Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Get Inspired - Media

I am a couch potato and if you’re anything like me you can sit and marathon shows and movies for hours each day without feeling bad about it. To an outsider it might look like we writers spend a lot of time idly watching T.V. but for many of us studying well-made shows is a form of research. There is a part of our brains that’s actively working to deconstruct what we’re watching as it happens. We’re following the flow of the plot beat for beat, analyzing how the dialogue makes us feel, essentially we’re watching as viewers while thinking as writers.

When I watch shows and movies I like to have the captions on so it’s kind of like I’m reading the script and seeing how it plays out live at the same time. I also like to buy the screenplays for my favorite movies and study those by themselves. Even if you have no plans to be a screenwriter a novelist can learn a lot about story structure and pacing by reading screenplays.

Usually your favorite films are the ones that inspire you the most. Some of mine are Avatar, Inception, Back to the Future, Fight Club and The Social Network. The list is in no way conclusive but these are the movies I watch pretty much once a year. There’s just something about a great film that makes me want to rise to the level and be able to create something as good, or better. There’s nothing wrong with setting your sights high, and I believe if you really want to improve you have to be of the mindset that you will eventually be able to go toe to toe with your heroes. If you’re gonna compete, compete with the best.

Inversely I spend a decent amount of time actively seeking out and watching terrible movies. I’m not talking campy-but-lovable B movies. I’m talking full on “how the hell did this get made? I’ve seen some shit,” kind of movies. I won’t name any but if you find yourself scrolling Netflix for fun one day you’re likely to run across a few of these. Movies with terrible pacing, ham-fisted dialogue, plot inconsistencies, plot contrivances, and zero character development; these are my favorites. By studying films like these you can learn what NOT to do. You can also make notes on what little fixes you would’ve made to the plot to make it better if you were in charge. It’s a fun exercise and it makes you feel like watching that awful movie wasn’t a complete waste.

I have friends that seem to always be traveling to exotic places like India, Alaska, and the waterfalls in South America. I don’t have as many mileage points as they do but I do just as much traveling, from my couch. Recently I’ve been watching loads of documentaries like the Nova series and Planet Earth to broaden my horizons. There’s so much wonder and magnificence out there in this world of ours and if you can’t hop on a plane and see them yourself loading up a documentary is the next best thing. Learning about places I’ve never been and getting a feel for the culture there is a great way I stimulate my imagination and if I do enough research on a location I can feel comfortable writing about a certain place or tailor it to fit within the narrative.

Writing is all about taking in information, processing and combining it in your mind and outputting words in your unique voice so a huge part of becoming a better writer is becoming a more avid reader. I try to keep both hemispheres of my brain engaged at all times so usually I’ll read one fiction novel and one non-fiction book and make progress on each a little at a time every day. For fiction books I try to read in the genre I’m writing at the time, especially if I like a particular author’s voice and I want some of that to leak out into my current project. With the non-fiction book I tend to enjoy the self-help variety as well as the instructional but I’m learning the benefit of reading outside my comfort zone to help broaden my horizons.

These have been invaluable to me over the years.
Some people treat comic books like they’re not literature, like comics are just pulp fiction trash not worth reading if you’re over the age of twelve, while other people hold up (certain) comics like they’re the highest form of prose. To me comic books are both a guilty pleasure form of entertainment and a big source of inspiration. I really like reading team oriented books like X-men and JLA and I feel it has helped me manage characters when writing stories with a larger ensemble. I love the marriage of the visual and the mental. Comic books aren’t movies nor are they books, but kind of a combination of the two. The imagery leaves just enough to engage the imagination to fill in the details between panels and the dialogue is often concise because with comics page real estate is precious.

These are my Marvel shelves but I love DC too!

Getting inspired watching movies, reading comics and books for me is a good way to flex my creative muscle passively and actively while having fun and I feel I bring elements of these different forms of media into my writing to breathe fresh life into my scenes. 

See you Tomorrow as the Get Writing Challenge continues with Get Inspired - Media!

Links to all entries in the Get Writing Challenge:
Get Inspired – Media (Current Page)

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