By Michelle Dennison (AWA Julianne Alcott)

Growing up, I would often hear this pronouncement of doom from those who had studied this sort of thing … “TV will stunt creativity”

Even now, ‘cultured’ people often shake their heads and say disdainfully, “Well we don’t even own a television.” Among some writing groups, to admit that one is going to watch a movie would earn one scandalised stares.

I’m sure that TV does stunt creativity. I’m sure that the mindless imbibing of low-grade movies would be the equivalent of staring at the wall, until our couch potato selves started shrivelling and beginning to smell.

Maybe I’m just strange, but I have always found that visual entertainment was one of the inspirations for my creativity. When I was younger, I would imagine amazing adventures based on the TV program I had just seen.

I was an integral part of the Airwolf team (second season, not the first season with irritating Stringfellow Hawke) I even flew the helicopter a few times, on those occasions where the stars of the show had been kidnapped, and I had to rescue them. I perfected my technique of inching the helicopter out of its mountainous hiding place in Monument Valley.

I was a Ghostbuster!

Now that I’m older, I relish a well-made TV series or movie for different reasons. They are tools to make my writing better.

Movies may be visual, but they all have something to do with writing; they all have a screenplay. So if we think of a movie as just another form of expressive writing, it really isn’t far removed from a novel, and we can learn all sorts of interesting things from them.

1) Every movie or TV program (like every book) starts with a good idea …

A man and a woman fall in love while e-mailing. In real life however, they are enemies. Then the man finds out that the woman he loathes is actually the woman he loves–

A lonely widower meets an amazing woman in a bookshop. He goes home to tell his family that he met someone special, only to find out that she is his brother’s new girlfriend–

And one of my favourite teen movies, based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

“Everybody has a secret…

Duke wants Olivia who likes Sebastian, who is really Viola, whose brother is dating Monique, so she hates Olivia, who’s with Duke to make Sebastian jealous, who is really Viola, who’s crushing on Duke who thinks she’s a guy.”

2) You can listen to examples of clever dialogue.

The snappy one-liners and banter in the Avengers movie brings humanity to action, and makes it more than just another two hours of explosions and sword fights. It will be the dialogue that will probably be remembered, more than the special effects.

And in a movie, you can pause and listen more closely to dialogue than you can in real life.

“Excuse me, Total Stranger. Do you mind saying that again? I’m trying to copy it down.”

3) Memorable characters.

Studying what makes movies characters lovable or villainous can help our writing. Some movie and TV characters will live on for decades; a good thing to try and emulate with our book characters.

4) Show not tell

Advice always given to writers, and so easy to see with visual media. A good exercise is to take a very visual scene from a movie, and describe what we see. It’s good to train our minds to be able to paint picture with words.

5) Movies are economical

In a movie, every second counts. Every action by a character is important.

By remembering this, we can make our writing tighter, and remove unnecessary padding.


Blog inspired by The Avengers, during a busy Saturday evening at the Pavilion Shopping Centre.


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