Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dare Day 4 - Can Fiction Have Cinematic Quality?

Day 4 - 1157 Words on Harsh Climate
Running Total: 4396 Words.

And today I began to adapt the first truly tricky scene. It's the climax of act one -- which is one of those long action climax scenes, where the story has a lot of simultaneous action. It's the sort of scene where you have the bad guy stalking, then you cut away to the hero lying in wait, and then you cut away to the other bad guy who finds a clue that he hero is there, and meanwhile the comic relief characters who are clueless about all of it are having a funny conversation, and the time bomb is ticking.

In a movie, a situation like this can be intertwined into a seamless scene. As a matter of fact I wrote this sequence specifically to be very intertwined. There's a lot of quick set up and pay off which depends on what you see, from which point of view, and when.

Example: at the end of the movie of The Fugitive, Richard Kimball, the bad guy, and the U.S. Marshals are all stalking each other through a hotel laundry. None of them can see the other, but we the audience see them all. This is a part of Hitchcock's suspense thing -- we are kept in suspense by knowing what the characters don't. However, the audience also misses things. We may see a character find something or get an idea, but then we cut away to the others, and we're left in suspense about what that character will do. But the stuff happening with the other characters is exciting and suspenseful too, and we may even forget about that first character.... So the marshals are closing in on Kimball, but then the bad guy pops out and knocks the marshal out! Oh, no! Oh, yes! I don't know what to think. And then later the bad guy almost takes out the other marshal... and Richard Kimball shows up out of nowhere and whaps him good!

And in such a long and complicated scene, there are many surprises, and each works best if in exactly the right point of view -- you may need to be with the character who is most surprised, or the character who can reveal the irony of the situation to us.

In the upcoming sequence, I have five points of view, and five lines of action. The characters, what they know, and their motivations all intersect in all sorts of interesting ways. I had FUN writing that sequence as a screenplay. How am I going to do that in regular prose fiction?

Classically, you first pick the point of view that can encompass the most other points of view. If Vicki is hiding from the kidnappers while trying to untie the kid, she can overhear what the kidnappers say in the next room. But later, if she's hiding under the bed, she will not be able to see the expression on the scary guy's face, or smell his breath when he's terrifying the kid. She won't be privy to the conversation one bad guy has on the phone to the boss bad guy.

So the next variation is breaking it up into small scene-lets. This point of view, extra line space, that point of view. It might work.

There will be some scenes -- in this section or later one -- where things might have to move too fast for that. Then what? Head hopping? Or go screenplay style -- maybe still using the extra line space, but literally have mini-scenes that are only a line or two long?

Or do you just plain rewrite? Cut the whole sequence and find a whole different approach for fiction?

I think, in this modern age, most readers are visually sophisticated, and are used to screen storytelling. I think that the story will benefit if I can give the audience the full experience they would have on screen -- or as close as I can. It may mean bending some rules and regular practices.

For this first run, I'm going to try to do this by instinct. I'll try what seems to be the best approach for the scene in front of me, and when I find something that works, I'll try it for the next.

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