Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why Movies Help Me Write

Dude, it's no secret that I like my movies. I'm forever talking about them on twitter and stuff. I think I've started watching movies in a new way since reading the best book ever, SAVE THE CAT.

STC really helped me with my writing, and it's because that book took something abstract and put it into visuals--a movie. Something I can watch and analyze in just a few hours.

But that post is here.

Today's post is about movies and how they help me in my writing. I'm going to use a short illustration. I've been taking my kids to a movie every Thursday this summer. A couple of weeks ago, the movie was Bedtime Stories.

Great flick.

I liked it. But there was something that really stuck out to me. (I don't want to bash the movie, nor do I want to analyze all the things wrong with movies.) I thought there was a glaring inconsistency in the movie.

See, there's these kids, and their mom is all hopped up on wheat grass this, and whole grain that. The kids don't have a TV and they don't watch TV or movies. So their Uncle Skeeter has to watch the kids for a while and he lets them do all kinds of "wild" things.

One of which is play with shaving cream in the bathroom. And the little girl has cream all over and says, "I'm Princess Leia."

Which made no sense to me. Why? Because she hasn't watched TV or movies. Her mom didn't let her do that.

It was inconsistent to me.

And it taught me to make sure that my characters don't reference things which they have no experience with. This is especially hard for me in my futuristic society, using words and references from right now.

Man, my brain hurts just thinking about it.

But it's a good lesson.

What do you think? Did I just miss the boat while watching Bedtime Stories? Have movies helped you make connections in writing? How?

29 comments:

Donna K. Weaver said...

Excellent point, Elana!

Laura Pauling said...

Movies definitely help inspire the writing process. Esp. a movie that hits the 'beat sheet'. But, I wasn't allowed to watch Starwar movies as a kid and I def. knew who Princess Leia was. So unless the kids were homeschooled too, they'll know the biggies! My kids can tell me the whole plotline of movies I don't allow them to see!

Creepy Query Girl said...

Inconsistancies like these happen all the time. I haven't seen bedtime stories but it's funny you picked up on that. I guess some people might not think twice about it. Which is probably why inconsistancies are so prevalent in books and movies- they just kind of 'let things slide' for the sake of humor or plot or whatever.

Kaye M. said...

For me, I find that picturing my writing like a movie in my head helps me get a feel on a scene. Not that it works all the time, and sometime the imagery is AMAZING in my head, and I can't get it down the right way on paper. I still haven't found a way around that problem. :(

Jen Daiker said...

Now aren't you SUPER SMART! It's 7 am and I still am not thinking as intellegently as you just did. I'm glad you brought up this point. We have to be very careful with where our characters are at and what they'd know and understand. I'd hate to put in something that only I, as the writer, would know. That's just embarassing!

Fabulous as always Elana :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My 7 yo is always questioning the believability in movies. She'll ask why didn't they do this or this. And she's right. Why didn't they? :)

Stephanie McGee said...

TV and movies sometimes spark the most random realizations in my brain. And those usually end up on the blog, like my short lived series "What Would Your Character Do?" where I relayed an event from a tv episode or a movie and asked readers what their MC would do and also what they would do.

It's just little insights that turn into tips for writers who might be visual learners. (One reason I learn more about character and stuff from watching movies and television than reading books on the craft of writing.)

Matthew MacNish said...

I haven't seen it, but that would probably bother me too.

Melanie said...

Ha! I totally agree with this post. That Star Wars reference in that movie under the circumstances was def an inconsistency. phooey! Funny enough, my current wip is in the future as well, and there is a Star Wars reference, but it totally works. I made sure it did. :D

def tricky and something you need to pay close attention to.

Jennifer said...

Great Post! It drives me crazy when I am reading a book series or watching a movie and I find inconsistencies. Especially if I have invested a ton of time in a series....it makes me think the author doesn't care.

Jamie Manning said...

Wow, I've never noticed that in that movie...great catch! And movies definitely help me write. And the more I write, the more I dissect movies as I watch them. I begin to look at how they're put together, what dialogue the writer uses, the setting, all of it. Movies (and TV) are a great way to help you see what does and doesn't work!

lynnrush said...

