Understanding interoception.

 

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It is quite some time since I have written a post about writing, which has its foundation in recent scientific research.

Now I have said that, I guess you will want to skip this post and move on to pictures of cute cats, puppies, chocolate cake or large breasted women…dependent upon your personal taste.

But, please, bear with me.

Those of you who regularly read my ramblings will know I rarely get all technical and boringly immersed in jargon.

So…. firstly, let me say it is INTEROCEPTION each of us are trying to achieve with our writing. It is the golden grail, or is that the holy fleece, of what every author strives to attain.

Allow me to explain.

Basically, Interoception is the body’s eighth sense.

Interoception is a relatively unheard of sensory system. It is the sense responsible for detecting internal regulation responses, such as respiration, hunger, heart rate, and the need for digestive elimination. It is detected through nerve endings lining the respiratory and digestive mucous membranes. It completes the internal picture of how the human body is perceived, along with the vestibular and proprioceptive senses.

It is the mysterious sense; it is what makes us feels spooky, or uncertain about taking ‘That’ pathway home. It is what give us our ‘Gut instinct’. From infrasonic pulses to interoceptive heart-beats, there is more going on in our bodies and minds than you might think.

Awareness of one’s body is intimately linked to self-identity, the sense of being “me”.

A key question is how the brain integrates different sensory signals from the body to produce the experience of this body as mine, known as sense of body-ownership.

Converging evidence suggests the integration of exteroceptive signals related to the body, such as vision and touch, produces or even alters the sense of body-ownership. However, multisensory integration conveys information about the body as perceived from the outside, and hence, represents only one channel of information available for self-awareness.

Interoception, defined here as the sense of the physiological condition of the body, is a ubiquitous information channel used to represent one’s body from within.

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That said, here is the bit which links us, the writers and authors with them, the readers of our books.

Our bodies hold great sway over the influence of our mind. Much of what we think stems from our self-awareness, an awareness caused by external conditions. One which we can harmonise and synchronise with as individuals within a group, or indeed by contact with another single person.

For example, research has shown Snipers ‘instinctively know to pull the trigger between heartbeats. The moment when the hand is steadiest and the vison unblurred by the slightest movement.

Hostage negotiators temperament; body temperature, pulse rate, breathing rate, seems to uncannily match changes in accord to the perpetrator with whom they are negotiating.

This is Interoception working at its highest level, amalgamating and merging the physiology of two people into one harmonious synergetic confluence.

It is that state, a blending and melding of minds and beyond, beyond a physical joining, which we try to achieve as authors.

We want, we need our readers to become one with us, to hear our character’s voices, to feel their pains, their heartaches, sorrows and joys as we, ourselves feel in the moment we write the words.

Who has not sat back from their keyboard with tears running down their cheeks? We hope, we wish at this precise point in our book, all who read our words feel the same as we do at that very instance.

We lift our heads and rub our weary eyes, from a long stint of writing, at what seems a natural break. We pray our readers do the same; they look up from the book and take that moment or two to realise where they are, to come back into reality. That is a golden moment for an author. To know that their reader has been/is lost within their book.

This is what understanding INTEROCEPTION can do for us.

I am certainly going to learn more and use more of that knowledge in my future writings.

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This, from BBC Radio 4, is a rather good broadcast by Philosopher Barry Smith. (pictured above) He explores interoception, from infrasonic pulses to interoceptive heart-beats, there is more going on in our bodies and minds than you might think.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08k5zlm

Thanks for reading, Paul.

Oh, just one more thing, please visit my new, recently updated website. There is a ton of ‘stuff’ I am sure you will love on there. Click anywhere on any of these words to be magically whisked away…actually it’s not magic, it is simply the internet and hyperlinks…but that sounds so dull!

One reason why I don’t give my books away.

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Because I have worked hard, very hard in making the book a reality.

The uninitiated may feel that is a glib remark, but it is not, if you consider….

I first had to come up with the idea, a notion of a story and ensure it had a start point, a good tale to tell, one which draws to a satisfactory conclusion.

