Peggy Bechko: The Movie In My head – Writers Advice

seeingthingsby Peggy Bechko

I’m a writer, have been for a very long time and I write a variety of things, novels, articles, blogs, screen scripts. I just plain like writing.

I find it interesting that folks are always giving advice on how to punch up writing.  So, I can’t resist a bit of my own advice today.

Always, when I write novels it’s like a movie running in my head. I don’t know how other writers see it (well some I’ve chatted with have given me their general gist), but that’s the way it is with me. So I’m amused when I hear writers are now using ‘cinematic technique’ to bring their writing to life.

Amused since I’ve always seen things that way, but also fascinated that it’s coming to light. Especially now in a world of computers, movies, iPhones, tablets and whatever. Needless to say people are used to a visually rich experience. So writers have to step it up to get that movie playing in their readers heads.

So, in film there are camera shots and close-ups, but novelists can pretty much do the same with their writing.

Look, I mean a close-up is what we novelists use to keep things tight but give some detail to the story. It’s when we focus in on just a couple of people or just one and maybe allow in a bit of detail. Lots of times we write a scene that’s between two people with  dialog (hopefully dialog that pops). That’s basically a close-up. The little movie playing in my head focuses in on the pair and things in the immediate background that could be pertinent. The point here is what’s pertinent? That is up to the writer. A lot has to be left out or the description would go on on page after page after page. So focus on the details that give life like smells, sounds, faces (and their expressions) that make the moment more real, give insight into character and touch the reader’s emotions and that all important – move the plot forward. It’s not a chat fest – everything must be geared to moving the plot forward, in a novel as much as in a screen script.

Your novel close-up is all about details. The scene shot is a broader view.

You can begin with a scene and pull into close-up.  You can change the angle, reveal details not seen earlier. You  might think of running a movie in your head if you don’t already do so. Move your characters closer to each other or to something of interest. Revel what’s in the background that moves the story forward. Start with a woman on horse-back and bring her to the stable. Start with a guy lounging in a doorway and bring him into the room. Start with an object of little interest at a distance then bring the reader close up to see some detail that is pertinent to the story. A quilt at a distance, a quilt with a stain close up. A beautiful woman at a distance, a beautiful woman with an amazing broach close up.

Run the movie; take your readers into the story like they’re seeing it on the screen. That’s what it’s all about.

Give us some feedback – comment below how you create your stories if writers. If readers let us know what really grabs you about a book you really get immersed in.


Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.