1. Iain Sparrow
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    Iain Sparrow Senior Member

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    Writing Cinematic Scenes

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Iain Sparrow, Oct 2, 2016.

    I'll begin by saying that I'm very pleased with myself. I think.

    I'm outlining a plot wherein three protagonists, each with a dedicated chapter in the story, must somehow unite in dramatic fashion. The three stories happen in real time and converge by the end of the third chapter, with three girls, complete strangers, coming together. It's of course the beginnings of an odd friendship, though only by necessity. I finally came up with a way this can happen, and that doesn't come off as super contrived, and is a nifty close to the three individual adventures.

    So, I was wondering how much is too much?
    The story is set in a place and time not unlike Paris during the French Revolution, so I'm confined to fairly crude technology, add to the mix the protagonists are 12 year old girls that I don't want to turn into 'girls behaving like boys', or worse... action heroes. The way in which they unite is stretching what technology they could possibly employ in a circa 1790 world to the limits... but it is very cinematic and punchy.

    Do you guys actively incorporate cinematic scenes into your stories, that is the scene is something you'd see in a blockbuster movie? Do you struggle with maintaining realistic characters and circumstances, and the temptation to make things more cinematic?

    I thought this article was helpful...
    https://www.writersstore.com/now-write-screenwriting-exercise-write-cinematic-scenes/
     
  2. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    What you're describing has nothing whatsoever to do with 'cinematic' or not. Films run the gamut from absurd action to measured character driven plots, and books do exactly the same,
     
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  3. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    When I'm creating stories in my mind, they always get translated in my mind as motion pictures, with the difference that sometimes I may be inside of them too, either watching and sensing things from the protagonists POV, either as the antagonist or whichever character whatsoever, where I gain the whole picture of what's going on, everywhere (the minds, the environment, the actions, etc.), or other times, I may be outside of the minds and view things as an mere observer. For me, both of these ways I imagine things come handy, but as they get translated on paper, I have to contain myself and become more laconic. Because, then comes...

    The time of writing: I recollect my self produced memories, and start slaughtering them in the name of communication and appeal. It's the part of the process, where I become director. Every good movie, is consisted of good actors (realistic reactions), a well written scenario (good dialogues, a plot that makes sense), good decisions upon your shots/every frame matters! (your narration perspective should have appeal) and good editing (the flow). In a novel, just like in a movie, everything is stylized. Even in the most realistic, slice-of-life stories, the outcome we get is a stylized version of the original authors stylized imagination (yes, we tend to think in a stylized manner too, when it comes to stories), filtered by his/hers decisions upon what is relevant to show and what is not, and how to do it, in order to make it appeal to others so they can somehow relate, or get enthralled by it, as to start reading it, hoping they will keep at it, until the very last page.

    As for the difference between a novel and a film: In films, sometimes in order to show what is going on in the characters mind or to pass the psychology of a scene (to make it pop-up dramatically), the directors choose to make dramatic sets (where heavy, unrealistic color grading takes place/colors influence the human psychology intensely), choose specific shots (extreme angles/ which also influences the human psychology intensely), place in songs or ambient sounds (which... you get it) and all sorts of other tricks upon editing, framing, etc, because they have this limitation: They cannot tell us, what exactly is going on in the minds of the MCs and cast in general, and the actors, in order to keep things realistic, cannot over react dramatically every time they get emotional. Over the top acting can be excused sometimes, but it gets ridiculous when used often. It's unrealistic and it comes in conflict with the things we hide inside, or even do not know we even have. Some things are supposed to stay hidden for many good reasons. So what did directors come up with? You don't have the time to introduce your MCs character through an analytic backstory that summarizes him? You better get someone to create a musical theme for him, that corresponds to his very psyche. Apart from introducing him, that way you make him memorable as well. Is he a heroic dude? A heroic theme that is. Is he light and mysterious? Put in more flutes in myxolydian mode. They become so creative that even the most pre-planned "details" come to us as subliminal messaging that can be so hard to spot.

    Actually, I could go on and on on film analysis, but it would become irrelevant. In case you are interested (I see you are a set creator) these are two very interesting channels: Collative learning (Rob Ager) and Every frame a Painting.