That is, it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Then try it now, in the next few seconds. Say these words aloud….ready….go…”My story begins when……

Well, come on. You said it was easy, so what’s keeping you?…… OK. Times up.

Let’s move on.

I shall say ‘we writers’ from now on, have an outline of a story in our head. We know where we want it to start. We may even have a few words which may become the opening lines, when we start writing.

Each writer has their own way of plotting and constructing a novel. So, for generalist purpose I am adopting the supposition this is a writer who plots onto a story line…to a degree.

For the next few days we shall be breaking down the sequence of the story in our mind, transcribing it onto a plot graph, a timeline of planned stages. This is something we shall change numerous times over the next few days. We shall have the characters, particularly the protagonist, face challenges they must overcome. We will build his/her character as realistically and as humanly flawed as suits the plot, and will have our readers empathise, at some stage, with the antagonist. Possibly disbelieving in the actions of the hero….who may yet actually be the real baddy!

This is the type of conflict associated with plotting the story. Already at this stage the story wants to take charge of the author, as later, during the writing of the first draft, so shall the characters. They WILL take on a life of their own. They WILL wake the writer in the early hours of the morning, banging on the door of new concept. The same characters WILL, on another night, keep the writer awake until the sun rises just so they can move forward, continue their journey within the unfolding pages of new manuscript.

Most authors become almost, if not entirely obsessed with writing the tale. Some seem, even become unsociable, withdrawn. Because the story must be told, it must be typewritten onto paper or into computer memory. If the writer stops, or is distracted for too long, the thread begins to fade, the momentum halted, the spirit lost. The new lives, those characters created start to wither, even die.

Writers are, in the worlds they create, Gods among characters, guiders of destiny and givers of fulfilment, destroyers of life, of societies, of cities and planets. The author is omnipotent. It is a role, a responsibility we take seriously. It is a heavy burden we bear.

Come the end of the first draft and an entire year’s supply of coffee beans. I/we, the authors, sit back in our chairs and breathe a sigh of relief.

It is short respite.

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Soon our noses are back at the grind stone. We now need to read, edit and re-write the entire work. A first draft, no matter how carefully crafted, is just that. A first draft.

Now we really start work. No longer are we flying in full creativity mode, now we are in a roll-your-sleeves-up and get stuck in approach to the task.

Generally, this stage takes twice as long as the first. Deleting words, sentences and replacing them…or not. Moving paragraphs or rephrasing entire sections of the manuscript. Rearranging the position and order of entire chapters, even deleting them…or writing new ones. There is no limit to the fettling undertaken at this stage.

Once we are (reasonably) happy with draft number six/seven/ eleven? We congratulate ourselves and add a tot or two of whisky into the large mug of rich black coffee, our drug of choice.

Happily, we tell our copy editor we are ready for them to scan our documents. Oh, she says. (Not a sexist remark, simply the fact I have found most of the best editors are women), you need a line editor before you run it past me!

So, weeks later, with some alterations to plot and structure you eventually pass the manuscript over to your copy editor…..and wait…and wait, which is a good thing. Annoying, frustrating, but good.

You see your editor should be busy…if she is not that could indicate no one wants her services? The second reason you should be happy to wait is you want a thoroughly good job done, don’t you? Therefore proper, good, concise editing with a comprehensive feedback means taking all the time required to do the job right. Right?

Everything is not lost during this time, because you have to have a cover. If you have not yet made any advance towards having one designed, now is a great opportunity, it will take your mind off waiting for your editor.

Unless you are a graphic designer of illustrator I would leave the cover to an expert. Even if you are an artist I would, at the very least, consult with one. You see a book cover is NOT what most people (readers/ writers/authors) think it is.

Comes the day when your book cover, both paperback and kindle versions are ready. You are excited because your manuscript has just arrived back from your editor….the pages listed with notes, amendments and suggestions.

Now, instead of moving forward, instead of getting a step closer to publication you must revisit you story. Once more you sit and work through the entire manuscript, making alterations, altering tense, reading those suggestions and editorial input regarding clarity, flow and all that other stuff.

Three days later, in a foul mood and with a raging headache you stab the send button returning, the now amended manuscript, to your editor.

