What Goes on in a Writer's Head

Thursday, January 24, 2019
A few weeks ago, I finally watched the movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas, about Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol. If you're a writer (which you probably are if you're reading this blog ) and you haven't had a chance to watch this film yet, stop what you're doing--okay, finish reading this first--and find some way to watch it soon. Why? Well, it gives a pretty true depiction of what goes on in a writer's head when he or she is working on a novel. You will no longer feel like you're crazy or alone in the world because it turns out we are just like one of the most famous authors of all time, Charles Dickens.

The cool thing about this movie is that the characters whom Charles talks to and argues with and yells at are played by actual actors, such as Christopher Plummer who plays Scrooge. So when Charles is trying to decide how Scrooge's story will end, and Scrooge is basically taunting him, there's an actual scene between two actors on the screen. In real life, however, we all know that this debate--between the characters and us (the writers) as well as our inner critics, who hate everything we write--is going on in our heads. Okay, okay, many times, we do say things to both the characters and our inner critic out loud, and our family members roll their eyes at us, or the people around us in the coffee shop, where we write, scoot their chairs farther away from our tables.

But these conversations happen--they are part of the wonderful creative process of writing a manuscript. It happens to all of us. These characters become real people who eat with us, go to family outings with us, and definitely sleep with us, haunting us until we finish their stories. Check out this trailer below of The Man Who Invented Christmas to see what I'm talking about. Remember--Charles Dickens, real man. Ebenezer Scrooge--character in a book. (smiles)

You can see from the trailer that this movie also covers writer's block--Charles Dickens had a hit and his publisher wanted more from him, and he had no ideas. Then when he got this Christmas idea, the gatekeepers thought it was terrible--they expected it to flop! (Sounds a little familiar, huh, J. K. Rowling?)

The movie also goes into how Dickens had trouble with his relationship with his wife and blew up at staff members and sometimes forgot about his children, which reminds me of a tweet I recently saw:

Oliver Phisher @OPhisher
What advice would you give to a smart, driven aspiring author? "Teach your family to cook."

Ha! That's actually perfect advice, and it's the truth--sometimes, we are so involved in our writing, we can't be bothered to eat ourselves--how can we also feed our families? This movie covers that reality about being a writer, too.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is one of my very favorite movies about writing. I've seen many: from Finding Neverland to Misery, from Julie and Julia to The Shining to Adaptation. But this Dickens flick is the first one where I thought the screenwriters really portrayed what it's like for novelists and the people who love them.

How about you? Have you seen this movie? What's your favorite movie about being a writer and why?

Margo L. Dill talks to her characters and tries to get them to settle down before they scare her 8-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old boxer dog. While she stays busy with that, she also has time to edit, teach, and write. Find out more about her on her blog and check out her novel writing course, which starts on February 1st here. 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--I have not seen this movie. In fact, I hadn't even heard of it, so I was completely out of the loop. However, I love Dickens, so I will definitely check it out.

I adore the movie "Finding Forrester," along with "Sideways" (which nonwriters might even miss--for most of the movie--why the Paul Giamatti character is so upset). Ages ago I watched "Stranger Than Fiction" and I remember enjoying it.

Thanks for this post. I'll have to find a way to see that movie.

Margo Dill said...

I think you can "rent" it from almost any digital download place for $3.99.

I don't know if I have seen Finding Forrester or Sideways--I remember them, but they are not ringing a bell with me. I will put them on my list also. :)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Oh my gosh, I have to see this! I love A Christmas Carol, it's one of my all time favorite stories since I was a kid. :)

I have so many favorite movies about being a writer: Swimming Pool, The Hours, Naked Lunch, Henry and June, Barfly, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and most recently I watched, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (documentary). I've probably seen Fear and Loathing a hundred times, and it's just like Thompson's book. I don't know why I like it so much, probably because it's a roman à clef and a satire, which is something I'm interested in and sort of the way I write. I also just watched mother!, which was very hard to watch (so be forewarned!) but to me, it was about the writer-muse relationship, and how the writer sucks everything dry from his muse. Interesting concept for me, but almost everyone I know hated it.

Sioux ~ I also loved Sideways and drive though Solvang and the wine country quite often, which isn't too far from me.

Nicole Pyles said...

I totally need to see this!! And...um....maybe even read something by Dickens. (I know I'm terrible!).

Sideways is so good!! (I love the part where the main character Paul Giamatti asks his friend whether he read the new draft of his book. And his friend blandly says oh yeah it was great. Suspicious, Giammati asks how he liked the new ending. And his friend says oh the new ending is vastly superior to the old ending. And Giamatti says...there was no new ending. Pages 750 on were EXACTLY the same. Hahahahaha ah, I loved that part. I love writing movies!

Renee Roberson said...

This sounds like such a fun movie, Margo! I hadn't heard of it but may need to add into our holiday movie rotation, as my hubby loves the Christmas Carol story. I also feel like I need to watch Sideways again and add all these movies to my "to watch soon" list. I have another one to add. There was a cute romantic comedy that came out several years ago with Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson. Wilson's character is a novelist who has a $100K advance he needs from his publisher to pay off some bookies--but first he has to complete his latest book! He hires a typist to help him with the transcription (Kate Hudson) and she discovers he doesn't even have the story outlined. Of course he starts adding a character based on her into the book and we see the story evolve as their love story evolves. I think it was called "Alex and Emma."

Mary Horner said...

Good point about that movie, Margo! I love movies about writing, and think I have seen all of the ones mentioned in the responses, which is why my writing is not progressing as it should!

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top