    So, I'll go ahead and continue about the novels. Writing can be limiting upon the description (one picture is a thousand words, and using a thousand words to describe a mere picture can get pretty tiring) but! you can show in ways you cannot show with a logical progression of pictures, what is going on in the heads of your characters in more detail. You can explain all the story or parts of the story, not only through their eyes, but also through their minds. You can make things pretty deep and psychedelic, with just a slip of your narrating creation to a more poetic mode while using the right kind of words in the right kind of order. You don't need to put in too much information in order to get the psychology right, or suddenly become a goth poet. You slip them in, just like the movies. Subliminally. The depiction of a few, relevant words, that translate into relevant meanings, in a sentence that follows a sentence, make a stronger description of "what is going on" than paragraphs and paragraphs of explanations. They focus the reader where they should and make them build up the rest, not far off from what you were visualizing in detail. (Color, sound, smell, texture. No sensory limitations on a page). You just have to figure out which words in combination, might give the expected "mood" of a scene to create the base of your scene and let it built correctly into the readers mind.

    I had a similar question upon this, because I was trying to figure out a way to describe a complex fighting scene and I wanted it to be easily "seen" and understood by the reader. Apart from that though, I also wanted to show what was going on in the characters mind, as to explain why he chose to act this way, step by step in the scene. (My MC, liked the character he had to kill and it was only the intro of the book. No backstory, no taking my time to introduce anyone, not even names, because I wanted them to be seen at first glance as two animals engaging in a fight; just the victim and the predator. Well... That didn't go to well). Anyhow, by some trial and error and some valuable help from this lot, I concluded, that indeed, stylizing a scene, is much more important and essential than explaining it step by step, like a manual. You have to chose (and that's the hard part) how to "edit" your scene, in order to put in what's really necessary to show and what's not. Metaphors, come in handy when you want to combine an "picture" with a meaning, be it static (a statue), dynamic (a hurricane) or something in between (a stretched bow). Some key words (upon the context) have a greater weight than imagined. I try to work on this nowadays.
     
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  4. Iain Sparrow
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    Iain Sparrow Senior Member

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    Thanks so much for the response!

    That’s what I needed, some confirmation that I’m going about things is a somewhat logical way.
    Being a purely visual, and visceral person I’ve been less worried about the details and more about (using the movie analogy) the individual scenes. What I’m fighting against, is that I want these three girls to be real, not what we see in the movies or for that matter in most fiction, and still have some bigger-than-life (cinematic) scenes.
    The ultimate sin for any form of entertainment, is to bore your audience. What I loved about the theatre, is when things come together properly, the sheer beauty of manipulating the emotions of the audience to great ends.

    I don’t know if you’re acquainted with the concept of, or experienced the act of ‘free association’?
    It’s how I often went about brainstorming when I worked for the theatre, where you have to create on the fly and deadlines are ridiculous. It’s what I’ve been doing with this story and it’s not let me down so far. The story outline is writing itself and going in a direction I couldn’t of imagined a month ago… but, as you so accurately noted “the time of writing”, is that you need to toss some darlings into the river in order to tell a coherent and meaningful story. That writing is like directing a cast of characters, special effects department, manipulating atmospherics (lighting, music, etc), and making every word count. Sometimes what you toss out is as important as what you leave in.
    You seem to greatly favor a 'show' not 'tell' approach to writing, which is the only way I know of to capture real intimacy in any artistic medium.

    You said this...
    "So, I'll go ahead and continue about the novels. Writing can be limiting upon the description (one picture is a thousand words, and using a thousand words to describe a mere picture can get pretty tiring) but! you can show in ways you cannot show with a logical progression of pictures, what is going on in the heads of your characters in more detail. You can explain all the story or parts of the story, not only through their eyes, but also through their minds. You can make things pretty deep and psychedelic, with just a slip of your narrating creation to a more poetic mode while using the right kind of words in the right kind of order. You don't need to put in too much information in order to get the psychology right, or suddenly become a goth poet. You slip them in, just like the movies. Subliminally. The depiction of a few, relevant words, that translate into relevant meanings, in a sentence that follows a sentence, make a stronger description of "what is going on" than paragraphs and paragraphs of explanations. They focus the reader where they should and make them build up the rest, not far off from what you were visualizing in detail. (Color, sound, smell, texture. No sensory limitations on a page). You just have to figure out which words in combination, might give the expected "mood" of a scene to create the base of your scene and let it built correctly into the readers mind."
    ... and it's what I'm having problems with, translating the motion picture to a coherent plot.