This is when you wonder where the last year of your life has gone. This is when you look out of the window and wonder why it is snowing…in June…only June has long passed. You missed it.

You were living in your own Neverland, guiding your characters away from disaster and death. Now, all of a sudden life seems so much more….empty.

The story is with your editor. The cover made. Time seems to hang about endlessly, waiting…tick-tock, tick-tock.

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After a day or two of doing virtually nothing it all gets too much. You plan a launch date, but not too soon. Then you organise a thunderclap, a blogging chain, advertising, a cover reveal and whatever blows your frock up.

Hay, guess what, your manuscript is back, this time there are only a few notes, easy stuff to sort out. So, you do. It only takes the best part of a day this time.

Now you can busy yourself again. This time you need to format your manuscript into book form. One for each type of book, i.e. paperback and eBook, but also for the platforms you may be using, Createspace, Lulu, Smashwords and so forth. Of course, you can have a professional do this, or you can seek the help of a fellow author…all work well if organised properly.

The next stage is proofreading. Each format needs to be proofread. You can do a first run yourself, pick up on any errors made during formatting, check the margins, headers, page numbering, kern and such. But, I bet you will miss a shed load. So have other eyes, preferably an experienced proof-reader, one with a good track record, even someone recommended.

So, you press the send on your keypad again and hey-ho the formatted manuscript(s) is/are off to your proof-reader, who will pick up on any punctuation, capitalisation, space and…other issues you WILL have missed.

ONLY after you have fixed all those errors will your story, which up to now has just been a manuscript with a working title, become a book.

Upload to print…. congratulations. It has taken you around eighteen months of blood, sweat, tears and toil. Of mood swings and social deprivation, headaches, doubts, pain, fear and uncertainty to turn your dream into your baby.

Well done you.

NOW YOU WANT TO GIVE IT AWAY?

That is (one reason) I don’t give my books away.

Paul White.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do I write in the way I do? (An answer.)

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I am often asked, as I am sure many authors are, “Why do I write?”.

This is not a straightforward or easy question to answer comprehensively. In fact, if I were to answer that question in full, it would be an extremely long essay.

Which is the answer I gave a few days ago.

However, that question was followed by one which made me think, a question I was, at the time, unprepared to answer constructively.

“Why do you write in the way you do?”

This question made me think, beyond the basics of ‘style’ and further than ‘narration’ alone.

So, in the regular and rambling way I use in my blog posts, I shall attempt to convey to you my thoughts on this question.

They are as follow……

I do not write a particular genre of fiction.

Romance stories generally demand detailed character descriptions, a slow build-up of intensity to climax. (Excuse the pun).

On the other hand, Horror readers want faster paced, less detailed, more action books which cut right to the core. (Sorry, I can’t help myself).

By not being a genre writer, I have not developed a style limited by the parameters of reasonable expectation of those readers.

Neither do I write for a syndicate publisher, such as Mills & Boon, who have strict plot and style guidelines and can drop any contributor in an instant, should their suggestions not be strictly adhered too.

I am a truly free, independent author.

I have written an offbeat tale of abduction and intrigue, which is also a romantic story, a AofRDVtale of finding oneself and humorous yarn all rolled into one. It is ‘The Abduction of Rupert DeVille’. Available on Amazon, just click the link!

This book alone breaks all the genre specific boundaries it touches upon.

I did not set out to intentionally break any rules, I simply ignored them all and wrote the story I wanted to write.

I have also published two collections of poetry.

The basic premise of each is human emotion. Fear, love, hate, anger, regret and so on. I like the challenges of poetry. The differing forms, such as haiku, present wonderful opportunities to develop wordsmithing skills that can be adapted to storytelling.

That is how I like to think of myself, as a storyteller, a mythmaker; weaving tales into people’s consciousness, making them re-think and to consider life and the world around them in a way they may never have done before.

My book collection, three volumes of short stories called ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’ are designed to do just that, to make the reader reconsider their point of view, to side-swipe their general conceptions, to come at them from left field and leave their minds floundering with a myriad of questions, questions they now find they are asking themselves. (Click the link, or image)

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That is what a great story should do. It should stay with you, lingering within your mind a long time after you have closed the final pages of the book, maybe even forever?

