Let’s be honest, we all have those evenings when we have the best intentions to write, but we somehow end up neck-deep in a marathon of the extended editions of Lord of the Rings. Seriously, it happens to the best of us. But instead of falling into a spiral of guilt about how we spent six hours watching TV instead of adding a few thousand words to our manuscripts, we try to embrace these happenings here in the Toffee & Fudge household.
And we do this by having a movie jar.
This little mason jar sits on our bookshelf and contains slips of paper with the titles of all the movies we’ve ever briefly mentioned in conversation (or you know…yelled about for days on end. Here’s looking at you Love, Simon). There are dramas, comedies, thrillers, horror movies and more all tossed up in there. Every movie night starts out with a moment of anticipation as one of us reaches into the jar and tugs out a piece of paper, dictating whatever movie we’ll be watching that night.
This is how we ensure that every movie night features something different, something we can learn from. You hear writers talking about reading widely all the time, about how picking up an adult fantasy or a middle-grade humour novel can actually give you the tools to make your young adult sci-fi that much more believable, but watching widely is also important. Who knows, the villain’s motivation in that spy movie might actually work for your high school antagonist (just maybe leave out the world domination part…or don’t! It’s your story!). You can pull ideas from anywhere. There’s no need to stick to genre boundaries. In fact, breaking the mould and looking somewhere else for a hint of an idea might actually be the thing you need to breathe new life into your story. You never know where inspiration will strike and when you stick to the genres and tropes you know, you are missing out on a wealth of creativity.
How do we know this? Well, the idea of my fantasy manuscript was legitimately sparked in the middle of watching The Godfather, and Carly’s original opening scene was inspired by a shot from Stranger Things. If we’d limited ourselves to the genres and mediums we were comfortable with, the inspiration behind our novels may never have struck.
But more than just giving you fuel to fill up your creative well, watching a movie can help with the technical part of your craft too. The next time you sit down and watch something, pay attention to the character’s body language when they talk. Listen to the cadence of their words, of the turn of phrases they use, and how they wield silence as effectively as their voice. Go deeper than that. Look at the setting, at how streaks of orange fade into deep blue during the sunset, how the ambience of a haunted house can be just as much a character as the ghosts that walk its halls. Every genre of movie will offer you different visuals, different tropes, and different ways to deepen your writing.
So the next time you’re planning a movie night, instead of wasting time arguing over what to watch, why not try adding a few titles to a jar and pulling out a random one? Even if it’s a movie you’re not looking forward to, you never know how stepping outside of your familiar might actually be the key to unlocking the potential in your writing.
And just for kicks, here’s a quick look at a few movies in our jar night now:
Do you have a story about how watching a movie or TV show changed the course of your novel? What are you watching to refill your creative well? Reach out on social media or share below!
Extra goodies for your consumption: