Please welcome Cindy Carroll ~ and Giveaway

I’m honored to have Cindy Carroll with us today. Author and teacher, she has an upcoming class on how screenwriting can help fiction writers. Check it out : )

Also, comment here to win a lecture packet from Cindy.

And, action!

First I want to say thank you to Amber for allowing me to guest blog here to kick off my blog tour! I love writing novels and scripts. And I love talking about how screenwriting techniques can improve your novel.

Action. There’s a reason it’s not lights, camera, passive. How boring would that be? Action is what movies and television are all about. They’re moving pictures, so they have to move. Of course there are two kinds of action. But I’m not talking action movies here with explosions, car chases, gun fights. Though I do love all that stuff. I’m talking active writing. Whether you write novels or scripts you have to keep the writing active. Avoid passive voice as much as possible.

In scripts those sections of description describing the action are actually labelled action in screenwriting softwares. Too much describing what’s going on slows the pace and lessens the white space. Scripts should have lots of white space. Script readers actually skip over large chunks of action. Novel readers would never do that would they? Uh, yes, they would.

Novels need white space too. Just because novels aren’t moving pictures doesn’t mean they can be passive. Lots of narrative in passive voice, not enough dialogue, too much introspection make for a slow paced book.

What can you learn from reading scripts and watching movies that can help your novels? Here’s an example of action that sets the scene from one of my favourite action movies – True Lies.


The driveway and motorcourt are filled with cars. A formal dress party is in progress… a private reception for a middle-eastern dignitary. Tuxedoed men escort their diamond-encrusted ladies through the huge front doors, where they doff their overcoats and are politely scanned with hand-held metal detectors by white gloved security staffers.

The walled perimeter of the house runs along the lake, forming a kind of rampart. There is an opening, to a kind of waterway or canal, which connects to the private docks inside the grounds. There is a steel grating across the opening. The bars disappear down into the thin ice of early winter.

With the house visible BG, we CRANE DOWN below the parapet wall along which a guard is a white exposure-suit is walking… down along the dark wall to the grating… TILTING DOWN to see a glow pulsing under the ice.

Note how the action isn’t overdone. There isn’t a whole lot of description to set the scene but can you picture it? Can you picture the scene if you haven’t seen the movie? If you have seen the movie do you remember this scene? In screenwriting the writer puts in just enough detail to paint a picture but the rest of the details – the colour of the walls, what’s on the table in the character’s living room, what kind of TV they have – are decided on by other departments. Painting too detailed a picture may let the reader picture exactly what you, the writer, envisioned but it doesn’t let the reader use her imagination at all.

I talk about action and a whole lot more in my Is That Hollywood Calling? – How Thinking Like a Screenwriter Can Improve Your Novel. Comment here to be entered to win a lecture packet. If you don’t win, don’t worry! There’s still time to register for the class at:



About Amber Kallyn

Amber Kallyn is the author of paranormal erotic romances and urban fantasy.

Posted on July 29, 2011, in #AmWriting, Basics, Contests, Guest Blogger, Guests, How To, Screenwriting Tips, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Sounds fantastic, Cindy. Off to check out more about your class! You’re right, it’s not, Camera, Lights, Passive…. Very clever!

  2. Hi Donnell!

    Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for checking out the class.

  3. Great post. For someone who over writers, then goes back and removes every other scene to find the important one, this is very helpful.

    Mary George.

  4. Great post, Cindy. And yes, you are right… action drives story, whether internal or external. It’s the spark that ignites the engine of character and of plot. It drives… and it informs. Put pressure on a character and see how they act/react. It’s the action in film, not the words spoken, that measure the man – and the woman – at the end of the day.

  5. Love the way you put it — lights, camera … passive. Action is needed yes indeed. I also loved the painting of the picture. Since I’m thinking of a new script I’ll be writing with a friend, you gave me some ideas about just how much details to add to that first scene. Which btw I do have in mind and also the last scene. Ha, just a few more to add.

  6. I think screenplays can give us a great “self-editing” guide on how to hone in on what’s important in a scene. Great post!

  7. I took a screenwriting class, and that was one of the hardest forms to write in. I’ve recently been reading books by action adventure writers like Steve Berry and James Rollins which help enormously with pacing. My first book recently came out, a time travel historical, and I took all those lessons learned and tried not to have to much white space. Good post!

  8. Great post, Cindy. Yet another reason I love writing scripts – just enough detail to set the scene but not enough to bore the reader.

  9. Hi Mary.

    Thanks for visiting. I under write. For my novels I end up with not enough description. The key is finding the right balance somehow. I have to go back and put stuff in.

  10. Yes, Princess Scribe! It’s about the action. Actions speak louder than words. Cliche yes, but very true.

  11. Great post. I love that expression, “Lights, camera, passive!” That got me to laugh.

    I totally agree that active verbs drive story forward. The passive voice works best for maintaining topic continuity and keeping the focus on the actor driving a particular paragraph. E.g., Cindy writes hot,smoking fiction and was recently awarded the Hottest Smokiest Fiction Prize by RWA! If we tried to say you’d won the prize (and didn’t want to lose the part about the RWA) or, if we tried to make RWA active in this same sentence, the focus would be pulled away from you. And we don’t want that, right?

  12. Love the post! Sometimes I feel like I see the action frame by frame and blocked a certain way when I write. This really brings it home for me. Also the True Lies example is great – also one of my fave movies. 😉

  13. Thanks for stopping by Evelyn, Suzanne, Melissa, Margery, Deanna and Lulu! Glad you enjoyed the post. Sorry it took so long to get back to the blog!

    The winner of the lecture packet is…Suzanne! If you contact Amber so she can pass along your email address I’ll email you the lecture packet!

  1. Pingback: Is That Hollywood Calling – The Blog Tour « Life Write Now

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