Thinking like a Filmmaker: Writing a Novel in Terms of Camera Shots

filmmaking-sillouhetteWe live in a world where television shows and movies play a big role. How many hours of television or movies have you watched in the past year alone? With having so much experience watching, we are accustomed to the style of movies and television. We recognize the elements within film and TV, and expect them. In many ways this has transitioned over to literature.

Many authors now write novels keeping in mind their novel’s ability to be adapted into script. Writers pay attention to the visual elements of a scene. What makes a great scene? What makes a scene flop? Can you picture where each character and prop is within a scene?

Film and TV have only a short amount of time to relay all the important information. They have to grab your attention and hold it. Plus, they have to make viewers feel the emotions occurring within each scene based on character movement, expressions, etc. Added to that, they have to have specific set directions, to know where each character and prop in the scene is.

There are certain steps you can implement to create a very visual, riveting scene.

  1. Think about POV. If you think of your point of view as the camera, imagine where the camera needs to be for each scene. This doesn’t mean POV has to change, rather your POV character is in the optimal position in each scene to see the vital elements occurring within that scene.
  2. Know your key moments. Each scene gives readers something, whether it’s new information or a new insight based on old information. Scenes have to move the story along, and within each scene are specific moments. Without these moments a scene cannot occur. Think of each moment as a different camera shot, and all the camera shots add up to a scene.
  3. Pay attention to sensory details. What sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and physical sensations are important to the scene? It’s a good idea to have at least two senses stand out in every scene. Are there trains nearby? How about the smell of lavender? Or the feel of the humidity pressing in, warning of a coming storm? How about color? In film and TV, color is very important. Each color connotes a different meaning. Infuse the scene with time and place, weather, texture, etc. How do these sensations relate to the character, the story?

Within commercial literature, readability and visualization are vital. Thinking like a filmmaker will help bring those elements to the forefront of the story. Making deliberate choices as to camera angle, which sensory details are placed within the scene, which camera shots are used and the order they’re placed in, POV, etc. all create a specific environment that adds to the story, a story that will stay with readers long after they’ve finished reading it.

What is your opinion on thinking like a filmmaker?

(Photo courtesy of f-stopacademy.)

3 thoughts on “Thinking like a Filmmaker: Writing a Novel in Terms of Camera Shots

  1. T.D. Donley

    Just stumbled across your site – You have a lot of great posts that I’ll have to go through. This one is great. My sister and I discussed this same issue a year ago. I think most YA books have to be written as a screen play to keep the attention of easily distracted readers…..


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