Thursday, May 11, 2017

Write the movie

The Novel Secret that will help you more than any other when writing popular fiction is to write the movie that’s now showing in that theater you call your mind.

Why? Because movies are made up of lots of scenes and writing lots of scenes is the key to good popular fiction.

Today, readers expect to see a story as a series of scenes, like a movie. As many novelists do, I write a book like a movie in my mind. I see it happening and I simply write it down. I write my novels in scenes. Which, you'll recall, are the primary building blocks of “showing” instead of “telling.”

Kill Cue, my first book, does indeed run like a movie.
It’s a movie in my mind which I transferred to paper.
You can learn a lot about writing popular fiction from watching movies.

(I'm not talking about reading screenplays. I mean literally watching movies; a story-telling art.)

Many devices used by filmmakers to reach viewers can be adapted by writers to reach readers. In fact, if you approach writing your novel as if you were making a movie, even the writing becomes easier to handle.

Think of each chapter as being one or more scenes, each with a beginning, middle and end. Then, just write one scene at a time and a few months down the road you've finished your book.

A movie scene often begins with an establishing shot, usually a long shot from a distance, which quickly lets the viewer know, in general, terms, where they are. Next, usually, comes a medium shot, focusing their attention on whatever or whoever is most important in the scene. Then, often, but not always, there’s a close-up to focus on one person in particular.

Here’s an example of adapting that principle to fiction, from my book Mankiller: (Notice how rapidly we cut from the establishing shot to the medium shot to the close-up.)
Inside a plain concrete building on Odie Road in Reno (Establishing shot), behind a locked door with blinds drawn tight against curious eyes, (Medium shot) short, chubby, frizzy-haired Cherry Ganz showed Tasker into his cluttered office cubicle. True to his nickname, he grasped an open can of Cherry Coke in one hairy hand. (Close-up)

Establishing Shot, Medium Shot, Close-Up.
This draws readers into your story.
Of course, you can vary the way you use the “shots” just as a good director does.

Here’s an example of a scene that starts with a medium shot, pulls back to a long shot, and then cuts to a close-up. Again, from Mankiller:

Skeezer Nevin stood chest-deep in a fresh grave and flipped a shovelful of sand into the air. “Be with you in a minute,” he told Tasker, who was standing above him on the surface of the Peaceful Haven Memorial Park in Sparks on Tuesday morning. (That whole thing was a medium shot)

It was just past nine and Skeezer had told Tasker that he was nearly finished with the first grave of the day. (Exposition) The cemetery was located in what had probably been the bucolic countryside sixty years earlier. (That was the long shot) Now, it was nearly downtown. Shirtless, the skinny man resumed his labor. A black and blue snake was tattooed down his spine and it slithered in his sweat as he heaved another shovelful of sand over his shoulder. (That was the close-up)

write the movie that's in your mind

Above from the book NOVEL SECRETS,
available for Kindle or paperback:

Lary Crews