The Writer’s Guide to Learning From Books and Movies

This is a guest post by Josie Beth.

What’s the most underrated yet most effective way to learn how to write?

Simple — watch storytelling in action. Through mere observation and a bit of thought, we can learn 100x better.

However, there’s more to it than just looking. You need to actively look to learn, otherwise you’ll just come up with a few unhelpful preferences.

Today, Madi Grace and I are going to show you how to most effectively analyze a book or movie to learn lessons for the writing craft. Be sure to check out her post here as well!

My Process  

There are two ways I go about this. One is more casual, the second is all-out pens, paper, and notes.

I like watch how readers people react to writing. I find it’s extremely valuable to understand what makes readers feel what. So, for the more casual method, I act like a normal reader or viewer.

To do this, try not to focus on storytelling as you’re reading or watching a  movie. Sit back and enjoy. Until you don’t.

Take note of what you like, and afterward, look into it. How was the plot twist foreshadowed so well? You felt submerged in the setting. Why?

On the other hand, when something pulls you out of the story, take note of why and what possibly happened that caused it. If the story was “meh”, come up with what could have made it awesome.

The second way is a methodical story analysis. I go in with specific intents from the start. This is the better choice when there’s a book in my genre or simply a well-done/highly reviewed story. What made it so awesome? Or, what made it flop?

Here’s where you start tracking story structure and character change. No matter what you’re looking to get out, having a good grasp on the story’s structure will give you a good idea of the timeline to reference if needed.

I’m begging to be pinned. Just hover over me if you so desire!

Focus in on certain aspects. The most valuable tool you can have at this point is to learn how to figure out why. You liked it, but why? This feels out of place, but why? The pacing was awesome, but why?

4 Tips To Take Away

  1. Notice your reading/viewing patterns

Do you read slower or faster when you’re enjoying a scene? Is there a specific trope you like that’s biasing you? Once you know how you watch storytelling, you’re better equipped to learn from it.

  1. Know what you want

When you go in intending to learn something, you will learn it. However, if you don’t know the specifics, you’re not going to get as much out of it because you can’t reverse engineer what you need to do to achieve your goal.

  1. Write down your thoughts

This will help you remember and force you to think deeper than you do mentally. Keep notes on everything you think beyond what first comes to mind.

  1. Be detailed and use examples

An important way to retain this information is to use examples. This character failed. Here’s what happened and where it went wrong, and here’s an idea of what could have made it better.

Go forth and learn, brave writer. Soak in as much knowledge as you can and experiment with the way you learn. Develop your own methods. I guarantee it’ll supercharge your writing growth better than reading random (and sometimes objectionable) writing advice.

What do you think? Do you like analyzing books and movies? Share your process! What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever learned a writing lesson from?

By | 2019-05-28T14:13:54-04:00 April 4th, 2018|Guest Posts, Writing, Writing Tips|22 Comments

About the Author:

Josie has loved stories, places, and people for as long as she can remember, so it wasn't a surprise when she took an interest in writing. You can find her noveling, dreaming, making music, acting out characters, or posting on her blog,, where she shares writing along with many other aspects of her life.


  1. Kendall Henson April 4, 2018 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Josie, this is great! I read voraciously, so I suspect that is much of why I enjoy writing so much!

    • Josie April 8, 2018 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Haha, yes! I think most writers started off as readers.

  2. Josie Beth April 4, 2018 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Madi, this post was so awesome and well written. Best post you’ve done so far.
    Just kidding. XP
    Heh heh, this was so much fun!

  3. Julia April 4, 2018 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    I tend to watch shows and read books with half of me as a reader, and half of me as a writer. It allows me to enjoy it (or not) from both perspectives. I love learning from the good stuff, and from the bad.
    Thanks for the great post! ?

    • Josie April 8, 2018 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Yup, that’s very smart! 😉

  4. Chloë April 4, 2018 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    Ooooh, me likes this post very much… but I have totally never heard of Josie Beth before!!! XDDDD

  5. The AG Homeschooler April 4, 2018 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    That was really good, Josie! I need to start doing this. It should be especially helpful since I watch A LOT of TV. ?

  6. Tess (blackiesunshine) April 4, 2018 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    Biggest lesson I’ve ever learned: use the things you hate just as much as the things you like. If something really bugs you, you’re more sure to remember that than what you really liked. Plus, when you only point out the things you like, it’s easy to just copy the plot of your favorite movie (and that’s not cool XD). Knowing what you don’t like is the best way to make sure your book is not only satisfying, but also original.

    • Josie April 8, 2018 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      *nods* Words of the wise. I’ve come up with a lot of random but helpful things based on what I don’t like.

  7. Liz - Home with the Hummingbirds April 6, 2018 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    Great advice, thank you for sharing! 🙂

    • Josie April 8, 2018 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome! I’m glad you liked it!

  8. Zella T April 6, 2018 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    I’ve never thought about analyzing a book or movie. I’ve been giving a lot to chew on about writing (since I’m catching up on my email XD).

    • Josie April 8, 2018 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      ? Good luck! Let me know what happens if you try it.

  9. Ooh,this is awesome!!! I have a lot of opinions about movies that could have been much better… mostly because of an unnecessary ROMANCE ?
    Great post, Josie!! ❤️

  10. Olivia Bell May 4, 2018 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed this post, and what a great idea to write it all down! 🙂

Leave A Comment