Tag Archive - shoot your novel

Why Cinematic Technique in Fiction Is Important

Cinematic technique is rarely, if ever, discussed or taught at writing workshops or by writing instructors, and that’s a problem. Readers in today’s world want to see action play out on the page, moment by moment. We’ve all heard about “show, don’t tell,” but few writers are taught just how to do that. It’s cinematic technique that we all can learn from filmmakers and directors.

A few well-known teachers on occasion make mention of the need to show scenes in real time or have characters acting in the present moment, but I’ve yet to come across any who delve into the nuts and bolts of filming a story in segments using camera shots to achieve specific results. That’s why I wrote my craft book Shoot Your Novel.

I grew up in Hollywood, with a screenwriter parent. I spent hours on sets watching directors give instruction to crew and actors. I snuck into stages to watch the filming of shows like M.A.S.H. and Battlestar Gallactica. Hey, I remember as a child playing with the fake rocks on the set for the original Lost in Space and eating in the commisary next to Batman and Robin wearing their full costumes (guess it was too much trouble to change outfits just to grab lunch.

I used to sit on Peggy Lipton’s chair, wearing my dark sunglasses, while the adoring crowds (of The Mod Squad) had to remain behind the barricades and watch the filming from a “safe” distance. I felt very priviledged.

All this to say: I read a lot of scripts growing up and watched a lot of filming on various sets at numerous movie studios and on location. I learned a lot about “shooting” a story and have always applied the technique naturally to my fiction writing.

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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!

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