Next on my guest post series of Top 5 Recommendations is Laura (from Laura’s Books and Blogs) tells us about the films that inspired her books! I guest posted on Laura’s blog back in early 2020 with my first paid opportunity where I wrote about my writing tips for disabled and chronically ill writers so I’m glad to be able to host a post from Laura!
Laura Smith is a novelist, blogger, reviewer, and professional writer from Pittsburgh, PA. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from Carlow University in 2007. Since then, she has self-published three middle grade books with a fourth, traditionally published book on the way. She has written for several websites and currently runs her own blog, Laura’s Books and Blogs, which publishes book reviews, author interviews, guest posts, essays, and more. She loves stories of all kinds, and when she’s not writing or devouring them, you can find her drawing, painting, working on her house or in her yard, or spending time with her family.
When you tell people you’ve written a book or are even trying to submit your book for publication, everyone wants to know what other books compare to your story. And though I’ve always been a big reader, particularly of middle grade books, the middle grade books that I write are often inspired by movies rather than other books.
When I write, I frame my stories like a movie. I plan my scenes like shots, sometimes even drawing pictures of certain scenes or making collages like storyboards. Movies have been as much a part of my life as books. So, many plot points, scenes, and characters pay homage to these visual stories that I grew up loving. And with any luck, maybe one day, one of my books will be made into a movie. Below are 5 kids movies that inspired the five books that I have written so far.
Loneliness is a theme that I’ve always gravitated towards in stories. I want to see someone befriend the new kid in school or find their group on the playground. When I’d been sent off to a new place without a friend or sibling present, I was often that kid – sometimes I was that kid even with a friend or sibling present.
My first book, The Stable House, was based on a short story that I wrote in college. Just before I graduated, I met with my fiction writing professor who encouraged me to turn that short story into a book. I mixed a ton of elements into the soup of my first book, but the friendship element was a major ingredient.
When I was nine years old, I saw Casper in the movie theater, and it instantly became my favorite movie for the next year or two. The idea of Casper wanting a friend so badly and finding one in Christina Ricci , the girl who moved into his house which he and his uncles haunt, really struck a chord with me.
So, my main character, Heidi, was written as the same kind of loner, someone who is always waiting around for a friend. In my story, her house is destroyed by a fire, and she finds two imperfect yet welcoming friends in the neighborhood where she and her family temporarily stay. She’s particularly fortunate to find them at an age when it’s harder to make friends than ever: middle school. I think that Heidi and Casper would get along well.
The Goonies (1985)
When I set out to write my second book, Saving Hascal’s Horrors, I actually asked myself what kind of kid stories I want to tell. The answer was a story about a group of friends going on an adventure. The first story that came to mind like that was The Goonies.
This 1985 Richard Donner movie about a group of misfits searching for buried treasure in their backyard had been a staple of my childhood. Even though it’s an unlikely premise, it’s still grounded in reality. That scenario had me dreaming up my own adventure story that takes place in a town like mine.
The way the Goonies talk to each other, react to danger, and push each other to keep going in the face of danger was always in the back of my head as I was writing my characters. I was careful to make the story my own, swapping out pirate skeletons for a teenage ghost and the buried treasure for an attempt to save a local shop that’s run by one character’s older sister.
When the first season of Stranger Things was released a few years after I self-published my book, I was both thrilled and disappointed by how Goonies-like the story was. I was so in awe of the way that they borrowed from classic 1980’s movies without totally ripping them off but also jealous that they had such a huge platform to share their version with the world while mine hides in the shadows of the self-publishing world. But any time I get a compliment on my book from a reader, I silently thank the filmmakers who were responsible for the inspiration behind it.
The Sandlot (1993)
The Sandlot is one of those movies with a lot of characters, but they’re all so distinct with their own personalities that it’s not hard to differentiate them from each other. They all gel so well, between their love of baseball, their tendency to tease and insult each other, and their willingness to do anything for their friends… their chemistry is inspirational.
Those of us who are lucky to have our own sandlot gang growing up can totally identify with their dynamic. So, when my friend told me to write a book about our childhood neighborhood gang, The Sandlot served as the framework for that story.
My book, The Castle Park Kids, follows three siblings who move onto a dead end road surrounding a castle-shaped playground. Several other kids live in the neighboring homes, and they all meet at the castle park to play all summer long. The book is segmented like The Sandlot, with a new adventure or scheme in each chapter. In each scenario, I work in games we actually played or things that happened in our neighborhood.
Watching The Sandlot made me wish that I could be a part of their gang. Writing The Castle Park Kids made me realize that I was.
Little Monsters (1989)
Little Monsters is a movie that, when you reference it, many people have never heard of it, and those who have feel like they’ve just found a new soulmate. This film is about the monsters who live under your bed, how one particular kid captures one of these monsters… and convinces the monster to take him down into the monster world to experience an adult-free existence full of the activities that kids love best, like games, junk food, and playing pranks. It’s a little dark and could never be made today, but that’s what makes it so great.
Little Monsters let me know that I didn’t have to talk down to kids. I could put real, high-stakes conflicts on kid characters’ shoulders and let them take them on. My fourth book, The Secret Superpowers of Molly Bright, which is currently in the editing process with my publisher, takes on similar dark themes. There are no monsters, but, as the title suggests, there are superpowers. Like most superheroes, something terrible has to happen in order for Molly to get those powers.
Later, Molly teams up with her best friend, her sister, and her cousin to take down a pair of bad guys. It’s an unlikely team up, very similar to the one at the end of Little Monsters. But unlikely team ups, particularly featuring characters with different perspectives and skillsets, tend to make the best groups.
My Girl (1991)
When I wrote Molly Bright, I knew that I wanted it to be a series. It would be my first series, and I was a little intimidated by the thought of writing a sequel. Little did I know how easy it would be. My currently untitled second book in my planned three-book series started out as a simple baseball story. It then evolved into a tragic story about friendship.
Molly Bright lives in a house that used to be a funeral parlor. This element was basically stolen from the film My Girl, a movie made in the 90’s but set in the 60’s about an 11-year-old girl in a small town in Pennsylvania, the daughter of the town’s mortician. She lived in a functioning funeral parlor. My character, Molly’s house was just supposed to be an homage to this beloved film. I basically just wanted Molly to live in a big old house because I love big, old houses, and it would be a great location for the final battle.
When I wrote my sequel, I wrote it from Molly’s little sister, B.C.’s, point of view. And B.C. has an interesting dynamic with her friend, Katie. Soon, I found my central conflict and borrowed additional elements from My Girl in order to flesh out the plot. Within six weeks, I had a rough draft. Having a blueprint to follow and a great story to reference made it such an effective, easy, and fun process. It was everything that writing should be all the time, following in the footsteps of the stories that came before it.
Don’t forget to follow Laura’s blog and check out her books! I found this really interesting to read as I’m also a very visual person and see my stories I write like films in my mind! Follow Laura on GoodReads, Twitter and Facebook, check out her monthly newsletter! Check out the previous guest posts I’ve published so far, 5 book recs with Piper, 5 comic recs with Matt and 5 recs with Karl.
Don’t forget to check out my kofi and consider becoming a member! The bookclub tier gets you behind the scenes thoughts and feelings about books I’m reading or listening to. Subscribe to my YouTube channel if you’d like to see more of me, I post weekly. I’m nearing my next subscriber goal of 550 so give me a sub! I’m really excited for Autumn after this long harsh summer. Today is the first day I’ve been able to use my heat pad for pain relief in a long time! I hope you liked this post and I’ll see you next month!