(Apologies for a slightly aggressive featured image…but for real, get to it! Write the best sh*t ever! ;))
So at this point, if you don’t have Netflix….you’re probably doing pretty well. And you probably have a lot more time on your hands. And you’re probably not completely caught up in the lives and drama of a bunch of fictional characters. So I applaud you.
But for those of us with binge-watching problems, let’s talk.
I am by no means a “professional” Netflix-er. What I mean by that is that it usually takes me too long to get through a season, and it took me forever to jump on the bandwagon of the most popular shows (not that you have to jump on the bandwagon, but those shows sat on my list staring at me for a LONG time before I actually watched them!). But now, I love watching shows. I love catching up with a group of characters as I’m getting ready for work or just feeling a little lazy on a weekend. And I love letting a show or movie play while I’m working on stories.
That’s right. I love turning on the Netflix while I’m diving into my own stories. I feel like this might be surprising to some people: Isn’t it distracting? Don’t you get too focused on the show’s characters and not the ones you’re creating? Shouldn’t writing time be about writing? But this is something that helps me and pushes me in my writing. So in this post, I thought I would explore some of the reasons why.
Whenever I am writing, I need a little noise, whether that be the television, music, or conversations. Silence is just not my thing, at least when it comes to getting work done. Having a Netflix show playing–especially one that I’ve already watched–actually helps me to stay in the moment and do my work while the story plays. It usually serves just as the background, but if I’m feeling a little stuck, it’s nice to take a break and watch while I think of the next idea. I suppose it’s just a little push, keeping the wheels turning and allowing my attention to stay focused in on what I’m doing.
While I’m watching shows, I am also studying the story and its effects–as most readers and writers are. I get involved in the events of the show, rooting for certain relationships and imagining various plot twists. But I am also learning from the story. As I am watching, I take mental notes of the plot elements that strike, the emotion that lingers, and the interactions between characters that make it relatable. I also pay attention to world-building. For example, in one of my favorite Netflix original series, Stranger Things, we are taken to a whole different world as we are introduced to The Upside Down. This setting comes alive in every episode, even if we do not see inside of it for most of the series. This is an important note to take as a writer–I want to utilize that ability to craft a new setting, to bring the world of my characters to life in the eyes of the reader.
Characters are another important aspect of storytelling that inspire me as I watch these shows. A show is really made by its characters–if you don’t care about them, you’re not going to be interested in keeping up. Another one of my favorite shows to binge is Riverdale (I know, I’m pretty basic!) and I feel that this is a strong example of giving characters life and allowing them to express the story. Each of the characters (almost all of them, I recognize there are some small issues) has a distinct personality, an emotional expression that you can truly feel through each experience they go through. As writers, this is incredibly important for us. As we are writing our novels and stories, we do not have the chance to have our characters visually represented by actors every week. (Of course, we can place someone in the role with photos, but you get the idea). Therefore, we have a responsibility to make our characters come to life on the page. We have to make people feel that they know them as they are reading, through a character’s experience, emotion, and personality. Taking note of these character elements while watching shows is a good way to inspire that in our writing.
Shows and movies are forms of art. Yes, we are being entertained, but we are also taking in new stories, learning about and embracing characters and their lives, even taking away lessons for our own lives. So many people have put their heart and soul into these projects–actors, directors, writers, set designers, costume designers, and so, so many others. Knowing that so many individuals put their own unique talents and skills to work to create this piece of art inspires me to keep going with my passions. Because one day, I could be working on a new piece of art that inspires others as these have inspired me–you just never know.
The bottom line here is that inspiration can come from anywhere. Stories are all around us. I am so grateful that I get to view these shows and be inspired by all of the people who work on these projects. I can only hope that my stories will inspire others in similar ways. If we pay attention, we can always find inspiration in the little things we do–even binge-watching.