Films that inspire writers: Stranger than Fiction

It’s not surprising that writers look for inspiration everywhere. Because of their visual nature, films can offer encouragement and insight for writers in any number of ways.

The film Stranger than Fiction is one such example of a valuable writing film. This film explores many relevant areas for writers, including writer’s block, inspiration, creativity, the writing process, and even writer’s preferences in terms of writing spaces, process, and more. While the insights presented may be a bit far-fetched (most films are so as to bow to the needs of the silver screen), they can encourage writers to try new techniques or ideas to find writing success.

In short, the film Stranger than Fiction is about a writer named Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) who is struggling through writer’s block as she seeks to decide on the perfect way to kill her protagonist, Harold Crick (Will Ferrell). This film is a great illustration of the deep waters writers have to go through to bring their characters to the page. The acting in the film is excellent, and overall the film is well worth watching.

Check it out!

What films inspire your writing?

Creating your perfect writing space

Writing is a solo endeavor but it doesn’t have to be a painful one.

Creating the perfect writing space is essential to a writer’s productivity. Although my current office space at home is functional, I am considering ways to spice things up and improve the inspiration that surrounds me.

Below are some things I recommend you consider as you work on your own writing space. Maybe when mine is finished I’ll post some pics, but for now, I hope my work and insight can be helpful to you.

Desk:

The right desk will give you a place to create, write, and do what writers do best—dream. My desk is over a hundred years old and has many drawers and a roll top I rarely pull down for fear it will break. But I love it! If you’re a fan of vintage pieces, I suggest looking at consignment shops, antique stores, auctions, or even yard sales. I found my desk at a consignment shop. If you’re a fan of new furniture, but you’re on a budget, local discount stores or even Ikea might be the best bets for you.

Schedule:

Are you writing in the early morning or in the evening? Adding the right lights or curtains to your space will allow better illumination as you read, write, edit, or market your work. My overhead light is functional (and I have a large window on my office at home) but I added a lamp to my desk for those days when it’s gray or I just feel the need for a brighter workspace.

Color:

Selecting a carpet or area rug that features bright colors will inspire you. Then, you can pull from the carpet to bring accents to the room through curtains, pillows, paint color, and even wall hangings. Have fun with color to make your writing room feel focused and creative.

Shelves:

As writers it goes without saying that we have a lot of books. A. Lot. Of. Books. Proper storage is critical to making the resources you use often available and those you don’t handy enough that they are there when needed. Get creative and use your space well, but don’t be afraid to get rid of books you haven’t opened in a while (pssst! This just makes room for you to buy more books! Win-win!)

Chairs:

A comfortable seat is critical to writing well. Try out several that not only appeal to your sense of aesthetic in the room but also to your body make-up. Lumbar support and the ability to raise and lower the seat, as well as change positions as needed will be some factors to look for in choosing the right chair for you. But don’t limit yourself! Also consider having additional seating if the room allows so that you can get away from your desk and maybe put your feet up as you read, write, research, or edit your work.

Change:

Even if you settle on a color scheme, design concept, or organization tactic, you aren’t tied to it. Know that you can change what doesn’t work—and be open to new ideas that, thanks to the internet, will surely come up right as you complete the office overhaul.

And finally…

Pinterest:

Pinterest has been an invaluable tool to getting ideas for my oddly-shaped (but pretty cool) writing space. When it’s done, I promise to share some pics but right now it’s still a work in progress. Search as many different ideas as you can and create boards for your thoughts. Pull from these as you can and create the room of your dreams!

And check out my pinterest board for inspiration if you like:

Happy writing!

Mix tapes: the perfect writing playlist

Writing comes easily for me when I’mixtapesve got music that matches or enhances what I’m writing about. But I can’t just put on a radio station that plays some of my favorite tunes. While this may work for a time, I find when I’m more deliberate in my music selections, the writing is better overall.

How do I choose what music will work for each project?

There was a time when I actually made mix tapes, which then became CDs, and now has become playlists using an online program. While I still use CDs sometimes (like when I’m in the car for instance and don’t want to lose the inspiration), the online program works well since I’m usually at my computer anyway.

