Why I Watch Movies While Writing a Book


by Millie Ho

I started incorporating movies into my writing routine recently.

It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Instead of writing to music as I normally would’ve done, I drag my manuscript to the monitor and open a movie on my laptop. And then I write, typity type type, until my eyes and ears can’t take it anymore or my hands fall off.

Now, watching a movie while you’re writing might sound like a terrible idea, but please hear me out.



  • Ever been stuck when writing a scene or character? A movie can inspire you in two hours, max.
  • You can’t read while you write, so a movie is the second best alternative to doing creative research in a short period of time.
  • If you put a boring movie on, you get some killer white noise in the background.

I’m editing my manuscript now, and I’ve started noticing some inconsistencies. My story starts off being really science fiction-y with all the tropes that entails, and then everything seems to magically teleport to the 90s. After reviewing my earlier drafts and cross-referencing story notes, I realized that the culprit was my lack of noir aesthetics.

Like, duh. Captain Obvious much?

Noir was the reason I started writing the Nash Moor story. The main characters—Mr. Hallelujah, the bounty hunter, the sketchy members of detective agency Otter & Associates—were inspired by noir and wouldn’t work without it.

I needed to go back to my noir roots, and go back fast.

Instead of re-reading Raymond Chandler or opening up a tome of American detective fiction, I pulled up my movies folder and started hacking away at all the areas on the manuscript marked with “IC” for “inconsistent”.

The first movie was The Maltese Falcon.

Then Pulp Fiction.

And then, as I was figuring out how to reconcile noir and sci-fi, I watched Blade Runner, an old favourite.

After hours of writing and watching, my manuscript was littered with notes and scenes with improved characterizations and a more believable tech/noir ambience.

At the end of the day, movies remind us of what we want to achieve with our own stories. We want the characters, atmosphere and conflict(s) to be just as real and evocative as what you’d see on the big screen. Readers have to care and be as wholly invested in the story as though they’d just bought front row tickets to a highly anticipated film.

The story has to come to life, and watching a movie while I write brings me a step closer to that.

And hey.

If you ever get bored with your story, at least there’ll be something to watch other than a horrible guilt-tripping blinking cursor.




Guest post contributed by Millie Ho. Millie is a writer and illustrator from Toronto, Canada. She uses her blog and YouTube channel to document what she’s learned about writing from both the writing process and from books, TV shows, and films.


15 thoughts on “Why I Watch Movies While Writing a Book”

  1. This is really interesting to me – I’ve actively avoided consuming media (books/films/tv shows) adjacent to my novel setting and tone. I was worried about other people’s vision/voices sneaking their way into my work. I think I’ll give it a try and see how I find it – thanks for the idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve had similar concerns. I think the answer lies in waiting until you have a fairly developed story, at least at the outline level, and try to sample a fair number of different stories, so that your mind focuses on the dominants of the genre, rather than the specific styles of a single author.


      1. Someone once told me that revision is often where the hard work begins. The rough draft is often all about getting “something” down on paper, while revision is all about turning “something” into “something special”. Fortunately we always have the option to do another draft. I think Neil Gaiman once said there’s no such thing as completing a story. Writers work on it until they get tired of it, and then they just move on, and sometimes they go back and try again.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m easily distracted, so this is not something I ever considered. But hey, I’ll give it a try. I have a lot of writing to do and a lot of movies to watch, so might as well get them all in at once! 😀


  3. I’ve done this before (actually I tend to write well to sitcom reruns for some strange reason!) but I’ve never matched the film to the tone that I was going for. Maybe I’ll give that a try at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

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