Beth Erickson, Editor, Publisher,Writer, and someone you should know.
I have found a very helpful site for new writers that offers many resources and advice. The site is at www.FilbertPublishing.com
Beth Erickson is the Editor and Publisher of WritingEtc found on the site and she authors a great newsletter with invaluable information for the new writer, regardless of genre.
Check it out and sign up for her free newsletter. In the mean time read an article she graciously allows other writers to post to their sites. It is a wonderful piece of advice about how to look at the scenes you want to create. Try the exercises suggested to improve on your own writing and let me know how it works for you.
Enjoy the article. And thank you Beth for your generosity.
Wide Angle Lens
Excerpt from Writing Wide: Exercises in Creative Writing
“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” -- Henri Cartier-Bresson, French Photographer & Artist
When you use a wide-angle lens on a camera, you do so to get a panoramic view of your subject. Why would you want to do that? Shouldn't you focus, center your picture, compose it of close-knit items? As with your writing, some times you need to see the broad picture in order to focus on the single most important element, be it story or picture.
If you were to take a panoramic view of an event in your life and write down everything you can see, feel, or hear in detail, you begin to see what makes up a scene, or the setting, in your writing. As you look at the big picture, you pick and chose details to tell your readers that may be pertinent to understanding your story people and the story itself. However, you need elements from the big picture, the panoramic view, to make the setting feel real. It is these subtle nuances that make a scene come to life.
I recommend that you try this as an exercise with at least five events from your life. Try to make the events as varied as you can; say a happy, sad, fun, loathsome, and perhaps interesting event. Ten would be even better, but you can always add to this list, and you should regularly. It will help you see details. It will help you become more aware of details that set the stage and make it believable. This will help you develop settings with a feel for time and place in your story.
After you have the broad view of your story, you decide where your focus will be. Use the same focus on your protagonist and your supporting characters. Go so far as to do a character sketch of each. By doing this it will help you focus to a single center of your picture. You will need to answer the questions, “What does my main character want?" that is the focal point. The rest of the picture composes itself as other characters decide their needs. Each character is deciding what s/he is willing to do to achieve his/her goal.
Think of an extended family portrait, each person is connected to the others some how. So to are your characters in your story. Each character’s life touches someone else in your story in a significant way or h/she would not be there. Like the panoramic photograph, all things are connected in some way. Every character some how depends on or needs one of the other characters to fulfill a need or goal of their own.
For instance, think of your protagonist as the main/father/mother figure of the family. S/He is responsible for his/her own actions. Whatever she does however affects the rest of the family/cast of characters.
If she robs a bank, the family is drawn into that. Perhaps the oldest child drives the get-away-car; maybe the aunt provides a hiding place, etc.
Fill out your story with things from your panoramic view of things you know to be true for your story.
You could begin with an outline – I know the dreaded word -- outline – but it could be what you need to take each item from the panoramic view of your story and connect them through scene and chapter via the outline. Think of it as a blueprint for the stage setting, or the map for the treasure hunt, what ever it takes to get you to pick apart your story and make an outline/tree of where the story is going to take you.
Put another way, we could say start your picture from a single portrait – it may be a very fine portrait indeed, but it tells us little of the story behind it. If you were to take that portrait and add his/her favorite chair, a small table, a book, perhaps a piano your character starts to become a person rather than just an image on a piece of canvas. If you start with your center and build a panoramic view – you will have fleshed out your character and in so doing your story.
1.) Take a picture of someone from your life, maybe an old school photo of just that person. Write out in detail all you see as you show us who that person is. You cannot add any background that is not in the picture. Would we know your friend or family member if we saw them on the street from the way you described him or her? Does this person have a story to tell based on physical appearance only?
2.) Look at a magazine photo or one of your own that has a panoramic view and tell in vivid detail what it contains so that if some one were blind they could see what you see in their minds eye.