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Straw Dogs: Creating the Perfect Writing Environment and The Writing Retreat from Hell

Straw Dogs-movie poster-2011

Straw Dogs starring James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, AlexanderSkarsgard & James Woods. Remake of the 1971 Dustin Hoffman movie Straw Dogs.

Straw Dogs : Creating the Perfect Writing Environment, and The Writing Retreat from Hell

This post’s writing character comes from the 2011 remake of Straw Dogs. This new version stars James Marsden and Kate Bosworth.

The Writer Character and The Perfect Writing Room

James Marsden in Straw Dogs

James Marsden as David Summer in Straw Dogs. Image via

American screenwriter David Summer is working on a movie script that takes place during WW2. His actress wife Amy’s old family house in the south sounds like a perfect writer’s retreat. And it is indeed beautiful: It is big, has a gorgeous view of the lake and a wonderful study room.

Soon David transforms the room into a writer’s haven: the pool table is covered with models of WW2 houses and streets, the walls now carry a large green board for all his notes and he has even surrounded himself with books about the era. He listens to classical music as he writes- not necessarily because it is his favorite, but because it goes with his story.

The Writing Retreat from Hell

The problem is, the house is in a remote area of a small town. The house doesn’t get cell reception.  I missed why they don’t have a phone in the house. Yikes.

The town folk are not very tolerant or open-minded, and soon they gain enemies without trying. It doesn’t help that David’s world views, and his wife’s behavior is enough to trigger the animals in their employees- the Amy’s ex Charlie (played by True Blood’s Eric-Alexander Skarsgard) and his crew, who were hired to repair the roof.

As great as the house and his room is, their life turns into a nightmare. They’re terrorized, and David decides to fight off their attackers one by one, even if that’s the last thing he’ll live to do. For the details on the terror, you can read my Straw Dogs movie review.


The Writer’s Story and His Life Overlap

In David’s story, a country’s soldiers beat the other country’s soldiers even though they are outnumbered.

In the end (yes-here come the spoilers), David manages to get rid of (=kill) a group of armed and irrational men with the help of his brains, and his frantic wife.


Starw Dogs, James Marsden poster via

Finding The Perfect Writing Retreat in Real Life

Of course in the end, the perfect writing retreat wasn’t worth it. He and his wife were probably scarred for life.

But then again, as much as I like my lake views, I could never write alone in such a place, with just one person to keep me company, unless of course that person is Nikita or Sydney Bristow or John Reese

But why leave the city? You can always opt for a nice holiday resort where you can be as alone as you want, and you can deprive yourself from technology only as much as you choose to for those flowing writing periods.

Yes, I often mute my cell-phone when I work. I try not to pay attention to the internet. And no, I am not always successful in turning off my distractions. But I like the fact that there can be distractions, and several ways of communicating with people outside my house.

Maybe it has a lot to do with growing up in a city, where we lock our doors and bolt them, even in the safest neighborhoods. Where there are houses and shop nearby. Where people don’t really care what you do, or what you believe in.

Or maybe it is and reading about and watching way too many “cabin-in-the-woods”, psychos-attack-ordinary-couple type of stories. But remote town houses freak me out. No technology? In the middle of nowhere? No thanks!


How do you feel about writer retreats? How isolated do you like to be while you are writing?

Would you like a cabin in the woods, or a town house like the one in Straw Dogs?

And If you have you seen the movie, what do you think Amy and David should have done?



For more writer characters, you can read:
The Kovak Box’s Writer Character: Timothy Hutton
Writing What You Know/Live: The Movie Daydream Nation, and its Writer Character
Castle TV Series: Recommended for All Writers
18 Movies with Writer Characters featuring Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Aniston, Anne Hathaway and More

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