I have also written a children’s book and non-fiction stuff. Very different disciplines than writing standard adult fiction of any sort.

I am, at the time of writing this, working on a novel about an escaped psychopath. ‘Floyd’ is out on a bloody revenge spree against those who had him committed. This book must be considered a ‘Slasher’ type of story. It is a crime thriller certainly, a horror…in parts possibly, but not really.

Once again, I am writing what I want to write, in a way I want to write it. The style and narration I am using is unique to this book. It is not one I have adopted previously.

Which, in a long winded and round-about way, brings me back to the original question of “Why do I write in the way I do?”

Taking note of the above (and remembering my independence), has allowed me to indulge in many experimentations with style, narration, pace, plot, POV’s and all the other ‘literary technical stuff’ writers put far too much emphasis on when discussing writing.

Each of my novels are written from a totally different personal perspective. Making each quite distinctive from the last. Even so, my personal mark is to keep an element of humanity, of emotion, of people’s dreams, hopes and fears running through all my fictional stories, even those involved with psychotic killers!

My short stories reflect those same values, the human passion for life, the experience of relationships, of desire and love, of living, of loss and of death.

I like to explore these areas of the human psyche, areas often forgotten or neglected by other writers and authors. I like to reveal them at a certain pace, a pace which suites the individual story being told.

In some I might come at you from the shadows, smashing into your mind like a train wreck. In another it may be an insidious creep, slowly weaving itself between your receptive neurons, until that is the only thing your mind can focus upon.

This is where the poetry and experiments with lexicon come to the fore; they allow me to use words as a basic material, melding and moulding them, twisting and forming them, until they convey to the reader, not only the description and facts, but the feeling of being there, of being within, of being part of the nether world where my story lives and, without doubt, to see, hear and feel the trauma, the worries, the excitement and passions of my characters as they stagger from one conflict to another.

You can read several my short works at https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/ I always have a few stories on this blog, although I do delete and change them at random intervals.

So, in brief, that is my answer to the question – ‘Why do I write the way I do.’

I hope you can pick something useful out of this.

Thank you for reading, Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rambling Away Again

Rambling Away Again! OK so the title is a little indulgent on my behalf.

You see, the words ‘Rambling Away’ was the title I gave my first ever magazine style newsletter. That’s going back a few years now!

The long term result of that first newsletter is now my core business, CQ International Publishing.

It was not something I planned…it organically evolved and took me with it!

You can read about how CQ developed and much more inside this newsletter, my first for quite along time!

As usual just ‘click’ on the cover image to be whisked to the magazine reading page and enjoy!

Thanks, Paul.

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Breaking the writing rules

Happy Writer

 

How often do you read an article telling you how to write?

Quite often I guess. I know I do. I have even been guilty of writing some myself, all well intentioned of course.

Ninety nine, or ninety five per-cent of the time these rules should be followed. They should be adhered to as far as possible, because they are the benchmark from which all writing is judged.

However…I love that word! So I’ll say it again.

However, I am a strong believer that a writer should push their own boundaries from time to time. They should break out of the glass cage.

I often do so by playing about, experimenting. Call them ‘writing exercises’ if you will.

In the past I have written in a minimalistic fashion, told a story using underutilised and obscure words. In another I used metasyntactic terminology. My poetry often pushes whatever limits are generally imposed.

So it is I regular break writing conventions.

Doing this has helped me enormously with that wonderful black art of wordsmithing. Undertaking such exercises challenges ourselves and our, often self-imposed, perceived limits. Such tasks enable us to extend descriptive narrative, create depth of characters and make our stories flow.

While I would not recommend that anyone attempts to write an entire novel ‘outside the box of rules’, I do encourage each and every one to task themselves with such matters.

The following is one such exercise. It is a short story, a flash fiction if you wish, of almost six-hundred words.

The point of this particular task was to see if I could construct a story using a string of very short sentences, whilst including only the most minimal of descriptive words and then when only absolutely necessary.

