. . .Turn your notebook into a camera.
Today I am featuring another chapter tidbit from Roy Peter Clark's book, "Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer," published by Little, Brown and Company. You can find a copy here.
Before there was cinema, writers wrote cinematically. Influenced by the visual arts--by portraits and tapestries--authors have long understood how to shift their focus in and out to capture both character and landscape.
Here are Roy's examples:
• Aerial View. The writer looks down on the world, as if standing atop a skyscraper or viewing the ground from a blimp. Example: "Hundreds and hundreds of black South African voters stood for hours on long, sandy serpentine lines waiting to cast their ballots for the first time."
• Establishing shot. The writer stands back to capture the setting in which action takes place, describing the world that the reader is about to enter, sometimes creating a mood for the story. Example: "Within seconds, as dusty clouds rose over the school grounds, their great widths suggesting blasts of terrifying force, bursts of rifle fire began to sound, quickly building to a sustained and rolling roar."
• Middle distance. The camera moves closer to the action, close enough to see the key players and their interaction. This is the common distance for most stories written for the newspaper. Example: "Scores of hostages survived, staggering from the school even as intense gunfire sputtered and grenades exploded around them. . ."
• Close-up. The camera gets in the face of the subject, close enough to detect anger, fear, dread, sorrow, irony, the full range of emotions. Example: "His brow furrowed and the crow's feet deepened as he struggled to understand. . ."
• Extreme close-up. The writer focuses on an important detail that would be invisible from a distance: the pinky ring on the mobster's finger, the date circled on the wall calendar, the can of beer atop a police car.
Try this exercise from Roy's WORKSHOP:
--Changing camera distance and angle lies at the heart of cinematic art. Watch a favorite movie with a friend, paying attention to the camera work. Discuss how you would describe certain scenes if you had to write them for print.
Next week: Report and write for scenes. . .then align them in a meaningful sequence.
Until then. . . put the tools to work, and keep on writing!