Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, and Ocean's Thirteen are all amazing heist movies. They have great casts (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon all star), twisty plots, and lots of thievery. What's not to like? These three movies have some great lessons that writers can take away, so let's take a look to see what they are. There will be spoilers for all three movies ahead, so be warned.
Big cast= many personalities
As the name implies, there are eleven characters in the team from the first movie, not to mention villains and various other characters. Despite having such a large cast, you know all the different characters and can pick your favorites. How did they accomplish this? They gave each person a distinctive personality.
There's the boss, Danny Ocean, who puts together the heists. There's Rusty, the real brains behind the operation. Lucas, the kid who happens to be an amazing thief. And so on. Each one has an important role in the plot and looks different so you can pick them out on screen.
If you have a large cast of characters, you need to make sure people can tell them apart. Make sure their personalities are different, as well as the way they look. Give them a mannerism that lets people know who the character is once you see it (like Rusty, who is always eating). If you think you have too many characters, see if any can be combined or dropped all together.
|If you've watched Ocean's Twelve, you'll know how important this bag is.|
Don't tell the audience everything
One of the best parts of these movies is the way the story is told. Most stories are told in chronological order. And so are these, or at least you think so. Until they suddenly make you realize that you're missing something and then tell you everything they've been hiding from you the whole movie. If there could be unreliable narrators in movies, this series has one.
The second one is the most notable to me. They have to pay back the guy they stole from in the first movie, or else he's going to ruin them. To do that, they have to pull some big heists. The biggest is stealing a Faberge egg while competing with another thief. You think the other guy wins and Ocean's guys are sunk, then they reveal that they've had the Faberge egg long before the other thief. It's hilarious because you realize a lot of the second half of the film is a complete red herring.
You don't have to tell your reader everything all at once. Have your characters have secret plans that you don't tell the reader until much later. Make them feel like they know what's going on, then flip everything on its head. But you also have to drop little clues along the way that if they had taken time to look, they would have noticed. When you reveal what you've been hiding, the reader will suddenly go "Why didn't I notice that?".
Give them a solid goal
Each of the three movies has a goal that you can easily figure out. The first movie's goal is to pull off a spectacular heist with a side of revenge on a man called Terry Benedict. The second one's goal is to get the money to repay Benedict without being caught by the police woman who's on their trail. The goal of the last movie is revenge against the man who hurt their friend. These movies are complicated and full of twists and turns, but throughout the characters are driven by their mutual goal.
Don't forgo putting all sorts of awesome plots in your novel instead of giving them a goal to drive them forward. It annoys me to death when a book has no clear goal. How am I supposed to describe it to someone else when I wasn't even sure what the characters were trying to achieve?
Build a strong team
The team Danny Ocean puts together in these movies are amazing. They certainly aren't what you would think of as a team, but under Danny's and Rusty's leadership, they come together into a cohesive whole. The strength of the team is especially shown in the third movie, when the guy who provides the money for their operations is severely hurt and left in a comatose state from someone double crossing him. Obviously, they then plan a revenge job on the man who did it to him, with a goal of completely ruining him.
You need to show people how much your team cares for each other. They won't root for them if they know they're just going to fall apart. Show the readers how well they work together, despite differences. Building a good team is what made the Avengers movies so powerful, and Civil War so devastating to watch.
Actions speak louder than words
Rusty is one of the most interesting characters in the movies. He doesn't talk a lot, instead leaving that sort of thing mostly up to Danny. He doesn't participate a lot in the heists. He mostly remains quiet and eats something in every scene. And yet, when he does speak, people listen. Rusty saves his words for when they're needed. Instead of talking, he observes. That's why Danny might organize things, but Rusty really runs the heist.
One of the best scenes in the first movie is when Danny and Rusty are gathering the people they need for the heist. They stop by a bar and Danny thinks they've got everyone. Rusty doesn't say a word the whole scene, just looks at the TV, and yet Danny knows he thinks they need one more man, so he finds him. (You can watch that scene here.) What Rusty doesn't say is often more powerful than what he does.
Characters don't always need to say everything they're thinking. It can be more powerful if they don't, in fact, and you make people understand what they want or feel by their actions. Try writing a character like Rusty and see how tricky it is. Don't let them waste words, instead observing everything.
Think outside the box
The final interesting thing about these movies is how they think outside the box with their heists. Partially because they have to, partially because they like to. The things these guys are up against is no joke. Why rob one casino when you could rob three at once? Why beat the other thief in a competition when you can get the egg from his mentor ahead of time? Why steal from the man who hurt your friend when you could completely ruin him?
Find ways to think outside the box with your story. Look for ways your characters can do the unexpected. Throw things at them that force them to make different, trickier plans or have them look for more than they originally thought. Don't make things easy and don't always do what people expect.
Let's talk! Have you watched an Ocean's movies? Do you like heist movies? Have you ever done any of these things in your novel? Tell me in the comments.