Has Film & Television Influenced Your Writing?

Over the years, I have heard many writers discuss certain authors they grew up with and what their favourite book was during childhood and there was one or two books in particular that stands out for me. Mainly, though, I was one of those kids who had a tendency to spend a great deal of their time out of doors and involved in imaginative play, rather than keep their nose in a book. Evenings were a time spent indoors in front of the television and it was this medium that would eventually influence my writing.

My family and I would also spend a lot of time going out to the movies and the drive-in (remember them?). Once, during one of these family outings to the movies, I saw a film that would play a large part in my writing. When I was about eight years old, we saw Picnic at Hanging Rock, and because it remained a mystery, I was hooked. People don’t just disappear; there had to be an answer. This was the first time I had seen a story that did not have a clean ending. Questions remained, leaving the audience to fill in the blanks for themselves. My father bought a copy of the novel for me, which became one of my favourite books; I began to crave the unexpected plot twists and unhappy endings, knowing this was all a part of the suspense.

It wasn’t until I was about twelve years old I began reading in earnest and read just about anything I could possibly get my hands on. Because of Picnic and enjoying such television shows as The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone, as well as such films as Psycho, Rebecca and The Birds from Alfred Hitchcock, I naturally steered towards stories that scared me. Stories full of suspense which kept me guessing with what might happen next, continued to hold the greatest appeal.

It was film and television that made me a reader. And who did I start reading? Why, Stephen King, of-course! 😉

Years later, when I completed my first short story, I gave it to my husband to read, who called it ‘macabre’. When in consultation with the Director of Varuna Writer’s Centre at the time, after having read the first three chapters of a work in progress, I was told that my story reminded him of Alfred Hitchcock. Having myself compared to one of the influences of my childhood, naturally I considered this to be high praise. This, together with the ‘macabre’ label, I knew I was onto something.

After having studied film and television at University, I have learned more about the importance of genre tropes, characters and settings. The knowledge I have gained from this has been invaluable to my stories. These days, with people having shorter attention spans, film and television appears to have become even more popular (hello, Netflix).

It was the influence of film and television that helped made me both a reader and a writer; my imagination was there, all it needed was the spark.

*Side Note: Ron Howard is currently running the #20MovieChallenge on Twitter. Twenty films that have had an impact on you for twenty days – only post a pic, no film title or comment. I’m participating and also posting them onto my Instagram feed, so if you’re on Twitter or Instagram, you can check out my choices there. If you are also participating, I’d love to see your choices, so drop a link in the comments. 🙂

Has film and television ever influenced your writing? Does watching film and television help you with your chosen genre? Has watching certain movies and/or television shows influenced your choice of reading?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

4 thoughts on “Has Film & Television Influenced Your Writing?

  1. Lovely post 🙂 Sometimes watching television in my genre can really help with certain transition scenes or with the suspense. That’s some high praise you got there 🙂

    1. Debbie Johansson 03/10/2018 — 10:55 am

      Thanks Ronel! Whenever someone praises my work, I figure I better take it while I can as I’m pretty good at criticising myself. Such is the joy of being a writer! 😉

  2. I immediately related to the photo of Rod Serling because of the fascinating surprises and moral reflections in the episodes of “The Twilight Zone.” The episode that I still identify with the most is that of the man who only wanted to read but his wife couldn’t stand him reading, and when everyone else in the world was wiped out, he had all the time he wanted to read all the books in the library, but . . . {spoiler alert} . . . he dropped his glasses on the library steps and they broke.

    Television and movie writers have my admiration in how they can craft intricate stories that require keeping many details straight, such as in the movie “Memento,” as well as interweaving a number of storylines as in the television detective series “Broadchurch.” I hope to tackle something similar once I have finished writing and publishing my current anthropomorphic novel.

    Loved your post.

    1. Debbie Johansson 13/10/2018 — 6:40 am

      Hi Phil and thank you! The first season of ‘Broadchurch’ hooked me in, so I agree with what you said about the interweaving of various story lines. I’ve read some authors suggest that as writers we should watch less film and television shows and they’re right to some degree, but I think we can learn a lot from them, especially when they continue to be so popular. I don’t think I saw that episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’, although I do remember the one about the ventriloquist and his dummy because that dummy was just so creepy. Thanks for the recommendation on ‘Memento’ – I haven’t seen that one and it’s an Aussie film too! Thanks so much for your comment – it’s good to meet you. 🙂

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