    To give you an idea of how free association works, leastwise in an artistic endeavor, this was my original train of thought for the first chapter... beginning with a scene taking place in an opera house. I may not be a writer, but I'm sensible enough to create from what I know whenever possible. As you will see, it's very similar to the motion pictures you create in your head before committing things to words. And pardon the lack of paragraphs and such... in fact if it were a true representation of free association there wouldn't be periods or commas either. Just a stream of thought. I hope it doesn't come off as flighty, I really am not a flighty person. But when it comes to creating I tend to be rather fearless about it. Some of it is fragments of the story, notes to myself, a character sketch, and some it I don't know what!;)

    How do you brainstorm?.. is it as manic as this?

    The Phoenix is an opera house.
    Though the one entertainment you will least find there is opera. A place for burlesque, acrobats, magicians and musicians, exotic animals from the Dark Continent... and if Shakespeare is the night’s offering, you can be certain that the performance will be unlike any the bard himself intended. If the fabled phoenix is meant to rise again from the ashes, this phoenix was caught mid-stride, a resurrection interrupted. A stone facade black with coal soot, atop four ornate columns gas lamps glow dim, a lacework of wrought iron frame a gothic entrance that yawns long and ugly. On the upper balustrade, statues of Dionysus and Melpomene embrace on a balcony overlooking Waterfront Street, their blackened pantomime a testament to that most noble motto of the stage… the show must go on.

    Rosemarie’s chapter: The Show Must Go On
    Rosa is anxious; it’s opening night for a new production and she’s reading a book by gaslight to settle her nerves. A mad thumping at her bedroom door jolts her to the present, “Rosa, get moving it’s almost showtime!”. She recognizes the voice, it’s Gael the animal trainer. An irritated Rosa closes the book, muses on the title ‘Zoonomia; The Laws of Organic Life, by Erasmus Darwin’. Rosa quips to herself “my dear Mr. Darwin, if you only spent an evening at the Phoenix you could write volumes on 'The Futility of Organic Life’. “Are you there Rosa?!” comes again from outside her door, “I need help with George and Henry”. “Stop shouting, I’m coming already”, replies Rosa.

    You’ll want to convey the chaotic goings on as Gael, with Rosa in tow, make their way backstage.
    Actors fitting into costumes and practicing their lines, musicians warming up, the sights and sounds… and smells. You know, breath life into it. Before Rosa steps backstage, she steals a peak from a balcony, and is petrified to see the show has sold out! She can only think that the night will be a catastrophe and her uncle will have a riot on his hands!

    The pair continue backstage, where they bump into Claire. Claire is the lead female performer, and star of the night’s finale. Rosa idolizes her, she’s everything that Rosa isn’t; beautiful, cultured, confident and talented. Claire likes Rosa, and is very protective of her, sort of a stand-in for a big sister. The three are standing by a cage containing George and Henry, two crocodiles that look somewhat disinterested with all the commotion and not very ferocious. Claire speaks up, “we’ve only had three rehearsals and none with George and Henry… will they, you know, be more vigorous?”. Rosa replies, “yes, they haven’t ate for days, it makes them more amenable”, she kneels down by the cage, “once we have them in the water they’ll come to life, you’ll see”, now looking up at Claire, “you’ll step out on the tightrope, sing your song and when the clap of thunder comes the lights flicker off”. Rosa stands up, “and that’s when I’ll toss an ox’s heart into the pool… it was the biggest ox heart the butcher had”. Rosa pauses to gage Claire’s reaction, and adds, “they’ll go mad over it”. Claire turns to Gael, “and if I fall, the safety line will keep me from becoming dinner”, “I’ve died a time or two on stage and have the critic's reviews to prove it… but I didn’t fancy my next review being on the obituary page”.

