I’m a huge fan of television and cinema. I think very visually. So I suppose it’s inevitable that when writer’s block strikes, my brain brings up snippets from films and TV series to help. Here are some favourites to evoke a feeling or idea.
Fear, advice and suspicion: The Matrix
On the face of it, a link between science fiction and 17th century historical adventure isn’t obvious. But the heroes of my book A Treachery Of Spies have so much in common with those in The Matrix. They’re outnumbered, out-gunned, betrayed but still believe in their cause.
“Get up Trinity”
The fear levels of this movie run so deep that each time I’m terrified for the heroes. The feeling of paralysing terror is portrayed particularly well in the opening scenes by Trinity. “Get up Trinity” has become a little bit of a mantra for my characters. And myself when writer’s block strikes to just write something, anything, but keep moving forward.
Enjoy the action or skip to 3 minutes 35 seconds for this iconic line:
The twisted mentor
What would the Hero’s Journey be without some mentoring? I love this quote:
Cypher: A little piece of advice. You see an agent, you do what we do. Run. You run your ass off.
This became the number one lesson of my espionage tutor Fitz. He has five in all:
Her whirling mind seized on Fitz’s First Law: if in doubt, run.
It’s not paranoia if they *are* out to get you
One of the central tenets of The Matrix is that anyone can become an lethal agent, from the girl in the red dress to a subway hobo. This gave me the paranoia and dread for a flight through London:
Here the cut-purse and the gutterblood held sway. Laurette felt even the lowliest of tramps, curled up in a tattered blanket or muttering obscenities, could be their enemy.
What If?: The Hunt For Red October
‘What If?’ moments are the bread and butter of writing an adventure novel. Now, my heroine just has to get hold of a locket. But I did have a bit of a similar Eureka moment when trying to solve her problem:
Jack Ryan: They have to want to get off. How do you get a crew to want to get off a submarine? How do you get a crew to want to get off a nuclear su…
Pluses of pre-photography: Blackadder The Third
Sometimes modern technology would be a huge help for my spies. But for secret agents impersonating someone else, the pre-photography age is a huge plus.
The following flitted around my brain for quite a while. It then solidified into the key to the plot for Laurette’s next mission.
Baldrick: You could have someone else fight the duel for you.
George: But I’m the Prince Regent! My portrait hangs on every wall.
Blackadder: Answer that, Baldrick.
Baldrick: Well, my cousin, Bert Baldrick, Mr Gainsborough’s butler’s dogsbody, says that all portraits look the same nowadays, since they’re painted to a romantic ideal, rather than as a true depiction of the idiosyncratic facial qualities of the person in question.
Blackadder: Well, your cousin Bert obviously has a larger vocabulary than you, Baldrick.
World weariness and regret: Blackadder – The Cavalier Years
Blackadder: One measley Civil War in the entire history of England and I’m on the wrong bloody side!
(I know, the War of The Roses experts may have something to say about that but it’s still a great line.)
I believe that many of my exiled Royalists feel like this from time to time. With a little less humour, Blackadder’s attitude is echoed in this:
“It is always after. ‘After the war has ended’, ‘After the King returns’. But what about today?”
What are your ‘go-to’ references to dissolve writer’s block?
I’m always on the look out for more sources of inspiration. Please leave a comment and I’ll add your suggestions to the next edition of this article. Thanks!
About the author
H.J. Reynolds has written A Treachery Of Spies about Royalist spies in Oliver Cromwell’s England. The manuscript is complete and she is now seeking an agent. You can contact her at helen[at]hjreynolds.co.uk