phyllis Bourne said...

I prefer zombies and killer bees in my movies, but adored Frequency. I like when ordinary characters rise to the occasion to do things even they didn't think they could.

Victoria Wells said...

Hi Patricia,

Great post! One of my favorite movies is August Rush. This movie to me has the ultimate secret baby story line. Keri Russel's character (Lyla)is tricked into believing her baby died after she was hit by a car during late pregnancy. Years later Lyla finds out her baby boy was placed in the New York City's foster system due to her father's controlling manipulation. Turns out the child is a muscial genius and dreams of his parents one day finding him. If you haven't seen this movie it is definitely worth seeing. I promise you will enjoy it :)

Anonymous said...

Great post Patricia! Romantic comedies work the best for me to see the turning point, black moment, conflicts and motivation. Most recently The Proposal, another Bullcok movie. I saw all three of the movies you mentioned. Loved how you pointed out the character types. I hadn't even noticed when I was watching them.
Congrats on the release of Heated Rivalry!!
~Paige :)

Christie Craig said...

Great blog, Patricia. I'm an avid movie watcher and I agree that we can learn a lot by studying movies and learning to apply script writing techniques. One of the best workshops I've ever taken was a screen writing class at Rice University. One tip I walked away with was the importance of what the viewer sees to help tell the story. So often I think writers add visual description just so they won’t have the “white wall effect.” Basically they are missing an opportunity to help tell a powerful story. Great movies use every little scene/visual to help make the story more powerful. In ET, remember the very short clip in the beginning when a rabbit sees ET, but isn’t afraid? That message was very important—ET isn’t bad. There was another one in Three Men and Baby when they are removing the bottles of $100 wine from a wine rack and replacing them with baby bottles—what these men valued had changed.

Kat Sheridan said...

Hi, Patricia! What a great concept, of using movies to study writing! I'm going with PaigeC on Sandra Bullocks in The Proposal (also in Miss Congeniality). She has a knack for choosing scripts that allow her to engage in outstanding dialogue, and really show character growth. For studying the hero's journey, I'd go way back to Bogart in Casablanca or African Queen. Tough exterior with a heart that can be changed by the love of a woman. And I think the core of modern romance writing can be found in Pretty Woman. At the end, the hero asks what happens after the prince rescues the princess. She says "She rescues him right back." Current romances follow this style--the heroine has a hand in her own rescue, rather than just sitting back and waiting for the man to do all the heavy lifting!

The book looks wonderful, and I wish you every success!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I really liked Lake House. I learned a lot about weaving plot lines without dropping one. Also taking the unbelievable and making it plausible and exciting.

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a big Sandra Bullock fan. I haven't seen anything she's done that's been junk.

Tv show that's great on dialog is Burn Notice. Love the different types of characters that is blended in seamlessly. And they're distinct, opposites in some ways yet they fit. Notching up tension too, what a lesson there. Larger than life character who meets the challenge each time.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Christie, Three Men and a Baby. Hadn't thought about it in those terms but now that you brought it up, I can so see what you mean with visuals. Hmmm. I have to think on that and how to use it.

VA said...

Patricia, am shocked no one has mentioned Princess Bride already. Here you have drama, adventure, humor, and romance entwined in an endearing tale of a grandfather and his grandson. Probably one of the most critical things besides humor is the power of what words stand for and not the words themselves- ironic for a writer to embrace, but true. Watch the movie and you'll note that, "As you wish" is a critical character device woven throughout the tale.

Off to read the excerpt.

Patricia Sargeant said...

Hi, ladies.

Please a million pardons for not checking in this afternoon. I've had quite the day at the day job. Have you heard the saying, "Busier than a one-legged woman at a butt-kicking contest"? Well, that was me today. Missed my lunch, and a hungry Patricia is not an appealing Patricia. LOL! I appreciate everyone stopping by to comment on the post. You're all so kind. I'm going to respond to your comments now.

Sia, once you've watched Frequency, please let me know what you think. It's one of my all-time favorite movies.

Thank you again for inviting me over. I apologize I was such a poor guest.



Patricia Sargeant said...

Tonya, hi and thank you very much for visiting with me today. Could you please tell your good friend Alex Sokoloff that I love, love, love her blog and that one of my fondest dreams is to attend one of her writing workshops?

Thank you also for your kind words regarding Heated Rivalry. I used one of Alex's tips for the opening scene. :)

All the very best!


Patricia Sargeant said...

