I’ve been on a movie kick recently. I’m not a huge fan of going to the movies these days, as I don’t like crowds and hate having to deal with other people talking, coughing, chewing, kicking my seat, texting, etc. But I’ve been making more of a point to go, because there are still some things I want to see on the big screen. I was very eager to see The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest epic. I’m a fan of his work (except I absolutely hated Punch Drunk Love, though I feel like I may need to see it again), and especially loved There Will Be Blood, which was, in my opinion, the best American film of the last decade (and one of the greatest movies ever made, period). I’m still sorting through my reaction to the movie, and like a really good book, I actually want to go see it all over again to view it differently and see what new conclusions I can draw. Plus, it’s one of the most beautiful movies, having been shot in 65mm, and I want to see it again at that scale. I also finally saw Weekend, a great, small indie film about a relationship that takes place over the course of a weekend. I watched that one at home, and the setting somehow felt right for the intimate, cramped feel of the film. I’m not dying to see this one again–I think I got what I needed in one viewing–but it’s the kind of simple storytelling that packs a punch.

I go through these movies phases about once a year, and I find it’s always the time when the most book ideas come to me, too. Though reading other books and listening to music can have a similar effect, there’s something in my brain that reacts very strongly to moving images, and it gets my creative juices flowing. I have an author who’s the same way and sees just about every movie imaginable. And, like me, he gets really inspired by them, and often comes up with fantastic new ideas after seeing a great movie. But in the end, he and I take those ideas and bring them back to book form–the opposite of how it usually goes, when books are adapted for the screen. 

I’m curious if any of you are as inspired by the film world as you are the book world. Or is there some other art form that inspires your writing? 

12 Responses to Film-to-book

  1. I get inspired by movies if the movie has layers too it. Like Black Swan or recently The Master. But my inspiration does not stop there. Music. Art. Reading. Dance. A conversation. All these stir my creativity. Personally I enjoy writing cinematic scenes. If the reader can see the book as a movie or television show then I accomplished my task. In this day and age I think you need that as a writer. People are media obsessed and social media controls so much. You have to present yourself in a BIG way.

  2. Joelle says:

    I think that no movie theatre here on the island, or even anyplace I can get to without taking the car on the ferry is probably the only down side to living where I live. When I was in college, I studied theatre with the intention of being a film actress and I went to at least one movie every week. Sometimes more. The last film I saw in the theatre was Midnight in Paris and after seeing it, I was dying to see more movies and promised myself I would go, but I haven’t…it’s expensive to take the car on the ferry, too, plus there’s the time thing. To go see a movie takes planning, and anywhere from 5-7 hours of my day, and costs around…$35 plus lunch!

    That said, I miss them quite a lot and yet I can’t get inspired to watch anything at home on the TV. When I travel in a few weeks, I hope to see Sleepwalk With Me. And maybe I’ll force myself to make more of an effort to watch videos.

    Oh, and to actually answer your question, I think movies do inspire my writing. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  3. Mimi Cross says:

    Movies, like music, are very inspirational for me. Even though a movie is a long form, one scene, one view, one shot can have so much impact, it just sets me off.

    A song is like that too, even though it’s a small form. One line, or one word can get me going. I guess it’s all about an image, in a way. Whether it’s delivered on a big screen or created by the lyrics in a hooky chorus that comes over the radio. Inspiration really is everywhere.

    I love the way movies clear my head of everything sometimes . . . and that makes space for a new idea. Now that I’m thinking about it, movies inspire me in a few different ways. A lot of times it’s the soundtrack.

    I’m lucky because I have a movie theatre just down the street, about a half mile. It shows 7 movies at a time, but it’s not a very big theatre. Each theatre within the building is fairly small. Michael, I think you could handle it :) Whenever I go see a movie there, I’m usually one of the only people in the theatre.

    So come on down. You bring the bourbon, and I’ll treat you to a movie :)

  4. Kellie Lovegrove says:

    I am inspired by movies as well, but not primarily. I get most of my inspiration from music. If I hear a really great song I sit there and think, “How can I write a scene that will make me feel this same way?” and then brainstorm until I do. But I have to give credit to my husband for helping me find inspiration where I would have never looked for it. Just over a year ago, when I first started my novel, I told him I was having trouble seeing some of my characters. I had their personality traits, but I couldn’t really see their physical features. He sat me down on the couch, turned on the Xbox 360, and put in Soul Calibur IV. We spent the next hour making all my main characters on the screen where you design custom fighters. I was so juiced about actually seeing my characters that I spent the next week writing any time I got the chance. I highly recommend this to anyone who hasn’t done it. Whether it ends up giving you the same inspiration that it did me, its still cool to see your peeps somewhere other than just in your head.

