1. jess046
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    jess046 Member

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    Cinematic Writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jess046, Jul 4, 2011.

    How do you feel about this style of writing? Do you think its effective?

    I've been experimenting with this sort of style, which is heavy on dialouge and description with little internal monologue. I think the minimalist style that naturally results is interesting for the reader as they have to work out the meaning behind the actions of the characters with little guidance from the author. This is the same as film, where you're given visuals and have to work out their significance.

    Do you think this style is too sparse though? Or boring to read? What kind of writers typically use this style? I've been reading some Fitzgerald and he uses some cinematic techniques, as does Bret Easton Ellis.

    What other cinematic techniques could be implemented into writing? I think it's an interesting genre of writing that hasn't been explored that much and could help to enhance one's writing style.
     
  2. chacotaco91
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    chacotaco91 Senior Member

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    It is surely a preference thing. I, in my opinion, find I have a hard time finishing novels that don't carry with it a decent amount of personal monologue, philosiphizing, metaphors, and general intellectual stimulation.

    With many of the thrillers so recommended to me, I get lost in almost the "haze" of the story. Eventual it just becomes talk, description, repetition. What does it mean to me and my world, besides its existence in my head?

    With the majority of readers, you'll do fine. To each his own.
     
  3. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I think this style is a bit more suited to me too, since I tend to use a lot of dialogue, perhaps a bit too heavy. Still, as chacotaco91 said, to each his own. Most writers, obviously, have a style that fits them best, and I also think you shouldn't think that you can only or have to only write in one style, since it's probably a good idea to integrate aspects of different styles at times anyways.
     
  4. jess046
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    jess046 Member

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    Well I don't think cinematic writing means it's without monologue, philosophizing, metaphors or intellectual stimulation as you put it. In fact, one of the most cinematic novels I just read Ellis's 'Less Than Zero' is laden with these aspects. The reason I created this topic was because I've been thinking that cinematic writing might be a better way to provoke intellectual stimulation, because it requires that the reader is an active participant in creating meaning from the text. As in a movie, you give the reader 'cinematic' clues such as the billboard in Less Than Zero or the green light in The Great Gatsby (i.e visual, descriptive symbols) and they have to work out its significance. I guess I don't like novels that spoon-feed their meaning or use flowery, verbose language. I'm not trying to change your opinion, I just think you have a different idea of what I mean by cinematic writing. I'm not talking airport fiction, but minimalist, sparse literary writing that relies on description and dialouge.
     
  5. Declan
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    Declan Senior Member

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    I 100% agree.

    Less Than Zero is a very good book, too.
     
  6. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love writing that is heavy on dialogue (think Hemingway), either spoken or internal.

    Description is important too, of course, but I get tired of over-description. I think it's best to give guidance, but to leave something to the imagination. I see it like a sketch. There's no need to fill in all the colours or to always have bold outlines. It can be more effective to be 'blurry'. At least that's my way of thinking. People like different things.
     
  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    What you seem to be describing is a POV that is limited and external to any of the characters. Like any POV, it has its advantages and disadvantages, but if it works for your story then go for it.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Cinema is a very different medium than written fiction. Cinema offers complete images, which can have multiple simultaneous actions taking place. Writing is linear and single threaded at any particular instant. Cinema also has simultaneous audio content, which in itself can present multiple channels of information simultaneously.

    Write for the medium you are using. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses to exploit, or to fall victim to.
     
  9. jess046
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    jess046 Member

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    I think you're looking at it too literally. Cinema and writing by default share similar qualities because they both function for the same purpose- to tell a story. I think it's important for writers to look to other artforms for inspiration on how to explore different means of expression. I mean, modern writing can be very visual if you're creative, in terms of formatting and other similar gimmicks. Who's to say that cinematic techniques cannot work within the written medium...I mean in this thread alone quite a few successful writers have been mentioned, many of whom are famous for using these techniques.
     
  10. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    I truly think this is my default style, but I don't believe my writing is bare or stripped to the basics. On the contrary, I've been told it's has a lot of emotion, detail, description but I rarely have internal monologues and I dislike directly telling my readers what my characters think unless it's important. I rather paint he picture and have the reader work out the meaning. So it might not be considered cinematic writing in the sense of bare bones.

