Writing Lessons from Frozen

Everyone went nuts for Frozen. I was a little underwhelmed. Perhaps there was too much hype. Perhaps nothing can compare in my mind to The Lion King. But you can’t deny that Frozen struck a chord, which makes it worth a look to see if there’s any writing advice inside.

Wrap up warm, spoiler storms ahead.

Don’t Use A Prologue If You Don’t Need To

A prologue is something of a chapter 0, part of the story that sits before the beginning proper. In the case of Frozen, I’m classing the accident, the death of the king and queen, and the Do You Wanna Build a Snowman song as a prologue. Because the story itself starts when Anna meets Hans.

Frozen is a perfect example of why prologues can often be cut: there’s usually nothing in them that can’t be told in the body of the story. Death of the parents? Their mere absence is enough. Anna’s isolation? Already clear from her ‘For the First Time in Forever’ song. The accident? Can be discussed; heck, Elsa already has a mini flashback in the film itself. The first ten minutes are dense with backstory, but they aren’t story. They drag. They’re unnecessary. Let it go.

Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

Foreshadow That Twist

Frozen manages to teach this lesson by doing it right and wrong at the same time.

Hans is Anna’s Prince Charming, her soul mate, protector of her realm and her sister, until it turns out he’s evil.

Anna’s cure is said to be “an act of true love”, which both audience and characters take to mean true love’s kiss, until it turns out it’s an action spurred by love.

Both good twists. But when you see Anna’s act of true love, you look back on what the film’s been subtly telling you and think “of course!” When you see Hans turn evil, you look back on what the film’s been telling you and think “where did that come from?”

A great twist is one a reader feels like they could have seen coming. A poor twist is one no-one could have possibly foreseen.

Defy the Reader’s Expectations

More on the twist that worked. Disney films love a bit of romance. So when Frozen calls for an act of true love, the characters and the audience assume a kiss is needed. But the film isn’t that interested in romance. It makes fun of Anna’s rushed engagement (which is par for the Disney course), and focuses on familial love instead. Which is partly why Frozen delighted audiences everywhere.

A genre is built on its tropes. And it’s important to know them, respect them, even work with them. But subverting them will not only entertain your readers, but it can help your story stand out from the crowd. Frozen certainly stood out from the crowd, and hopefully your story will too.

Cover of The Fey Man by James T KellyYou won’t find any prologues (or talking snowmen, for that matter) in my debut fantasy novel, The Fey Man, but you will find plot twists and I hope it will defy your expectations too (unless you expect it to be good, of course!)

★★★★★ – “A must read for fans of epic fantasy”

Pick up your copy of The Fey Man today from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, or Smashwords