  5. Brian says:

    I know this may sound odd but looking out of my office window is like watching an ongoing movie. In the visual frames of my white wooden windows, there lies a wonderful world, unfolding, questioning, unmistakable earth.

    Having moved to a rural area in New Hampshire and coming from the push and shove of Chicago over a year ago, I am still in awe of the power and majesty of nature. I ask myself, where was mind before seeing the beauty of our earth? Had my mind been kidnapped by mundane and silly things all of these years?

    In the past several months, I have watched as a black bear casually strolled across my lawn, the gaggle of 15 or more wild turkey who walk the yard as if it is theirs, and the family of woodchucks, the three baby triplets, who live under our porch. At 7 am each morning, the black crows awaken, squawking as if to rouse each other, planning their days. The wasps buzz around my window sill, as if they see me but no Wasps don’t see do they?

    I never new there were so many stars in the sky….In my feelings of human supremacy, I had forgotten that where I live others exist too, and all around me there are magical acts of birth and dying, at once and alternating, every single moment.

    In the blue bluest of New England skies that house clouds that float within it as if to protect it, I become lost and then found, forgotten and then discovered.

    • Joelle says:

      This is a lovely piece of writing. I connect to it because I too moved from the city to rural (Tennessee, now British Columbia). While I always enjoyed the city street life, I do think something about deer and raccoons and the cats laying in the sunshine is more freeing. And all those birds. Who knew they were so noisy?

  6. Michael says:

    Thanks for all the lovely comments about what inspires you!

    Mimi: A new theater just opened up the street from me, too. I have a feeling it’ll be more crowded than yours, but they show independent films, and I’m eager to check it out.

    Kellie: Love the idea of designing your characters so you can actually see them. It’s helpful to have something concrete.

    Brian: My surroundings are a bit more urban than yours, but include much more nature than when I was in New York. And I agree–it’s wonderful inspiration. I’m inspired by the mountains here, which I can see in the distance from my chair. Connecting with your environment is powerful.

    Joëlle: Does the fact that getting to the movies takes so much more energy make you like them more or less?


    • Joelle says:

      Probably more. When I saw Midnight in Paris I was totally in love and blown away. When I watched it on DVD with my husband, I still thought it was good, but it seemed thinner. I think the act of going to the theatre really amped up my love and enjoyment.

    • Mimi Cross says:

      A new indie theatre — oh! Envyyyy . . .
      There’s one 20 minutes from me, but there’s nothing like a movie theatre you can walk to. Enjoy!

  7. While I get inspired by books, most of my story ideas tend to come from movies, TV shows, or video games. It’s usually a case of “what if this happened?” or “what of this aspect was different?” than direct copying, but there’s something appealing to me in adapting a seed of an idea from a different medium into words. I want to capture the imagery in a different way, or delve into the psychology behind a facial expression, or so on. Capturing the feeling I get from a moving scene in prose is an enjoyable challenge for me.

    I think I get fewer direct ideas from books because…well, I feel like the job’s been done already. I want to work with words, and if I feel like another writer has already done what I would want to do, then there’s little need for me to try to do it as well. Moreoften, I want to replicate the feeling(s) a book gave me or something interesting the author did rather than write something with a similar plot or world.

  8. D.C. DaCosta says:

    My opinion is a bit more like Kristin’s.
    I don’t get inspired by movies because so many of them suffer from very poor story-telling. It’s rare for me (and my friends) to walk out of the theatre without saying, “It would have made more sense if…” or “It would have been better if…”
    I think that’s one reason I want to write: to tell the story the “right” way.

  9. Books usually involve more of our input, we need to be creative and use our imagination to envisage the characters and situations we read about. It is hard for a film to match great literary works. However, I have few film I dear most and got inspired by mainly due to score or vivid pictures. Those movies would be Match Point, Moulin Rouge, interview with the Vampire, the Dreamers, Stealing Beauty, American Beauty or Pursuit of happyness…

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