Sunday, April 4, 2010

2 Lessons From Alfred Hitchcock

This post appeared on Wordplay today and helps us to check one of the most critical elements of the stories we write- setting. Think Alfred Hitchcock movies. This master of setting went from several exotic locations down to a single location throughout his movies. The bottom line is that the setting must be relevant to the plot.
  • There's North By Northwest, which takes Cary Grant to places like downtown, a train, crop fields, and Mount Rushmore. Movies like Notorious, Saboteur, and The Man Who Knew Too Much relied on these chases that took characters global to increase the tension.
  • The Trouble With Harry is a less-known Hitchcock film that uses the gorgeous fall scenery in a small town to be the setting for his dark comedy. Shadow of a Doubt also uses the calm, small town setting to create contrast with the dramatic plot.
  • In Psycho, who can forget the Bates Motel or the house of Norman Bates' mother? Spellbound also relies on one strong, disturbing location, i.e., the sanitarium, to create tension.
  • In To Catch a Thief, the glamorous setting of coastal France brings the story of a jewel thief to life.
  • One of my personal favorites is Rebecca. The huge mansion called Manderly rests on the rocky cliffs of England, which have everything to do with the plot that plays out. Such a great film, too!
  • Rope and Rear Window are the true test of setting. In both movies, one dramatic setting, namely an apartment, shows us that limited settings have nothing to do with drama.
Happy Writing and Happy Easter!


  1. I loved Agatha Christy as a kid. Now I read mystery books that were written by my friend Laura Bradford/Elizabeth Lynn Casy. I mostly read pb, mg, and ya as that is whay I write.

    Have a great weekend...

  2. I'v always been a fan of Hitchcock. Did you know that had a nice sense of humour, too. In most - if not all of his films he made a very brief appearance. Usually it was in a crowd scene, maybe getting on to a bus or walking in the streets with many other extras.
    I always thought of that as leaving his 'signature' on every part of the film making process. It was fun for his fans,too, trying to spot him in the film!
    I love your post - so true about the setting not necessarily having anything to do with the drama!


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