The reason for that is, when a long string of short sentences are used it tends to become monotonous for the reader. Generally, sentences must vary in length to convey the ‘feel’ of each part of the narrative.

Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are of course basic stock of a writer’s armory. So removing these, as far as possible, presents another contest against one’s abilities.

I hope I have succeeded in my mission. You are more than welcome to comment on the story itself, or on my attainment or failure in this test.


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Hitchhiker

 

I am old school.

From a time when life seemed simpler, less hectic, less complicated.

It was not. It was just different.

Some will say that ‘way back when’ life was safer, people were happier, times were better.

They were not. Life was simply lived at a slower pace.

There was less fear. Less anxiety and more acquiescence.

I think life was more honest.

We were more honest.

With ourselves.

Life holds risks. You have to live with that.

Take your chances. Accept the possibilities.

Face the consequences.

That is how it goes.

We recognised that. Acknowledged that.

That is what made life simpler.

 

Like hitchhiking.

Like the figure I see ahead of me now. Checked shirt, blue jeans, backpack, thumb-out.

Quite rare nowadays, hitchhikers.

Too much fear. Mostly unwarranted.

Nurtured and spread by the media.

But who should hold that apprehension.

The driver?

I could drive on past. No one will make me stop.

Is the hiker a danger? A mass murderer?

A Rapist?

Is their thumb a lure for the unsuspecting?

Or

The Hiker?

Simply travelling home.

Should they get into the car?

Could I be a psychotic killer?

Could I be the Rapist?

Is my car a trap?

 

As I get closer I see the expectant look on the hiker’s face.

A bright smile.

Willing me to slow.

To stop.

I feel a compulsion.

An obligation to a fellow human.

I have been there myself. Thumb out. Waiting, hoping.

Praying for the next car to stop.

To give me a ride.

A ride to somewhere warm. Somewhere with hot coffee.

The hiker looks clean. Normal.

Conventional.

I slow. Maneuver towards the roadside.

Stop a few yards beyond.

Looking in my mirror.

Watching.

 

The hiker picks up a small rucksack.

Running towards me.

I lock the doors.

Clunk. Safe.

I can leave. Go.

Put my foot on the accelerator.

Speed away.

The hiker is close now.

My last chance.

Decision time.

A smiling face appears at the window.

I smile back.

Still time.

Go?

Stay?

 

I press a switch.

The window hums. Open.

Half open.

I hear my voice. “Heading North” it says.

“Me too” the hiker replies.

I nod.

The hiker smiles.

Expectancy.

I smile back.

Trepidation.

Time stands still.

Momentarily.

 

Click.

I unlock the doors.

My own thumb jerks, a backward motion.

“Put your back in the back” my voice speaks again.

Autonomously.

The bag lands on the rear seats.

Drive away, I think.

Take the bag.

Go. Now.

What is in the bag.

Some clothing.

An iPad.

Money.

Or the hiker’s life?

Their entire possessions.

A lifetime or memories.

Lost loves, lost mother.

A bag of dreams, hopes for the future?

Is that where they are heading now?

The future.

Thiers. Mine. Ours? Has this moment inexorably entwined our lives?

Left an indelible mark.

Or just a scratch. Unnoticeable, hidden. One that will fade, become rubbed out

As life progresses?

 

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The door opens.

Blue eyes, bright teeth, pale skin.

The hiker sits next to me.

“Thank you” she says.

“That’s okay” I reply.

I put the car in gear, heading North.

Our lives are meshed. At least for the next one hundred miles.

If she makes it that far.

If I make it that far.

Who knows?

Life holds risks. You have to live with that.

Take your chances. Accept the possibilities.

Face the consequences.

That is how it goes.

You see, I am old school.

I know what makes life simple.

 

© Paul White 2016

Feel free to visit my website, browse around, poke you nose into every corner. Make yourself at home!

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t let the rain drown your novel

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Too many times do I read the same old, same old, scene.

It’s raining, grey clouds overhead. Drizzle, cold wind.

Why?

Because it is a funeral, or someone has discovered a friend’s death.