Spot on, Elana. That's so true. Isn't it funny how things like this can slip through the cracks? How did someone not catch that? Right? Maybe so we could learn this lesson. :)

Have a great day!

storyqueen said...

Consistency is something i really struggle with sometimes. but when I read something inconsistent, it takes me right out of the story.

Jemi Fraser said...

Little things like that bug me too. I hate when someone on tv or a movie recites a phone number and the person dialing dials a different number. Pet peeve.

Brenna Braaten said...

I think that is a good point to remember to look for and snub out inconsistencies. But, in the case of Bedtime Stories, I think just because the kids where sheltered at home doesn't mean they didn't learn of things like Leia at school from other kids, a school assignment or a teacher. You have to keep in mind the person's whole experience, I think.

Laura said...

Not about movies, but something else you said. I actually really like how your dialogue in Possesion is present day jargon. It works, and it's one of the reasons your book has such a unique voice.

About movies- yes, I'm always watching movies for writing tips. It's a great resource.

Martha Ramirez said...

Yeah--after reading STC I've never seen another movie the same way again and those who haven't read it should LOL.

I learn from every movie whether it is good or bad. Kind of nice. I'm actually working while getting caught up in a film.

Sarah Allen said...

Totally agree with on this one. Movies get the ideas popping in my head almost more than anything else.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Angela Brown said...

Your point about inconsistencies is spot on. Movies can be inspiring for the reason you caught this inconsistency. They can help enlighten me on things I may not have noticed before. On the other side, they can do such fantastic things that I'm challenged to stretch my imagination as well with story concept, plot lines and scene delivery.

Marsha Sigman said...

Most of my stuff is based in the real world with an alternate or paranormal element so I don't have that problem. But I do have to watch the 80's references.lol
I love movies and they do inspire.

I would just like to complain that 'Go, Diego, Go' is not realistic and just a little too convenient having a rescue pack that can turn into anything. Stilts??? Come on.

At least Dora has the decency to carry stuff in a backpack and not pretend it turns into whatever she needs. I may be watching too many cartoons.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Yes! Great connection, Elana. That is the sort of thing writers SHOULD notice an be irritated by if we're thinking like writers. :-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I would've noticed that as well.
You know I'm a big geek! Well, those that visit my blog know it. Movies are my number one source of inspiration for writing. They're also great (or bad) examples of pacing.

Abby said...

I completely agree. I always notice these inconsistencies in movies and books. It drives me insane. I guess it's good, because like you, I can be more careful with my characters and what is going on. Interesting where you can find wisdom and inspiration, isn't it?

Jeff King said...

I agree, but failed to put this into action.

LynNerd said...

I'm clueless at times and probably wouldn't have caught that inconsistency, but movies do help my writing as far as how the plots unfold and watching body language and expressions. I also like reality TV, too, to people watch and catch quirks and habits and weird things real people do. Oh, and it helps me picture certain characters in my mind, like when I see an actor who looks like I visualize my characters.

Leslie Rose said...

I'm knee deep in SAVE THE CAT. Where has it been all my life? I think movies can be as big a lesson in what NOT to do as they can serve as examples of kick butt storytelling.

Gina Blechman said...

I think this is the 5th or 6th time I've seen Save the Cat referenced on one of the blogs I follow. (Guess I know what I'll be picking up on my next bookstore binge.)

I find my biggest issue with inconsistencies isn't what the characters know that they shouldn't, but what I expect the readers to know when they don't. Sometimes I make references that I SWEAR make complete sense. But, ya know, I have a bit of a twisted way of thinking, and things don't always turn out as planned.... :-)

<3 Gina Blechman

L.T. Elliot said...

Little inconsistencies like that drive me batty. I can see why it stuck out to you.

I LOVE Save The Cat. It was worth every penny (and it's technically one of the pricier books on writing I've seen--but like I said, worth every penny!)

ljquillyn said...

Watching movies totally gives me insight for writing!!! One of the most important things that I've gleaned from my hours and hours (and more hours) of watching tv and movies is that not only is it important for characters to be well crafted, but it is equally important that their relationships with other characters are also well crafted. I always fall in love with stories when I feel a deeper than blood connection between key characters.

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