Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action!

I cast movies in my head. Not just any movies, of course: book adaptations - especially my own. No, no, I'm not getting ahead of myself with fantasies of big movie deals, and premieres, and pretty dresses (dreams are the food that keep me going *sniff*), it's just something I find happens while I write. 

Scenes play in my head like a movie reel. There's dialogue, camera angles for the action scenes, close-ups and wide shots, and while it can get a bit distracting sometimes, it's a great way to get the words down. I'm not so much creating as describing what I'm seeing. This turns out to be a huge help with seeing subtle details. With character it can be facial expressions or movement. People aren't stiff, or permanently stoic (unless you're Barret), and adding the little details like a smirk, or a blink, can add to the character. With setting, it's the difference between a silent, backdrop forest, and one the reader can get immersed in, filled with the sound of birds, and twigs cracking, and the wind blowing through the trees.

I'm curious how many other writers do the same, because I know I'm not unique in this way. Most of my characters are the ones I've made up in my head that I can't match to anyone real, but I have faces of all kinds of famous people in mind while I write, attached to one character or another. Sometimes it's a post-writing match just for fun, but I find that choosing someone to play the role of my lead, for example, helps me to stay consistent in her description. I always have a general idea of what she looks like, but what if in one scene I describe her hair as wavy and in another it's straight? 

Same with setting. Picturing it like a movie set helps me remember where all the doors are to which rooms (bathroom second door on the left), and how to reach that secret stairwell that brings you down to the second room in the basement that can't be reached any other way. Since consistency is one of the key elements in keeping a story real and allowing the reader to get lost, I'm willing to use whatever tricks or cues I can to help me remember that Barret likes to drive blue cars, not yellow. 

I'm a DVD junkie. I love movies for the same reasons I love books - they're great stories, with interesting characters - and I watch so many of them that I guess it's not surprising I would use mental films to help me write. Is it a nice thought that one day I may see these films come to life? Maybe. For now, though, I'm content to keep them all in my head - it will never be more perfect than how I see it ;)


  1. I always see my novels as movies in my head. This is helpful, except when I write in too cinematic a fashion...I've been criticized for that in the past. (GLORY is an example.)

    What it does really help me with is plotting. What it hurts me on is description. I see it so clearly that I just presume everyone else will too! LOL!

  2. This is sooo true!!! I do this in my head too - it really helps with writing stuff. Fab article :))


  3. Ha, never thought of the other side of it! I guess it's true it would make it harder to remember to add the little stuff.
    I'd be curious to know if either of you have recurring actors in your movies ;) says a lot about you!

  4. Same here . . . and the movie plays whenever it feels like it. Also, if I get stuck on a scene I either sit back, eyes closed, and try to visualize exactly what is happening or I act it out. God forbid anyone ever spies through the windows! LOL They'd be certain I'm a nut ball.

  5. I do love movies but I try to keep my writing and movies separate. To me they are totally different things and they shouldn't mix.