I watched the African Queen recently and stumbled upon a marvelous idea (and no, it didn’t involve blowing up a German ship).
Dialogue, descriptions and action all form parts of a story – as I write these they come to life in my head, I don’t see them with the physical eye; they are just black words against a white screen … but, perhaps there is a way to ensure that there are (for example) no completely unrealistic descriptions of people’s expressions included in my tale – descriptions which could otherwise jerk one out of the story and into the world of ‘what on earth? That doesn’t happen in real life.”
What is this Marvelous Idea, you ask?
Simples … watch a movie and write out a single scene.
Now in the clip above there are two scenes (the second begins at 2:44). It doesn’t have to brilliant or even there in its entirety. Just a sentence or two, a few words here or a brief description there … just write it – or (and this is more realistic for me) write it in your head. Describe the scene and the way you would show the expressions flitting across their faces, how the bottles bob in the water or the screech of the monkeys that in no way aids poor Charlie’s hangover. Or perhaps how Rosie is indeed one of the best characters ever.
‘… she was the very dignified picture of righteous indignation …’
This can be taken to life – to everyday living. Watch someone as they are talking, walking or simply just being and think how you would describe them (and if you can do this without getting odd looks you get extra brownie points).
Personally, I don’t think you have to have pen in hand, or fingers to the keyboard to keep that ol’writerly mind ticking – look around you, not with eyes blinded by everything you have to do that day, but with eyes seeing – sunbeams through a window, the fierce sound of the wind in the trees, the clatter of many keyboards in the office, that piece of litter rolling in the road, the cars whizzing by, that person immersed by their mobile or even that beautiful, warm smell of the fish and chip shop.
Take a moment, form a sentence and you just might be surprised with the result.
For me, it helps – I mean, seriously how else would I have thought that when the wind blowing my skirt felt like a soft cushion pressing at the back of my legs? (for some reason that leaves me breathless … oh comma where art thou, dost thou belong in there?)