    Rosemarie Josephine Arceneau (Arceneau is a french surname meaning ‘gunsmith’), age 12, parents both lost to the Bubonic Plague, taken in by her uncle, who owns and operates a rundown opera house, The Phoenix. He is often at odds with the powers that be, as well as the church, for satirical plays and entertainments that challenge authority and the status quo. He is also gay, though homosexuality is punishable by death. While her uncle and those in his immediate orbit are very bohemian, Rosa herself is quite conservative and keeps to her studies. Rosa is what we might call in modern terms a “naturalist”, that is she has dedicated herself to the pursuit of scientific knowledge and has an intense curiosity of what makes the world tick. Rosa is very self-contained, her uncle has given her outlawed books on botany, astronomy, alchemy, philosophy, and sundry other disciplines, some of which are forbidden by the church, which has an undue influence on the government and daily life. She conducts her experiments outside of town on the river’s bank away from prying eyes… but her secret experiments, especially those that use gunpowder and other combustibles, including electricity, have not gone unnoticed. Some are keen to get their hands on any advantage for the coming revolt. Rosa is kidnapped, the Sisterhood blackmail her by threatening to expose her uncle’s buggery if she doesn’t join their cause. Terrified, she agrees, takes an Oath of Fealty, and a Vow of Secrecy. The Sisters of the Sacred Heart (convent of nuns who caretake a leper colony outside city limits) have hatched a plan to assassinate a member of parliament… but in the end it is Rosa who betrays the plot! The Sisters, and those citizens who support them flee before the authorities can round them up, except one of the Sisterhood is captured, tortured, but does not divulge the co-conspirators, not even naming Rosa. The next morning at sunrise, she is stripped and humiliated on the hangman’s scaffold, as a large crowd looks on, one young girl (Rosa) now understands the gravity of her betrayal. That night, Rosa has a revelation; that her belief in Nature and that all things must balance out, means she must forfeit her life for another. She creeps out of bed, hitches a horse to her uncle’s wagon and makes her way to the city square, where the battered body of a woman is hanging from a rope. She cuts the woman down in a heap in the back of her wagon, and it’s to the river’s bank and under an old oak tree that she gives this nameless woman who she betrayed a proper burial. Rosa is completely undone and beside herself in grief, and it’s now under a waning moon that the very menacing matriarch of the Sisters of Rebellion taps Rosa on the shoulder. Rosa brushes her hair back and loosens her dress collar, exposing her neck… she expects her throat to be cut as punishment. The woman instead offers Rosa a hand, brushes the dirt from her dress and buttons her collar back up.
    -end
     
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  5. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    Indeed, my roughs look something like this, but a lot less well written and kind of sloppy. My roughs are not reading material. I'm too embarrassed to post them here. Either way, they may be utterly incomprehensible. Change between languages, when I can't find the right word instantly, some sentences flowing beautifully because I had an instant, verbal inspiration, while others flow like a squirrel rapping on cocaine, because I'm in a hurry to write the plot progression while my wrist is still functional (I write on notebooks) and many - many vocabulary mistakes (just a second ago, I was about to write "functionable" instead of "functional". In my defense, I understood my error once I read the correct word, but in notebooks there's not a thing like a word dictionary), are only some elements of my process sloppiness. I turn into Speedy Gonzales when I'm writing the roughs of my beloved novels for some reason. I sacrifice everything in the name of speed. :twisted:

    On the roughs, I will primarily focus on plot. It's like some sort of outline, but not really, because at specific places I might pause in order to involve important parts, that focus in more psychological or atmospheric themes. I might write backstories that I will never use. Sidestories that I will never use. Then suddenly, I will focus on meanings. I love hidden meanings and words that might have two meanings that correspond fittingly in context. All is either about the meaning or getting there for me. (And that's where music and film analyses influenced me). ;)

    Brainstorming a plot is easy. Expressing it fittingly is hard. (Painfully hard for me).

    When writing the novel though, I become serious. I spend a lot of time trying to perfect each sentence and sentence sequencing. I edit and re-edit countless times. I open dictionaries (word reference and thesaurus, proved most valuable tools) and I delete a lot and I mean a lot. I do not show mercy even when it comes to deleting whole paragraphs that I spent hours creating (good thing they are written in a notebook though, not really deleted), if I see that they interfere with my flow. When I'm done, the patch-work comes in place. Once that's done, I write everything in word, where everything becomes much more clear and I re-examine. Patch-work might happen again or I might give it a rest. When writing, what I mean to be the final product, it has to be perfect. It has to be what I imagined in the best way translated. I suddenly become as slow as a snail.

    Sometimes, I think that if my WIPs weren't that important to me, then I would be able to write them more easily.
     
