Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Black and White Truth of Story

Somewhere in my Internet travels, I clicked on a link (like we all do), and landed up here.  Apparently, someone had lots of time on their hands and wanted to make a point.  And I think they make it well.  The article talks about staging scenes for films, but I think there's a case to be made for staging scenes for books as well here.

Harrison Ford and Alfred Molina (yup, the same guy from Chocolat)

Now, I am not a huge fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark (I know, I know - I should be, but I missed the movie mania when I was 12 and therefore did not have it as a part of my cultural upbringing).  I've seen it, but it was probably ten or more years after it was released that I finally got around to seeing it.  And it might have even been on something like TNT, so it was all cut-up and "formatted for television." (Ick.  Not the best way to see any movie, especially one you haven't seen before.)

But I was absolutely mesmerized by the first ten minutes (that's all I allowed myself; otherwise I would have watched the whole thing instead of getting back to work).  Without dialogue, without color, and with a new soundtrack, your eyes are drawn in. I understood the drama; I could feel the heat of the jungle; I could see the dangers and feel the excitement.    

It made me think about how authors can use staging, not visually, but with description (yes, that dreaded "Show, don't Tell" mantra).  How those details can give the reader the truth of the story or how it can just seem like recycled plots.  How those mannerisms can make the reader identify with the character: believe what they believe, feel what they feel, find themselves in the character (even if at first glance the reader and character are complete opposites). 

So check out the link and if you've got the time and inclination, watch the whole film (yup, the entire movie in black and white and no dialogue).  See if you are drawn in; notice how the camera cuts away or draws out a scene.  (I noticed it took three minutes to actually see Harrison Ford's face! It felt like forever!) And think about how to create that tension and anticipation in your manuscript.

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