WRITING THE FILM STRIP IN YOUR HEAD- Meg Lacey
To really visualize you must: observe, look at everything, write down what you see, hear, feel, taste and smell.
The mind thinks in images and pictures. I see everything in terms of movement. For example, when I think of movement, I don’t hear it first, I see it. I see the rhythm as it moves through the air, the way the air parts of the music can walk toward me. I see music as an image that evokes a response or an emotion—then I hear it, feel it, and embrace it with the rest of my senses.
Because my educational and professional back ground is all visual, from theatre to TV and film, I had to learn to write the words on the paper. So I came at novel writing from a whole other point of view.
With my first novel, my critique partners would say, “What happens in this part?” I’d launch into an elaborate description of the action, the movement, the character response and their expression. Then I’d hear, “Duh! Put that on the paper!”
So I’d start there and then had to build the emotion, which is the heart of the romance novel around it. Approaching word this way does two things for me:
- It guantees that I write a faster paced novel, one with dialogue as a core.
- It provides vivid, image-provaking visualizations of locations, people and their actions.
Let’s try an exercise. Look at these letters.
What do they say to you? Do you see a Y or E or L or L or W—what did you see?
How big was it?
What color yellow?
Was it wearing a hat?
How about toenail polish?
My yellow elephant is wearing purple toenail polish and has a nosebleed. How about yours?
Take a piece of paper and draw 4 big boxes on the page. Leave space under each box to write words. This is your story board for your film strip.
Now let’s take these words and fill in the first box
SEE A TREE
What kind of tree is it? What shape? Big or little?
Shape of branches, of leaves?
What is the season? How can you tell?
Where is it located? What’s around it?
How does it look against the background?
Does it cast a Shadow?
Tell us about your tree.
Now you have the first frame in your film strip. You have visualized or created an image. Put that tree in the first box. Don’t worry if you can’t draw, do a stick figure. What’s important is what YOU are seeing. You know what is in your mind, and you can use words to tell the audience.
Now you have this first frame in front of you. Use as many adjectives to describe the tree, the setting, the mood you intend to portray. Take the next 30 seconds and write the words under your first box.
When you speak of film, you speak of pictures, of images, but you are really speaking of ACTION. Because only through action does a character reveal themselves, and does a plot evolve from a basic idea into a full blown realization.
As novelists our job is to evoke emphathetic emotion through our portrayal of people and the unfolding of events. How do we involve the reader and evoke emotion? We show, instead of tell. Telling makes you an observer. Showing makes you a participant.
What does Show suggest? Action—something happens. Something takes a visual form. That something might only be a character picking his nose, but it is action that reveals character.
As writers, it’s not just the words, it’s the image the words create that powers the writing. It’s the image your words create in the readers mind that makes your story or characters stand out.
How do we get to that point? It starts in your mind. We are always thinking in terms of action.
Action = Visualization
Action = Character
Go back to your tree. Let’s take it further. Are there any animals aorund? How about people? If so, what are they doing?
Put that tree and characters in the second storyboard frame (box) Take 30 seconds and come up with as many adjectives and verbs to describe the characters, the action and the atmosphere.
All this visualization stuff is well and good, but you can’t do nothing but that and have a product that makes sense, can you? Probably not. What do you need to start pulling it together?
Remember, we’re thinking like a film strip, visualizing and writing our story board. So let’s think about film structure. I use this structure to write my novels because it gives me a framework and allows me to improvise in it.
Films are written in 3 act structures, same as most plays. Beginning, Middle and End. The structure is adapted for other mediums, such as an hour long TV show might have 7 acts because of commercials, a half hour sitcom might have 4, but the basic structure holds true, it’s just broken differently.
This structure is the spine of your novel, or script. The structure is for your core, or basic plot with subplots weaving in and around them.
Feature films are generally 110 to 120 pages.
Pg. 1-15 is generally your set up. This gives the vital info to start the story. Not all the info, just enough to set us on the path and give us the style of the story.
Pg. 15-30 is generally oyur fist turning point. Turneong points help a story change directions, new events unfold, new decisions are made, etc.
Pg/ 75-85 is genearlly the second truing point. Generally start of Act Two through the novel
Pg. 110-12o is the climzx. End of story, moment when the question is resolved. It’s the big finish.
Resolution is generally 1-5 pages from the end. Wraps up as to say good night. Say it tight, clean and fast.
In between tese key ponts are the many Beats of other little moments that keep adding layer upon layter to plot and character and keep moving it thru the rising and falling action to the climax.
A Beat is a single dramatic moment or single dramatic event. Single beats placed together create a scene. The beats of the scene create the beats of each act, beats of each act creates a story.
How does this translate to a novel? Let’s say yor novel has 200 pages.
The set up is 1-20-25.
First turning point, beginning of act one is pg. 25-50.
Midpoint – halway thru novel. Have somehting big happen here to avoid a sagging middle.
Pg. 90-135 is the second turning point and start of act two
Page 175-190 is the climax and act three
Pg. 190-200 is the resolution.
BUT you need more Elements to make the story and your storyboard work. To bring it to life, to visualize it.
Tell us about your story’s structure.