OR

There is a tempest, heavy rain, thunder, lightning. Gale force winds rattling the windows.

Why?

Because its eerie, a big house, a derelict building, a graveyard. Or the cars broken down on a country road.

OH, PLEASE. Come on. Enough is enough.

I know you want to set the scene, make the reader ‘feel and see what is in your mind. But not like this; not again.

Hollywood and television overworked this format years ago. Mary Shelly used it way back in 1817… (yes, I know Frankenstein’s Monster was not published until 1818. 11 March 1818 to be precise! but Mary completed her work in May 1817).

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After that, I can understand some writers utilising Mary’s techniques (which she stole anyway!); but that was almost two hundred years ago! Surely you can work your wordsmithing magic without falling back on this old literary cliché?

Let’s take a look at the graveside scene again. This time, dismiss the notion of grey skies and rain.

Try and build that ‘feeling’ you want, let’s say, for this exercise, sadness and sorrow. (Although in another version it could be joy and relief, dependent on your character’s viewpoint).

‘The solemn parade of black clad mourners slowly crunched their way over the gravel and melted into the dimness of the church, passing under the gothic arches of time worn stone’.

Here the tone is set using a few simple, but descriptive words, to create the mood. ‘Solemn, black, mourners, slowly, melted, dimness, gothic, time-worn’ All carefully selected words that imply the general emotion of the procession.

An alternative may be something along these lines.

‘James glanced at Mary, her eyes glistened as tears formed. Small dew-drops of sadness sparkling, reflecting in the sunlight. The scent of yew trees and grass added to James’s sense of numbness as he watched the coffin being lowered into the grave’.

IMG_4424Approaching the scene from an oblique angle often offers the author an opportunity to ‘drip-feed’ the reader, only giving them a small bite sized piece of the overall scene with each sentence. This allows for an element of surprise, or revelation.

Neither of the above paragraphs have fallen back to the old ‘grey sky and rain’ chestnut. Yet they convey the very essence of emotion which one wishes to communicate with the reader.


 

Onto the scary stuff!

The haunted house? The killer lurking in the dark woods, the stranded car on that country lane.

Hey, guess what?

You’re right, it’s NOT raining here either! No lightning, no storms and no doors banging in the wind.

So, how to get away from those ‘same old, movie style embedded notions’.

Well, let’s try. Let’s start with an approach to that (possibly) haunted house or old barn.

‘Two huge stone eagles balanced precariously on the dilapidated columns. The bindweed twisting about their talons as if securing them, denying them of flight. Framed between and beyond stood the old mansion house. The bright sunlight reflecting from the walls enhanced the blindness of long lost windows. Empty hollows, gaping holes beckoning us towards them’.

Locals say the owner of Ohio’s Milan Mansion was a practicing witch.

Note the ‘bright sunlight’. This time using the opposite, of what has become expected, to enhance the ‘darkness’, the brooding mood.

Not a raindrop in sight and the clock is not about to strike midnight!

As for breaking down on a country lane, perhaps having to abandon your vehicle to seek help…Let’s attempt to approach this in an unexpected style too.

‘He had been foolish for stopping; but nature would not wait and the hedgerow of holly offered the ideal shelter to hide behind while he answered her call. The car was going nowhere. The tyres just spun in the deep snow. With each attempt they sank lower until now; now the car was axel deep. He was stranded.

In the far distance the occasional puff of smoke drifted upwards into the crystal blue, cloudless sky. Turning his collar up, ramming his hands as far into his overcoat pockets as they would go, he started to plod through ankle deep snow towards the smoke. Gregory guessed it was from a cottage chimney. How wrong he was…’

Here I have constructed the paragraphs to portray a relatively normal situation, feeding the reader small tidbits about the weather, not only to ‘set the scene’, but as miss-direction, so that I can increase the effect of the final few words.

I beg you, if you are about to write, (or re-write), a section of your novel where you have been sucked in by the old ‘rain & storm’ caper, alter it. Dismiss the rain; freshen up your narration, pleasantly surprise your readers with something new and exciting.

Please do not let the rain make your book a wash-out.

