Saturday, July 18, 2009

Can You See It?

Recently, I saw a movie where I was all but screaming at one of the actors, "Oh for the love of God, get in the shot." His character belonged in that moment, but for some unknown reason, he was five feet away from everyone else. No one I asked could figure out why the actor did that, but we all noticed.

What does this have to do with books?

Well, when I'm reading a good book, I'm not seeing the words. Instead, I'm seeing pictures of the characters and the scenes play out behind my eyes like a movie. So, sometimes, I think of books like movies.

What is this character doing in that shot?

If someone is there, they should have a good reason for being there. If MC walks into the coffee shop and sees his girlfriend with another guy, then he can break up with her. But why did he go into the coffee shop? Maybe a sudden yen for cappuccino. And if a character isn't there, he should have a good reason not to be there. Maybe the MC's tag-along best friend won't go to the party, because her ex will be there. Sure, that might not be the reason the writer won't have her there (maybe if Best Friend is there, MC can't leave with Romantic Interest during the party), but if Best Friend would normally be there, there ought to be a reason she isn't.

What are they doing there?

An insecure character might follow a friend across the room so as not to stand alone. A nervous person might fiddle with, say, a ring. A gregarious person will smile at a newcomer. All in all, humans don't do nothing. I like to know what each character is doing while the moment is occurring. Every moment is a shot, and I like to know what's going on in all of it.

Where are the characters standing/sitting/doing yoga in that moment?

If one character can't stand cats, then he'll place himself farther from the cat than other characters would. If he secretly loves someone, he'd probably stand closer to that person or alter himself to be look more directly at that person.
Personal space would also be a matter. For the average American, personal space is 18-48 inches. Anyone inside those 18" qualifies as a close intimate. Spatial relations can have a lot of meanings. The actor I mentioned earlier played the best friend, so why couldn't he stand near the MC? A creepy person might stand a little too close. An uptight person or aggressive male might demand more space. In a visual, spacing can have deeper meaning; there as the writer, I need to know who looks like they're too far away and too close and why.

In some ways, a book is easier than a movie or a play. After all, a character can do a lot of things without the audience wondering why. All the writer has to do is not mention what that person is doing and the reader will never know. On the other hand, the reader can see anything you write down. And if you don't know the whole picture, how can they?

Do you like to visualize as you go? Do you see the picture before you write or after?

1 comment:

  1. I visualise the scenes in my head before I write it down! I sometimes get carried away with description to make sure I paint an image in the readers head. Good point about having a reason why a character does something