Wait, what? Did I seriously just tell you to sit down and waste time watching a form of media that has nothing to do with meeting your word count goals?
. . . yes. With some caveats. I don’t mean “watch a movie every day” or “ignore your writing to watch your favorite film” or “binge that Netflix show ’cause some random writing advice on the Internet said to”. Don’t do that. Media responsibly, and etc. etc.
No, what I mean is, in your rare free time, I want you to continue working. Haha, you really though you got a break? Think of it as a networking “vacation” where you’re technically off the clock but your boss is expecting some results anyway. Take that movie you wanted to watch, and use it as an opportunity to make your writing better.
- watch the action. How does the movie get you from one scene to another? Hey, that could work for your book.
- study the dialogue, especially the good dialogue. Pause the movie to scratch down some of the best parts, which you can then tweak for your own characters.
- examine the body language going on. Movies have to convey nearly everything visually, so the actors (the good ones) pack a LOT of cues into their movements. How are they expressing anger? fear? adoration? attraction? frustration? Keep those moves in mind when you’re creating the scene for your readers to picture.
- watch the major plot points. What does the movie do to open/start the journey/incite the action? What happens at the climax? How does it end? All good things to pick apart and use for your own work. Especially if the movie is avoiding clichés.
- become aware of what’s already being used. If every movie you’ve watched in the last five years has a “chosen one” trope, the universe could be sending you a clue to avoid that particular well trod path.
Pro Tip: Watch the movies that associate with the genre you are writing.
The odds are good that if that’s the genre you’re attracted to writing in, it’s the genre which interests you (and the one you already know quite a bit about). So bring on the movies!
Since I write romance, my research treat is to watch a great romantic comedy. Especially on those days when I feel like the inspiration fairy has decided to bug out to the nearest bar and ignore me completely, a good movie can often get me ready to work again.
Here are seven of the movies I turn to when I’m looking for some help:
- Love Actually (2003) or Paris, Je T’amie (2006)—excellent examples of interweaving multiple storylines and use/subversion of multiple different tropes.
- Overboard (1987)—fantastic body language to study plus a good, honest, visceral attraction between the main characters (they got together in real life just about the same time as this movie) and yes I am SUPER excited to watch the reboot this year.
- 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)—for the spicy, snappy dialogue and a well done enemies to lovers story. Plus it’s based on Shakespeare, so it’s educational and makes me all cultural and erudite and stuff (*Whispers off camera, ‘it has Heath Ledger in it’*)
- Sense and Sensibility (1995)—awesome examples of scenes moving the plot forward and character driven choices messing things up for everyone. Alan Rickman is the best beta hero EVER.
- Roman Holiday (1953)—because by now you were wondering if I’ve even SEEN a movie from the Golden Age. As you would expect from a classic that has stayed classic, this one is pitch perfect for story, pacing, setting, characterizations and romance. Plus, I mean, Audrey Hepburn. She’s all you need. I could watch her act alongside a still life of a potted plant and still say it’s a riveting movie.
- Juno (2007)—to remind myself how important developed secondary characters are, and how bumbling stumbling awful teenage love can be.
- Coming to America (1988)—for a good nuanced take on the whole billionaire trope and a good example of how to include social commentary without beating the audience over the head with it.
Your turn! Let me know some of the movies you find inspirational. Or add to my list of romcoms to watch!