Brenda Chapman on Writing BRAVE

Writersdontcry BraveBrave rocked the box office. Its themes of identity, responsibility, and family were equally appealing to boys and girls, adults and children. Its unique characters were memorable and brimming with personality, with pitch-perfect dialogue and solid arcs. And it’s technically brilliant.

Watching Brave, I found so much inspiring material, I wanted to watch it twice, so I could take notes the second time around. Because movies are a different medium from books--with different demands and limitations--they offer novelists some unique insight into writing. And there is a lot an author can learn from Brave--from how to design a resonant character to how to turn that into an engaging plot.

Brenda ChapmanSo, I was beyond thrilled when Brenda Chapman, writer and director of Disney-Pixar's Brave, agreed to do an interview on how she did all that magic. Because while there’s a lot you can learn from watching it and piecing things together, the chance to glean techniques from Brenda Chapman herself is simply irreplaceable. 

Beware: spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen it. Otherwise, enjoy!


Susan: Merida, Elinor, and the rest of the cast of Brave are such unique and memorable characters, courtesy of their strong and distinct personalities. How did you go about creating them?

Brenda: I drew from my own life. Merida and Elinor’s characters are inspired by my relationship with my daughter. I think a writer needs to draw on truths for characters, and then expand on them. What is it you admire about that person that you could use? What is it about another that you can’t stand? Mix it up . . . it will just feel a bit more believable when the audience experiences those characters.

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Comments (5)

OK, this certainly reads like a puff piece. Let me go on record and say that, at least in my opinion, Brave was entertaining, but not great. Too much fighting and not enough storytelling. I looked at my watch twice during the screening. I also found the fake Scottish accents grating. In addition, what was the point of the story? Mother and daughter grow closer after a bad choice results in mother being turned into a bear? Somehow I found the 1976 version of Freaky Friday to be a more interesting take on this idea.

I would like to know the inside story of the writing and directing of the film. Why are there four writers and two directors listed in the credits. How many of the ideas were Chapman's? Was she fired from the project and why?

Posted by: scott baxter | Monday August 13, 2012 at 10:16 PM

I assure you, Mr. Baxter, this is not a puff piece. The ideas and storyThan are essentially mine, but I had creative differences with Mr. Lasseter at Pixar, so I was removed from the film. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it - and I admit whole heartedly that I was aiming at the mother/daughter audiences out there, many of whom really appreciated the truth of the story - without trying to alienate the boys.

By the way, none of those accents were fake - all characters played by Scottish actors.

Thank you, again, Susan, for giving me the opportunity to talk about the writing of the film!

Posted by: Brenda Chapman | Tuesday August 14, 2012 at 9:59 AM

The relationships, the characterization, the humor, the gorgeous Scottish scenery...everything about this film is fantastic, and least to say everything described in the interview is exactly what I love most about this film. I loved that there was more of an internal conflict within the story in comparison to the usual "good vs. evil."

Thanks to you Brenda and everyone at Pixar for bringing us such a beautiful film!

Oh, and I also love Merida being a fiery redhead as well!

Posted by: Kristina | Wednesday August 15, 2012 at 9:01 AM

Jag var mycket glad över att upptäcka denna webbplats på bing.I ville säga tack till er när det gäller denna fantastiska inlägg! Jag surelyenjoyed varje liten bit av det och jag har du bokmärkt att ta en titt på nya saker du postar.

Posted by: mbt italia | Monday August 20, 2012 at 1:54 AM

The stone circle reminded me of a Stephen King story from 'Full Dark, No Stars'. Was that an influence?

Great movie.

Posted by: Jason Z. Christie | Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 7:25 PM

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