Wednesday, August 4, 2010
When Detail Drains
I wrote about action scenes a while ago, but I've considered them even more in the last few days.
How does a writer transfer that amazing action scene from the screen (for real or in his or her mind) to the page? Some of those action scenes in a movie are awesome, and I almost hold my breath while they're taking place. I see every detail and it's all I can do not to call out. Have you experienced those? (I was lazy on Sunday and watched movies most of the day.)
Sadly, with many—if not most—novels that I read, these are one of the parts of the story that bore me. I find myself skipping over them, plucking out a word here and there to make sure there's nothing important happening that might force me to go back and read it carefully later.
What's with that?
As I mentioned in the earlier post, slowing down and developing details are important. But too much of either and you can kill the story. Trying to capture every nuance that is visually available on the screen becomes tedious and draining when you're throwing it out to your audience using only words.
How do you lift that tension-filled cinematic moment to the page?
I knew there had to be an answer.
Behind my back at this very moment is a bookcase with probably over sixty books related to writing. I like to think that somehow the brilliant advice and direction in each of them would somehow drill into the back of my head when I'm goofing around with emails, but alas, they require a more interactive approach.
Donald Maass is my 'go to' guy when it comes to most things writing, and he didn't fail me in The Fire in Fiction. In fact, I had conveniently highlighted it months ago when I first read it:
" . . . action, when related in strictly visual terms, feels flat. Handled objectively, it does not move us. Emotions are needed to give action force." (p. 198)
Yes! Exactly! So what does this mean . . . exactly?
Master Maass continues later:
" . . . tension in action comes not from the action itself but from inside the point-of-view character experiencing it." (p. 200)
(Note: This is also the first time I've seen a 'poor' example spelled out in a craft book. Nope. Not gonna tell you. You'll have to get your hands on a copy for yourself. But it begins on page 196.)
So, the way I interpret this is you reign in your broad cinematic view of the details to the sweat and fear and utter desperation in your POV character.
Slow it down, provide the details, but don't try to be a reporter on the scene. Be the character. This would be a perfect place for deep POV.
If there's something else, please share!
CR: Rain Gods by James Lee Burke. This one has really slowed me down. I'm considering shelving it for a bit because I'm sure it's me and not Mr. Burke. And, to be honest, there's been a lot of life going on at the moment.
It's all better with friends.