Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Soul Surfer

on April 17, 2011

One of the things I do when I’m not writing is mentor a young lady through the Volunteers of America Children of Promise Program. We get to do a lot of fun things together. Bowling. Baking and decorating cakes.  Playing games of tether ball and air hockey. This weekend, we went to see the movie Soul Surfer.

Soul Surfer is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm in a shark attack when she was thirteen years old. The movie is based on the book by the same name.

I liked a lot of things about this movie, and I was thinking how so much of what works in films or novels comes down to understanding story elements. The following are the elements of Soul Surfer which I liked, and take-aways for writing stories…especially stories for tween and teen girls.

Setting: The setting of this movie was the Hawaiian Islands. Besides from the great shots of the waves and waterfalls, it’s just interesting and different to have a story take place in the Hawaiian Islands. Take-away: Unique settings are good. If a story does need to take place in a well-known city, then ask yourself: How can I zero in on a neighborhood, or a street, that might have some unique element.                  .

Character: Bethany is a surfer. A female surfer, and she’s thirteen. This is not your “stereoytpical teen” who is at the mall, and hanging out with boys. And although Bethany and her friend do look for swim suits, and they do attend parties with boys, it’s not the focus of this movie. At one point, it’s mentioned that Bethany is being home-schooled so she can practice for her upcoming surfer event. We see how much her life revolves around surfing, and all the training and discipline that goes with building herself back up to being a competitive surfer after the shark attack. Take-away: Tween and teen girls can and should do a lot of things. It’s not all boys and malls. A girl who has a passion and skill for a sports and/or a talent makes a great character for a teen or tween story.

Plot: Soul Surfer follows a strong hero’s journey. In the beginning, we see Bethany and her love for surfing and then the shark bites her arm. From this point on, we see Bethany as she tries to relearn to surf.  We watch her as she struggles with daily routines, we see her moment of total frustration and surrender after a surfing contest, we see her as she goes on a mission trip to Tahiti after the Tsunami and helps the little boy not be afraid of the water, and then we see her realize that by helping another with his fear, she has also helped herself. (This is the epiphany moment)And then we see Bethany as she finds a way to get back to her love of surfing and in the process becomes an inspiration to others.   Take-away: Following the hero’s journey never fails in crafting a story with both character and plot.

Theme: The movie is about Bethany’s faith journey in believing that anything is possible, and that with faith, we have the power to overcome our obstacles. But, I think even more important is the fact that this is a true story. This is not something which was made-up. This is a story based on a real girl, and her real struggle, and more importantly how she overcame that struggle and went on to use that struggle as inspiration for others.  Take-away: Some of our very best,most inspiring stories come directly from the ones we are living. Don’t underestimate the power of your own  story.

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