Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Movie in My Head

Seeing is Writing

I was thinking the other day about how I write my novels and realized, I am a scriptwriter at heart.

For good or ill, as I write, I have a "movie" going in inside my head. I picture my characters moving about in their world, speaking and doing. In essence, I am in control of their actions, the film director if you will, trying to get them to act out their roles according to my game plan.

As I wrote in an earlier post, that doesn't always happen. Sometimes, the characters take on lives of their own and do the unexpected, but I'm still in charge of writing it all down. I think it's truly important that I "show" rather than "tell" most of the actions and emotion within the book.

For instance, if Salene heaves a big sigh and shakes her head, it's pretty clear to the reader she's not too pleased with something. I could simply say she was upset or exasperated, but she becomes more alive in the story if I let her "show" what she's feeling.

Actors on stage know this well. Their body language, the little things they do, the items they may carry, or simply the way they walk across the stage tells the audience a great deal about who they are and what they're feeling.

It's the same with a written character. Body language, gestures, and actions often make characters much more alive to readers than long passages explaining how someone in the story feels.

Dialogue can be effective too. What character's say and how they say it is another important element in defining who they are, how they're feeling, and what's going on in the story.

I can still remember the opening of Shakespeare's Hamlet and how with just a simple question, the mysterious, puzzling theme of the play is set up in the first line. "Who's there?"  The actor playing the guard who says the line sets up the uncertainly and uneasiness of the play to follow.

How much better to hear a conversation between characters rather than a report of the conversation.

For example. consider this scene
Jamus wanted a horse of his own but when he asked Sagari, the Master of Magiskeep scoffed. He told Jamus he wasn't old enough or skilled enough to properly take care of and raise a horse of his own. He told him it was time to stop dreaming and do some hard work in the stables before thinking he was grand enough to own a horse as fine as Coranth.

Well, there's certainly some conflict there. But does the story live?

How about this version insead?

"My Lord," Jamus asked as he watched Sagari saddling his great white stallion, Coranth.  "do you think I might be able to have one of Coranth's colts to ride someday? I would take good care of him and train him to be a fine horse like his father."

"You?" Sagari asked hardly bothering to look down at the boy. "What makes you think you could handle a horse like that?"  He stroked the white stallion's muscled neck. "Takes a master's hand to train an animal like this and you're about as far from a master as the Keep from the Aberdalian Sea.  Look at yourself, all scrawny and weak. Get those foolish dreams out of your head and earn your keep here in the stables first. Learn the hard truth of being a horseman first and then maybe I'll find a fat little pony for you to ride."

Jamus the dreamer, the small boy demeaned by the hard Master of Magic, has his answer. And we, the reader see the relationship between the two of them sharply defined.

Action and dialogue tell the story and reveal more of the conflict than direct description ever will.

Just like a movie, readers need to see and hear the story unfold. It's the author's job to bring it to life .

1 comment:

  1. the one example is flat as a pancake and doesn't hold the attention, the other the total opposite and draws you in....