Today, I’d like to build on the previous blogs by Christie Caughie, Graeme Brown, and Laurie Temple, and add another tool to your writing toolbox. Let’s consider the technique of visualizing your sentences and paragraphs as they fit into your scenes. Just as reading them aloud gives you the sense of the cadence and flow, visualizing them gives you the cinematic flow.
I attended a seminar by Blake Snyder (Save the Cat) several years ago that helped me realize how much our words provide that cinematic experience to our readers. I learned that as you ‘see’ each scene in your mind, you can structure them to enhance the reader’s ability to enjoy your story on the visual as well as emotional level. For example:
Dave stepped to the plate, with one man on base. With one out left, in the last inning, he faced a lost game. The restless crowd booed him. The pitcher threw the ball and Dave hit a homerun to win the game. Jane stood with everyone around her to cheer the hero of the game.
Viewing this as a movie scene, it would be flat and uninteresting. And on the cutting room floor. How do you add the texture, color and sounds that make the reader feel he’s standing right there beside Jane willing our hero to succeed?
Close your eyes and imagine yourself in that same place. What do your five senses show you? Let’s see what that might give us:
Jane squirmed on the uncomfortable metal bench seat as her butt went numb from having no opportunity to stand and cheer her team. The row she sat in behind home plate, full of fans just moments before, now lay empty of people but full of litter. Peanut shells scrunched beneath her feet, and her shoes kept sticking to the remains of a spilled soda from the crying child behind her. The sour smell of half-eaten hot dogs and spilled beer fueled the turmoil in her gut. Adding insult to injury, it had begun to pour in thick humid sheets of rain.
Her Dave was at bat with one out left, bottom of the ninth. With the worst batting average in the league, this game was over. His career would be over too.
His teammate stood sullenly at second, his arms crossed, tapping his foot on the base. He was already thinking about a hot shower in the locker room and a stiff drink.
Breathless, Jane scanned the thinning crowd as the weight of their disappointment radiated through the entire stadium. Fathers and sons slouched their way toward the exits mumbling against the coach for putting Dave in the game.
She watched her fiancée flinch as the catcalls and boos rained down on him from the remaining die-hard fans, their faces contorted with angry jeers. Forcing her attention back to Dave, she watched hin step to the plate, set his feet, and raise his bat. The pitcher sneered as he stepped to the mound. Fierce determination blossomed on Dave’s face and hope sprang up in Jane’s heart. Maybe. Maybe he could do it.
She leaped to her feet, jumping and yelling encouragement to Dave, screaming to raise her voice over the crowd. He could do it!
And, of course, he gets to be the hero of the game.
Being able to visualize a scene allows you to add elements that are beyond a mere description of a location or an interaction. You can see and feel the emotions of the crowd, our heroine, and our hero. You can feel and smell and hear the atmosphere in the stadium. Readers who’ve been to a baseball game will supply other details of the scene, from their own experience. They’ll remember when a drunk fan dropped a beer down their mother-in-law’s neck. Or sitting behind a whole row of Little Leaguers at their first big league game. It helps tie your reader to the scene and the emotions.
Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, this tool will add depth and color to every scene in your book. As an editor, I love getting that cinematic experience of your story while reading it.
Monica Britt is an editor at Champagne Books.