Stories begin as visions in the mind where characters and action take place on the screen of our imagination. A writer then crafts their vision into the tangible form of a novel to share that story. A fascinating aspect is that the process is reversed when reading, and the book becomes like a film in the mind of the reader.
Both film and fiction tell stories using scenes. In film, each scene is composed of many shots chosen because they increase the significance and or implication of the action – whether it’s dramatic or static action - and film uses varying distances of shot to increase that impact. Long and medium shots, close-up, and extreme close-up are the basic types of shot used in film, and when one shot ends, it is immediately replaced by the next shot. The result is a stream of images that tell a story.
So, how does this apply to fiction?
Here’s an extract from D. H. Lawrence’s short story, Odour of Chrysanthemums.
"The small locomotive engine, Number 4, came clanking, stumbling down from Selston with seven full wagons. It appeared round the corner with loud threats of speed, but the colt that it startled from among the gorse, which still flickered indistinctly in the raw afternoon, outdistanced it at a canter. A woman, walking up the railway-line to Underwood, drew back into the hedge held her basket aside, and watched the footplate of the engine advancing. The trucks thumped heavily past, one by one, with slow inevitable movement, as she stood insignificantly trapped between the jolting black wagons and the hedge."
Looking at the introductory paragraph, a quick analysis shows how Lawrence introduces the setting with a long shot. Transitioning to medium shots, he cuts to the colt and the woman. The next shot, a close-up, shows the woman holding her basket aside. The description of the trucks moving past the woman is an extreme close-up, and in the phrase ‘thumped heavily past, one by one’ Lawrence traps the reader just as much as the space between the train and the hedge traps the woman.
Lawrence also follows the dramatic arc of rising action. The movement of the approaching train is echoed by the colt running, and creates a climax (and contrast) with the woman forced into stillness by the immense noisy train. Further on the paragraph moves into falling action with transitions through medium shots of the countryside, concluding with a long shot of a building silhouetted against the horizon.
Trying this exercise with your own work is interesting and constructive as you may find you favor one particular shot more than others. If you find most of your scenes are, for example, medium shots, then varying those with longer and shorter shots can give the scene more impact, pace, and drama.
The final book in my Samsara Trilogy is with my editor, and I'm aiming for a Christmas release. Although, life being what it is, it might well be a New Year publication. So, I'm busy, excited and nervous as I prepare for publication. This book completes the trilogy, and will be my first box set - a milestone I wasn't sure I would ever reach. Yeah!
Today's Haiku MEMORIES are you old and grey my once and youthful lover – I dream about you
If you would like to receive a notice of new releases, click on the sign-up tab at the top of the page. Thank you!
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.