Here are some tips to help you create your own amazing writing playlist:

  • Genre
    • Select a genre you like and are familiar with anyway. This will make it easier to choose music you like and can sing along with, but because of your writing, you may also hear this piece in a new and interesting way
  • Tone, emotion
    • What is your piece about? Even if you haven’t written a word yet, you likely have some idea of character, goals/ motivations, scenes, and even dialogue that will appear in your story.
      • What songs enhance or support these areas? Do other songs by this artist work as well? Will this song reflect earlier or later emotion or tone of your work?
    • Character
      • What kinds of character development will happen in your story? Even the sweetest, best-behaved characters make stupid mistakes- so let the music reflect what they might have been thinking in those moments
    • Order counts
      • I don’t always do a great job with this, but I try to consider what songs would fit at the beginning, middle, and end. While you don’t want to take a large amount of time stewing over these areas, a little thought goes a long way.

Music is essential to my writing process. I have written several novels and screenplays, all of which have a soundtrack attached to them that I listened to pretty religiously as I wrote. This was sometimes to the annoyance of those around me, but as a writer, I can be a bit eccentric sometimes, right?

How do you use music (or art, poetry, or anything else) to encourage and inspire your work? Comment below!

What’s in a name?

Naming characters is a fun, but sometimes scary, part of writing. The options sometimes feel limitless… or is it daunting? There really are some great ways you can make it easier to name your story characters. Let’s explore some of them.

To begin, perhaps you should consider when in the writing process you typically like to name your characters. If it is at the start of your story then you might add one (or more) of these ideas to your writing schedule before you do anything else. If you prefer to learn about your characters and then name them, you may add these in at the middle or closer to the end of your writing process.

A few basic considerations:

Some specific areas may impact the name you choose for your character—and knowing even a little bit about him/ her will help narrow down your options. Some of these issues include:

  • Time period- a name like Gretchen, Rain, or Alberta may be popular at particular times in history but maybe not so (or not used at all) in others.
  • Location- some names vary in popularity based on area
  • Economics- which leads to status in the community and so on. This may be of lesser importance than other issues, but is still worthy of consideration
  • Education- knowing cultural issues, literary references, etc. might suit one class more than another
  • Ethnicity- if a character is from another part of the world or has a family that is proud of or influenced strongly by their roots, ethnicity may play a part in a character name

Any or all of these might in some way influence your choice of character name. Don’t hesitate to do a little research before locking in a name (it’s easy- and with the Internet, you have no excuse). Finally, you also don’t want to stereotype your characters based on any of these things, so be open-minded.

Useful resources:

Random name generators and web sites that explain names and history abound on the Internet, but don’t shy away from some other less frequently considered, but still valid, options for finding names. And a side note- when you hear/ read a name you like and want to use later, be sure you’ve created a space on your computer (a folder perhaps) for names you might need at another time.

Some off-the-wall places to find names that can be used as-found, or adapted in creative and unique ways based on your needs/ wants:

  • Telephone books (last names as first names, anyone?)
  • Places (small towns, cities, countries)
  • The Bible
  • Literature/pamphlets/ documents/ history
  • Observe (waitresses, clerks, cashiers, managers… anyone you run into could have the name- or even nickname- you’ve been searching for. I once overheard someone in a café and used that name later in a story, so pay attention to who is around!)

And, of course I wouldn’t belittle the use of a website to generate a name that suits your story. I’ve used many when writing my own stories and found them to be very helpful. Try one and see what works for you.

Finally, once you settle on a name, remember that you can always change it later. Sometimes I’ll start with a ‘short list’ of names I like, and realize that one stands out over the others. I’ve also written well into a story and realized a name wasn’t working—or that I preferred the character’s nickname to their given name.

Take your time but don’t let naming characters worry you or stall your writing process.

Bonus exercise: Name the character described here: Owner of a small business that prints business cards and other signage. She’s tall with a crooked nose but has a magnetic personality and tells jokes often. Everyone in town knows her as she took over the business for her ailing father who recently passed away. She’s 24 years old and didn’t go to college but took a few online business courses recently. Has a boyfriend who takes her for granted but she’s willing to dump him… just doesn’t yet have a good enough reason (and she doesn’t want to be alone).

Who is she? What are your top name picks? Do first, middle, and last on this one. Feel free to comment with your ideas for her name– or with any other thoughts you have about naming characters.

Happy writing!