What 80s Movies Have Taught Me About Writing

Wednesday, October 23, 2013
say anything
The other night, I was ready to turn in when one of my all-time favorite movies, Say Anything, came on television. Even though I’ve seen this movie so many times I can quote it word for word, it struck me how Lloyd Dobler’s famous speech at Diane Court’s dinner table reminds me of my own attitude sometimes, especially when it comes to my writing career:

I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that. 

The speech resonated with me because I often feel that way about my writing. Sometimes, I just want to write. I want to stay in my “happy place.” I don’t want to think about how I’m going to sell my writing, market my writing, or market myself and build my platform. I don’t want to think about how hard the querying and submission process is going to be. Nope, sometimes I just don’t want to do that.
In fact, the more I think about it, there are lessons that translate to the lives of writers in many of my favorite 1980s movies. Here are a few I’ve come up with:

Some Kind of Wonderful – “I’d rather be with someone for the wrong reasons than alone for the right.” Remember this gem from the character Amanda Jones? I can think of many ways we as writers can relate to it. Sometimes writers get involved with not-so-supportive critique groups because they’d rather be sharing their work with anyone instead of writing in a vacuum. I’ve also heard of writers getting involved with literary agents and book publishers that weren’t exactly the right fit because they’d rather be represented/published than not. It’s one of the reasons I’m so nervous about beginning the book submission process myself.

Pretty in Pink –  I can relate to many of the themes of this movie, but when I think of writing analogies, I think of Duckie. Sweet Duckie. The lesson here is that you don’t always get the girl. Or the agent. Or the book deal. Or the writing assignment. But as crushed as Duckie must have been to watch Andie walk away with Blaine at the prom, he handled it with grace, and that’s something we should all strive to do in our professional lives, as we continue to grow that ever-so-important thick skin.

Stand By Me – Twelve-year-old Gordie is the writer of the group, but criticism from his emotionally-distant father causes him to struggle and doubt his abilities. I love the scene where he sits in the woods with his best friend Chris Chambers, who tells him, “It’s like God gave you something, man, all those stories you can make up. And He said, ‘This is what we got for ya, kid. Try not to lose it.’ Kids lose everything unless there’s someone there to look out for them.” I think most of us have struggled with naysayers in our writing lives, those who don’t exactly understand what we do or why we do it. Often we are our own worst critics. We just need to remember why writing is special for us and continue to pursue our passions, no matter what other people might think.

Can you think of any lessons for writers from your own favorite movies?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also blogs at Renee's Pages.
Photo above by RugglesMade via Flickr


Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Okay, now I want to go re-watch all of those movies, especially Stand By Me, one of my all time favorites. I really enjoyed this post - the memories and the writing lessons. :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

What about from "Dirty Dancing" (wasn't that an 80's movie)?

"Nobody puts Baby in corner." Don't hide in the corner, not sharing your work and talking up your craft and making connections. Get out. Live. Have fun. And dive right into whatever you do...

Renee Roberson said...

@Madeline -- Isn't "Stand By Me" the greatest? Such a wonderful novella adaptation. Now that River Phoenix is gone, I get chills every time I watch the end of the movie when we find out what happened to the character Chris Chambers.

@Sioux--That's too funny, because "Dirty Dancing" did pop into my head while I was working on this. We also need to be sure to have "the time of our lives" as we travel on our writing journeys!

Marcia Peterson said...

First of all, Stand by Me is one of my all-time favorites! I know there are more movies I've seen with writing related themes, though perhaps not from the 80's.

I remember conecting with a lot from "Adaptation," which maybe speaks to the more existential angst I have about writing and life (that's a Meryl Streep/Nick Cage/Chris Cooper film). Also, "The Wonder Boys" (Michael Douglas/Tobey McGuire) is about a writer and that a decent rental.

Margo Dill said...

I have thought about this a lot actually--not these 80s movies specifically (although these are all great ones) but how writing books and stories needs to be a lot like movies/TV in the sense that if you put something in your fiction work, it needs to be important and play a part in the plot. I like to think of crime shows or movies--a character doesn't just appear in bright red boots sipping a latte for no reason. The boots, the character, or the latte mean something. We need to do that in our fiction writing. WE can learn a lot about pacing and plotting from watching TV/movies (maybe not reality shows. . .)

LuAnn Schindler said...

The Big Chill. Lesson: Never take anything for granted because you don't know how today's actions will affect tomorrow. I could probably come up with another 15 lessons from this movie. :)

Since I started writing one-act plays, I've noticed how my movie watching addiction has tightened my writing. You have to be direct!

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