Don’t Just Read More, Watch More (Audio Blog)

(Download the instrumental version here)

Writers are always told to read more. I say, they ought to watch more movies. Why? Good films do not slip into the same pitfalls that so many novels do.

Good films do not tell you what a character is thinking. The audience has to make observations of their mood, and draw their own conclusions. Good films do not just launch into backstory. If there are flashbacks they appear as scenes. Good films put the events on display, they don’t just put them into a character’s mouth, and expect you to take their word for it. Good films show and don’t tell.

Writer’s could take a cue from this. Just because our medium allows for free form exposition, that doesn’t mean we should use it.

The limitations of film force it to tell a more compelling story. These are limitations I urge novelists to try to bring to their work in progress.

The above audio blog gets into the nitty gritty of the benefits of watching movies. The background music is like a scary movie score put through a trip-hop filter. I’ve heard it described as electro-goth. If you’re looking for good music to write to, you won’t go wrong with the instrumental version of the song.

11 thoughts on “Don’t Just Read More, Watch More (Audio Blog)”

  1. I absolutely agree. I recently took on a challenge to write a story that could be read aloud in thirty seconds or less. When you have people enacting scenes within a time constraint it forces the writer to get as much bang for their buck as possible. I imagine writing with this in mind, that someone will have ninety minutes to enact my story. Word limits are only useful as a guide, as in how many words can these characters read in ninety minutes, allowing for appropriate pauses, and the scenes between dialogue. This is a great challenge, actually. Maybe my next project. This is why you are one of my favorites. Writers inspire writers and you certainly do that for me. Thanks, Drew! Sorry for the internal monologue. 😀

    1. I imagine my novels as twelve episode seasons of TV on Showtime or HBO. It gives them room for detours and character development, but it forces me to see them as scenes.

      I’m still struggling with word limits myself. My first novel is 100 thousand words and my second is way over that. I’m going to need to leave a lot on the cutting room floor.

      How did the 30 second story go? Did it clock in? I’d imagine a story like that would have to start damn near at the end. Sounds cool.

      Thank you so much for reading this and commenting.

      1. That is a brilliant idea. Another benefit would have to be a clean, clear end to each “episode” that still leaves you wanting to see the next. I can see many ways in which this would be a beneficial way to approach writing.

        I’m on the opposite end of the word limit struggle. I try so hard to make concise statements using strong verbs and nouns so that I don’t have to rely on adverbs and adjectives. Also, I try to wrap description in with action so that the reader isn’t grazing over anything, but that tends to pack more info. into fewer words. I like the work that it’s producing, but I’m nowhere near writing a novel. My longest work was 13k. After cutting it was 8k, I have no issues with cutting. 🙂 Also, I have writer’s ADD. I currently have several works in progress. :/

        It went okay. I have stage fright, though. I butchered the poor story to within an inch of its life, but it did clock in. I couldn’t bring myself to turn the cam on my own face, so I recorded just my voice. I was born and raised in Louisiana, but I thought I’d all but buried the twang. I haven’t. It’s turning out to be a challenge more about overcoming my stage fright (How the hell I’m I gonna participate in book signings and such when I’m famous if I have stage fright?) than anything else. Also, if I’m gonna be reading this stuff aloud, my writing needs to reflect that southern drawl that I cannot rid myself of.

        You’re welcome. I’m a big fan of yours and will continue to read your work. Thanks for putting it out there. Wow, I can write a story in fifty words but cannot reply to a comment with less than a million. Sorry :/

  2. Great points. I love listening to you. One of my to-do list projects (your fault) is to read a poem and a short children’s story using sound cloud. All I’ve done so far is sign up :>( I do love to read aloud though.

  3. I like this idea. I actually learned structure by learning to write screenplays first – no description, just dialog and action. It helped me so much just to focus on dialog and not worry so much about describing everything, including internal monologues. I go back and fill that stuff in later. Good tip!

    1. That’s an interesting learning process. I love telling stories through dialogue. I’ve written a few that were nothing but dialogue. I don’t think I could that these days.

      They wouldn’t let me use dialogue in Screenwriting 101. I had to tell stories using just action and description. The idea was that we should learn to show and not tell in a very dogmatic way. Film is a visual medium and if we could convey a plot development without words, we were supposed to.

      1. Oops! I should say I was self-taught. Never took a class, but much of what I read said to avoid lengthy descriptions, leave that to the director. Maybe I did it wrong? Not like I ever sold a screenplay 😀

  4. I definitely watch more movies than I read books. A lot of the time while I watch films, I think of how I would transfer the scenes into literature. I’m one of those writers who sometimes prefers the film adaptation to the original novel (such as The Hunger Games, and it’ll probably happen again when Divergent comes out). One of the things I look for in films to bring back to my writing has a lot to do with description, like the scenic shots so abundant in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and body language in all interactions. I notice that the movies I’m not too fond of usual have a lot of exposition. Some of the worst ones use excessive narration and internal monologue. Showing rather than telling is one of the better pieces of advice out there.

    I think TV shows can also have merit to writers. I only watch ones I consider to be very well-written, and that mostly applies to the characters. Adventure Time has some of the most amazing character development I’ve ever seen. Castle does well when it comes to the plot, too; it may be a crime show, but I think it’s one of the better ones.

    Being a writer means that literally every aspect of life is research and resources. Going for a walk is a resource to file away. Every single interaction with any human being ever can be considered research. Other forms of media can help in unbelievable ways.

    1. Funny you should say that. I’m always reverse engineering movies as I watch them, imagining how I would write out the scene. Sometimes I will go so far as to find the screenplay online to see how the original writer saw the story playing out. It’s amazing how much of what you see on screen is decided by the director, cinematographer, and the actors themselves.

      Oh and don’t get me wrong, there are some great cop dramas out there. I’m a huge X-Files fan. Hell, I even like The Mentalist. I just pick on it for being so formulaic.

      I also agree, all sensory input can be used as research so long as you allow yourself to truly observe your surroundings.

      Thank you for reading/listening, and thanks for your truly engaging comment.

Leave a Reply