Posted in Film, Writing

How to Use a Famous Setting in Your Fiction


Watching Like a Writer is a movie review series that looks at films from the perspective of a fiction writer, complete with one writing takeaway, and an exercise that will help better your fiction!

You’ve seen the scenario before: he wants to pretend like it’s any other day and throw an action flick into the DVD player, and she wants to play a double feature of the most romantic movies ever following a candlelit dinner at Café de le Paix. What’s a way to leave both members satisfied in this scenario? This coming Valentine’s Day, the best kind of movie to watch together is one of the more rare of genres: the action romance! Here are five alternative Valentine’s Day movies worth watching…

5. Breakdown (1997)

Jonathan Mostow’s under-rated action gem is at the heart a love story, with everyman Kurt Russell on the hunt for his missing wife, played by Kathleen Quinlan. The film is pure suspense throughout.

4. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

The best of Sam Raimi’s trilogy has some of the most exciting action scenes of the previous decade, but what really makes the second installment memorable is that dizzyingly romantic finale.

3. True Romance (1993)

Someone once asked Quentin Tarantino if he’d ever make a love story, and he responded by saying he’d already made one — Tony Scott’s True Romance. The title is appropriate, with the thrilling, unpredictable action working as background to the center relationship between Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette.

2. True Lies (1994)

James Cameron has said that every movie that he has made is at the heart a love story, and that’s very true of this modern comedy action classic he wrote and directed three years before Titanic. Jamie Lee Curtis is as sexy as she is hilarious in the role of Helen, wife to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s spy protagonist.

1. North By Northwest (1959)

Alfred Hitchcock’s most accessible film, and certainly the most visually exciting of all his thrillers, North By Northwest, starring the charismatic Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, is winning from beginning to end for both action movie buffs and romantics at heart.

Watching Like a Writer

Something Alfred Hitchcock loved to do was think of an exciting scenario that could take place in a well-known setting (think the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur and beneath the Golden Gate in Vertigo) and then figure out the circumstances surrounding it. It’s absurd that North by Northwest’s climax finds the two leads running across the faces of Mount Rushmore — and yet it works! This strategy of Hitchcock’s, one of many of his that fascinate me, is something I’d love to try in one of my short stories or novels.


Think of a famous setting that you’d love to use in an action sequence in your fiction. What would it be?

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