Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writing craft: Getting ideas from movies

One piece of advice I would give to all writers is this - read a lot. By reading a lot, you can not only learn things and get ideas, but you can see how the execution of ideas works (or doesn't work, and frankly, often you can learn more from a bad example than from a good one).

But your sources of inspiration shouldn't be limited to books. I often get ideas from watching movies - in particular, by paying attention to how movies are structured and how they use imagery.

For example, one of my future book projects is a novel about a serial killer bumping off college frat boys at a Midwestern college (most of my friends, being academic fraternity members or GDIs, are very enthusiastic about this idea). I'm taking a cue from Frenzy, one of Alfred Hitchcock's last films, which is about a serial rapist/murderer. Though the murderer kills several people over the course of the film, only one of the killings is shown in detail (in perhaps too much detail - it's a very unpleasant scene, so be forewarned). But none of the others are. What's perhaps more distressing than the first killing is the second, in which the killer goes to the apartment of a likable female character, and the camera does a long, slow pull-out. We see and hear nothing of what is going on in the apartment - we don't need to.

I'm thinking of using this technique in that future book - because my killer always uses the same method, I only need to show one of the murders in any sort of detail once. The rest can all be done off-page if I so desire.

Of course, the problem with getting inspiration from movies is that certain scenes work well in one medium and not in another. And there's the problem of film-makers who work more with atmosphere, imagery, and emotion rather than plot or dialogue. See my post below with the "The Voice of Love" link to the final scene from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. I desperately want to write something that's as transcendently lovely as this scene. I'm not sure I will.

But I'll have fun trying!

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