How Movies Can Inspire Your Writing

In Book 1, I needed to create a very important, climactic scene where a character goes from “I don’t want to live anymore” to “I will burn this world to the ground” (which is, suffice to say, a complete 180 degree turn). Writing a sequence with that sort of character turn is daunting, but scenes like that do exist all around us.

In addition to being an avid reader, I’m a movie buff. Sometimes I find that watching something visually similar (rather than reading something similar) can help me write a scene. The biggest benefit is I still need to be the one who applies the words. There’s no skimping on this!

I remember one of the best bits of “research” that I did was to watch this scene from Dark Knight Rises, because Bruce Wayne goes from thinking being willing to die for a cause makes him formidable — to realizing that it’s the fear of death that makes men stronger. I watched this sequence multiple times for insight:

This scene absolutely helped me to think of how my character was going to make that 180 degree shift. I decided to go the route of chipping away at the psyche, as in providing little vignettes that gave insight into who this character was — particularly, how this character’s past translated to the future. It’s one of the most integral and (in my opinion) best scenes of the book.

Oftentimes, I’ll find myself thinking, “I’m going to work on Character X this weekend,” and that influences what movie I decide to put in the blu-ray player. I need frames of reference, even if they aren’t direct correlations.

Here are some of my influences for some of my main characters:

  • Melandor Ormonde (“The Ormonde”) and Selatse: the TV mini-series, Atilla the Hun
  • Helain the White: (my newest influence) Captain America and the Winter Soldier, as in he’s very Winter Soldier-esque. I need to see that movie again! He’s also very Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and very Tristan from King Arthur.
  • Caius Raynor: (my favorite movie) Gladiator
  • Book 1’s Peylon Morgenroth: Mordred in Mists of Avalon. Pretty much any incarnation of Mordred will do. I have a thing for brat princes. 🙂

What sort of movies inspires your characters? Do you watch specific scenes to get motivated?

In honor of the upcoming #PitchSlam, I’m going to discuss musical influences next. Be prepared. I’m a geek when it comes to instrumental soundtracks!


Let’s Examine “Moving Ahead” Versus “Revising” a First Manuscript

After I turned in Helain the White’s first section to my regular writing group, I laughed at their response. What did they say? “This is SO well written … but I have no idea what’s going on.” Of course I took no offense. This actually seemed to echo what I was feeling, which was that this particular scene was a beast to write. This happened before with The Ormonde’s section, and there too I had to significantly rewrite the scene.

When you’re working on a first manuscript, sometimes it’s difficult to keep up the forward momentum — especially when you run into problems. However, I’m learning that when I myself have problems, that most likely means it isn’t right.

Kerry gave such great feedback. She said, “How did he find Jered?” And I said, “He learned from interrogating someone that he visits this tomb.” Then she said, “That’s interesting. Why not show him DOING THAT?” Ummmm … right. Helain is one of those characters who benefits from actions. I constantly have to stop myself from explaining why he’s doing the things he’s doing. I want the reader to draw their own conclusions. As my favorite creative writing instructor in Dublin said, the writer’s job is to say “2+2” and the reader’s is to say “=4.”

So I went back and reimagined this scene, and I think this works so much better. However, this begs the question: “Should I stop to revise, or should I keep going?”

Sometimes I think new writers get bogged down in perfecting a piece of the whole. Sometimes you need to press onward and worry about the hardcore revisions later. Do I still consider my revised scene a draft? Absolutely. However, the plot particulars are so vastly different that I would have gone off on the wrong tangent had I not reimagined the scene. That’s when I think it does work to stop and rework something.

I’ve still got my writing group’s previous weeks’ edits sitting in my inbox and in my computer bag. I haven’t applied them yet, even though that’s like an itch I want to scratch. Instead, I want to focus on getting out pages. There are a lot of future Book 2 scenes I am SO looking forward to writing, so here’s hoping I can keep moving forward!

PS The draft is now at 54 pages!