Dangerous Influences

They always talk about how violent films and video games affect the minds of young people. What about those of us with older minds? How affected are we writers by what we watch?

For me, the answer is “quite a lot.” And I found out the hard way.

I’m writing a rom/com.

I deserve it. I’ve been slogging through heavy pieces on election violence in Kenya and the LA Riots and racism in Dutch holiday traditions. I’ve written about the Metrolink disaster and my own version of what REALLY happened in the 1960’s when racial covenants were thrown out.

I wanted to write a comedy. A romantic comedy. And set it in a very specific place that most people would find fascinating.

I was having a marvelous time, writing way too many pages for the first act, not caring, just wanting to plow through to the end before editing myself. I had characters I loved, a great design concept, dialogue that flew off the keyboards.

And then I watched “House of Cards” on Netflix.

It’s very good and it’s great fun to see them pass Baltimore off as Washington, DC. But it’s dark, cynical, rather depressing at times. And it began to cling to me and my writing like cat hair.

All the joy I felt when I sat down flew out the window as I tried to be “adult” and “serious.” I became embarrassed about “only” writing a rom/com. My characters embarrassed me. I stopped writing. It wasn’t fun to sit down with them anymore. It was downright depressing.

Finally, I told my husband that we had to stop watching “House of Cards.” Later, we can watch it later. It was eating up my writing mojo. My husband, a writer of books on serious subjects like preventing nuclear war completely understood.

And it’s working. I’ve started watching BBC rom/coms about Scottish restauranteurs who return to the castle to become the “laird” and any movie with Colin Firth. I’m listening to music that makes me happy, reminds me of those first few months of absolute joy and craziness when I first fell in love, I’ve stopped apologizing for my work. I’m actually looking forward to sitting down with my characters again.

What about you? How much of your writing is influenced by what you’re watching, reading, listening to at the same time that you’re writing? Do you have a soundtrack for each play?

1 Comment

  • By Robin Byrd, February 25, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

    Nice article, Kitty. I like to have a song or two. What song I use depends on what era I am writing in or the physical location of the world in the play. The song is either a mood song for me as I write (to help drown out distractions things like watching the wrong type of movie, having a really hard day at work, etc.) or mood songs for the world of the play – used like a metronome. If I can’t find a song, I make one up. If I end up writing one for the play because it’s part of the play, that one usually plays in my head from time to time as I write. I don’t have to have music all the time, sometimes the sound of silence works best.

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