  6. Iain Sparrow
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    Iain Sparrow Senior Member

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    I think then I'll go about articulating the plot. I need to see it in outline form before I lose sight of the core story.
    Mind you, not the entire plot, just the first chapter. I know where the story ends up, the climax, the entire reason for the story is written in stone... the rest however is written mostly in dust.:)

    Do you not worry sometimes about overworking the prose?
    Lately I've become more aware of my reading habits, what works and what doesn't for me as a reader. I've noticed with the likes of Michael Chabon and others, who're exceptionally literate, that sometimes I'm so impressed with the writing that it momentarily pulls me out of the story. Certainly that's no excuse to write poorly, but I think it says something about a more workmanlike approach to the writing... make it good enough, and leave it at that.
     
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  7. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    I do, but I don't see a way around it, especially when I'm at Chapter 1 and I have to decide upon my style. But after chapter 1 is completed and I'm satisfied with it, the rest of the chapters become easier. That's why when I'm writing the novel (prose, etc) I spend most of my time deciding how chapter 1 should flow. Some people start from the middle in order to find their flow and style. I might write some scenes from the middle in more detail too (when I find the specific scene very representative of what I want to achieve), and this helps when you are stuck in deciding upon your style, but I only keep it as a rough sample of a style, because I find that style progresses as you get deeper into the story, meaning that your style in chapter 13 is not exactly the same as chapter 4. Beginnings tend to be a little lighter (at least, this is my observation and taste). Then, I build upon each chapter progressively as more and more elements get revealed and entangled. I go from chapter 1 to chapter 2 and then to chapter 3 and work on them in a linked chain manner.

    An example (I'll try to x-ray this): Chapter 1 (Base/ Not too emotional/ Try to keep it as light and fast paced as possible/ Open for possibilities) -> Chapter 2 (I dress it a bit more/ start pushing in more relevant elements about MC, but not too much yet/ Must engage reader slowly - do not wish to burden them) -> ... -> Chapter 20 (plot twist!, surprised character fails mission, heavy ending) -> Chapter 21 (Press on MCs wound/ heavier stuff) -> Chapter 22 (Take some weight off/ The show must go on/ Must help MC a bit or else he will commit suicide :p) -> ...

    Prose is important, because it follows the theme of each chapter. I chose to build on it progressively. On a chapter it might feel heavy but on the next chapter, I might chose to lighten it a bit, or make it a bit heavier. (Plot twists might be an exception sometimes, but still I don't push it to the limits. I spread it between 2 chapters in order to gain more time progressing things). But I want to avoid going from 1 straight to 10 when it comes to the weight of prose, because it's like changing your writing style from a light-hearted adventure, suddenly to a heavy melodrama. This change should happen in a seamless manner and prose is what helps in such a progression. It's not just what you say, but also how you say it.

    But these are just my observations and connections between prose and chapter building. I hate it when stories begin very heavily. They feel asphyxiating. But then again, I've read some pretty heavy stuff, much more heavy than the stories that begin heavily, and I enjoyed them very much, because their emotional pace was just so splendid. When the melodrama fell into place and the writing style became much more dramatic (thus, heavier in prose), it felt like a redemption.

    Writing poorly is no ones excuse, but you don't have to write literature in order to produce a well written story either. Some people like literature, others like Steven King, while others appreciate each variety equally.
     
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  8. Iain Sparrow
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    Iain Sparrow Senior Member

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    Yes indeed, the pacing is important and it's something I'm playing with.
    The first chapter, save a short expository paragraph describing the opera house, dives staight into the story. As a reader I'm not big on exposition, just seems unnatural to me. In fact the only reason for the opening paragraph was to set some themes and symbolism in motion. Ultimately I won't be writing the story, but I need to set the tone and style for whomever does accept the challenge. I'm a maker of pictures, so I'll do the illustrations... that's the easy part.

    Btw, do you use any writing software to organize your projects?
    I was working on outlining the plot this afternoon and it hit me, I'm using the stupid Notes App on my computer!
    I did some shopping around and found an app specifically designed for organizing and writing a novel... it's called Storyist. I like it! It even has a place to keep illustrations and images. I'm finding the process a bit less daunting.
     
  9. Malisky
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    Do go on and write this story. At least attempt it. You got so far, so far. Why not push things further? I think that even the narration of your free association method is interesting enough. Furthermore, your setting (and choice of titles) is atmospheric and creates images, indeed.

