Plot, Pacing, and Structure
The Writer as the Movie Director
Hello fellow paisanos of Bookcountry, Just joined this month from the UK and rather enjoying this lovely part of the world. So, I was wondering just how many of us are influenced by movie Directors and their innovative digital (celluloid, if you still remember the stuff) eye? I'm going all out on an assumption now: The stories we create have substance, space and total imagery in our minds, so effectively we are the Directors of our alphabet moving-pictures. Does anyone look to favourite movies/particular scenes/fave Directors for inspiration on scene setting? How to begin a chapter, which scenes to depict in a particular chapter? Maybe among you there's someone bold enough to have created a story with similar cut scenes to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction or the meandering, seemingly unconnected person to person following that Robert Altman likes to use? It doesn't have to be a particular Director, maybe it's a neat scene trick you've seen that tickles your fancy. I'd be interested to hear. You never know, it might inspire us too? Of course, then comes the real game as a wirter and that is to take the picture you can see in the way you want it cut and translate it to the page. What amazes me about that is that the frame in your head lasts a couple of seconds and on paper it can be up to a page long depending on how busy and vital the frame is. Brings a whole new meaning to a 'picture is worth a thousand words.' But what do you all think? And for those diehards out there who say the writer invented the scene styles before the Director was inspired by them, there may be some truth to that too...
That is a very interesting question, M Romero Nunn!I'm afraid my response might be a bit disappointing. Because far from seeing myself as a director: staging shots, arranging scenery and coaching actors—I instead endeavor to project myself into the scene as an active participant (in the case of a character) or close observer (in the case of gathering details to use in my "pull-back POVs": 3rd-person limited or 3rd-person omniscient, as opposed to the immediacy, narcissism and straight-jacketing of narrative options that result from telling the story from a 1st-person perspective).Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t consciously select details of furniture, clothing, weapons, etc.—I do—but I usually dial those details in after the fact. What I mean by this is that when I first sit down to write I oftentimes haven’t the slightest idea of what is going to happen or how it is going to occur. An initial sentence, theme or plot element might suggest itself to me, or a story ending pop into my mind and I go from there. That’s the adventure of the process of writing for me. (And oftentimes the immediate dead-end I run into as quickly as I start. Almost any seasoned professional will tell you: don’t write like this. You’ll waste an awful lot of time. Better to outline, plan, prioritize. I would if I could, but . . . Note-taking feels like note-taking; writing feels like writing. I’m hopeless. . . .)Oftentimes I add critical details in later drafts. My initial drafts focus on action and dialogue; it’s only later that I realize—good grief!—I’ve only used the visual sense in this entire chapter. Or forgotten to describe what people are wearing. Or what they look like. Or I’ve used generic details that need to be sharpened into more concrete descriptors: changing “car” into “a dead-lizard green, four-door sedan with spoked-wheel rims and a gleaming grill”, or “the runner” into “a thin loping man in a sweat-stained gray tracksuit with a mane of sweaty black hair and a face pinched somewhere between a leer and a snarl”. Hardly deathless prose but you get the idea. . . .But hold on! I realize that there is indeed one area in which I do exert total authorial control before setting down word one and that is deciding on which POV to use in telling the story.It may seem strange that I can decide on POV before I know what’s going to happen in my weird tales but there you have it. My subconscious communicates at least this much to my conscious mind.
Hi all,I'm glad my question provoked an analysis of our use/non use of visual scenes. For those who do see their stories in a cinematographic way, you may even have been inspired by scenes/styling/plotting concepts that certain Directors are famous for. I find that a very interesting idea myself, as I'm often surprised, after writing a scene and re-reading it to find I've unconsciously produced a scene in a Robert Altman -esque way or some other Director.
Like some of you i'm vey much a visual scene setter. I walk through the scenes of the chapter as if they were scenes in a film. Because of the visuality I can see where my characters stand, the props/environment around them, their facial expressions, how they react to each other in tell-tale signs etc. I find it all really helpful as when i start to write the chapter i've a wealth of visual knowledge for the scene that it make it easy to write the descriptions, dialogue and actions of my character, in, I hope, a more plausible way. I certainly use the concept of being the 'director' of my story as an aid to writing the chapters. Then i literally flesh out the scenes as much as needed because, as I mentioned at the beginning, a picture really does need a 1000 words to bring it to literary life.Yet, i've come to the conclusion that my strength is in dialogue. Could this be because i work cinematographically/visually with the chapters first? It would be interesting to find out if any of you guys have found working more visually strengthens a certain aspect of your writing? Moving on from that perhaps reading certain types of books/authors improves other aspects of your writing style...OK. Maybe that's a question worthy of its own thread. Still. I'm all ears on any opinions. Maria
Yeah. That's what I'm talking about Angela the visual scene in our head can be so full with data but we don't necessarily print it all. Still it serves to give the writer complete familiarity with the scene before putting that pen to paper. I can definitely say I am influenced by how Directors slice their films together. So when i'm looking for a different start to a chapter/scene or, as is more the case, what scenes i'll keep in the chapters to keep momemtum or suspense going, I think about my fave movies and analyse the plus points of a director's scene, then figure out if and how i can use that style in print (with its obvious limitations of course). A lot is talked about a writer's inspiration and the fact that just because we're not writing doesn't mean we're not working mentally on the story. Definitely my way of working mentally is to visualise scenes and cut/splice scenes together which to me is no different to what a Director does. While he/she marries his filming with conscious use of colour, visual arrangement, focus etc I marry my scenes with conscious use of descriptions and dialogue. In doing so, and probably because of my interest in films, I do spot scenes that could have come out of a Tarantino movie or a Nora Ephron film. I certainly agree with you there, the human imagination we use to work on our craft is definitely fascinating.Maria