Karen Kelley!!!!Wow!!!

Thank you so much for commenting on the post. I stopped by my local Borders on my way home from The Day That Wouldn't End to pick up my copy of your latest release, The Jaguar Prince. It made for a wonderful ending to a not so great day. I can't wait to read it.

I loved the Net with Sandra Bullock. One of my favorite movies. I agree with you, it is a strong example of putting your character in the worst-possible situation, then seeing how they get out of it. The betrayals added to the tension. It's a much more suspenseful situation than Speed.

Thank you for hours of reading enjoyment, Karen! And thanks again for stopping by.



Patricia Sargeant said...

Lori, hi!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us about movies and plotting. I saw Taken with Liam Neesen (sp?) as well. Very intense. Very intense.

OK. "If You Dare." 2011. It's in my calendar. Can't wait!

All the very best, my friend!



Patricia Sargeant said...

Marcia, hi!!! Thank you so much for joining us. It's wonderful to see you. I just finishing re-reading "Love Unleased." Love it! Definitely a hot, humourous read.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a classic! Talk about cliff hangers and sharp turning points. I loved the way Harrison Ford's character's motivation switched mid-story from saving the world to saving Marion.

Thanks so much for stopping by and joining the discussion, Marcia!



Patricia Sargeant said...


It's such a pleasure to "see" you.

I loved "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." The ending always makes me cry. I agree with your observation that there's a great deal of sensuality in the story even though the characters never touch.

I think the movie had strong characterization. That's the only way they could have pulled off a love story in which one of the characters is a ghost. LOL!

All the very best! And thanks again for stopping by.


Patricia Sargeant said...

Phyllis Bourne! I'm so honored that you stopped by. Wow!

You prefer zombies and killer bees in your movies? Why do I get the feeling you spend a lot of time on the Sci-Fi channel? LOL! Who would have thought it of the author of "A Moment on the Lips" and "By New Year's Day"? LOL!

Did you see "28 Days"? That was a great movie. I enjoyed the hero's journey from being the character who needed protection to being the character who provided protection.

Thank you again for stopping by, Phyllis. It was an honor "meeting" you.



Patricia Sargeant said...

Victoria! How wonderful of you to stop by. Thank you!

I was interested in "August Rush." I'm going to borrow it from the library. Thank you for the recommendation.

Very best wishes for your continued writing success!



Patricia Sargeant said...

Paige!!! Where have you been and why have you been hiding from me? How's your family?

One of my favorite romantic comedies is "Two Can Play That Game" with Viveca Fox and Morris Chestnut. It's surprising how a romantic comedy can make you laugh even as the ordeal punches you in the heart.

Thanks for the tip about "The Proposal." I'm going to add it to my library basket.

Huge hugs to you and your charming family!


Patricia Sargeant said...

Christie Craig, hi! Thank you so much for joining the discussion.

You wrote, "So often I think writers add visual description just so they won’t have the 'white wall effect.' Basically they are missing an opportunity to help tell a powerful story."

OMG! I think your words should be carved into stone. Or made into a screensaver.

Thank you for sharing your insights with us.

Best wishes for your continued writing success!


Patricia Sargeant said...

Kat, thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your time and your excellent insight.

As you noted, excellent dialogue is part of what helps a novel "breakout," according to Donald Maass and I agree. Characters say what you've always wanted the courage to say (e.g., Princess Bride). And characters do what you've always wanted the courage to do (e.g., Casablanca).

Thank you for visiting with us, Kat.



Patricia Sargeant said...


I *loved* The Lake House and agree with you it was a complicated plot. It had a lot of emotional tension.



Patricia Sargeant said...


I agree with you that the words "As you wish" is a critical and compelling character device. Those words and their meaning have stayed with me for the almost 23 years since I first saw that movie.

And the punch of, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Thanks so much for stopping by, VA. I apologize for taking so long to respond to your post.



Patricia Sargeant said...


Thank you again for joining the discussion and sharing writing tips and inspiriations you've gleaned from movies. I've had a great time reading your comments.

Regarding the copy of Tails of Love, I'd like to offer it to Vannie Ryanes. Vannie, if you'd like a copy of this romance anthology, featuring original short stories from 10 romance authors, please e-mail me at

Thanks again, everyone! Best wishes!


Tonya Kappes said...

Patricia I will. We spent the week together at the beach last fall and she is AMAZING! Her books are soooo creepy I get nightmares though. She will love to hear you enjoy her blog.