Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Hop, Skip and a Jump

I used to think I needed to justify a character's every move, i.e., say she went to bed in order to transition to the next morning. Then I started studying screenplays. From the film 'The Run,'


A blazing sun scorches the earth. Everything is flat, barren. In the distance, a cloud of dust rises as a jeep makes its way across the landscape.

A jeep races through sagebrush and cactus.


Camera shots change quickly, but are easy to follow because they unfold in a logical progression. They advance the story. Scene descriptions are terse: INT. EXT. DAY. NIGHT.

Television and movies--and life, for that matter--move quickly for us. Readers don't need hand-holding to make transitions. They need a few, well-chosen words, and then more action.


  1. Hi,

    That's the beauty of a movie. It's a visual experience. A group of people see the same images, they can discuss the movie as viewed and can define where and when timelines shifted. They know who starred in the movie, so picture them in respective roles.

    Whereas, in a novel images are "painted with words". No two readers will conjur the precise scene or visualise character features as portrayed by the author. Yet, overall, the plot will read the same and can be discussed with fellow readers.

    It's amusing when people exchange views on characters within novels, most referring to a movie/TV star as example of how they visualised the heroine or hero. Which, in itself reflects our need to put a face to characters' within novels, the same way we need to know sense of place, inner feelings, etc. We can't see, but a wordsmith paints these things for us.


  2. Agree that there's a big difference between a movie script and a novel, the writer has to word-paint the picture which the camera can show. To carry the analogy further, what the camera actually shows is up to the director and to the actors - so in a novel, the writer has to be camera, director AND actors.
    And, as we hear/read so many times, the writer must show, not tell.

  3. Your last paragraph does sum the difference up.It is much easier on film.

  4. I agree that a few words work well. We don't need copious amounts of time order words, just enough to let us know we're in a different place and/or time.