It always surprises me where I can learn about writing. One of the most interesting sources is watching deleted movie scenes and hearing what the screenwriter/director says about why the scene was deleted. Even in animated movies.
Last night we watched Ratatouille. After the movie we watched the deleted scenes. One of the scenes was an alternative opening. It was impressive in terms of scope and touched on many of the characters, place, and themes of the movie. But it was deleted. Why? The screenwriter acknowledged that the scene worked on many different levels, but there was one level it didn’t work on. It wasn’t from the main character’s point of view.
As a fiction writer I understand the problem. One of the first things a writer needs to do is establish compassion for the MC. We need to get the reader rooting for the MC, even if the MC isn’t the most likeable person.
In Ratatouille, the MC (Remy) is a rat. He has a limited experience of the world. In order to cheer for him and experience the overwhelming grandiosity of a Parisian restaurant, we need to identify with him and see his life beforehand. So the movie starts with Remy in a rural setting trying to scavenge food all the while dreaming of haute cuisine. We see/experience his passion, which is so consuming that he gets struck by lightning while trying to properly cook his mushroom/cheese/rosemary entrée. Yep, at that point I’m rooting for him (plus he is cute, for a rat, and has a snarky sense of humor). Now we’re ready to go to Paris, to be overwhelmed, and to see him conquer the world of haute cuisine. And all because we’ve fallen for Remy and his passion. That's the power of a great opening.