    I used to use Liquid Story Binder XE at some point, but didn't delve into that for long. I think that it's best suited for storyboards and comic creation.
    My outlining process is not exactly linear and on first look it comes out as a bit chaotic. (But it's considered well-put order from my perspective). I found that working on paper is much more fitting of an outlining process for me.
     
  10. Iain Sparrow
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    Iain Sparrow Senior Member

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    I'm just not qualified as a writer. And I'm okay with that.

    The protagonists are three 12 year old girls, the driving force behind the story are a convent of wayward nuns... and I'm a older guy, and an atheist. I just won't have the chops to write these characters properly. All the research in the world won't give me the insight I need to make these people jump off the page. Such is free association. You go in without any expectation of where it eventually takes you. But that's the story I want to tell, with nuns and young girls as the main players.:)
     
  11. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    I think I understand what you're saying. Is it another word for free writing? In case it is, I've been doing this a lot lately. It is my mind's jocker time. :D
     
  12. Iain Sparrow
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    Iain Sparrow Senior Member

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    Yes indeed.;)
    Unfortunately I've found writing anything remotely close to a final draft to be a real grind.
    In my own medium, as an artist... you go from brain to sketches, and finally to painting. Simple simple. When it comes to writing, I can't get past the 'sketches' stage.
    I will say though, I'm having a blast in this Storyist app I'm using to organize things. It actually feels somewhat natural when I see all the parts of the story in front of me, nicely organized. Unlike my brain.
     
  13. vermissage
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    The late John Updike said writing in the present tense made his Rabbit novels seem cinematic because of the illusion everything was happening here and now. So, by cinematic, he meant urgency, immediacy, the in-your-face quality the present tense innately has.

    But I get the impression by cinematic you mean omniscience. And you seem to be saying omniscience in a novel is a cheap device, and that it's unworthy of the novel's integrity. And yet you're saying, you find it impossible not to include omniscient scenes like the ones in blockbuster movies in your novel. I'm wondering, were you able to finish your novel because of using this inferior cinematic omniscient technique? You don't have to answer that. However you finished it congratulations.

    Now I'm going to spout off my theory as to why omniscience has gone out of style in fiction. The death of God. I think there was an actual news headline, in the early 20th century, announcing this. Science was the new God, and it's hard to imagine how this would not have spilled over into the arts. An omniscient narrator who is godlike? How absurd.

    But to me any story in the third person has an omniscient default mode narrator. Writers just don't go there, the default mode, anymore. I guess the reason why the limited 3rd has such mass appeal is that it allows the reader to identify with the character, it heightens the reader's awareness of what the character sees and whatnot, and the third person format creates a buffer so that the narrator and the protagonist are close but not that close. But, lo and behold, even in a third person limited, the narrator and the protagonist are not one, making the narrator omniscient.
     
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel like you're using some other definition of the word "omniscient". A third person limited narrator does not know everything, and therefore they are not omniscient.
     
  15. Iain Sparrow
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    Iain Sparrow Senior Member

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    I haven't read Updike's Rabbit novels, but it does say the narrative POV is, Third Person (limited omniscient). Which I guess means that the narrator is omniscient only when it's convenient?
    http://www.shmoop.com/rabbit-run/narrator-point-of-view.html
     
  16. vermissage
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    Yeah but even in a limited third person narrative, the narrator isn't the protagonist through whom the narrative is filtered. They're two separate entities. It's an entity independent of all and any of the characters in the story, including the protagonist through whom the story is filtered. But none of this really matters except as fodder for discussion in sites like this.
     
  17. vermissage
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    Let me play the devil's advocate. In a third person limited narrative, all that needs to be known is the protagonist and what the protagonist knows. Otherwise the narrator would take the trouble to plumb the depths of that or this other character. In other words, by knowing all that there is to know about the protagonist and what the protagonist knows, the narrator has achieved omniscience because everything else is besides the point.
     
  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It sounds as if you have really studied the situation, @Iain Sparrow . You're visualising it well, and thinking about how it will all fit together.

