By Megan Burkhart a professional writing student at Taylor University
Last weekend, I went with a group of friends to see the movie The Man Who Invented Christmas. This movie follows Charles Dickens and how he came to write the book A Christmas Carol. As a writer, there were many things I connected with throughout the movie. I won’t spoil too much about the movie, but here are some things a writer can identify with (or groan in agreement with) in this movie.
1. Inspiration can come from the strangest places.
In the movie, Dickens comes across an old man in a graveyard. He overhears two men talking about the man losing his business partner and as the old man leaves, he looks at Dickens standing there and mutters one word, “Humbug.” This short exchange strikes inspiration in Dickens, and he rushes home to begin writing.
Whether you’re in a graveyard, a grocery store, or a car, always be listening and watching for ideas. They are not perfect little packages that arrive on your doorstep. Most of the time, you have to go out looking for them. It’s like a treasure hunt, except you don’t know what the treasure is. When you find it though, you will know. The idea will strike you and take hold of you in a moment of inspiration. Don’t let those moments pass you by.
2. Characters are real to the writer.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Dickens is pacing around his office muttering names to himself. He hunches his shoulders and curls his fingers to try and imitate what he imagines his character would do. He continues muttering “s” words, trying to find something that will stick. He says, “Get the name right, and if you are lucky, the character will appear.” That’s exactly what happens. Dickens stands up straight, and a breeze blows through the room.
“Scrooge,” he says with a smile.
When he turns around, he sees the old man he saw in the graveyard. He is Scrooge–his character come to life.
It’s a beautiful moment when you can fully visualize your character. A name is a crucial element to this because once you name your character, you have given him or her life and a personality. If your character does not feel real or solid in your mind, try a new name. Ask your character some questions to get to know him or her. A character is more than ink on paper, and should be real to both you and your reader.
3. Writer’s block happens to the best of us.
Within the first ten minutes of the movie, there’s a scene where Dickens is sitting at his desk with a freshly dipped quill hovering over his parchment. After several seconds, a blob of ink falls on the page, and Dickens throws his quill down. Later on, his characters are surrounding him in his office and demand he write the ending. However, Dickens struggles to write the final chapter.
There comes a point where you simply don’t know where to go with your story. You’re confused, frustrated, and probably stuck in your story world. Don’t give up. Dickens didn’t. He wrestled with his characters until he answered the question, “Could Scrooge really change?” What questions and themes are you struggling with? The answer lies within you. You simply have to dig deep enough to find it.
Don’t miss out on this great movie during the Christmas season. Both writers and non-writers alike can appreciate the way Dickens words changed the way we view Christmas. He inspired charity and compassion instead of greed and selfishness during the holiday season. What will you inspire in your readers?