Can Your Writing Learn Something From The Film Industry?

Yes, we all know the original book is almost always better than the adapted screen version.

So what can your writing (and the writing industry) learn from movies?

Movies and books are both wonderful storytelling mediums. However, movie productions provide some ideas on breaking past isolation barriers, bringing your story to life and adapting to current societal and technological trends.

Create a soundtrack for your readers. There is nothing like a perfectly timed note that will have your reader clenching their seat or wiping their eyes. Use pacing to your advantage by pumping your reader’s heart and creating music with your writing. You can’t actually put together a soundtrack, but visualizing the music and tempo of a scene in your head can help create the perfect level of tension or drama.

Moving on
Many books focus too long on setting, character or emotional descriptions that don’t contribute to the story. Take a page out of Ernest Hemingway’s book and trim the fat. Give readers the content they need and not what fills pages. Most movies don’t zoom in on a character wiping their brow if the character isn’t nervous. Skip over the petty descriptions and get to the meat of your story.

Adapt to technology
I hear and read too often about frustrations when being rejected from publishers or magazines. Why not self publish? Today, you are provided the tools and distribution options to create, format, publish and distribute an eBook, so what’s the point of waiting?

The purpose of writing is to get your work read.

Filmmakers are getting noticed by making videos on Youtube and giving away their work for free. Why not publish your book and give it out for free? 100 books read for free is always better than 10 books sold for $5 (or 0 books read since you are waiting for a traditional publisher). Get noticed by these traditional publishers with the tools provided to you.

Embracing the short attention span
Longer feature-length films win the most prestigious prizes at film festivals and awards ceremonies, but almost all of the greatest filmmakers start with short films. Why? Because the market is saturated with new talent and people don’t have the time or resources to watch dozens of rookie features.

The same goes for writing. Think about writing short stories, novellas or even a blog before embarking on a huge time commitment like writing a full novel. Chances are, more people will be excited to read something shorter. Agents and publishers are busy people and don’t owe it to the world to read every book ever created.

Location scouting
If you write a scene in a certain location, go and visit the location or somewhere similar. Film location scouts scour the world for the perfect scenery to convince an audience of a scene’s authenticity. While writing about a certain location, how can you communicate the sights, sounds and smells of the landscape without going there and experiencing it for yourself?

It takes many people to communicate a captivating story
Depending on the size and budget of a film, dozens to thousands of people may be involved. Writing is obviously a more solitary task, requiring less man/woman power, however to communicate a truthful story you need to get out and talk to other people.

Not only will this help in the marketing and motivational aspects of your writing, but it allows you to capture a realistic view of your characters and the world around them.

The film industry is far from perfect, but learning from other industries will only make you a more interesting, well-rounded writer.

What else can be learned from the film industry? Let me know in the comments.

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About Joe Warnimont

I am a writer, marketing expert and adventure seeker. I help people write, market their writing, live truthfully and embrace their lives through creativity. You can find me riding my bike around the streets of Chicago. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.


  1. I like Ernest Hemingway’s “fat.” It gives him depth. I guess I am one of these readers that consider “moving on” stories a bit shallow.

  2. I’ve always thought about this when watching movies. While visual medium is great for a passive audience, I find that writing allows the reader to get their representation of the scene…it’s the writer’s job to deliver the outline and let the reader fill in the blank. The concept of location scouting is very interesting though, this may be the first time I have heard of it in writing.

    • Hey Steven,

      Location scouting is something I realized needed to be done after a while of just sitting at my desk and trying to communicate places I hadn’t been before. Even if it’s not the exact place you are describing, it helps. Thanks for the thoughts!

  3. Thanks for this info. As a self publisher, I feel quite accomplished by getting on with the job of doing it. What I am missing is honest critique, and my books do sit on the shelf for a few people who care to have purchased them, including myself. The scene scouting, I’ve done this before and of course writing on the go is more productive to me.

  4. Thanks for dropping by my blog. Obviously, you spend a lot more time on yours than I do on mine. Another thought on the film industry: follow the camera with distant and closeup shots. This can be done by writing, as well.

  5. While lengthy descriptions can be boring, especially to someone who’s not interested in the locale, I appreciate writers who have obviously been to the location they’re writing about. One example that comes to mind is Mary Stewart. We lived in the south of France for 11 years, and she had very obviously visited the places (like Arles and Les Baux) that she wrote about in “Madam, Will You Talk?” It gave authenticity to her writing even if you’d never been there yourself. When we went on a trip to Greece, I took along her book “My Brother Michael” and read it aloud to our kids while we drove. We sat on a hillside overlooking Delphi as we finished the book, and it was magical to be in the exact place we’d been reading about.