WHAT MAD MAX: FURY ROAD CAN TEACH ABOUT WRITING STORIES

Seldom do I see a film twice, so the fact that I watched Fury Road two times is a tribute to how fine a film I thought it was. While others have commented at length on its vision of a future dystopia, its special effects, its feminist viewpoint, etc.,  what struck me the most was something else.

Namely, Fury Road is a film that places its faith in the intelligence of the viewers. It trusts us to understand what’s going on in the characters’ heads without relying upon chatterbox heroes having to spell out their motives, detail their formative experiences, moan about their conflicted feelings, etc. [Warning: mild spoilers to follow.] In short, I simply love that neither main character, Max and Furiosa, are much given to talking at all. Nor do many of the supporting cast give us long-winded speeches. And yet we understand perfectly well precisely what has been done to the women fleeing with Furiosa. Similarly, in one scene in which Max returns to the War Rig covered with blood, little is said apart from the line, “That’s not his blood.” It’s left entirely to our imaginations to fill in the details. What an effective moment this is in a movie filling the big screen with monster-truck action.

The power of pared-down dialog, which cedes to viewers or readers the ability to draw certain inescapable conclusions, is something that can take a beginning fiction writer time to appreciate. Like many newbies, I was certainly eager to make sure every single reader got exactly what I had to say. Thus, my key points would be both shown and told. Having worked to rid myself of this tendency, I’m particularly aware of those instances in which uncertainty leads an inexperienced writer to tell something a second time, and then rehash it yet again in dialog. All this does is annoy readers, who may well conclude that they are being talked down to. That can be reason enough to bail on the story.

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