Summer Writing with Scene Capture!
I love the theatre! I graduated early from high school with the dream of being an actress. I know. It's totally cliche and I completely and proudly own it. I did some paid dinner theatre work (that didn't pay the bills); I was an unspotted and occasionally cut extra in some Chicago-located film shoots; I did a couple of ridiculous mall modeling gigs (folks, I'm 5'2" - I was never going to be a model!); and my real claim to fame was being a "Lovely Lady of Motorsport" on the Chicago-based cable program Motorsports Unlimited. We didn't get paid for the show, but we did get paid for a commercial now and then for some local garages or similar business or an occasional photo pose with vehicles or drivers.
I turned in my costumes (a pink swimsuit, white bustier, heels, and feathers!) and decided all too soon that the acting thing wasn't happening quickly enough or big enough for me, but I kept the love of performance. While I'd always written, playwriting became my first foray into professional writing as an adult.
This week, I began my "Conversations With Writers" series with Kimberly, a theatre critic from The Drama Den (www.stageonapage.com) and it brought me back to the transition I made from acting and eventual playwriting to book writing. A lot of the lessons I learned from theatre have been great tools for writing.
Some of the lessons that Kimberly shared which make a great theatre review speak to looking at the full "production value" of a show. (Click the picture above for the full interview!) She talks about how it's natural for people to focus on just the actors, but there's so much more to a quality show.
As writers, we often do the same thing. We get so wrapped up into the worlds of our characters' words, actions, and thoughts - this single tree - that we forget to focus on the full scene - the forest.
"Theatre is poetry that rises from the book and becomes human enough to talk and shout, weep and despair."
~Federico Garcia Lorca
For this week's lesson in the summer writing challenge, I encourage you all to take a few minutes to do a "SCENE CAPTURE" in which you focus on the same things that a theatre critic might look for to develop a short written scene. After all, we're supposed to be painting the full scenes for our readers. Our works should play out like a production with great value in their imaginations.
In the interview with Kimberly, she talks about several elements beyond characters that add up to production value including: lighting, set design, direction, and choices. There are many more things I've seen highlighted in her reviews as well as in this full interview, but let's look at creating a scene capture by highlighting the book equivalents of these four elements. In your books, you are personally able to see the scene in your head as you write it. However, for the sake of practicing this approach to writing, we are going to use the visual of a commercial. If you're able to use this method on what you physically see, you should be able to do the same on the scene you conjure up in your imagination!
Here's your SUMMER WRITING CHALLENGE - Week 2 Lesson:
The Scene Capture
Give your reader a break from your character! After all, we don't want the readers to feel that this main character is too needy and can't give up the spotlight for awhile! Practice by watching a commercial on television or your smart device.
Look at four areas that do not include the actor(s), much like a critic would:
"Lighting" (What time of day is it and how does the lighting of the scene show this to you?)
"Set Design" (What is the setting of the commercial - the physical elements that draw your focus?)
"Direction" (How are the characters - not JUST the main character - and elements moving and emoting throughout the scene, how are the perspectives and angles portrayed?)
"Choices" (What is something totally unique and stand-outish that makes the commercial different?)
Babbling Baby Commercial –
I am all about this adorable father/son duo that made headlines with their simple conversation and kudos to Denny's for capturing them for a Father's Day commercial because couldn't we all use a little more of this kind of joy in our lives?
Here is my Scene Capture of the Denny's Commercial:
Lighting - Daytime; you see the shadows of people passing by behind the shade drawn over the window.
Set Design - Simple - the booth is like a casual diner with a traditional breakfast of eggs, pancake, and bacon.
Direction - Those outside are oblivious to what's going on inside; crowd noises are still heard within the scene.
Choices - The "conversation" between the dad and son is not contrived; the boy is allowed to play with straws and shove food into his dad's face all the while the father eats it up . . . not just the food, but the love from his son.
To the rest of the world, it was business and busy-ness as usual. Outside commuters were passing by on their way to work, but the simple booth of that restaurant was anything but normal for the boy and his father. It was a place to be comfortable, joyful, and free and a place where those were the very things that made life worthwhile.
Watch a commercial!
Jot down a thought related to the four "production value" elements defined above.
Write your thoughts into a single narrative paragraph that captures the scene!
Much like it's important to focus on all of your senses (and not just sight) when creating a scene, it's important to focus on the full atmosphere and environment around a character rather than just his or her own thoughts, words, and actions. I spent about 4 minutes on my Scene Capture. So, don't overthink it! Remember - these are Blockbreakers! They are simple ways to BREAK your writer's BLOCK. They supposed to be quick exercises that serve a few purposes: 1 - Wake up the creative brain, 2 - Give you an exercise that you may be able to apply to your own writing, and possibly 3 - Provide you with specific content that you could use in your writing. The lesson may result in 1, 2, or all 3 of those benefits.
It's also valuable to look at the many fields of writing that exist outside of your own to see what you can learn. It was fun learning from a theatre critic this week!
This is the second week of our #summerwritingchallenge! If you missed Sequence Poems last week in the blog, feel free to check that one out, too. If you participate in the Summer Writing Challenge, you'll be eligible for a drawing to receive a FREE copy of "Let Go Of The Apple"!
I hope you'll join me on the Facebook Live tomorrow (12:30 Central Standard Time) when I'll share a few more tricks of this great tool and - with any luck - get to hear a few of your Scene Captures that you create through your second SUMMER WRITING CHALLENGE lesson!
Yours in writing,