    But an example of bare bones cinematic writing is No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.

    Very, very cinematic. There is absolutely no internal monologue or internal character thoughts in the book apart from the Sheriff. And it is pretty dry and mechanical, though it worked once you really got into the story.

    "He sat up from the bed, then sat down again, sat up, sat down again. Turning to his side, he picked up the shotgun..."
     
  11. GunGrave TZA
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    GunGrave TZA Member

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    Would somebody mind explaining to me what cinematic writing is?
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just my personal opinion, but writing that is very heavy on the dialogue can become shallow and boring. Actually, I tend to put down a book in a bookstore if the first 3-4 pages are nothing but dialogue.

    Descriptive passages are not empty or flowery time-wasters on the part of a writer (or at least, they shouldn't be). They do things like provide greater complexity (and interest) to the story. Like I said in another thread, think about a scene in a movie: e.g. a guy goes into a room, searches for something, there's a closeup of his expression when he finds a letter, etc. None of this can be rendered as dialogue in a novel, unless you have a crazy who talks to himself--or that bad writer's favourite copout, a kind of 'internal dialogue'. I mean, do you 'think talk' like that? It's really irritating and unrealistic if there's anything more than just a sentence or two of it, imo.

    Anyway, back to that movie scene--something like that should hold your interest and is usually essential to the plot. When you write you must do all this with descriptive writing, you can't have dialogue all the time.
     
  13. jess046
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    jess046 Member

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    Well I don't think cinematic writing has to be just dialogue- if it was then it would be a play. A sequence like the above would be narrated using description. I guess it's the language you use to describe how the guy goes into his room and opens the letter that dictates how the reader is positioned to respond. Like if he was nervous you wouldn't delve into a full-on internal monologue about why he's nervous- you would just show his fingers trembling or something and then you fill in the gaps later on.
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Even plays usually have stage directions, and a performance needs to take decisions about staging. All stuff that doesn't fit in dialogue.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    To me, cinematic writing mimics the experience of a passive observer in an audience. The observer is outside of the action, observing the scene in great detail.

    But as I said earlier, cinema is a very different medium with different strengths and different limitations. Writing a book in a cinematic style is a poor fit.
     
  16. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, but the interpretation of a screenplay or script for a play falls heavily on the decisions of the different directors involved to realise it. Apart from often fairly basic scene-setting and mood-setting, the screenplay tends to be mostly dialogue. Likewise a play--I don't know why you think a play is only dialogue, but a screenplay isn't! This is what I thought you meant by 'cinematic writing'. But as Cogito says, let's not get confused between screenplays, plays, and novels.
     
  17. bruce
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    bruce Active Member

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    In "cinematic writing" you have to consider how the story is told, that is, aspects of Point of View and Narrator. The story is not told through a character's point of view or the Narrator's or even the Author's viewpoint but via an objective camera. This is not an approach I'd use to write a novel.
     
  18. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's to discard the unique strengths of novels in favor of imitating the strength of another medium, without any hope of achieving the same impact. A book can never be as visual as a film, so why strive for it? It especially seems futile if you're throwing away what makes a novel so great in its own right -- things that, in turn, films cannot achieve.

    To me, such a novel would seem like a banana with "apple" written all over it, and I'd give it a pass, I'm sure, and go put on a DVD.
     
  19. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    This style, particularly in Ellis' Less Than Zero, is boring and quite frankly annoying to me. There was absolutely no empathy created for any of the characters and he relied heavily on shock factor (which while it may have been shocking when he wrote it, there's simply nothing shocking or intriguing about it now). Also, the writing, while I understand that he's apparently a well-loved writer, is just not good. Using phrases like "Eyes roll up" repeatedly is annoying and just bad. Eyes do not roll up like lizard tongues or garage doors, which is what his phrasing brings to mind. It is certainly not a book that I would strive to emulate in any fashion. This is, of course, my opinion, and you all may feel free to disagree with me, but it just doesn't live up to current standards.
     

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