10 Movies & Shows Every Fiction Writer Should Watch
What if Finding Nemo was set in a grassland? What if The Waltons was about a Black or Hispanic family in America during the Great Depression? What if The Martian was set on a planet outside our solar system and there were four main characters instead of one?
When I’m in a writing slump or not even looking for fresh motivation, a good movie or TV show sparks my imagination and sets off a chain of ideas: What if this is what or where or how it happened instead?
As a book-lover, I can’t talk about movies and shows without encouraging you to read the print versions if they exist, which will help you develop your own style of writing. While not all the following movies and shows are classics or broke the box office, they all display valuable elements of storytelling.
10 Must-See Movies & Shows:
Title: The Walking Dead
Directed by: Frank Darabont et al.
Print version by: Robert Kirkman et al.
Why: Character development, setting
Characters in this show are believable, well-rounded, and unique from one another. There isn’t too much focus on one character, which helped me learn how to juggle multiple plot lines. The setting changes constantly, keeping the audience’s attention.
Title: Finding Nemo
Directed by: Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
Print version by: RH Disney
Why: Adventure, unique characters
This movie is a great role model for writing a children’s adventure book. The plot is easy for a child to follow but takes interesting twists and turns.
Title: Blue Velvet
Directed by: David Lynch
Print version by: Michael Atkinson
Why: Scene placement, mood, performance
This movie encourages viewers to pay close attention to details, which are an important part of writing. The placement of scenes is well thought-out, and this is an essential part of successful storytelling. Writers can also study the intense emotions conveyed on the screen and convert them into words.
Title: The Waltons
Directed by: Harry Harris et al.
Print version by: Earl Hamner, Jr.
Why: Family, complex relationships
This is a great show to watch when writing a family of characters who struggle internally as well as with the external world. The show allows the audience to study relationships within the Walton family closely.
Title: Stranger Than Fiction
Directed by: Marc Forster
Print version by: N/A
Why: Creativity, unique plot
This movie is a great role model for thinking outside the box. The main character’s unique situation keeps the audience engaged to the end.
Title: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Print version by: Peter Hedges
Why: Autistic representation, DiCaprio’s performance
This movie includes a realistic portrayal of someone with a disability, although viewers may make an inaccurate diagnosis of Arnie, who has autism, based on what they see on the screen. Paired with research, studying DiCaprio’s performance of Arnie could be useful when writing about a character with autism.
Title: Little Women
Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Print version by: Louisa May Alcott
Why: Scene placement
This most recent adaptation of Alcott’s novel can serve as inspiration for writers, because the protagonist is Jo March, a writer herself. The placement of scenes keeps viewers on the edge of their seats and separates the telling of the story from the other five adaptations.
Title: Time Trap
Directed by: Mark Dennis & Ben Foster
Print version by: N/A
Why: Mysterious, suspenseful
This movie keeps viewers on their toes and trying to figure out what’s going on faster than the characters. This is a great example of how to keep an audience intellectually engaged.
Title: Legally Blonde
Directed by: Robert Luketic
Print version by: Natalie Standiford & Amanda Brown
Why: Witty, modern
This movie can serve as a role model for writing realistic fiction. Studying the humor in this movie could be useful when writing dialogue for witty characters.
Title: Would You Rather
Directed by: David Guy Levy
Print version by: N/A
Why: Suspenseful, high stakes
This movie is built on suspense and high stakes. This is a great example of how to manipulate characters and encourage an audience to feel what characters are feeling and believe what’s happening to them.
Why Films and Shows?
Studying films and shows is valuable for fiction writers, and it can be a nice break for noses stuck in the books. Next time you’re rewatching the show or movie you’ve seen a thousand times, pinpoint the elements of good storytelling that make you come back again and again. You’ll likely get more out of this than the ability to tell friends and family “it’s work!” The real work, of course, begins when you transform cinematic creativity into literary creativity.
Hugo (movie), The Rain (TV), Suffragette (movie), 3% (TV), Criminal Minds (TV), 50 First Dates (movie), White House Down (movie).