Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Movie In Your Head And Elsewhere

I find, as a writer, that when I'm writing fiction or thinking about my next possible screenplay, there's a movie running in my head. Doesn't matter which one, script of novel, plainly the idea is to draw your reader or watcher into the story you're creating by developing and presenting a clear picture of what's going on in your head. The trick is to get it out there.

Whatever you're writing, however you do it, you can't accomplish your goal without description.

If it's screenwriting you need to give your audience a setting. Simply heading a scene EXT. NEW YORK or INT. HOUSE, and then cutting to dialog creates no picture in anyone's head. You don't want to over do it, but some sharp, brilliant description is imperative.

Where in New York, outside an apartment building, a park, a back alley? What kind of house interior? Opulent? Modest? Cluttered? Neat as a Pin? You must learn to write descriptive, tight and clear. Even sticking action into the scene won't save you if  it's vague like "He punched him in the face." That might at least form some sort of picture, but it isn't clear.

Keep your scene heading short and clear, then add succinct description of that place and maybe a character or two before you hit the dialog button or leap into action.

Writing novels? The same idea applies. Here, though, you the writer, can run amok creating all sorts of purple prose. Keep it short and clear, use vivid description to breathe life into your story. Your readers want to imagine your characters and for a little while live in the world you've created. That means they want to smell the campfire, see the glow of it and feel the coming storm rumbling in the distance. They want to fear the dark, or be comforted by it; to wonder at the sounds around them and grow apprehensive or to be drawn into a soft, romantic world.

You, as writer, are the 'puppetmaster'. To truly engage your audience give them a window into the world you've created. Be careful not to overburden, but make it so real they can smell the frying bacon, see the dingy back alley or hear the rush of traffic on the highway.

Description is the core of your world. Use it wisely.


  1. I love it when that "movie in my head" is scrolling, and I can hardly write fast enough to get the stuff on paper that already seems to exist. I call it writing in "flow". It's magic when that happens.

    But of course, as you say, the trick is to convey your experience to your readers as vividly, but speedily, as possible--remembering that a few sensory clues will trigger their own imaginative "flow."

  2. Thanks for your comment Anne. It's a fine line to find that balance between great description and over the top. Practice, practice.....


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