Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What you can learn from Cowboy and Aliens

Sunday night, my husband I overcame the lousy title and went to see Cowboys and Aliens. An excellent decision on our part.

When we talked about titles last week, at some point I told you that a title helps clarify "what it is." I stand by that principle ... but it shouldn't tell you "what it is" in the same manner that "Cowboys and Aliens" tells you what it is.

To me, Cowboys and Aliens sounds like something that was said in the pitch meeting. Like the way you might say Ally Carter's I'd Tell You I Love You but Then I'd Have to Kill You is "spies and boarding school."

"Cowboys and Aliens" makes for a good pitch. It's unique, it kinda makes you chuckle and say, "Okay ... what does that look like?" Which then, as the writer, you can say, "I'm so glad you asked," and then launch into your elevator pitch.

When we talked about cliche plots, one of the things we discussed was finding a spin on the traditional genre that would make it unique.

We've all seen westerns. Cowboys and Aliens is a western. It has many of the classic traits - shoot 'em up scenes, the swinging saloon doors, chaps. It's a traditional western ... just with aliens. (As a side note, something I appreciated in this movie was - outside of the title - they never referred to them as "aliens." Instead, they called them demons. Very time appropriate.)

Also, we've all seen alien movies. What do those look like? Us fighting them off with technology, right? Maybe not all of them (one we killed them with the common cold, and Signs it was water) but generally there's a lot of technology involved in alien movies.

But what if aliens didn't come now? What if they came 150 years ago? How would you defeat aliens with bows and arrows? With shot guns?

Prompts some pretty interesting questions, right?

A surprisingly wonderful movie, I thought. Unique, fun, and utterly enjoyable.


  1. :D My dad and I tend to scoff at all things we don't know about, and we scoffed at Cowboys and Aliens. But when you put it this way it doesn't sound so bad! :D

    P.S. I love Ally Carter's Gallagher Girl series. Very cheesy, but I love it. I have a secret weakness for stories about girls at boarding schools.

  2. I totally wrote this movie off because of the title. (And probably because it's part Western, while I'm being all truthful.) When you described the premise, though, it sounds pretty interesting. Glad you enjoyed the movie!

  3. Ooh!I want to see that movie!I didn't know it had Harrison ford in it!My want has just double.I also want to read that book but I can't find it at my libraries.It must be really popular. Those are some great points!I've still got a couple posts to read...I'm behind on a lot of reading :(
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

  4. I love what your wrote for the NextGen Writer's Conference!!!

    Oh, and I sent you my writing prompt!

    ♥Book blogger

  5. I still say this title isn't *quite* as bad-due-to-obviousness as Snakes on a Plane. ;-) But yeah. Your points = good.

    And I soooo want to see this movie. If only our town's one theater hadn't just declined renewing their contract. Sigh.

  6. Ellyn, I really enjoyed the book too, so you're not alone! She has great titles. I want to read Heist Society.

    Jenna, the lousiness of the title cannot be overstated. Although, Roseanna, that's an excellent point - Snakes on a Plane still wins the prize for worst movie title ever.

    Sierra, Harrison Ford is excellent. And Daniel Craig is a man who can get away with a cowboy hat and chaps.

    Book Blogger, thank you! I had so much fun. And, yes, I received your entry.

    Roseanna, you should really move to Kansas City. Just sayin'.

  7. I am having sssuuucchhh a great time with the Next Gen Writers Conference. Thank you so much for telling me about it.

  8. I second the comment above! I only wish I had more time to devote to reading all of the awesome comments, but I am printing out each post to keep. Thanks, Stephanie.

  9. Shellie Neumeier was brilliant to come up with that. I just feel honored that she included me!

  10. I printed them all ou too. They have their own folder.

  11. I had the same thoughts about Cowboys and Aliens. :) I haven't seen it yet, but I've shoved aside the title and concentrated on the way they advertise it. Which looks SUPER cool. :D Especially because the dude with the alien shooter doesn't know where he's from.

    Great post though! cliche plots are annoying, they always ruin your writing lol.

  12. Stephanie - I read Heist Society too, along with my friend, and we were both really disappointed. I wanted to love the book but I just couldn't. It was extremely confusing through the middle, and there was no moral line when it came to stealing. The last line of the book especially turned me off - until then, I was trying to think it was okay, and then I read the last line.... :)

    The best things were Uncle Eddie, W.W. Hale (Who reminds me of my character Grailyn) and the globetrotting throughout the book.

    *cough* Sorry about giving you an entire review... :D Tell me what you think if you read it!

    - Ellyn

  13. How disappointing! It's such a great title...