Thanks for reading, Paul

Feel free to comment, leave feedback and ‘follow’ Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

Oh, don’t forget to read the new edition of CQ Magazine. It is jam packed full of great ‘stuff’!

https://issuu.com/ramblingawaymagzine/docs/cq4prt1_1_2016

CQCov3

How to write better by watching more movies!

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 I for one love to read ‘the book’ rather than watch ‘the movie’. The reason is, I want to let my own imagination create the world the book has drawn me into.

I want ‘that’ character to evolve as I see him or her; guided by the authors words, yes. But not have it forced upon me, not illustrated in such detail there is no room for my mind to fashion form.

There is no choice in this aspect when watching a film. A film shows you the actresses face and how the character’s voice sounds.

There is little left for the imagination.

Yet, I have formed some of my writing techniques from watching movies. Well, not just movies but TV dramas, plays, even commercials. Almost anything in fact that has moving images.

You may think that I am contradicting myself by making what seems, at least on a superficial level, contradictory statements.

So I shall, in my normal ‘Rambling’ way try to convey exactly how watching moving images has enabled me to hone my skill as a writer of words.

 It is mostly to do with the editing, a little to do with camera work and a bit to do with stealing the director’s viewpoint!

However, before I can start on that, I must tell you that when I am watching a film or TV with a ‘writers eye,’ it is not the same as watching for enjoyment or pleasure. Even if sometimes I cannot help but notice things when I have no intention of thinking about writing. (But that is my cross to bear, not yours. At least not yet, not until you have finished reading this!)

 

Ok. The Directors viewpoint. This is probably the most obvious, yet the least important aspect.

Imagine the opening shot of a film scene.

–The camera slowly pans across a room, it is dull. Dust mots hang in the air, highlighted by two shafts of light, beaming downwards through a window. As the camera pans the_room_is_dark_and_empty____just_like_me_by_potpoorri-d5pvf7b.pngtowards the window a small figure of a girl, a young girl wearing a white cotton nightdress, is revealed. —

This is gold dust to me.

That scene, altered to suit my style and the storyline I am writing, can be used. NO…this is not plagiarism. I would not copy it, but use it as a base to create my own, dull room in which I would reveal a figure.

My room could be a log cabin, a large warehouse or a submarine. The light source may be from a fireplace, daylight filtering through a damaged roof or the‘red’ lighting used on a submarines bridge.

The figure may be an old man, a dead body lying on the cold concrete floor or a ghostly specter of an old sailor.

BUT….all this has come to me from watching that opening shot of the movie; seeing it, not from the ‘viewer’s’ eyes, but from the directors. Having an understanding of the mood he was trying to create and how the darkness, light and slow reveal assisted him in doing so.

All that is left for me is to translate that into words, imagining it over and over as I write so that the ambiance and timing is cohesive to the reader.

 

Secondly. Camera work.

While the above scene clearly needed the aid of a camera to record the Directors instructions, all of the actual imagery in a film is down to how things enter the lens. Yes, some of this is to do with lighting and the type of film used, but here I am speaking of the camera alone.

Firstly, the angle, the position of the camera to its subject. Not forgetting its height. Generally, a low shot, ground level, is used to enhance the perception of speed. Think about car racing or chases. How the tyres almost run over the lens or rock the camera as the vehicles flash past. (Yes, depth of field and all that matters, but that is not important here).

4240A high shot, from a boom, tall building, a crane or airship looking down on the subjects can give expression of vastness, loneliness or being lost.

Next time you go to the movies take note of where the camera is situated to get ‘the shot’. I do and that enables me to hold that moment, that feeling of vastness or loneliness, in my mind while I write my next paragraph.

Reading it back to myself, if it does not evoke the same feelings, if it does not conjure the right imagery as my recall of the films scene, then I will re-write, over and over, until I get it right.

 

Lastly, but for me, the most important is the Editing.

I cannot help myself with this! When I have my ‘writers head’ on I am constantly, without any self-control watching for all the ‘cuts’ more than whatever I am viewing. I know that is sad, but it is the truth…maybe I do need to get out more!

