Writer’s Desk: Watch TV and Movies

Well, not always. But sometimes when you need inspiration, anything with imagery and people can do. Tennessee Williams liked to hunt for his characters, particularly women, in other media.

In his book Follies of God, James Grissom wrote about reaching out to Williams in the early 1980s for advice on writing. Williams told him that in his youth, the world of characters, what he called “the fog,” just came to him. Later on, it wasn’t so easy:

Writing early in the morning or deep into the night, Tenn kept his television set on, the volume set to low, a radio or a phonograph playing the music of people who had led him to fog-enshrouded stages in the past. An image would come across the screen and catch his eye, the volume would be raised, and a voice would speak to him. Tenn had notes and diagrams and plot outlines scrawled on envelopes, napkins, hotel stationery, menus from restaurants and diners and airport lounges. Once, he delicately constructed a plot outline on a paper tablecloth, which the waiter neatly folded and presented to him along with the check.

Whether Williams would have recommended public television, streaming, or reality TV for inspiration, is not known.

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