Maureen Pratt PictureHello! Maureen Pratt here with another blog post about the craft of writing.

I’m typing this just before I leave to see one of the “blockbuster” movies coming out during this holiday season. Many films are timed to open during the next couple of months so that they can be eligible for award consideration, so the selection these days is varied and abundant.

Anticipating seeing “Lincoln,” (my movie of choice today), I thought I’d talk today about fiction writing and a very specific way of filtering that “movie in the mind” to better hone story telling and characterization.

The concept of translating the “movie in the mind” to a novel, novella, or shorter story is a powerful one. Movies are by their nature action-packed, and when told on the big screen, they take on an epic quality even if the story involves only two characters. Sweeping scenes, broad emotions, and long passages are the things that hook us into sitting and watching – or sitting and writing. But forever lengthy storytelling can become unwieldy and dilute the impact of a very worthy tale.

This is where the “secret weapon” of moviemakers comes in, and where we can glean some very worthwhile food for thought and action. After a scene has been shot and a movie “in the can,” comes the shirt-sleeves-rolled up work, the place where the story truly gets told: The editing room.

I’m not talking about rewriting in this context, that is, I’m not addressing the need to rework scenes, characters, plot points, or even changing the setting of a work. The editing to which I refer is more about establishing the pacing, featuring (however briefly) the small details that illustrate big points, and sculpting the work as it stands so that it can be three-dimensional, even if the words physically lie flat on the page.

Editing in this sense is carried out by watching the movie, and then coming in close on specific points that tell a bigger tale. For example, perhaps you like the initial description of your heroine. She’s petite, brunette, blue-eyed. Now, “movie-edit” and look at several possible “shots” that you can use to more precisely and uniquely describe her. Is one shoulder slightly lower than the other, perhaps indicating she’s carried a heavy load (a briefcase?) a long way for a long time? Is there even lighter hair coming in at her roots, indicating a transition from brunette to arriving middle age? Even if she appears calm at the start, does she have a characteristic fidgeting habit with her fingers indicating some tension underneath? As with picking which shots to use in a movie, in a book, pick out helpful details and use them in description, too.

Cinematic editing is also important when deciding where a scene begins and ends. We’ve all had the experience of not knowing, for example, how to close out a critical scene, with the result that the conversation or action becomes diluted from too much indecision. A masterful editor knows exactly when to “cut,” often timing down to a second. This takes practice. A useful exercise is to take a scene that you feel is too long and cut it a few times at different points. How does each cut affect the flow? Tension? Impact? Practice makes perfect!

In movie editing, many aspects of the work come into play, and the same is true for a book. For example, movie editors are conscious of where music comes in and how it builds a scene. Think about this next time you’re going over your work. What music do you hear and when; that is, what background do you have in your scene that fleshes out either the characters or the setting? Also, how is the continuity from one scene to another? Are you sure that your hero remains brown eyed throughout, or that the local bakery is just that and doesn’t transform to a bookshop halfway through the book?

As you watch movies this holiday season and beyond, notice the editing – where cuts are made, which shots are used (where the focus is placed), and how music and other background elements play in telling the story as a whole. Then see which of these tools might help you go beyond the movie in your mind and arrive at a work that is multidimensional, compelling, and true!

Blessings to you!

Maureen

www.maureenpratt.com

http://blog.beliefnet.com/gooddaysbaddays/

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Maureen Pratt, CAN Member-at-Large

Maureen Pratt

Hello, again! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly CAN blog about the art and craft of writing. This month’s topic is, “Help! Where’s my story?!” or, “What to do when your story goes one way while you go another.”

Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, plotting or outlining is often an essential part of the publication process. From the first query to the last book cover blurb, most of us try to envision the beginning, middle and end of a work before we dive in.

But, as we authors know, as hard as we might work on those early ideations, “things happen” once we get started. New facts come to light. A secondary character takes center stage. A plot thread we knew was right suddenly becomes oh-so-wrong.

How do we handle these and other creations of the creative process? First of all…

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Pic for website 2012     Hello, again! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly blogpost about the craft of writing. Today, I'm going to focus on techniques to employ to find and write distinctive voices for each of your characters or individuals in fiction or non-fiction.

    I began my professional writing career as a playwright, earning my Master of Fine Arts in Theater Arts with a concentration in playwriting from UCLA and later having a number of plays produced. Unlike writing for the movies, playwriting "runs" on dialogue. A professional script for live theater contains very little, if any, description except to set the scene, and actor's notes should be non-existent. (Once a play has been published, which assumes it's been produced, these notes are usually inserted as guidelines for subsequent productions, however, original scripts do not include them.) So, it's vital that a playwright master the art of dialogue, crafting lines that contain meaning, emphasis, and character without "indicating" these in the script.

Example: "Mary: He did what? How? I don't believe it" instead of: "Mary (raising her voice and her eyebrows): He did what? (She sits down on the sofa) How? (She sighs) I don't believe it."

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Aloha from Karen

Eliz1009

I’ve been working with one of my editors who wants changes to books I wrote. He sends very gracious messages. I know he wants the best for the book and doesn’t want me upset, but wants to bring out the best work I can do. I’m all for having a better, more saleable product that will reach more readers so I cooperate and rewrite. And I love how the changes have been coming out.

I’m also working on a book with a co-author. We need to be a team and I love my co-author. That’s how t should be as we work with someone. We pass on information tone another and research/leads that help the other person have some great information.

Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 remind us we are to be team players and work together for the edification of one another and God’s glory.

When editors hear the words, “God gave me every word so nothing needs to be changed” that’s a Fort McHenry sized banner that the writer is not a team player and doesn’t believe God also gave us editors to polish and sharpen a message. Let’s talk about being a team player

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Gail Gaymer Martin Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with blessings from Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailmartin.com

I have tried various tools for brainstorming plots and deepening stories, but I’ve usually given up and found the programs more trouble than they’re worth. One of the least expensive programs I’ve found and one you can even download free for a trail is Natural Reader, a text to voice program.

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