Putting Cinematic Technique into Your Pages via Movie Analysis

Learning to write cinenatically is essential for fiction writers. By now you should know all about “show, don’t tell.”

But just because you can picture your scene playing out in your head, it doesn’t mean you can translate it effectively on the page. If you’re going to try to write like a filmmaker, you need to borrow from the film industry. And that means sticking a bunch of camera shots in your writer’s toolbox.

Let me demonstrate how to do this.

Jot ‘Em Down

Pay attention the next time you watch a movie. Get out a pad and pen if you really want to do this right, and note each segment of a scene. See if you can roughly guess what camera shot is being used and see if you can keep up with them all.

If you’re watching a slow-moving poignant scene that is mostly intimate conversation, you may have few shots listed, moving from Close-up to Extreme Close-up to a Two Shot or Full Shot. You may see a brief Insert or Angle On something, but there won’t be all that many shots in the scene. Continue Reading…

How to Effectively Bring Sound into Your Fiction

Today’s post is a reprint from some years back, but it’s one that deserves revisiting!

Sound may not be something writers pay much attention to when they work on their novels. Of course, there usually is a significant amount of dialog, and there may occasionally be found a noise shown in the scene, such as a branch cracking underfoot, the whoosh of an arrow zipping by, or the hiss of a snake. But other than the obvious, basic sounds, novelists don’t usually think much about this sensory element.

By looking at some of the ways filmmakers deal with sound, we can see many possibilites of how writers might enrich their books with this often-ignored component.

In the book Cinematic Storytelling by Jennifer Van Sijll, we read this about sound: “Sound effects are as much the purview of the writer as are visual symbols . . . Sound effects can also suggest an extended aural metaphor. They can add layers to a film that are hard to achieve in other ways. Sound effects can be obvious or quite subtle. They can intentionally draw attention to themselves or manipulate with stealth. They can expose, disguise, suggest, establish, or reveal.”

Sound is a terrific tool for a writer’s toolbox, so let’s expore!

Continue Reading…

3 Powerful Cinematic Techniques for Novelists

Readers will often stop reading before they finish the first page of your story. While this has always been true, in this fast-paced age that foments impatience, it’s even more true.

If a writer doesn’t deliver what a reader hopes for on that first page, it’s going to be tough to convince the reader to stick around for the whole chapter—let alone the whole book.

There are a lot of things needed on a first page of a novel or short story. And while it’s not a hard-and-fast rule that all these elements have to show up on page 1, the more elements a writer includes, the better.

This, of course, is going to vary a lot. And if a writer is starting with a prologue or some scene that doesn’t introduce the protagonist, that makes a difference as well. But the overall objective, regardless of opening scene, isn’t going to change. And that is to engage the reader. Continue Reading…

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