For those of you who may not be familiar with the terminology, a ‘cut’ is when two pieces of film are joined together, it is a form of transition. For instance, a boy and girl are holding a conversation. Each time one speaks the viewer sees who is talking. Firstly, you see the boy talking, when he stops and the girl starts speaking you see her face. That change, from him to her, that is a cut.

In fast moving action scenes and in advertising, where time is at a premium, you will see many ‘cuts’ per minute. Chances are you will not have been aware of most of them…until after you have read this. Now you will not be able to watch anything without seeing just how many ‘cuts’ are involved, even in the simplest broadcasts!

I hear you asking, how the devil can that help me write better?

Truth is it may not.

But it helps me and this is how I utilize them.

For this explanation assume that I am writing an important part of my stories plot. I need to get the emotion and feeling soaking into my reader’s psyche. This is one of those parts of my book where I must get the reader totally immersed, living my fictitious world.

I have already written the basic scene, it is in outline form, a rough, very rough draft. Now I need to build it, develop it, into a masterpiece!

Going back to that early shot of the young girl in the dull room I mentioned earlier. Let’s say the story is of a child longing for her dead mother to return.

This time, instead of using that scene as an opening, it is a scene from somewhere within the book, a part that needs far much more input.

It is here I will start bringing in the ‘editing’ tricks.

I shall still start with the description of a dull room, but this time I will place the reader at a set viewpoint, say, where they are looking into the room, through the doorway, from an even darker hallway.

Then I will ‘cut’ the shot.

Now the reader is looking down from above. (remember this viewpoint conjures a sense of loneliness and being lost). This allows me to open the scene up, to use words that reinforce the atmosphere that I am trying to create. Such as “a heavy shadow” or possibly “even the floorboards seemed to weep with sadness as I crossed the room”.

(I want the reader to envisage a large empty room, a figure (my second character) walking across it towards the young girl. I want the floorboards to creak, to give an impression of neglect. (This is to build the atmosphere). By applying the words ‘sadness and weep’ I have managed to blend the sound of the floorboards with the mood of the scene).

Cut.

sophia_blog1Now let’s have a close-up of the young girl. For the first time we see her face, the way the “sallow light settled on her fair skin” or “her pale blue eyes were damp with tears yet unformed”.

(Again using simple words which are descriptive both in their description of the girl, but also in the context of the mood)

Cut.

This viewpoint sees both characters together, gives a juxtaposition of size and age, hints at the relationship between the two. One speaks to the other….Etc.

(The second figure could be a sister, a social-worker or nurse, maybe the step-mother or even the ghost of the girl’s maternal mother).

Cut.

Now the viewpoint is of both of them looking out of the room, into the darkness where they have just heard a noise……ZGPIAp

Cut.

This is how I write my scenes, like watching a movie inside my head, in the darkroom of my mind. I find that it helps me construct a whole, comprehensive section of my plot. It stops me rushing, skimming over sections that really need more care.

Please note that when I say ‘viewpoint’ in this essay, I am not necessarily speaking of the narrations ‘viewpoint’, but that of the images I carry within my mind. Sometimes the two may be in harmony, but that is not always the case. Often a complete scene, or section, can be written from a number of converging narrative angles. As long as the reader is guided along and does not become lost or confused, all will be well.

That is not to say I do not need to edit or re-write, far from it, but each time I do I use the same technique to make the scene work, to create the mood and temperament I am looking for. Editing and re-writes purely allow you to correct the detail and flush out unnecessary and often misleading words.

This way of writing may not work for you. It may go against all you have learnt about writing, or just not suit your style.

But then again it may be worth having a go, maybe a short story or even a piece of flash fiction to start with.

Or maybe you are struggling and I have just come along with this amazing and brilliant idea, which gives you the next bestseller or booker prize winning novel. If that is the case, keep me in mind, please when you receive that big pay-out!

I hope you can glean something from this Rambling, whatever it might be, I really do.


 

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Thanks for reading, Paul.

You can read some of my short stories HERE

or visit my website HERE

where you can see my books, my blogs and what I am getting up-to right now!