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Writing Tip: Describing Movie Scenes

Well, it's been a hot minute, but... welcome to the second installment of the writing tips series! In the last post (which was three months ago, but who's counting?), we discussed the merits of fan fiction and how it can help grow our understanding of character. This time, let's focus on a tactic that can help with writing descriptions: using movie scenes.

One of the great things about films is that they're visual. When we read books, we have to imagine the actions described to us, but in film, the camera fills in for the imagination. We don't have to wonder what an action or a place might look like, because it's right there in front of us. In books, we have to provide the visuals ourselves based on the author's use of adjectives, but in movies, they're all right there in vibrant color (unless, of course, you're watching a black-and-white film).

So then, how can we utilize the descriptive powers of film in the written word? A great way to practice is by turning a movie scene into a written description.

As an example, let's take The Fellowship of the Ring. The Shire is a beautiful land in the film, full of rolling green hills and lovely flowers. The sun always seems to be shining. It's lovely enough on screen, but how can you communicate the same thing on paper? For me, description is a struggle. I'll write something like, "The sun shone on the green hills," and then leave it there. But take a moment to really look at what you're seeing. Look at how the sun doesn't just shine on the hills but instead illuminates them, turning the grass into a radiant golden-green. Watch how the flowers bob in the the gentle breeze. Notice the rickety, worn wooden gate that opens to a door with chipped yellow paint that still manages to exude warmth and welcome.

Suddenly, we're not just reading about the Shire. We're in it.

The same goes for actions. Look closely at how people in the scene are moving. Observe the hobbit sweeping his front steps, his slow, jerky movements ridding the stones of dust. He lifts his head as Gandalf's cart rolls by, and he rests his hand on the broomstick and chuckles at the joy of the children as fireworks erupt from the back of the cart.

Descriptions like this can be difficult. They take up a lot more time and creative energy. But they draw the reader in like nothing else. If you (like me) struggle with writing descriptions, take some time to turn a favorite movie into a book. Pick a moment with pretty scenery or lots of movement and really describe what's happening. Don't let yourself stop with simple terms; write it to where someone could imagine exactly what's happening, even if they've never seen the actual scene.

Then take those some methods and apply them to your own story. The result will be a characters who move across the imagination with ease and world that readers feel that they are truly in.

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Saraina Whitney
Saraina Whitney
May 03, 2023

Ooo, I love this tip!!! I'm going to do this exercise the next time I watch a movie!! :D

May 03, 2023
Replying to

Yay! I’m so glad it was helpful. 😊

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