Three Lessons from The Lion King

So, a little while back, I wrote up a post on what we should learn from The Desolation of Smaug.  To quote myself there:

I am a firm believer in seeing what exactly the book/movie did well/not well in order to help your writing.

338914Given this, I think it’s really important to analyze different books we read and different movies that we watch to see how to grow in our writing.  So, since I’m between writing longer series right now, I thought I’d tackle a couple different well-known stories and analyze what exactly we can learn from them in order to improve our writing.  So, here are three lessons to learn from Disney’s classic, The Lion King.  [Be forewarned; potential SPOILERS will follow.]

1. The Success of Three Act Structure

Last year, I wrote about what the three act structure is.  The Lion King gives an excellent example of both how it works, and why it works so well.  You have very clear delineations and progressions from one stage to another (Mufasa’s death and Simba’s departure from Pride Rock marks the end of Act 1; Simba’s return to Pride Rock marks the end of Act 2) that doesn’t feel pushed or fake (as some critics of the three-act structure claim.  While Act 2 is a lot shorter in the movie than it would be in your book, it gives a good example of how the Three Act structure can succeed.

2. Crafting a Villain You Hate

A couple months ago, I mentioned in my video on why most villains are boring, that you need to do more to your villain that just say he’s evil in order for the reader to be rooting against him.  This movie is a great example of this.  Who doesn’t feel upset with Scar when he both kills Mufasa, and then sets up Simba to take the blame for it?  With his actions as a master-manipulator, both in the climactic death scene of Mufasa, and in the end when he’s trying to ruin Simba’s reputation, he’s not only an interesting character, but he’s also very evil.  You want to create the type of villain that your readers will loathe.  He’s a good example of this.

3. Tying the Character Arc to the Plot Arc

We all know of the great character v. plot debate on which should drive your story.  My opinion?  In great books, it’s not characters set up against plot, but it’s both of them working in unison.  Both drive each other.  The Lion King is a good example of this.  The plot of Simba growing up physically in order to face Scar over his father’s death is intrinsically tied to his moral dilemma about feeling guilt over his father’s death and thus shirking responsibility because of it.  These two arcs need to be resolved simultaneously because of how interconnected they are.  And that’s what makes for a great story.

So, as you can see, The Lion King isn’t just a kid’s film.  It’s a gripping story that can provide a lot of good examples on how to craft a good story.  Keep some of these things in mind–both while writing your story–and while watching your next movie, or reading your next book.  There are a lot of great works of fiction out there that exemplify great writing techniques.  Your goal is to find them, learn from them, and replicate them.

What other tips can you learn from The Lion King?  Let us know your thoughts and ideas in the comments!


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