Posted by Amber Kallyn
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 : ) http://www.writersonlineclasses.com/?page_id=592
Also, comment here to win a lecture packet from Cindy.
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.
EXT. CHATEAU – NIGHT
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: http://www.writersonlineclasses.com/?page_id=592