    The one thing that worries me a little bit—and maybe I'm worrying for nothing—is the notion of making your novel 'cinematic.' If you are a fan of films and don't do a lot of fiction reading this can be a mistake. The thing that @Malisky discussed in the first posting points out exactly the difference between film and prose that writers need to be aware of. If all you do is 'show' what is happening 'onscreen,' your story will only be half told. You don't have the sound effects and other tricks that moviemakers have, to give the viewers a clue about feelings, thoughts, etc, so readers can get left with nothing but pictures which they must draw in their heads. Motivations, regrets, opinions, emotions, all can only be guessed at. It's between the skill of the actor coupled with soundtrack clues provided by the moviemaker to fill in the missing bits. These are bits that you, the novelist, can fill in yourself, no bother.

    If you're in any doubt, go to a novel that you particularly like. Isolate a chapter or two, and if it's a disposable paperback, go through and mark all the stuff in those chapters that is NOT visual. This will include thoughts, feelings, insights, opinions ...all that stuff that gives life to a character.

    Here's an excerpt from the first chapter of one of my favourite trilogies, Joe Abercrombie's (First Law Trilogy) The Blade Itself. It's an action scene—a literal cliffhanger. The protagonist, Logen has just been in a vicious hand to hand fight with a Shanka, and they've both fallen over the edge of a cliff. Logen has been lucky enough to grab hold of a tree root part way down, and there he hangs. I'll highlight the non-visual bits in red, to illustrate how much of this scene could NOT be portrayed easily by a moviemaker. This shows what a novelist can do, if they avoid the 'cinematic' approach.

    ...............

    The gorge was deep. Very deep, with sheer, rocky sides. Here and there a tree clung to a crack, growing out into the empty air and spreading its leaves into space. The river hissed away far below, fast and angry, foaming white water fringed by jagged black stone. That was bad, for sure, but the real problem was closer to hand. The big Shanka was still with him, swinging gently back and forth with its dirty hands clamped tight around his left ankle.

    'Shit,' muttered Logen. It was quite a scrape he was in. He'd been in some bad ones alright, and lived to sing the songs, but it was hard to see how this one could get much worse. That got him thinking about his life. It seemed a bitter, pointless sort of a life now. No one was any better off because of it. Full of violence and pain, with not much but disappointment and hardship in between. His hands were starting to tire, his forearms were burning. The big Shanka didn't look like it was going to fall off any time soon. In fact, it had dragged itself up his leg a way. It paused, glaring up at him.

    If Logen had been the one clinging to the Shanka's foot, he would most likely have thought, 'My life depends on this leg I'm hanging from—best not to take any chances.' A man would rather save himself than kill his enemy. Trouble was that Shanka didn't think that way, and Logen knew it. So it wasn't much of a surprise when it opened its big mouth and sank its teeth into his calf.

    'Aaaargh!' Logen grunted and squealed and kicked out as hard as he could with his bare heel, kicked a bloody gash in the Shanka's head, but it wouldn't stop biting, and the harder he kicked, the more his hands slipped on the greasy root above. There wasn't much root left to hold on to, now, and what there was looked like snapping off any moment. He tried to think past the pain in his hands, the pain in his arms, the Shanka's teeth in his leg. He was going to fall. The only choice was between falling on rocks or falling on water, and that was a choice that more or less made itself.

    Once you've got a task to do, it's better to do it than live with the fear of it. That's what Logen's father would have said. So he planted his free foot firmly on the rock face, took one last deep breath, and flung himself out into empty space with all the strength he had left.

    ..........................................
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2016
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  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well...no. I'm sure that there are countless things that that protagonist would like to know and that the reader would like to know, that the protagonist doesn't know. And therefore the narrator doesn't and therefore the narrator isn't omniscient.

    You seem to be equating "omniscient" with "not first person". But they're not the same thing. And, yes, it matters. Most readers don't know the POV terms, but that doesn't mean that they aren't affected by the POV choices.
     
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  20. Iain Sparrow
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    Iain Sparrow Senior Member

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    I think that's what I'm coming to terms with right now... as Miss Malisky can attest!:)
    I'm also recalling some bigger than life moments in the books I've read, and most of those "cinematic scenes" are from books that are decades old, heck, a century ago and older and also tend to be slower paced. Whether it be Robert Louis Stevenson or Jules Verne, C.S. Lewis or Joseph Conrad they knew how to choreograph, putting all those elements into proper position before hitting the reader with a big payoff.
     
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