Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Today, readers expect to see a story as a series of scenes, like a movie.

A novel secret that will help you when writing popular fiction is to write the movie in your mind. Why? Because movies are made up of lots of scenes and writing scenes is the key to good novels. Today, readers expect to see a story as a series of scenes, like a movie.
You can learn a lot about writing novels from watching movies. (I’m not talking about reading screenplays. Literally watching movies; a story-telling art.)

Kill Cue does indeed run like a movie. It opens with a disk jockey being killed in a little Sarasota radio station. We cut to the beach at Anna Maria Island where my protagonist, Veronica Slate, is spending Thanksgiving Day on the beach. Cut to the apartment where Veronica and the DJ’s roommate hear an answering machine message. A movie in my mind transferred to paper.

Beginning writers often toss in a variety of facts when they're writing fiction based on true experiences, because that's how it really happened. Not a good enough reason.

Just because it is true doesn’t mean it works.

In fact, many things we see in the news every day, which did happen, are too strange for fiction. No one would believe them. Every fact, every incident you put in your novel should mean something, in the context of the story you're telling. You should not simply record real life and call it fiction. 

Much of life is trivial and meaningless, 
but fiction has to be logical.

Many devices used by filmmakers to reach viewers can be adapted by writers to reach readers. Approach writing your novel as if you were making a movie, and 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 where they are. Next, usually, comes a medium shot, focusing their attention on whatever 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 the principle to fiction, from my book Regret in Reno:

(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.)
frizzy-haired Cherry Ganz showed Veronica into his cluttered office. True to his nickname, he grasped an open can of Cherry Coke in one hairy hand. (close-up.)
 “I don’t know what I can tell you,” he said. “The guy just bought some fertilizer, that’s all.”

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.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews