QueryTracker Blog

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

But I'm Not Making A Movie...

When I first started writing fiction, I studied craft books that focused on writing novels. What more could I want? They taught me everything I needed to know, or so I thought.

It wasn’t until I read Save the Cat by Blake Synder that I realized how much I can learn from books geared toward screenwriters, actors, and directors. I also discovered that authors with a background in cinema have an insight that could also benefit my stories.

Most of us are familiar with Writer’s Digest books. I can almost guarantee you’ve read at least one of their craft books. Michael Wise Productions is the cinema version of Writer’s Digest, and has an impressive list of books that will appeal to novelists, too. Topics range from story structure, subtext, symbolism, characterization, story lines. The best part is they use examples from well known movies and TV shows. You don’t have to suffer through an excerpt taken out of context or spend hours reading the novel. You can easily watch the show or movie in a fraction of the time.

As writers, we need to read. A lot. We read both in and out of our genre. We analyze stories, and figure out what we liked and didn’t like about them. You can do the same with movies and TV shows, and apply what you learned to your story. For example, you can study different techniques used in a movie, in a similar vein to your story, to see how the director conveyed mood (beyond the music). Then find a way to incorporate them into your writing. Analyze the symbols used to reveal characterization and plot. Study how the actors portray the characters. What kinds of physical details relating to the character or setting does the director zoom in on that adds power to the scene? Can you use some of those techniques in your story? I recommend reading Shoot Your Novel by C.S Larkin. She explains cinematography in a way that will change the way you write a scene. Some of the techniques we naturally use, but knowing them will help you gain maximum benefit from them.

In movies, the story is revealed through action and dialogue. There are no inner thoughts—most of the time. So how does the viewer get inside the actor’s head? Subtext. What do readers love? Subtext. Want to know how to do subtext well, then study movies. Analyze the difference between the great actors and the B-grade ones, then apply it your story to make it and your characters come to life.

Don’t just watch a movie for its entertainment value. Watch it. Study it. Dissect it. Just like screenwriters do.

Have you read any screenwriting books you recommend?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.

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