Tag Archive - Emblematic Shots

Show, Don’t Tell, How Time Is Passing

“Show, don’t tell.” Novelists know this mandate. But there are many different ways to “show,” and now that we’ve spent the better part of a year exploring how movies “show” scenes, you have a much wider and deeper understanding of ways you can show your story unfolding. In last week’s post, we took a look at the quality of time, and saw how it’s all about the perception of the individual. And so characters in a novel can also have moments in which time seems to slow down or speed up, or take on some odd or surreal quality.

Just How Do You “Show” Time Passing?

An unimaginative novelist may say something like “for Jane, time slowed to a stop as she waited hour after hour to hear news of her son” or “Time seemed to speed up as Ralph kept glancing at the clock, worried he’d never finish that report on time.” Telling a reader what time feels like to a character is ineffective and lacks power. It also doesn’t show what it looks like. How would you show time slowing down? Well, think about what it feels like to you when you are waiting anxiously for something.

We all know the expression “a watched pot never boils.” It actually does, but if we stare at it for a few minutes, we start noticing lots of little things, like the way the bubbles form at first slowly on the bottom of the pot, then grow bigger and start rising faster to the surface. We might notice when the steam starts forming like wisps of ghosts and hovering over the surface of the water. We might hear the clock ticking in the background, the neighbor’s dog howling. The golfers across the street laughing and whacking at golf balls (well, I live on a golf course, so this is what I hear from my kitchen). Continue Reading…

How Novelists Can Create Image Systems for their Story

Last week, we touched on a concept called Image Systems, which is something filmmakers consider when preparing to shoot their movie. Image systems can be made up of many different types of components, and by looking at some movies with powerful image systems, hopefully you will get some ideas of how you can do similarly with your novel. Using an assortment of these “building blocks” can give deeper meaning to your overall story.

In the movie The Sixth Sense, writer/director Shyamalan uses red to link with the supernatural. In every scene in which something “beyond the veil” is shown, you’ll find an object in red: a balloon, a sweater, a tent, and many others. Using a repeated color is probably the most common element in an image system, which makes sense with movies, since they are so visual. Continue Reading…